Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cooled Enthusiasm

I'm a big fan of Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze, so when I spotted two new (neutral!) shades for half price at My Chemist, I snapped both up. There weren't any testers, so I bought them after a bit of on-the-spot Googling on my phone. My only reservations were that Trespassing Taupe (015) would translate on my lids as a dull concrete grey as opposed to brown, and Bluffing (011) might be too light as an all-over wash to provide any definition on my lids. But being won over by the smooth gliding formula and incredible pigmentation of the ScandalEyes Shadow Sticks, I was willing to take the chance.

l-r: Bluffing (011), Trespassing Taupe (015)

Top to bottom: Trespassing Taupe (015), Bluffing (011)

l-r: KIKO 06, Max Factor Caramel Rage, Models Prefer Down to Earth, Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, Rimmel Bluffing

Turns out I had reason to have doubts about the new shades. My absolute most adored eyeshadow crayon is KIKO Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 06 and you can see it's worlds apart from Rimmel Bluffing. The closest to Bluffing is probably Models Prefer Infinite Colour Shadow Pencil in Down to Earth, in that both are distinctly very frosty (my pet peeve) and cool-toned (not the most flattering on my skin tone), with a hint of lilac. Down to Earth has a darker brownish/taupe base compared with the more shimmery, reflective Bluffing. I find Max Factor Wild Shadow Pencil in Caramel Rage to translate as very silvery/greyish on my lids despite it swatching distinctly brown, and Bluffing proved no different.

l-r: Rimmel Trespassing Taupe, Rimmel Taupe, Maybelline Tough as Taupe

I've barely ever used Maybelline Color Tattoo in Tough as Taupe since it looks awful against my sallow skin tone, so at first I took comfort in the fact Trespassing Taupe appeared a lot more brown than the greyish, ashy Tough as Taupe. The problem is that it's still very cool-toned rather than the neutral-to-warm camel/tan shade I was hoping it would be. When applied all over the lid and blended out, the effect is quite sludgy, muddy and complexion-draining. It's an entirely underwhelming affair: it doesn't open up the eyes, nor does it add depth.

As much as I can't fault the intense pigmentation and creamy texture of these ScandalEyes Shadow Sticks, I didn't get along with the shades. They're not abysmal and unworkable, but they're far from ideal. Next time, I'll stick with my trusty warm-toned bronze and copper offerings like Face of Australia Bronze Sphinx, Benefit My Two Cents or my beloved Essence Pas des Copper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charlotte Tilbury Haul

I've wanted Charlotte Tilbury makeup since the line launched, but the elevated prices were hard to justify. Over the past year, the brand seems to have grown from strength to strength and its "it"/buzz factor shows no sign of diminishing, in no small part due to the persuasive talents and celebrity connections of Charlotte Tilbury herself, the renowned makeup artist behind the brand. With a significant social media following and comprehensive tutorials demonstrating how to achieve particular "looks" with her products (each with their own name, like "The Sophisticate", "The Golden Goddess", "The Ingénue"), the more I saw, the more I coveted. From the reviews I'd come across, the standout items from the line seemed to be the Dolce Vita eyeshadow palette and Filmstar Bronze & Glow. I'd added those items to prospective shopping carts on different websites throughout the months, but could never bring myself to follow through. Finally, when Beautylish had a $25 off promotion for purchases over $150 USD (and free delivery to boot), I consulted the wisdom of Twitter and caved. I figured if I was going to splurge, why not go all the way and order the 4 things I wanted the most. This post will detail my first impressions after a few days of playing around — I may do more indepth reviews later.

Makeup Bag
At $20 USD, it's not exorbitantly priced, but still expensive for what it is. I don't really care, because it's incredibly roomy, the zip feels really smooth and extends quite far down the sides (meaning you can really open up the bag and see what's inside), and the printed red lips on white is all kinds of cute. I've already swapped out my existing smallish and unexciting makeup bag for this one and now I can carry a bit of Charlotte Tilbury glamour with me at all times. The cotton canvas material is lightweight and machine washable, making it very practical. If I had to be critical, I'd say I don't love the back with the quote ("Give a woman the right make-up & she can conquer the world") as much as the front. I'd prefer if the lips print was on both sides, and rather than cutting off abruptly at the bottom, it extended all the way around the base as well.

Filmstar Bronze & Glow
Yes, the packaging is glorious. Charlotte Tilbury got that part so, so right. The actual product doesn't disappoint, with the 'Sculpt' shade a good mix of bronzer and contour, and the 'Highlight' shade a refined but powerfully glowy, champagne/beige-toned illuminator. Along with NARS And God Created the Woman Eye Kit and Urban Decay Naked3 (no thanks to artificially hiked up prices online), this is the most amount of money I've spent on a makeup item. Is it "worth it"? It depends. If you already have a good stash of quality bronzers and highlighters, the addition of this won't be revolutionary. Having said that, it's a thing of beauty and the only contouring palette I own.

Luxury Palette in The Dolce Vita
More glorious eye candy. I can kind of see what Lily Pebbles meant when she described Rimmel Brixton Brown as the "drugstore Dolce Vita". Both give a somewhat dark, smoky, russet/bronze/chocolatey look. The Charlotte Tilbury option is of course, much superior quality and the inclusion of the glitter shade is everything. It truly makes the palette. Even with just 4 shades, the palette offers a lot of versatility. The glitter shade can be used on its own like a normal eyeshadow rather than simply a sparkly top coat. The reddish shade is something a little more unique in my collection dominated by taupes and browns. (Doesn't stop me wanting the limited edition Fallen Angel palette though, mainly because Tiffany keeps showcasing its beauty.)

Powder & Sculpt Brush
I'm not sure if you can see from the picture, but the brush I received had a section of the protective plastic wrap it came in glued to the handle. It was this bit of thin plastic overlay that seemingly was fused to the handle and simply wouldn't budge, no matter what I tried. I was completely bummed about it, considering it destroyed the aesthetic of the brush, and added this weird texture to the surface of the handle whenever I used it. I emailed Beautylish about it, and within 24 hours, without any question, they had a replacement brush on its way. Talk about top notch customer service.

Onto the brush itself, I ended up liking this a lot more than anticipated. I was kind of bracing myself after hearing reviews that it wasn't as soft as it could be, but now I've tried it for myself, I don't have any complaints. Sure, it's not as soft as my SUQQU Cheek Brush, but it was also a third of the price. I really like the tapered, smaller shape and how it's the absolute ideal brush to use with the Filmstar Bronze & Glow. A match made in makeup heaven.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Neutral Border, Russet Centre

Before I get into the blog post, just a quick but heartfelt thank you for all the sweet comments in my last post. I know I should be a lot better at responding to comments, but if I couldn't/didn't reply to all of you individually, know that I truly appreciate the time and effort it takes to leave a note, and for all the support, encouragement and understanding.

Remember how I wasn't supposed to buy more makeup? Well, that failed. Miserably. While roadtripping with my parents in the days after Christmas, I noticed My Chemist were having a 50% off Rimmel, Maybelline and Revlon sale. I wasn't intending to purchase anything, but when I spotted the Rimmel Glam'Eyes HD 5-Colour Eyeshadow in Brixton Brown (022), my willpower crumbled. This was the same palette featured on major UK beauty blogs about a year ago (see I Covet Thee, Lily Pebbles, Vivianna Does Makeup), and for a period, it was popping up in videos and on my blog feed regularly. As with every hyped product, I couldn't resist seeing for myself what the fuss was about.

I've only had this palette for 2 weeks but for some reason it looks more like 2 years.

l-r (as marked in the diagram at the back of the palette): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The highlight shade (1) is a beige, slightly pinky, pearlescent shimmer — quite whitish and concentrated. The matte on the bottom left (2) is a medium, neutral tan/camel shade (kind of what I imagine MAC Paint Pot in Groundwork looks like). Oddly, I always thought it looked khaki in the pan, but it doesn't translate on the lids as green in any way. The second darkest shade (3) is a dark chocolate brown with somewhat mauve/ashy tones. The darkest colour (5) is a deep, cool-toned brown, close to black but not quite. The red in the middle (4) is a very metallic, vibrantly pigmented russet/burnt orangey-red — distinctly autumnal in character.

(MAC Eye Kohl in Powersurge on lower lash line.)

My first impressions of Brixton Brown weren't great, mainly because when I opened it, the light brown shade basically couldn't be swatched. It was like it had no pigment. Maybe the surface had sealed the way a lot of my blushes do and needed to be scratched to get any colour payoff. When I returned home from my trip and tried brushes to apply the shadows (as opposed to my fingers or the sad sponge applicator it came with), the palette redeemed itself in my eyes.

I've been relying on the e.l.f. Essential Blending Eye Brush to pack on the light brown shade all over the lid. I then blend some of the second darkest shade from the lower lashline upwards, focusing the darkest shade on the outer corner and finishing by patting some of the red on the centre of the lid. Admittedly, the whole look is a tad heavy and smoky for the daytime, but since I usually wear black-rimmed glasses, the stronger eye makeup isn't as apparent and balances out my dark frames.

As shown in the swatch of all the shades, the shadows themselves are nicely pigmented (though the light brown shade is still the weakest link in that respect, as much as I love the colour). They're fairly soft, borderline powdery in texture, and while there's a bit of fall out with the darker shades, it's nothing that tapping your brush to get rid of excess pigment can't fix.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best of 2014: Beauty

Full disclosure: I found the third year of maintaining this blog challenging. You know I do it for the fun of it and I've always kept it real, but somewhere along the way I lost steam and found it all a bit forced and stale. Don't get me wrong, I still liked makeup, I just didn't feel so enthused with having to write about it.

For a few months, blogging took a backseat as my 20-something year old self tried to figure some identity/life/relationship stuff out (I still haven't, but it's a work in progress). Basically, it was kind of a weird year. It wasn't just blogging that I lost interest in, but it was one of the easiest things to let fall by the wayside. Beauty blogging is inherently not that deep (as distinct from personal, which I feel it absolutely can be), since at the end of the day the conversation revolves around what you're using to paint your face to make it look better, and I wasn't sure I had the energy, ingenuity and lightness of heart to elaborate on another neutral eyeshadow or peachy lipstick without collapsing into boredom or detecting my own insincerity.

It wasn't until my much-needed holiday to Japan in September that I could recharge, reconnect with my interests, and even feel excited to create content again. In some ways, a dip in enthusiasm is inevitable with any long relationship, but I haven't lost any appreciation or capacity to be entertained and to learn when it comes to "beauty".

From newer readers to those who've stuck with me since the beginning and are still here, more than ever, I'm grateful for you. You keep this blog alive and give me a platform to connect with you and be heard. This year, I might even branch out into some non-beauty stuff occasionally to shake things up and get a little more personal. Until then, in true annual tradition, here are my top beauty products of 2014.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
Quite simply, the best concealer I've ever tried. Does everything you want a good concealer to do, including covering up pesky pimples, scarring, areas of redness and uneven skin tone. Best of all, it's a breeze to use and extremely portable. I usually put some on the back of my hand with the applicator and dab the product onto my face with my fingers. No intricate, patient brush work required, no issues with disturbing your existing makeup or the concealer being too dry or hard in texture. It's just the right amount of creaminess to blend into the skin effortlessly while still adhering to the skin and not slipping/sliding off or transferring. Instant repurchase material.

Australis Nail Colour in K-Pop
If I had to nominate an "It" nail polish colour of 2014 that I gravitated to repeatedly, it would be this bright, mid-tone pinky purple. Estée kicked things off when I saw her wear Essie Splash of Grenadine in one of her videos, and soon I couldn't get enough of similar hues (see Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Polish in Lucky Lilac, Essence Colour & Go in Purple Sugar). My favourite variation of the shade would definitely be Australis K-Pop. Just the right balance of pastel and neon, and not too dark. Formula is smooth and easy to work with, requiring only two coats for full opacity.

Napoleon Perdis Cream Blush
Who knew a magazine freebie could be so good? It's conveniently compact making it perfect for travel or to pop in the makeup bag (I've done both), it imparts a fresh, wholesome, natural flush that injects instant life to the face, wear time is excellent, it's light but creamy in texture and doesn't apply patchily or cling to areas of dry skin. Virtually faultless.

Chanel Vitalumière Aqua
My foundation discovery came late in the year but I wish I'd made it much earlier. What most delights me about Vitalumière Aqua is it really sets on the skin. While a bit of shine does come to the surface as the day goes on, all things considered, it's impressively transfer-proof. The quintessential "no makeup makeup" base, it provides good, subtly radiance-boosting coverage while still appearing natural and not completely erasing the skin's underlying qualities.

Real Techniques Multi Task Brush
I never thought the day would come when I'd ditch my Real Techniques Buffing Brush for anything else to apply my foundation. I made the switch in the middle of the year and haven't looked back. While I previously used the Multi Task Brush mainly for powder products (contouring, blush), this works like a charm for liquid foundation, especially slightly thicker, heavier coverage bases that can get a little cakey if not blended out completely. Simply put, the Multi Task Brush involves less work than the Buffing Brush, and the longer, softer but still fairly dense bristles feel nicer on the skin while delivering a streak-free, airbrushed finish.

MAC 217 Blending Brush
There's a reason this is such a popular, oft-relied upon, frequently raved about brush. The first time I used a MAC 217, I instantly understood the hype. The brush applies eyeshadow slightly higher up than what I'm used to, creating more of a rounder shape where the shadow follows the natural curve of the eye all the way around, giving the appearance of bigger eyes. The edges almost appear naturally diffused and never look harsh or too defined, though the actual effort involved is next to zero. The somewhat firm but still fluffy bristles pick up product brilliantly so that colour is really concentrated when it's applied to the lids.

Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner in Deep Black
I featured the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in my 2013 Favourites, but I've managed to find something even better. While very similar, the Dolly Wink gives me even more precision and control. It's no exaggeration to say it virtually revolutionised the way I draw my eyeliner. Because of the ultra-fine tip and how inky black but not overly wet it is, it enabled me to experiment with different shapes and lines that better suited my monolids (essentially, partially drawing the line with my eyes open rather than closed). The only problem is that it does run out quicker than the Stila and since I bought mine in Japan, I'm anticipating a real struggle to find an online stockist that ships to Australia at a reasonable price.

Benefit They're Real! Mascara
Definitively, the best mascara I've used. Even at $38 in Australia, I would repurchase without hesitation. I forget just how good it is when I stop using it. When I come back to it, as I did in the second half of 2014, it's a revelation all over again. Every other mascara seems substandard in comparison. It lengthens, curls, darkens and adds volume to the lashes without clumping or smudging. My short, barely visible Asian lashes need all the help they can get, and They're Real is the closest to a false lash effect I can achieve from mascara alone.

Urban Decay Naked3
We're all at the risk of suffering a bit of Naked overload, which is what makes the third Naked palette all the more impressive. Urban Decay managed to create 12 all new tantalising shades of even more neutral goodness that you never even knew you wanted. Like any good, thoughtfully assembled palette, the versatility and creative potential is all there in the shade selection. Personal favourites include the ultra-glittery Trick which I usually apply wet, sophisticated matte Nooner, and richly metallic Liar.

LORAC Pro Palette
Admittedly I didn't exactly give this palette a resoundingly positive review at first (mainly because I wasn't a huge fan of the actual colours in it), but I never faulted the quality or pigmentation of the shadows. One thing has won me over since, to the extent I'm placing the whole palette in my yearly favourites: the calibre of the matte shades, especially Sable and Espresso. These are the deepest, darkest, most intense mattes I have ever encountered. A light dip into the pan with my eyeshadow brush instantly adds incomparable depth and definition to any eyeshadow look. When I want immediate impact, those are the shades I reach for. And they've never let me down.
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