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.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Power Glow

When mega Youtuber Jaclyn Hill collaborated with Becca, releasing a limited edition shade of their Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed called Champagne Pop, the frenzy was real. As a makeup junkie, there was no way I was missing out. I briefly contemplated using Shop and Box, but was holding out for a better option. Thankfully, Becca decided to release a limited quota of Champagne Pop to Australian customers through their local online stockists. (I'm not sure if they have any plans for it to be sold at Sephora stores in Sydney.) I pre-ordered mine on 13 July, paying $60.01 with $6.95 shipping and using a $5 off first order code. Delivery time was estimated to be mid-August, but the shipment was delayed and arrived 9 September. That was kind of disappointing, since I was already planning on going to the States from 29 August to 12 September, and knew I'd most likely to be able to buy Champagne Pop there. But in any event, I was just glad when it finally arrived safe and sound.

Becca Champagne Pop

l-r: Dior Amber Diamond, Charlotte Tilbury Highlight, Becca Champagne Pop, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, Stila Kitten

I'd never owned any of Becca's powder highlighters before, though I've been tempted by the lightest shade Moonstone. The popular Opal seemed a bit too dark and orangey for my tastes, and the other colours like Rose Gold and Topaz looked more like shimmery blushes than highlighters. Jaclyn Hill describes Champagne Pop as her "dream shade", and from early reviews and swatch comparisons, it was apparently a cross between Moonstone and Opal. Makes sense to me, since I'd always thought it strange there was such a huge jump from the pale Moonstone to the noticeably darker, warmer Opal.

The texture of these highlighters is very soft, smooth and almost creamy, similar to theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer. It's incredibly pigmented that you only need a light touch for BAM! HIGHLIGHT. It's one of those products where the brush you use becomes very important in not overdoing it. I've been reaching for the long, small and fluffy Burberry Eye Brush - Socket Line No.09 to apply Champagne Pop to my cheekbones and brow bone. It probably doesn't give as much precision as I'd like, but it limits the placement of the product and diffuses the edges so the highlighter isn't so stark and prominent on the face.

I do find because it packs such a punch and is so reflective, if the brush has too much product, it can feel and apply in a slightly gritty and chunky way. To avoid that, I'd be mindful to use a small amount each time, not overloading the brush, applying the highlighter precisely and lightly to the skin, and going over the edges of where it's placed with a clean brush to softly blend it out into the surrounding skin. I sometimes even pat the highlighter with my finger to take off excess product and gently work it into the skin more.

Colour-wise, it's a peachy gold. Compared with other high end powder highlighters I have, Dior Amber Diamond (all shades blended together) is more pinky orange, Charlotte Tilbury Highlight (in the Filmstar Bronze & Glow) is more beige/champagne, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer is the most similar in terms of texture and pigmentation but champagne in colour, while Stila Kitten is a silvery rose gold. On my skin, Champagne Pop leans more yellow than peach, but overall translates as a relatively pale neutral gold.

It has this strong metallic smell reminiscent of cheaper eyeshadows made in China, which I wasn't expecting. Of course, it doesn't affect performance, but is one thing I noticed that I haven't heard anyone mention. I also don't think this is the most finely milled highlighter I've tried. If anything, Champagne Pop does lean more shimmery than sheeny, but I guess that's the tradeoff for mega effect. I find the Highlight shade in Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow to be superior and better quality, but Champagne Pop is still a product I'm happy to have. I'm not sure if anything can outdo it for pronounced glow, and sometimes, you just want to shine — loudly, obnoxiously and unapologetically.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sephora Haul

So ... I didn't intend to not post for a month, but if you've been following me on Instagram, you may have known I was on holidays in the US for a couple of weeks. Things were a little hectic the week before and after the trip, so I've only now had a spare moment to get things in order with the blog. To make up for my mini absence, I've returned with some makeup p0rn: a Sephora haul!

My last trip to the States was 3 years ago, and because I was clueless back then, I didn't create a Beauty Insider account. This time, I made sure to remedy that. Even with the abysmal state of the Australian dollar (long gone are the glory days of parity), I didn't exactly exercise restraint. (Though I did manage to avoid buying any lip products, so I'll give myself that.) It's surprisingly stressful when your travelling companion, like an AA sponsor, limits your visits to Sephora to the number of fingers on one hand. I had to make sure I wasn't skipping over anything I would regret not buying, but also not go completely overboard (because as we all know, that's easy to do).

My loot (hauled in one and a half weeks, over 4 Sephora stores):
  • Smashbox Primer Water ($32 USD, about $50 AUD)
  • Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Radiance ($20 USD, about $30 AUD)
  • Clinique Cheek Pop in Nude Pop ($22 USD, about $34 AUD)
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette ($30 USD, about $46 AUD)
  • Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara in Brown/Black ($10.50 USD, about $16 AUD)
  • Maison Martin Margiela Lazy Sunday Morning Rollerball ($25 USD, about $39 AUD)
  • Fresh Sugar Lychee Rollerball ($22 USD, about $34 AUD)
  • Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone ($19 USD, about $29 AUD)
  • Fresh Soy Face Cleanser ($15 USD, about $23 AUD)
  • Elizabeth and James Nirvana Mini Rollerball Set ($25 USD, about $39 AUD)
  • Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Shampoo ($11 USD, about $17 AUD) 
  • philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser ($11 USD, about $17 AUD) 
  • Benefit Rockateur Box o’ Powder Blush ($28 USD, about $43 AUD)
  • Too Faced Love Flush Long-Lasting 16-Hour Blush in Baby Love ($26 USD, about $40 AUD)

So basically, I spent a lot of money.

Mind you, that's not all the cosmetics/skin care stuff I bought in the US. Ugh. 

I did also buy the Boscia Tsubaki Cleansing Oil-Gel but I ended up returning it the next day after one use because it left my skin feeling taut and dried out.

Some of the stuff was literally more expensive than if I'd bought it in Australia (Smashbox Primer Water, Too Faced blush), some was only slightly cheaper but basically the same price (philosophy cleanser, Benefit Rockateur). The extensive rollerball display at Sephora was like Christmas and I was pretty ecstatic when two perfumes I'd been eyeing were available in rollerball form (Maison Martin Margiela Lazy Sunday Morning and Fresh Sugar Lychee, both unavailable in Australia). I also couldn't resist any of the good ol' minis (Fresh cleanser, Elizabeth and James rollerball set, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, Laura Mercier primer, even that darn 60ml bottle of Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Shampoo which I classify as the most ludicrous purchase ever, because as if I do hair, as if this shampoo is especially better than other shampoos, and as if I couldn't buy 2 litres of Pantene for the same price).

It didn't feel right to come away from Sephora without an eyeshadow palette, so I limited myself to just one: Anastasia Beverly Hills Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette. The price was right, the reviews were mostly positive, I hadn't seen the palette available at the Sydney Sephora store, there are a multitude of shades and finishes, and I was curious to try my first product from the brand. I had listed the Make Up For Ever Artist Palette Volume 1 – Nudes as a potential purchase, but the shades/packaging seemed underwhelming to me in person. Maybe neutral shadow fatigue. I wasn't interested in the new Naked Smoky palette from Urban Decay at all. I had a look at Buxom, and while the shadows swatched beautifully, nothing was really calling out to me as a must. Other options (Smashbox, Laura Mercier, Tarte, Stila) were too expensive with the currency conversion. I kind of wanted the Bobbi Brown Telluride Eye Palette but it was $52 USD, which would've worked out to have been $81 AUD. Like, no.

l-r: Too Faced Baby Love, Clinique Nude Pop, Benefit Rockateur

Bottom to top: Too Faced Baby Love, Clinique Nude Pop, Benefit Rockateur

Bottom to top: Laura Mercier Radiance Primer, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone

l-r: Laura Mercier Radiance Primer, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone

For some reason, I was super into the idea of dewy, highlighted skin, so I purchased the Laura Mercier primer and the Becca, with the idea of potentially mixing them into my foundation, or applying it to my face before foundation for added natural luminosity. I also bought a small tube of MAC Strobe Cream and a Benefit set that included a 'That Gal' Brightening Face Primer sample, so I'm good with liquid highlighters for now. After trial and error, I've learned to avoid placing luminiser over my nose, and that a 40/60 ratio of highlighter and foundation is a bit excessive.

While I'm sure I have similar blushes to three I bought, I'm really happy with all of them. Too Faced Baby Love almost reminds me of a pinker/plummier NARS Douceur, Clinique Nude Pop is like a muted version of NARS Madly, and Benefit Rockateur is a foolproof pick that goes with anything.

One product I'm on the fence about is the Smashbox Primer Water. As a primer, it did absolutely zilch, and as a setting/refresher spray, I'm not convinced it's any better than much cheaper options such as rosewater or even MAC Fix+. I do like the packaging and the spray mechanism, but I'm not sure if that's $50/116ml like. Probably not, but now that I've bought it, I'll try to forget about the inflated price tag and enjoy it.
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