Saturday, December 27, 2014

Collage Consumption

Every now and then, I get the urge to make a wishlist. There's just something so therapeutic and satisfying about compiling a visual representation of my current material wants. Adult scrapbooking, you could call it. It's also fascinating to look back on past wishlists and see how my tastes have developed from 3 years ago, what items I ended up purchasing, which products I still want but don't have (Charlotte Tilbury The Dolce Vita palette, I'm looking at you) and things that were just passing fancies. The usefulness of wishlists lies in how they make concrete the products you really want and would be willing to splurge on, distinct from stuff that just happens to be on sale, or buying for the sake of being bored and wanting to splash some cash. Bringing to mind your current wishlist is a means of insuring against impulse shopping, minimising waste and regret, and ensuring considered purchasing decisions.

1. Tom Ford Private Blend Café Rose Eau de Parfum
I casually sniffed this the other day and it was instant infatuation. Boozy sweet, seductive and expensive. One slight problem: a 50ml bottle is $295. There's just no way I could justify that, especially since there are more affordable rose perfumes out there (Jo Malone Red Roses comes to mind). I'm also eyeing the limited edition Ecoya Rose Blush and Cedarwood candle exclusive to David Jones to satisfy my rose kick. On the topic of Ecoya, their scrumptious Guava & Lychee Sorbet candle is also eminently covetable.

2. Bobbi Brown Face Blender Brush
I've watched a few videos where Tanya Burr used the Face Blender to apply her foundation (usually NARS Sheer Glow). Since switching to my Real Techniques Multi Task Brush from the Buffing Brush to apply my base, I'm now convinced of the advantages of a softer, fluffy, rounded brush over a more dense, flat top kabuki-style one. I don't need this, but it's basically a fancier version of the Multi Task Brush that I'm sure I'd reach for on a near-daily basis.

3. MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Groundwork
This is one of those more utilitarian products I have a gut feeling I need in my life. I have one Paint Pot in Rubenesque which is the wrong colour for me, but I can't fault the creamy and smooth texture. While I have lots of metallic and shimmery cream shadows housed in pots (favourites include Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, Face of Australia Bronze Sphinx and Essence Pas des Copper), I'm missing a mid-tone, neutral, matte option. I'm counting on Groundwork to be an ever-reliable staple that I can hastily apply as a wash over the lid for fuss-free but polished definition.

4. Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cream
I've yet to really find "the one" when it comes to a holy grail moisturiser, but on that front, I'm keen to experiment and eternally optimistic. Although I've cautioned myself against buying more skin care until I use up my existing tubes and bottles (along with makeup, candles, soaps/shower gels, makeup brushes and pretty much everything that interests me shopping-wise), this moisturiser is top of my list when I do allow myself to buy, or cave and break my "ban". Caroline Hirons-approved, it sounds gentle, non-irritating, beautifully hydrating and soothing on the skin.

5. Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in Grey Pearl
After my little Caviar Stick swatchfest recently, Grey Pearl stood out to me as a must-have for defining the lower lash line. And thankfully, it's not bronze! The last thing I need is yet another addition to the multitude of nearly indistinguishable bronze eyeliners I have. Rather, it's a beautifully hazy purplish grey that reminds me of the kind of colour I most love wearing on my nails (see Nails Inc. Porchester Square, Sportsgirl Storm). I find taupes/greys to be more understated and sophisticated on the lower lash line than darker bronze or copper shades that "pop" more but can lack subtlety for the daytime.

6. Zoeva Rose Golden Luxury Set
This was something I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago and felt immediately compelled to buy. I mean, just look at it. Look at that shiny rose gold perfection and those gorgeously shaped, fluffy, versatile brushes that I know I'd use with love and care. Don't tell me money can't buy happiness. Even the pouch looks well made and stylish. Though it's not cheap at about $100, for 8 brushes, it works out to be pretty good value. I don't know all that much about Zoeva, but the general impression I have is affordable quality. The only thing that's stopping me from adding to cart and entering my credit card details is my attempt at adhering to my no-buy list (see point 4). Do. Not. Need. More. Brushes.

7. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Red Square
Revlon Matte Lipstick in Strawberry Suede is my favourite red lipstick and this is the closest thing I've found to it. I've tried the tester a couple of times at Mecca Cosmetica and each time, I come away fully convinced Red Square will be mine one day. It's not a matter of if, only when. I rarely wear and arguably don't even like reds, but I love this one. It's the only kind of red I can pull off and perks up my whole face.

8. Narciso Rodriguez Narciso Eau de Parfum
When perfume God Luca Turin (co-author of the ingenious Perfumes: The A-Z Guide) gives a newly released perfume 5 stars in his "Message in a Bottle" column for Arabia, you bet I will hunt it down and I will sniff it and I will want it. This perfume is heady, enveloping, soapy, powdery, musky, creamy, warm and feminine, especially when left to meld with one's skin. I don't know when I became partial to expensive-smelling, refined, big soapy fragrances, but I can't seem to get enough.

9. L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil
A cult product from the brand, I feel like I've been reading about this shower oil on blogs for an eternity. I'm convinced that if I did buy it, I won't be disappointed. I'm fascinated by the concept of an oil that foams up when it's applied to the skin. Everything about it, from the ingredients, packaging, scent and the way that I imagine it would feel on the skin, promises an indulgent shower experience.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Favourites: Skin Care

Time for the yearly roundup of best-loved products, and this time I'm dedicating an entire post to skin care (beauty favourites to follow). Some of these products I discovered this year, others were purchased the previous year but continued to serve me well throughout 2014. The funny thing about skin care is that unlike makeup, where I can usually tell straight away whether something will be a hit with me or not, it's not uncommon for me to develop a deeper appreciation or understanding of a product weeks or months after forming an initial lukewarm, or perhaps even slightly negative, opinion. Perhaps the key is continued use and the patience to stick with a routine that eventually pays off with results.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
Silky, slippery and nourishing, this olive-oil based cleanser gets absolutely everything off efficiently, while your face receives a relaxing massage every night when this is smoothed onto the skin in circular motions. When washed off, it doesn't leave any trace of greasy residue, nor does it feel drying.

Antipodes Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum
A wonder product for dry skin, this can be worn alone before moisturiser as a serum, or mixed in with your regular cream for an extra hydrating, skin-loving boost. Lately, I've been slapping onto my face 3-4 drops of this with a small dollop of Nivea Soft before bedtime and waking up to smooth, soft and visibly rested skin. If you buy the 10ml size in the $20 Anti-Ageing Minis set (which also contains a 15ml tube of Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream), it's terrific value.

Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask
My go-to product to fix dry skin, stat. It's deliciously fruity and feels calming and instantly thirst-quenching, minimising any flaky patches and generally restoring moisture to the skin overnight. My only (slight) complaint is that it does feel a bit sticky and doesn't absorb entirely, especially when applied liberally, so there might be a bit of transfer on your pillow if you rest your cheek on it.

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm
After initially not being all that enthused, I finally saw the light in February this year when I started using this as a morning cleanser. Now, it's hard to imagine being without what is undoubtedly the most luxurious skin care product I own. With a heavenly fragrance that demands to be inhaled deeply, this ultra-nourishing and skin-plumping balm wakes up the senses with its premium ingredients and pampering feel.

Omorovicza Queen Of Hungary Mist
Yes, it's an eye-watering £46 (or $91) for 100ml, and the main appeal might be the glamorous name and elegant packaging rather than what's inside. I wasn't completely convinced it was worth the price at first. But now? I'm leaning towards repurchasing when I run out (I'll definitely need a discount code though). Firstly, like all sprays (except Avene Thermal Spring Water, which I go through like toilet paper), it takes ages to be used up. I've had my bottle for 16 months and it's still about 50% full. Granted, I'm not religiously spritzing it every hour of every second, but I'm not exactly rationing it either. But more to the point, when I follow with this after an exfoliating toner, my skin loves the injection of hydration and suppleness. It feels properly prepped to receive and absorb the benefits of any serums/face oils/creams that are subsequently applied.

Pixi Glow Tonic
Along with the Emma Hardie and Omorovicza, this is yet another Caroline Hirons recommendation I simply had to take up. I remember the sheer joy of finding this in stock at the Pixi shop off Carnaby Street on my London holiday in September 2013, back when you couldn't purchase it online and it was notoriously difficult to get a hold of at the physical store. Although I've been alternating Glow Tonic with the excellent First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads for my post-cleanse exfoliating toner, I find the Pixi more economical and gentler, more hydrating. Consistent use helps to improve the texture of my skin and forms part of a more complete skin care routine when paired with a hydrating toner before moisturiser.

NUXE Rêve de Miel
I was a naysayer at first. Now the backup's already in my drawer, waiting to be utilised the second my existing tub is emptied. If you've never tried this before, then it probably won't be like anything you know. This is a weird thick paste with exfoliating BEADS. The trick is to apply a small amount and really work it into the lips, letting the heat of your skin almost melt the product so it starts to sink in. I use this every evening as an overnight lip treatment to banish dry, flaky lips, but also whenever my lips are calling out for some intensive repair.

Dove Triple Moisturising Deep Nourishing Body Wash
You know what? Forget about philosophy or Lush and all those fancy shower gels with their gourmand or oriental scents. This stuff is simply the best. While I love a bit of bathing in a foamy cloud of cookies or spice, most of the time, you just want to keep it simple. This is pristine, soapy goodness. The actual product and the way it feels on the skin is positively luxurious for something seemingly so pedestrian. It's lusciously thick, lathers like a dream, feels slick and intensely nourishing and washes off without leaving the skin feeling dry or slippery.

Grown Mandarin and Rosemary Leaf Body Cream
I never thought I would use up a 500ml bottle of body moisturiser, but 18 months later, here we are. Let this be a resounding testament to how good this stuff is. Dare I say it almost makes me look forward to moisturising my body after I step out of the shower? The formulation is perfection. It has a herbal, somewhat citrusy scent that isn't too heavy, and is the furthest thing from sugary and cloying. But best of all, this is a body cream that actually absorbs into the skin. There is no stickiness or dampness after you've applied it, which I find nothing short of a miracle given the deep hydration it provides.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Beachy and Undone

I don't do hair. But when Sephora opened up in Sydney, I found myself oddly drawn to the hair care section. With all the testers just begging to be abused, I grabbed whatever was in front of me and started spritzing liberally. The result was nothing short of revelatory. My boring, flat, lifeless mop of hair was suddenly transformed into a tousled, voluminous, bed head vision. I literally had to rush back to the store the following day, determined to pick up the two products that impressed me the most: Sachajuan Ocean Mist and amika Un.Done Texture Spray.

I couldn't find any of the amika Un.Done Texture Spray at Sephora (the nice lady I spoke to said that the "amika girls" had recently done some kind of event at the shop and that specific product might not even be stocked at Sephora, but merely something they left behind), so I had to purchase it online. But the Sachajuan was there for $35. That's kind of a lot for what appears to be salty, alcohol-laced water in a coolly designed, minimalist bottle, but by that stage I was already converted and couldn't hand over my money fast enough.

The Sachajuan Ocean Mist and amika Un.Done Texture Spray have now joined Morrocanoil as the only hair products I own apart from shampoo and conditioner. I've been enjoying using the both of them together on second day hair to amp up volume, emphasise any natural waves from tying my hair up in a bun a lot of the time, and generally create a messy, slept-in, effortless look.

The Sachajuan has more grit and a subtle stickiness to it that feels like I'm deliberately dirtying my hair to generate texture and body. As it's just a spray rather than an aerosol like the amika, it comes out more like a squirt of liquid than an ultra-fine mist. For that reason, when it's spritzed, it tends to be concentrated in a particular area rather than dispersed evenly and thinly over a larger surface. I spray it a few times all over, then go in and rub, twist and scrunch sections of my hair together with my hands to better distribute the product and essentially tease and mess my hair up.

I then follow up with the amika all over and once again, tease my hair with my hands to "activate" the product. The Un.Done Texture Spray is what gives the hair that grungy, bed head appearance, building lots of natural-looking volume but in a touchable, weightless, invisible way. I have read that it's the closest dupe to Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray on the market. Though I haven't tried the Oribe myself (and at the prices it sells for, I don't foresee that changing any time soon), upon inspecting the ingredients of the two, I can see why that claim might be true.

amika Un.Done Texture Spray: Hydrofluorocarbon 152A, Butane, SD Alcohol 40-B, Disiloxane, VP/VA Copolymer, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Zeolite, Glycerin, Triethyl Citrate, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Fragrance, Hippophae Rhamnoides Extract, Water

Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray: Hydrofluorocarbon 152A, Dimethyl Ether, SD Alcohol 40-B (Alcohol Denat.), VP/VA Copolymer, Zeolite, Glycerin, Acetyl Triethyl Citrate, PEG/PPG 17/18 Dimethicone, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, AMP-Isostearoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Benzophenone-4, Water/Aqua/Eau, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Fruit Extract, Passiflora Incarnata Flower Extract, Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract, Hedychium Coronarium Root Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Linalool, Citral, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Parfum/Fragrance

I'm no expert on chemicals, but apart from the added extracts in the Oribe, it looks like the two are more or less exactly the same thing. Given the Oribe is far more than what I'd be willing to shell out on a hair product, I'm happy to have discovered the Un.Done Texture Spray if it gives a very similar effect but at a much reduced price.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gold Standard

Despite having more than 80 lipsticks at last count, I've only recently purchased my first one from Yves Saint Laurent. I've long admired these gilded bullets of magnificence, but at $55 a pop, I wasn't sure I could justify the splurge. Enter the utterly enabling environment of duty-free airport shopping, and the Rouge Volupté Shine in Corail Intuitive (15) was mine. As always, picking the shade was a difficult task, but Jennifer convinced me to go for something on the bright and peachy side.

l-r: Revlon Juicy Papaya, Lancome Blush Classique, YSL Corail Intuitive, Revlon Peach Parfait, Maybelline Mango Diamonds

I predicted I'd have a few similar shades to Corail Intuitive and it's no surprise that I absolutely do. The closest is probably Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter in Juicy Papaya. It's brighter in tone, slightly more neon, and also thicker in texture and less emollient. Lancome L'Absolu Rouge in Blush Classique (337) is very similar texturally to the Rouge Volupté Shine, but distinctly more pink in colour and more shimmery. Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter in Peach Parfait is grittier in texture due to the chunky gold shimmer, and more beige/rosy in colour compared to the YSL, which is more orange/coral and slightly lighter. Maybelline ColorSensational "The Shine" Lipstick in Mango Diamonds (445) is darker yet brighter in tone, more red-leaning and not as sheer.

There's not much to fault with YSL Rouge Volupté Shine in Corail Intuitive. I'm a fan of the fruity, sweet scent, it has a sheer, lightweight, moisturising formula that glides on but doesn't settle into lip lines, it's not super pigmented making it ideal for everyday wear but can also be built up in intensity for a punchier look, it imparts the lips with a soft, plumped up sheen that isn't overly glossy, and then there's the packaging. I'll be the first to admit it was about 85% of my motivation to purchase. It's an object of art to be appreciated when placed on your vanity or retrieved from your purse for touch ups. Without a doubt, this is the single most glamorous lipstick in my collection.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shake to Activate

Despite having about 10 bases open presently, I made sure during my trip to Japan to finally purchase a foundation that's been on my wishlist for literally years: Chanel Vitalumière Aqua. I have a pretty imprudent habit of never asking for samples and buying foundations blind (except replace "foundations" with "basically every makeup item ever"), so I wasn't quite sure how it would perform on my skin. I figured even if it were a complete flop, at least I'd never be left wondering whether such a popular, highly rated foundation worked for me or not.

l-r: Make Up For Ever HD Foundation in 118, Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in B20, NARS Sheer Glow in Fiji

Straight off the bat, I love this foundation.

It's become my newest go-to base in the mornings, replacing NARS Sheer Glow. I find Sheer Glow provides more coverage and is more powerfully illuminating, but has a thicker consistency and gets oily faster. Sheer Glow has always been a foundation that I find more suitable for evenings or special occasions as the finish is so flattering and radiance-boosting. However, if not blended in perfectly or if you use a tad too much, it can be obvious you're wearing makeup.

Chanel Vitalumière Aqua is a foundation that is perfect for everyday wear. Granted, my skin has been cooperating recently after a long stretch of being awful, so my enthusiasm for Vitalumière Aqua may be in part due to not having any major skin issues at the moment. This past week, I've returned to using the luxuriously pampering Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm in the mornings, moisturising with one pump of Trilogy Balancing Face Lotion, then applying a smallish amount of Vitalumière Aqua (after at least 15 seconds of vigorous shaking) to my face with my Real Techniques Multi Task Brush.

The result is skin that is naturally perfected, but still looks like skin. The effect is almost undetectable but still transformative. I'd read reviews mentioning that this foundation might be problematic for dry skin, but I haven't had issues with it emphasising dry patches or being difficult to work with (unlike Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Aqua Foundation). The watery, ultra-light consistency spreads easily and blends seamlessly into the skin. The coverage isn't amazing (you will need to go in with a concealer to erase any blemishes or darkness under the eyes), but in a way, that's what I like about it. It's not a heavy duty foundation that you paint on. It's still slightly transparent but very effective for the coverage it does provide. The finish isn't exactly glowing or super illuminating, but it's soft focus and semi-matte.

Another aspect of Vitalumière Aqua that I was pleasantly surprised by is the oil control. Perhaps because it's water-based, it's impressively transfer-proof and keeps my T-zone more shine-free than most of my other foundations. I still regularly blot at about the 3 hour mark, but there definitely isn't as much oiliness coming through. Paired with a primer like Benefit POREfessional or Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, there's even less. Lasting power does diminish during the day, but only in the sense that coverage fades slightly. It's not one of those foundations that just melts off your face at the end of the day and leaves it looking worse for wear.

B20 is more or less a spot on shade for me and very similar to Make Up For Ever HD Foundation in 118, probably the closest match to my skin tone I've found. I've read reviews that Vitalumière Aqua oxidises after a while, but thankfully I haven't experienced any issues with the shade match.

I haven't been this happy with a foundation for a very long time. If you're looking for an incredibly lightweight, natural-looking, daily base that wears well and doesn't devolve into an oily mess, Vitalumière Aqua ticks the boxes. Definitely worth the hype.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lips and Tips

Priceline had their legendary 40% off cosmetics sale last Tuesday and Wednesday. And you bet I ventured out in the morning to my local store to swatch, pick things up, put them down again, search for reviews on my phone and contemplate any purchases as if they were important life decisions. Aimless indecision made me almost want to walk out of the store empty-handed, but I finally committed to buying more lipstick and nail polish, the two things I have in greatest abundance. Even though this was the third time they've held such a sale (see here and here for previous hauls), somehow the prospect of scoring any cosmetics item for almost half price couldn't go ignored.

I was meant to stick to a list I made beforehand, but I only had one item on it: a base coat. I never believed in base coats before, but the absence of one has made me feel uneasy about my whole nail painting ritual. I was planning on picking up an el cheapo one but couldn't find one from Essence. I've tried the Sally Hansen Diamond Shine Base & Top Coat and was contemplating buying it again, but decided to go for something different with Essie First Base.

Speaking of Essie, can we take a moment to talk about the prices of their polishes in Australia? (OPI also isn't exempt from this conversation.) The First Base Base Coat retails for $17.95 when it's $8.50 in the US. The normal polishes are $16.95 each. Yes, products are marked up ridiculously in Australia and none of this is news, but still. I'm not understanding how there could be any justification. Rimmel, Maybelline, Max Factor and CoverGirl price their polishes around $5-$10 while brands like Essence and Ulta3 have polishes under $3. It's just nail polish.

The upside to Priceline stocking Essie is that you can occasionally take advantage of marked down stock being subject to further discounts. I spotted some polishes from the Encrusted Treasures Holiday 2013 Collection that were already discounted to $8.47. With a further 40% off, they were a bargain at $5.08 each. After much deliberation, I chose Hors D'oeuvres and Peak of Chic. Hors D'oeuvres could very well be the blingiest nail polish I've ever laid eyes on, while Peak of Chic has made me want to give up on bar glitter from here on out. Still, I love a challenge and am determined to try and make it work.

I also picked up Rimmel Salon Pro nail polish in Hip Hop, because my friend was wearing these juicy, slightly orange-leaning red nails the other day and it looked so classic and modern and Christmassy and feminine that I immediately set out to buy something similar. I almost never wear red nail polish, but Hip Hop looks like the kind of red I could get into.

Finally, the lip products. I felt out of the loop when it came to "drugstore" lip releases, especially whatever newfangled glosses or gloss/stain/balm/lipstick hybrids were being released, so I set to take a closer look. I wanted to purchase a Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet Lipstick but they didn't have the shade I was after, Pink Pong. I happened to come across a L'Oréal Colour Riche Extraordinaire stand and after swatching all the shades on display, decided Nude Vibrato (600) was the one for me. (I did briefly contemplate buying the lone Nude Ballet (601) left, said to be worn by none other than Kim K on her wedding day, but it was not a good look on me.) I was interested in buying a Maybelline Color Sensational Color Elixir simply because I'd seen them everywhere on blogs. It was next to impossible to pick one, but in the end I played it safe with Rose Redefined (090). The other shades seemed inappropriate for the office (not that I shy away from brights, I just prefer them to be strongly pigmented and ideally, matte) or way too pale.

l-r: L'Oréal Nude Vibrato (600), Maybelline Rose Redefined (090)

l-r: Maybelline Rose Redefined, L'Oréal Nude Vibrato

l-r: Revlon Elusive, Maybelline Rose Redefined, L'Oréal Nude Vibrato, MAC Patisserie

Maybelline Rose Redefined reminded me of Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm in Elusive, and sure enough the two swatch similarly. Elusive is brighter in tone and obviously much more pigmented. I was trying to find the closest match I have to L'Oréal Nude Vibrato, but MAC Patisserie still has noticeable differences, mainly it's surprisingly sheerer, less peachy nude and more of a darker orange/redder in comparison. The L'Oréal can be very thick in terms of both texture and pigmentation, so I prefer to apply it to just my bottom lip then press my lips together to transfer it to my top lip and sheer it out. The Maybelline is a touch too glossy for my liking and the conservative rose colour doesn't excite me (no one to blame there but myself for that). It also seems to work better applied thinly with the fingers rather than layered with the applicator, which can cause unevenness on the lips. The texture however, is gloriously plush and cushiony, and almost redeems the ho-hum shade.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mint Condition

I love Lush. I just flipped through their Christmas catalogue and my eyes lit up browsing all their brightly coloured, festively packaged gift sets. There's something about how constantly inventive and appealing to the senses their products are that satisfies my love of novelty and a lil' self-pampering. And unlike cosmetics which take forever to be used up, I don't struggle to get through body products and skin care. Emptying a product I enjoyed using throughout gives me immense satisfaction, and the best part is being able to repurchase or try something different without guilt (not that I don't have backups of shower gels and random soaps lying around that I haven't touched). The latest product I've tried from Lush is the Mask of Magnaminty, my first experience with one of their "fresh" masks.

Mask of Magnaminty is an exfoliating, deep cleansing clay-based mask. It looks like choc mint ice cream with its green colour and crushed up aduki beans, and smells a bit like it too. It's a gritty, thick paste with ground up red beans that feels more like you're putting raw food on your face than something synthesised in a lab. When you're applying it to the skin with your fingers, there's not a whole lot of stickiness going on and I'm slightly concerned about bits of the mask falling off my face.

It's gently minty upon application, though nothing overpowering, and the minty sensation reduces with time. I usually leave it on for 15-20 minutes, during which the mask will slightly harden but remain mostly wet, depending on how thickly you've slathered it on. It definitely doesn't harden and tighten, uncomfortably/hilariously immobilising facial movement, like other clay masks. It's quite easily washed off with warm water. I like to massage it in with my fingers while washing it off to get in some extra manual exfoliation. Due to its coarse, granulated texture, and the presence of peppermint oil, it may be too abrasive and irritating on sensitive skin.

After it's washed off, my skin is left feeling refreshed, purified and scrubbed. While I don't really detect any instant glowing effect and it doesn't banish spots immediately after use, it's a mask I reach for when I need a good, minty deep cleanse and to slough away any dry, flaky bits. I'm a big fan of the unusually chunky composition and how much it reminds me of something edible, and who doesn't love a face mask for some welcome "me time"?

Ingredients: Bentonite Gel, Kaolin, Honey (Mel), Talc, Ground Aduki Beans (Phaseolus), Glycerine, Evening Primrose Seeds (Oenothera biennis), Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), African Marigold Oil (Tagetes erecta), Fair Trade Vanilla Absolute (Vanilla Planifolia), Limonene, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Chlorophyllin

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bounce and Dab

I've wanted to try a Beautyblender since pretty much the start of this blog, but only recently managed to actually order one. I'm content with my brush collection and my curiosity about elliptical-shaped sponges was temporarily satiated with the purchase of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, so while I had always intended to eventually try the Beautyblender, there wasn't a pressing need. With a discount coupon in hand however, it was the perfect opportunity to finally try the iconic beauty tool.

Having used it a couple of times, a lot of my thoughts mirror those of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. I think the two are fairly indistinguishable, except that the Beautyblender seems to be a bit more durable (but harder to clean) and I prefer the overall shape of the Beautyblender over the Miracle Complexion Sponge, which has the addition of a flat edge.

The most apparent thing about the Beautyblender is that it's a lot more work than a brush. Having to quickly stipple (bounce) the ball all over the face to evenly distribute, press and blend in foundation requires much more manual labour than anticipated. At some point, my arm started to tire. If only I were ambidextrous, then I would've switched hands to at least ensure an even workout.

I noticed that I use at least twice as much product, probably due to the sponge absorbing a lot of it. This doesn't overly concern me as I have a surplus of foundations, most of which I don't envisage finishing before they go off. But if you only have one or two treasured and expensive foundations that you want to stretch out for as long as possible, the amount of product that gets soaked up might be a concern.

The other major downside is that it's a pain to clean. I'm lazy at the expense of stricter hygiene standards, so it's not uncommon for me to only wash my foundation brushes once every 3-4 weeks despite near daily use. I can't really do that with the Beautyblender because I'm paranoid remnants of foundation will solidify and dry within the sponge itself, making eventual cleaning much more difficult. It's also the fact that I feel the sponge won't work properly the next time I use it if it's dirty, unlike a makeup brush. So far, I've tried cleaning it with regular soap and a face cleanser, and both weren't entirely effective in that foundation stains were left on the sponge. The Beautyblender also leaked pink dye as I squeezed it under the tap which I prepared myself for having read previous reviews.

Despite all that extra time and effort, the tradeoff is a more natural, seamless finish that can't exactly be replicated with a makeup brush. I'm convinced that something happens as water from the damp sponge evaporates from your face along with the foundation it's mixed with. The result is that foundation seems to have been thoroughly worked into skin in an undetectable fashion. It's akin to really spending time to buff and stipple foundation all over with a fluffy or flat-top kabuki-style brush, except that the sponge gives a more close contact, skin-like result. Although you use more product than with a brush, it gives sheerer coverage because everything is blended and patted away with the damp, spongy surface. Sheering out foundation with water from the sponge and applying thin layers also seems to make foundation more transfer-proof and less prone to getting oily, especially around the T-zone.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Flashing Rainbows

I haven't been genuinely excited about a nail polish for a while, but my newest discovery has been a revelation. Models Own Northern Lights was another impulse buy that was part of my Luxola order. I was looking for something relatively inexpensive that would qualify me for free shipping, and naturally gravitated toward nail polishes and the Models Own page. The only other Models Own nail polish I had was the exquisite Indian Ocean, so I was hoping to find something equally unique and visually arresting.

I don't have any purely holographic polishes despite a strong interest in them, though I have a few glitter polishes that partially contain holographic glitter. Northern Lights is a dusty, blush pink glitter polish in a clear base, where the individual glitter particles have a strong holographic effect. It's quite a dense glitter polish and two coats sufficed to provide opaque coverage. I first used two coats of Savvy by DB Nude to provide a neutral, tinted base, followed with three coats of Northern Lights, then sealed everything with my trusty Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat. It's been six days and still not a chip in sight — a seriously impressive feat given glitter polishes are notorious for chipping quickly.

Northern Lights is absolutely dazzling in direct sunlight but still powerfully holographic under artificial or indirect light. Despite that, it doesn't seem gaudy or OTT, mainly due to the muted pink base and the small, uniform glitter particles. If it were made of chunky, differently sized glitter, and there was a stronger contrast between the holographic effect and the base colour, the whole character of the polish would change. Northern Lights manages to pull off a rare thing: elegance in a party varnish.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dark Flair

Sleek i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette in Arabian Nights was a complete impulse buy. I was freshly showered, in bed and casually browsing social media on my iPad before planning to nod off, when I saw a 30% off coupon at Luxola. Having never heard of the site before, I followed the link, looked through the brands they stocked, and the rest is history. I was debating between Arabian Nights and Garden of Eden and for a moment had both in my cart, but in the end, online swatches of Arabian Nights edged out Garden of Eden, which had about 3 too many green shades for my liking.

Top row: Scheherazade's Tale, Gold Souk, Aladdin's Lamp, Sultan's Garden, Hocus Pocus, Simbad's Seas
Bottom row: Genie, Black Magic, Stallion, Sorcerer, Valley of Diamonds, 1001 Nights

Scheherazade's Tale is a pink/peach shimmery highlight. Gold Souk is chunky foil gold. Aladdin's Lamp is a taupey dark bronze with a pewter undertone. Sultan's Garden is a patchy moss green with goldish emerald sparkles. Hocus Pocus is a vibrant, gleaming, jewel-tone emerald. Simbad's Seas is a concentrated, jewel-tone ultramarine/sapphire blue.

Genie is a cool-tone, dark bronze with purplish sparkles. Black Magic is a dark greenish gunmetal. Stallion is a deep matte aubergine. Sorcerer is a metallic dark moss green. Valley of Diamonds is a dark royal purple with a sprinkling of copper glitter. 1001 Nights is a blackish hunter green.

The quality of Arabian Nights is on par with previous Sleek eyeshadow palettes I've reviewed, including Storm, Bad Girl and Oh So Special, which is to say there's always 2-3 relatively underwhelming shades and 1-2 standouts. In Arabian Nights, Sultan's Garden is quite sheer and Gold Souk was surprisingly difficult to pick up pigment-wise, despite both being shimmery shades that Sleek generally excel at. The only matte shadow in the palette, Stallion, was slightly dry and chalky, but had good colour payoff. Hocus Pocus and Simbad's Seas, two intense, eye-catching shades that wouldn't look out of place in the Tom Ford Emerald Lust quad, are the stars of the palette. It's debatable how much wear I'd get out of them though, considering I rarely stray from the safety zone of my beloved neutrals.

The main selling point of these i-Divine Eyeshadow Palettes is how affordable they are (generally under $20 at full price) and the sheer variety of interesting, original shades on offer that would otherwise be difficult to track down in comparable palettes or as single eyeshadows. Even if I might not reach for them with any regularity, as an eyeshadow enthusiast, I like having the option there should I ever be in a more creative or experimental mood, or simply want to play around with colours and looks. The shade selection of Arabian Nights might not be the most daytime appropriate or office friendly, but it's precisely the dramatic and exotic character of the palette that drew me in. (Being limited edition never hurts either.) Having said that, given how close in appearance dark shades are when applied on the lid, and the fact I've basically never touched my Bad Girl palette which also consists mostly of intense, deep shades, it's debatable whether Arabian Nights really adds all that much to my existing options.
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