Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reviews galore! N.Y.C., E.L.F., WnW, Quo, Bioderma & BH Cosmetics

Recently at my local Real Canadian Superstore, I stopped for a moment to linger at the NYC Cosmetics display. Sure enough, a few items jumped out and I decided to give this line another try.
I picked up this beautiful palette that has everything I wanted for fall, the IndividualEyes eyeshadow compact in Union Square.
A common complaint about eyeshadow palettes no matter the price point, is that too often, they lack the matte transitional shades (slightly darker than your natural skintone) that one needs to achieve a complete look. Well this affordable little palette contains four shadows, a nude primer plus a white cream highlighter; there isn't a single element that I would switch. See that third shade, the matte brown latte shade? It is my ideal crease colour, and now gets used often, no matter what else I'm applying. The light vanilla shade below it is a natural and effective highlight shade for browbones, in the center of the lid to brighten the eyes and add dimension, and in the inner eye's tear duct area to make everything pop. The shimmery copper just above it is a must-have fall staple and looks stunning on fair-skinned beauties who want to rock a smoky eye that isn't scary-dark. The burgundy shade at the top was what I was after when I was dreaming of lush autumnal colours. It is well-pigmented and vivid, properties I specifically look for in dark-toned eyeshadows, in deep burgundy satin. I've experienced minimal creasing with these shadows but I haven't yet tried it without my favourite lid primer (not the one in the palette, but the I <3 Stage Eyeshadow Base by Essence).


The problem with being darker-skinned in a beauty marketplace that caters mostly to those much lighter is that many (most) nudes are not so for us. The lighter nudes tend to look very chalky and darker ones usually look pink or coral-orange against my skin. I spotted this NYC In a Minute Nail Polish in Brown Stone and picked it up along with the Matte Me Crazy Mattifying Top Coat, which looked white and pasty around my cuticles when worn over the whole nail, so I guess I'll have to practice a bit more with this one. However, at $1.99 each, I'll find another way to use it for nail art or something, so I'm not upset I got it.
Brown Stone however? Look for yourself. It shows up as a true neutral/cool grey-brown, a shade I was craving this fall for my nails (and lips). When you have olive skin, many neutrals are too light as mentioned above, but they often show up with an orange or pink hue that isn't what I was going for. The colour selection was enormous, but the thing about this polish is that it lasts and lasts! For the price, I did not expect to go five days (as pictured here) before it started to look a bit less immaculate, but still had no major chipping! I will definitely look to NYC's nail polishes, which I like almost as much as Essence Cosmetics' nail polishes that is currently my favourite affordable brand,

Finally from this brand, I picked up NYC's Show Time Volumizing Waterproof Mascara in Black. I prefer tubing mascaras to any other, as I find they are the only kind that do not smudge, flake or smear, especially under my eyes. I have not yet found a drugstore mascara can replace my Blinc, Geisha or Fairy Drops mascaras. This version had a small-medium brush, applied without clumps, maintained lash separation, and I noted that it preserved the curl of my lashes very well, even after three coats. It has decent staying power and wasn't a pain to remove, but for my tiny Asian lashes, I want something that's more 'industrial-strength' volumizing and lengthening. If you already have long lashes and want an affordable waterproof mascara to darken and set your lashes, this may be a good affordable option for you.

Now to a pricier brand that made its name with the world's favourite micellar cleansing water, Bioderma. It seems that for my whole adult life, I've been looking for a face sunscreen that I love. I have SO MANY criteria that matter to me it's almost impossible that anything will ever fully satisfy everything I want. My sunscreen demands include: non-chemical/natural mineral protectants, paraben/sulfate/fragrance/irritant-free, moisturizing but non-greasy, SPF 50 or higher, non-chalky, lightweight enough to be worn under makeup comfortably, and I could go on nitpicking from there. Bioderma's Photoderm Cream SPF60 sunscreen is working nicely so far. My biggest problem in fitting this step into my routines, be they quick or more painstaking, is that I struggle to consistently remember to use it. I know that face products with SPF built-in do not provide adequate protection, so I will keep trying to change my habits for the better. Designed for sensitive skin, it is much less irritating than so many sunscreens I've put on my face, and after about 20 minutes, I felt like it had dried down and absorbed enough so that wearing makeup was not only viable but it acted like a primer - most high-protection sunscreens I've used cause makeup to slide around resulting in a patchy mess. Rated SPF 60/UVA 42, it is scentless, paraben-free, waterproof, photostable and won't clog pores and so far, hasn't burned my eyes, which is my #1 problem with face sunscreens. Fingers crossed it keeps performing, and we may just have a winner!
The Refreshing after-sun milk for body is a gentle moisturizer intended to soothe and cool hot, dry skin while adding back hydration. I didn't mind the light, fresh scent, and although my always-dry skin generally favours the thickest, richest emmolients it can get, I like how this milky lotion glides onto the skin. It makes sense as a summer moisture layering base, but once again, it's hard to fit a new product into my routines so I struggle to remember to apply this after I bathe or shower. It's in a generous 200mL tube and is available at Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall's in Canada.


Next we have three items from e.l.f. Cosmetics, starting with this High Definition Undereye Setting Powder. Although the lipbalm pot-sized jar is smaller than I expected, there is still plenty of product for the price. It is definitely an impressive setting powder; ultra-finely milled, it is brightening and crease-resistant. Even though it looks quite light in the container, it disappears on my skin when applied. The diminutive packaging would be improved by some kind of sifter or stopper top to prevent messy poofs of powder when I open the jar (and one clumsy drop will result in a 100% loss of product contents) and would make it a perfect item to take when traveling. At $4.99 CAD, it is well worth the price.
While I wait and wait to hopefully one day get my hands on e.l.f.'s Small Tapered Studio Brush, I decided to give this simple Studio Blush Brush a try to placate me in the meantime. I am delighted to say that I ended up with a dream of a beauty tool! I wanted that other brush specifically to apply setting powder (usually yellow) under my eyes. As it turns out, THIS is the brush I should have been shopping for all along. It is perfectly ideal with luxuriously soft bristles that don't shed, with a rounded head which is perfect for picking up and buffing in face powder, in a size that is better suited for the task than the original brush I sought.
Although originally labelled a blush brush, this one is just too perfect for setting your face powder, especially in targeting spots as when contouring.
The third item I bought is the Studio Powder Brush, a flat-topped synthetic face brush. This brush is really well-suited for a final overall layer of translucent setting powder all over the skin, as the bristles and shape make buffing and blending effortless. With a sturdy handle and well-constructed ferrule, it is hard to believe that this brush too will only set you back about $4.99 CAD.
The e.l.f. line is available in-store in Western Canada at London Drugs, Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart and online.
I could hardly do a faves post without including my current favourite brush from Quo, Shoppers Drug Mart's consistently excellent in-house brand. I've been a fan of their makeup brushes for many years, and I recently found this Quo Multipurpose Brush, an dense, angled synthetic kabuki-style brush with a comfortable, sturdy feel. I've been alternating between using it to apply (Quo's amaaazing!) CC cream and LeiLani's tinted moisturizer, and it results in an impeccable application of colour. The packed-in bristles do not absorb product unnecessarily but leave it on your skin instead. Although it cost a bit more than some drugstore brushes at around $22.00 CAD, the consistent high-quality of Quo's products as well as the variety of specialized brushes they offer make it totally worth the money.

I put in another order with BH Cosmetics - I was so happy with my first order that I decided to do it again! This time I wanted to try some of their brushes so I picked up their Brush 8 - Round Stippling Brush for face, pictured here. The bristles are stiffer than any of my other stippling brushes, and denser too. Neither of these are drawbacks however, since this brush is ideal to apply any face products that are thicker and require good blending, like cream foundations, concealers, blushes and contour/highlighters. At $4.50 USD, this brush is real a steal.


I added Brush 22 - All Over Brush and Brush 11 - Highlighter Brush to my order, with mixed results. I like the 22 brush much to set and blend my under-eye powder since it is just the right size to do so with just a couple quick swipes. The 11 brush however, is not my favourite. It left me wanting by not being as soft as I imagined, nor as tapered, so instead of being a brush that I reach for to highlight, it just seems like a big ol' crease blending brush on steroids. Both of these natural bristle brushes were only $3.50 USD each, and neither has shed any hairs, so I'll find a way to love them both.

The final brush I got was their Brush 16 - Deluxe Fan Brush. Sometimes, when something is really so difficult, I have to stop and ask myself if the struggle is really worth it. That is how it is for fan brushes and me. This one is too small, and that one is too large; one is too stiff, the other too flimsy; too sparse, too dense... arrrgh! Well, add another to the collection of "Fan Brushes that Got No Love". This one is massive and floofy and too hairy and it sheds. It would be effective to bronze/highlight all over the face or body, but since I wanted something that would pinpoint and target areas of dazzling fleekishness, my search will continue.

Speaking of the f-word, also from BH is this perfect little 3-in-1 eyebrow kit appropriately named the Flawless Brow Trio in Dark. For me it is the quickest, most fail-proof option for any complete brow look. The consistency of the tinted wax on the left is ideal to colour in sparse brows and then set them in place for the day, and I seem to favour it to pencils. I think pencils deposit too much product on the brow hairs whereas this wax, applied with a stiff angled brush allow you to wiggle the wax into the base of the hairs instead, which is neater and feels less heavy. The complementary brow powders can be used alone, which I've been doing almost every day since I received it, or with the wax, for dramatic, long-wearing eyebrow fleekness. Changing the combination and placement of these three products results in many different brow looks. Wax over powder makes the darkest, boldest brow, best suited to pair with evening or glam looks where that intensity won't look overdone. Powder over wax can be used for a more natural effect, especially if you place the lighter shade in the center and inner edge of the brows with the darker powder filling out the rest, adding depth and realism. I can't believe this palette was only $4.00 USD and it is now a staple product in my beauty routine.

I spotted the Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Palette in Comfort Zone when I was grocery shopping at my neighbourhood Real Canadian Superstore and I had to grab it. It has been about a decade since I last ventured into WnW eye makeup, but tales of the legendary dupe in the bottom right corner and the ridiculously low price made this a no-brainer. Named "Definer" in the pan, it's a true duochrome shadow, with a chocolatey-taupe base and a metallic teal-reflecting overlay and it is gorgeous. It's a great substitute for pricier versions from MAC or ColourPop, but what makes this even better is that there are seven other shadow shades along with it, all surprisingly well-pigmented and totally wearable. If only there was a matte transition shade and a matte black shadow to use as eyeliner, you would have all you need to achieve endless eye looks for just a few bucks.