Monday, December 11, 2017

Brights and Vamps

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils have been on my radar for years, but they never seemed like an essential product I had to have. I had a somewhat disappointing experience with their Satin Lip Pencils, so I wasn't rushing to add more NARS lip pencils to my collection. Don't get me wrong, the quality is generally excellent, it's more the price and the shades I'm iffy about. Recently, I saw in Mecca Maxima a duo of travel-sized Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in Train Bleu and Intriguing for $28. Considering one 2.4g lip pencil is $39, and the minis were 1.8g each, the set represented far better value, plus you had more variety. I tried Train Bleu in the shop and really liked how it looked as a stain, so I researched my options if I wanted to purchase it and came across selling the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils for $26 each. (I just checked the website and Train Bleu is currently further discounted to $21.) I had a coupon code with Catch, so I ended up buying two lip pencils for $41. I would've preferred the two minis for $28, but I really wanted to order the shade Red Square along with Train Bleu as it's been on my wishlist since 2014.

l-r: Red Square, Train Bleu

Red Square is a bright, vivid, orangey red. Train Bleu is a vampy dark purple with burgundy tones. Both are non-staining (though Train Bleu sticks around longer than Red Square) and can be wiped off with just some lip balm and a tissue. Lasting power is not as good as a lip stain or liquid matte lipstick, but still better than a conventional lipstick.

l-r: Revlon Strawberry Suede, NARS Red Square, NARS Train Bleu, Revlon Black Cherry

l-r: Revlon Strawberry Suede, NARS Red Square

I'd long suspected Revlon Matte Lipstick in Strawberry Suede to be very similar to Red Square, and that hunch proved correct. Strawberry Suede is probably a touch pinker than the more orangey/fiery Red Square, but the tone and vibrancy is comparable. The Revlon is also a tad shinier in finish compared with the more matte NARS.

l-r: NARS Train Bleu, Revlon Black Cherry

I didn't have anything as similar to Train Bleu as I did Red Square, but Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry probably comes the closest. Black Cherry is more glossy and not as pigmented as Train Bleu, plus more berry/burgundy red as opposed to blackened purple.

NARS Red Square

NARS Train Bleu (as a stain)

NARS Train Bleu

Red Square delivers a glamorous retro/supercharged summer look and applies very smoothly to the lips without accentuating texture or dryness, whereas Train Bleu does the complete opposite and highlights every dry patch that previously never existed. Despite the striking, gothy, nighttime colour, Train Bleu is patchy and tricky to apply evenly ... you need a steady hand and considerable patience to get it looking semi-decent. I do like how you can control how opaque and dark you want it to be. I much prefer it as a lighter stain, with the pencil dabbed onto the lips then the product blended with the finger. It looks far fresher and prettier against my complexion, and less harsh and intimidating that way.

Like the Satin Lip Pencils, I appreciate how little product is required for full pigmentation. You'd have to wear the pencil many times for it to reduce down to the point where it needs its first sharpening. I can't imagine how long it will take to use up, hence why the product contained in the minis would've been more than sufficient for me. At the discounted price I paid (just over $20 each), I don't have too many complaints, however I'd likely be singing a different tune if I paid the retail price of $39 for one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Essence 50% Off Mini Haul

Priceline had a 50% off cosmetics sale last Thursday and Friday, and though I tell myself that I should eliminate all impulse cheap makeup purchases and focus on quality vs. quantity, I couldn't resist buying a few things, mainly from Essence. The limited edition stuff always hooks me in because it's just so affordable and a part of me always hopes the products will exceed my expectations. In the sale, I ended up buying a back up of my favourite NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Abu Dhabi, an Essence top/base coat, two Essence Soft Contouring lip pencils in Sucker For Grey and Going Steady, Essence Illuminating Face Cream Gel and Essence Bronzing Brick Powder.

Essence Illuminating Face Cream Gel in 01 I Don't Care Cause I'm Flawless

The Essence Illuminating Face Cream Gel fascinated me because it comes in a weighty glass bottle and it's made in Italy. Fancy. It retails for $7.15, so at 50% came to $3.60. Pretty unbeatable for a 20ml bottle. There were no testers so I was taking a gamble, but I figured the stakes weren't exactly high, so why not. It claims to have an "awaking effect" and a lightweight creamy and gel-like formula. You're meant to apply a small amount on the fingers and distribute evenly onto the face.

The pump bottle doesn't have the most sensitive dispenser so you're basically stuck with a full pea-sized amount each time. It has the consistency of a non-sticky, comfortable-feeling moisturiser (think MAC Strobe Cream), perhaps a touch more fluid and easier to spread. Blended out, it's surprisingly subtle. I was expecting more of an overt shimmerbomb. To be honest, I couldn't really detect any noticeable difference to my complexion when I applied this before my foundation. As a potential primer, I felt it degraded the performance/wear time of my base as it was like adding another layer of moisturiser. If the glowy effect is there, it's not as pronounced as something like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone or even Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Radiance. However under bright lights, you can detect the silvery shimmer particles on your skin. I like this for the novelty factor given its affordability and it could also serve as an understated liquid highlight, but I already have better products that do what it purports to.

Top to bottom: Sucker For Grey, Going Steady

Top to bottom: Colourpop Lumiere, Essence Sucker For Grey, Essence Going Steady, NYX Ruffle Trim

Essence Sucker For Grey

I noticed these new Essence lip liners and had to pick up two, given they were ONE DOLLA at 50% off. The colours also really appealed to me and seemed very current/on trend. I've never tried Essence lip liners, but I've always heard good things about them. They're a bit of a harder texture and not as creamy or easy to blend as other brands, but I guess that contributes to longer staying power on the lips. The good thing with lip liners is you can get lots of precision in the shape of your lips, but also control the opacity. I usually don't colour in my lips completely with the lip liner, but prefer to draw a few strokes then blend with my finger to get a fresher, stained appearance.

I absolutely love Sucker For Grey, a medium pinky-mauve that reminded me a lot of my favourite Colourpop lip liner in Lumiere. I compared the two and Lumiere is lighter and more pink (also a much nicer, creamier texture). Going Steady is your typical brick red/medium-to-dark rosy nude that seems super popular right now. I'm not the hugest fan of these colours, but they are fairly universally flattering. On the lips, Going Steady is reminiscent of NYX Lip Lingerie in Ruffle Trim, though when swatched together, Ruffle Trim is lighter and more nude (however does oxidise on the lips like most liquid lipsticks so is darker in real life than when swatched).

Essence Bronzing Brick Powder in 01 Feel the Fun & Catch the Sun

Bronzing Brick Powder on cheeks, Sucker For Grey on lips

Finally, we have the Bronzing Brick Powder. These to my eye are an obvious rip off of Bobbi Brown Brightening Brick. I always wanted to get the pink shade but at $75, hale no. Obviously the Essence dupe likely can't compare in terms of quality, but as there was no tester, I wanted to give it a shot. There was also a Brick Blush Powder, but it was sold out at the time I bought the bronzing powder. I actually went back to buy it post-sale because it's much more similar to the pink Bobbi Brown Brightening Brick I wanted.

I've been using my Zoeva Luxe Sheer Cheek brush and swirling it around in the pan to get a mix of all the colours, then applying this as I would a bronzing powder to my cheeks/cheekbones in an upward sweeping motion. The colour isn't completely brown and there is a peachiness/pink to it so it can used as a blush/bronzer hybrid, like NARS Madly. There's also an interesting light grey tone to it that makes it unique. It's not dark enough to produce a really pronounced contour, and you do have to build up the pigmentation depending on your personal preference. It's not glittery (which I wouldn't have minded as I'm going through a glitter phase), but more just shimmery. However, the shimmer can have a tendency to sit on top of the skin, especially when applied in conjunction with the Illuminating Face Cream Gel. The overall effect can get a little powdery, though nothing a spritz of MAC Fix+ or Smashbox Primer Water etc. can't fix. Wear time is average, bordering on poor, but I guess you can't expect the world of something that cost $3.43.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Current Makeup Menu #3

It's been almost nine months since my last makeup menu post, so I'm long overdue for an update. Ever since I moved to my own place a year ago, I've been more or less sticking with a few select products for months at a time to do my makeup in the morning. The main reason is that I no longer have a mirrored wardrobe, so I don't have immediate access to my entire makeup collection (housed in two 4-drawer storage units on a shelf inside) when I'm doing my face. I have to put aside a few products in a separate, smaller Muji organiser which I keep on my dresser beside the mirror on my bedroom wall. The upside to this is I've finally used up products I never thought I'd finish, like foundations, but the downside is less variety and the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind". Having said that, here are the current products I've been really enjoying and reaching for lately.

For face, I've recently returned to Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum (in 52 Vanille) and I'm so glad I picked this up again. The shade match is almost bang on (I've previously used 53 Beige clair on its own, which was always too dark, and then mixed it with 52 Vanille to lighten it), which is crucial given the previous foundation I'd been trying to use up (Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 33 Rose Beige) was too dark and pinky brown. I appreciate that the foundation is yellow-based and illuminating, without being greasy. It's natural and skin-like, but also gives your complexion a translucent glow that brightens and corrects unevenness and dullness. The lasting power or adherence to the skin could probably be better, but it's an ideal everyday "drugstore" foundation that is top notch in quality.

Speaking of Bourjois CC Cream, I'd previously been mixing it with a bit of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone in an attempt to lighten the foundation and inject some extra luminosity. I don't know what it is about the formula, but it is truly the best liquid highlighter I've mixed with a base. Other products can appear overly glittery or chunky upon closer inspection, or get oily after a couple of hours and start to break up on the skin or slide off during the day. But the Becca almost has primer-like properties while containing the most refined shimmer, giving the skin an undetectable but effective glowy boost. Previously swatched here.

I asked my friend to buy the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer for me while she was on a recent holiday to the US since it's always sold out at Priceline (plus it's $30, no thanks). I opted for the shade Bronzer rather than Light Bronzer just because I'd read that it was slightly more cool-toned and darker, which I thought would suit my skin tone better. I have been absolutely adoring this bronzer. It's everything I hoped for and more. Incredibly smooth, soft but not powdery, easy to blend, not too pigmented that it's hard to work with, but pigmented enough so that it actually shows up and does something without much effort. I love the colour, I love the scent, it's a breeze to apply and blend with my Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt Brush, I've been reaching for it nonstop since it arrived and I can't imagine wanting to use anything else for a long time.

In the last Priceline 40% off cosmetics sale, I purchased one of these Revlon Colorstay Creme Eye Shadows in 710 Caramel. It's a little lighter than Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze and the texture is much smoother, thinner and more emollient. You need to apply quite thin layers on the eyes and build up the colour. I've been enjoying this as a standalone eyeshadow (though I do have to use about 3-4 layers for my desired opacity, and even then, I always use a darker eyeshadow closer to the lashline for added definition), as well as an eyeshadow base (I just apply one layer and blend out with my fingers). The aspect of these that was most surprising but pleasing is that they're loaded with fine shimmer that's really sparkly and eye-catching under bright lights and reminiscent of more high end cream shadows like Chanel Illusion D'Ombre Long Wear Luminous Eyeshadow. The price point is very reasonable too ($14.95 for 5.2g, so I only paid $8.97 during the 40% off sale).

I overlooked this Nudestix Magnetic Eye Color in Night for a while after a friend gave it away to me ages ago, but recently realised I reach for it almost every day. It is JET black, velvety matte, has astounding lasting power and once set, does not budge. Truly a quality product and worth the money. I use it mainly to fill in my eyeliner once I draw the shape in with a finer felt tip/brush eyeliner (I've been loving Maybelline HyperSharp Wing Liquid Liner), since it is a thicker/chubbier tip so not as precise as a conventional pencil liner. The fact it's so high performing has made me realise when it comes to eye makeup, a reliable, truly black eyeliner is an absolute essential.

Lanolips Banana Balm

Finally, we have a bit of a novelty item in Lanolips Banana Balm Lip Sheen 3-in-1. I swatched this in David Jones and was captivated by the old school banana lolly scent and the pink sparkles against a pale yellow gloss that reminded me of Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom. The downside is that the colour is on the light side and does give a whitish cast, but if you apply a small amount and/or lay down a colour first, that can easily be overcome. In any event, the scent and the glitter has me sold.

l-r: Lanolips Banana Balm, Revlon Caramel, Physicians Formula Bronzer, Nudestix Night

l-r: Revlon Caramel, Physicians Formula Bronzer, Nudestix Night

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Holiday Beauty Haul

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen I recently spent 2 weeks in Singapore and Malaysia. I've become a lot more measured with holiday beauty purchases (compared with previous years), especially if the products overseas are barely any cheaper than where I live. However, it's not a vacation without splashing some cash in Sephora, so I still allowed myself a few new additions. The most expensive item I bought (and what I'm most excited about) was actually a set of 5 diptyque 7.5ml EDT travel sprays, but I didn't photograph them for this post.

Yay: compact flashes purple. Nay: scratch on the lettering already.

Fenty Beauty had just launched when my holiday started, so naturally I had to get something from the range. I was able to get a good look and feel of pretty much all the products, and quickly decided that if I allowed myself just one thing, it would have to be one of the standout highlighters. I deliberated over the shade choice, but in the end opted for Girl Next Door/Chic Phreak. The duo wasn't too light on my skin and I have a preference for pink-based highlighters as opposed to conventional champagne/gold. Trophy Wife was way too yellow gold and outright glittery, and the others except for Ginger Binge/Moscow Mule looked really pale against my skin. I also was drawn to the Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick in Confetti, but I'd probably never wear it and I feel like I could get something similar from Colourpop for a fraction of the price.

The one thing that immediately became apparent about the Killawatt highlighters is that they don't shy away from glitter. If Fenty Beauty is anything to go by, glitter is making a comeback. No longer considered a liability, it's cool again to load a product with glitter. It used to be that people would criticise or steer away from highlighters with visible glitter, but glitter seems to be en vogue again. Personally, I'm enjoying glitter. Who needs subtlety anyway when you can have pretty pretty SPARKLES.

l-r: Girl Next Door, Chic Phreak

The duo has 2 distinct halves with different colours, finishes and textures. Girl Next Door is more smooth and creamy to the touch (almost like one of those bouncy feeling/cream to powder products), with a subtle metallic finish. On my light to medium skin, it actually applies quite whitish. Chic Phreak is more chunky/sandy to the touch and more obviously glittery. It's a much darker peachy-pink colour with more visible sparkles, especially in direct sunlight or bright artificial light. Having said that, the glitter adheres to your skin, doesn't fall down and get everywhere, and is fine enough to wear on a daily basis in the office (at least in my opinion). I did try both shades on the eyes as you can wear the Killawatt highlighters all over the face, but the colours barely showed up and just produced a glimmering effect.

l-r: Napoleon Perdis Highlight, Girl Next Door, Chic Phreak, theBalm Cindy-Lou Manizer

Here, you can see how bright/shimmering/vibrant the Fenty Beauty shades are compared with the more satiny and subdued Napoleon Perdis (from the Ultimate Contour Palette) and theBalm highlighters. However, the shades themselves are fairly similar, to give you an idea of what kind of colours Girl Next Door and Chic Phreak are.

The vibrancy and glitter factor (especially of Chic Phreak) remind me of Colourpop eyeshadows. Really, from my experience with the highlighter and general first impressions of the brand, Fenty Beauty is reminiscent of Colourpop (youthful, contemporary, "fun", urban, for different skin tones), but with proper quality control in terms of packaging, formulation and performance. It will be interesting to see how the brand develops over time, especially when the initial hype from its launch invariably dies down.

I've heard good things about the Too Faced Hangover primer (favourite of KathleenLights) for a while now, so I bought the 20ml travel size to try. I appreciate the hygienic and useful pump packaging that dispenses just the right amount of product each time. They could have just gone with a squeezy tube but they put in that extra functionality so the travel size is like a miniaturised full size version, which is what really sealed the deal for me. I've used it a couple of times and while it's nothing earth-shattering in terms of improving how my foundation goes on or prolonging its wear, I do like that it's soothing and comfortable on the skin, and the light, tropical and refreshing coconut scent.

I also purchased a travel size of Ouai Dry Shampoo Foam. Playing around with the tester in Sephora was what sold me. This stuff comes out in a ball of aerated mousse and you vigorously apply it to your dirty hair, focusing on the roots, until it dries up and starts doing its thang. Essentially, it's a dry shampoo that comes out as a wet cloud of foam and forces you to get your hands dirty. Something about the novelty of it and the fact it's almost like giving your hair a wash without water was hard to resist. I'm sure it's not as effective as my beloved Klorane dry shampoo with oat milk, and admittedly it kind of leaves your hair slightly grimy/crunchy/crispy/more brittle, but it does make it less oily and look cleaner, at least for a day. I'm also hoping the travel size will last a long time (since my small cans of Klorane seem to only last about 4-5 liberal uses), since I'm hopeful about a more economical conversion of liquid to foam.

I came across a H&M Beauty stand in Malaysia (to my knowledge not yet launched in Australia), but didn't spot any cream eyeshadow pots that I wanted to try. I have been searching for a mustard nail polish ever since I saw one in Urban Outfitters two years ago but passed on it, so I didn't hesitate to buy Golden Tumeric. The polish itself surprisingly exceeded my expectations — really nice, smooth formula, great wide brush, opaque in one coat but I did two just in case. I just wish there was more product in the bottle and it was cheaper.

Finally, I bought a Victoria Beckham x Nails inc nail polish in Bamboo White. I have no idea about the state of the polish given the collaboration was ages ago (the nail swatch is from a picture I posted on Instagram in July 2015), but the bottle definitely hadn't even been opened, so I figured it should be fine. I believe the original price for one of these polishes was $35, but I managed to get this one on sale for 40 Malaysian Ringgit or $12. It's hard to come by a nude polish that isn't thin, streaky, difficult to work with or boring/blah on the nails, and I remembered liking the colour and the polish quality, so at that price I gave in.
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