Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Naturally Neutrogena

Not being available in Australia, I was particularly excited to get my hands on Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup SPF 20 when I visited the States last year. It seems to be a favourite of a few YouTube gurus I watch (Marlena from Makeup Geek, MakeupByTiffanyD, frmheadtotoe), so I was curious to see how it would fare on my skin and whether I'd love it as well. Not having any testers to determine my shade, I guessed my closest match to be Nude (40) purely from researching online before my trip.

I'd describe Neutrogena Healthy Skin as having light to medium coverage with a thin, satin finish that is only slightly glowy. I've heard this foundation being heralded as the cheaper alternative to NARS Sheer Glow, which was a major selling point for me. I wouldn't say they're the same — Healthy Skin doesn't have as much of an illuminated, softly diffused finish as Sheer Glow and also is lighter coverage and not as long-lasting.

It actually reminds me in application and consistency more of Make Up For Ever HD foundation, though not as high coverage and less matte. But like the MUFE, Healthy Skin doesn't take well to my skin if it hasn't been slathered in moisturiser beforehand. The first couple of times I wore it, it noticeably caked around my nose after a few hours and clung to a dry patch on my forehead. I've found it works best if I first apply a layer of La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo, followed by a generous layer of Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré to really prime and boost moisture in my skin. It goes on fine with fingers (better for layering and building up coverage), or my trusty favourite, the Real Techniques Buffing Brush. Because of the thick moisturiser I put on, I've found that it can feel heavy at first, so I usually blot within 1-2 hours of application, which then manages to control shine for the rest of the day.

What I do like about this foundation is that it's almost undetectable on the skin, and the very natural way that it wears as the day goes on. Even though the coverage fades by the end of the day, it doesn't slip off the skin and leave it greasy and patchy to the same degree as other comparable foundations like Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum. The Nude (40) shade I picked out also turned out to be a crazily good match for me, which is probably the part I'm most thrilled about. The addition of SPF 20 is also always handy in an everyday foundation. If only they included a pump.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cream of the Crop

Along with matte eyeshadows, my other obsession lately has been cream blushes. This isn't anything new, in that cream anything (eyeshadows, blushes, highlighters) have always appealed to me, but the other night I suddenly felt like I absolutely needed one of those Stila Convertible Colours. In a feeble attempt to resist the urge to buy, I pulled out and swatched all the cream blushes and multipurpose products I had, trying to convince myself that I could do without Gerbera or Lillium.

It's no secret that I'm partial to pinks and peaches and any combination of the two, but I was a little surprised at the overall lack of colour variation in my collection and how similar a couple of the shades were (namely Australis Crème Colour in Flirtatious Pink and Bloom Sheer Colour Cream in Coy). Just goes to show that when it comes to cosmetic purchases, most of the time we're drawn to the same things over and over again.

My favourite is NYX Rouge Cream Blush in Natural (CB02). I bought this from a stall at the Chinatown night markets in the middle of last year. It's a medium, warm pink with a creamy, strongly pigmented formulation that's neither too thick nor greasy and slippery. Because of its excellent colour payoff, you only need a very small amount to blend onto the cheeks. I like to use this with my fingers, an Ecotools Baby Kabuki (for a more airbrushed flush) or a Real Techniques Expert Face Brush for slightly more precision.

I also really love Illamasqua Cream Blusher in Zygomatic, an impulse buy that I haven't regretted. It's thinner in consistency and more emollient than the NYX, which makes it easier to blend with the fingers, however it's also less pigmented. It's the most muted and neutral of the blushes I have, and the one I reach for when I want a more nude, dusty pink colour to the cheeks and to add soft definition to my non-existent cheekbones.

On the other side of the spectrum, I have the most vibrant cream blush in my collection, a bright orange from the Revlon Multi-Use Palette. This one distinguishes itself from the other five in that the colour isn't dusty, pastel or otherwise muted. It actually goes on relatively sheer but with 2-3 layers, provides more of an enlivening, summery pep to the cheeks close to Benefit Cha Cha Tint. It's much drier in texture and almost matte. However, it comes in such a tiny, inaccessible square that I almost never find myself reaching for it.

Bloom Sheer Colour Cream in Coy was on my wishlist for a few months before I finally caved. The pastel peachy pink colour was the main attraction, along with the packaging and lavender scent. This one is closest in texture and pigmentation to the NYX Rouge Cream Blush, if a tad drier. On my cheeks, I've always found the colour to be too strong and not that flattering with my skin tone, so I kind of gave up on it. Coy fares better on my lips as a warm, nude-leaning pink.

Australis Crème Colour in Flirtatious Pink was the first cream blush I ever purchased over a year ago. While swatching my blushes, I didn't anticipate it would look almost identical to Coy, as Coy always seemed distinctly more peachy to me. I find Flirtatious Pink to be much more wearable, perhaps because it's a touch more pink and rosy. Funnily enough, it's also scented with lavender like the Bloom and more or less identical in shape and size. It's a little bit drier than the Sheer Colour Cream but about the same pigmentation.

I bought Revlon PhotoReady Cream Blush in Pinched (100) from Rite Aid on my New York holiday as I wasn't prepared to spend $26.95 on it in Australia. The other two colours (a bright coral and fuchsia) seemed a bit too intimidating for everyday wear, so I opted for the safe choice — a light peach with fine gold shimmer. The texture with this one was more air-whipped/mousse-like than the thicker, creamier, emollient formulations of the other cream blushes I have. It required several layers to be built up to decent pigmentation, but the major problem with Pinched is that the staying power is close to zero. There's almost no point in wearing it unless you only want it to show up for 2 hours, so in that respect it was a major disappointment.

In sunlight

l-r: Revlon Pinched, Illamasqua Zygomatic, Australis Flirtatious Pink, NYX Natural, Bloom Coy, Revlon Multi-Use Palette

In a way, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with cream blushes. As much as I gravitate towards them for being easier to blend and apply with the fingers, and for a more natural flush that sinks into your skin and gives a touch of dewiness, they can end up being trickier to work with than powder blushes or cheek stains. A good brush goes a long way in diffusing product seamlessly and naturally. I also find that generally, creams don't last as long on the skin as powders. Depending on the texture, it can be difficult to get just the right amount, perfectly blended without any patchiness, and for that reason I often skip cream blush for powder. However, there's something more modern, seemingly effortless and versatile about creams that will always keep me returning to them with renewed interest.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fair and Square

At first glance, the entire OPI Oz Collection was pure eye candy to me. Pink, beige and nude sheers with iridescent, feminine glitters. Yes please. Upon closer inspection, a lot of it seemed to be colours I already had, and at any rate, I usually only allow myself one polish per collection (usually a glitter or metallic shade, as I find them more "special" than ordinary cremes). This time around, my pick was Lights of Emerald City. I was initially drawn to When Monkeys Fly!, but the huge gold hexagonal glitter looked like it would be a nightmare to work with if my experience with Essence Evil Queen was anything to go by. I wish OPI were more affordable in Australia (I believe they're about $8 in the US, compared to $19.95 here), as I would've loved to have picked up a couple of the sheer neutral shades and maybe Which is Witch? just to experiment with layering, nail art ideas and jelly sandwich combinations.

Lights of Emerald City is a clear base with iridescent square glitter and larger white squares. The squares are a little odd, but are definitely the defining feature of the polish. At first they reminded me a bit of white-out tape, but the white colour isn't that stark. The squares have a subtle sheen and glossiness and look more like they've been cut from white ribbon. The iridescent square glitter is the star of the show in my eyes. I love how whimsical and dreamy it makes the polish look. A random scattering with the brush, mixed with the white squares, gives the illusion of glitter being suspended on your nail, kind of like a snow globe when it's been shaken. I think Lights of Emerald City works best with a relatively light base, as the lack of contrast keeps with the soft, pastel theme. Here, I used Revlon ColorStay Longwear Nail Enamel in Pale Cashmere (020), as it was the closest thing I had to I Theodora You from the collection.

What's pictured is actually my third attempt at wearing this polish. The first couple of times the polish bubbled like crazy because I was too impatient with waiting for the base colour to dry, and piled on the glitter too thickly. My previous two attempts were with Scandal Pretty Pink (029) and Revlon Cotton Candy, but Pale Cashmere gave the best result. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri really helped to speed up the drying time of the base coats, then I made sure to use thin coats of the glitter, loading up the brush with enough iridescent squares and 1-2 white squares to coat the nail. It does need a second coat so the glitter isn't too sparse, but I ended up fishing the white squares from the wand with a toothpick and positioning them manually on the nail. It sounds tedious, but in the end it was the quickest way to get an even distribution. The final look is almost like a deconstructed gingham pattern with these gleaming, iridescent flecks over the palest, airiest pink.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Moving on to Mattes

For the longest time, I basically had no interest in matte eyeshadow. It was all about satin, shimmery, metallic or downright glittery shades. I simply dismissed matte eyeshadows as flat and dull, not suited to my eye shape and often hard to work with. Mattes simply did not excite me and I rarely, if ever, used them. But suddenly and for no apparent reason, that all changed. I started to tire of my usual shimmery shades, which seemed too much for the daytime and at times glaringly frosty. With foundation slipping off my face at the end of the day, shimmery eyeshadow in the mix made me look almost grimy. I needed a new approach. Maybe it was also the release of the Urban Decay Naked Basics palette that triggered a change in perspective, but in the last couple of weeks, I've begun experimenting with wearing mattes on a daily basis.

In light of my new fascination with mattes, I felt compelled to go through my entire eyeshadow collection and bring out all the mattes I had. Perhaps doing so would help quell the urge to buy a new, matte-only palette (Stila In the Know, which I've previously always overlooked in favour of In the Light, is particularly calling my name). Having all the shades laid out in front of me would also make it easier to examine my options.

First up is Revlon Luxurious Color Matte Eye Shadow in Vintage Lace (001). I've literally never used this shade and I don't see that changing any time soon. I just don't know what I'd use it for. I wear eyeshadow in an attempt to add definition and the illusion of depth to my eyes, and this shade isn't going to do that. Not having a visible crease, this would be as good as wearing nothing. I'm not even sure the colour would show up unless I packed it on. Maybe I could use this as a highlight or blending colour, though there'd be better and more effective options. The quality is reasonably good (much better than the other shades I've tried in the range), though a tad powdery.

Next are two Revlon quads I have: ColorStay 16 Hour Eye Shadow in Attitude (545) and ColorStay 12 Hour Eye Shadow in Coffee Bean (02). I've previously written about Attitude here, and I've been loving the third shade applied close to the upper lash line and blended out as an everyday colour. I haven't touched the fourth shade yet because it's too dark to wear during the day, and the second pink colour disinterests me for the same reasons as Revlon Vintage Lace (and pretty much all light matte shades). I recently rediscovered Coffee Bean, a palette I'd always appreciated but never used. The second shade in the quad, a light mink/beige with a grey tinge, is probably the lightest I'll go. I find the 16 Hour eyeshadows are better quality than the 12 Hour ones, in that they're generally more pigmented and less powdery.

I was underwhelmed with the Too Faced Naked Eye palette, but it does have some excellent quality mattes. In the Buff is a touch whiter than Revlon Vintage Lace, but creamier and denser in texture. Like a Virgin is a revelation and I can see it fast becoming a favourite, much like shade 3 in Revlon Attitude.

The original Urban Decay Naked palette has two matte shades, Naked and Buck, while Naked2 has Foxy and Tease. The beige and tan shades of Naked and Buck aren't too thrilling in that they're similar to other variations of brown in Revlon Coffee Bean and Attitude. But they're versatile and useful shades to have, not just as all-over lid colours, but for softening harsh edges or even contouring the nose (Buck seems to be a favourite of Promise Phan). Can't do that with a shimmery eyeshadow!

Foxy in Naked2 is a bit more yellow than Too Faced In the Buff and Revlon Vintage Lace, and probably would barely show up on my lids. As a highlight colour, I'd prefer something more pearly/frosty over a matte, such as Urban Decay Sin or Bootycall. Tease however, is another ideal everyday shade. My only gripe is once applied, it loses much of the purplish tone it has in the pan and looks more like a conventional brown.

Laura Mercier does the best mattes, period. Pale Pink from the Lingerie Eye & Cheek Palette is a touch warmer than the slightly dustier pink from Revlon Attitude. I use it occasionally as a blending colour but it's too light for my skin tone to be worn over the lid. From the same palette, Rich Cocoa and Black Plum are smooth, buttery and stunningly pigmented. The two shades are more suited for a nighttime smoky eye, but with an angled brush, they could work as an alternative to gel or liquid eyeliner during the day. I often use Rich Cocoa and Black Plum, along with Laura Mercier Twilight Grey, on the upper lash line over a lighter, shimmery colour to add definition.

The mattes in the Sleek i-Divine Eyeshadow palette in Storm were unexpectedly a disappointment. The shimmery shades are spectacular (the bronze is one of my favourite eyeshadows ever), but the mattes were subpar. The black was passable, but I literally had the scratch the surface of the two brown shades to get any pigment. Even then, it was a struggle to swatch them. To be fair, I think they might fare better with a proper eyeshadow brush than the surface of a finger. The colours aren't unique enough for me to prefer them over better versions in the Urban Decay Naked palette.

l-r: Too Faced In the BuffRevlon Vintage LaceUrban Decay FoxyLaura Mercier Pale PinkRevlon Attitude (shade 1), Revlon Coffee Bean (second shade), Sleek Storm (third shade), Urban Decay Naked

l-r: Urban Decay BuckRevlon Attitude (shade 3), Sleek Storm (eleventh shade), Revlon Coffee Bean (fourth shade), Revlon Attitude (shade 4)

l-r: Urban Decay TeaseLaura Mercier Twilight GreyToo Faced Like a VirginLaura Mercier Black PlumLaura Mercier Rich CocoaSleek Storm (twelfth shade)

Many of these shades are either too light or too dark. There's only a few that are mid-tone and useable as all-over lid colours, and even then, they still lean on the darker side. I need to be mindful of not applying the shadows too high up or heavily, and blending/softening the edges. I'm liking the more daytime-appropriate, softer and polished look of mattes over the sometimes garish and OTT nature of more frosty and metallic picks. But whether my venture into mattes is a brief flirtation or something longer-lasting, at least I'm now open to using them rather than largely ignoring their existence.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

One of a Kind: Kai Perfume Oil

The first time I smelt Kai, fishing it out of a friend's purse with curiosity, I was intrigued but not necessarily impressed. It seemed so simple and unpretentious, yet potent and enveloping. I had no idea of its cult status, availability or price, just that my friend bought her tiny vial from the US. Fast forward a year or two, and it's obsession. It started with sniffing it each time I stepped inside Mecca Cosmetica, and slowly but surely, my love grew. It smelt better to me each time I spritzed the perfume or applied the rollerball. Despite many longing gazes at the shelf where all the Kai products were displayed, I just couldn't get over the price. To my sheer delight, I was fortunate to have received the perfume oil as a birthday gift.

I've never been a huge fan of gardenia perfumes, but Kai is invariably described as a gardenia scent. I don't think it's as sweet, creamy or heady as pure gardenia — there's hints of other white flowers and a certain greenness to it that gives it more softness and depth. It evokes summer nights. I find it mellow and inviting while also having a brightness and uplifting quality. Clean, not overly sweet, not soapy, nothing cheap-smelling or artificial about it. Just floral essence melded with your skin.

This should be fairly unremarkable and nothing unique, but surprisingly, it's been near impossible to find something that smells exactly like, or close to Kai. If I could track down a cheaper alternative, I would be onto it in a second. The price is beyond exorbitant (I mean, $78 for the 3.6ml perfume oil?!) and the only online retailer I could find that ships to Australia is Kiss and Makeup NY. I'm seriously tempted by the 50ml EDP ($122), but I'm holding out until I finish at least half of the rollerball. In the meantime, you'll find my nose glued to my wrists each time I dab some of this glorious stuff on.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Salt-Crusted Blue

Mariah Carey and OPI. Two of my favourite things colliding in unexpected ways. This collaboration was tailor-made for me. Despite my love for both, to be honest, I wasn't blown away by any of the polishes in the collection. A Butterfly Moment was tempting, but a little too safe and unspectacular for me to shell out $20 on. Pink Yet Lavender reminded me way too much of Teenage Dream. And I wasn't quite sold on the Liquid Sand polishes. They were something I didn't mind trying, but wasn't particularly drawn to. Enter this pack of 4 x 3.75ml mini polishes featuring all four Liquid Sand "stage shades" that I received as a birthday gift. It was the perfect opportunity to see if my tepid feelings could be converted to love.

The shade I was most excited to try was Get Your Number. It seemed to be one of the best reviewed and hyped polishes from the range. I might get around to swatching the other polishes later, but this post's all about Get Your Number.

Get Your Number is a sparkly, bright medium blue with a Liquid Sand finish. The best description I can give is that it looks like a thin layer of fine salt crystals glued to your nail. The effect is uniquely three-dimensional and the bumpy-but-smooth texture is a genuine novelty. I was expecting it to be rough to touch, but it's actually not that bad (OPI Save Me is a thousand times worse). The blue base is matte but the glitter on top is iridescent and pebbly. It makes for a strange but compelling combination. This is definitely not an understated or conventional polish. The bling factor is strong but not exactly reflective, and unlike most glitter polishes, I don't find that it's any more shimmery or vibrant in direct sunlight compared to the shade or artificial light. I used three coats here without a top coat, though two would've been sufficient. Staying power seems like it'd be extraordinary because of the unique texture that really sticks to the nail and locks in each layer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gummy Tint

I wasn’t going to buy the new L'Oréal Shine Caresse Lip Colour (said to be a cheaper dupe for the YSL Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain), but I stopped by Priceline last Wednesday and thought, well, it is my birthday. With a buy 3 for 2 offer being further incentive (though at $23.95 a pop, Australian pricing is still a joke), all I had to worry about was the right shade selection. In the end, I narrowed it down to the nude Lolita (101), purplish pink Marilyn (103) and coral Princess (200), much like 90% of my existing lip product collection. The more subdued and neutral Lolita just edged out Romy (102), which seemed a bit too warm for my complexion. Eve (400) looked too purple, Bonnie (501) too tawny-brown. The vampy plum of Milady (402) and deep cherry red of Juliet (300) would be my picks if I wore darker, more dramatic colours more than five times a year, but as usual, I opted for more safe, wearable shades.

l-r: Lolita (101), Marilyn (103), Princess (200)

l-r (first row, then second row): Lolita (101), Marilyn (103), Princess (200)

The Shine Caresse Lip Colours are described as a cross between a lip gloss and lip stain. I never gave much thought to what that meant, until I tried them and realised that if you don’t like lip gloss, these might pose a problem. I find they leave a sort of sticky, mask-like sensation on my lips that isn't exactly drying, but is far from comfortable. The main issue I have with these is that rather than being really liquid and smooth like a gloss, once you apply them, it feels like a thin layer of viscous paste has set on top of the lip. There’s a lot of resistance if you try to press your lips together to blend the product, and little bits of dried up gloss ball up and cause uneven patches on the lip. Really strange. My lips felt ten times better after I generously applied some Korres Mango Lip Butter to two coats of Princess.

Lolita and Marilyn are really quite sheer, with Princess being the only one that gives a vibrant pop of colour. I found that they require two coats for opaque coverage, as it often looks patchy and not pigmented enough with just one. Lolita is a rosy, slightly mauvey brown with fine gold shimmer — one of those “my lips but better” shades that is daytime and work-appropriate. Marilyn misleadingly looks like a bright magenta in the tube, but appears more like a watered down, pinkish berry shade. Princess is a vivid coral red. The stain they impart is nowhere near as intense or long-lasting as the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains. You can wipe it off with your hands and it’s practically half gone.

What I do love about the Shine Caresse Lip Colours is they impart a wet, glossy look that reminds me of a translucent candy that’s been sucked on. The finish is a juicy, jelly-like stain that isn’t overly shiny, which is unlike any lip product I've tried. L'Oréal have done well with the gold packaging and teardrop-shaped applicator, which is reminiscent of higher end brands. But overall, I can't say I'm a fan. They lack staying power as a stain, are much sheerer than expected, but above all, are just not comfortable on my lips.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Most Worn Things: Summer

How is it almost the middle of March? The past three months have come and gone in a blink of an eye. Thanks to Cherie for tagging me to take part in this fun post reflecting on my most worn things this past summer.

1. Nail Polish
Revlon Whimsical. Though that would probably be at most only 3 times. Because of how much nail polish I have, I don't tend to wear the same shade over and over again in a short period of time. (Plus, I need to preserve this one bottle for as long as possible.)

2. Hair Product
Easy question, because Pantene shampoo every 2-3 days is the extent of my hair care routine. Usually, I can't even be bothered to condition. I literally don't do anything else with my hair, though I have been dabbling in Morrocanoil, which I bought on sale around Christmas. I use it on my ends after I've washed my hair, or the morning after (I always sleep with my hair wet — one of my many terrible habits). I'm not sure how I feel about it, mainly because I don't use it with enough frequency, and don't really pay attention to the state of my hair except whether it's clean or not. I have noticed when I put the Morrocanoil in it, my hair is more manageable and appears smoother, healthier, better-looking. Or maybe that's just what I want to see?

3. Bag 
Still my Mulberry Alexa. But I've recently switched to a navy Longchamp Le Pliage Medium Long Handle Tote because it's just so much easier. The Alexa was constantly overflowing and weighed a tonne. I need something that I can just chuck a lot of useless stuff into and be able to carry on my shoulder comfortably.

4. Shoes
These leopard print loafers I bought from ALDO in New York. I usually wear a pair of flats to death until it's time to buy another.

5. Clothing Item 
Nothing to do with summer, but probably a pair of black Zara work pants. I wear them at least 1-2 times a week. My wardrobe is spectacularly dull because I can't be bothered to think about what to wear most days. I just wear the same things over and over again to work, and the same (different but more casual) things if I’m going out on the weekend.

At home, I practically lived in this shapeless paisley cotton tunic all through summer. For a person like me who wants to expend as little effort as possible (mental and physical) to get dressed, it was the perfect garment. No buttons, no fastenings, you need only to slip it over your head. Super lightweight and thin (but not see-through), it also kept me cool in the heat.

6. Accessory
I rarely wear jewellery except some random rings I have lying around and the House of Harlow 1960 Double Sunburst Station necklace.

7. Foundation 
I was using Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow until I bought Rimmel Wake Me Up, which I started to mix with Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum as the shade I bought was too dark.

8. Bronzer and/or Blush
I went through a short-lived period of regularly using bronzer in an attempt to contour, but kind of gave up on it in the last few weeks. I liked the Bourjois Délice de Soleil Bronzing Powder and was close to putting it in a monthly favourites. As for blush, I'd say NARS Deep Throat. It's just easy to reach for because it goes with pretty much anything. I wore this to a friend's wedding in December, on laid-back weekends with more minimal makeup, and as a go-to blush during the working week.

9. Lip Product 
I'm going to narrow this down to something with colour, because clear Maybelline Baby Lips is just too boring. Truthfully, it's Korres Lip Butter in Mango or the underrated, now discontinued Revlon Protective Liptint SPF 15 in Pink Rose which lives permanently in my handbag.

10. Mascara
It's a toss up between CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume and more recently, Max Factor Masterpiece Max. I'm not really in love with either, but there's only so much a mascara can do for me with monolids and short lashes. They're both reliable everyday mascaras that perform reasonably well and don't have any glaring issues.

11. Eyeshadow 
Surprise, surprise. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze. But I also really loved Laura Mercier African Violet from the Lingerie Eye & Cheek Palette.

12. Fragrance
Lady Gaga Fame, though being terribly fickle, I'm kind of over it now. There were also my usual picks for the daytime, Liz Claiborne Liz, Estée Lauder Pleasures and Elizabeth Arden Pretty.
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