Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gelling with Healthy Mix

It's been a little over a year since I first started using Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum but I've never dedicated an entire post to it until now. It's coming up to winter in Australia and my skin is drier than usual, which means I can get away with more dewy/glowy foundations that tend to be problematic during summer. Mirroring my steep descent into blush mania, I've moved from a state of relative indifference (possibly even bordering on disinterest) towards foundation, to having about 10 foundations and BB creams open at once. But no matter what foundations I try or have on rotation, Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum is the one I always come back to.

l-r: 53 Beige clair (Light beige), 52 Vanille (Vanilla)

l-r: 53 Beige clair (Light beige), 52 Vanille (Vanilla)

I feel like Healthy Mix Serum is a lighter, sheerer version of NARS Sheer Glow, which is heavier coverage, longer lasting and more powerfully illuminating, but can be a bit cakey on certain parts of the skin (for me, usually the chin area and around the edges of my nose). The Bourjois is an excellent choice as an everyday foundation, particularly for those with already good skin slightly on the dry side. On oily skin, the foundation slips off before the end of the day, which is why I don't love it during the height of summer. Even with my skin a bit drier than normal right now, I still find that my nose gets shiny after a couple of hours. I usually blot, but powdering over the T-zone in the morning could work as well.

What I love about Healthy Mix Serum is that it's a breeze to apply. The lightweight formulation is one of the most forgiving and cooperative I've encountered. I've never experienced any application issues with it, which isn't something I can say for the majority of foundations I've tried. It just goes on smoothly and evenly each time, sinking into the skin effortlessly and working its magic. It doesn't accentuate or cling to dry patches, nor does it require a whole lot of blending for a streak-free, seamless finish.

And let's talk about the finish. When this is slapped on, the skin looks instantly brightened, imperfections are smoothed away, and there's a soft glowiness that is never greasy or unnatural-looking. Coverage is light-to-medium, and in the words of Lisa Eldridge, it's "dewy without being too shiny, it looks really real, it doesn't highlight pores, it looks good in daylight, it's not shiny and glittery in any way." I use the Real Techniques Buffing Brush to apply it and can't imagine anything working better.

The shade selection is limited (6 in total, but only 5 available in Australia). For reference, I wear NARS Sheer Glow in Fiji, Make Up For Ever HD foundation in 118, Neutrogena Healthy Skin in Nude, and I'm in between 52 and 53. At first, I was solely using 53 but I didn't like how dark it looked on me at the end of the day, perhaps due to slight oxidisation or just bad lighting. I eventually bought 52 and now I mix both (usually 50/50) to get my shade. It's not ideal, but when you find a foundation as good as this one, it's not a waste either.

I've yet to try the original Healthy Mix, said to be more suited for normal to combination skin. I'm afraid of being disappointed with it and regretting not just buying another bottle of the Healthy Mix Serum. If only it were tailored more for my skin type year-round, it would be a near faultless everyday foundation.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lemon Light

I bought Essence Mystic Lemon (43) early last year, but only recently moved it to my blush/highlighter drawer after fishing it out from my stack of unused and neglected eyeshadows. I've read on a few beauty blogs that Mystic Lemon is supposed to be a cheaper dupe of NARS Albatross. Though I don't have Albatross, I was eager to try something that would approximate its effect for one tenth of the price.

The "holographic" label had me intrigued. If you're expecting an actual holographic effect, then you'd be disappointed. The eyeshadow doesn't flash different colours or have an iridescence to it as the name might suggest. Mystic Lemon is a luminous pale yellow gold with a slightly warmer gold pearl. It's not shimmery, glittery or frosty, rather the effect is relatively subdued and it imparts more of a subtle sheen. theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer is glowier, more concentrated, closer to a pale champagne with very slight peach tones. It's significantly superior in texture — much smoother, creamier and softer than the Essence. Mystic Lemon is harder and drier to the touch, but still manages to pack a punch if built up in pigmentation. The packaging is unsurprisingly cheap and flimsy and the plastic hinge crumbled and broke apart when I was taking photos.

l-r: Essence Mystic Lemon 1 swipe, 2 swipes, 3 swipes

I normally apply Mystic Lemon with the fingers to the tops of the cheekbones and browbone. You can control the desired intensity depending on how many layers are applied. I need at least 2-3 for it to look anything like how I imagine NARS Albatross would on my skin, with its distinct yellow tone. I doubt that Essence could rival NARS in terms of quality, but at least Mystic Lemon is a means of seeing how a pale yellow highlighter looks like on me before shelling out for the real deal. I'm not really head over heels with it, but chances are I'd be much more enthusiastic about Albatross if I ever decide to get it. For now, I'm content with my existing highlighter collection, though Dior Ultra-Shimmering All Over Face Powder in Amber Diamond remains the only one I'd pounce on if given the opportunity.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Frosty Caramel

When the L'Oréal Miss Candy Collection launched last year with several new Infallible eyeshadow shades, it was evident the only one I'd feasibly purchase was Tender Caramel (033). Although it was neutral and limited edition (under normal circumstances an irresistible combination), I was concerned it was too similar to Bronzed Taupe (890). Each time I swatched it at Priceline, I also wasn't too thrilled with the excess of silver/white shimmer in it. With those two factors in mind, I decided to give it a miss. I had largely forgotten about it for a few months, until I spotted Tender Caramel on sale at Target the other day. The price wasn't hugely reduced, but it was just under $10, which was impetus enough for me to whip out my wallet.

Tender Caramel is a light-to-medium cool frosty brown with a hint of mauve and loads of white shimmer. I find that when swatched, it takes on a more neutral appearance, and in some light, seems almost like a slightly toasty, shimmering beige. On the lids however, it's distinctly cooler, almost a pewter-leaning metallic taupe. To counteract a bit of the coolness, I like applying it with a flat, fluffy brush over a warm, coppery, cream base (like Essence Pas Des Copper or MAC Rubenesque) for a soft, smoky look.

Comparing Tender Caramel to similar shades I have, there are no perfect dupes, but some of them are fairly indistinguishable when applied. Maybelline EyeStudio Mono in Iced Fudged (720) is clearly the warmest of the bunch. It was comforting to see that L'Oréal Infallible eyeshadow in Bronzed Taupe is sufficiently different to Tender Caramel — darker, less frosty, slightly cooler and more brown. Max Factor Earth Spirits in Burnt Bark is more purplish-grey. NYX Iced Mocha is darker, browner, much less shimmery. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze is a little warmer, more coppery/gold in comparison but still frosty.

l-r: NYX Iced Mocha, Max Factor Burnt Bark, L'Oreal Tender Caramel, L'Oreal Bronzed Taupe, Maybelline Iced Fudged, Maybelline Bad to the Bronze

l-r: NYX Iced MochaMax Factor Burnt BarkL'Oreal Tender CaramelL'Oreal Bronzed TaupeMaybelline Iced FudgedMaybelline Bad to the Bronze

A defining feature of the L'Oréal Infallible eyeshadows is the unbelievable pigmentation. They have a smooth, creamy, slightly spongy texture and can be sheered out or packed on for concentrated colour. They can be applied with the fingers like a cream eyeshadow, though I normally use a brush. You really only need a very small amount for incredible colour payoff. The metallic intensity can be a little bit too much for daytime wear, but used sparingly with the right brush to apply a light wash, it works. Personally, I find Tender Caramel a little bit too cool for my skin tone and overly shimmery, even above the norm for the Infallible range. Warmer, bronzier eyeshadows tend to fare better on me. Though I'd love to be able to pull off more complex, cooler taupes and browns, they often just end up looking murky and dull.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Go-To Low-Key Makeup

I'm terrible at doing my makeup quickly. Every morning, I take at least 15 minutes. Sometimes, when I'm feeling especially sluggish or relaxed about the time, I can take up to half an hour. I don't like to be rushed. I've seen a friend do her whole face in a few minutes and it made me realise why that could never be me. She approached the act of putting on her makeup as I would doing the dishes or vacuuming the carpet — a necessary chore that yielded desirable results, but something preferably over and done with ASAP. On the days that I don't feel like doing my usual routine (normally on the weekends, holidays or on the rare weekday off), I've developed a go-to look utilising fewer products and a more minimal, easygoing approach. Can't say that it takes me any less time though.

The look is all about cream products, cutting out brushes and using the hands. Bronzy lids, softly defined eyes, peachy-pink cheeks and glowy skin. After cleansing and moisturising my face, I whip out my beloved Essence Eye Soufflé in Pas Des Copper and place a thin layer all over the eyelid. Lightly applied, the slightly peachy/coppery, light-to-medium bronze is almost what I imagine MAC Rubenesque Paint Pot would look like on me if I were very fair. This cream eyeshadow is amazing. It was dirt cheap (something like $3.50) and the best beauty bargain ever. I've had it for 15 months and it hasn't hardened in the slightest (the same cannot be said for my Maybelline Color Tattoos, as much as I adore Bad to the Bronze). The texture is still creamy, soft and so easy to blend. It has this understated metallic sheen without being exceedingly shimmery or gritty-looking and frosty. Pigmentation is excellent and it lasts all day.

Next, I line my upper lash line with the Savvy by DB Luxury Liner in Shimmering Slate, extending the line a little past the corner of my eye, but not too high up. When I first discovered the Luxury Liners early last year, I bought every colour in the range, then 3 backups of Shimmering Slate. That's how thrilled I was with them. I've tried a whole bunch of eyeliner pencils to mixed success, but the Luxury Liners have proven to be solid all-rounders. I just don't use Shimmering Slate on a daily basis because I prefer felt tip eyeliners for my upper lash line, and I find black too severe for my lower lash line (my usual choice is bronze). Here however, in the interest of simplification, I run Shimmering Slate very lightly along the lower lash line (stopping three-quarters of the way in), then lessen the intensity by smudging it with my fingers.

Then comes mascara. I normally curl my lashes beforehand, but if we were to stick to 5 products, I'd cut out that step. The wand of Max Factor Masterpiece Max really gets to all your lashes, holds curl, builds volume but doesn't clump. It's one of the few mascaras I've repurchased, and will continue to in the future.

Moving onto my base, squeezing a bit of the Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector (Combination to Oily Skin) onto the back of my hand, I start from the centre of my face and work outwards. So long as the skin has been decently moisturised first, this stuff sinks in and doesn't cling to any dry patches. What I like about it is that you can go back and apply more to specific areas where you want more coverage, without messing up the original application or having it look cakey. The consistency is almost like a liquidy moisturiser than a straight up foundation. It leaves a dewy, brightened, slightly airbrushed finish while still retaining the look of your natural skin. Perfect for low-key makeup when you still want to even out the skin and appear more fresh-faced and awake, but can't be bothered with full-on foundation.

Finally, now the skin's more uniform, it's time to add a bit of colour back in. Enter Stila Convertible Colour in Gerbera, the ultimate pastel-leaning peachy-pink. I cannot say enough good things about this blush. Love the colour, love the way it seamlessly applies to the skin without any harsh edges or unevenness, love the healthy radiance it imparts. Pop some on to both cheeks, blend with the fingers, and off you go.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Boldest Berry

I have no idea when I began obsessing over dark berry lips, but they seem to be all the rage. Once categorised as more appropriate for autumn/fall, they're now embraced year-round. There's something edgy and dramatic about a bold lip bordering on vampy. Paired with flawless, dewy skin and minimal eyes, it's positively fresh-faced and trendy as hell. (I may or may not be thinking of the Tom Ford lipstick Lara Bingle wore to her 25th birthday party.) Come to think of it, it took me a long time to come around, but it probably all started with this Lisa Eldridge video on four ways to wear Tom Ford Black Orchid. As usual, when gripped by a new makeup fixation, the first thing I do is pull out and explore all my existing options.

Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of Revlon. They do lip products like no other. My earliest foray into deeper shades came in the form of two limited edition Revlon palettes: a vivid, dark, blue-based red and an eggplant purple in the Illuminance All-over Palette in Passion Fusion (let's call them #3 and #4 respectively), and a plum lip colour in the Bordeaux in the Snow Lipgloss Palette. In my Revlon Lip Butter collection, I have two of the darkest shades, the brightened, dark pink fuchsia Raspberry Pie and the deep brownish-red Red Velvet. I recently added Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick in Black Cherry to the mix, because I wanted a full-on colour to play around with. Before Black Cherry, there was Savvy by DB in Bali that I picked up during Priceline's 40% off cosmetics sale, and much before that, I had the muted brownish-mauve of Australis Foxtrot.

The two lip shades in Revlon Passion Fusion are much more pigmented and creamier than the lip colour in Revlon Bordeaux in the Snow, which is sheer, terribly patchy and extremely dry in texture. It's so hard to pick up any colour and apply it smoothly and evenly to the lips that it's almost unusable. The third shade in Passion Fusion looks like a very dark maroon in the pan, but it's actually much brighter and pinky-red when applied. It could even potentially double up as a cheek tint if sheered out. The fourth shade in Passion Fusion is the most purple of the bunch and reminds me a lot of Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick in Va Va Violet.

Savvy by DB Long Lasting Matte Lipstick in Bali, first brought to my attention by Angela, isn't a lipstick that I anticipated buying. After a few underwhelming experiences with products from the brand, I hadn't given much thought to trying out anything else, except for repurchasing their stellar Luxury Liner eyeliners (now known as Soft Glide). But the deep, berry red colour was so on point, and it was so cheap on sale, that I had to. Being matte, it is a little drying, but nothing a lip balm can't fix. Australis Colour Inject Mineral Lipstick in Foxtrot is a less intimidating option — a desaturated plum with a brownish, rosy tone. I'm not a huge fan of the smell of the Colour Inject lipsticks, but my lips have always liked the formula. The two Revlon Lip Butters in Raspberry Pie and Red Velvet are a couple of my absolute favourite darker lip colours. Almost opaque in pigmentation, but hydrating and glossy, you can whack these on without having to worry about following exact lip lines or somehow messing up the application.

Finally, we have Revlon Black Cherry. I was almost going to devote a whole post to it because of my initial excitement in finally having it in my collection. Ever since I saw Estée feature it in her Beauty Products I Couldn't Live Without video, it's been on my to-get list. Black Cherry is the closest thing I'll have to Chanel Rouge Allure Rouge Noir or Tom Ford Black Orchid. It's a blackened maroon that absolutely needs a lip brush for optimal results. The texture isn't what I expected at all as it's nothing like the other Super Lustrous lipsticks I have, probably because of the difficulty in getting the formulation spot on due to the unusual colour. It can get patchy very quick, including if you rub the lips together or go over existing lipstick to deepen the colour, or just fix up any unevenness or imperfections with the first layer. Bizarrely, I can wipe this off my lips with a tissue and everything slides right off without leaving any kind of stain. I think it works best on well moisturised lips, using only one layer applied in a single, uninterrupted motion straight from the bullet. The edges might need to be cleaned up afterwards, and the colour spread with the fingers in a dabbing motion. I find it starts to feather and fade quite quickly, so constant reapplication and touching up is required. It's one high maintenance lipstick. But there's just something about it. It's a touch vampy, bold and chic. It's anything you want it to be, from the lightest berry stain to the heaviest, near black lipstick.

l-r: Revlon Raspberry Pie, Savvy by DB Bali, Revlon Passion Fusion #3, Revlon Red VelvetAustralis Foxtrot, Revlon Passion Fusion #4, Revlon Bordeaux in the Snow, Revlon Black Cherry

l-r: Revlon Raspberry PieSavvy by DB BaliRevlon Passion Fusion #3, Revlon Red Velvet

l-r: Australis FoxtrotRevlon Passion Fusion #4, Revlon Bordeaux in the SnowRevlon Black Cherry

Pinks, reds, corals, MLBB shades, nudes, and now deep berry reds/burgundy/plums. Every imaginable lipstick need, covered. The frequency that I'd wear any of these shades doesn't warrant the number I have (I didn't even include my Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains), but clearly that's never stopped me. I think lipsticks are to me what shoes must be to some other girls. You might wear a fancy pair for fun around the house, or to a special occasion, but day to day you'll probably be in a boring pair of flats. Similarly, I usually don't even wear lipstick most of the time, but I'm all about having a multitude of choices for when I do feel like dressing up.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Natural Tones

It was the Pixiwoo girls that first introduced me to MUA more than a year and a half ago when they featured the Heaven and Earth eyeshadow palette in one of their videos. Since then, I've read countless blog posts praising MUA eyeshadow palettes as a cheap but good quality alternative to the Urban Decay Naked palettes (with Undressed being modelled off the original Naked, and Undress Me Too the Naked2 palette). I own and adore both Naked palettes, so I never felt compelled to try out a more affordable version (especially when it involves buying online — something I try to avoid unless desperate, which seems to be quite frequently). What really pushed me over the edge though, was recently watching Fleur De Force's £20 Makeup Challenge where she raves about Heaven and Earth and uses 4 shades from it as part of her look. Once I started to properly inspect swatches of Heaven and Earth, I realised practically all the shades appealed to me.

The palette consists of 12 shades — 3 highlight shades, 5 medium shades and 3 darker shades. Each individual eyeshadow doesn't have a name, so I've labelled them 1 to 12 for convenience.

In the top row, shade 1 is a frosty pale champagne/off-white, 2 is a warm, copper-tinged light-to-medium brown, 3 is a dirty yellow gold mixed with a hint of olive, 4 is a pearlescent light pink, 5 is a warm, dark chocolate brown and 6 is an amber/orangey-gold. On the bottom row, shade 7 is a medium-to-dark chocolate brown, similar to the second last shade on the top row but lighter, 8 is a neutral, light-to-medium beige/brown, 9 is a pale, frosty peach, 10 is a cool, silvery, purplish taupe, 11 is a warm, medium-to-dark bronze, and 12 is a slightly ashy dark brown with silvery glitter.

My most used colours are 2, 5, 8, 10 and 11. I tried 3 and 6 as all-over lid colours, but still prefer the other more neutral (read: beige/brown) shades. The shadows aren't uniformly pigmented and some of them were surprisingly difficult to swatch (2, 3, 8 and 10 in particular). Generally, the highlight shades (1, 4 and 9) have excellent pigmentation, with 9 being the clear standout for whatever reason. Shade 5 and 6 also have better than average colour payoff. Surprisingly, I haven't experienced all that much fallout, unlike with my Sleek or Wet n Wild eyeshadow palettes. Though all the shades are shimmery, they're more of a subdued, satin finish and aren't as intensely metallic as say, the Sleek i-Divine palette in Storm.

Are these shadows comparable to the Urban Decay Naked palette? I would say a resounding no. Anyone who has experienced both palettes will know what I'm talking about. The MUA simply doesn't hold up to Urban Decay's stunning pigmentation, metallic depth, blendability, smoothness and lasting power. But for the price I paid (under $10), I'm satisfied with the quality and shade selection. There's a good mix of safe, everyday neutrals that you can use for almost any occasion. For the sheer ratio of potential all-over lid colours in one palette, Heaven and Earth is worth having in your collection.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Glitterati Pursuit

When I first saw images of the Face of Australia Glitterati nail polish collection, my eyes were drawn immediately to the three milky glitters, Funky Town, Heart of Glass and Boogie Wonderland. The other 5 multicoloured glitter polishes in a clear base I could probably do without, or already had in some variation (Ulta3 Over the Rainbow, Sportsgirl Glitter Bug, OPI Rainbow Connection, and Studio 54 = Sportsgirl Rose Gold). But the pastel-based glitter polishes were unlike anything I'd seen an Australian brand release, with the exception of Australis Milky Way. At just $4.95 each, I knew I had to hunt them down. There was quite the saga of how that happened (especially with the frenzy over Kmart recently having $4 off Face of Australia products, making these polishes 75 cents a pop), but I'll spare you the details.

From most reviews I've read, the consensus on Funky Town is that it's lacking in execution. The blue base is too opaque for the glitter to show through, especially if you apply more than one layer. I did three, and when I scrubbed away the colour with nail polish remover, I unearthed multiple pieces of glitter stuck to my nail that had previously been completely covered up by the blue. I guess if you were only going to do one coat, it wouldn't be too much of a problem. The dusty cornflower blue is nice enough as a standalone creme, even without the addition of tiny bright blue and black hexagonal glitter and larger, pale copper hexagonal pieces.

My hands down favourite Heart of Glass is the must-have in this collection. There's so much going on glitter-wise in this polish that it's hard to register all at once. I can see small and large magenta hex glitter, tiny purple squares, large red squares, small, sparse iridescent bar glitter pieces, small holo hex glitter, and red hearts (mainly at the base of my bottle — I've yet to fish one out with my brush). All in a beautiful, pale pink base. Which applied opaque in two coats, the formula was that spot on. I convinced a friend to buy a bottle of Heart of Glass when we were at Priceline together and she texted me the next day saying, "loving my new nail polish!" Ditto.

Boogie Wonderland was my second most coveted polish in the collection. When it's time for Heart of Glass to come off my nails, Boogie Wonderland is going straight on. The glitter is much more dense and pronounced than in Funky Town and Heart of Glass. There's small orange, blue, purple and magenta hex glitter with blue and green curls, iridescent bars and huge holographic hexagonal pieces in a whitish blue base. My only gripe with this polish is that the blue and green curls don't lie flat on the nail and also have a tendency to hang off the edge. You need to manoeuvre those pieces carefully and finish off with a fairly thick layer of top coat to achieve a smooth surface.

l-r: Funky Town, Heart of Glass, Boogie Wonderland

Overall, I'm pretty thrilled with these new additions to my nail polish collection. I'm tiring somewhat of brightly coloured, chunky glitter in a clear base (or those polishes require a bit more creativity that I'm lacking in terms of how to best utilise them), but milky glitters are something I don't see around very much and don't have a lot of (only Revlon Popular, my beloved Revlon Whimsical and China Glaze It's a Trap-eze!). Best of all, they're so affordable that you could buy the whole collection of 8 polishes for the same price as 2 OPI polishes in Australia. Or just stockpile Heart of Glass. It's limited edition, after all.
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