Saturday, December 23, 2017

Best of 2017

I haven't been inspired to do a yearly favourites in a couple of years, but felt motivated to put together something this year. Maybe because it dawned on me I've now been blogging for 6 years (craaaayyy, even with the significant drop in posts from 2016), maybe after reducing my exposure to a relentless reel of influencers' monthly favourites, hearing about what people have been enjoying and reaching for is genuinely interesting again, maybe because at the end of the day, I still just really like makeup, skin care, candles, fragrances, the whole shebang. I had a look through my blog posts, Instagram, and stuff lying around at home, and picked up the following 11 products as my standouts of 2017.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Abu Dhabi
Might as well say it. This is my favourite lip colour. The shade is perfection to me for a natural, beautifying, effortless pout. I even bought a backup because when you've found the one, you don't ever want to be without.

Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor in Seduction
A close second to Abu Dhabi, Seduction is a touch pinker and darker. Very similar texture, application and feel on the lips, which is to say it's soft, velvety, and gives the polish and relative longevity of a matte without sucking all the moisture from the lips. Full review here.

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer in Bronzer
Haven't stopped using this since it came into my life. I went from skipping/total disinterest in bronzer for at least half a year (only using blush or a bronzer/blush hybrid like NARS Madly or Max Factor Creme Puff Blush in Nude Mauve) to using this with my Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt brush daily. It's so smooth, virtually blends itself, the shade isn't too dark so it's tricky to work with but pigmented enough that definition is easy to achieve. The colour is just the right mix of warmth for that summery, healthy glow and shadow for a believable contour.

Clinique Cheek Pop in Nude Pop
Just the perfect, everyday, neutral peachy-nude blush. The cheek equivalent of NYX Abu Dhabi. Goes with everything, instantly lifts a dull, tired complexion and makes you look fresh and alive. Creamy, non-powdery, satin texture that looks lit-from-within. Works a treat with the Morphe E4 patted up and down the cheekbones and onto the apples of the cheeks.

Nudestix Magnetic Eye Color in Night
This is one of those somewhat boring, unsexy products that I use all the time and haven't encountered a better version of. A fat, jet black, matte crayon like this is a great tool for monolids since it can draw a thick line quickly. I first do a winged liner with a fine, felt tip/brush eyeliner like Maybelline HyperSharp Wing Liquid Liner, then use this when I want to thicken and even out the shape my eyeliner from the inner corner to the beginning of the wing, giving the appearance of more rounded, larger eyes. The staying power is absolutely phenomenal. On the couple of times I've been naughty and slept in my makeup, pretty much everything is gone the morning after but this.

Benefit Creaseless Cream Eyeshadow/Liner in My Two Cents
I've been eyeing Charlotte Tilbury Eyes To Mesmerise in Bette for forever, but why would I spend $44 (not even including shipping) on it when I have My Two Cents? This is the perfect shimmering goldy-bronze on light-to-medium skin tones. On days I wear contacts, this is my go-to cream shadow paired with Rimmel ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze. I even picked this My Two Cents/Bad Girl Bronze combo for my eye makeup to an interstate wedding. Never fails.

l-r: NYX Abu Dhabi, Revlon Seduction, Clinique Nude Pop, Benefit My Two Cents, Physicians Formula Bronzer, Nudestix Night

Laura Mercier Fall in Love Illuminator Collection
I've been meaning to do a review of this for ages, but since it was limited edition from late last year, I felt there was kind of no point. I thank my lucky stars every time I use this that I took the plunge and purchased it, because usually I shy away from expensive items. This houses 4 of their highlighters in the shades Indiscretion (rose gold), Addiction (more conventional yellow gold), Devotion (an icy purplish shade) and Seduction (bronze). I usually go for Indiscretion or Devotion, as Addiction is a bit boring to me (still beautiful though) and Seduction is way too dark for a highlighter (great for eyeshadow/workable as shimmery bronzer). They are a drier, more gelée type formula (what I recall/imagine ABH So Hollywood to be like), and don't emphasise skin texture or pores. They don't go on extremely blinding at first instance, so can be built up to desired intensity. Best of all, I really do like that there's a bit of glitter in the mix. I just think it makes the shades that touch more interesting and eye-catching.

l-r: Indiscretion, Addiction, Devotion, Seduction

Tarte Tartelette in Bloom
At the beginning of the year, I was debating between Tartelette in Bloom and Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance. The latter was sold out, so deciding which to buy came down to the one that wasn't out of stock. I ended up buying Modern Renaissance at the tail end of the year thinking I *needed* it, and now I can definitively say I prefer Tartelette in Bloom. Why? Simply, the colours. In the mornings when I'm doing my makeup for work, I don't really gravitate toward bright/dark pinks, reds and vibrant oranges. The rest of Modern Renaissance is also cool-toned (read: muddy and dull on my lids). But almost every shade in Tartelette in Bloom is flattering, office-friendly and foolproof. It's a complete palette with smooth, pigmented shadows that are a breeze to blend. Full review here.

Too Faced Hangover Primer
A fairly recent find given I only bought this in September, but I think I've finally found the primer for me. I don't think it does much in terms of oil control or improving longevity of your base, but it does create a more moisturised, plump, soothed canvas for your foundation to go on. On good skin days, coupled with this primer, my skin looks positively glowing and baby smooth. The coconut scent is delish, it's a pleasure to use and feels like a treat on the skin.

Crabtree & Evelyn Spiced Earl Grey Hand Therapy
Truly one of my favourite discoveries of 2017. The travel size lives in my makeup bag. I loved the tester so much in the shop I also bought the 100ml, but gifted that my mother. I'll have to resort to eBay to replenish my stock since this was sadly limited edition from last Christmas. I wish they would bottle the scent in a perfume. The smell is exactly as the name suggests. I didn't think earl grey in a hand cream could be done this right, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.

Gucci Bloom EDP
My current scent obsession. I can't even remember the last time I purchased a 100ml bottle of perfume (from a department store at that, not even Priceline/Chemist Warehouse/online), but it's a testament to how much I lurrrvee it. I also have the body lotion and rollerball, so I can live out my dreams and douse myself in the stuff. It's a somewhat old fashioned white floral that's been reimagined in a modern way. I like that it's not too dry or green on my skin, with a certain sweetness and creaminess that's been missing in other white florals I own (Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, Kai perfume oil). The dreamy ad campaign with Dakota Johnson, the millennial pink bottle, I'm a sucker for it all.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Brights and Vamps

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils have been on my radar for years, but they never seemed like an essential product I had to have. I had a somewhat disappointing experience with their Satin Lip Pencils, so I wasn't rushing to add more NARS lip pencils to my collection. Don't get me wrong, the quality is generally excellent, it's more the price and the shades I'm iffy about. Recently, I saw in Mecca Maxima a duo of travel-sized Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in Train Bleu and Intriguing for $28. Considering one 2.4g lip pencil is $39, and the minis were 1.8g each, the set represented far better value, plus you had more variety. I tried Train Bleu in the shop and really liked how it looked as a stain, so I researched my options if I wanted to purchase it and came across selling the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils for $26 each. (I just checked the website and Train Bleu is currently further discounted to $21.) I had a coupon code with Catch, so I ended up buying two lip pencils for $41. I would've preferred the two minis for $28, but I really wanted to order the shade Red Square along with Train Bleu as it's been on my wishlist since 2014.

l-r: Red Square, Train Bleu

Red Square is a bright, vivid, orangey red. Train Bleu is a vampy dark purple with burgundy tones. Both are non-staining (though Train Bleu sticks around longer than Red Square) and can be wiped off with just some lip balm and a tissue. Lasting power is not as good as a lip stain or liquid matte lipstick, but still better than a conventional lipstick.

l-r: Revlon Strawberry Suede, NARS Red Square, NARS Train Bleu, Revlon Black Cherry

l-r: Revlon Strawberry Suede, NARS Red Square

I'd long suspected Revlon Matte Lipstick in Strawberry Suede to be very similar to Red Square, and that hunch proved correct. Strawberry Suede is probably a touch pinker than the more orangey/fiery Red Square, but the tone and vibrancy is comparable. The Revlon is also a tad shinier in finish compared with the more matte NARS.

l-r: NARS Train Bleu, Revlon Black Cherry

I didn't have anything as similar to Train Bleu as I did Red Square, but Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry probably comes the closest. Black Cherry is more glossy and not as pigmented as Train Bleu, plus more berry/burgundy red as opposed to blackened purple.

NARS Red Square

NARS Train Bleu (as a stain)

NARS Train Bleu

Red Square delivers a glamorous retro/supercharged summer look and applies very smoothly to the lips without accentuating texture or dryness, whereas Train Bleu does the complete opposite and highlights every dry patch that previously never existed. Despite the striking, gothy, nighttime colour, Train Bleu is patchy and tricky to apply evenly ... you need a steady hand and considerable patience to get it looking semi-decent. I do like how you can control how opaque and dark you want it to be. I much prefer it as a lighter stain, with the pencil dabbed onto the lips then the product blended with the finger. It looks far fresher and prettier against my complexion, and less harsh and intimidating that way.

Like the Satin Lip Pencils, I appreciate how little product is required for full pigmentation. You'd have to wear the pencil many times for it to reduce down to the point where it needs its first sharpening. I can't imagine how long it will take to use up, hence why the product contained in the minis would've been more than sufficient for me. At the discounted price I paid (just over $20 each), I don't have too many complaints, however I'd likely be singing a different tune if I paid the retail price of $39 for one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Essence 50% Off Mini Haul

Priceline had a 50% off cosmetics sale last Thursday and Friday, and though I tell myself that I should eliminate all impulse cheap makeup purchases and focus on quality vs. quantity, I couldn't resist buying a few things, mainly from Essence. The limited edition stuff always hooks me in because it's just so affordable and a part of me always hopes the products will exceed my expectations. In the sale, I ended up buying a back up of my favourite NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Abu Dhabi, an Essence top/base coat, two Essence Soft Contouring lip pencils in Sucker For Grey and Going Steady, Essence Illuminating Face Cream Gel and Essence Bronzing Brick Powder.

Essence Illuminating Face Cream Gel in 01 I Don't Care Cause I'm Flawless

The Essence Illuminating Face Cream Gel fascinated me because it comes in a weighty glass bottle and it's made in Italy. Fancy. It retails for $7.15, so at 50% came to $3.60. Pretty unbeatable for a 20ml bottle. There were no testers so I was taking a gamble, but I figured the stakes weren't exactly high, so why not. It claims to have an "awaking effect" and a lightweight creamy and gel-like formula. You're meant to apply a small amount on the fingers and distribute evenly onto the face.

The pump bottle doesn't have the most sensitive dispenser so you're basically stuck with a full pea-sized amount each time. It has the consistency of a non-sticky, comfortable-feeling moisturiser (think MAC Strobe Cream), perhaps a touch more fluid and easier to spread. Blended out, it's surprisingly subtle. I was expecting more of an overt shimmerbomb. To be honest, I couldn't really detect any noticeable difference to my complexion when I applied this before my foundation. As a potential primer, I felt it degraded the performance/wear time of my base as it was like adding another layer of moisturiser. If the glowy effect is there, it's not as pronounced as something like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone or even Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Radiance. However under bright lights, you can detect the silvery shimmer particles on your skin. I like this for the novelty factor given its affordability and it could also serve as an understated liquid highlight, but I already have better products that do what it purports to.

Top to bottom: Sucker For Grey, Going Steady

Top to bottom: Colourpop Lumiere, Essence Sucker For Grey, Essence Going Steady, NYX Ruffle Trim

Essence Sucker For Grey

I noticed these new Essence lip liners and had to pick up two, given they were ONE DOLLA at 50% off. The colours also really appealed to me and seemed very current/on trend. I've never tried Essence lip liners, but I've always heard good things about them. They're a bit of a harder texture and not as creamy or easy to blend as other brands, but I guess that contributes to longer staying power on the lips. The good thing with lip liners is you can get lots of precision in the shape of your lips, but also control the opacity. I usually don't colour in my lips completely with the lip liner, but prefer to draw a few strokes then blend with my finger to get a fresher, stained appearance.

I absolutely love Sucker For Grey, a medium pinky-mauve that reminded me a lot of my favourite Colourpop lip liner in Lumiere. I compared the two and Lumiere is lighter and more pink (also a much nicer, creamier texture). Going Steady is your typical brick red/medium-to-dark rosy nude that seems super popular right now. I'm not the hugest fan of these colours, but they are fairly universally flattering. On the lips, Going Steady is reminiscent of NYX Lip Lingerie in Ruffle Trim, though when swatched together, Ruffle Trim is lighter and more nude (however does oxidise on the lips like most liquid lipsticks so is darker in real life than when swatched).

Essence Bronzing Brick Powder in 01 Feel the Fun & Catch the Sun

Bronzing Brick Powder on cheeks, Sucker For Grey on lips

Finally, we have the Bronzing Brick Powder. These to my eye are an obvious rip off of Bobbi Brown Brightening Brick. I always wanted to get the pink shade but at $75, hale no. Obviously the Essence dupe likely can't compare in terms of quality, but as there was no tester, I wanted to give it a shot. There was also a Brick Blush Powder, but it was sold out at the time I bought the bronzing powder. I actually went back to buy it post-sale because it's much more similar to the pink Bobbi Brown Brightening Brick I wanted.

I've been using my Zoeva Luxe Sheer Cheek brush and swirling it around in the pan to get a mix of all the colours, then applying this as I would a bronzing powder to my cheeks/cheekbones in an upward sweeping motion. The colour isn't completely brown and there is a peachiness/pink to it so it can used as a blush/bronzer hybrid, like NARS Madly. There's also an interesting light grey tone to it that makes it unique. It's not dark enough to produce a really pronounced contour, and you do have to build up the pigmentation depending on your personal preference. It's not glittery (which I wouldn't have minded as I'm going through a glitter phase), but more just shimmery. However, the shimmer can have a tendency to sit on top of the skin, especially when applied in conjunction with the Illuminating Face Cream Gel. The overall effect can get a little powdery, though nothing a spritz of MAC Fix+ or Smashbox Primer Water etc. can't fix. Wear time is average, bordering on poor, but I guess you can't expect the world of something that cost $3.43.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Current Makeup Menu #3

It's been almost nine months since my last makeup menu post, so I'm long overdue for an update. Ever since I moved to my own place a year ago, I've been more or less sticking with a few select products for months at a time to do my makeup in the morning. The main reason is that I no longer have a mirrored wardrobe, so I don't have immediate access to my entire makeup collection (housed in two 4-drawer storage units on a shelf inside) when I'm doing my face. I have to put aside a few products in a separate, smaller Muji organiser which I keep on my dresser beside the mirror on my bedroom wall. The upside to this is I've finally used up products I never thought I'd finish, like foundations, but the downside is less variety and the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind". Having said that, here are the current products I've been really enjoying and reaching for lately.

For face, I've recently returned to Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum (in 52 Vanille) and I'm so glad I picked this up again. The shade match is almost bang on (I've previously used 53 Beige clair on its own, which was always too dark, and then mixed it with 52 Vanille to lighten it), which is crucial given the previous foundation I'd been trying to use up (Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 33 Rose Beige) was too dark and pinky brown. I appreciate that the foundation is yellow-based and illuminating, without being greasy. It's natural and skin-like, but also gives your complexion a translucent glow that brightens and corrects unevenness and dullness. The lasting power or adherence to the skin could probably be better, but it's an ideal everyday "drugstore" foundation that is top notch in quality.

Speaking of Bourjois CC Cream, I'd previously been mixing it with a bit of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone in an attempt to lighten the foundation and inject some extra luminosity. I don't know what it is about the formula, but it is truly the best liquid highlighter I've mixed with a base. Other products can appear overly glittery or chunky upon closer inspection, or get oily after a couple of hours and start to break up on the skin or slide off during the day. But the Becca almost has primer-like properties while containing the most refined shimmer, giving the skin an undetectable but effective glowy boost. Previously swatched here.

I asked my friend to buy the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer for me while she was on a recent holiday to the US since it's always sold out at Priceline (plus it's $30, no thanks). I opted for the shade Bronzer rather than Light Bronzer just because I'd read that it was slightly more cool-toned and darker, which I thought would suit my skin tone better. I have been absolutely adoring this bronzer. It's everything I hoped for and more. Incredibly smooth, soft but not powdery, easy to blend, not too pigmented that it's hard to work with, but pigmented enough so that it actually shows up and does something without much effort. I love the colour, I love the scent, it's a breeze to apply and blend with my Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt Brush, I've been reaching for it nonstop since it arrived and I can't imagine wanting to use anything else for a long time.

In the last Priceline 40% off cosmetics sale, I purchased one of these Revlon Colorstay Creme Eye Shadows in 710 Caramel. It's a little lighter than Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze and the texture is much smoother, thinner and more emollient. You need to apply quite thin layers on the eyes and build up the colour. I've been enjoying this as a standalone eyeshadow (though I do have to use about 3-4 layers for my desired opacity, and even then, I always use a darker eyeshadow closer to the lashline for added definition), as well as an eyeshadow base (I just apply one layer and blend out with my fingers). The aspect of these that was most surprising but pleasing is that they're loaded with fine shimmer that's really sparkly and eye-catching under bright lights and reminiscent of more high end cream shadows like Chanel Illusion D'Ombre Long Wear Luminous Eyeshadow. The price point is very reasonable too ($14.95 for 5.2g, so I only paid $8.97 during the 40% off sale).

I overlooked this Nudestix Magnetic Eye Color in Night for a while after a friend gave it away to me ages ago, but recently realised I reach for it almost every day. It is JET black, velvety matte, has astounding lasting power and once set, does not budge. Truly a quality product and worth the money. I use it mainly to fill in my eyeliner once I draw the shape in with a finer felt tip/brush eyeliner (I've been loving Maybelline HyperSharp Wing Liquid Liner), since it is a thicker/chubbier tip so not as precise as a conventional pencil liner. The fact it's so high performing has made me realise when it comes to eye makeup, a reliable, truly black eyeliner is an absolute essential.

Lanolips Banana Balm

Finally, we have a bit of a novelty item in Lanolips Banana Balm Lip Sheen 3-in-1. I swatched this in David Jones and was captivated by the old school banana lolly scent and the pink sparkles against a pale yellow gloss that reminded me of Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom. The downside is that the colour is on the light side and does give a whitish cast, but if you apply a small amount and/or lay down a colour first, that can easily be overcome. In any event, the scent and the glitter has me sold.

l-r: Lanolips Banana Balm, Revlon Caramel, Physicians Formula Bronzer, Nudestix Night

l-r: Revlon Caramel, Physicians Formula Bronzer, Nudestix Night
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