Thursday, August 27, 2015

find these high-quality affordable beauty hits near you!

Hailed as one of the top long wearing eye shadow creams available, this winner by Maybelline lives up to the hype. Color Tattoo 24HR Cream Gel Shadow in Tough as Taupe is likely the longest-wearing cream shadow I've ever worn, and it does double duty as an eye shadow primer. I'm glad I chose this matte shade since it works perfectly alone to add depth to my cease area or as a base layer under other shadows. It feels much lighter on the lid than other cream shadows, but crease-less stay-put wear are what really makes this product a keeper. The metallic shades combine gorgeous shiny colour with no messy powder shadow mess to stray all over your face, which is great when you want to control where you want to sparkle, and avoid highlighting areas (like under the eyes) where you don't. I picked mine up at Shoppers Drug Mart on sale for $6.99 (regular price is $9.99), but will wait to see how long the formula lasts before drying up before repurchasing.
Next up is a similar, and equally worthy beauty reviewer favourite, L'Oréal's La Couleur Infallible Eye Shadow in Hourglass Beige. This little glass jar has a small black stopper instead of a sifter top since the shadow is more creamy than powdery (though it applies and blends with no stickiness), which keeps the product tamped-down and tidy. This shadow glides onto your eyelid and leaves a bright metallic pop of colour that stays in place with no fallout or creasing through hours of wear. Aside from feeling lighter on the lids than glittery cream shadows of yore, this version surprises by being incredibly smooth, and is a delight to combine with powder shadows since it isn't tacky or greasy at all. I bought mine for $7.99 on sale at Shoppers Drug Mart (regular price is $10.99) during a promo for L'Oréal products. While I'm very pleased with this shadow, this level of sparkle is not an everyday look for me, so I will wait to see how much use I get from it before I repurchase.

Since I'm now fully addicted to highlighter, I've been looking for one that's just right for me. I've been trying different illluminators for weeks after my cream and liquid highlighters made me breakout just where I applied them. Here was the unequivocal winner of that quest:
Through my weeks-long search for a pressed powder highlighter, and I had a long list of criteria: I wanted it to be a dry, non-liquid/cream formula that manages to not look chalky on my skin; I was leaning towards a golden toned version (as opposed to white, pink or bronze shimmer), and even though my Milani Bella Chiffon does an adequate job, I wanted something with less discernible bits of glitter, more of a wet-looking sheen on the skin. Hell-bent on getting my hands on one of The Balm's 'Manizers' series of highlighters, I located the one of the last remaining, currently on clearance at all London Drugs locations (they will no longer carry the line). To my dismay, only the bronzey Betty Lou-Manizer was left, and when I swatched the sample on my skin, it managed to be both invisible (exactly same colour as my skin) and ashy (too powdery). Seeing my dilemma, the helpful beauty advisor suggested I give NYX a chance. She showed me a comparison swatch of this NYX Illuminator Powder in Ritualistic next to the Betty Lou and one swipe of the buttery-feeling powder left a gorgeous golden sheen in its wake, it is exactly what I was looking for! The dewy glow it gives makes skin appear smooth and fresh. The shine particles are milled so finely that pores, bumps and imperfections are less obvious. As such, I've also been lightly sweeping one quick pass with my fan brush after I've highlighted my face/nose/forehead/cupid's bow, lightly under each eye with whatever residual product remains, to brighten and deflect just a bit more light; the yellow-gold tone is perfect to subtly counteract any blue-purple undereye discoloration. For just $10.99, like everything I've tried from NYX, the quality is far above the price point. I think this is a better highlighter for darker skin than either my Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector liquid highlighter which I have in Moonstone and wanted to love sooo badly but made me break out, or Hourglass' Dim Light Ambient Lighting Powder which looked muddy and patchy on me while providing very little 'lighting'. The only other highlighter product that is a long-term favourite of mine is Lorac's Double Feature Concealer & Highlighter, which I have in Medium, and is quite a good match for my winter skin tone. The portability of twist-up face coverage on one end and a top-quality highlighter with a doefoot applicator on the other makes it an ultimate essential for any travel makeup kit.

My Essence obsession is in full swing, and I'm somewhat overcompensating now for all this time in ignorance of such an excellent line of cosmetics. I can no longer walk into a Shoppers without visiting the Essence display, and I'm even detouring to remote or rural locations in the hopes of finding: a) racks replete with their full product selection, and b) a clearance section rife with Essence goodies. Well recently I found both at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Langley, BC. The Long Lasting Lipstick in Cool Nude from the i love nude trend edition was irresistible, and was only $3.49 CAD! Never mind the price, you will not believe how creamy, pigmented and long-lasting these lipsticks are - I can't get enough of them. I also bought the I ♥ Trends nail polish in 02 i nude it, which I just love, especially at $2.49 CAD.
I was drawn to this sparkly Smokey Eyes Set in 01 Smoky Night since fall is approaching and I'm thinking about darker eye looks. I was delighted to realize upon closer inspection that the black shade is multiprismatic (imbued with many-coloured shimmer). Combined with a true satin grey and a dazzling diamond highlight, once more the silky shadows from Essence have won me over.

I picked up this Gel Eyeliner in 05 Miami's Ink after seeing several reviews about how nicely this applies and wears. True enough, it is the first cream or gel eyeliner I've enjoyed using in ages and am looking forward to fall when I tend to wear greys more for everyday looks. Finally, I grabbed one of these Easy 2 Use Jumbo Eyeliner Pens which only came in black. I wasn't sure about the chubby barrel of this marker-style eyeliner, but I now love the comfortable control and precision I can get with this liner. Both of these gems were a mere $3.99 CAD; this German-based cosmetics company keeps offering what are basically luxury-brand-quality cosmetics for just a few dollars, to my delight and amazement - I can't get enough of this great line!

Back to drugstore dupes worth buying, I'm a huge fan of Quo's Blending Sponge, the in-house version of the Beauty Blender available in Canada at Shoppers Drug Mart locations. I realize that not all complexion blending sponges are created equal, but among knock-offs, this one is so far the best I've used. The original, other than being vastly overpriced, does succeed at delivering a flawless application and resists absorbing lots of product. Many of the cheap fakes soak up loads of foundation instead of dispersing it efficiently, others are not as soft and comfortable on the skin and I've even heard of some that smell so bad it's hard to put them near your face! Thankfully Quo's blending sponge is none of those things plus it's latex-free and when moistened (I use a few spritzes of pure lavender hydrosol instead of water which calms skin, is sterile and smells divine) is just as good as the chintzy original. For only $4.99 CAD at regular price instead of upwards of $20 for the Beauty Blender, I like this one much, much better.

I'll close once more with a favourite cleanser recommendation: this time it is Shu Uemura's Anti/Oxi Skin Refining Cleansing Oil. I've been using his original cleansing oil to remove my makeup for decades; if something works well, why mess with it?
However, I did recently venture so far as to try a different version of this classic cleanser, and I'm very pleased with the results. On days when I have more makeup on, there's really no hesitation which cleanser I will use to dissolve it all off without irritating my skin and eyes, it is always Shu's Cleansing Oil, and it seems like it has always been on my beauty radar thanks to my Asian family and friends. Since I have such dry skin I love how this goes on as an oil but emulsifies on contact with water and rinses away taking all the makeup and dirt with it. If you struggle with oily skin don't despair - the formula is so good at binding to water and rinsing away that I always need to moisturize after I cleanse with this product. It is absolutely not like cleaning your face with coconut or jojoba or any other actual oil, but a much more sublime product. I purchased mine at my local Sephora where it was in amongst the travel-sized beauty products that always wink at me as I'm making my way to the cash register. I strongly urge everyone to try this mainstay of this esteemed line and find out for yourself why it became and remains an international bestseller.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

DIY custom makeup palettes

I've been customizing my makeup palettes ever since I started experimenting with makeup as a young teenager. Initially motivated because I found myself blending my own colours to compensate for products meant for white skin or colours that didn't show up on me and so on. Now that I've learned how to de-pot my makeup products in pans using either heat, solvent or plain old patience, I can't stop making these little treasures! I feel like each one I make means that this many shadows will quit languishing in the back of a kit or drawer, rarely seeing any action, and have thus rediscovered so much great makeup I had forgotten to enjoy in too long. Notably, the amount of storage space that's saved by taking dozens of shadows out of individual pots and making them fit neatly together is like makeup Tetris", and I'm inspired by new colour and texture combinations that I never had thought of prior to depotting.

It's so simple to make yourself lovely reusable bespoke makeup palettes for a fraction of the cost of buying them, plus the practicality of consolidating your favourite single shadows with interchangeable palettes means you're likely to get more use from your makeup collection. I find that I prefer to travel with palettes and since I can switch these up so easily to only bring the colours I intend to use, they have become somewhat habit-forming. It all started with this cute little empty Korean makeup brush holder that my mum was given back in the 80s (!) and passed on to me. The brushes inside long-gone, I found a portion of a sheet of magnet that I affixed to the base of the plastic holder and there I had it - my first custom palette, complete with mirrors and everything!

It took me a couple tries to figure out that I much prefer to apply magnets to the back of my pans instead of covering the bottom of the case, so that's what I do now. I bought several sheets of various small self-adhesive magnets at my local Asian dollar store (most decent dollar stores I've been to with a crafting section will carry these, not just Asian ones) that I trim and apply to the back of my powders. I've found this to be the most reliable way to secure the shadows in place, and it's much easier to clean the case if there's nothing stuck to the bottom.

I now keep an eye out for suitable containers all the time, sometimes finding them in unexpected spots like stationery stores, cookware, crafting and/or hardware stores, any of which may have a selection of storage containers for you to choose from. I look for cases that are clean with smooth surfaces inside, preferably solid but not overly breakable and water-resistant, with decent closures and hinges. Asian pencil tins for children have so far been my favourite package to reclaim, but I have an open mind - who knows what I'll find and fill with makeup next..?

The two-tiered design of this palette allows me to sort my shades, like all cool tones on one level, all warm on the other, etc. I also love that this case has a transparent cover but is still pink and kawaii.

Last one, best one; this darling little tin originally housed mailing labels but right now it's the palette I love every day, in which I've collected several of my all-time favourite shadows into one palette. With brands like Laura Mercier, Stila, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Fresh, Essence, Iman, Coastal Scents and more, plus a couple of blushes and a few shades that double as highlighter, this is a full-service compact palette that makes me smile whenever I see it. For just a few dollars and a bit of time, you can have one too!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

current fav drugstore eye pencils & pen plus my first ipsy bag arrives!

Marcelle is the first eyeliner many Canadian girls get; they're ubiquitous since the brand is readily accessible across the nation. Even the smallest, crappiest drugstore in the middle of nowhere is likely to carry at minimum a selection of Marcelle's eye and lip liners in addition to their beloved eye makeup remover (reviewed here), which may partly be why it's one of Canada's top-selling cleansers. Well if this is the only eyeliner you can get, not to worry! Marcelle's Waterproof Eyeliner in Electric Blue amazes me with its intense metallic blue colour payoff. It glides on like any of the best gel pencil liners, but cost only $9.99 CAD at London Drugs. The most impressive thing about this liner is that it does not smudge or fade at all for hours upon hours, even on my waterline and tightline. This pencil outperforms most of my high-end liners for staying power, and doesn't require touch-ups or reapplication to stay vibrant until removed.

Another favourite pencil I picked up at the drugstore recently is this Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal in the shade Nude for $7.99 at my nearby Shoppers Drug Mart after seeing countless rave reviews for these liners. Rimmel scores full points for this soft, creamy peachy-toned liner pencil that smoothes on with almost no pressure and sets to a virtually indelible finish, which makes it the ideal product to use for lining your waterline to make your eyes look bright, wide and well-rested. I've had no eye irritation at all from this liner. The stay-put formula will also work to your advantage as a cupid's bow highlight, to tidy up or correct makeup application, and will work as a reverse lip liner (just be careful not to overblend or it will lighten and muddy your lipcolour, but less so than most concealers) particularly necessary with fall's darker, less-forgiving saturated colours on their way.

This fine instrument renders sublime calligraphic assistance for the lining-impaired. Annabelle's EyeInk2 Mistake Proof Eyeliner + Corrector is an ingenious dual-ended marker-type eyeliner on one end, with a corrector/eraser tip on the other - how clever is that!?

The long-wearing black eyeliner side has a newer tip design that's stiffer than the classic liner brush with its long, unruly bristle hairs, nor as messy as the paintbrush-style felt-tipped liners currently on the market. This liner tip is more like the newfangled silicon liner tools I've seen that have less give and better precision.
But the corrector is why I bought this product in the first place. I've been looking for a pen-type eraser to salvage those makeup applications that are sabotaged by last-minute mascara or eyeliner disasters, but the one I had in mind was from another brand and always sold-out.
Well, sometimes the universe intercedes in your favour and you end up with a better product than you set out for. For less than one of the single-purpose corrector pens I wanted, I scored this 2-for-1 for $10.95 CAD, which made me so happy! Annabelle Cosmetics are widely available in Canada at drugstores, grocery stores and online.

FINALLY!! My very first ipsy subscription package arrived!! Here's what was in it: 

The bubble envelope alone made my heart race, I knew what it was right away!

Hikari Cosmetics' Lip Gloss in Merlot is a gorgeous gloss that's comfortable to wear yet thicker and longer-lasting than all those light, buttery glosses. This product is why I signed up for ipsy - a fantastic beauty find I would never have tried otherwise, in a perfectly-timed seasonal colour - I love it!

And this, my friends, is Trust Fund Beauty's Nail Polish in Elegantly Wasted. It is an exquisite shade of lavender/putty/grey that looks fresh and modern yet is neutral enough to match anything. I am loving this polish so much... it's pretty much exactly the colour I was trying to blend myself for years (with no luck). Just one coat over a base was all I needed for a perfect manicure with this cruelty-free, non-toxic luxury nail polish from Trust Fund Beauty!

The black eye pencil in the package didn't look like anything much, until I tried it on. I've been testing all my pencil eyeliners lately to see how they last for water/tightlining. Most smear down my lower lash line in minutes and work their way into racoon eyes before long. Well for an easy-to-use, deep pigmented line that adds inky-black drama to any eye look, this Ultra Precision Eye Liner by Doucce in Black is simply heavenly. True to its claim of being waterproof, my eyes began to water thanks to my tremulous mascara application, and to my surprise, this liner just said 'no' to all the drama, resisted fleeing at the first sight of tears, and instantly became my everyday black eyeliner.

Rounding out this month's ipsy haul are the Divine Skin Hydrator by Albertini (touted as dry skin specialists) a body moisturizer you apply at the end of your shower while skin is still damp to lock in maximum moisture, and a nifty sample of Good Night Face Cream in novel enviro-conscious packaging by LA Fresh Eco-Beauty. Both are products my parched skin and I will enjoy using over the next few days.

I was straining to fathom why it has taken me this long to sign up for a beauty subscription service. Then I had a dim recollection of my indignance at being waitlisted long ago when they were new to Canada whereupon I disgruntledly cancelled my subscription and gladly took to instantly-gratifying retail therapy as a salvo. It was only after weeks of recent deliberation, asking people I know and monitoring reviews, that I finally chose ipsy. I felt that the price was affordable, I wanted monthly delivery instead of quarterly, I am more interested in the brands they feature than most other services, and I like that they provide premium/deluxe sample sizes for most products. Full-size is too big and such a waste if I don't like the product, and I often find mini-samples to be so fiddlesome that they're not as helpful to figure out if I like a product enough to buy the full version. Plus, when I do like a product, I now have an ideal travel size that I can pop into my purse, gymbag or luggage. I appreciate how customized the shipments are, taking into account not just my skin/hair/eye colours but also personal style preferences and skincare challenges. I also didn't expect the endless subscriber-only deals, contests and giveaways that I now have access to with my subscription, all of which are making my ipsy experience thoroughly enjoyable so far - I can hardly wait until my next bag arrives!

BH Cosmetics haul review & lip swatches

BH Cosmetics is an online beauty company in California known for high-quality products at unbelievably low prices (that go even lower when coupled with their frequent sales promotions and coupon codes).
Color Lock Long Lasting Matte Lipstick in Rapture is a super-long-wearing lipstick in a dark, brick-burgundy shade ideal for autumn. It's lightweight and slips onto lips with a huge colour payoff, delivering a layer of colour that sets quickly to a matte finish that doesn't leave lips feeling dry, which many matte lipsticks tend to do.
Once set, the colour didn't transfer, bleed or smear all day (no touch-ups until I took it off with makeup remover several hours later), and stayed put through lunch and several drinks through the afternoon. My biggest surprise was that despite an application of lip gloss overtop late in the afternoon, this lipstick did not wear away. These dark shades looks best with a precise line and careful application,so use a lip brush for neat, clean lip colour that lasts all day.

Pop Art Lipstick Extreme Lip Color in the shade Bam is the rich violet shade I've been looking for, perfectly matte and opaque. I kept thinking it must be time to re-apply after eating a sandwich and drinking several mugs of hot tea, but this lip colour stayed true to the deep hue that I applied, and did not fade into some weird undertone. The formula applies like a butter lipstick but wears like long-wearing liquid lip colour (while being infinitely less drying).
Thankfully this lip product has no smell or flavour. Despite being housed in an adorable hot pink plastic twist-up tube, it manages to avoid feeling cheap like dollar store makeup.
The Pop Art line is replete with colours that may be too extreme for some tastes (mint green, pastel lilac, etc) but also contains several hidden gems, including the grapey-purple I chose here. I wanted something different from autumn's usual lexicon of browns, taupes and cranberry lipsticks, and this shade is perfect. There are also lovely nudes and reds to choose from.
The challenge now will be to find a suitable lipliner to complement these new lippies; in the meantime, reverse invisible liner (not my fav since it makes me feel like I'm applying lipbalm outside my lipline) or nude pencil liner (also not my fav, because it can throw off the intended shade of lipcolour) will have to do. A decent lip primer and/or cleaning up the edges of the lipline with a small detail brush and a bit of concealer also work to keep your perfect pout intact.

After weeks of searching, I was delighted to order the Forever Nude Sculpt & Glow Contouring Kit in Medium/Deep. It's the first contouring palette that I found specifically designed for darker tones that had all the elements I wanted in powder (not cream) form. Since this palette is designed for dark skin, even the light colours are not chalky or ashy-looking and at last - a contour shade that actually works, with just the right amount of red undertone to look natural, and dark enough to carve out some definition.

Almost every bronzer and contouring product I've tried was too light, acting like setting powder instead of giving the effect of muted shading. The two bronze powders blend beautifully to sculpt my cheekbones, and the deep, natural blush brings brightness and colour back to the face. I use the yellow powder to lightly bake under my eyes, and the peachy highlighter is very effective to get that wet-dewy look I love right now. This is one of the best makeup purchases I've made this year, I love this palette!

I mentioned that BH Cosmetics often have great deals and promotions, and here's proof. Free with my purchase, thanks to a coupon code I found online, came this lovely Dark Rose Eyeshadow, Blush and Liquid Eyeliner Palette. Yes, I said "FREE". When it arrived, I was thrilled to see that it was much larger than I thought, and the colours inside are much more wearable than expected.

The twelve shadows include satin and glittery metallics as well as very neutral matte transition shades. The blushes are a bit sparkly but still look natural on mature skin, don't be put off by the bright colours. They are so nicely pigmented that they work perfectly as eyeshadows too, with a nice slip that blends and layers smoothly. The metallic shades have more fallout (to be expected) than less sparkly neighbours, but a good eye primer results in creaseless, intense colour that lasts all day.
The hidden gem of this palette turned out to be the exceptional liquid liner pen that came with it. I love this type of liquid eyeliner, and of all the several versions that I currently have, this one became my everyday liner right after I tried it. The opaque darkest black line dries in seconds, is easy to apply and doesn't irritate my eyes in the least. Just like that, I find my ideal eyeliner, squeezed into the bottom of a palette minding its own business. Who knew?

BH Cosmetics really do offer excellent beauty products at some of the lowest prices around. The only item that I wasn't thrilled with is the large stippling brush I ordered, which I found to be too sparse and flimsy to effectively do its job. Since it was only five bucks, I'll find a different use for it and may even try giving the bristles a trim to see if I can make some lemonade from that lemon. So for anyone that's interested in ordering very affordable beauty products online, BH is a company you can trust to deliver beauty supplies that work!