Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gilded Eight

It was on my wishlist in December. Come March, I cracked. Yep, we're talking about the Zoeva Rose Golden Luxury Set. I was doing well resisting it, telling myself I had more than enough brushes, but one random night (no doubt watching YouTube tutorials or reading beauty reviews), I came this close to purchasing the Louise Young Super Foundation Brush LY34 from Beauty Bay. Considering it was about $48, I thought to myself ... why not pay an extra $50 and have a whole set of brushes? The same set that I'd been coveting for months? The rest, as they say, is history ...

l-r: 317 Wing Liner, 231 Luxe Petit Crease, 227 Luxe Soft Definer, 142 Concealer Buffer, 110 Face Shape, 127 Luxe Sheer Cheek, 102 Silk Finish, 106 Powder

Top to bottom: 142 Concealer Buffer, 227 Luxe Soft Definer, 231 Luxe Petit Crease, 317 Wing Liner

l-r: 110 Face Shape, 127 Luxe Sheer Cheek, 102 Silk Finish, 106 Powder

The Rose Golden Luxury Set consists of 8 brushes housed in a dark brown faux leather makeup bag:

  • 106 Powder (Taklon)
  • 102 Silk Finish (Taklon)
  • 127 Luxe Sheer Cheek (Goat)
  • 110 Face Shape (Taklon)
  • 142 Concealer Buffer (Taklon)
  • 227 Luxe Soft Definer (natural-synthetic hair mix)
  • 231 Luxe Petit Crease (natural-synthetic hair mix)
  • 317 Wing Liner (Nylon)

It wasn't until I saw the brushes in person that I understood they weren't all synthetic as I originally thought. The ones with white hairs (labelled "Luxe") are either made entirely of natural hairs (i.e. Luxe Sheer Cheek) or a mix of natural and synthetic bristles (Luxe Soft Definer and Luxe Petit Crease). The rest are made of synthetic taklon bristles (same as Real Techniques), except the Wing Liner which is made of nylon. I don't think there's a significant difference in softness between the brushes with synthetic bristles and natural hairs, though I do prefer the look of the white-haired Luxe brushes. Natural hairs are usually better for powders, while synthetic brushes perform well for both powders and creams.

Overall, this brush set is great value, especially for makeup beginners looking to build a brush collection from scratch but not wanting to stretch the budget. I paid just under $94 for this set, which works out to be $11.75 per brush, not including the makeup bag which may or may not be added incentive to purchase.

The quality seems comparable to Sigma (at least compared with the two Sigma brushes I own, the F82 Round Top Kabuki and F84 Angled Top Kabuki), though the feel and performance of the bristles remind me a lot of Real Techniques. The closest thing Sigma offers in terms of a whole set is probably something like the 7-piece Mrs. Bunny Travel Kit, though that's more expensive, with all synthetic brushes and shorter handles. The Zoeva brushes feel sturdier, better made and more expensive than Real Techniques, with the smooth rounded black handles, engraved rose gold lettering and rose gold ferrules. For the price, I'm not sure if your money could buy you anything better. Sure, Real Techniques might still be cheaper, but they're not as aesthetically pleasing as the Zoeva brushes, you're not getting any brushes with natural hairs (whether or not that's a good thing, depending on your preferences), and you'd have to buy at least two separate sets to achieve the mix of face and eye brushes in the Rose Golden Luxury Set.

Having said that, if you already have a load of Real Techniques brushes like me, you may find a lot of the brushes in the Rose Golden Luxury Set superfluous. I've included some comparisons in this post so those that have yet to bite the bullet with the Zoeva set can see if it's worth the splurge.

l-r: Real Techniques Multi Task Brush, Real Techniques Blush Brush, Zoeva Luxe Sheer Cheek

l-r: Real Techniques Multi Task Brush, Real Techniques Blush Brush, Zoeva Luxe Sheer Cheek

There isn't anything like the Luxe Sheer Cheek from Real Techniques that I own, but the Multi Task Brush and the Blush Brush are similar in function. Real Techniques did recently release the Sculpting Brush which has a similar angled shape, though it looks like a diagonally shaved Expert Face Brush, rather than a brush designed to give a sheer finish for powder products. Despite its name, the Luxe Sheer Cheek can still pack a punch in terms of distributing pigment, especially for products with stronger colour payoff. SUQQU Cheek Brush this ain't. This brush was the one I was most excited about and its inclusion was the strongest incentive for me to purchase the set. It's been my favoured tool to apply blush since the set arrived, as you might be able to tell with how dirty it is. It's excellent at simultaneously sculpting the face while giving it some colour.

Top to bottom: Real Techniques Buffing Brush, Zoeva Silk Finish

l-r: Zoeva Silk Finish, Real Techniques Buffing Brush

l-r: Zoeva Silk Finish Brush, Real Techniques Buffing Brush

These two for me are pretty much indistinguishable. They are extremely similar in appearance, cut and function. The Zoeva is slightly more rounded in shape and firmer to the touch, but in terms of how they apply liquid foundation, there's not much difference. Considering the Buffing Brush was a favourite of mine for years, I'm glad I now have a very close alternative without having to buy a backup Core Collection.

Top to bottom: Real Techniques Powder Brush, Zoeva Powder

l-r: Zoeva Powder, Real Techniques Powder Brush

l-r: Zoeva Powder, Real Techniques Powder Brush

The Real Techniques Powder Brush is quite a bit bigger than the Zoeva version. The density of bristles is about the same. The Zoeva is maybe slightly floppier. I've traditionally neglected the Real Techniques Powder Brush since I don't powder that often and I've always found it to be intimidatingly large, but this past month I've rediscovered it and have found myself loving it. It's its very largeness that makes it enjoyable to use. The Zoeva version is better for more targeted application and closer to the Real Techniques Multi Task or Blush Brush, both of which can be used for all-over face powders, though I prefer to use them for liquid foundation and powder blush respectively.

Top to bottom: Real Techniques Contour Brush, Zoeva Face Shape

l-r: Zoeva Face Shape, Real Techniques Contour Brush

l-r: Real Techniques Contour Brush, Zoeva Face Shape

Zoeva Face Shape is one of the more unique and specific brushes in the set, though the Real Techniques Contour Brush is basically a larger, slightly tapered version of it. The Face Shape is essentially a smaller version of the Zoeva Silk Finish, with the same rounded kabuki shape. My favourite contouring brush is the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt, though I use it only for powders. I don't often attempt to contour with cream products (likely because I don't have many cream contouring products to begin with), but I feel the Zoeva Face Shape would be ideal. Its smaller size and relative firmness allows for more precise placement and ensures that product is well blended but not buffed away to near nothingness.

Top to bottom: Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush, Zoeva Concealer Buffer

l-r: Zoeva Concealer Buffer, Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush

These two are another close match like the Real Techniques Buffing Brush and Zoeva Silk Finish. The Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush is slightly larger than the Zoeva Concealer Buffer. It's also softer and the bristles aren't as densely packed as the Concealer Buffer. Both function similarly in terms of applying and blending out concealer to brighten under the eyes, diminish the appearance of blemishes and neutralise areas of redness. I prefer the Real Techniques as it's not as firm as the Zoeva and performs better on the face, but the Zoeva is still a very close alternative.

l-r: Zoeva 227 Luxe Soft Definer, Sigma E25, MAC 217, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush

l-r: Zoeva 227 Luxe Soft Definer, Sigma E25, MAC 217, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush

l-r: Zoeva 227 Luxe Soft Definer, Sigma E25, MAC 217, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush

The Zoeva 227 Luxe Soft Definer seems to be one of the brand's best known and celebrated brushes. Said to be a dupe of the MAC 217 Blending Brush (or at least a good, affordable alternative), it's made of a mix between natural and synthetic hairs. I believe the MAC 217 is made of goat hair, though surprisingly it was hard to find confirmation from an official source online.

I have several brushes that have a similar shape and functionality to the MAC 217, with a couple of them touted to be dupes. The Sigma E25 is another popular pick, also made out of goat hair. The closest thing Real Techniques offers is the Base Shadow Brush, which is entirely synthetic. I still rate the MAC 217 as the best and despite three similar brushes, there's no competition. The Sigma is probably the closest, but I still prefer the MAC as it's slightly larger, fluffier but still very soft, packs on more pigment and blends better. The Zoeva was at times a little scratchy on my eyelids, but nothing unbearable. Since it's partially comprised of natural hairs, I'm hoping it will get better with continued use and washes.

l-r: Zoeva Wing Liner, Zoeva Luxe Petit Crease, Zoeva Luxe Soft Definer, Zoeva Concealer Buffer

Along with the Face Shape, the Luxe Petit Crease is one of the more specialised brushes in the set. I honestly don't have a brush like it. The most similar would probably be e.l.f. Essential Blending Eye Brush, though the Zoeva is thinner and longer. It's designed to be used in the crease to softly define the socket and blend any shade transitions. As I have monolids and therefore no crease/socket, I can't use it for that sole purpose. Sure, I could always experiment with "cheating" a crease and literally drawing one on, but I've never found a way to do that without it being unflattering or bizarre-looking. Certainly not without resorting to false eyelashes to tie it all together. I subscribe to the Asian eyeshadow technique of putting the "crease" colour (usually a medium neutral) all over the lid and up higher in a rounded shape across the eye so that it's visible when the eyes are opened, then placing and blending the "lid" colour (a deeper shade) from the upper lash line upwards so that it just peeks through when the eyes are opened. Despite not having a crease, I can see the Luxe Petit Crease being useful for more precision work with eyeshadow, especially darkening the outer-V of the eye and blending away any harsh lines.

l-r: Real Techniques Brow Brush, Zoeva Wing Liner

Finally, we have the Wing Liner brush, which is most comparable to the Real Techniques Brow Brush. The Brow Brush is considerably longer and thicker, with the Zoeva being shorter, thinner and more fine. I tried the Wing Liner once and it was fine, but I rarely (i.e. never) use angled eyeliner brushes. I can't be bothered. Most days, I just freehand with a liquid eyeliner pen like my Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner and hope for the best. If there's a super special occasion that calls for more symmetry (we're talking weddings and up), I might use sticky tape as a guide and a proper liner brush. In any event, the Zoeva version gives a lot more precision and control than Real Techniques. Maybe because the Real Techniques, as its name suggests, isn't designed for eyeliner. They have a Pixel Point Eyeliner Brush supposedly for that purpose, which is shaped in a thin straight line and is about the last brush I'd reach for to draw my eyeliner.

l-r: 317 Wing Liner, 231 Luxe Petit Crease, 227 Luxe Soft Definer, 142 Concealer Buffer, 110 Face Shape, 127 Luxe Sheer Cheek, 102 Silk Finish, 106 Powder

So there we have it. My brush collection is now bursting at the seams with the addition of the Zoeva Rose Golden Luxury Set. Time to start burning my larger candles fast so I can empty them and transform them into more spacious makeup brush holders. Overall, I'd say my favourites and most used of the set are the Silk Finish, Luxe Sheer Cheek and Luxe Soft Definer. I like that there are a couple more specialised brushes included, like the Face Shape for contouring and the Luxe Petit Crease for more intricate eyeshadow work. I probably won't use the Wing Liner though it's a perfectly functional brush, and I prefer my Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush to the very similar Concealer Buffer. The Zoeva Powder Brush is fine, but there are at least three brushes made by Real Techniques (Multi Task, Blush and Powder) that are worthy substitutes. Still, this is a reasonably priced, thoughtfully assembled starter set with well made, high quality, beautiful-looking brushes. Rose gold continues to have its moment.

As a side note, I recently just hit 5000 followers on Bloglovin'. To everyone who reads, comments, "saves", and otherwise supports and engages with my blog, thank you for helping me reach this blogging milestone!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blush Bouquet

I spotted the Stila Blooming Bright Convertible Color Trio at Mecca Maxima almost two months ago, but even at $26 for three individual mini cream blushes (2g each, just slightly less than half of a regular Convertible Color which is 4.25g), I resisted. I rationalised to myself that I had enough blushes. That I was more than content with my existing collection, which included numerous cream offerings. That cream blushes "go off" faster than powders. That really, cream blushes are the exact same as any creamy lipstick, and if I wanted to wear a particular colour as a blush, I could just dab a bit of lipstick onto the apples of my cheeks and arrive at the same result. But a couple of weeks passed and I was beginning to regret not purchasing the set, especially since I searched other Mecca stores and couldn't find it. Thankfully, there were still a couple left when I revisited the Macquarie Centre store. Without hesitation, I snapped one up.

Part of Stila's Spring 2015 collection, this set includes the colours Lillium (described as a "pink nude"), Petunia ("coral peach") and Hibiscus ("coral red"). There's also another set of 3 mini Convertible Colors with Camellia ("peachy brown"), Peony ("brownish rose") and Tulip ("deep berry"), but I didn't see it stocked at Mecca. In any event, I would've preferred the shades in the set I bought. They retail for $20 USD, so $26 in Australia is basically the same price. Well done Stila for not ripping Australians off!

I know that Stila also released recently a Field of Florals Convertible Color Dual Lip & Cheek Palette (retailing for $49 USD), which is exclusive to Sephora and their own website. The palette has the same packaging as their 12-pan Eyes Are the Window eyeshadow palettes, and contains the shades Lillium, Magnolia, Tulip, Camellia, Peony, Rose, Gladiola, Peach Blossom, Hibiscus, Gerbera, Petunia and Fuchsia. Notwithstanding the difficulty of acquiring this palette if you live in Australia, I'm more attracted to the individual packaging of the Blooming Bright Trio. I can see a palette with 12 cream shades housed in smallish pans getting messy quickly, plus it's not as convenient to carry around or pop into your handbag as a single mini blush. It's great if you're into variety and having all your colours in one place, but from a practical and "will I actually use it" perspective, I'm not entirely sold.

I already have one Convertible Color in Gerbera, which is my favourite cream blush. At the outset, I was confident in the formula of these blushes. They're extremely pigmented, dewy but not shiny or greasy, generally long lasting (especially with the darker and brighter colours), blend seamlessly into the skin without patchiness, and leave a natural, radiant, healthy-looking flush. I don't have any cream blush colours similar to Petunia (by beauty blogger standards) or Hibiscus (by normal person standards), so in the scheme of things, I thought the set was a prudent buy.

l-r: Lillium, Petunia, Hibiscus

Top to bottom: Hibiscus, Petunia, Lillium

l-r: Stila Lillium, Illamasqua Zygomatic

What I was really surprised by is how dissimilar Lillium is to Illamasqua Cream Blusher in Zygomatic. For the longest time, I was under the impression they were near dupes of each other. How wrong I was. If anything, Lillium is a near dupe of Stila Gerbera. Zygomatic is a lot more brownish nude, not as warm, with slight rosy-mauve tones in comparison. The texture is also different — it's thinner, easier to spread, less pigmented as well. Lillium must be one of the most popular Convertible Color shades, and for good reason. It's so easy to wear, a beautifying everyday shade, and I can imagine it being flattering on many skin tones.

l-r: Stila Petunia, Australis Flirtatious Pink, NYX Natural, Napoleon Perdis, Stila Lillium

I thought Petunia would be close to the existing pink cream blushes in my collection, but once again, I was off the mark. It's considerably brighter in tone and more heavily pigmented. The rest are far more subdued, pastel and muted in appearance. Australis Crème Colour in Flirtatious Pink is a softer, lighter peach, NYX Rouge Cream Blush in Natural is more baby pink, unnamed but fabulous Napoleon Perdis cream blush (freebie with Australian InStyle magazine, November 2013 issue) is more peachy pink, like a cross between Australis and NYX. If anything, those three shades are a lot closer to Lillium than Petunia, though Lillium is a brighter/darker peach than Australis, NYX or Napoleon Perdis.

Oddly, my Petunia came with this overlay of a darker, berry-purplish colour which I had to wipe off to reveal the actual colour underneath. Not sure if this is a common thing or a minor manufacturing defect, since the other two shades didn't have that problem.

l-r: Stila Lillium, Stila Gerbera, Stila Petunia, Topshop Head Over Heels

Top to bottom: Topshop Head Over Heels, Stila Petunia, Stila Gerbera, Stila Lillium

Comparing Gerbera and Lillium side by side, I'm surprised that Lillium is the darker of the two. (Once again, all this time I thought Lillium was a neutral, understated nude pink in the vein of Illamasqua Zygomatic, when really, it's more of a medium warm pink.) Gerbera is more pastel peachy-pink. I was interested to compare Petunia with the brightest cream blush I own, Topshop Head Over Heels. The Topshop blush is clearly more straight up orange, while Petunia is more coral pink. Head Over Heels is also a cream to powder formulation, with a very lightweight, almost mousse-like texture. It's not as hydrating or emollient on the skin but is ultra pigmented, just like Petunia.

I don't have anything like Hibiscus, which instantly reminded me of Liz and her penchant for "clown cheek blushers". This one is hella bright. Use with caution. I learnt the hard way, applying what I thought was a small amount while doing my makeup on the bus from Sydney to Canberra. I only had the small mirror in the blush to go by, so when I looked into a proper mirror at the Canberra bus terminal bathroom, I was shocked. Bona fide clown cheeks. It was too much. Too much. I looked like a stained Easter egg. I had to literally get some of my Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector Combination to Oily Skin to go over my cheeks and tone down the blush to a more human-looking standard.

That mishap encouraged me to buy a small stippling blush (e.l.f. does an affordable one at $8 from Kmart — I managed to buy the last one so it must have been fate), but even then, I have to be cautious not to overdo it. Basically, take 1/5th of what you think would be enough and it might just work. Hibiscus is probably the most pigmented thing I've come across, and that's saying a lot.

One of the benefits of creams vs. powders is that they're multipurpose, and these Convertible Colors (as their name suggests) can double as lip products, but I usually don't bother. The light colours have a tendency to be drying, and I haven't tried the brighter/darker shades yet, though I imagine they'd fare better, especially since you need a very small amount and can always prime/moisturise the lips with some lip balm underneath.

At $26, this set is an affordable way to try three brightening, warm, "spring-appropriate" Convertible Color shades without having to purchase the full size. Sure, they may contain half the product of a full size blush, but when was the last time you finished a full size blush anyway? The packaging might also be inferior quality to the full size Convertible Color (the lettering/pattern at the front is stamped rather than embossed, and the plastic casing does seem on the flimsy side), but at the price point, it's understandable. I'm not sure if these are limited edition (I suspect they are), so if you do see them, I think they're an excellent buy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Boldly Priced

I love Real Techniques brushes and the Pixiwoo sisters, so when I heard about the "premium" Bold Metals Collection they were launching, I was intrigued to say the least. I first glimpsed these shiny, white-haired, pointy-ended brushes on Sam's Instagram four months ago and immediately made a mental note to check them out in person ASAP. Unfortunately, I read that Real Techniques have an exclusive distribution deal with Ulta in the US and Boots in the UK for the first six months they're released, with no plans to sell these brushes on iHerb any time soon (though they are available to purchase now on the Australian Real Techniques website). Like any good beauty addict, I shamelessly inconvenienced a friend who was vacationing in the US, asking them to purchase the Flat Contour Brush (301) for me. These brushes are not cheap, so I limited myself to just one. It was definitely going to be a face brush rather than an eye brush, so by an arbitrary process of elimination (certainly not on the basis of need, since I have too many brushes, period), I opted for the very specific contour brush.

Now, firstly, let's address the most pressing issue with these brushes: the price. The Flat Contour Brush retails for an incredible $65 in Australia. Given you can only purchase them online at the moment, if your order is under $100, you have to pay an additional $5.50 for shipping. I'm sorry, but if I'm paying $70.50 for a single brush, it better be a damn good brush. At that price range, it's competing with established high end brands like Bobbi Brown or NARS. We all know that Australian markup is ridiculous, but this brush ain't cheap in the US or UK either. It's £22 ($42) or $26 USD (about $37 post-tax).

The most jarring aspect of the pricing is comparing the Bold Metals Collection to the original line. Yes, the new brushes are meant to be "super luxe", but at the end of the day, both are made of synthetic bristles. I personally don't feel that much difference in softness between the Flat Contour Brush and any other brush from the original Real Techniques line once it touches my face, though it might not be the best brush to compare as it's very dense, rather than soft and fluffy. Sure, the design of the brushes offers something new, but even then, the elevated price doesn't seem entirely justified. The rose gold is pretty and the handle does feel heftier and properly weighted, but the material and craftsmanship don't scream to me "extremely high quality", especially with a few noticeable nicks and dents on the edges of the handle.

Put it this way. At $37, which is still the cheapest price I could pay for this brush (and I still had to get my friend to buy it online in the States and bring it back to Australia in her luggage), I could buy a Wayne Goss brush (e.g. Brush 14) from Beautylish that's been handcrafted in Japan by artisans using ultra-soft natural hair. Or I could just stick with something like the Expert Face Brush ($9 USD), rather than spending three times the amount for something not vastly superior in craftsmanship, materials or functionality.

Rose gold and contouring brushes ... I'm sensing a trend.

Top to bottom: Real Techniques Flat Contour Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Real Techniques Contour Brush, Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt, Zoeva Face Shape

l-r: Zoeva Face Shape, Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt, Real Techniques Contour Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Real Techniques Flat Contour Brush

Another thing dampening my enthusiasm is I simply did not need this brush in my life. I thought a dedicated contouring brush would be useful, particularly for cream products, but then I had a look at my collection and realised I HAVE BRUSHES FOR THAT ALREADY. And by brushes, I mean four brushes. Minimally.

Sure, the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt is really only for powder products, but the rest are synthetic and good for both powder and creams. (Plus, how many cream contouring products do I even own? The answer is a modest two if bronzer is included: 1) Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel and 2) Illamasqua Cream Pigment in Hollow, which is very questionable in terms of suitability for my skin tone and effectiveness.) Basically, any of these brushes could serve the purpose of the Flat Contour Brush. Some I would say are a lot better since the Flat Contour is limited by its blunt rectangular shape and short, dense bristles. It can't gently dust product on and softly blend it out the way the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt can. The Flat Contour can really only pick up a small amount of product along the entire surface area of the brush, place it in a line down the face, and then blend it out once the product has been put down.

l-r: Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, Real Techniques Flat Contour Brush

In terms of brush shape, the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush is by far the most similar to the Flat Contour Brush. You definitely don't need both. If anything, I prefer the Expert Face Brush as it's more versatile (excellent for cream blush and liquid foundation), and fluffier and softer, meaning it diffuses product seamlessly with less effort. The Flat Contour Brush is narrower in shape so it allows a more precise placement, but since it's significantly firmer to the touch and the bristles are more tightly packed, it's harder to blend product out. It does pick up and use less product while not sacrificing pigmentation due to the density of bristles preventing excess product from being absorbed.

Overall, I like the Flat Contour Brush, but I'm not in love with it. I find it overpriced for what it is and I already have several brushes that are able to carry out its specific function, so I wouldn't say it's an entirely successful addition to my makeup brush collection. Still, it's nice to look at, does what it promises, and while I may have similar brushes, I can't say I have anything exactly like it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Matte Crème (de la Crème)

Trends in makeup seem to arrive in a blaze, often only to exit just as swiftly, overtaken by the next "big thing". I don't know if time's up on matte liquid lipsticks (are we onto lip oils now?), but for a period, they seemed to be all the rage. I was tempted by the Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipsticks, hyped by many a beauty YouTuber, but $17.95 USD shipping (plus $20 USD for a single lipstick) was not happening. Especially not with the Australian dollar flopping — I'd be paying $50 to have one lipstick shipped to me. Enter Australis Velourlips Matte Lip Cream, a local "drugstore"/affordable alternative to satiate my matte liquid lipstick curiosity. At $9.95 a pop, and often on sale at Priceline, they're cheaper than the similar NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams which retail for $12.95 each at Target.

l-r: Pa-ree, Hon-o-loo-loo, Lun-dun

Bottom to top: Pa-ree, Hon-o-loo-loo, Lun-dun

l-r (top row, then bottom row): Pa-ree, Hon-o-loo-loo, Lun-dun

These Velourlips aren't a new release (I remember reading about them all the way back in November 2013), but they didn't grab me when they first launched. Perhaps they were ahead of their time, or took a while to gain traction. I was finally motivated to take a closer look after Australis released several new shades and Shaaanxo featured the Velourlips in her 2014 Drugstore Favourites, calling them "basically the same as Lime Crime". On a recent trip to Priceline, I was playing around with the vibrant purply-pink shade Lun-dun and became hooked. I then read on a random forum that the shade Pa-ree looked close to Lime Crime Velvetines in Cashmere, so naturally I had to get it. The bright-but-pastel peachy nude Hon-o-loo-loo was my next pick since I had to take advantage of Priceline's 40% off cosmetics sale.

What has most impressed me about these Matte Lip Creams are the colours. Just how flattering a shade of lipstick is when applied is surprisingly easy to overlook, especially when one has far too many lip products, but I genuinely like the way all three appear on my lips. In particular, Pa-ree has been a revelation, in that the colour (combined with the ultra matte finish) is entirely unique to my overstuffed collection. It was very hard for me to get an accurate lip swatch because it's toned down and paler than my natural lip colour, while not being overly nude. It's also fairly neutral in tone (not too cool, not too warm). The relative lack of contrast between my skin and lips, and the muted, slightly reddish beige proved a challenge to photograph. I guess I'm between NC20 and NC25, your typical sallow Asian complexion with possibly slight olive tones (but who really knows), and Pa-ree is probably the single most flattering nude I have encountered. I'm reminded of just how good it is every time I wear it. It's also apparently more or less identical to Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Pure Hollywood.

Apart from the colours, the formula of these is virtually faultless. They're a tad drying, yes, but I think that's the nature of the beast. You can't really have a transfer-proof, long-wearing, matte finish lip product without some kind of dryness happening. It's not to an intolerable level, so I don't mind. They're so pigmented that I usually only apply one layer to my bottom lip, then press my lips together to transfer the pigment to my top lip and blend. I then use my finger to dab and pat away any unevenness and diffuse any wonkiness or excess product around the outline of my lips. They set fairly quickly and then stay put, however they're not staining and are easily removed with some lip balm and a tissue.

The Velourlips are entirely matte and opaque in pigmentation, but the lips still retain a soft poutiness to them. Your lips don't look like they've been painted onto your face. The colour seems to be part of the lip itself, melding completely with the lip rather than looking like a layer of product is sitting on top. Once applied, they don't settle, split or separate into lip lines, not even when you smile. Australis nailed it.
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