Thursday, November 26, 2015

ABH Take Two

Eyeshadow palettes are my weakness ... but it now takes something special to reel me in. I like to think I'm fairly selective when it comes to the palettes I buy, maintaining a high benchmark for potential purchases. Having said that, my last palette, Anastasia Beverly Hills Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette, was bought more for the sake of it than out of any intense desire or prior careful, prolonged consideration. I hadn't tried ABH shadows before and was curious to see how they stacked up against competitors, plus I didn't want to come away from my US trip without at least one palette to look forward to using once I returned home. I didn't end up loving it — both the shade selection and the quality of some of the shadows. However, something about the just released Self-Made Palette called out to me. (It did take a moment initially to realise that "Self-Made" was the name of the palette, and it wasn't a palette you assembled yourself.) Despite a relatively underwhelming experience with the World Traveler Palette, I had high hopes for Self-Made and eagerly waited for it to arrive in my Beautylish order.

The Self-Made Palette has 14 shades, 2 more than the Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette, though it is $5 USD more expensive at $35 USD (I paid under $50 for mine). The individual shadows are 0.7g each, with the total palette being 9.92g. Like the World Traveler Palette, it comes with a dual-ended eyeshadow brush that I've heard isn't half bad, though feels a touch stiff for my liking. Pink Champagne is the only common shade between the two palettes. Of course, for variety's sake, I would've preferred if they had included a different shade (maybe even identical finish to Pink Champagne, but another colour), but I did feel Pink Champagne was a standout shade in the World Traveler Palette, so I'm not mad.

The 14 shades as described by Anastasia Beverly Hills are:
Pink Champagne: A rose gold with a titanium finish.
Metallic Plum: A dark plum with a metallic finish.
Self-Made: A deep bronze with a satin finish.
Witchy: A khaki gray with a sparkle finish.
Blush: A light beige with a duo chrome pink finish.
Blossom: A lilac pink with a metallic finish.
Buttery: A buildable beige with an ultra-matte finish.
Deep Purple: An amethyst purple with a titanium finish.
Treasure: An ultra-light champagne with a metallic finish.
Hot & Cold: A rum brown with a metallic finish.
Sherbert: An ultra-light peach with a velvet finish.
Isla: A sea foam green with a duo chrome gold finish.
Spirit Rock: A galaxy black with a sparkle finish.
Hot Chocolate: Rich, cocoa brown with an ultra-matte finish.
They're good enough shade descriptions, though the ones I'm puzzled by are Blush (it doesn't look remotely beige to me — it's grey through and through) and Sherbert (how is it "ultra-light"? It's not that pale and multitudes darker than the truly ultra-light Buttery, which is only described as "beige"). Pink Champagne isn't so much a "rose gold" to me than a pinkish, silvery taupe. Very cool-toned.

l-r: Pink Champagne, Metallic Plum, Self-Made, Witchy, Blush, Blossom, Buttery

l-r: Deep Purple, Treasure, Hot and Cold, Sherbert, Isla, Spirit Rock, Hot Chocolate

As you might be able to tell from the swatches, the palette has no problems with pigmentation. All the shades knock it out of the park. The only colour that requires a bit of building up to achieve full opacity is Spirit Rock, but I think that's to be expected of any dark matte shade with chunks of glitter in it (Urban Decay Blackheart from Naked3 comes to mind). Fall out is also an issue with Spirit Rock, but not a noticeable problem with the palette overall.

I found the texture and blendability of the shadows in Self-Made to be superior to World Traveler, especially with the metallic shades. None of them seemed to be chunky or weirdly dry in texture or applied in a patchy manner. Though there are only two mattes in the palette, Buttery and Hot Chocolate, like the four mattes in World Traveler (Soft Peach, Morocco, Fudge, Noir), they're exceptional quality.

In terms of the colour selection, I am completely enamoured with the titular shade. Paired with Hot and Cold, the two remind me of Crème Brûlée and Hazelnut from the Too Faced Chocolate Bar Eyeshadow Palette. An absolute winner of a shimmery neutral shadow duo. I've been experimenting with different colour combinations from the palette and mixing it up to see how each shade performs and wears. My favourite look from the palette is Self-Made all over the lids, Hot Chocolate to add definition, mainly focused on the outer corner and blended towards the centre of the eye, and Blush in the inner third of the eye. I was pleasantly surprised just how wearable Blush is, considering it looks like a light silver, a colour I've never gotten along with. There's a translucency to it that layers beautifully over a medium base shade, not overpowering it, but lightening it and adding an eye-catching, completely unique iridescent pink shift. One of the stars in the palette.

Metallic Plum wasn't as strongly plum in colour as I'd hoped, but looked more like a generic, cool-toned dark brown on my lids. Witchy, a khaki grey, can lean a little muddy and murky with my complexion. I did have fun trying to "recreate" (I use that term loosely) this look by Mario Dedivanovic where he uses Isla on the lid and Witchy in the crease and outer corner. (It didn't look anywhere near as good on me as it did on Olivia Culpo.) I found Treasure to highlight my inner corner wasn't the most flattering shade, in that it's a bit too reflective and whitish for me. Both Sherbert and Blossom could be used all over the lid, though they are on the lighter side.

Overall, I'm super pleased with the Self-Made Palette, despite the fact I will be reaching for certain shades more often than others. The price is lower than a lot of comparable palettes that have less shades, the quality is what I'm after, and the colour selection gives me lots to work with, as well as some stunning shades that are new favourites.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Beautylish Haul

Not so much a haul as 3 things I bought recently from Beautylish in the one order. Beautylish were holding a $20 gift card for every $100 USD spent, so my mind justified it as basically 20% off. Not quite, since they have to mail you the gift card which you'll have to spend on a second order, so return business is guaranteed to make use of the promotion. Still, it's not a struggle to spend too much money on Beautylish. My order came to just over $100, comprising a good mix of eye/face/lip/brush products, some of which I've been curious about for a long time, some newly released that I immediately wanted.

After trawling through the site, carefully considering what to put in my cart, I ordered the Anastasia Beverly Hills Self-Made eyeshadow palette ($35 USD), Too Faced Melted Kisses and Sweet Cheeks ($36 USD) and Wayne Goss Brush 14 ($33 USD).

The Anastasia palette was a bit of an impulse buy since it launched only last month and I told myself I'd hold out if/until it popped up at a physical Sephora store near me to swatch. I recently bought the Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette but wasn't overly enthused with it, but something told me I'd get along better with Self-Made. I'm glad I took the chance as first impressions are overwhelming positive and I definitely prefer it to the World Traveler palette. I'll get a full post up about it soon, so I won't go into too much detail here, except to include some preliminary swatches.

The Too Faced lip and cheek set has been released in Australia and is priced at $53, roughly the same as what I paid on Beautylish after currency conversion. I have one Love Flush Long-Lasting Blush in Baby Love but no Melted Liquified Long Wear Lipsticks, so this set seemed excellent value and the ideal way to sample 3 blushes and 3 liquid lipsticks without having to purchase the full size. I will also shortly dedicate an entire post to the set with comparison swatches of the blushes next to other pink, coral and plum shades, so I'll only include swatches of the individual products for now.

I've never tried any of the Wayne Goss brushes, though they have been on my radar for a couple of years. When I bought the Flat Contour Brush from the Real Techniques Bold Metals Collection, I lamented not having bought a Wayne Goss brush instead. It was around the same price (the Flat Contour Brush is $26 USD before tax, while Brush 14 is $33 USD but I didn't have to pay tax), but the quality cannot be compared. Brush 14 has been an utter revelation. It's my new obsession. I did have to wash it when I first received it to bring out its shape and fluff it up, but after it dried, I've been reaching for it nearly every day. Up front I do have to say my only issue with it is that it does have a faint smell of wet hair, but it's nothing overwhelming or significant enough to meaningfully detract from my enjoyment and use of the brush.

The bristles are made out of goat hair, and while not quite as delicately soft as my SUQQU Cheek Brush (made of grey squirrel hair), in a way that's an advantage. On the cheeks, it's still beautifully soft feeling, but the slightly firmer bristles I find pick up product better. One gripe I had with the Suqqu was that it was almost too soft and floppy. There wasn't a problem for really pigmented blushes as the brush provided a soft, well-blended wash of colour, but for blushes with not as strong colour payoff, you'd need to layer the product for any result. Using it also wasn't as efficient or immediately effective as a firmer, denser brush like the Ecotools by Alicia Silverstone Blush Brush for a more defined, sculpted look, patting the product up and down the cheekbones and a little onto the apples of the cheeks.

Brush 14 gives me more control and performs well with a wider variety of cheek products, while still being supremely soft and blending colour out seamlessly. I love the elongated shape and bulbous tip, which nestles perfectly into one of the mini Too Faced Love Flush Long-Lasting Blushes as if the two were made for each other. It's pretty close to perfection in a cheek brush. With this experience, I'm more impressed with Wayne Goss brushes than I anticipated and have my eye on acquiring more in the future. Though it wasn't cheap, Brush 14 was a third of the price of my Suqqu, but the quality and function is absolutely up there. I'm not sure I would have bought the Suqqu if I'd been able to touch and buy the Wayne Goss brushes in person, except to satiate my curiosity and desire to own such a coveted brush in the makeup world. I'd always been on the fence about whether the Suqqu Cheek Brush was worth my $160, despite it being indisputably the softest brush in my collection.

l-r: Melted Nude, Melted Peony, Melted Fig

l-r: Love Hangover, Justify My Love, Your Love Is King

l-r: Pink Champagne, Metallic Plum, Self-Made, Witchy, Blush, Blossom, Buttery

l-r: Deep Purple, Treasure, Hot and Cold, Sherbert, Isla, Spirit Rock, Hot Chocolate

This has to be one of the most successful makeup shopping orders I've made in recent memory. I genuinely like or love everything I've bought and feel they were savvy selections and worthwhile purchases. I've been using all my new things nonstop since they arrived. It has barely been 2 months since my last major Sephora haul in the US, so I now need to be really restrictive and discerning with my purchases. That always goes to plan...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Budget to Luxe: Contouring

I recently saw a video where someone contoured their nose and cheekbones with Milani Shadow Eyez Eyeshadow Pencil in Brown Deluxe, using the remnant product left on their finger after first blending the cream shadow onto their eyelids. After seeing that, it occurred to me that so long as you find what works for you — anything can be used to contour. (Of course, having an enviable underlying bone structure doesn't hurt.) Still, for the rest of us that might not be so resourceful or genetically blessed, a dedicated contouring product (cream or powder) usually does the trick. I've rummaged through my collection and dug out four products I've bought, from cheap and cheerful to hideously expensive, in my quest to cheat some dimension and shape to my plump, flat face.

NYX Blush in Taupe
One of the very first contouring powders I'd heard about back in the day. Taupe was famed and coveted due to its reputation as a "drugstore" product that was distinctly cool-toned and grey, in contrast to the usual warmer, orangey bronzers out there. I bought it for $10 from a trade-only event over 3 years ago when NYX wasn't yet stocked at Target in Australia. Since then, I've only reached for it maybe 5 times? It's just too grey and too cool-toned for me. It might be a winner on paler skin tones (I imagine being in possession of actual cheekbones also goes a long way in liking/using the product), but it's never appeared effective or natural on me. It has a unique pinkish undertone when swatched, but it veers dangerously close to muddy and ashy on my skin. It looks more like I'm applying a dark grey eyeshadow to my face than anything else. Probably desirable if you're looking for a noticeable effect in photos, but otherwise a little jarring and odd in "real life".

Maybelline Master Sculpt Contour Palette in Medium/Dark
My favourite of the bunch, and the cheapest one to boot (I bought it on sale for $9.97). Like I said in my original review, it reminds me of a slightly more ashy Benefit Hoola. I wasn't expecting anything from a more affordable contouring powder, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up liking it. It's more of a darker matte brown (mimicking the colour of a tan) than an artificial shadow painted in grey. It doesn't look murky or bruised on my face, but defining and natural. It's easy to blend but hard to overdo while still remaining nicely pigmented.

Illasmaqua Cream Pigment in Hollow
I'd seen the Pixiwoo girls use this a few times in their earlier videos, so while in a contouring craze a few months ago, I purchased it from Myer for just under $30. I was curious about how a cream contour would perform compared with a powder, and Hollow seemed to enjoy near cult status. I really had high expectations and wanted to love it, but the colour let me down. Firstly, it's a bit too light to be truly effective at sculpting my face. Secondly, it applies like a subtle, putty/concrete grey on me, almost like a shadowy, milky mink, which both clashes with and disappears into my yellow-toned skin. It does blend effortlessly and isn't too opaque so it can be gradually built up with the fingers, but I need something darker and more brown.

Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in Medium
I held off buying this for ages because the price tag made me uncomfortable. But seeing it used in this Lisa Eldridge video was the final straw. (It also popped up in a few of Tanya Burr's videos and always looked utterly transformative on her.) I couldn't wait to slap some of this on myself, hopeful it'd work the same miracles on me. Sadly, as is a recurring theme in this post, the colour wasn't right. This time, while it's not overly grey (it's definitely more brown), it's too dark and cool-toned for my liking. If you put too little on, there isn't much of an effect, but if you put enough that you can see it doing something, it looks unattractively muddy and dirty. Maybe my technique and placement isn't right, or maybe the bark brown just doesn't mesh with my skin tone. Either way, this was an expensive fail.

l-r: Illamasqua Hollow, NYX Taupe, Maybelline Contour (Medium/Dark), Kevyn Aucoin Medium

l-r: Illamasqua Hollow, NYX Taupe, Maybelline Contour (Medium/Dark), Kevyn Aucoin Medium

After my experience with various contour powders/creams from every point of the price spectrum, I've concluded the best out there for me is a tie between two bronzers: Benefit Hoola and the Sculpt shade in Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow. Warmer medium brown shades work better for me than cool grey or taupes. Oh, and the tools you use are equally, if not more important. My picks: Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt or Models Prefer Mystique Blush Brush. Both made of soft natural hairs, they pick up pigment well and make the task of placement and blending easy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Could've Passed on Pasiphae

NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow in Pasiphae was one of those impulse purchases spurred by wanting to take advantage of a "good deal", rather than any prior need. For some reason, it was one of the daily specials on StrawberryNet in early July. While the Dual-Intensity shadows retail for $42 each in Australia, StrawberryNet was selling Pasiphae for $18. I have a 7.5% loyalty discount, plus they were having a 10% off mid-year sale, so I ended up paying $15. How could I say no?

l-r: 1 swipe, 3 swipes

1 swipe

3 swipes

Released as part of the NARS Fall 2015 Collection, Pasiphae is described as a "shimmering peacock burgundy". I'm not sure what colour "peacock" is supposed to be, but I'm assuming a jewel-toned green. I've tried to capture in the photos the different shifts and dimensions of Pasiphae, depending on the angle and how much shadow is applied. With just one swipe, the warm brown base and the emerald green shimmer are evenly balanced. It's on the sheerer side, but super sparkly and eye-catching, with primarily gold, green, orange and diamond microglitter. When built up, it's more distinctly green overall but colour-shifting, ranging from a yellowy-green, emerald green, to a slightly plummy brown. Despite it passing for a duochrome, when actually applied on the lids, the colour doesn't shift that noticeably and is mainly a glimmering green.

l-r: ColourPop So Quiche, NARS Pasiphae, Wet n Wild Definer (bottom right Comfort Zone palette)

l-r: ColourPop So Quiche, NARS Pasiphae, Wet n Wild Definer (bottom right Comfort Zone palette)

I don't have any dupes for Pasiphae, but I pulled out two eyeshadows that I thought would be close. ColourPop So Quiche has a similar glittery quality and predominately green colour, though the glitter is obviously different, being mainly purple and pink. The Definer shade at the bottom right of the Wet n Wild Comfort Zone palette is also a duochrome, except it's far more red in tone with a darker metallic teal shift, rather than the lighter greeny-gold and less pronounced brown base of Pasiphae.

Texture-wise, these are a drier formula, probably because they're designed to be used either wet or dry (I find the texture to be most similar to Tom Ford Eye Colour Quad in Emerald Lust, also formulated for wet or dry application). That's not to say they're not pigmented. Used dry, they are initially sheer (though the sparkle/glitter factor is strong), but can easily and quickly be built up for opaque colour. They're really smooth and easy to blend — the kind of eyeshadow that almost applies better with the fingers than brushes. I actually prefer that you can choose how you want to use the shadow to achieve the look you're after. You might want to only use this lightly, tapping it onto the lids with your finger over a coloured cream base, as more of a subtle gleam. Or, you might want to use it wet for maximum impact, patting it on the centre of the lid with a flat brush and grounding everything with a brown shade in the crease à la BeautyLifeMichelle.

It's an undeniably high quality product with a sophisticated take on shimmer, but my main problem is I'm not convinced it works for my sallow skin tone. If I have to wear colour, I generally get along well with greens (particularly of the khaki variety), but the effect of Pasiphae on me is very muddy, dull and complexion-draining. I don't know what it is, but every time I've experimented with it, I've come to the conclusion it simply isn't flattering. A lesson learnt to not buy something simply because it's cheap(er).
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