Saturday, May 21, 2016

Where I Am with Makeup Right Now

You may have seen this meme on Instagram or Twitter:

Obviously, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek since it's not like if one stopped buying makeup, they would suddenly be able to afford a house or secure that perfect partner, but as in any joke, there's always an element of truth.

It gave me a moment to reflect on my relationship with makeup over the past few years, and more importantly, where I am right now.

Four years into the blog, it almost goes without saying I've accumulated a large makeup collection. Even though I regularly go through it all to see if I can donate or cull anything, I know objectively I have enough colour makeup to last me the next 10+ years, with the possible exception of foundation, mascara, etc. with more stringent expiry dates.

I recently thought about how much money I've spent over the years on makeup, skin care, hair care, nail polish, makeup brushes, perfumes, body care, candles, and everything else we categorise as “beauty”. The truth is, I have no idea. It's in the thousands of dollars, though how many thousands is the question.

It's not exactly that I feel that money was wasted, per se. I tremendously enjoy my makeup collection. Insofar as material things can generate happiness, I do get gratification from having and using makeup. Given the choice to do it all again, I don't know if I'd elect to spend my discretionary income any other way. At least that was true until perhaps the last half a year.

Don't get me wrong, I still really love makeup. I have fun playing around with it, I look forward to applying it in the morning, I continue to get a kick out of both the process and the end result. But I don't know if I can allow myself to spend on it as freely as before. Especially now, in my late 20s, needing to confront certain realities about my financial position and my future. This city I'm in ain't getting any cheaper. It's also about more considered consumerism, pardon the oxymoron. I need to think very carefully about anything I buy — makeup or otherwise. David Karp once said “liquidity is the new luxury”. It's a quote I resonate with but could do a lot better exemplifying. Stuff does weigh you down, though as humans, we also are comforted by the mere fact of having things. We identify with the things we own. We come to depend on them to maintain a certain standard of living, and often cannot imagine going without.

It's not so much deprivation that's the goal — but perhaps being satisfied increasingly with less, and appreciating what I do have more. Being mindful of and deriving greater utility from current possessions. For me, that means a big step towards actually finishing things before I buy replacements or alternatives. Really conceptualising how long it would take me to hit pan on an eyeshadow or blush before surrendering to that feeling of needing a new one.

What does that mean for the blog? There may be fewer posts about new stuff I've bought. There may be more posts on shopping my stash, or rediscovering underappreciated items, or finding connections or common themes between products I already have. There may be (as has actually been the case) more time in between posts in general. But it's all part of the natural progression of a live thing, and I'm still here (on the blog, on Twitter, on Instagram). Thanks as always for reading.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bright Base

Lately I've been all about illuminating primers. They've now become an unmissable step in my makeup routine. Not only do they add that extra glow, they also help my makeup apply better and last longer. Combined with a powder highlight over the cheekbones, brow bone, and down the bridge of the nose, plus a generous dousing of MAC Fix+, the final result is an almost otherworldly luminosity. Here are the four primers/liquid highlighters I've been rotating.

l-r: Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone, Nude by Nature Soft Focus Illuminator, MAC Strobe Cream, Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance

Excuse the dust...

l-r: Nude by Nature Soft Focus Illuminator, Becca Moonstone, Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance, MAC Strobe Cream

l-r: Nude by Nature Soft Focus Illuminator, Becca Moonstone, Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance, MAC Strobe Cream

Nude by Nature Soft Focus Illuminator
The most affordable option and relatively generous in size ($22.95 for 50ml), the Nude by Nature Soft Focus Illuminator has a thicker, slightly moussey consistency than the others. (Admittedly, that could be in part due to the fact my tube is 3 years old and I probably should have thrown it out by now.) As a result, I have to use a bit more product to cover over my whole face before going in with foundation. It's a peachy gold that blends out so that it becomes nearly imperceptible, but still leaves the skin with an unmistakable golden pearl (especially noticeable around the nose). I'm not a fan of the smell which I find too strong, though the length of time I've had it could be a factor in the unpleasant scent. One thing I do really like about the Soft Focus Illuminator is after I apply a layer of it all over my bare, moisturised face, it makes foundation go on smoother and more easily, and prolongs the wear time of my makeup.

Ingredients: Aqua, Decyl Oleate, Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, GlycerylMonostearate, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Parfum, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Citral, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool, C.I.77019 (Mica), C.I. 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), C.I.77491 (Red Iron Oxide).

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone
For whatever reason I've always considered the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfectors as dedicated liquid highlighters, though the blurb on the back of the tube does say it can be used as a makeup base or mixed with foundation. Moonstone is a beautiful pale gold that doesn't leave any glittery or distinctively shimmery particles on the skin. It blends out to a pure reflective gleam that bounces light off the face. This is one of the more pronounced highlighters I have when used as a makeup base. I find it almost too intense, which is why I don't reach for it as much as the others. It's more manageable used sparingly and in targeted areas under foundation where you'd normally highlight, rather than applied to the entire face. It goes without saying it's also super effective as a regular liquid highlight over foundation. It has a floral scent but isn't anything too overbearing.

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Homosalate, Glyceryl Stearate, Octyldodecanol, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Trilaureth-4 Phosphate, Propylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, Hamamelis Virginiana Witch (Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Ceteareth-12, Ceteareth-20, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Paraffinum Liquidum/Mineral Oil/Huile minerale, Glucose, Fructose, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Alcohol Denat, Dextrin, Sucrose, Urea, Propylparaben, BHT, Hexyl Nicotinate, Glutamic Acide, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Aloe Barbadensis Extract (Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract), Butylparaben, Fragrance. May contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77499), Tin Oxide, Mica.

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance
One of my all time favourite primers. The texture is superb — not too thick and oily, not too thin and runny. It blends into the skin effortlessly, absorbing quickly and leaving the skin softly moisturised and prepped for foundation. It also helps to prolong the longevity of makeup and wards off disintegration and fading. Like my experience with all Laura Mercier base products I've tried, it feels like a high quality product that's been carefully formulated and tested to actually do what it says and make a real difference.

This is what I reach for on special occasions like weddings or when I want to give my skin a perfecting, luminous boost. The glow it gives is refined but unmistakably there. A colleague once asked me whether I'd done anything different to my skin on a day when I was wearing this with Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk. Need I say more.

The only thing I will say about the Foundation Primer Radiance is that it cooperates better with hydrating, oiler/thicker moisturisers. Occasionally if I don't moisturise my skin adequately, or if it's drier than normal, or if I pair this with the wrong foundation, I will experience some issues with the products reacting together poorly (i.e. the primer balling up in places, catching on dry patches, being a bit harder to blend out around the edges of the nose).

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Hydrogenated Didecene, Glycerin, PVP, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Stearate, Mica (CI 77019), Cetyl Alcohol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Propylene Glycol Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Propylene Glycol Isostearate, Glyceryl Isostearate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Boron Nitride, Squalane, Caprylyl Glycol, Oleth-25, Ceteth-25, Tocopherol Acetate, Polysorbate 60, Retinyl Palmitate, Tin Oxide, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Triethanolamine, Tropolone, Butylene Glycol, Plankton Extract. May Contain (+/-): CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77491 (Iron Oxide).

MAC Strobe Cream
Featured in my last favourites post, there's been no change in my position since. I love this stuff. It's the most comfortable feeling on the skin — closest to the feel of skin care that really plumps the skin, soothes and moisturises. The texture isn't thick, gloopy or heavy on the skin at all. It's lightweight and you only need a small amount for the whole face. It is heavily scented which is a bit off-putting, but I can live with it. Strobe Cream is unique in that it isn't yellow/gold/peachy, but rather gives a pearly, pinky-white, ethereal glow. When this is applied to a bare face, it makes an immediate but subtle difference. The skin just looks better. More radiant, more evened out, halo-lit. Dullness is dialled down, brightness cranked up. As an added bonus, of the four primers here, Strobe Cream boasts the most skin care ingredients.

Ingredients: Water, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Glyceryl Distearate, Trisiloxane, Glyceryl Stearate Se, Cholesterol, Jojoba Seed Oil, Steareth-10 Cetyl Esters, Cetyl Alcohol, Vitis Vinifera Fruite Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Pyrus Malus Fruit Extract, Morus Bombycis Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Saccharomyces Lysate Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Hyalauronate, Panthenol, Ceramide 2, Xanthan Gum, Sucrose, Glycerin, Cyanocobalmin, Caprylyl Glycol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hexylene Glycol, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Metabisulfite, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Linoleic Acid, Isohexadecane, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Red 4.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

High End Foundation Wardrobe

I don't know about you, but I'm of the view that foundations are worth going high end for. If it's going to be all over your face and form the base for all your other makeup, then I'm willing to spend a bit extra if it means a superior product. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there's no shortage of affordable foundations that work brilliantly, but I just haven't tried that many (the one notable exception is Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum, which is hands down the best "drugstore" foundation I've encountered). I'm currently rotating between five (yes, five) high end foundations and thought I'd dedicate a post discussing them and their relative merits and shortcomings.

l-r: YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat in B40, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 4.5, Chanel Vitalumière Aqua in B20, Dior Nude BB Creme in 002, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in 013

l-r: Chanel Vitalumière Aqua in B20, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in 013, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 4.5, YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat in B40, Dior Nude BB Creme in 002

My favourite of the bunch is YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat in B40 (reviewed here and featured in my 2015 favourites). This is probably in my top 3 of all foundations I've used, second only to NARS Sheer Glow. It's so instantly beautifying, melts into the skin without texture or application issues, diffuses imperfections and unevenness, gives you that airbrushed, dewy (but not oily), soft focus glow, has fairly good coverage while not masking the skin, and is particularly kind on dry skin. If I want my best chance at a good skin day, especially if I'll be photographed, I'll reach for this or Sheer Glow.

My second favourite would have to be Chanel Vitalumière Aqua in B20 (reviewed here and featured in my 2014 favourites). It's such an excellent everyday foundation, especially when your skin is in decent shape. What I love most about it is that it's probably the most transfer-proof foundation I have, possibly because it's water-based, so it really adheres to the skin and isn't easily wiped off. The finish is more on the satin side than the YSL, and coverage is light to medium, but it looks so natural and undetectable while enlivening and perfecting the skin.

Next we have Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in 013 (review here) and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 4.5 (review here). I find these two pretty similar, with the main differences being coverage and finish. The Armani is a bit higher coverage and has a more semi-matte finish than the Koh Gen Do, which is more liquid in consistency and has a fresher, dewier, more translucent finish. Other than that, I find the two interchangeable. Both have coverage on the light side, so I tend to use 1.5 pumps rather than my usual 1. They're solid everyday foundations that feel lightweight, look natural on the skin, hold up decently and don't get too oily throughout the day, and generally perform well so long as the skin is cooperating (i.e. not going through a dry or blemish-ridden patch). As the Armani sets more matte than the Koh Gen Do, I like the effect of spritzing a hydrating mist all over to make it less dull and flat, and minimise any cakiness from powders I've placed over my foundation.

Finally, there's Dior Nude BB Creme in 002. As I mentioned in my current makeup menu, I'm not the hugest fan of this one but I'm forcing myself to use it so it's not completely neglected. I don't know what it is about the Dior, but the slightly thicker, mousse-like texture doesn't entirely agree with my skin. It's probably targeted more for oily/combination skin than dry or dry/combo. It feels a bit tackier and heavier when applied, and doesn't give my preferred glowy finish. This one is a lot more satin, bordering on matte. It can highlight dry patches and doesn't apply as evenly as my other bases. I find fingers work the best, applying a small amount of product into the skin in sections, but usually I use a brush since it's quicker. I try to make it more serum-like and easier to blend by mixing a drop of face oil into one pump, then finishing with Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water or MAC Fix+ to give my complexion more life, dewiness and moisture.

Colour-wise, I would say I'm between NC 20 and NC 25 (probably closer to NC 25). Of the 5, the Chanel is the best colour match for me, with its beige/yellow tones. The Koh Gen Do is a touch too light, especially in the summer, and much too pink. The Armani also leans pink (or peach-toned), and is slightly dark when compared with my neck (I learned this the hard way when inspecting my face in natural daylight while waiting for the train). The YSL is also a bit darker than my natural skin colour and the colour's not perfect either, but at least not too pink (it's more golden brown/orangey, when I need yellow or neutral/beige). The Dior is yet again, pink-toned with a warm brown tint, though it does have enough yellow in it to make it work. So long as we're not scrutinising too closely, all of them match me well enough (with the exception of the Koh Gen Do, which I should have bought in 213) and most are probably my closest matches with the shades available.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Priceline 40% Off Cosmetics Haul #7

By my standards, I haven't bought makeup in a while. My last string of purchases was around the tail end of 2015 and I've been positively restrained since. So when Priceline's biannual 40% off cosmetics sale rolled around last Wednesday and Thursday, I sort of went for it. I was once again excited to get my hands on some new makeup to play around with, plus stock up on a few essentials. And for those curious, you can take a peek at my previous Priceline 40% off makeup hauls in April 2013, March 2014, November 2014, March 2015 and November 2015 (I did also buy up a storm in November 2013, but probably was too ashamed to document my excesses or something, since no post exists though I did make a few passing references to items I purchased).

The damage this time 'round, with after discount prices:

  • L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude in Beige ($17.97)
  • L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude in Rose ($17.97)
  • Essie Grow Stronger Base Coat ($10.77)
  • Essence Quick & Easy Sponge Nail Polish Remover ($3.69)
  • Rimmel Magnif'Eyes Double Ended Shadow + Liner in Kissed by a Rose Gold ($10.17)
  • Essence Studio Nails Nail Polish Corrector Pen ($3.33)
  • Essence Eyeliner Pen Extra Longlasting ($3.06)
  • Models Prefer Brow Highlighter ($5.99)

Total: $72.95

In my mind, it was either this whole bunch of stuff, or the Too Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly Palette (notwithstanding the fact the Too Faced is $58 at Mecca Maxima and therefore a good $15 cheaper, plus basically impossible to get). I still mentally settled for having more "drugstore" products than one high end item.

Let's start off with the two most exciting additions ... the L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude eyeshadow palettes in Beige and Rose. It was definitely an indulgence to have bought both, but it was more of an all or nothing situation. I didn't need either and while I would have opted for Rose if forced to pick between the two, at 40% off, I thought ... why not. I didn't want to buy one, be happy with it, then become fixated on hunting down the other palette the next day, unsatisfied until I had both.

It actually took me a while to realise these weren't the same palettes released in the US that I've heard many an American YouTuber rave about. The shades are completely different. It's super confusing. Over there, they're known by the same name (Color Riche La Palette Nude), but they're numbered 1 (the more beige option) and 2 (the pinker one). The palettes are made in the US and contain a whopping 17.5 grams of product across 10 pans. The packaging is also different — it's bigger and there's a clear window at the front so you can see the shades. The European version, released in the UK and also in Australia, has vastly streamlined packaging. It's a pretty compact unit. There's only 7 grams of product (but still 10 shades) and the palettes are made in China. I don't have the US version so I can't comment on quality/pigmentation differences, but just from online swatches and reviews, it does seem the eyeshadows in the US version have more colour payoff and vibrancy.

Onto the swatches:

L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude in Beige (first half of palette)

L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude in Beige (second half of palette)

L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude in Rose (first half of palette)

L'Oréal Color Riche La Palette Nude in Rose (second half of palette)

Generally, the pigmentation is decent but not amazing. The Rose one is better than the Beige. Better colour selection, better pigmentation. Seriously, if you had to get just one, go with the Rose — especially if you already have Urban Decay Naked 1 or Maybelline The Nudes. I only really love the shimmery bronze in the Beige (the 8th colour across), but it's so common that I'm sure if I had a proper dig around my collection, I could find 5 dupes (or 50). The first half of the Beige palette is very light and not that pigmented, so I question how much use I'll get out of it. I also actively dislike the pale yellow gold (the fifth shade), as it's so watered down and sheer and unflattering that I can't see myself ever wanting to reach for it. It had so much potential to add something special to the palette if it were darker, more molten and reflective, or ultra sparkly with a warmer base colour.

The defining feature of these palettes are the texture of the eyeshadows and the way they apply. It's a drier texture so there's minimal fall out, which is a good thing, despite the sacrifice in colour payoff. It's not that they're not pigmented, it's that they give a more subtle, softer, hazy effect. They're hard to overdo unless you apply layers and layers and really build up the pigmentation. I suppose on occasion, extremely pigmented eyeshadows can be trickier to deal with since they require more work with blending, and can be a little too loud and OTT for the daytime. These L'Oréal palettes offer an alternative. I especially like the mattes since they're smooth, easy to blend and give an even, seamless wash of colour over the lid.

I also bought a couple of nail things. Another base coat from Essie (I'm almost done with my First Base which I was very happy with, but I wanted to try something different) and a nail polish remover pot from Essence (I was planning to get the Maybelline one again, but I figured the Essence was a third cheaper and couldn't be that much different). Out of sheer curiosity, and because it was so affordable, I purchased the Essence Studio Nails Nail Polish Corrector Pen. I've never used anything like it before, but I'm excited to try it next time I paint my nails since my existing method of cleaning up areas I've overpainted involving a toothpick and hand cream is tedious to say the least and desperately inefficient.

Finally, some more eye products. I completely disregarded everything else in this haul. No base, no cheeks, no lips. Just eyes and nails. I couldn't resist getting another Essence eyeliner (I'm using the waterproof version at the moment as detailed in my current makeup menu and learning to get along with it), because at $3, how could I go wrong. I also bought Rimmel Magnif'Eyes Double Ended Shadow + Liner in Kissed by a Rose Gold. Their ScandalEyes Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze is basically one of my favourite products of all time, so I had high confidence in how good it would be. I bought it even without a tester and wasn't disappointed. This shiz is pigmented, man.

Rimmel Magnif'Eyes Double Ended Shadow + Liner in Kissed by a Rose Gold (002)

I mean, just look at it. Absolutely magnificent.

I'm becoming super lazy with my eyeshadow and heavily reliant on eyeshadow crayons/sticks to do the job, so another high performing addition is undoubtedly welcome. Especially when it's double ended with two shades — one for the lid/inner corner, one to add definition and line.

Models Prefer Brow Highlighter

I've been eyeing the Models Prefer Brow Highlighter ever since I started watching Jordan Liberty's videos a few months ago. I noticed he regularly uses Benefit High Brow to highlight the brow bone, bridge of the nose and cupid's bow. Every time he applied it on the model, it looked out-of-this-world ethereal. The Models Prefer seemed like a fairly blatant attempt to dupe High Brow, so I gave it a shot. It looks like the colour of the Models Prefer is darker and more shimmery than High Brow, which is matte and whiter/lighter. Still, I don't think I have anything like it in my whole collection, even if I have something similar colour-wise. I appreciate the ease of use, control and precision of a pencil, and the pearlescent pink gives a girly, angelic touch.
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