Sunday, August 23, 2015

Maybelline Haul

Maybelline is currently 50% off at Priceline, so naturally I've been haulin'. I just can't seem to resist a good sale, no matter how valiantly the "logical" side of my brain attempts to convince me otherwise. "Drugstore" makeup is so expensive in Australia that 50% off basically just brings our prices in line with the US. Maybelline has had a few exciting launches recently, so I took the opportunity to buy some products I've heard good reviews about, along with a couple of unplanned purchases that were irresistibly cheap.

Super Stay 7 Day Gel Nail Color in Surreal ($3.97, normal price $7.95)
I was curious to try one of these polishes as they seem to be well received by British bloggers. The colour also reminded me of the exact blue I was after in my Evil Eye Nails post. Because of the long-wearing, gel colour claims, I thought I'd skip my usual Sally Hansen Insta-Dri top coat, but surprisingly, this chipped on me within a day. That's deterred me from buying any more polishes in the range. The colour selection is limited anyway, so no other shade (apart from maybe Rose Poudre) is really calling out to me.

Lash Sensational Mascara & HyperSharp Liner Pack ($12.45, normal price $24.90)
The bargain of this haul. I even bought a backup. It's one thing to have unbeatable value (the mascara retails for $21.95 on its own, the HyperSharp Wing Liquid Liner $16.95), it's another thing when the products actually perform. I've ditched all other mascaras I was using (including Rimmel Glam'Eyes Day 2 Night Mascara and Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreme, a freebie from the September 2015 issue of Marie Claire which did very little for me) to focus on Lash Sensational. I feel like it would be a dream mascara for anyone with decent lashes. On my pathetic lashes, it's not too bad, but not amazing. It separates and defines very well, though I don't find it hugely voluminising. The fanned wand does make it easier to get to those pesky outer corner lashes and coat/curl them, which is a huge plus.

The liner on the other hand, I'm very impressed by. I'm not sure how many uses I'll get out of it, but I've been reaching for it every day in the past week and it's exceeded all expectations. It's very precise but easy to use, with a sharp but still flexible tip. I also like that the formula is instantly matte and opaque upon application, without any wateriness or dilution. It lasts all day, doesn't smudge and is properly black.

Color Sensational Lipcolor in Coral Pop (420) ($4.24, normal price $16.95)
I absolutely did not need another coral lipstick, but it was $4.24 (discontinued shade?), so my resolve crumbled. When I got home, straight away I swatched it alongside my other coral lipsticks to determine how unnecessary it was. I soon discovered it's almost the same colour as Mango Diamonds (though Mango Diamonds has a slight pearl, is glossier in finish, a touch lighter and not as pigmented). Minute differences aside, they're virtually indistinguishable on the lips. Regardless, I always gravitate to these bright orangey colours for a reason. They work with my skin tone (though they can bring out the red in my face if my base isn't perfectly even) and they're an injection of summer no matter the time of year.

Master Sculpt Contour Palette in Medium/Dark (02) ($9.97, normal price $19.95)
This product wouldn't even have been on my radar but for Harry Makes It Up raving about it. I really didn't expect much from a "drugstore" contouring palette, but first impressions were almost overwhelmingly positive. Dare I say I prefer the contour shade to Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in Medium, which I find a bit too dark and ashy on me? The colour reminds me of Benefit Hoola with a dash more grey. It's not as long lasting and the texture might not be as finely milled or smooth as a higher end product, but it's still pretty damn good. Even the highlighter, which was very much take it or leave it, fared better than anticipated. On the subtle side, a little glittery (eye-catching/ethereal glittery though, not chunky, frosty or pore-emphasising), not too whitish or silvery in tone. Despite the smallish looking pan, you get a decent amount of product (9g). I just wished they ditched the unnecessary bottom compartment with the mirror and included brush, since that would've made the packaging so much sleeker and easier to travel with.

The Nudes Palette
I've saved the best for last. I've wanted this wretched eyeshadow palette since forever, but I never found it in stock. ANYWHERE. I was almost tempted to buy the used tester at Priceline, until a friend talked me out of it. I finally found the palette in stock at Chemist Warehouse, though not for 50% off. Sadly, they were only offering a measly 15% off, so I bought mine for $21.21 (a whopping $3.74 off the normal price of $24.95). It was only until much later when a friend reminded me that a lot of places do price matching that I realised I probably should've asked whether Chemist Warehouse would match Priceline. Oh well.

Moving on to the actual palette, overall, it's another winner from Maybelline. First, the colour payoff is solid. There are a couple of shades that are a bit harder to build up pigmentation, but there aren't any true duds. Granted, there are plenty of eyeshadow palettes from more affordable brands that deliver on pigmentation (MUA, Wet n Wild, Sleek), but what makes The Nudes stand out is the colour selection. It's on point. I have neutral eyeshadows coming out of my ears, but I still found myself genuinely excited about this palette. Though I'd characterise it as generally cool-toned, the shadows still work for me and don't look dull or muddy. The mix of satin, metallic, glitter and matte shades ranging from light to dark makes it so well-considered, versatile and complete. My favourites are the first colour in the bottom row (gorgeous all over the lid), the first colour in the top row (highlight shade with beautiful iridescent glitter), the gold (very pretty in inner corner), the matte mid-tone taupe (pure sophistication) and the matte dark brown (great for adding definition to any eye look). I also think they did an excellent job with the packaging, though the useless sponge applicator could've been ditched.

I almost don't feel as bad with my wholly unnecessary spending when most of the products were hits. I also bought a Volum' Express The Mega Plush Mascara for $4.99 (down from $19.95) that I retrieved from the bargain bin, but since I'm using Lash Sensational, I've tucked it away for now. Drugstore makeup successes always make me question whether high end makeup is really that much superior to justify the steeper prices. From a quality/performance perspective, it does seem like the gap is narrowing, and at times, non-existent (or the cheaper product may even trump the more expensive). Of course, the appeal of more expensive makeup doesn't lie purely in the actual product, but these Maybelline products prove that cheaper cosmetics can absolutely do the job, and do it well.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hair Haulin'

As you might have discerned from the near total lack of hair-related posts on the blog, I'm not exactly into hair. My hair routine consists of shampooing every 3ish days (basically putting off washing my mop for as long as I can get away with it) and liberal doses of dry shampoo in the interim to keep my oily roots at bay. I always wash my hair right before bed and sleep with it in a bun, half-heartedly towel-dried. Since I've scrapped conditioner for over two years, to bring some softness and shine back to my hair, I'll run the ends with one pump of Moroccanoil the morning after in its (still) semi-wet state. If I'm feeling especially fancy, I'll whip out the texturising or sea salt spray and go to town.

Despite my cluelessness and laziness when it comes to hair, when Priceline had its 40% off hair care sale last Tuesday and Wednesday, I felt inspired to buy a few things. Probably in large part due to the success of amika Un.Done Texture Spray, the idea of casually experimenting with styling my hair and realising my tousled boho/beachy/bedhead dreams has become more appealing. I simply don't have a lot of hair products period, so I felt justified in acquiring a few to hopefully be pleasantly surprised by.

L'Oréal Elvive Extraordinary Oil
My Moroccanoil is 4/5ths of the way through, so I'm giving Extraordinary Oil a go. I had a sachet sample that I used once and found decent, so I took the plunge and bought the whole bottle. At 40% off ($12 for 100ml, $19.99 RRP), it's a lot cheaper than Moroccanoil ($59.95 for 100ml), but time will tell if I'll love it as much. My Moroccanoil has lasted an age, so on a cost-per-use basis (and the fact I genuinely think it's a fantastic product), it's worth the money. But if I can achieve the same results with a less expensive alternative, I'll make the switch. I've used it once and first impressions were that it made my hair feel silkier, softer and smoother. The floral, sweet smell was pleasant enough but nothing remarkable. To be honest, I'm not sure how different this is to something like Caudalie Divine Oil, NUXE Huile Prodigieuse or Go-To Skincare Exceptionoil, all three of which I have (though the latter is a sample tube) but don't regularly use, certainly not in my hair.

COLAB Dry Shampoo New York
I simply had to try this stuff out given all the attention it's received in the UK. I was super surprised to even see it stocked at Priceline. There was only New York and Tokyo for the scents, so I opted for the former as it seemed less potentially cloying and heavy. On my second day hair, it didn't seem to fare that well in the oil-absorbing stakes as my beloved Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk or not-as-beloved-but-undeniably-effective Batiste. It's not even as good as sucking up greasiness as my $2.50 Girlz Only Dry Shampoo XXL Volume-Plus from Target. Having said that, there are a few things I do like about it. First, the packaging. It looks more expensive and sophisticated than comparably priced dry shampoos out there (a 200ml bottle is $10.99 RRP). Second, it almost doubles as a hair perfume (which may or may not be a good thing depending on how much you like the fragrance). A designer perfume it's not, but it reminds me of a respectably formulated body spray. Third, there's some merit in a more subdued approach to dry shampoo, especially if you're not after the fire hydrant treatment. The product does seem more fine and "invisible" than the pesky white powder emitted by Klorane and Batiste, and it creates a bit of texture, volume and has some oil absorption — just not a lot.

Garnier Fructis Full & Luscious Volume Booster Spray
To be perfectly honest, I bought this because it was cheap. I'm used to texturising sprays being around $35 and I haven't encountered many "drugstore" equivalents. This is $5.95 (which is already cheap), but with 40% off it was $3.57. At a price of a coffee, I didn't hesitate to pick one up. After using it once, I'm unconvinced it does anything. To be fair, my hair is naturally quite thick, and I'd just washed it the night before, so there was already considerable frizz and body. I sprayed one half of my hair with the Garnier, ruffled, teased and scrunched my hair with my hands as instructed, and inspected the difference between the half with product and the half without. Frankly, I didn't notice any difference. I might have to try again with dirtier, limper hair to see if it's more effective when my hair isn't freshly washed. It does smell strongly fruity as most Garnier hair products do, so if you're into that thing, that could be a big plus.

Charles Worthington Volume & Bounce Texturising Spray
I bought this because of Amelia Liana touting it as a more hairspray-like dupe for Oribe Dry Texturising Spray. At $15.99 RRP ($9.59 with 40% off), it's one of the pricier products in this haul, so I had high hopes. I'd read reviews that it does have a bit more “hold” than your usual texturising spray, which immediately put me off since all I think of is hairspray which I avoid at all costs. Still, after trying it, I'd say it's at the just passable threshold for hairspray feel. There is still that stiffness, crunchiness and grit that comes with hairspray, but it's not intolerable. Certainly more than I'd prefer, but I rationalise it serves a purpose and gives the product a point of distinction. Basically, the volume/texture it creates also has a better chance of lasting because of the hold. I'll never love it as much as my amika Un.Done Texture Spray which leaves the hair more touchable and weightless, but at least the Charles Worthington is a lot closer to it than the Garnier Fructis Full & Luscious Volume Booster Spray.

OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo
I've reached the stage where I'll use anything to wash my hair that approximates a shampoo, so I've tried the whole gamut of multipurpose soaps (liquid and solid form): LUSH/philosophy shower gels, LUSH Fun, LUSH Shower Jellies, as well as good ol' Pantene. I've actually been pleasantly surprised how well LUSH and philosophy shower gels work as shampoo. They're almost like clarifying shampoos in that they really get out all the gunk, but they don't leave my hair extremely dry and brittle (perhaps due to the Moroccanoil I’m putting through it the day after, perhaps due to the ingredients working better than expected on hair). Point is, I don't even need a traditional shampoo to wash my locks, so I wasn't too keen on spending $10.80 (40% off $17.99 RRP) for a 385ml bottle of fancyish shampoo. I spotted these mini bottles at the checkout though, and grabbed a couple. My friend was urging me to buy it, claiming the shampoo made her hair so smooth, sleek and frizz-less. I can't say it worked the same miracles on me, but I did enjoy the smell, it lathered up fine (despite some reviews to the contrary), and it left my hair feeling more nourished than the admittedly stripping shampoos I normally use. I'm curious to try the OGX Weightless Hydration Coconut Water Shampoo now to see what it'd do for my hair and how much I'll like it. Maybe I'll buy both large bottles of it and the Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo at the next sale.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Evil Eye Nails

I don't often attempt nail art (mainly due to lack of skill and imagination), but when I saw this picture on Katy Perry's Instagram, I loved it so much I immediately saved it to my phone for future reference. One night when I was particularly bored and had a lot of time on my hands, I attempted to recreate it. It seemed like a design that wasn't overly challenging to duplicate, or at the very least sloppily approximate.

(Source: @katyperry)

One of the advantages of having a stupidly large nail polish collection is that I generally don't struggle to find the colour I'm after. Even if I might not have the exact same shade, chances are I'll have something similar. For the neutral, sandy base, I opted for Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Café Au Lait, a polish I found intolerably dull painted on my nails alone, but in the context of this design, surprisingly works well. Of course, I had a white and black polish handy (NYC Nail Colour in Lili White and the glittery black Chi Chi Salon Formula in Wednesday respectively). The hardest part was trying to pick the kind of blue used on Katy Perry's toes. While I do love my blue polishes, I have mostly ice/baby blues, greenish/seafoamy blues or dark marine blues. I lack a medium, bright, Santorini-esque blue. Consulting good ol' Wikipedia for "shades of blue", I guess the closest to what I was looking for is Persian blue or Egyptian blue. In the end, I picked Essie Bikini So Teeny because it was the least wrong.

After Café Au Lait dried, I painted freehand the white half moon shape. Being right-handed, my left hand fared much better than the right, where things got a little outta control. If I was supposed to remain faithful to the original inspiration, I faltered since the white area was too large. It was also difficult to get an even curve without expanding the white half moon even more, a problem compounded by the fact three layers were needed to achieve full opacity. Painting over the white with Café Au Lait to correct any mistakes was out of the question since that would've resulted in a super uneven, patchwork job.

Pressing on nonetheless, I then dotted Essie Bikini So Teeny in the centre of the white with the nail polish brush (no nail art tools here) and made a smaller dot with the black polish. Once again, my left hand was much more uniform and presentable than my right, which was all over the place. Uneven sized black dots, wonky placement, out of proportion blue dots compared with the white crescent.

But that's the perfectionist in me talking. All in all, as William Hung said, I gave my best. I'm unlikely to attempt this again any time soon, but I do like the end result and have been enjoying something new and different on my nails. If only I had the accompanying Greek islands vacation to go with it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Moderate About You

NARS Madly was a makeup product I'd been meaning to get my hands on for the longest time, but never made a priority to buy. Even with its reputation as a staple, must-have blush despite its unassuming appearance, it never inspired strong feelings of desire or excitement. Having said that, two beauty vloggers who have been effusive in their praise for Madly tipped me over the edge: 1) Casey Holmes ("If you had to get one high end blush, this is the blush for you.") 2) KathleenLights ("This is my favourite blush of all time. I have a crap ton of blushes — this is my favourite blush ever ever ever.") Though described as a "warm soft-focus seashell pink", I find the shade undeniably brown. I really can't see pink in it. Still, I hoped it'd be a quintessential bronzy-nude blush to sculpt the face and impart a realistic, healthy glow, so I finally purchased it along with Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation from COSME-DE.COM.

I've heard that Madly is a blush that needs to be applied to the face rather than swatched to be fully appreciated. I can kind of see why the sentiment exists, but for me, I honestly don't discern a humongous difference between how it swatches on my wrist and how it appears when worn. It's probably slightly more red/orange/pink rather than purely brown/tan, but nothing distinct. The colour transformation might be more pronounced depending on your skin tone though.

To me, Madly is better defined as a warm bronzer with subtle terracotta tones and fine microshimmer. It does have more colour (in the sense of earthy ochre hues) than a more traditional bronzer which might be less warm and more yellow, brown or golden, but I can't imagine using this focused on the apples of my cheeks like a conventional blush. It's more of a hybrid blush/bronzer that is swept along the cheekbones and blended onto the cheeks for an overall bronzed, softly sculpted, "healthier" look. As KathleenLights so evocatively put it, "It reminds me of a goddess walking on the beach with flowers in her hair and a big seashell necklace, talking about life's mysteries, wearing this blush." Immediate Birth of Venus vibes.

NARS Madly

l-r: Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel, Charlotte Tilbury Sculpt, NARS Luster, NARS Madly, NARS Laguna

Compared with a bunch of other bronzers and NARS Luster, another illuminating hybrid blush/bronzer, Madly is somewhere in between the golden brown NARS Laguna and more orangey NARS Luster, with a hint of the shimmering, cooler brown Sculpt shade in Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow.

I'm somewhat on the fence with Madly. I don't love it, but I'm still glad it's in my collection. It's a useful, versatile, "throw it on in a rush" product that acts as a blush and bronzer in one. Colour-wise, it's a bit too brown and similar to a regular bronzer for the effect on my skin to be anything particularly special or unique. I almost wish there was more of that promised "seashell pink" to provide a point of difference. Still, the quality is top notch as you'd expect from NARS, it goes with anything and provides natural definition and a sun-kissed, enlivening warmth to the complexion.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

July Favourites

Super late, I know, but better than never. Surprisingly, there were a whole bunch of new products for July, with only one item I've previously featured on the blog. A few skin care bits and bobs (the majority courtesy of the Priceline skin care gift bag) to ameliorate the damage of winter, learning to make use of my most indulgent brush purchase, and finally adding to my collection a couple of popular makeup products I've been meaning to try for ages. Thankfully, they didn't disappoint.

Bioderma Hydrabio Sérum
Sure, the scent of this is a bit too reminiscent of shampoo for my liking, and the texture is like a lightweight, gel-like hair conditioner, but I do think my skin is appreciating what it does. I apply a dollop to my freshly cleansed/toned face in the morning before going in with my regular daytime moisturiser. The extra step boosts plumpness, hydration and protection, resulting in smoother, more balanced and supple skin. I much prefer this to Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S Thirst Quenching Serum which I'm not sure ever did anything for me. I liked it so much I even bought a whole 40ml bottle (I'm currently using a 15ml sample) during Priceline's latest 40% off skin care sale.

Antipodes Apostle Skin-Brightening & Tone-Correcting Serum
I can't really comment on the skin-brightening and tone-correcting claims (mainly because I haven't seen any noticeable difference, and/or I haven't been using it consistently or long enough), but I have been enjoying using this as my evening serum. The consistency is unlike anything I've experienced. It's extremely watery upon contact with the skin, but before then, it's somewhat gloopy and thick. Coagulated, even. I'm used to either oils or runny serums, so it took a while to adjust to the entirely new texture. When it is applied, it does feel refreshing and hydrating, sinking into the skin quickly and effectively without the slightest hint of greasiness or heaviness.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche
I use this as a nourishing, plumping night cream after my toners and serums, and it's like a drink of water for my skin. Instant, comforting hydration. Infused with their Thermal Spring Water, it's very moisturising but not unpleasantly thick or oily (unlike Antipodes Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream). Suitable for dry, sensitive skin, I like that it's very basic (scentless, non-irritating, clinical ingredients), with a creamy texture that spreads out and absorbs well, providing vital protection and moisture.

theBalm Cindy-Lou Manizer
I resisted valiantly for a year and a half, but finally caved. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't just buy it earlier. I still prefer the cult Mary-Lou Manizer, simply because the colour is more universal and versatile, but Cindy-Lou is a beautiful, worthwhile addition to my highlighter wardrobe. It's not so much a highlighter in the traditional sense (i.e. belonging to the champagne/pearl family), but pure peachy-pink shimmer. Depending on the rest of your makeup, a strongly pink highlight might be incongruous with the rest of the face, but when it does work, it's eye-catching, unique, and damn pretty.

SUQQU Cheek Brush
I've barely recovered from the amount of money I paid for it, but at least in July, I've been reaching for it daily. It was being neglected for a while because it's not my preferred brush to apply blush, but for highlighters, it's perfect. Especially ultra pigmented, smooth, easily blended, high impact highlighters like Cindy-Lou, Mary-Lou and Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow. I wouldn't have thought to use the Cheek Brush primarily for powder highlighter, but it was Christine of Temptalia that recommended it. The small shape and unrivaled softness of the brush places and diffuses product effortlessly and flawlessly.

l-r: Shimma Shimma, Glamorous, Cosmopolitan, Roulette, Homecoming, Cocoa Bear, Grandstand

Makeup Geek Eyeshadows
FINALLY, I become acquainted with Makeup Geek shadows. Could I have called myself a lover of eyeshadow without having tried these earlier? When I heard the company was holding a free shipping promotion (thanks to the AustralianMakeup subreddit, of all places), I couldn't get onto the site quick enough. After waiting an age and almost giving up hope my order would ever arrive (though realistically, shipping time was less than 3 weeks), my precious cargo arrived safe and sound.

Sure, I basically have all the warm-toned, orangey/bronzey/rose goldy colours in a combination of Too Faced Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and Morphe Brushes Jaclyn Hill Favorites Palette, but who's counting. I love all the shades I picked out, but especially Glamorous, Homecoming and Grandstand. Roulette is the only one that I'm slightly iffy about, in that it's a bit too brightened, in-your-face red for everyday wear, and extremely similar to a few existing shadows I have (LORAC Garnet from the Pro Palette and Morphe Mysterious ES11 come to mind). Still, the shadows are incredible quality: beautifully pigmented, vibrant, smooth, easy to blend, and complex in their colours and finishes. I'm honestly impressed and despite not needing any more eyeshadow for the next 3 decades, I want to order more.
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