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.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Current Makeup Menu

I've been super lazy with my makeup lately. I've also decided to stop doing regimented monthly favourites posts and instead do ad hoc posts of the products I've been reaching for whenever an update might be of interest. Most mornings during the past couple of weeks, I've adhered to a fairly pared down routine (from my previous standards at least). A lot of it is motivated by the desire to stay in bed for as long as possible, which naturally cuts into the time I have to get ready.

After washing and moisturising my face (I've been loving a sample of the hydrating but not oily Innisfree Perfect 9 Repair Lotion), I start with the eyes. While usually one of the most enjoyable aspects of makeup for me, I've ditched all my powder eyeshadows or need for brushes in favour of one product only: KIKO Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow. I alternate between two shades, Rosy Brown (for a more cool-toned, mauvey taupe option) and Golden Brown (more neutral bronze). Touted as a dupe for By Terry Ombre Blackstar Cream Eyeshadow, these are quite simply the best shadow stick I've come across. The quality is superb for the price. They're strongly pigmented, very metallic but not gritty or patchy, long lasting, easy to apply and blend, and most importantly, flattering on the eyes. So quick, fuss-free and reliable. I just whack some onto the lid and blend out the edges with my finger. I also run the stick along the lower lash line. It takes about 30 seconds per eye and the eyeshadow is done.

l-r: KIKO Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in Rosy Brown (05), Golden Brown (06)

Next is eyeliner. I've been trying out the affordable Essence Eyeliner Pen Waterproof which I used my $5 birthday voucher from Priceline towards. It's only so-so. The colour is pleasantly black, but it's the shape of the tip that doesn't work for me. It doesn't give me enough control when extending the line and drawing the flick. It's more of a hard felt tip rather than a flexible but firm thin brush like my superior Japan-made Creer Beaute La Rose de Versailles liquid eyeliner, which I'd use all the time except that it's running out. The Essence also dries in a way that if you go over the dried eyeliner, it'll flake off.

After eyeliner, I follow with whatever mascara I have available. The two I've been reaching for are in their final stages and nothing to write home about. I'm more or less waiting for them to be finished entirely before cracking open one of the many brand new mascaras I have waiting in the wings.

Next comes skin. Some days if I'm interested in an injection of extra glow, I'll apply a small amount of MAC Strobe Cream all over like I would a luminising primer. I'm having something of a lovefest with Strobe Cream at the moment and think it's incredibly underrated despite its cult product status. The colour is beautiful, the texture is great, it's so multifunctional and compared with other liquid highlighting products like Chanel Le Blanc de Chanel Sheer Illuminating Base or Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid, it's not that expensive. I find applying Strobe Cream to my bare face before foundation results in a more natural, subtle effect than if I mixed it into my foundation. I am slightly paranoid that smoothing it over my nose and forehead has a tendency to break me out, but it seems fine over the cheeks.

Recently, I've been sticking to one pump of Dior Diorskin Nude BB Creme in Fair (02) mixed with a drop of Tarte Maracuja Oil applied with my Zoeva Silk Finish brush for my base. I don't know if the texture of my Dior is a bit off, but I don't really like it. It feels slightly moussey and thicker in consistency than most liquid foundations I'm used to. Coverage is definitely on the light side, which wouldn't be too much of a problem if my skin was in good shape, but lately I've had some dryness, redness and break outs which call for concealer after the foundation is applied. Otherwise, you can see most of the underlying blemished and uneven skin peeking through. Even with the drop of oil mixed in and thoroughly buffed in with my brush, the BB Creme doesn't meld or sink completely into my skin. I do notice, especially if I examine my skin closely in the mirror, parts that still sit on top of the skin, especially around the nose. The finish isn't as brightening or dewy as I'd like, though it's not exactly matte. It's just a bit flat, albeit "natural" (though the colour is a little too pink-toned for me). Additionally, as the day goes on, the foundation starts to break up on my skin, especially visible on the cheeks. It's not as effectively skin-perfecting, illuminating or easy to work with than the much cheaper Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector Combination to Oily Skin. However, I'm persevering with the Dior because it was pricey and if I don't force myself to use it, it'll never be touched.

Last we have another favourite aspect of makeup for me apart from the eyes — blush. The two I've been loving lately have been Benefit Rockateur and Max Factor Creme Puff Blush in Nude Mauve. The Benefit is a brightening, shimmery pinky peach that's more girly, summery and warming, whereas the plummy brown, satin-finish Nude Mauve is more cool-toned, sculpting and polished. Nude Mauve is a versatile hybrid bronzer and blush that I can just whack on without being concerned about placement or overdoing it, since the colour payoff is on the subdued side. It has a softer baked texture and blends without any issues. I'm still loving my Wayne Goss Brush #14 for blush, though I've also been reaching for my angled Zoeva Luxe Sheer Cheek Brush.

l-r: Benefit Rockateur, Max Factor Nude Mauve

Depending on time constraints and whether I feel like it, I'll highlight and/or powder after blush. I did go through a phase of preferring certain colour-shifting eyeshadows (Kat Von D Metal Crush Eyeshadow in Thunderstruck, Makeup Geek Duochrome Eyeshadow in I'm Peachless) to dedicated powder highlighters for my cheek highlight, but I've found the texture of them usually isn't as forgiving on the skin. They're not as easily blended and can emphasise pores and sit on the skin in an obvious manner. I've been mostly using Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Champagne Pop (can't beat the colour and the BAM! HIGHLIGHT effect) or Dior Diorskin Poudre Shimmer in Amber Diamond (probably the most refined highlighter I have, along with Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow), applied with a Burberry No.09 Socket Line Brush. Powder has been Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder in N°20 which I actually really like, except I suspect that might have more to do with the fact it's Chanel than anything else.

As a final step, I'll put on some lip balm. I do this for an odd purpose — it's not to hydrate my lips, but rather, to get rid of any foundation on my lips. I'll remove the lip balm with a tissue which removes any foundation. I've been rediscovering the cult product Lucas' Papaw Ointment. My tube is God knows how old, but it still works perfectly. The shine it gives the lips is super pretty and it's an excellent multipurpose ointment that soothes, protects and moisturises.

Monday, March 14, 2016

High End Let Downs

Higher prices tend to command higher expectations, so it's more of a downer than usual when expensive products turn out to be disappointments. I don't like to keep any products I actively dislike, but when they cost a pretty penny, it's harder to bring myself to get rid of them. These six items mostly just take up space and spark the occasional moment of regret and annoyance when I see them.

Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in Medium
I thought this would be the be all and end all of contouring powders. The price put me off, but after encountering many a rave and seeing The Sculpting Powder work its magic on people's faces, I bit the bullet. This doesn't look right on me. I think it suits pink-toned, pale complexions only. If you're more yellow and light-to-medium, it pulls very cool brownish grey (read: muddy). I've tried every brush under the sun, I've tried a light application, heavier application, different placement. It's not flattering or believable. It either is too subtle and therefore useless, or makes me look like I have a dirty stripe where I wish my cheekbone was. Swatches here.

MAC Eye Kohl in Powersurge

MAC Eye Kohl in Powersurge
There's nothing hugely offensive about this pencil eyeliner, except it's so unremarkable and overpriced for the quality. I was willing to pay a premium for the colour, but once I actually tried it on my lower lash line, I realised it wasn't anything special. A medium khaki-ish (greeny) gold. I have plenty of similar coloured eyeshadows which I could apply with a pencil brush to my lower lash line if I wanted identical effect. Pigmentation is not woeful, but could be better. The metallic quality is relatively subdued and not particularly intense or lustrous. The main problem is the texture. It's fairly hard, doesn't glide on and isn't that creamy. Lasting power is also extremely ordinary. There are SO many cheaper eyeliners that are superior in every respect (e.g. Savvy by DB Soft Glide Eyeliner, Kiko Glamorous Eye Pencil, Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal) that nothing can justify the $32 price tag for the MAC. I wish I'd bought another 217 Blending Brush instead.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light
I weep a little thinking about the $62 I bid farewell to when I bought this powder. I was expecting this to be a skin-perfecting finishing powder, but it's so BROWN and PINK and DARK that it's virtually unusable. It's not even something I can use to "warm up" or darken my skin if my foundation's too light, since it doesn't match my natural skin colour anyway. It's far too pink-toned. It also doesn't impart any brightening luminosity to my face except the subtlest whitish pearl. I more or less never reach for Dim Light since I have other powders that do the job I wanted it to (Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder, Guerlain Météorites Compact Light-Revealing Powder). I should've bought Diffused Light instead. Original review here.

Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara
Granted, this was a magazine freebie, but I was super excited to try out a high end mascara since I don't tend to buy them. Sadly, this was a complete flop. This mascara did absolutely nothing for my lashes. No curl, no lift, no volume, no separation, no lengthening. All the times I've applied it, I've either hated it, or abandoned it mid-way to grab something that actually works.

l-r (top to bottom row): Caught in the Act Courtney, Feisty Felicia, Insane Jane, Bossy Bobbi, Makeout Mary, Just This Once Jamie, Mischievous Marissa, Tempting Tara, Devilish Danielle

theBalm Shady Lady Vol. 2
I truly dislike this palette. The first two darker shades with glitter (Caught in the Act Courtney and Feisty Felicia) are dry, patchy, poorly pigmented and have huge amounts of fall out. Some of the other shades (Mischievous Marissa, Tempting Tara, Devilish Danielle) are really powdery even if they have strong colour payoff. But the main problem with Shady Lady Vol. 2 is none of the colours are flattering on me. None. This isn't a palette I want to reach for. It's not a palette that houses colours I'm excited to use. Since it came into my possession, I don't think I've ever used it, except maybe the darker shades to deepen an eye look. Also, the shade names are gross (Makeout Mary? Just This Once Jamie??).

l-r (top to bottom row): In the Buff, Birthday Suit, Pink Cheeks, Pillow Talk, Like a Virgin, Satin Sheets, Unmentionables, Lap Dance, Stiletto

Too Faced Naked Eye Palette
I possibly dislike this palette more than Shady Lady Vol. 2, which is saying a lot. At least the eyeshadows in Shady Lady Vol. 2 are visible on my lids. Almost half of the shadows in Naked Eye are invisible, including all 3 of the larger pans. In the Buff, Birthday Suit, Pink Cheeks and Pillow Talk are rubbish. Maybe if you're very fair, they'll have some kind of effect, but on my light-to-medium (NC 20 to 25) skin, they're useless. (Looks like I'm not the only one that feels that way.) I bought Naked Eye early on in my "makeup journey", back when I didn't realise cool-toned eyeshadows and I don't mix. Lap Dance and Unmentionables swatch nicely, but are so dirty/ashy/muddy on my lids and drain my complexion. Satin Sheets is admittedly very pretty and super pigmented, but I wish it were more of a gold-pink rather than a bright white gold on me. Like a Virgin is the only shade I use in this whole palette, and even then, it's a cool-toned grey that isn't as flattering as a warmer brown shade with yellow or orange tones. Given I love both my other Too Faced (Chocolate Bar) palettes, Naked Eye seems especially a waste.
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