Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mint Condition

I love Lush. I just flipped through their Christmas catalogue and my eyes lit up browsing all their brightly coloured, festively packaged gift sets. There's something about how constantly inventive and appealing to the senses their products are that satisfies my love of novelty and a lil' self-pampering. And unlike cosmetics which take forever to be used up, I don't struggle to get through body products and skin care. Emptying a product I enjoyed using throughout gives me immense satisfaction, and the best part is being able to repurchase or try something different without guilt (not that I don't have backups of shower gels and random soaps lying around that I haven't touched). The latest product I've tried from Lush is the Mask of Magnaminty, my first experience with one of their "fresh" masks.

Mask of Magnaminty is an exfoliating, deep cleansing clay-based mask. It looks like choc mint ice cream with its green colour and crushed up aduki beans, and smells a bit like it too. It's a gritty, thick paste with ground up red beans that feels more like you're putting raw food on your face than something synthesised in a lab. When you're applying it to the skin with your fingers, there's not a whole lot of stickiness going on and I'm slightly concerned about bits of the mask falling off my face.

It's gently minty upon application, though nothing overpowering, and the minty sensation reduces with time. I usually leave it on for 15-20 minutes, during which the mask will slightly harden but remain mostly wet, depending on how thickly you've slathered it on. It definitely doesn't harden and tighten, uncomfortably/hilariously immobilising facial movement, like other clay masks. It's quite easily washed off with warm water. I like to massage it in with my fingers while washing it off to get in some extra manual exfoliation. Due to its coarse, granulated texture, and the presence of peppermint oil, it may be too abrasive and irritating on sensitive skin.

After it's washed off, my skin is left feeling refreshed, purified and scrubbed. While I don't really detect any instant glowing effect and it doesn't banish spots immediately after use, it's a mask I reach for when I need a good, minty deep cleanse and to slough away any dry, flaky bits. I'm a big fan of the unusually chunky composition and how much it reminds me of something edible, and who doesn't love a face mask for some welcome "me time"?

Ingredients: Bentonite Gel, Kaolin, Honey (Mel), Talc, Ground Aduki Beans (Phaseolus), Glycerine, Evening Primrose Seeds (Oenothera biennis), Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), African Marigold Oil (Tagetes erecta), Fair Trade Vanilla Absolute (Vanilla Planifolia), Limonene, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Chlorophyllin

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bounce and Dab

I've wanted to try a Beautyblender since pretty much the start of this blog, but only recently managed to actually order one. I'm content with my brush collection and my curiosity about elliptical-shaped sponges was temporarily satiated with the purchase of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, so while I had always intended to eventually try the Beautyblender, there wasn't a pressing need. With a discount coupon in hand however, it was the perfect opportunity to finally try the iconic beauty tool.

Having used it a couple of times, a lot of my thoughts mirror those of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. I think the two are fairly indistinguishable, except that the Beautyblender seems to be a bit more durable (but harder to clean) and I prefer the overall shape of the Beautyblender over the Miracle Complexion Sponge, which has the addition of a flat edge.

The most apparent thing about the Beautyblender is that it's a lot more work than a brush. Having to quickly stipple (bounce) the ball all over the face to evenly distribute, press and blend in foundation requires much more manual labour than anticipated. At some point, my arm started to tire. If only I were ambidextrous, then I would've switched hands to at least ensure an even workout.

I noticed that I use at least twice as much product, probably due to the sponge absorbing a lot of it. This doesn't overly concern me as I have a surplus of foundations, most of which I don't envisage finishing before they go off. But if you only have one or two treasured and expensive foundations that you want to stretch out for as long as possible, the amount of product that gets soaked up might be a concern.

The other major downside is that it's a pain to clean. I'm lazy at the expense of stricter hygiene standards, so it's not uncommon for me to only wash my foundation brushes once every 3-4 weeks despite near daily use. I can't really do that with the Beautyblender because I'm paranoid remnants of foundation will solidify and dry within the sponge itself, making eventual cleaning much more difficult. It's also the fact that I feel the sponge won't work properly the next time I use it if it's dirty, unlike a makeup brush. So far, I've tried cleaning it with regular soap and a face cleanser, and both weren't entirely effective in that foundation stains were left on the sponge. The Beautyblender also leaked pink dye as I squeezed it under the tap which I prepared myself for having read previous reviews.

Despite all that extra time and effort, the tradeoff is a more natural, seamless finish that can't exactly be replicated with a makeup brush. I'm convinced that something happens as water from the damp sponge evaporates from your face along with the foundation it's mixed with. The result is that foundation seems to have been thoroughly worked into skin in an undetectable fashion. It's akin to really spending time to buff and stipple foundation all over with a fluffy or flat-top kabuki-style brush, except that the sponge gives a more close contact, skin-like result. Although you use more product than with a brush, it gives sheerer coverage because everything is blended and patted away with the damp, spongy surface. Sheering out foundation with water from the sponge and applying thin layers also seems to make foundation more transfer-proof and less prone to getting oily, especially around the T-zone.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Flashing Rainbows

I haven't been genuinely excited about a nail polish for a while, but my newest discovery has been a revelation. Models Own Northern Lights was another impulse buy that was part of my Luxola order. I was looking for something relatively inexpensive that would qualify me for free shipping, and naturally gravitated toward nail polishes and the Models Own page. The only other Models Own nail polish I had was the exquisite Indian Ocean, so I was hoping to find something equally unique and visually arresting.

I don't have any purely holographic polishes despite a strong interest in them, though I have a few glitter polishes that partially contain holographic glitter. Northern Lights is a dusty, blush pink glitter polish in a clear base, where the individual glitter particles have a strong holographic effect. It's quite a dense glitter polish and two coats sufficed to provide opaque coverage. I first used two coats of Savvy by DB Nude to provide a neutral, tinted base, followed with three coats of Northern Lights, then sealed everything with my trusty Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat. It's been six days and still not a chip in sight — a seriously impressive feat given glitter polishes are notorious for chipping quickly.

Northern Lights is absolutely dazzling in direct sunlight but still powerfully holographic under artificial or indirect light. Despite that, it doesn't seem gaudy or OTT, mainly due to the muted pink base and the small, uniform glitter particles. If it were made of chunky, differently sized glitter, and there was a stronger contrast between the holographic effect and the base colour, the whole character of the polish would change. Northern Lights manages to pull off a rare thing: elegance in a party varnish.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dark Flair

Sleek i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette in Arabian Nights was a complete impulse buy. I was freshly showered, in bed and casually browsing social media on my iPad before planning to nod off, when I saw a 30% off coupon at Luxola. Having never heard of the site before, I followed the link, looked through the brands they stocked, and the rest is history. I was debating between Arabian Nights and Garden of Eden and for a moment had both in my cart, but in the end, online swatches of Arabian Nights edged out Garden of Eden, which had about 3 too many green shades for my liking.

Top row: Scheherazade's Tale, Gold Souk, Aladdin's Lamp, Sultan's Garden, Hocus Pocus, Simbad's Seas
Bottom row: Genie, Black Magic, Stallion, Sorcerer, Valley of Diamonds, 1001 Nights

Scheherazade's Tale is a pink/peach shimmery highlight. Gold Souk is chunky foil gold. Aladdin's Lamp is a taupey dark bronze with a pewter undertone. Sultan's Garden is a patchy moss green with goldish emerald sparkles. Hocus Pocus is a vibrant, gleaming, jewel-tone emerald. Simbad's Seas is a concentrated, jewel-tone ultramarine/sapphire blue.

Genie is a cool-tone, dark bronze with purplish sparkles. Black Magic is a dark greenish gunmetal. Stallion is a deep matte aubergine. Sorcerer is a metallic dark moss green. Valley of Diamonds is a dark royal purple with a sprinkling of copper glitter. 1001 Nights is a blackish hunter green.

The quality of Arabian Nights is on par with previous Sleek eyeshadow palettes I've reviewed, including Storm, Bad Girl and Oh So Special, which is to say there's always 2-3 relatively underwhelming shades and 1-2 standouts. In Arabian Nights, Sultan's Garden is quite sheer and Gold Souk was surprisingly difficult to pick up pigment-wise, despite both being shimmery shades that Sleek generally excel at. The only matte shadow in the palette, Stallion, was slightly dry and chalky, but had good colour payoff. Hocus Pocus and Simbad's Seas, two intense, eye-catching shades that wouldn't look out of place in the Tom Ford Emerald Lust quad, are the stars of the palette. It's debatable how much wear I'd get out of them though, considering I rarely stray from the safety zone of my beloved neutrals.

The main selling point of these i-Divine Eyeshadow Palettes is how affordable they are (generally under $20 at full price) and the sheer variety of interesting, original shades on offer that would otherwise be difficult to track down in comparable palettes or as single eyeshadows. Even if I might not reach for them with any regularity, as an eyeshadow enthusiast, I like having the option there should I ever be in a more creative or experimental mood, or simply want to play around with colours and looks. The shade selection of Arabian Nights might not be the most daytime appropriate or office friendly, but it's precisely the dramatic and exotic character of the palette that drew me in. (Being limited edition never hurts either.) Having said that, given how close in appearance dark shades are when applied on the lid, and the fact I've basically never touched my Bad Girl palette which also consists mostly of intense, deep shades, it's debatable whether Arabian Nights really adds all that much to my existing options.