Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best of 2014: Beauty

Full disclosure: I found the third year of maintaining this blog challenging. You know I do it for the fun of it and I've always kept it real, but somewhere along the way I lost steam and found it all a bit forced and stale. Don't get me wrong, I still liked makeup, I just didn't feel so enthused with having to write about it.

For a few months, blogging took a backseat as my 20-something year old self tried to figure some identity/life/relationship stuff out (I still haven't, but it's a work in progress). Basically, it was kind of a weird year. It wasn't just blogging that I lost interest in, but it was one of the easiest things to let fall by the wayside. Beauty blogging is inherently not that deep (as distinct from personal, which I feel it absolutely can be), since at the end of the day the conversation revolves around what you're using to paint your face to make it look better, and I wasn't sure I had the energy, ingenuity and lightness of heart to elaborate on another neutral eyeshadow or peachy lipstick without collapsing into boredom or detecting my own insincerity.

It wasn't until my much-needed holiday to Japan in September that I could recharge, reconnect with my interests, and even feel excited to create content again. In some ways, a dip in enthusiasm is inevitable with any long relationship, but I haven't lost any appreciation or capacity to be entertained and to learn when it comes to "beauty".

From newer readers to those who've stuck with me since the beginning and are still here, more than ever, I'm grateful for you. You keep this blog alive and give me a platform to connect with you and be heard. This year, I might even branch out into some non-beauty stuff occasionally to shake things up and get a little more personal. Until then, in true annual tradition, here are my top beauty products of 2014.


NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
Quite simply, the best concealer I've ever tried. Does everything you want a good concealer to do, including covering up pesky pimples, scarring, areas of redness and uneven skin tone. Best of all, it's a breeze to use and extremely portable. I usually put some on the back of my hand with the applicator and dab the product onto my face with my fingers. No intricate, patient brush work required, no issues with disturbing your existing makeup or the concealer being too dry or hard in texture. It's just the right amount of creaminess to blend into the skin effortlessly while still adhering to the skin and not slipping/sliding off or transferring. Instant repurchase material.

Australis Nail Colour in K-Pop
If I had to nominate an "It" nail polish colour of 2014 that I gravitated to repeatedly, it would be this bright, mid-tone pinky purple. Estée kicked things off when I saw her wear Essie Splash of Grenadine in one of her videos, and soon I couldn't get enough of similar hues (see Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Polish in Lucky Lilac, Essence Colour & Go in Purple Sugar). My favourite variation of the shade would definitely be Australis K-Pop. Just the right balance of pastel and neon, and not too dark. Formula is smooth and easy to work with, requiring only two coats for full opacity.


Napoleon Perdis Cream Blush
Who knew a magazine freebie could be so good? It's conveniently compact making it perfect for travel or to pop in the makeup bag (I've done both), it imparts a fresh, wholesome, natural flush that injects instant life to the face, wear time is excellent, it's light but creamy in texture and doesn't apply patchily or cling to areas of dry skin. Virtually faultless.

Chanel Vitalumière Aqua
My foundation discovery came late in the year but I wish I'd made it much earlier. What most delights me about Vitalumière Aqua is it really sets on the skin. While a bit of shine does come to the surface as the day goes on, all things considered, it's impressively transfer-proof. The quintessential "no makeup makeup" base, it provides good, subtly radiance-boosting coverage while still appearing natural and not completely erasing the skin's underlying qualities.

Real Techniques Multi Task Brush
I never thought the day would come when I'd ditch my Real Techniques Buffing Brush for anything else to apply my foundation. I made the switch in the middle of the year and haven't looked back. While I previously used the Multi Task Brush mainly for powder products (contouring, blush), this works like a charm for liquid foundation, especially slightly thicker, heavier coverage bases that can get a little cakey if not blended out completely. Simply put, the Multi Task Brush involves less work than the Buffing Brush, and the longer, softer but still fairly dense bristles feel nicer on the skin while delivering a streak-free, airbrushed finish.


MAC 217 Blending Brush
There's a reason this is such a popular, oft-relied upon, frequently raved about brush. The first time I used a MAC 217, I instantly understood the hype. The brush applies eyeshadow slightly higher up than what I'm used to, creating more of a rounder shape where the shadow follows the natural curve of the eye all the way around, giving the appearance of bigger eyes. The edges almost appear naturally diffused and never look harsh or too defined, though the actual effort involved is next to zero. The somewhat firm but still fluffy bristles pick up product brilliantly so that colour is really concentrated when it's applied to the lids.

Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner in Deep Black
I featured the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in my 2013 Favourites, but I've managed to find something even better. While very similar, the Dolly Wink gives me even more precision and control. It's no exaggeration to say it virtually revolutionised the way I draw my eyeliner. Because of the ultra-fine tip and how inky black but not overly wet it is, it enabled me to experiment with different shapes and lines that better suited my monolids (essentially, partially drawing the line with my eyes open rather than closed). The only problem is that it does run out quicker than the Stila and since I bought mine in Japan, I'm anticipating a real struggle to find an online stockist that ships to Australia at a reasonable price.

Benefit They're Real! Mascara
Definitively, the best mascara I've used. Even at $38 in Australia, I would repurchase without hesitation. I forget just how good it is when I stop using it. When I come back to it, as I did in the second half of 2014, it's a revelation all over again. Every other mascara seems substandard in comparison. It lengthens, curls, darkens and adds volume to the lashes without clumping or smudging. My short, barely visible Asian lashes need all the help they can get, and They're Real is the closest to a false lash effect I can achieve from mascara alone.


Urban Decay Naked3
We're all at the risk of suffering a bit of Naked overload, which is what makes the third Naked palette all the more impressive. Urban Decay managed to create 12 all new tantalising shades of even more neutral goodness that you never even knew you wanted. Like any good, thoughtfully assembled palette, the versatility and creative potential is all there in the shade selection. Personal favourites include the ultra-glittery Trick which I usually apply wet, sophisticated matte Nooner, and richly metallic Liar.

LORAC Pro Palette
Admittedly I didn't exactly give this palette a resoundingly positive review at first (mainly because I wasn't a huge fan of the actual colours in it), but I never faulted the quality or pigmentation of the shadows. One thing has won me over since, to the extent I'm placing the whole palette in my yearly favourites: the calibre of the matte shades, especially Sable and Espresso. These are the deepest, darkest, most intense mattes I have ever encountered. A light dip into the pan with my eyeshadow brush instantly adds incomparable depth and definition to any eyeshadow look. When I want immediate impact, those are the shades I reach for. And they've never let me down.

61 comments:

  1. Some amazing choices here! I am dying to get my hands on a Lorac Palette!

    Zoe Newlove | Beauty Blogger & MUA

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  2. I always look forward to reading your posts so I'm glad that you've recovered some enthusiasm for blogging again. :) It can be incredibly difficult to blog in such a lighthearted tone about frivolous matter when your personal life doesn't match. Oh, and non-beauty/personal posts would be great!

    Most popular Korean/Japanese products aren't too hard to find for a reasonable price if you know where to look. For your Dollywink eyeliner, I'd probably hit up sasa.com (has free shipping over $xx amount occasionally) or adambeauty.com (shipping is only around $2 - 3 from memory) first. You won't get Japanese prices undoubtedly, but still relatively cheap! K-palette 1-Day Tattoo and Dollywink liquid eyeliner pens get compared to often. I have a K-palette one and rate it, but haven't tried Dollywink's.

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    1. Thank you for those website recommendations! I'll definitely keep them in mind when I'm looking to repurchase. I haven't tried the K-Palette one but I did purchase another eyeliner in Japan - the Creer Beaute La Rose de Versailles one. I had much more luck with eyeliners compared with mascaras in Japan - I hated the two mascaras that I purchased, lol!

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  3. I really want to get the lorac pro palette.
    Zeynab xx
    The Beautifully Disastrous

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  4. That RT brush is on my wishlist for so long now! I love how you always keep your posts real (like not loading tons and tons of favourites in this post!). You have one of the most reliable blogs I look up to! Happy new Year! :) x

    Jadirah Sarmad | Jasmine Catches Butterflies ʚϊɞ

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  5. I'd love to get my hands on the Lorac Pro Palette!

    Kate xo // www.beautybabbles.com

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  6. The Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua foundation has been on my wishlist/to-try list for a while now. I have the Perfection Lumiere Velvet foundation and it's been one of my favourites, so I'm hoping it'll be similar.

    blush and simplicity

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  7. The 217 is the best brush ever, I loved mine so much that I bought another!!

    Francesca xo // EffStar Beauty

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  8. Completely agree with you on the dip in the relationship. It gets quite repetitive, boring and insincere when you don't recharge from time to time.

    Great picks! How do you apply that Chanel foundation though? Other than using your fingers.

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    1. I use the Real Techniques Multi Task Brush! :)

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  9. I've read that Dolly Wink liners are the best. Looks like I'll need to check it out!

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  10. Hi Lena, I totally understand with the blogging problem. I experienced the same this summer, but luckily I already had plenty posts drafted so I was still able to publish contents quite regularly.
    I do enjoy reading your posts and always get excited every time I see your new post on my blogger feed ^^
    Btw, you picked great products! The NAKED 3 is also my 2nd most used palette this year, and this post just made me want to get the Lorac pro Palette even more xD

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    1. That's so sweet of you to say Pam. Yours is one of my favourite blogs and I love your honest, informative and down-to-earth reviews and the products you review :)

      The Naked3 palette definitely was a highlight of 2014. The quality of the PRO Palette can't be faulted, especially the darker matte shades. I just wish they had more mid-tone neutral colours!

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  11. The Nars Concealer is definitely up there for me too :) Definitely want to try the Lorac Pro Palette! xx

    Magpie Jasmine || GIVEAWAY!: Urban Decay/Nars/Charlotte Tilbury/Too Faced

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  12. Excited for the new things Lena! Would love to see more personal posts from you :-) We share love for Nars concealer, RT brush and MAC 217! Would love to try the others :-)

    TheConscienceFund

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  13. WHAT? There's a nail polish names K-Pop? I want/need that in my life ;__;
    I really want to try the radiant creamy concealer this year. It looks like the most "no-fuzz or issues" concealer that I can get.

    Sadly...I think I'm getting allergic to the They're Real Mascara. It's been making my eyes eatchy and making me want to scratch them...it's not a cool thing at all. And, have you thought about trying out the clio eyeliner? I heard someone saying that it can actually be better than the koji eyeliner. I have it and I really enjoy it! I'll repurchase it and probably get it in brown as well.

    I haven't included any palette into my 2014 favourites but, the naked 3 is pure perfection. And who knows, I might get my hands into a Lorac Pro palette one of these days. But now now, I want unzipped first <3
    And the multi-tasking brush looks amazing, along with the mac brush - which I won't be getting since I want the Zoeve eye set.

    Take care dear, have a nice day and Happy New Year!!

    http://www.randomlydi.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh no, that sucks about They're Real! I'm sorry that it seems to be triggering an allergic reaction. I haven't tried the Clio eyeliners but I have heard really good things about them. I don't think there's any shop that stocks Clio locally though.

      Unzipped is gorgeous - I'm so tempted by it! I definitely do not need any more eyeshadows though. But it's on my wish list :)

      Thank you Diana, same to you!

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  14. I felt exactly the same way about beauty blogging toward the end of the year, and I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one. Being a 20-something is hard work. Some days I feel confident and self-determined, and other days I feel like I'm trying to build an entire person and life from the ground up--and on those days, writing about lipstick is not my top priority. But I'm glad to hear you came back refreshed from your trip to Japan, and I'm excited to read more of your writing this year!

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  15. I think a lot of bloggers (at least the ones I follow) took a backseat with their blog this year. Or they did more personal posts. Myself included! Maybe we all have plateaued in how much beauty products we have and use or something, I'm not sure. But I am all for you posting personal post! I love getting to know my favorite bloggers.

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  16. I would love to see more personal posts! I've been reading for a while, but I feel like I don't know too much about you. I don't think I know your name actually :O Whatever you wish to do with the blog, I'll continue reading since I love your writing style :)

    Ling | The Cosmetic Critic

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  17. I'm glad that you haven't completely abandoned blogging, I feel like it's completely okay, and good to take a break from something. Blogging, after all, is purely a hobby and you should feel no obligation to put it in front of your personal life! I know I'd love reading some more personal posts, they give an insight to the author and break up the beauty content a bit. Great faves though, I've come to really enjoy the Multi task brush for foundation as well! It's really one of my favourite brushes. Naked 3 and the Pro palette have probably been my most used eyeshadows as well. I absolutely adore the shades in them. The NARS concealer is definitely my favourite as well.

    Tasha // shiwashiful.

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  18. I felt the same way about blogging. I was so overwhelmed and it was the easiest thing to drop, but I never stopped enjoying it. I missed it even.
    I have already repurchased the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. It's amazing! Happy new year xx

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  19. I totally get that way about blogging too-but now it's evolved into being a stress reliever for me almost, so when reality is getting crappy it's a bright spot in my day to photograph some makeup & share my opinion :) And I've been lusting after that Lorac palette forever, so gorgeous!

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  20. I definitely can relate to how you're feeling - blogging can sometimes fell like a second job and when you're already juggling so much, it is inherently so much more of a challenge!

    I really like that RT blush brush and the Lorac Pro palette - I need to crack those out and use them again!

    Stephanie | theFantasia.com

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  21. Some of my very favorite daily wears too!! =]
    Carolyn | Blog

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  22. No worries about how blogging can be, we are all have real lives, complicated, busy lives and blogging for those of us who don't do it as a living has every right to take a back seat until you're in the mood to do it! I still really appreciate the content you've produced, you always are so detailed and honest and I will continue to be a reader even if you don't blog as much. I really feel like I need to get a small size of that mascara now! I've totally been loving my japanese eyeliners but of all those I've tried I haven't tried dolly wink yet as my friends who own it and own the one I gave them say mine was a darker black, otherwise the mechanism/design is all the same! Hope you have a fruitful and healthy year in 2015!

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  23. I should really get my hands on that NARS Creamy Concealer, everyone is talking about it. I also have the UD Naked 3 palette but I haven't got much used out of it. Should definitely try and use it more!

    Nhi | Miss Blushaholic

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  24. Awesome picks Lena. I love the RT and the MAC brush too. Really wanna try the Chanel Vita and any of the Naked palettes. Wishing you a Happy New Year :)

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  25. I believe Alpha Beauty Store on eBay carries that Dollywink eyeliner and they ship to Australia. They're quite reliable, too.

    On another note, Dollywink liquid eye liner used to be my HG before I discovered Jesse's Girl liquid eye liner. They have identical applicators, but I find Jesse's Girl's to be even blacker than Dollywink's as well as longer-lasting. It's also cheaper, at least until you factor international shipping.

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    1. Thank you for those suggestions, so helpful! I've bookmarked Alpha Beauty Store for future reference. I haven't heard of the Jesse's Girl eyeliner but I just looked it up and it seems to have excellent reviews :)

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  26. The Chanel foundation is one of my all time favorites and the Naked 3 pallet too:)

    xoxo
    http://blizzard-girl.blogspot.ch/2014/12/favorite-concealers.html

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  27. Great choices! I love my Lorac pro palette as well and if I could only bring one palette for traveling, that's the palette I bring most of the time.

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  28. I have also been madly in love with my Naked 3 palette this year ! And the Loarc pro looks amazing, I might just have to get my hands on it !

    Madeline | Its a Mads Mads World

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  29. I felt the exact same with blogging last year. Sometimes taking a breather works wonders, and I'm very pleased that you decided to return! <3 xo

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  30. After reading this I ordered the Dolly Wink eyeliner from yesstyle.com straight away! I've been eyeing it for a while but I find that black is always sold out on sasa.com. Can't wait to use it and some other things you mentioned :)

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    1. Haha awesome, I hope you enjoy it and it doesn't disappoint!

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  31. The Chanel Vitalumière Aqua was such a dream when I sampled it that I may just have to purchase the full thing! Would you recommend it over Nars Sheer Glow? On a side note, I would love to see non-beauty posts as well! :)

    Emily // ahemitsemme.blogspot.com

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    1. They're a bit different in that the Chanel is more for everyday wear, whereas the NARS I'd wear more for evenings/nights out and special occasions. The NARS is a bit higher coverage, thicker texture, more radiant/glowy finish and probably a touch longer lasting. The Chanel is a bit sheerer, more of a subdued, semi-matte finish, looks more natural. They're both excellent foundations (probably my 2 absolute favourites) so you can't go wrong with either.

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  32. Your post makes me so excited! There are so many of my favourite things in that picture!
    The Chanel Vitalumière Aqua sounds absolutely amazing - especially after reading your review. It is officially on my wish list!

    http://pebblepenn.blogspot.com.au

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  33. I'm so glad to hear that your trip to Japan made you more enthusiastic about blogging, it should never feel forced or boring. :) You are definitely one of my favourite bloggers I read and I get very excited when a new sleepandwater post pops up in my feed (had a bit of a fangirl moment when you followed me on Twitter recently), I simply enjoy reading your posts as they are well thought out and cover everything I need to know before buying a product and your pictures are also seriously gorgeous so I look forward to seeing more posts in 2015 (personal posts also sound wonderful!)

    Love your picks too, of course! :)

    Ash / thebeautycollection.wordpress.com

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  34. Thanks for sharing this, I'm getting my compilation ready! :)
    xo,
    ~Pauline @ Nars Philippines

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  35. I can't be without the MAC 217 brush. It's absolutely wonderful for any look. xx
    Celina | The Celution | Bloglovin’

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  36. I really want to try the Lorac Pro palette... sounds amazing:)

    xoxo
    http://blizzard-girl.blogspot.ch/2015/01/sarah-chapman-skincare.html

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  37. Happy New Year! I'm still loving the Naked 3 palette. I imagine it could get stifling to write about beauty products but am glad you got to go to Japan, have fun and recharge a little. :)

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  38. Not only because of the massive academic and work load I've put on myself over the past year but precisely the beginning of your post is how I have been feeling. Although I miss blogging, I have to admit I have completely lost my touch. As always, I love your blog and hopefully as long as you keep your posts up I'll be sparking an interest in my hands to bring in a new post for 2015 and start fresh ahaha.

    You should have seen me when I went to Hong Kong in October, I literally walked into SaSa soooo many times to stock pile up on the Dolly Wink Eyeliner was absolutely ridiculous. But, at least I don't have to worry about running out now lol. I bought FIVE. -____-" Tell me I have problems. Your faves from the Naked 3 palette is also what I reach for the most in mine and that palette has been the only one I've been using 95% of the time when I put on eyeshadow. Although the tube of full cover concealer I have from Make Up For Ever will probably last me a life time, your love for the NARS concealer has my attention now and I'm itching to try it. :P

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  39. I have missed your regular blogging but I agree personal life is definitely more important. And when it gets tough, sometimes blogging is the last thing on your mind.
    Loved reading your favourites! Have been meaning to do mine for ages, but I guess I am too lazy. Lol!

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  40. I know what you mean about beauty blogging. I had to take a step back from blogging because of burnout and for personal reasons recently. I'm back though, recharged and refreshed! Glad to hear you feel the same way!

    Nars creamy concealer is my HG too and it's just so good. The stick concealer used to be my number 1, until I turned onto its hydrating, liquid sibling. SO GOOD!

    Tiff | AMtoPM

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  41. Now I really want to hunt down that nail polish! You have inspired me to dig out that cream blush again... when I first got it I was obsessed with it! Great favourites honey xx

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  42. I'm pretty sure we started our blogs around the same time as I remember following you relatively early Over the three years it's been I can honestly say yours is still one of my favorites to read and feel inspired by. I share the same personal feelings about blogging and have gone through similar experiences in the past year, and feel grateful to be refreshed too to keep it going and see where the cards fall in the future.

    I definitely look forward to any personal posts you want to share, and wish you the very best of luck in 2015. Thank you for all of your sweet comments and for remaining so genuine on this platform, I only hope I can return the same support :)

    boho vanity ♡

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  43. Happy New Year!

    I completely understand how blogging can fall by the wayside as I too encountered that kind of mental fatigue late in 2014. This year I'm keeping to a regular (but not too heavy) blogging schedule and I'll see how that pans out for me. Ah yes you reminded me about that free NP blush I must now try!!!

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  44. I hope you're feeling a little better now, real life often gets in the way of blogging and it's totally normal and understandable. I'll always love and read your blog regardless of how often you post anyway :) I'm totally with you on the Nars concealer, MAC 217 brush and UD Naked 3 palette, I love all three products so much! I don't own the RT Multi Task brush, I must try it!

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  45. Great picks here, I adore the Naked 3 palette and the Lorac Pro has been on my wishlist for SO long, maybe this year will be the year! I get my Dollywink eyeliner from sasa.com, shipping doesn't take too long and price-wise it's not too bad too

    Love reading your blog, it's always so well written!! Can't wait to see what else you have in store for the blog this year :)

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  46. Really awesome picks! The Naked 3 palette is one of my favorites! I just wish LORAC was more easily available to me here :-(

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  47. The Lorac Pro 1 is one of my favorites too! The shadows are so easy to work with!!

    Linh | SimplyLinh

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  48. Love your picks! I'm currently trying to keep myself from buying ALL THE LORAC PALETTES, mainly because I really don't need them, but I have a soft spot for deep and intense mattes... so, we'll see. LOL. I hadn't thought of using my multi-task brush for foundation, though! :0

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    1. Try it, maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised :)

      The Unzipped palette is calling to me. It's completely up my alley but ... as if I need more makeup. Ugh. But still. So much prettiness.

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  49. Loved your favorites for the year! I think I have a double of the RT multi-task brush but I've never tried it with liquid foundation, I'll have to give it a go.
    I've been using the dollywink liner for years but just for a change, I think I'm going to try the stila one when I'm done with my current one.
    My cousin gifted me the Naked 3 palette for Christmas and I absolutely love it (a lot more than i expected to, I convinced myself I didn't need it for so long).

    Chloé⎪ status.chlo (previously à la foliee)

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  50. MAC 217 I just don't understand why people love it unless mine was a bad batch.. ive had 3+yrs and it's still not shedding etc. Like most MAC brushes, its great when it comes to lasting forever...

    BUT it is the scratchiest brush ive ever owned, eyes, face, anything... im.now using for highlight though it's not a great precise highlight brush, at least it's not seriously scratching my eyes til they're sensitive and sore.. (yes I'm gentle too when blending, but the bristles are like cacti!)

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    1. That's so bizarre! Mine is really soft ... never recalled it being prickly and I think it just becomes softer with more use. So odd :\ But at least you managed to find another use for it if it's not soft enough for the eyes.

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