Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Colours of the World

As mentioned in my latest Sephora haul, the Anastasia Beverly Hills Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette was the only eyeshadow palette I bought in the US. I've been testing it out for a good few weeks now and have mixed thoughts. I did see a stack of the palettes at the Sydney Sephora at the weekend (the palette is priced at $51 if I recall correctly), so it's readily available locally at largely the same price as what I paid in America. Overall, there are some standout shades and it's a palette I have been reaching for frequently, but some colours aren't that useful to me (or I'll never touch), and most disappointingly, there are shadows with unexpected texture and application issues.

There are 12 shades altogether, each 0.72g. Like the Urban Decay Naked palettes, it comes with a synthetic double-ended eyeshadow brush. One side is stiffer and flatter (though overall still quite rounded), presumably designed for packing colour onto the lid. The other side is softer and fluffier, with longer, less tightly packed bristles, presumably for blending out the edges of shadows or crease work. Also like the Naked palettes, I've never used the included brush and don't feel any particular desire to. I'm not saying it's a bad brush (I can't really make any judgement since it's still pristine), I just prefer to use my existing brushes and always forget it even exists.

There's four mattes (Soft Peach, Morocco, Fudge and Noir). The rest are a bit more difficult to categorise. I'd say four shades (Bellini, Azure, Intense Gaze and Metallic) are metallic finish and generally nicely pigmented and smooth. Heirloom and Spoiled are primarily glittery shades with a weak base colour (purple and peach respectively). The remaining two shades, Pink Champagne and Chic, are just glitter (i.e. with no base colour), though they can be built up in intensity to form their own colour. Pink Champagne in particular I would define more as a glitter top coat than an actual eyeshadow.

l-r (top row, then bottom row): Soft Peach, Morocco, Heirloom, Bellini, Pink Champagne, Chic, Spoiled, Fudge, Azure, Intense Gaze, Metallic, Noir

Soft Peach is pretty self-explanatory. A pale, pastel matte peach. For me, I rarely get any use out of these kinds of colours as my eyeshadow "looks" just aren't that complex to entail the need for a barely visible "blending out" or base colour.

Morocco is a rich, reddish matte brown. It instantly reminded me of Salted Caramel or Peanut Butter from the Too Faced Chocolate Bar and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar eyeshadow palettes. This shade is very pigmented and one of my favourites from the palette, though it can be overly intense if not used sparingly and blended out well.

Heirloom is a dark eggplant with pink and gold sparkles. The purple needs to be built up to achieve adequate colour payoff. The base colour is very similar to black and and is more of an inky navy when built up than the royal purple it appears in the pan.

Bellini is a light, peachy bronze. For me, not dark enough to provide the definition I need as an all-over lid colour. It's also not the most unique shade. I feel I have variants of it in countless palettes.

Pink Champagne is an extremely frosted, pink-toned taupe comprised primarily of silver sparkles. Way too much/borderline gritty if applied like an eyeshadow, but striking and very pretty if used as a glitter top coat. I like dabbing it on the centre of my lids as a finishing touch with my finger for added dimension and festivity to any eyeshadow look. Despite its limited use, it is one of my favourite (and most used!) shades in the palette.

Chic is a pale, slightly greeny-gold silver. Like Pink Champagne, it seems to lack any base colour and is mainly just glitter. I tried it as a silvery eyeshadow and found it to be very chunky, almost gritty, and uneven in application. Not a fan. It's probably better as a glitter top coat like Pink Champagne, but for my skin tone and preferences, it's too frosty/silvery/white to be flattering.

Spoiled is like a darker, more brown Soft Peach, but with gold shimmer. It's lighter than Bellini, which is bronzier and more orange in tone. Both Spoiled and Bellini are a bit too light for me to be effective lid colours. A letdown given they seemed promising as possible new staples.

Fudge is a warm, deep cocoa matte. Not a revolutionary colour, but it's well executed and completely necessary in a palette like this. I use it all the time, often mixing it with a bit of Noir to add extra definition to the outer corner or to smoke out the upper lash line.

Azure is a dark but bright metallic blue. Despite how vibrant it looks in the pan, it needs to be layered multiple times to achieve full opacity. I'm quite confident I already have very similar, probably superior blues (Sleek Simbad's Seas from the Arabian Nights i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette comes to mind), which still doesn't change the fact I wear none of them.

Intense Gaze is a shimmery sunset reddish orange. Very smooth and pigmented. It's a bit lighter and on the pinkier side than comparable shades like Makeup Geek Roulette, the middle shade in Rimmel Brixton Brown or Morphe Brushes Mysterious. It's also not as chocolate/bronze as the 'Enhance' shade in the Charlotte Tilbury Dolce Vita quad. Colourpop Sequin is a lot blingier with blinding silver sparkles, but similar in base colour (Sequin is a touch more brown).

Metallic is a metallic finish chartreuse. Bit chunky, dry and difficult to apply evenly, but nowhere near as bad as Chic. Still, undeniable texture and application issues which were surprising, given we seem to just expect shimmery shades to be well-formulated compared with trickier mattes.

Noir is an excellent matte black. One of the best I've encountered, especially as some fall out does happen, but nothing too problematic.

Overall, I like the Anastasia Beverly Hills Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette, but it's a long way from faultless. I think I'm at a stage where because I have so many eyeshadows, I judge new additions to a higher standard. The only truly unique shades to me were Pink Champagne and Metallic. The paler neutrals were generally too light, the more colourful picks I have minimal interest in using and didn't blow me away in terms of quality, Chic was a true dud. Surprisingly, the mattes impressed me the most, though they didn't offer anything new in terms of colour selection. The new Self-Made palette from the brand looks to be more up my alley in terms of the shades. I'm a sucker for pretty colours even if they might be abysmal when applied (Too Faced Naked Eye, anyone?). Hoping it lands at Sephora in Sydney so I can swatch it in person before making up my mind.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Travelling Minis

Last time I was in the US, I gravitated to Benefit more than any other makeup brand, reeled in by how much more affordable the products were given the strength of the Australian dollar and pricing differences. Most items were 30-40% off the Australian retail price. Blushes were $30 rather than $51, They're Real mascara was $25 rather than $40, Hello Flawless! Oxygen Wow foundation was $39 rather than $58. This time around however, with the Australian dollar flopping hard, there really weren't any significant savings to be had (I bought Rockateur at Sephora for $43, which is still cheaper, but not earth-shatteringly so). It wasn't until the very last day of my holiday, killing time at LAX before the flight home, when I spotted the First Class Flirts Travel Set. It was reasonably priced (working out to be $6/mini), but most attractively, it contained an array of Benefit products I didn't already have. I was most drawn to the adorable Watt's Up cream highlighter and Dandelion blush. The inclusion of both sealed the deal.

Inside you get:
  • "That Gal" Brightening Face Primer (7.5ml)
  • The POREfessional (7.5ml)
  • Benetint (4ml)
  • Dandelion Brightening Face Powder (3g)
  • Watt's Up Soft Focus Highlighter (2.5g)
  • Total Moisture Facial Cream (8.9g)

l-r: "That Gal" Face Primer, Dandelion, Watt's Up, Benetint

I'm not a huge fan of primers, but The POREfessional is a well-loved classic. It probably isn't catered to my dry skin type (it seems to be tailored more for oily/combination) and visible pores aren't a primary concern for me, but it's good to know it's there for occasions when I want to prolong my makeup and take extra precautions to keep shine at bay. Whether or not it is effective in that respect still is up in the air. I find primers on their own can't perform miracles unless everything else on the face (general condition of skin, type of moisturiser) is cooperating. It has a very siliconey, powdery feel which isn't my favourite. I prefer primers that apply and absorb more like regular moisturisers on the skin. "That Gal" is more like that, but as a brightening primer it's certainly not as effective as alternatives like Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Radiance or even MAC Strobe Cream. It does distinguish itself with its pearly pink tone, but there's not much point when you can't really see it after you apply your foundation on top. As a liquid highlight, it's on the subtler side and can't compete with the mega-glow of something like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone.

The Total Moisture Facial Cream is a bit meh to me. I tried it and found it to be a decent, generic moisturiser that didn't particularly stand out to me in any respect. It's on the thicker/richer side, which I like, and might be a better night cream option for that reason. The cute little jar is ideal for travelling, especially as it can be used as a spare container once the cream runs out.

I already have Cha Cha Tint and Posietint, so Benetint was a welcome addition. It always looked like a watered down red to me, but it's pinker and sheerer than anticipated. It's aptly described as "rose-coloured". The shade is spot on: not too bold, not too cool, but not ruddy or overly autumnal. Compared with Cha Cha Tint which is more potent and staining, Benetint is more liquid, easier to blend and positively forgiving. It's a breeze to apply to the cheeks and lips, whether straight from the odd nail polish-like brush or with the fingers. As is characteristic of Benefit products, the shade is universally flattering and instantly adds youthful pep and vitality back to the face.

Now for the two stars of the show: Watt's Up and Dandelion. I've been eager to get my hands on Watt's Up for literally years, but have been put off by the unwieldy and redundant sponge applicator that comes with the full size product, the hefty prices of Benefit products in Australia, and the fact I have a zillion highlighters already. Needless to say, when I discovered the mini size included in the set, I was sold. Watt's Up is a prominent, warm, light golden highlighter that has a smoothing, soft focus effect. It's not gritty, glittery, shimmery, or pore-emphasising, and blends easily into the skin. It really just looks like your skin is gleaming. Staying power is also impressive.

I'm a Benefit blush devotee and have, either in full or sample size, Coralista, Sugarbomb, Hervana, Dallas and Rockateur (I also have Hoola, because it's a cult product for a reason). I'm just missing the discontinued Thrrrob and Bella Bamba. I jumped on the chance to add Dandelion to my collection. I'd previously dismissed it as being too pale for my skin tone, but seeing it on a friend with deeper skin than mine, I realised that it could work for me. However, it was too similar to Hervana in my eyes to justify purchasing outright. I find the sample sizes for Benefit blushes (at 3g) to be incredibly generous, given the amount is close to a full size powder blush from comparable brands (Clinique Cheek Pops are 3.5g each, Hourglass 4.2g, Illamasqua 4.5g and NARS 4.8g). While most full size Benefit blushes are 8g, their latest release Rockateur was controversially reduced to 5g, making their mini blushes an even better value proposition. Dandelion is soft but not powdery in texture, effortless to blend and never patchy, a sweet, girly, understated "ballerina pink" that you virtually cannot screw up. Importantly, it's not cool-toned, but not reddish on my skin either. I also find it relatively subdued in the shimmer stakes, especially compared with Coralista and Sugarbomb. As with all Benefit blushes, wear time is excellent.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

September Favourites

For half of September I was on holidays in the US, and for the second half I was adjusting to resuming work and my normal daily life (including blogging). It's funny how a holiday is commonly acknowledged as a short-lived fantasy, wholly divorced from one's tedious, mundane, and burdensome reality. Everyone we spoke to while abroad invariably described the end point of a holiday as going "back to reality". Indeed. In terms of favourite products for the month, like this time last year post-Japan, half are products I brought with me in my makeup bag to the States, half are new products I purchased over there.

Oribe Dry Texturising Spray
I hated the fact I loved this product so much after I liberally sprayed some in my hair while at Bloomingdale's (they have a Space.NK.apothecary inside). Seriously hated it, because this stuff is not cheap. I don't take the decision to buy a $42 USD hair product lightly (a sickening $66 AUD), but it was the last day of my holidays, I'd been sitting on the fence about whether to buy it for most of the trip, and I didn't want to regret not taking it home. Oribe is apparently stocked in Sydney, but a) I don't go into swanky hair salons b) I can't be bothered making a special trip to Paddington or wherever just to buy it.

I tried to convince myself with various texturising sprays that I don't need the Oribe (from the ineffectual Garnier Fructis Full & Luscious Volume Booster Spray, to the hairsprayish Charles Worthington Volume & Bounce Texturising Spray, to the close contender amika Un.Done Texture Spray), but really, as is the case with any product I covet but mentally close off the possibility of buying because it's too expensive, I should've just gone straight for what I really want. The Oribe is the best of the bunch. It's just that touch more refined, better smelling, less crunchy in my hair, and effective. It creates long lasting volume, doubles up as a mild dry shampoo, gives the hair added texture and slight grit so it's a bit more piecey and beachy, and smells like an expensive hair perfume. I think the amika is close enough and like, half the price, but I can't deny I like the Oribe just that touch more.

Bottom to top: Ivory Bisque, Peach Pop, Black Honey, At Dusk, Morning Java, Bronze Satin

Clinique Limited Edition All About Shadow Palette
I just talked about it in this post, so I won't ramble on for too long here. But basically, this palette has been such a standout among the products I purchased while in the US. Even more surprising, given it was included in a gift with purchase. I've been really impressed with the pigmentation and application of the shadows, especially the incredibly vibrant and metallic At Dusk.

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara
I packed this mascara in my makeup bag to the US, and my appreciation for it only grew as time went on. Before my trip, my first impressions were that it wasn't all that voluminising, but since using it daily in the States, I don't really know what I was going on about. Maybe the mascara needed some time to dry out and for the formula to become more clumpy and less wet, but I now think it does a great job at separating, lengthening, darkening and thickening. What I like about Lash Sensational is that it's a solid all-rounder that's ultra reliable. If you want a mascara that will deliver noticeable results, quickly and without fuss, it ticks the boxes. While hurriedly slapping on makeup in front of whatever mirrored surface the hotel room had, I'd haphazardly whack some of this on my tragic Asian lashes and it really made a difference.

MAC Prep + Prime Fix+
I feel like I'm very late to the bandwagon with this one. Fix+ never particularly appealed to me, I think in large part because I never find myself drawn to MAC's packaging. But I'm becoming somewhat obsessed with facial mists and sprays, and Fix+ is such a staple that I had to try it. I bought the 30ml mini from the MAC store on Powell St in San Francisco for $10 USD, since the full 100ml size would've been more expensive than if I'd bought it from Australia ($35 vs $27), and I wanted to sample it first. I started to immediately use it while on holiday, and it was instant loovveee. This stuff is all my glowy, milky, hydrated skin fantasies in a bottle. Combined with a dewy foundation and radiance-boosting sunscreen, my skin was at next level luminosity, right on the brink of too much. The ingredients seem kind to the skin (even Paula's Choice Beautypedia gave it a positive review) and it doesn't leave my skin feeling dry or irritated in the slightest. I do have to say if I'm not careful with distributing the mist evenly, it can disturb the surface of my foundation, so after most of the product has dried, I'll take a look at my face and gently blend out with my finger any areas of unevenness. I'm converted and will likely buy a full bottle in the future.

Maybelline Fit Me Concealer in Sand
I've had this for a while, but it was only after I packed it in my holiday makeup bag that I realised just how damn amazing it is. On days when I didn't feel like wearing a base all over (the other option I brought was Bobbi Brown BB Cream), I would place the concealer under my eyes, around the sides and down the bridge of my nose, around the corners of my mouth, in a three-pronged V-shape on my forehead, and whatever residual product was left on the applicator on my cheeks. Then I'd blend it all out with my finger in a tapping motion. I'd achieve the same or fuller coverage than the Bobbi Brown BB Cream, but the product would actually stick to my face rather than slide right off. But more than that, the finish was SO luminous. Not in a shimmery or even sheeny way, but luminous in a natural, undetectable, glow-from-within way. I never realised just how radiance-boosting the Fit Me Concealer is until I used it as an alternative to foundation. Quality stuff.

Real Techniques Setting Brush
I felt it was important to include this brush in my favourites, because almost three and a half years ago (gulp), I reviewed it and didn't understand it at all. In that post, I didn't even mention the Setting Brush could be used to apply concealer (only for setting concealer under the eyes or spot powdering...)! I've been loving using the Setting Brush to apply concealer to areas of my face that need extra coverage — it's the ideal size, shape and density to blend product into the skin seamlessly. The bristles are super soft and don't irritate the delicate under eye area at all. I've also been reaching for it to apply powder highlighter, particularly Dior Diorskin Poudre Shimmer in Amber Diamond. I run the brush across the different coloured strips and apply the highlighter to the top of cheekbones and under the browbone. Because Amber Diamond is a bit harder and drier in texture compared with softer, creamier highlighters like theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer or Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Champagne Pop, it calls for a firmer, flatter brush to pick up product, which the Setting Brush is perfect for.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Best GWP Ever?

Clinique isn't a brand that normally entices me, but I came across this gift with purchase at Bloomingdale's while I was in the US that was just too good to walk away from. I'm used to lacklustre and downright stingy GWPs in Australia, where the minimum spend is massive ($80+) and the freebies are tiny and usually nothing exciting. But this offer from Clinique might just be the best I've encountered.

With a $32 spend, you get in a roomy cosmetics bag:
  • Take the Day Off Remover for Lids, Lashes & Lips (50ml)
  • Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion+ (30ml)
  • Moisture Surge Overnight Mask (30ml)
  • Quickliner for Eyes Intense (0.14g)
  • Limited Edition All About Shadow Palette (3g)
  • High Impact Mascara (3.5ml)
  • Chubby Stick Moisturising Lip Colour Balm (1.2ml)

I took things one step further. With a $55 spend, they chucked in two full size Chubby Sticks (you could pick from whatever they had in this large jar, which consisted mostly of Chubby Stick Baby Tints and Chubby Stick Shadow Tints). Given one of those is $17, the choice to upgrade seemed like a no brainer.

I knew I wanted the Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($29 USD, about $45 AUD), given Caroline Hirons's stamp of approval. This retails for $55 in Australia, so I'm already getting it cheaper even with the woeful exchange rate. I started to immediately use it while on holidays, and found it to be effective at getting rid of all of the day's makeup/sunscreen/other gunk. It didn't leave my skin feeling dry or stripped, and I didn't have to work too hard to get my eyeliner and mascara off (usually the most stubborn part of my makeup to dissolve). I'm unsure how much product I need per use as I'm certainly not stingy with the quantity, though Caroline advises "a small amount goes a long way". As it's solid rather than liquid, if you're scooping it out in one go, it can be difficult to discern how much is enough once it's all melted. I prefer the ease of my DHC Deep Cleansing Oil simply because it's liquid and comes with a pump. I don't need to physically dig the product out of a jar each time and make the effort to work it into the skin so it melts. Still, the Clinique feels and functions similarly to the DHC and is a good alternative.

To qualify for the additional Chubby Sticks, I had to buy something else, so I settled for the 125ml bottle of Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion+ ($26 USD, about $41 AUD). In all honesty, I mainly bought it because it took me just to the $55 mark and not a cent beyond, and skin care is something I have a chance of using up, unlike makeup. Plus, at least a moisturiser is functional and can be used daily. Having said that, I did try the 30ml sample tube and on first impressions, wasn't a fan. It just felt a bit greasy and like the moisturiser didn't fully absorb into my skin, but rather, sat on top of it. Using it as a base underneath my foundation seemed to really degrade my makeup without offering any penetrative hydration. I'll probably give the sample tube another go, but I'm inclined to give the full bottle to my mother.

I haven't tried the High Impact Mascara yet though Pixiwoo seem to be fans, so I'm hoping it'll be a winner. The Quickliner for Eyes Intense is a bit drier and harder in texture than the ultra smooth, glide-on formulas I'm used to, but I do like the twist up mechanism (anything that saves me from sharpening) and it has good pigmentation. The dark brown colour isn't anything spectacular, but at the same time, is classic and a safe bet. I usually prefer something a bit more shimmery and complex on my lower lash line though.

For the two free Chubby Sticks, of course I had to go with my neutrals and picked the Shadow Tints in Ample Amber and Lots o' Latte. I've been eyeing the latter for a long time now, but wasn't convinced I needed it given how many similar shades I own. It also looked too cool-toned and ashy to really complement my skin tone. I do feel those concerns were justified as Lots o' Latte does appear distinctly silvery greyish taupe on my lids, but it's at a level where I can just get away with it. Any more in that direction though, and it would be the case of Maybelline Color Tattoo in Tough as Taupe or Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Trespassing Taupe again (both major fails). Ample Amber is a lot warmer and while I do like it, the colour and finish aren't anything exceptional. I have so many eyeshadows that give the same effect or better that Ample Amber just doesn't inspire any particular enthusiasm.

Eyeshadow sticks/crayons are a convenient and quick way to slap on some eyeshadow when short on time or when you just want the job done, hence I find myself continually drawn to them. These Clinique ones aren't my favourite though, mainly because I prefer more high impact, metallic, strongly pigmented and longer lasting eyeshadow crayons (see KIKO Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow). These Chubby Stick Eye Tints are more satin finish, relatively subdued in colour, and when blended out, can lose a lot of their pigmentation. Still, they're a welcome addition to my "I woke up later than I should and now I have less time to do my face" makeup arsenal, and I expect to get decent wear out of them.

l-r: Ample Amber, Lots o' Latte

l-r: Chubby Stick in Whole Lotta Honey, Quickliner for Eyes Intense in Intense Chocolate

The mini Chubby Stick in Whole Lotta Honey was, believe it or not, the only lip product I acquired during my US trip. I don't even regard it as a purchase, since it was part of the bonus. They actually gave people the choice between Whole Lotta Honey and the eyeliner in Intense Chocolate, or Two Ton Tomato and the eyeliner in Intense Charcoal. I chose the more neutral option, mainly because the lip colour appealed to me more. It's one of those "my lips but better" shades that can be worn with any look. It's on the sheer side and subtly glossy, which gives a natural tint and slightly plumping effect.

l-r: Ivory Bisque, Peach Pop, Black Honey, At Dusk, Morning Java, Bronze Satin

Bottom to top: Ivory Bisque, Peach Pop, Black Honey, At Dusk, Morning Java, Bronze Satin

And now ... for my ultimate love. The Limited Edition All About Shadow Palette. I honestly didn't expect anything since eyeshadows in gifts with purchase always seem like stock the company wants to get rid of, and/or inferior quality. But this palette has blown me away. Even if all the other free stuff wasn't included, I'd consider the $32 spend worth it for this product alone.

The shadows are SO pigmented, vibrant, smooth, blend well, and I love the shade selection. I mean, just look at that orangey-gold shade At Dusk. The first time I applied it to my lids, it was instant heart-eyed emoji, even if I have multiple similar shadows. Bronze Satin didn't swatch as well as it applies, but rest assured it's not a dud. The colours in the palette more or less sum up what I'm into in eyeshadow right now, which is reflected in the fact a lot of them remind me of individual shades I picked out from Makeup Geek recently (seriously, Ivory Bisque = Shimma Shimma, Peach Pop = Cosmopolitan, At Dusk = Glamorous, Bronze Satin = Homecoming). If this experience with Clinique eyeshadows is in any way indicative of the general standard of shadows from the brand, they deserve more attention.
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