Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012

It's funny that I should be writing my yearly favourites post, as it perfectly coincides with this blog's first anniversary. I remember starting sleep and water when I was bored out of my mind around Christmas last year, alone at home and needing a creative outlet, an ongoing project that I could devote myself to. One year and 155 posts later, here we are. I'm truly grateful for everyone who reads and comments, and for the connections and friendships I've made with fellow beauty bloggers. 2012 has been a pretty good year for me, bookended by two trips that were long-held dreams of mine: the Australian Open in January (I'm a tennis fanatic) and New York in September, a city that's always been first on my list of desired travel destinations.

For my favourite products of 2012, I tried to pick items that were representative of what I consistently loved throughout the year. I attempted to be selective (in everything but the lip products it seems), which has meant a few items were excluded that probably should've been featured, mainly eyeshadows. If it's not here, it'll be in past monthly favourites.


Top lip products of 2013:
  • Maybelline Baby Lips in Relieving Menthol
  • Blistex Lip Conditioner

Okay, so I've gone overboard with the lip products. It was impossible to select just a few things. I can't live without Maybelline Baby Lips — if I ever did an empties post, it would just consist of 6 of these. Blistex Lip Conditioner is another essential. It's basically a more potent version of the menthol Baby Lips in a pot. I'm big on mintiness in my lip balm, but more than that, these two provide instant hydration and leave the lips feeling smooth and soft.

Korres Lip Butters are now a handbag staple. These live up to their name in their butteriness and the darker tinted shades double up as a cream blush. The release of Revlon Lip Butters brought me back to the excitement of getting my first Lip Smacker in primary school. Revlon and MAC made my favourite lipsticks of the year. If it was pink, nude or coral, I probably bought it.


Top blushes of 2013:

Before my New York trip in September, it was all about Bourjois Rose D'Or for blush and Rimmel Autumn Catwalk, two pinks that (most importantly) didn't pull too red on me. I didn't start wearing blush regularly until the second half of the year, as it wasn't something that enthused me very much. I thought it was a tricky, unnecessary step that always tipped my makeup into "unnatural" territory. How times have changed. In the past three months, I've become blush crazy. NARS has won my heart in the blush department — I love Douceur for a more neutral, polished, slightly sculpting look, and Deep Throat for an easygoing peachy flush. Benefit Hervana is also a foolproof, everyday pink that goes with anything.

Top bronzers/highlighters of 2013:

At the beginning of the year, I was highlighter obsessed. My pick for powder highlighter is the affordable and very glowy Models Prefer one in Glitz & Glamour. I prefer it to the much hyped theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, as I find the yellowish gold clashes with my skin tone. My favourite for the year is the Jemma Kidd cream highlighter in Rose Gold. I initially wasn't too thrilled with it, but I've now come to love the long-lasting, subtle gleam it imparts. The texture is very creamy but non-greasy and it just melts into the skin.

I'm not a huge bronzer user, and I didn't start experimenting with contouring until later in the year after buying the Napoleon Perdis Ultimate Contour Palette. Benefit Hoola is now my go-to contouring shade. I like that it's not too dark or orange and it's easy to sweep onto the face with my Real Techniques Multi-Task brush. I've also been reaching for the Stila bronzing powder when I want to subtly warm up the face with more of a soft apricot tan, rather than the cooler, slightly darker and more brown Hoola.


Top eye products of 2013:

Benefit They're Real was my first foray into high end mascara, and it lived up to the hype for me. Earlier in the year, I found the L'Oréal to be a good all-rounder, though the wand does tend to get a bit clumpy. I'm returning to Maybelline Define-A-Lash once my They're Real runs out, as I think the two are very close. Of course, no mascara would be as effective without my trusty Shiseido eyelash curler.

Cream eyeshadows really drew me in this year. I'm thrilled with Essence Pas Des Copper, which I came across by pure chance on a casual trip to Target. It was the main eyeshadow I relied on while travelling and it never let me down. On days that I could be bothered with makeup, I managed to get ready in record time due to the ease and versatility of the product. Most days, I use Maybelline Bad to the Bronze applied over the lid, both as a flattering everyday shade and an incredibly effective eyeshadow base. Benefit Busy Signal is almost the only thing I wear now to define my lower lashline.

Top eyeshadow palettes of 2013:
  • Revlon CustomEyes Shadow & Liner in Naturally Glamorous
  • Sleek i-Divine eyeshadow palette in Storm
  • Revlon Illuminance Creme Shadow in Seashells (or Khaki Suede, or All-over Palette in Passion Fusion)
  • Urban Decay Naked
  • Urban Decay Naked2

Before any powder eyeshadow, I always prime my eyes with a light shade in one of the various Revlon cream eyeshadow palettes I own. I actually prefer them to Urban Decay Primer Potion, as they're easier to blend eyeshadows on top of and add a touch of extra luminosity to shimmery shades. Revlon Naturally Glamorous was the other eyeshadow product I packed on my New York holiday, along with Essence Pas Des Copper. The colour next to the darkest liner shade is perfect for a single shadow, smoky look. Revlon can make disappointing eyeshadows, but this palette is smooth, buttery and pigmented. I think it's very underrated. The bronze in the Sleek Storm palette is my most used eyeshadow and what I use on top of lighter neutrals to add more depth and definition to the eye. This chocolatey, rich bronze with a gold sheen is nothing short of stunning. The price of the palette is worth it for that one shade alone.

Urban Decay Smog, Darkhorse, ToastedHustle

My favourite shades from the original Naked palette are a combination of Smog/Darkhorse, and Toasted/Hustle. I usually apply the lighter shade over the lid, then the darker one starting from the upper lashline and ending so that when my eyes are open, it's just barely visible. I then blend the two shades together.

Urban Decay Snakebite, Suspect, YDKBusted

YDK is perhaps my second favourite eyeshadow shade, next to the bronze in Sleek Storm. Like my four picks from the original Naked palette, I usually wear a combination of Suspect/Snakebite and YDK/Busted. I also like Busted over Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, or to darken up any lighter purple shadow.


Top foundations of 2013:
  • Missha M Signature Real Complete BB Cream in 23
  • Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum in 52, 53
  • NARS Sheer Glow in Fiji

Before acquiring NARS Sheer Glow, I alternated between the Missha and Bourjois for my base. I don't remember having any major complaints about either, as I used them contently for months. The Missha is higher coverage than the Bourjois and a touch dewier (good for slightly dry skin), but both give a natural, brightening finish. NARS Sheer Glow has now become probably my favourite foundation, though it can get a bit cakey (mainly if applied with a brush). It blurs imperfections, smooths out uneven pigmentation and gives a softly illuminated glow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wonky Snowmen

Merry Christmas! To mark the occasion, I attempted some festive nail art following this tutorial by Jen from From Head to Toe. It seemed simple enough and I had all the colours she used. I had fun trying to replicate the design and the end result surprisingly wasn't a total disaster. I already was wearing Sinful Colours Cinderella (now available at Priceline for $4.95!) so I left it on rather than taking it off and painting a periwinkle base as Jen did. My nails are short at the moment, so I only had space for two white dots to make up the snowman's body. I used Chi Chi Wednesday for my black dots and hat, Rimmel Tangerine Queen for the nose and Ulta3 Mermaid Green for the scarf. Top coat was OPI Pirouette My Whistle which I thought perfectly emulated snow falling. Instead of a dotting tool, I just used a toothpick.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones. My family isn't really huge on Christmas and we don't really adhere to any traditions, but it's always a memorable and special time of the year. There's more goodwill and cheer in the air, a sense of excitement and festivity, gift giving, an abundance of chocolate, and much needed time off (even if it's just two days, as it is for me). Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hardly Risque

Ever since I asked a friend what blush she was wearing, and she revealed it was NARS Deep Throat, I've been interested in adding it to my collection. Deep Throat is frequently described as being similar to NARS Orgasm, but without the shimmer. There are only subtle differences between the two in terms of colour, though Orgasm is more half colour, half shimmer, while Deep Throat is all colour but with a sheen.

l-r: Bourjois Rose Coup de Foudre, NARS Orgasm, NARS Deep Throat

Deep Throat is a warm peach with slight red tones, a touch of pink and a subtle golden sheen. Orgasm is a little pinker and overall sheerer, but with more pronounced gold shimmer. I thought Bourjois Rose Coup de Foudre would be close to Deep Throat, and sure enough, they swatch very similarly, though Rose Coup de Foudre is darker and a bit more orangey-red.

I've been wearing Deep Throat more than Orgasm, as the shimmer in Orgasm can be a bit too much for everyday wear. Orgasm is relatively sheer and takes some layering to build up, whereas Deep Throat is more pigmented and needs lighter application. Like all NARS blushes I've tried, they blend onto the cheek with ease, look natural and not patchy or ruddy, and stay on longer than most. Deep Throat is a versatile, very wearable shade that I reach for whenever I want to add a brightening, peachy flush that's still softer than coral  be it part of my daily face or for a special occasion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Love Drugstore Makeup Tag

Tanya Burr's recent video finally motivated me to do this tag myself. While "drugstore makeup" is more of an American term, I guess the Australian equivalent would be the brands sold at Priceline and chemists. These questions might as well be about my whole makeup collection, as most of what I own is from the drugstore (with some notable exceptions, namely foundation, higher end blushes and a few eyeshadow palettes).

1. What is your favorite drugstore makeup brand overall?
Have to give this one to Revlon. I think it's the strongest brand across the widest variety of products. Revlon PhotoReady was the first "serious" foundation I wore, and I loved the brightening, dewy finish it gave before it started randomly caking on me (maybe it was just a case of needing to start a new bottle). Their huge scope of lip products are some of the best I've tried, high end or low. I also love some of their eyeshadows (though they tend to be hit and miss) and nail polishes.

2. What are your favorite face, cheek and lip products?
FaceBourjois Healthy Mix Serum foundation and the corresponding Healthy Balance Unifying Powder.

CheekRimmel 3 in 1 Powder Blush in Autumn CatwalkModels Prefer Highlighter in Glitz & GlamourBourjois blush in Rose D'Or.

Lip: Revlon owns this category. Revlon Lip Butters. Revlon Super Lustrous or ColorBurst lipsticks. And let's not forget their plush Super Lustrous lip glosses and long-wearing Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains.

3. Least favorite product?
Revlon ColorStay Mineral eyeshadow in Midnight Garnet — pitiful colour payoff and zero staying power.
CoverGirl LineExact Liquid Liner — a disaster. Don't attempt to draw over an existing line that's dried. It will smudge and smear it to nothing and you'll effectively have to start again. Binned.
Innoxa Summer Matte lipstick in Sugar Frosted. Can't picture anyone who could make this colour work. Save your money. 

4. What is the best makeup bargain?
There aren't that many super cheap drugstore brands in Australia, unlike in the US. For the low price and quality, Essence is my pick. Two of the best bargains are the Essence Eye Soufflé in Pas Des Copper (around $3.50) and Essence Kajal pencil in Teddy ($2).

5. What is your favorite underdog product? (Something you love that often gets overlooked?)
Revlon CustomEyes eyeshadow palette in Naturally Glamorous and Revlon Luxurious Color Satin eyeshadow in Polished Bronze — some of the best neutral eyeshadows I own and everyday colours I reach for constantly.
Savvy by DB Luxury Liner in Brilliant Bronze (old formulation, haven't tried the new one). Glides on, doesn't budge, creamy, pigmented, ideal shade for defining the lower lashline.
Australis Colour Inject lipsticks are underrated. Excellent formula and some really fun colours (Lick the Icing, Honky Tonk).

6. A drugstore product that is overpriced?
A hard one to answer, as all drugstore products in Australia are overpriced, full stop (a Revlon foundation retails for $36.95, Bourjois felt tip eyeliner is $24). Taking that into account, I find the L'Oréal brand is ridiculously expensive here. $25.95 for a Color Riche lipstick? $27.95 for Volume Million Lashes mascara? I could almost buy a NARS blush online for that price. 

7. Show your best drugstore dupe(s)!
Not that I have the higher end product to compare it with, but I think that the Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal eyeliner in Nude is a dupe for the Stila Kajal Eye Liner in TopazEssence Kajal pencil in Teddy is supposedly a dupe for the MAC Eye Kohl of the same name.

Onto products I do have, Sleek Rose Gold blush is like a more coral and intensely shimmery version of NARS OrgasmMaybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze swatches identically to Urban Decay Sidecar, though Bad to the Bronze is a little bit warmer when applied. Maybelline EyeStudio Mono in Iced Fudged is a slightly darker version of Urban Decay Toasted.

If we consider that a Revlon Lip Butter is $21.95 here, the set of Face of Australia Sheer Gloss Lip Crayons ($14.95 for 3) are exact dupes for Lip Butters in Strawberry ShortcakePink Truffle and Cherry Tart

l-r: Orgasm, Rose Gold, Toasted, Iced Fudged, Bad to the Bronze, Sidecar

Left column: FOA crayons. Right column: Revlon Lip Butters

8. Drugstore product that isn't worth the hype?
It's not available here, but it's a French drugstore product. Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè. I don't get the hype. It's a very thick, oily cream that I use mainly as a primer. I don't enjoy using it as a moisturiser as I don't feel it comfortably hydrates and sinks into my skin. It's more like an oily layer that sits on top of the skin.

Other than that, I don't think I've been extremely underwhelmed with a very hyped up product. I have been disappointed by products where I've read a good review and didn't like it personally. For example, I cannot fault the quality of Sleek Rose Gold blush, but the colour makes me look like a glittery crustacean. Essence Glammy Goes To... and the Stay All Day shadows in general are way too frosty, silvery and shimmery with not enough actual colour payoff. CoverGirl Intense ShadowBlast smells funny and I never use it for anything. Hate to say it, but L'Oréal Sahara Treasure. I love having it around, but the shade doesn't flatter me and the Infallible eyeshadows are annoyingly fiddly.

I also don't love all my Maybelline Color Tattoos equally. The only one I'm really enamoured of is Bad to the Bronze. I could've done without Bold Gold and Too Cool. Same with the Bourjois blush pots — Rose D'Or and Rose Coup de Foudre are my favourites, the rest are superfluous and I rarely use them, especially since I now have higher end products I prefer.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rare Creature

Last week, I came home to a small package in the mail that instantly brightened up my day. Inside was a Lime Crime lipstick in Airborne Unicorn: the prize from a giveaway by Kat of Kitsch Snitch, one of my favourite Australian beauty blogs. It's the first giveaway that I've won since I started blogging (and the first anything I've won in years), so it was all very exciting and unexpected.

l-r: Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn, Australis Limited Edition 1, Maybelline ColorSensational Juicy Bubblegum

Stain that Airborne Unicorn leaves once taken off

Firstly, the colourful and novel packaging appeals to the little girl within, with the plastic pinkish-purple bullet and sparkly, holographic unicorn silhouette. The tube is a little thicker and rounder than other lipsticks, but feels well made and good quality, not flimsy and cheap, despite the fanciful exterior.

Airborne Unicorn is described as an opaque medium violet. The colour is a little out there, not exactly something I'd wear to work, but nevertheless, it's a fun and bold shade. I imagine wearing this to a party or a girls' night out, though you may need to make a bit more effort to coordinate the shade with the rest of your makeup and outfit. Taken off, it leaves a flattering pinkish berry stain, which is brightening and natural.

I'm impressed by the texture of these lipsticks. They are creamy and very pigmented, without being slippery and hard to work with. I can wear the colour straight from the tube and it applies smoothly and doesn't sink into fine lines. I don't find them drying, contrary to reviews I've read, but rather adequately moisturising and comfortable on the lips. If my lip product collection wasn't already out of control, I'd be interested in more Lime Crime lipsticks for the slightly crazy shades that speak to any lipstick addict.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Naturally Imperfect

I didn't intend to open up Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow SPF 25 Brightening Makeup until I'd finished either my Make Up Forever HD foundation or NARS Sheer Glow, but I really needed one thing from it that the other two didn't have: sun protection. I've started to trial some Antipodes products I purchased last week, including the Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream which doesn't have any SPF. I didn't want to wear another layer of sunscreen over the natural goodness of the cream, so out came the Benefit from its box.

I chose the shade "Cheers to Me" Champagne, as I dismissed the shade down (Petal) as too light. Champagne is a bit darker than NARS Sheer Glow in Fiji and Make Up For Ever HD in #118, but I find it to be a close enough match for my skin tone. Importantly, it doesn't oxidise on my skin as the day goes on.

Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow has a liquid, almost watery texture which requires a bit more effort to blend properly. One pump generally dispenses enough product to cover the whole face. I tried it initially with a Real Techniques Buffing Brush, followed by the Real Techniques Stippling Brush, but wasn't overly enthused with how either of them worked. I found the Sigma F82 Round Top Kabuki gave the best result. It applied the foundation with minimal streaking and a skin-like finish.

Coverage is on the light side and noticeably less than my NARS or MUFE. For something described as "brightening makeup", I actually don't find that it leaves the skin particularly glowy or highlighted. NARS Sheer Glow performs much better in that respect. Bizarrely, the Benefit on my skin looks like an initially dewy foundation which has been powdered down. It takes a few minutes to settle into and even out on the skin after it's first applied. After reading reviews, I was bracing myself for my skin to become hideously greasy during the day, but I'm genuinely and pleasantly surprised I didn't experience any of that.

I'm thinking of reserving my NARS Sheer Glow for special occasions, or when I want my skin to be particularly glowy and perfected. I've been reaching for my Make Up For Ever less and less, only because my skin has been inexplicably dry lately (my nose especially) despite attempts to use oils and creams and serums more conscientiously, and the MUFE really doesn't take well to anything but near perfect skin. Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow is a good choice for a truly natural looking, light coverage foundation with sun protection and unexpectedly decent oil control. While I'd love if it were slightly more luminous in finish, higher coverage and longer lasting (i.e. properties of beloved NARS Sheer Glow), it's well-suited for more low key, everyday makeup for when you still want a bit of coverage, but don't want to look overdone.
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