Sunday, October 11, 2015

e.l.f., Sept ipsy, Sacha Cosmetics & the BEST yellow setting powder

My most recent e.l.f. order just arrived and I am thrilled with the products I received! First up is this all-in-one Beauty Book in Natural Look. With 6 neutral eye shadows, a nude eye primer and a black eyeliner pencil, this kit is a rarity: it's a set you can use to create a complete eye makeup look that includes matte and shimmer, dark shade tones and bright highlights all in perfectly flattering combination.

The shadows are so velvety and blendable, definitely less powdery-sheer than I expected from such an affordable cosmetics line. Another pleasant surprise was the eye primer included in the kit - it is excellent! Already a fan of e.l.f.'s twist-up stick version of eyelid primer, I was happy they included it in this set. The light flesh tone helps even out skin tone on the lids and ensures long-wearing, budgeproof makeup application. Both lighter and creamier, I think this eye primer lasts longer than the other one without creasing. I also like the doe-foot applicator for ease-of-use.

Next in my order was this Shimmer Palette which houses 4 creamy highlighters for use anywhere. I can't believe it but I'm more impressed by this product than by Becca's Shimmering Skin Perfector (which made me break out). I find the creamy consistency better suited to the purpose in my opinion and it can be layered on for more glow and combined with powder highlighter for an intense almost wet-looking shine that would lasts through a hurricane.

I was so happy when my order arrived because of these three brushes. The shortest on the left is the Beautifully Bare Blending Brush, an exact dupe for a brush that sells for about $40 CAD at Sephora, and I am thrilled it only cost me $6 USD. Same price for the Studio Ultimate Blending Brush pictured here in the middle, a wonderful dupe of some of the best high-end foundation blending brushes out there, with its soft-focus effect from the rounded bristles. On the right is the Studio Contouring Brush, which also rang in at $6 USD, instead of many times that as I've seen from other vendors. The short dense bristles are designed to make sculpting out your cheekbones and facial structure almost foolproof, with synthetic bristles that are ideally-suited for precise, smooth application of both powders and creams. For the price, all three of these brushes are exceptional bargains, and I recommend everyone to give them a try.
In addition to the lowest-priced makeup around, e.l.f. routinely offers great seasonal promos, like the fall kit pictured above that was only $6 more when added to my shopping cart before purchase. It provided me with a nice sampling of this line's colour cosmetics in seasonally appropriate shades. I'm really impressed with both the Mineral Eyeliner in Coffee, a self-sharpening automatic eyeliner pen that glides on and has great staying power with minimal smearing and no irritation in the eye area. The automatic lip pencil is now my current favourite lipliner for fall, I just love how easy it is to apply and the lipbrush included on the opposite end make lipstick and gloss application perfect every time. I passed on the Mineral Lipstick to my mum since the shade looked much lighter on me than I expected, and showed up as brick red on me instead of the deep cranberry tone I was going for. It looks as intended on my much fairer-skinned mother, to whom I gifted this lippie and she says she likes it since it lasts longer than some of the products I've given her recently. I liked that it was unflavoured and unscented and is moisturizing and comfortable to wear. With the fall weather wreaking havok on parched lips, it's a welcome change.

Mid-September I received my next ipsy bag, full of autumnal beauty treats picked just for me! I have to admit that I've been feeling some schadenfreude when I read some people's negative ipsy reviews. I have loved every product I've received from ipsy, and I've found them to be of better quality than anticipated. The NYX eyeshadow trio will definitely be regifted since they lacked a bit in the intense colour payoff department, and they're all shades I have several times over. The Formula X Nail Color in Ignite is absolutely gorgeous, such a deep, dark burgundy red that in some lights seem shaded more by black and in other lights looks like a much brighter red, in a formula that didn't chip at all for more than 4 days, by which time I removed it. There was also a Revitalizing Hand/Body Lotion by skincare brand Not Soap, Radio.
The Korean brand Laneige is represented by their Water Sleeping Mask, which I'm saving for the colder weather when my skin can become so dry that it sometimes hurts.

But the most outstanding product in the September Glam Bag is this sensational City Color City Chic lipstick in the shade Je T'aime, that feels like as smooth and meltingly creamy as butter when you apply it to the lips. I don't know that I've ever tried a richer, more emollient lipstick. After hearing about this line for ages, it was my delight to have the chance to try it at last. Unfortunately the colour looked too coral on my darker-toned lips, so I passed it on to my dear mum who is now enjoying it very much as her perfect everyday red lippie. I bet this will be the one she finishes first based on how often I see it on her, which makes me deliriously happy!
At long last, I will share the brown girls' beauty secret to bright, perfect eye makeup application: yellow setting powder. Almost everyone by now has picked up some Ben Nye Banana powder, and it's lovely and effective, but a bit powdery and messy for my liking. It's good to use loose yellow powder if you're 'baking' your face makeup, but I've found the results to be a bit thick (albeit flawless) for my liking when I'm going for a natural or no-makeup look. That's why these pressed yellow setting powders are the best option in my opinion. They're also infinitely better to travel with and even easier to store at home.
Sephora's Bright Set Pressed Finishing Powder is a vivid, lemony-yellow pressed setting powder, very effective for fair-medium upto dark olive skin to tone down purple/blue under-eye circles and hyperpigmentation, and a great addition to your contour routine. Darker skin, keep reading.

If that Sephora yellow powder can be described as good, then Sacha's Buttercup Compact Powder is stellar, and absolutely deserves the growing cult following it has. I opted for convenience of portability when choosing the pressed powder format, and many of the reviews I read when researching my order stated that the compact formula was every bit as good as the loose.
Well here it is my friends, the last and only setting powder I may ever need. You can see it is slightly warmer than the Sephora version, which meant less chalkiness on my olive skin. I've seen numerous beauty tutorials where very dark-skinned women use Sacha's Buttercup powder to create their own absolutely flawless makeup looks. The line was created specifically to look good on a wide spectrum of skin tones, especially women of colour. It is almost shocking to find an entire line where all the shades will to show true against my complexion (a rarity to be sure).
Sacha Cosmetics are priced higher than drugstore brands, but it is reflected in the quality of the packaging and quantity of products they deliver. Once again, I decided to order after I found a coupon code over at brilliant Jackie Aina's beauty vlog for a discount, plus the site featured a free long-lasting lipstick with any purchase of Buttercup Powder, so I went ahead. I received the Intense Matte Lipstick in the shade Leading Lady, and although the long-lasting formula takes a bit of getting used to, I've really grown to love it in the last few weeks. This one is a beautiful peachy-pink-nude on me, and I even like the faintly fruity scent it has. One of the tricks for perfect long-lasting lipstick application is that you have to apply it and then sit there with your smiling mouth wide open until the formula sets on your lips, looking like a complete goofball. If you skip this step, the formulas tend to cake and pile up on the inner lipline and look gross. Of course, exfoliating and moisturizing your lips before applying long-wearing lip products is critical, for these formulas can emphasize dry, flaky patches. (Any lip exfoliator will do to address this, and if you don't have one, make your own for next-to-nothing by mixing a teaspoon of sugar with just enough olive oil to turn it into a paste and voilà!)
Careful lip lining is another important step to perfecting your wear of long-lasting lipsticks. Since these formulas can be unforgiving, laying down a solid border of your favourite long-wearing lipliner before applying the lipstick will make a huge difference in how flawless your final result will be.
I was also impressed by their customer service, for I when I phoned the company regarding my order and with a couple of questions, I was treated courteously and with respect, even though the person on the phone had no idea I'm a beauty blogger. I'm really looking forward to exploring what else this brand has to offer, and will most certainly be putting in another order with Sacha Cosmetics in the near future.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gifts with Purchase + Sample Kits = maximum bang for your beauty buck

When I read online that Shoppers Drug Mart was offering a deluxe 5-piece bonus with purchase, I was so glad when the cost of the product I wanted to buy would qualify for the bonus all on its own. Thus I am now the happy owner of a full-sized jar of this delicious-smelling Biotherm Biosource Balm-to-Oil Cleanser. What's even better is that it came along with 5 little friends and a lovely, large travel makeup bag. But first, a few words on this balm, which I am loving. It goes on thick like cold butter but instantly melts into an oil on the skin, and then rinses away with water, leaving skin fresh and hydrated.

This shape-shifting balm smells so good that I hardly need an excuse to smear it all over my face. I'm usually hypersensitive to scented products, even all-natural ones, but this one has not made me react badly in the least. None of the Biotherm products I've tested in the last few weeks have resulted in any irritation, so far so good.

This is likely one of the best gifts with purchase I've seen in years, and not only is the value of the bonus far greater than what it cost, but all five (!) products are absolute winners, there's not a weak link among them.
These two deluxe samples are from the Blue Therapy line. I'm enjoying both the day and night moisturizing creams, which again are lightly scented (albeit naturally, which is likely why I haven't reacted to them). The night cream in particular is so thick and rich, I feel like it makes my skin feel like moisturize is locked-in for more than a day, it's so intense and long-lasting.

Next is a small bottle of Life Plankton Essence, one of Biotherm's newer toners. It's less drying than many toners which makes this a nice product to use to hydrate before moisturizing. Finally, the bonus contained a tube of Biosource's Daily Exfoliating Cleansing Melting Gel, along with my favourite, Biocils eye makeup remover, which is handily one of the best at removing stubborn eye makeup without causing irritation. I'm also very happy with the bright, large perforated faux-leather travel toiletries bag that the products were in. Shoppers Drug Mart offer has this on offer over the Labour Day weekend, and will certainly have many more gifts with purchase in the lead-up to the winter holidays.

Shop around online for coupon and promo codes before you purchase and you're likely to get much more than you paid for. Such is the case at Shu Uemura, which has been one of my favourite beauty splurge brands for decades. It makes me feel extra-posh to use one of his exquisite products, and my pick for this order did not disappoint. The Creamy Eye Shadow Definer in Medium Brown 871 is a sultry, sparkly cream eye base, exactly the thing to keep dark, dramatic eye shadow in place while adding depth, or worn alone as a universally flattering shade that won't crease or budge for hours.
I made the decision to buy this product in refill format, so I could add it to my favourite DIY palette with a little square of magnet stuck to the back, which is working like a charm. But of course, the best part of this order was the gift with purchase, which included 4 mini-samples of this line's most-beloved product, their facial cleansing oil - another one of my beauty staples for more than twenty years now (!) together with a really cute little leather-look clutch. This suits me in every way since I get to try many more products than I would ever buy at full size, and when I do find one I like, I'll often immediately put the deluxe sample aside and buy the full-sized package, so that the mini version can go into my travel toiletries bag. I find if I pre-load certain really effective/holy grail items into my travel bag ahead of time, I'm less likely to forget those products when embroiled in the throes of packing.

Now who on Earth thought I would be able to resist this "Most Loved" sample kit by Too Faced? Whenever I see deluxe kits with a nice, wide sampling from a line's product range, I look forward to giving them a try to help make up my mind about that brand. I've loved Too Faced ever since they were an obscure indie brand with cute eye graphics on their black packaging decades ago. Even then, their shadows were unique and so richly pigmented they blew my mind. Company founders Jerrod Blandino and Jeremy Johnson have remained faithful to their original vision to provide beautiful, unique yet playful cosmetics that have only gotten better over the years. Too Faced has become one of the best-loved lines for fashion-forward women and girls who love to collect makeup thanks to their continual focus on novelty packaging and new formulations. Every product in this kit is an instant favourite, especially the Melted Liquified Long Wearing Lipstick in Melted Fig, and the Deluxe Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer in Medium/Deep (which I de-packaged and added to my favourite DIY palette for regular use).  The two primers are massive fan favourites, including Shadow Insurance Anti-Crease Eye Shadow Primer and Hangover Replenishing Face Primer, which are quickly pulling into the lead as my favourite primers in each category - no wonder so many beauty gurus rave about them both. Finally, this Better Than Sex mascara; it is stunning. If I didn't have such a fetish for tube lashes, this mascara would easily be in my top 3, since it provides tons of volume plus dramatic lengthening, in a thick consistency with a nice big wand. But the real mascara tests for me includes how badly it smudges under my eyes in the heat/moisture and how easily it fully removes without residue. I'll need a few more weeks to decide if I'll buy the mascara based on those criteria, but even if I don't, I absolutely love having it to both try and travel with.  I am very pleased with this purchase and am looking forward to the upcoming holiday season when many brands will offer similar samples, gifts and value sets to compete for our seasonal beauty spending.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sally Beauty, Forever Puffs and more

After many moons, I visited a Sally Beauty Supply location and to my delight, there were so many things I was interested in that I felt like a kid in a candy store. Aside from the items I knew I wanted from the get-go, the expanded selection of products since my last visit made it a delight to peruse the store on a free evening. I purchased the Face Secrets Deluxe Powder Synthetic Brush pictured here; after feeling the tester I couldn't pass on this astonishingly luxurious face brush that has become my everyday setting powder brush, it's so large and poofy, I just adore it.

TA-DAAA!!! Here is THE ANSWER for applying glitters, shimmers and sparkle effectively.
It's a Face Secrets Silicone Eye Shadow applicator, that combines precision with comfort, so it feels similar to using your fingertips, minus all the mess and fallout. As soon as I tried it I realized I had THE perfect makeup tool in my hands, for this is also ideal to apply cream eyecolours since they're soft but still firm enough for detailed accuracy, plus they're hygienic and inexpensive! (I'm so won over by these that I've taken one apart and am looking for an empty small-opening ferrule to install one of the silicone ends into.) If you struggle with glitter mess and precise colour placement, you need to give these little magical wands a try.

I mean, just LOOK at them, look at these colours.
Real Colors had an alluring display with a wide range of shades to tempt shoppers, and I picked up this shimmery, acid-bright Aventure palette in Bal Harbour, partly because I do not own these particular shades and am excited about all but the little emerald square (which may end up being a fav, who knows?!), and so I could give this affordable brand a decent assessment. These shadows are indeed intense and brightly saturated with colour but they're also silky and blendable. The metallic sheen matches the circus colours and makes them easier to apply and wear. The compact is clunky and awkward, but at such a great price, I'll enjoy using these even if I can't figure out how to de-pan them from the packaging.

Finally from Sally, the makeup artists' trick to flawless makeup application: hook one of these Face Secrets Face Powder Touch-Up Puffs around your baby finger of the hand you use to apply eyeliner, so that you simulaneously help blend out your face contouring/foundation while avoiding smearing eye makeup around on messy fingers. This is especially effective when applying makeup to achieve HD-closeup perfection quality. Of course, these can be used as labelled, to apply loose powders to the face, most commonly setting powders, be they yellow, flesh-toned or translucent, these puffs will lay it on thick, which is exactly what you want for techniques like 'baking' where large face powder brushes don't work as well. I definitely feel this does a better job at applying 'baking' setting powder than a BeautyBlender either dry or damp, because.... just, euw. These little puffs go right in the washer/dryer to keep them fresh and clean so for a few bucks, I like to keep a couple of these handy whenever I'm applying makeup.

Way back a zillion years ago, my darling friend Nics gifted me a set of these gorgeous Forever Puffs. I was enjoying spending some of my time working as a freelance makeup artist, repeatedly called on for wedding and public event makeup application in addition to dabbling in makeup for photo stills and consulting on beauty product development. I was clearly overwhelmed with products and busyness at the time, for I didn 't realize what a brilliantly simple and perfect beauty tool I had on my hands. Remember, this was more than a decade before anyone had ever heard of a BeautyBlender. Made in Canada, it's a machine-washable, soft, durable applicator best used for powders or creams, to achieve an evenly perfected complexion. The texture of the fleece is ideal to lay down and smooth out product while simultaneously redistributing and absorbing any excess so you waste less while achieving a natural flawless face. Available here.

My current favourite blush is not just a blush, it's a lifestyle. If you could see how this silky, shimmery smooth product just glides onto the skin, you would understand. Milani's Baked Blush in 03 Berry Amore is all things to every cheek. For an olive-brown girl like me, this shade of plum blush is absolutely essential for everyday wear as it brings the most realistic healthy flush to the skin, which it needs more and more now as dark days loom. It is also ideal to balance out deep, vampy looks. Next, this beauty is shot through with warm gold highlights, absolutely gorgeous when they catch a bit of light, and finely milled so it gives skin a glow instead of looking glittery. And finally, the deep bronze shade baked into it makes this a subtle contour as well. There are many days when I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to don a full face of contouring before leaving the house. It's just too many steps and I like to sleep very, very much. I was not expecting this to be my can't-live-without face product, that with just a few swirls with my softest fluffy brush, I've got my perfect blush, bronzer and highlighting done without even thinking. Milani is available in Western Canada at the Real Canadian Superstore.

And lastly, let's just take a minute to appreciate what a coup the GlamGlow franchise orchestrated to dominate their skincare niche of cleansers and masques. While I find most of their non-hydrating products to be a bit too drying or rough on my skin, this ThirstyCleanse is likely my favourite of the bunch. Used with my gently effective konjac face cleansing sponge, every trace of makeup, dirt and impurities gets wiped away and then... my face is not left feeling tight and parched! This is such a novel concept for me that I'm thrilled each time I use this product. Ok yes fine, you're paying a pretty penny for snazzy containers of mud, but each of the products I've tried from this line left my skin feeling incredibly smooth and clean, so I do not discount the effectiveness of the ingredients they've chosen in their formulas. GlamGlow has an obsessive following for good reason, and these travel-sized versions allow you to test-run a few different types before committing to the expensive full-sized products. You'll find it in the dangerous checkout lineup area at Sephora where all the irresistible little add-ons lie in waiting to nudge you closer to VIB Rouge status...