Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Holiday Beauty Haul

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen I recently spent 2 weeks in Singapore and Malaysia. I've become a lot more measured with holiday beauty purchases (compared with previous years), especially if the products overseas are barely any cheaper than where I live. However, it's not a vacation without splashing some cash in Sephora, so I still allowed myself a few new additions. The most expensive item I bought (and what I'm most excited about) was actually a set of 5 diptyque 7.5ml EDT travel sprays, but I didn't photograph them for this post.

Yay: compact flashes purple. Nay: scratch on the lettering already.

Fenty Beauty had just launched when my holiday started, so naturally I had to get something from the range. I was able to get a good look and feel of pretty much all the products, and quickly decided that if I allowed myself just one thing, it would have to be one of the standout highlighters. I deliberated over the shade choice, but in the end opted for Girl Next Door/Chic Phreak. The duo wasn't too light on my skin and I have a preference for pink-based highlighters as opposed to conventional champagne/gold. Trophy Wife was way too yellow gold and outright glittery, and the others except for Ginger Binge/Moscow Mule looked really pale against my skin. I also was drawn to the Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick in Confetti, but I'd probably never wear it and I feel like I could get something similar from Colourpop for a fraction of the price.

The one thing that immediately became apparent about the Killawatt highlighters is that they don't shy away from glitter. If Fenty Beauty is anything to go by, glitter is making a comeback. No longer considered a liability, it's cool again to load a product with glitter. It used to be that people would criticise or steer away from highlighters with visible glitter, but glitter seems to be en vogue again. Personally, I'm enjoying glitter. Who needs subtlety anyway when you can have pretty pretty SPARKLES.

l-r: Girl Next Door, Chic Phreak

The duo has 2 distinct halves with different colours, finishes and textures. Girl Next Door is more smooth and creamy to the touch (almost like one of those bouncy feeling/cream to powder products), with a subtle metallic finish. On my light to medium skin, it actually applies quite whitish. Chic Phreak is more chunky/sandy to the touch and more obviously glittery. It's a much darker peachy-pink colour with more visible sparkles, especially in direct sunlight or bright artificial light. Having said that, the glitter adheres to your skin, doesn't fall down and get everywhere, and is fine enough to wear on a daily basis in the office (at least in my opinion). I did try both shades on the eyes as you can wear the Killawatt highlighters all over the face, but the colours barely showed up and just produced a glimmering effect.

l-r: Napoleon Perdis Highlight, Girl Next Door, Chic Phreak, theBalm Cindy-Lou Manizer

Here, you can see how bright/shimmering/vibrant the Fenty Beauty shades are compared with the more satiny and subdued Napoleon Perdis (from the Ultimate Contour Palette) and theBalm highlighters. However, the shades themselves are fairly similar, to give you an idea of what kind of colours Girl Next Door and Chic Phreak are.

The vibrancy and glitter factor (especially of Chic Phreak) remind me of Colourpop eyeshadows. Really, from my experience with the highlighter and general first impressions of the brand, Fenty Beauty is reminiscent of Colourpop (youthful, contemporary, "fun", urban, for different skin tones), but with proper quality control in terms of packaging, formulation and performance. It will be interesting to see how the brand develops over time, especially when the initial hype from its launch invariably dies down.

I've heard good things about the Too Faced Hangover primer (favourite of KathleenLights) for a while now, so I bought the 20ml travel size to try. I appreciate the hygienic and useful pump packaging that dispenses just the right amount of product each time. They could have just gone with a squeezy tube but they put in that extra functionality so the travel size is like a miniaturised full size version, which is what really sealed the deal for me. I've used it a couple of times and while it's nothing earth-shattering in terms of improving how my foundation goes on or prolonging its wear, I do like that it's soothing and comfortable on the skin, and the light, tropical and refreshing coconut scent.

I also purchased a travel size of Ouai Dry Shampoo Foam. Playing around with the tester in Sephora was what sold me. This stuff comes out in a ball of aerated mousse and you vigorously apply it to your dirty hair, focusing on the roots, until it dries up and starts doing its thang. Essentially, it's a dry shampoo that comes out as a wet cloud of foam and forces you to get your hands dirty. Something about the novelty of it and the fact it's almost like giving your hair a wash without water was hard to resist. I'm sure it's not as effective as my beloved Klorane dry shampoo with oat milk, and admittedly it kind of leaves your hair slightly grimy/crunchy/crispy/more brittle, but it does make it less oily and look cleaner, at least for a day. I'm also hoping the travel size will last a long time (since my small cans of Klorane seem to only last about 4-5 liberal uses), since I'm hopeful about a more economical conversion of liquid to foam.

I came across a H&M Beauty stand in Malaysia (to my knowledge not yet launched in Australia), but didn't spot any cream eyeshadow pots that I wanted to try. I have been searching for a mustard nail polish ever since I saw one in Urban Outfitters two years ago but passed on it, so I didn't hesitate to buy Golden Tumeric. The polish itself surprisingly exceeded my expectations — really nice, smooth formula, great wide brush, opaque in one coat but I did two just in case. I just wish there was more product in the bottle and it was cheaper.

Finally, I bought a Victoria Beckham x Nails inc nail polish in Bamboo White. I have no idea about the state of the polish given the collaboration was ages ago (the nail swatch is from a picture I posted on Instagram in July 2015), but the bottle definitely hadn't even been opened, so I figured it should be fine. I believe the original price for one of these polishes was $35, but I managed to get this one on sale for 40 Malaysian Ringgit or $12. It's hard to come by a nude polish that isn't thin, streaky, difficult to work with or boring/blah on the nails, and I remembered liking the colour and the polish quality, so at that price I gave in.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ombré Shimmer

I've never heard of the brand PONi Cosmetics, but when I was sent this Unicorn Champagne Highlighting Powder by RY, I was intrigued. I'm still enjoying an extended love affair with highlighter, and the images and feelings I associate with unicorns immediately evoke whimsy, magic, glitter, pastels, enchanted forests and fairytales. Sure, unicorns and makeup might not be an entirely new thing (hello Lime Crime Airborne Unicorn), but still, not a bad starting point, right?

The Unicorn Champagne Highlighting Powder comes in a plastic, rose gold circular compact with a mirror. Retailing for $40, you get 7.14g of product, which is slightly less than a Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter (8g, $64) or theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer (8.5g, $29.95). For me, I've never come remotely close to finishing even half a full size highlighter, so the amount of product doesn't bother me. PONi Cosmetics is Australian owned but the highlighter is made in China.

PONi Cosmetics Unicorn Champagne Highlighting Powder

The colour is a soft peachy gold. It's nothing revolutionary, but I think we've become so spoiled for choice when it comes to highlighter that a product has to be really unique or exceptional in quality to distinguish itself. It is a bit of a drier consistency and not quite as smooth, densely pigmented and creamy as Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer or even Kat Von D Metal Crush Eyeshadow in Thunderstruck, however it's still a notch above "drugstore" quality, as you'd expect at $40.

Top to bottom: Bottom of the pan, top of the pan

What is meant to be special about this highlighter is that it's an "ombré pressed powder ranging from low shimmer champagne to high shimmer champagne". Rather than the ombré being from light to dark in colour, there's different intensities of shimmer on offer despite the pan itself being entirely uniform in appearance.

I tried experimenting with various areas of the pan to find out how different the highlighter was depending on where you swatched. The results were a little confusing. If I lightly touched the surface, I could see a distinct difference in finish and colour. As you can see from the above swatch, it was more orangey/gold and darker at the top of the pan, and more whitish yet reflective at the bottom of the pan. However, when I tried to swatch the bottom, middle and top of the pan in the same way (one swipe up and down the pan, then swatched directly onto my arm), I couldn't really tell the difference.

Top to bottom: Top, middle, bottom of pan

I mean, can you? The swatch at the top of my wrist might be fractionally darker in colour and more vibrant, and the swatch at the bottom might be slightly paler and more subdued, but the differences are barely discernible.

l-r: Charlotte Tilbury Highlight, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, PONi Unicorn Champagne, Becca Champagne Pop

Compared with other popular highlighters, Unicorn Champagne is like a combination of the Highlight shade in Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow (lighter, more pink-toned), theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer (paler, more yellow-based), and Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter in Champagne Pop (peachier, brighter), in that I see a mix of pink, orange and gold. In colour, it's most similar to Champagne Pop, however not as bright or luminous. That may or may not be a good thing depending on your preferences and the occasion. Longevity is good and the powder lasted on my skin for the majority of the day. I especially enjoyed it applied down the bridge of the nose for a softly luminous but not too exaggerated/clownish effect.

While Unicorn Champagne professes to range from a soft sheen to high shimmer, it's probably a little too unpredictable to perform exactly as expected each time. Despite potential variability in tone and shimmer depending on where you place your brush and how much product you pick up, even at maximum impact, it's not as blindingly in-your-face as Becca Champagne Pop. When using it, I've been targeting the middle of the pan for a happy medium, but if I wanted to ensure a more consistent result, I would just swirl my brush around the whole pan to get an average of colour and glow.

Product was provided to me for review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Lotions and Potions

A couple of weeks ago, from 2 to 4 August 2017, Priceline had its 40% off skin care sale. I eagerly wait for this sale to occur every few months so I can stock up on my essentials and try out new products. In the last sale in January this year, I bought Derma E Hydrating Cleanser, Trilogy Rosapene Night Cream, Sukin Purifying Facial Masque, Swisse Manuka Honey Detoxifying Facial Mask and Botani Boost Balancing Moisturiser. The Trilogy and Sukin were repurchases, but everything else was new. I finished the Botani (reviewed here) and have been enjoying and using regularly both the Swisse mask and Derma E cleanser. This time, I purchased Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser, Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil, Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream, Lucas' Papaw Ointment and a travel size Avene Thermal Spring Water (not pictured). I wanted to repurchase my NUXE Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm which I use as my nightly lip treatment before bed, but apparently Priceline discontinued stocking the brand in their stores, or so I was informed by a sales assistant.

I originally purchased the Burt's Bees Sensitive Cleanser as a gift for a friend, but decided to buy one for myself after I managed to sample it and liked the texture and how it made my skin feel. I favour cream cleansers (especially for a morning cleanse, or if I haven't worn makeup all day) to foaming cleansers, and was getting a little paranoid that the foaming cleansers I've been using were drying out my face. The Burt's Bees is a nice, rich consistency, slightly on the thicker side. I usually squeeze one small blob (around the size of the above picture) into my hand and rub my palms together, then massage the product over my bare face. The instructions say to wet your face beforehand, but I always find that unnecessarily dilutes the product and makes it more watery. You do have to take a tad more time to wash everything off thoroughly, especially if you're using cold water (which I do most of the time), however the end result is skin that's soft and properly cleansed with no oily residue or stripped feeling whatsoever.

I took a punt on Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil after it was recommended by Ash. I've been loyal to my Palmer's Ultra Gentle Facial Cleansing Oil for a while now (which would have been $9 for a 192ml bottle), but I figured the Simple was the same cost per millilitre ($0.05/ml or $6 for 125ml, at 40% off), and what if it was better? Plus, the bottle is sleek and compact, making it ideal to travel with. I've only used it a couple of times so far, but I've really been liking it. It's probably too early to make any declarations of its definite superiority over the Palmer's, but so far, I love that it leaves the skin feeling super soft, it's very effective at removing stubborn eye makeup (moreso than the Palmer's, which sometimes doesn't get off all my eyeliner and mascara without intense scrubbing motions), and it doesn't irritate my eyes after I've tried to wash it all off but small amounts still adhere to my waterline. I can already see this being a perennial repurchase, especially come sale time.

I have been super curious about Egyptian Magic for the longest time, so when I saw it stocked in my local Priceline, I was genuinely surprised. I debated whether to get the small (59ml) or large (118ml) tub, but in the end, figured I might as well go for the larger size in case I really liked it. It contains six natural ingredients: olive oil, beeswax, honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and bee propolis. You're meant to take a small amount and rub it in your palms, melting it until it forms an oil. So far I've used it mainly as a night cream, though I have tried it as a hand cream. I'm not entirely convinced it's this miracle product. Firstly, it is distinctly oily in texture, so if the idea of going to bed with a greasy face isn't appealing, it might not be for you. When melted, it is more like a dry oil à la NUXE Huile Prodigieuse or Caudalie Divine Oil, as opposed to something more balmy and sticky like Vaseline. In terms of how my skin felt after I woke up, I don't think it was discernibly better than my usual conventional night cream (whether or not combined with a serum or face oil). It also feels like this waxy, oily layer is sitting on top of your skin as a protective barrier, as opposed to a cream which is absorbed and instantly soothes, hydrates and softens. Egyptian Magic does seem to be a case of marketing hype over substance, especially with their website featuring a plethora of celebrity "fans" waxing lyrical about how they swear by it and can't live without it. Somehow I'm not convinced.

Finally, I repurchased Lucas' Papaw Ointment. I grew to love this stuff. At first I thought it was barely better than Vaseline, but now I use it daily. It's a fantastic lip balm, among its many other uses, and it's great value for money being a generous 25g tube. I only just finished my previous tube and it took me years and years. It soothes skin complaints such as insect bites, it can be used as a spot moisturiser for particularly dry/flaky patches or a replacement hand/cuticle cream, and it's an instantly soothing remedy for dry and chapped lips. It's so multipurpose and a good size to pop into the purse. Plus, the trademark red packaging is distinctive and eye-catching.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Glow, Glow and More Glow

I first was introduced to Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette in Beauty Glow in Alix's Current Everyday Makeup Routine. Initially, I didn't think much of it, given it seemed like another beautiful but expensive makeup item that was beyond my buying capacity. But as I was lying in bed one night, I recalled how gorgeous it was and googled it out of curiosity. To my surprise, I discovered it for a not too outrageous price on NET-A-PORTER. For whatever reason, it was discounted by 20% and the pound to Australian dollar conversion (minus UK sales tax) ended up being more favourable than the local Australian price ($99) or the USD to AUD equivalent. Even with $10 AUD shipping, I paid all up under $65. Still pricey, but I want nice things okay.

What appealed to me was the fact it's a palette with both eye and cheek products. I only have one other palette that incorporates both eyeshadows and blushes, and that's the Laura Mercier Lingerie Eye & Cheek Palette, but even then that doesn't have a bronzer or highlighter. As the name "Instant Look in a Palette" suggests, everything you need is laid out in front of you, so your whole face can be done (base notwithstanding) in a matter of minutes. Charlotte herself demonstrates the palette in this video, though the model has a medium skin tone (and perfect face, lbr) so I didn't know exactly how the powders would look on a lighter complexion like mine. I just liked the idea of being able to travel with this one palette, especially for special occasions like to a wedding, which might call for a fully made up look.

This is the third iteration of the Instant Look in a Palette, with the first being Natural Beauty and the second Seductive Beauty. I was under the impression the past versions were limited edition and therefore would've sold out ages ago, but Cherie brought to my attention they're still available for purchase on the Australian Charlotte Tilbury website. There's plenty of information on the interwebs comparing all three versions, but briefly, Natural Beauty has more subtle, lighter eyeshadows and pink-toned blushes ("champagne, pink and neutral shades"), Seductive Beauty has more taupe/cool-toned eyeshadows, a warmer, darker contour and more pink-toned highlighter ("pale pink, taupe and chocolate brown shades") and Beauty Glow is more "rose-toned and bronze". I probably preferred the look of the cheek shades in Seductive Beauty, but the eye shades in Beauty Glow.

l-r: Eye Brighten, Eye Enhance, Eye Smoke

l-r: Face Highlight, Face Bronze

l-r: Filmstar Bronze & Glow Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Bronze, Filmstar Bronze & Glow Sculpt

l-r: Filmstar Bronze & Glow Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Highlight, Beauty Glow Face Bronze, Filmstar Bronze & Glow Sculpt

I was very curious to compare the Face Bronze and Face Highlight shades to the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow palette. I wasn't able to get much information comparing the two prior to my purchase, except for one YouTube video where the reviewer remarked they looked the same. I wouldn't agree with that assessment. The highlight in the Filmstar Bronze & Glow is peachier and slightly darker, whereas the highlight in Beauty Glow is brighter, more champagne, cooler-toned, icier. The sculpt shade in Filmstar Bronze & Glow is darker, cooler, more of a contour powder, whereas the equivalent shade in Beauty Glow is warmer, lighter, more orange in tone — some people have compared it to Benefit Hoola Lite. I have read reviews that the quality of the face powders in the palettes aren't as good as standalone products like Filmstar Bronze & Glow, but I haven't noticed any major difference. Maybe the Beauty Glow highlighter is slightly chunkier and has a tendency to sit on top of the skin a tad more than the one in Filmstar Bronze & Glow, but by and large, they seem like the same formulation.

l-r: Cheek Pop, Cheek Swish

After using this palette for three weeks, I'm kind of on the fence about it. Yes, it is aesthetically beautiful, Italian-made, everything feels expensive and high quality (as it should!). Charlotte Tilbury knows how to sell her products, but at the same time, if they didn't deliver and perform, they wouldn't enjoy the popularity and good word of mouth they do.

My main issue with this palette is the shades. I thought I would love them, since rose gold and bronze is everything I love, but it's a different story when it comes to how they work on my face. First, I don't actually like the colour of the eyeshadows that much. The Eye Brighten is basically useless to me as I don't find any point in priming with a light shimmery powder eyeshadow (I use a dedicated cream eyeshadow for primer), and as an inner corner highlight, I could just use the Face Highlight. The Eye Enhance shade is meant to be the star of the show and a major selling point of the palette, but it doesn't excite me. I'm not talking the quality — the shadows are smooth, blendable, long-lasting and pigmented. I just mean the colour. It's honestly just not unique enough for me to really care. I have so many similar rose gold, coppery shades (e.g. Clinique Chubby Stick Eye Tint in Ample Amber, Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow in My Two Cents, Holika Holika Jewel Light Marble Cushion Eyes in Orange Cappuccino), some of which are much more metallic and vibrant (e.g. Makeup Geek Grandstand, Colourpop Game Face, Urban Decay Chopper or Trick, Rimmel Eye Shadow Stick By Kate in Rose Gold). The Eye Enhance is actually on the lighter side for my skin tone. I prefer something darker but more neutral in colour as an easy, all-over lid wash, but this is distinctly orange-toned and gives more subtle shading and a glimmering effect. I then have to deepen the look with the matte chocolate brown Eye Smoke shade, but it's almost like that's not dark enough for what I want to achieve. I would have preferred something with more instant definition like Sable or Espresso from the LORAC Pro Palette, or Anastasia Beverly Hills Fudge.

Moving onto the cheek shades. Cheek Pop is your generic shimmery warm pink. The shimmer and pigment are intense, so I need a really soft, floppy brush like Wayne Goss Brush 14 or SUQQU Cheek Brush to apply it. Colour-wise, think NARS Orgasm or a multitude of shades in those little blush pots from Bourjois (if it begins with the word "rose", you're probably on the right track). If I thought Cheek Pop was pigmented, I hadn't seen anything until Cheek Swish. I genuinely do not understand the inclusion of this shade in the palette. It's so dark and brown and metallic. You would only need a minuscule amount and even then, it would have to be blended to death. I appreciate the thought of adding something that wasn't just another ho hum pink blush, but I would have preferred a less intimidating, more "wearable" peachy/nude shade (like Benefit Rockateur or Clinique Cheek Pop in Nude Pop). This is just too much effort to tackle on a daily basis, the fear of creating a muddy, shimmery mess constantly hovering over you. I used it as an eyeshadow and even then, it was uncomfortably dark. I love a daytime soft smoky eye, but this was overboard.

No one found it a little strange that the Cheek Swish shade was magnitudes darker than the Face Bronze shade? Those are going to be some really defined cheeks. While I prefer the Sculpt shade in Filmstar Bronze & Glow to the Face Bronze in Beauty Glow, I like that it's lighter and warmer so there is that point of difference, since there wouldn't be much excitement if they were identical shades. I use the Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt brush to apply it and it's a perfect pairing. The Face Highlight is probably one of my favourite things about the palette. It alone makes the entire look when everything is used together. Your face looks like it's basking in an ethereal glow, especially when some is placed down the bridge of the nose.

One final thing about the palette is that all the shades except Eye Smoke are shimmery, so you can imagine the overall look it's going to give you. I love to glow as much as the next person, but these aren't subtle in the shimmer stakes, nor are they liquid/cream textures that you might be able to blend more seamlessly into the skin. They're all powders and invariably have to sit on top of the skin, so even with careful blending, it's a lot to have shimmery eyeshadow and shimmery blush and shimmery contour and shimmery highlight. Naturally, your comfort level may vary. Of course you can try to tone things down by prepping and priming the skin well, adjusting the amount of product, maybe opting for a different matte blush or eyeshadows, and spritzing all over with a setting spray/face mist at the end.
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