Sunday, November 22, 2015

M.A.C. Macnificent Me! favs & reviews

And just like that, after many years away trying any and every other brand of cosmetics, now that I am excited by and wearing makeup again, I've come back to M.A.C. Cosmetics like a prodigal child. M.A.C. was the first brand of makeup that I can remember being really fanatical about, in the early years of the company when the difficulty in acquiring it added to the cachet of owning it. Favourite shades and product information was traded in hushed tones by those with beauty knowledge and a generous spirit. In the intervening years, M.A.C. has taught new makeup artists and beauty lovers what to expect from professional-quality cosmetics and has never stopped being at the forefront of fashion and new formulations.

The decadent haul you see above is a present from my darling friend Nics, who knows how much I love to give and receive beauty products in the mail, and this time she really blew my mind! The package included flawless products like the inky-matte Fluidline Eye-Liner Gel in Blacktrack, which is deep, darkest black; once applied, it sets for the day without flaking or smudging. It is a yardstick by which other liners are compared in the beauty industry since it is a staple product across the globe, thanks to their dynamic colour selection and the great performance of this liner, which for as long as I can remember, has been one of the best available.

The Haute & Naughty Lash Mascara in Black is a clever bit of packaging that allows you to use either the pink or the glittery purple wand option, for subtle daytime definition or an all-out full-glam application that is thick and dramatic, your choice depending on which colour cap you unscrew. The different apertures allow more or less product to remain on the generously-sized brush bristles, but I will be using mostly the pink option since I prefer more subtle and precise application. I've been annoyed by many mascara formulas that I've tested but find this version to be long-wearing and non-irritating to my eyes.

Next up, a few lines to rave about this Macnificent Me! Eyeshadow X9 palette which contains every desirable, wearable eyeshadow colour I want in one small but efficient palette. Shades include: Macnificent Me!, Quiet Type, Dance in the Dark, Fabulous DNA, Pleasing to the Eye, Sable, Frankly Frosty, In My Element and Cool Complement. When I first glanced at the colours chosen, I thought they were nice and fine and maybe a little boring, but once I started using them I realized they have created a standout winner in my opinion. This is because the transitional eyeshadows in this palette are the best I've ever used, with 3 of the matte shades now acting as my everyday shadow base, blending and transitioning shadows and I'm not sure how I ever got along without them, they are that good. The other shades are perfect to define, highlight and line my eyes, so basically M.A.C. has created my ideal eyeshadow palette but I didn't even know it when I first looked at it! The soft, almost creamy texture of these shadows make them a joy to apply and blend, plus the incredible performance of these shadows have kept M.A.C. at the top of the beauty world for years.

I saved the best for last with this cohort of gorgeous lip products that are my favourite cosmetics of all right now. I'll admit to a heartfelt nostalgia for the original M.A.C. lipstick bullet with the mild vanilla scent that I associate with the brand. Some of you may know that I am currently obsessed with the almost-concealer-nude lips that are popular again, which match perfectly with dramatic eye looks for evening or just on their own with a bit of mascara and blush for a super-fast everyday no-makeup look, since they won't bleed or wear off as noticeably as darker shades which require mindful maintenance.

I was almost delirious with happiness as I opened the lipstick package to reveal the most perfect shade, M.A.C. Satin Lipstick in Fleshpot. Oh-em-gee, I've been carrying on about light nude lips for weeks if not months now, so leave it to MAC Cosmetics to remind errybody why they run this game. The light, flesh tone and creamy, no-sparkle, highly-pigmented formula will win you over in a single swipe. Using a liberal amount of dark brown/burgundy lipliner in successive layers, darker women will rock this lipcolour, which on fairer skin is perfect on its own. M.A.C. lipsticks are also a reminder of when I first fell in love with makeup artistry, when M.A.C. cosmetics were new and rare in the beauty world. I'm back in love with M.A.C. lippies and it feels like coming home.

Always on the cutting edge of new products and formulas, M.A.C. often seems to produce the best iteration of whatever is hot right now on the beauty scene. Case in point are these creamy, fool-proof PatentPolish Lip Pencils, which I received in shades Make Me Proud (a neutral rose nude, the darker of the two pictured above) and It's Really Me (a perfect greigey-nude that I wear daily). I wasn't sure about these chunky lip crayons at first glance, but again, one swipe and I was in love. The texture is like the best lip balm ever, with enough opaque colour to not require anything but a light hand with a darker liner, it has a hint of shine without any glitter. This lip product glides on and feels so hydrating and creamy that I reapply it several times per day just to comfort my lips. Absolutely this is my favourite cosmetic product in my entire collection at the moment, who would have guessed?

Lastly is this M.A.C. Vamplify Lipgloss in shade Anything But Demure, and I am serious when I say that this lipgloss is among the best you can buy. From texture to wear, this is the perfect gloss for all my favourite nude lip looks. Not overly sticky and longer-wearing than I expected, it's a far cry from the original Lipglass that I used to own years ago. The luxurious feel of this product extends from the newfangled applicator tip to the well-pigmented formula that seems to last much longer than other glosses, available in a decent range of fashion-forward, universally flattering shades.

M.A.C.'s beauty game is clearly stronger than ever, well-deserving of their loyal customer base, trusted by MUAs since forever with good reason. Go get you some!

Harvey Prince Organics - smells good, feels good, ethically sound

After a few weeks of indecision, I went ahead and placed my first order with Harvey Prince Organics. I received a full-sized pump-dispenser bottle of their Ageless Body Cream and am now hooked on this line. The Ageless scent has quickly grown on me, and I wear this body cream every day; I've become obsessed with the clean, fruity, faintly floral-but-not-overpowering scent. But what really sold me on this cream is how incredibly soft it makes my skin (which I can still feel hydrating my skin almost a day later!), and I completely love it. I have no time for lotions that sink in and leave problem bits like elbows, hands, knees and feet dry and flaky shortly after application. Not so for this thick, rich body cream, which is keeping my skin soft and comfortable this winter, hydrating and protecting from the drying effects of the cold outside and overheated interiors, while somehow not being overly greasy or sticky. This is a very satisfying body care product that I am going to repurchase.

I'm always glad when my favourite brands offer travel and sample sizes of their products, so I can try items before buying a full-sized container. When I really like a product, I quickly stash the small version in my travel toiletries bag, and seek out the full-sized product right away. That's why I am delighted that Harvey Prince has several of their fragrance, bath and body care samples in deluxe-sized sets that allows me to try out a wide variety of products. The hair and body products I ordered are in the scent Hello. It smells crisp and bright at first and later on settles down nicely to slightly musky notes that linger sweetly. It's a very pleasantly wearable scent that is subtle enough for daytime and work settings without being cloying.

The Sea Salt Texturizing Mist is fantastic! I've found several beachy hair sprays to be overly drying on my long hair, or just ineffective. This spray added just enough texture control without the stiffness of hairspray or mousse, and allows hair at the roots to hold a bit of teasing for subtle volume and a bit of messiness that looks fresh and effortless. I am almost certain to order a large bottle of this product very shortly.

Finally, I received an array of scent vials that are barely visible in the photo above, in behind the larger products. I received samples of Ageless (clean, fruity, subtly floral), Eau So Divine (clean, bright and fresh), Cherie Blossom (a sweeter floral blend), Sincerely (slightly woodsy, mildly spicy), Hello (crisp, bright and faintly musky) and Petaly Noir (musky, floral and sweet). Each scent changes with the wearer's personal body chemistry, transforming into a personal scent experience that silently communicates with those around you. Since I am generally sensitive (or averse) to many perfumed products, naturally-sourced, carefully blended scents are all I now wear and having an entire line to discover that is vegan and cruelty-free is delightful.

The brand's story is endearing and knowing that all the products are made without toxic chemicals is wonderful - they are even mindful of pregnant mothers when devising their formulas. The line was in the media when I first heard of them, with the coverage focused on claims that the scents can make wearers appear thinner, younger, friendlier or even make you lose weight! But all of that hype cannot detract from a well-balanced perfume that doesn't give me a headache and isn't offensively strong.

Once I finally decided on what products I wanted to order, they arrived in a few short days, surprisingly rapid delivery time to Canada, all undamaged in the packaging. My first experience with Harvey Prince Organics has been very positive and after several weeks of using the products, I am pleasantly satisfied with everything I've ordered from them. With the gift-giving season upon us, this is a more thoughtful, original option for the beauty and scent lover on your list for holiday presents this year.

Monday, November 16, 2015

a trio of beauty bargains I love right now

Here we are mid-November and I am still not over my nude to putty-grey lip mania. After mucking about and being generally dissatisfied with my lipcolour options, I decided to get my sh!t together and set out to pick up a true chocolate brown lipliner, one that does not lean towards red or pinkness, and although I expected to buy the classic M.A.C. Cosmetics Lip Pencil in Chestnut, I detoured to this Prestige Waterproof Lipliner in shade LW-26 Cocoa and am so glad I did! The waterproof formula of this creamy pencil does not prevent it from blending effortlessly on top or below my lipstick, and the deep chocolate shade did not make my lipstick pink at all. My aim in buying a quality brown lipliner is to use it as my blending workhorse for light lip colours that I desperately love and want to wear but will show up as weird and chalky on my lips without 2-3 layers of dark, well-blended liner for definition. But I generally do both - over and under - after moisturizing my lips lightly while applying the rest of my regimen (lips are always last of course), I lightly line my lips using careful feather-strokes with this pencil and quickly smear on my first layer of lipstick before the liner has a chance to set. I am careful not to overline my lips with this first layer since I am not going for an East L.A. in the early-90s 'Mi Vida Loca' look. I rub my lips together blending the first layers of lipliner and lipstick until the liner is a barely noticeable ombre effect. Then I draw a stronger line with the pencil and apply a second layer of lipstick which is now more opaque but has a faint border that prevents me from being mistaken for Tyrone Biggums.
This is how I am able to wear and enjoy the pale and nude lipsticks that are perfect to pair with dramatic eye looks or on natural and no-makeup days when I only want a bit of moisturizing and to even out my lips, most especially in this transitional season of autumn to winter when chapping and redness are the norm.

Back to this liner: now that I like this formula so much, I'm asking myself why on earth was I using non-waterproof liner on my lips? As with eyeliner, it's the only other place where precision application and staying power of well-defined colour application are the difference between looking put-together or being a pasty white-lipped mess. So what I'm really trying to say is: this Prestige Waterproof Lipliner right here is a game-changer for me. I use it pretty much every day with all my favourite nude lipsticks and I love it since it allows me to wear shades that are otherwise too light for my skintone. I believe that Prestige Cosmetics in an unsung hero(ine?) of beauty bargains, with some of the lowest prices at the drugstore, plus the brand regularly goes on sale which brings the cost down even more. At $5.99 each currently on sale at London Drugs, I'm eager to go pick up another, this time in the shade Mocha.

Next up is one of my all-around favourite makeup lines, NYX Cosmetics, who have now fully expanded into Canada with the opening of their first stand-alone store in Toronto and the long-awaited launch of a dedicated '' vendor site for Canadian beauty lovers (a nuance that is overlooked by online saleswonks at their peril). However, since I live several time zones away from Tee-Oh and value my time and effort, I am happy that NYX is available at several locations that are in my usual trajectory so I can see and test some of the products before I purchase. London Drugs in particular really came through for me recently when the Beauty Consultant at the location near me, phoned me to say that a product that is sold out absolutely everywhere in BC's Lower Mainland had come into the store in limited supply and one of the few that arrived were put aside for me at the cosmetics counter. I had given them my contact info to be notified when they became available a couple of months ago and promptly forgot about it. This value-added service impressed me and added to the cachet to my new acquisition for its rarity.

But I'll get to that right after a few words about this caramel nude NYX High Voltage Lipstick in the shade HVLS 13 - STONE, which leans towards beige or even 'greige' and I am obsessed with pairing it with the lipliner detailed above. After falling in love with this product in a vivid violet hue, already I knew that I love the wear and feel of this lipstick. Since it's in a natural light shade and is a creamy stick instead of a liquid lipstick tube, it doesn't wear off leaving a patchy inner lip line, but it needs to be reapplied after eating and drinking. It's not that this product is transfer-proof, it isn't. What it does do is impart lovely, moisturizing colour that lasts much longer than conventional creamy tube lipsticks. At only $8.99, it's a true beauty bargain.

I would like you to join me in welcoming this elusive NYX Wonder Stick that I finally got my hands on in the shade Deep to my collection. It is a double-ended cream contouring product that is easy to apply, tidy and ideal for travel. The smartly rounded darker end smooths on depth and shadow while the pointed highlight end helps to place the product precisely and brings light to those areas. I really appreciate how well-thought-out I find this contour stick, and I definitely prefer this format to any flat palette into which a brush, sponge or finger will be smushed prior to application. This format is easier to keep hygienic as well; a good wipe, a spray of isopropyl alcohol, another wipe and voilà, germophobes rejoice! I'm happy to report that both the contour and highlight shades look very natural with my skintone and blend beautifully with zero shimmer. They are effective on their own or as a base for powder contouring if you want a more dramatic, very durable makeup look. This Wonder Stick is unscented and non-irritating, even after several hours on my sensitive skin. Now that winter is truly upon us, I prefer creams to powders on my extra-dry skin and have been enjoying using this with just a final light dusting of translucent powder to set. At only $13.99, this is another instant favourite from NYX Cosmetics.

October ipsy glam bag & more Shu

My ipsy October GlamBag arrived a bit later than usual but I didn't mind at all since it was a crazy-hectic month in my world, and I was once again the delighted recipient of five bonus-sized beauty samples.

Let's start with the brow pencil, Korean beauty brand Touch in Sol's Mini Browza Super Proof Gel Brow Pencil in the shade Mink Wink. It is everything I want in a brow pencil, with a built-in spoolie on the opposite end for ultimate convenience. This product gives my dark brows a shaded effect, perfect whenever I want nearly imperceptible brow definition that is subtle enough for daytime or any natural look. Unbelievable bonus: this brow pencil is indelible, full stop. I am, admittedly, new to the brow game, and I've struggled to remember not to wipe my brow colour all over my face, especially if the product dries and makes me think I have itchy eyebrows. It's why I've never enjoyed most products like brow gels or pomades. Well this little gel pencil is a clever blend of the two formats; it draws colour on exactly where you want it with no mess or fallout, and provides just enough control of the brow hairs without ever becoming flaky and uncomfortable. I had my eye on a couple of other brow pencils but this one by Touch in Sol has won me over.

Next up is my favourite of the lot, Meet Matt(e) Hughes Long Lasting Lipstick in the shade Committed, by one of my long-favourite lines, The Balm. I was absolutely not prepared to fall in love with this lipstick the minute I applied it, but that's exactly what happened. The shade seemed uninspiring in the tube, but once applied, I was in perfect-nude-lip heaven. I almost never like the scent of lip products, but somehow this one is beyond enjoyable, its downright addictive - described as vanilla-mint, it reminds me of mint chocolate chip ice cream and I am so surprised at how much I love it. This is the only long-lasting liquid lipstick I've tried that is truly moisturizing and still comfortable after hours on my lips. Applying a second layer gave the lipcolour more impact and added to the staying power. It also did not wear off in that chunky, obvious way that plagues these liquid lipsticks, but that may also be due to how closely this shade matches my natural lip colour. While this product does not last as long as other brands' versions that I've tried, I prefer the feel and formula of this one better than any of the others so thank you to The Balm for creating another beauty must-have.

Another cosmetics line I've been jonesing to try is IT Cosmetics after seeing so many positive products reviews online, so I was thrilled to find a sample of their Hello Lashes Mascara in my GlamBag this month. It is described as a 5-in-1 product meant to work as mascara, primer, growth serum, tint and lash curler with the coolest brush that end in a tiny bristle ball for extra precision. Since it's a small-sized mascara, I'll be saving it for my travel makeup bag which saves space and is hygienic.

My GlamBag included a lovely cleanser, Hey Honey's Come Clean Propolis & Minerals Facial Scrub. It's terrifically important to draw any makeup residue that can build up on the delicate skin of the face, but with extra-sensitive skin, I struggle to find the right balance between exfolation and irritation. This scrub had me won over before I even opened the package, since I am beyond obsessed with honey, it is my sweetener of choice and I use it in my tea and cooking daily. Next, was learning that the exfoliating particles in the scrub are not noxious to living creatures but dissolve as they do their job on your face. Also thankfully absent are parabens and SLS, both completely unnecessary in a facial scrub in my opinion. The result is beautifully soft, clean but hydrated skin with zero irritation, another great find from ipsy.

Finally, a perfume by a stellar Canadian brand named Aromachology, their Exotic & Spicy Eau de Parfum. This line has earned a well-deserved fan following for their customizable blends that allow you to choose your favourite scent notes to create your ideal perfume. My first whiff of the generous sample vial was downright off-putting, and I put it away for several days. However, after the recent transition here on the Wet Coast to decidedly winter temperatures, something urged me to give this strange perfume a try. As hoped, the notes changed when they came into contact with my skin and what once seemed like dissonant notes that confused my nose in the bottle, now were harmonious and pleasant in reaction to my body's chemistry. It was a vivid reminder of how critical it is to try a scent on the skin and over several hours to assess if it is right for you, and that sniffing a scent in the bottle (or sprayed onto a test strip) is a completely ineffective way to choose a scented product.

One dynamic that I had not considered when I signed up with ipsy is that this service provides me with a steady but manageable stream of beauty products that actually do save me time and money. When the brow pencil I had on my shopping list ended up in my GlamBag, I crossed it off my list; I now have a fantastic new makeup item to use and I didn't have to lift a finger. The same thing happened the month before when I received the most perfect nail polish in a dark burgundy shade that is just what I wanted this autumn.
Perhaps it's the luck of the newly-subscribed, but I have thoroughly enjoyed every product I've been sent so far. I appreciate getting both skincare and makeup products in the GlamBags, and although some subscribers have not been as pleased as me with their monthly products, I took my time when filling out the first questionnaire that customizes my GlamBags, as well as completing the monthly feedback questions about products I've received which all help to ensure more GlamBag satisfaction.

Finally, I placed a diminutive order at Shu Uemura and was delighted to receive my Haute Street Drawing Pencil in the shade M violet. The stunning dark purple liner glides on with ease and once set, creates a truly waterproof line that doesn't smudge at all. I would be more surprised but this is the consistent level of quality I have come to expect from this venerated Japanese beauty and skincare line. A bit of searching online led me to a promo code that resulted in three bonus gifts that made me deliriously happy: a sample size of POREfinist Anti-shine Fresh Cleansing Oil (I adore these as they are ideal for travel), a gorgeous travel lip brush, and finally, a sample of the Laque Supreme Lip and Cheek Color in the shade RD01 (pictured below), a beautiful bright coral-pink/red hue that's totally flattering on both lips and cheeks. I was trepid when I first opened the package and saw it was in a colour I would never have chosen for myself. I applied some anyways, curious about the feel and formula and a minute later answered a videochat from my BFF, whose very first comment was about my gorgeous lip colour. Once again, all of the products from this line have been completely impressive and in my opinion are worth the cost if judiciously chosen and bonuses are included.
A photo posted by Monica Ghosh (@point_1) on