Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brief Hiatus

Life is getting a bit hectic at the moment, so I'll be taking a weeklong break from blogging to concentrate on work, family, and finishing up 40+ pages of research papers for graduate school.  Check back here next Monday for new posts!

Friday, November 25, 2011

OPI for the Muppets--Designer de Better

OPI and the new Muppets movie seem like a match made in heaven.  The tie-in collection contains a dozen Hensen-inspired shades, and from what I can tell is selling like mad everywhere.  Between the appeal of Kermit and Co. and the truly lovely shades created by OPI, this collection appeals to pretty much everyone.

I went out in search of a few bottles yesterday, but only managed to score a pack of four half-sized bottles in Wocka Wocka (red), Excuse Moi (fuschia with pink micro glitter and multicolored large glitter), Warm and Fozzie (warm bronze with multicolored micro glitter), and Designer de Better (silver with pink micro glitter).  Gorgeous, each and every one!

I immediately slapped on Designer de Better, and (if you'll excuse my inexpert application) am totally in love with this shade.  It's a perfect warm silver, and the pink glitter is so subtle that I couldn't quite tell what it was until I'd worn it for a few hours.

If you're able to score a few of these while they're still available, DO IT.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer--Sephora Holiday Prep Kit Review Pt. II

I came into the Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer prepared to be wowed.  As a rule I like Stila products, and while I'm pretty happy with the Laura Mercier TM I'm currently using, I'm not averse to changing things up if I find something better.  Sadly, Stila's TM wasn't quite what I was looking for.

The below shot was taken after 15 seconds of  blending a pea-sized amount of product.  As you can see it blends into my skin tone well, but that's about it.

As far as illuminators go, this is an unimpressive product. It doesn't deliver nearly the punch of  Lancôme Touché Miracle (also included in the set), nor is it as long-lasting as the NARS illuminator in Orgasm that I wear with that blush.  For the most part the illuminating effect (created with what looks like a small amount of micro glitter in the formula) disappears within a couple of hours after application.

As a tinted moisturizer it did an acceptable job. I did need to touch up my t-zone with De-Sick powder twice as the day wore on, but I generally have to do that with most tinted moisturizers.

Overall the Stila is adequate, but just that. My primary issues with the product are that A: I don't want illuminator all over my face, just in specific areas (like on my cheekbones) I'd like to highlight; and B: as an illuminator this TM fails miserably.  I might have been willing to overlook this issue if the product had something else wonderful going for it, but it really doesn't. Zero mattifying, unremarkable SPF (20), and only mediocre illuminating qualities.

At $32 per full-sized tube this is one product that won't go beyond the sample size in my makeup drawer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clinique Tracy Reese Gift with Purchase

Gifts with purchase always fill me with trepidation, because so often I've found myself buying more products than I need or even really want only to score "gifts" that I wind up disliking. That said, I was already buying my husband a shaving set from Clinique, so I figured I didn't have anything to lose with this GWP.

The big draw here really are the two makeup bags included with the set (only the large one is pictured above). Designed by Tracy Reese, they're hip, fun, and colorful enough never to disappear at the bottom of a large handbag. The large bag is ideal for travel, while the small one fits perfectly in my purse, and is roomy enough to fit three lipsticks, a lip balm, and a regular-sized tube of mascara.

Aside from the fun bags, the kit contains a foaming cleanser, a skin tone correcting cream, an eyeshadow trio (brown, lilac, and pale pink), an eyeliner, a lipstick, and finally a sample sized tube of mascara. In terms of quantity, this GWP has it made!

So what about quality?

The first product I tested was the sample tube of Clinique's High Impact mascara. The brush is thick and fluffy, and the formula applied like a dream. No clumps (to be fair, a freshly opened tube of mascara should never have clumps, but in my experience Clinique mascaras seem especially good on the zero clumps front even after extended use) and the formula added noticeable length, albeit much less than I get from my favorite mascara, Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes. The formula doesn't really add volume. Zero flaking throughout the day impressed me greatly, as did the fact that there wasn't so much as a hint of raccoon eyes present 11 hours after application when I removed my makeup. Clinique was my go-to brand for mascara for years precisely because it's the one formula I've found that stays firmly on my lashes even when my under eye area is particularly oily. It's a fantastic brand for anyone with oily skin who wants a more subtle eye.

I'd never tried the foaming cleanser before, and I must say that I'm impressed. I applied a small amount in the shower this morning, and my skin was literally squeaky clean (yes, I'm using "literally" correctly--my fingers audibly squeaked as I ran them over my cheeks) within seconds, yet didn't feel at all dry or stripped of natural moisture. Provided that I don't have a reaction to it on subsequent uses I'll likely be purchasing a full-sized bottle when the sample runs out.

I have used Clinique's brown/black Quickliner before, and I'm not a huge fan.  You can't sharpen the tip once it wears down (as it does after 2-3 uses--the formula is very soft and doesn't tug at all on the lid) which makes it difficult to create precise lines.  The color is a very nice soft black, though, perfect for daytime wear.

The lipstick in Raspberry Ice was a pleasant surprise.  As a rule I'm not a fan of berry-colored lipsticks since bright pinks don't look very good with my skin tone.  This shade offered a very natural-looking pinkiness to my lips, though, which makes it a real keeper.  As always, Clinique's lipstick formula is reasonably long-lasting (at least 4 hours before needing reapplication) and reasonably moisturizing.

The eyeshadow trio is pretty disappointing, especially considering how good the rest of the set turned out.  The pink shade is so sheer as to be completely invisible in every photo I tried to get of it, and truthfully I could barely see it with my naked eye even after multiple swipes with a sponge-tipped applicator as well as a brush.  The purple is also quite sheer, though obviously shows up much better than the pink.  The brown is pretty unremarkable, though it does seem to blend well.

 I can't comment too extensively on the skin tone correcting cream, except to say that it's a nice, thick formula without being greasy.  It definitely has more heft to it than Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizer, and at least on first use seemed to have some illuminating qualities.

Overall this GWP has far more winners than losers, and I'm pleased that I was able to snag one before they ran out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fresh Sugar Lip Polish

As someone who has a longstanding love/hate relationship with dark lipsticks due to their tendency to feather, I was intrigued by the idea of lip polish/exfoliant. Would the Fresh Sugar Lip Polish help make my lips softer, smoother, and less prone to lip color irregularity? Well, sort of.

To begin with, the jar of lip polish included in the Lust gift set I purchased is tiny. Really tiny. I can't find size information for the $22 stand-alone polish, but the sample is 0.28 oz. Given that the lip balm and hand cream included in the set are full sized, this clearly seems to be where some product quantity skimping happened. It's a shame too, because I really like the lip polish, and I'd guess this sample will only last for a dozen or so applications.

To apply, you scoop a small amount of polish (which has the texture of wet brown sugar with maybe a little maple syrup added to it) onto your fingers and rub all over your lips. You're supposed to let it stay on for 5 minutes, but even after only two minutes my lips felt noticeably smoother, softer, and (surprisingly) moisturized.

When left on for the full 5 minutes the lips feel just as moisturized as they would after a liberal application of Fresh Sugar's amazing lip balm. The smoothness and softness I felt after a much shorter application aren't greatly enhanced by longer wear.

So does it work? Twelve hours after a two-minute application my lipstick feathered just as it would have sans exfoliant. Twelve hours after the five-minute application I found that a dark lipstick (Tarte's Moody) still feathered a bit around the purse of my bottom lip, but not as much as I'd normally expect.  Ultimately I'm far more impressed by the lip polish's moisturizing abilities than by its exfoliating prowess, though I doubt I'll purchase a full-sized tub at any point down the line. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fresh Sugar Brown Sugar Body Cream

Do you understand that there's sugar in this body cream?  Because aside from the name (SUGARRRR!) I actually wouldn't know that this contained anything other than lemon scent.

Right off the bat, do I think this moisturizer is worth the whopping $35 retail price? No. Lord no. Hell no. For that price I expect miracles, and while Brown Sugar Body Cream is fine for certain situations, it's far from a holy grail product.

Brown Sugar Body Cream is a thick, lemon-scented (think lemon mereingue pie-type lemon scent) lotion that feels lovely going on. It isn't greasy, it absorbs quickly, and my skin felt immediately softer after applying it. Within minutes, though, my hands felt uncomfortably dry again. I tried this cream again and again, hoping that I could explain the dry feeling away, but I couldn't. It's definitely the lotion.

My hands are prone to some dryness, and I like to stick with thick, heavy moisturizers such as Eucerin during the Fall and Winter months. I could buy a two-up year supply of Eucerin for what I'd pay for a single tube of Fresh Sugar Body Cream, and it would be money better spent. I'll keep this tube around for the summer or for when I don't need a lot of moisturizing action, but beyond that I won't be using this for much in the future.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fresh Sugar Lip Balm is the BOMB

I recently had the opportunity to try out some Fresh Sugar products from the Lust gift set, and OMG they are amazing.  I'm probably the last person in the Northern Hemisphere to try Fresh Sugar, and now I know why it's so popular.  Let's take a look:

Included in the Lust gift set are a hand cream, a sugar lip exfoliator, and one of Fresh Sugar's famous lip balms.  This is the balm that retails for $22 a pop, which was frankly what piqued my curiosity about the brand in the first place.  Either the balm was ridiculously overpriced garbage that people were suckered into buying because of the "luxury" brand name, or it was the real deal and worth more than I typically pay for lipstick.

I'm pleased to say it is most definitely the latter.

Fresh Sugar lip balm is packaged in a heavy metal tube, clearly meant to withstand a beating in a purse or pocket.  It goes on smooth and creamy, and reminded me of nothing so much as Lansinoh lanolin in solid form.  It's instantly moisturizing, and the moisture sticks around for hours on end.  I first applied a thin coat at 1:00 pm this afternoon and am only now (at 6:30 pm) feeling the need to put some more on.  It's that long-lasting.

Given that the Lust gift set is priced at $28 and a stand-alone tube of balm is $22, the math here is simple.  Snap this holiday deal up before it's gone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sephora Holiday Prep Kit Review

Tis the season! Sephora is currently offering four holiday sample collections free with a $25+ purchase. I snapped up one of the Flawless Foundation sets (now sadly out of stock) and am impressed with the quantity and quality of the products included. I'll review all of them in the next couple of days, but will start today with two of the "brightening" formulas--Lancôme Éclat Miracle and Color FX BritePrep FX Brightening Foundation Primer.

Lancôme Éclat Miracle is billed as a straight-up illuminator, and certainly does the job well. Observe:

I dabbed a pea-sized amount of the serum onto my hand, and rubbed it in for around 15 seconds. The result is quite bright--I'm not sure I'd apply this much to my face--and leaves a very pleasant powdery matte finish. It doesn't feel at all heavy, but also doesn't moisturize even a little bit. It doesn't feel like it would clog my pores, so I'll definitely be giving it a trial run on my face soon.

The Color FX BritePrep Primer Boasts an impressive SPF 50, and the product description lists it as a combination primer/illuminator/sunscreen. Not too shabby, especially for those like me who hate wearing sunscreen in addition to makeup when out in the sun. That said, this primer feels too sunscreen-like for me to want to give it more than a cursory trial run. Observe:

The illuminating qualities of the Color FX aren't nearly as bright as the Lancôme, and instead of a matte finish it stays shiny even after 15 seconds of trying to get it to absorb. This is a big no-no for someone with my oily skin--who wants to start the day looking greasy? I could see this product being appealing for someone with very dry skin or skin that isn't terribly sensitive, but for myself I'll keep it in reserve until I plan to spend some serious time outdoors for the SPF alone.

You can still find holiday prep kits in Smokey Eye, Beautiful Skin, and Fragrance Sampler at using the code PREPKIT.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Urban Decay De-Slick

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've suffered from oily skin for most of my life.  My skincare regimen mostly keeps pimples at bay, but the oil still means that I still need to freshen up my makeup every 3-4 hours.  In the past I'd actually re-apply pressed powder every time, which did mattify my complexion but also had the unfortunate effect of giving my face a caked-on appearance by the end of the day.  Rice paper blotters were thus a godsend when I first discovered them in the late 90's, but I'd run through a package too quickly to justify the expense on a student's salary.

It wasn't until last Spring that I discovered Urban Decay's De-Slick products, specifically their mattifying powder.

I won't lie, the $32 price tag actually made me gasp the first time I looked at the compact.  For a powder that acts only to absorb oil, that is a LOT of money.  Still, I was desperate for something new, and I realized that if I got 6 months of use out of the pressed rice powder it was going to wind up being less expensive than the $6/30 packs of blotting papers I'd been buying.  So I took the plunge and haven't looked back since.

To start with, De-Slick Powder absorbs oil in a millisecond.  Just swipe the applicator puff across the product, pat onto the oily area, and voila, no more oil!  The powder residue does stick around for a few minutes, but doesn't give the cakey too-much-foundation look of multiple applications of regular pressed powder. 

The compact itself is the standard Urban Decay purple plastic, and (I think) it's the case that gives the powder its purplish hue in the pan.  On the applicator and the skin it's white, which is perfect for my ultra-fair complexion, but might not work so well on darker-skinned ladies. 

Overall I'd rate this one a must-have if you have oil control problems, though women who have darker skin tones would do well to swatch it on themselves before making the not insignificant investment.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why the Clarisonic Mia is the best damn purchase I have ever made

As a regular poster on the Fashion and Beauty Board I often see posts asking about whether or not the Clarisonic or its slightly less fancy sister, the Mia, are worth the hefty $100-$200 price tag.  In short, my response is always a resounding YES! 

I have had problem skin since before I hit puberty.  When I was 10 or 11 my mom started noticing little bumps on my cheeks and chin.  They weren't zits, but they were a precursor of the acne horrors I would start to endure once I turned 13.  While my acne was never bad enough to scar (thank goodness) it was bad enough to make me horribly self-conscious about my appearance for a good 15 years.  No, that's not a typo--my acne stayed terrible from age 13 through 28.

Over the years I tried pretty much every OTC acne treatment known to man, and more than a few prescription treatments as well.  Nothing really made much of a difference.  Pretty much the only thing I hadn't tried as I neared my 29th birthday was Accutane, and I've lived in fear of it ever since I watched a close friend go through a few cycles back in college.  It was getting to the point, however, that I'd begun to consider asking my dermatologist about it once my husband and I decided we were done having kids.  Pregnancy made my acne (which is clearly hormonal) much worse, and since many acne medications aren't safe while pregnant I was beyond miserable when, in August of 2010 I found myself starting my third trimester of pregnancy with a complexion much worse than the one I'd sported at 16. 

It was pure coincidence that landed me at Sephora that day--I was actually at the mall to buy a coming home outfit for the new baby--but it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I was in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mood and needed a cosmetic pick-me-up.  I grumpily tossed some new foundation and mascara into my basket, and then wandered over to the Clarisonic display.  I'd been hearing about it for awhile, and in a moment of madness decided to screw my monthly fun money budget and buy one.

Many women report experiencing a "purging" period when they experience more acne than usual for 1-3 weeks after first beginning to use a Clarisonic.  My skin was already so bad when I began using mine that if I did go through some kind of dermatological purge it wasn't noticeable.  What I did take note of, however, was how my skin immediately felt softer and cleaner after only a minute of Clarisonic use.  The little bumps that had been my constant companions for nearly 20 years were gone within the week, and my actual zits disappeared shortly thereafter.  Eureka!

I still do experience the odd blemish a few times a month, but overall my skin has seen tremendous improvement thanks to the Clarisonic.  I cannot recommend it enough, particularly to women who've been around the block with medications that don't seem to help very much.  The initial investment is steep (and I've been told that there are a wide variety of drugstore knockoffs that are worth investigating) but having confidence in my appearance is worth it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Currently in my cart

Word on the street is that Sephora's VIB 20% off sale will be starting next week, and in spite of the fact that the I bought what felt like half the store at last month's Friends and Family sale, I already have a cart full of new products to try.  I'd love to hear if you've used any of these:

Laura Mercier Book of Nudes:

I know, I know, what do I need with yet another collection of nude shadows?  Truth be told I don't, but this one is so pretty, and I'm hearing good things about the pigmentation of these shadows.  Plus, I love Laura Mercier's tinted moisturizer and am always up for trying more products from a brand I already know and trust.

Tarina Tarantino Eyelicity Glitter Eyeliner:

These were reviewed by the Muse recently, and I loved the way they looked.  Subtle glitter is totally my thing this holiday season.  At $16 a pop these are well within my budget for a new and untried brand.

Tarina Tarantino Dollskin Cheek Palette:
 These blushes are getting good reviews everywhere I look, and if they're as good as I hear this set is a great deal even at $45.  I'm still a bit on the fence about this item, but will probably take the plunge with 20% off.

Fresh Sugar Lust Set:

I'm currently living in fear that this holiday set of lip balm, lip exfoliant, and body cream will sell out before the VIB sale starts, not only because I want one for myself, but because I currently have four others in my shopping cart that are earmarked for Christmas gifts.  Please still be available next week, Fresh Sugar!

So what's currently sitting in your Sephora cart?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bobbi Brown Cool Party Palette

Oh my.  Oh. MY.  Forget all of the good things I said about the Bobbi Brown Party Palette earlier this week--the Cool Party Palette is a million times better.  I'd go on at length, but the swatches really speak for themselves:

As you can clearly see, pigmentation isn't a problem with the Cool Party Palette.  I wish that the warm palette looked like this because damn.  Seriously.  That's some great pigmentation.

As you may recall, I've had trouble getting the black shades in my Urban Decay Naked Palette and Tarte for True Blood palette to blend well.  I was beginning to think that the problem was either with me or with my crease brushes, which work very well for pretty much every other shadow I've tried.  The blacks (a velvety cool matte grey-tinged black and a chalky sparkle midnight black) in the Cool Party Palette, however, blend easily.  Color me both surprised and pleased.

The white shade included in the palette is maybe the only disappointing one in terms of pigmentation.  Again, I can't help but compare it to Urban Decay's Virgin color (which is a warm ivory, and wouldn't compliment the rest of the palette at all), which is so richly pigmented that it really puts this white to shame.  Pity.

The pale ice blue of this palette is actually what convinced me to purchase it, and I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed.  While it is a very, very subtle blue, the color shows up quickly on the lids and doesn't turn muddy even when applied over the light grey shade.

Both of the greys are solid performers as well, and the gunmetal shimmer color packs a real punch--this is definitely a lid or crease color, not a highlighter!

My only complaint about the Cool Party Palette is that it doesn't work great with my warm skin tone.  I definitely see myself using it at least once a week until it's gone, but these shades are far less flattering on me than they would be on someone with a cool skin tone.  Still, all in all it's a gem of a palette, and I'm beyond pleased with my decision to add it to my collection.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You had me at "Gold Sparkles"

I saw a promotional picture of Givenchy's Phenomen'Eyes Gold Sparkle mascara literally hours after I placed my massive Sephora Friends and Family order.  I had to have it, even though it meant paying extra shipping, and have been waiting anxiously for the last week for it to arrive.  I was really hoping to have it in time for Halloween, and sure enough it arrived tonight just as we were getting ready to leave the house for trick-or-treating.

Phenomen'Eyes is packaged in a very large, thick tube.  I'd say it's the diameter of my thumb, maybe a bit wider.  The wand itself is about as thick as your average eyeliner pencil, and the applicator is a small ball on the top rimmed with sharp spikes.  The glitter in the mascara itself is small in diameter, but not the micro glitter that you might see in a metallic nail polish. 

Surprisingly, the gold in this shade doesn't actually come from the glitter itself.  The glitter is multicolored, while the base is a bronze/gold.  Once on the lashes the glitter adds a subtle shimmer rather than a POP of glitter.

My hope was that Phenomen'Eyes Gold Sparkle would be something subtle I could wear either alone or over black mascara to add just a hint of festivity to my lashes. I'm very pleased to say that I wasn't disappointed.  I'd say this is perfect for holiday party wear, particularly for those who'd like to add pizazz to their otherwise conservative makeup.

Hooray for gold sparkles!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sephora Standing Brush Set--Review

I'm not such a makeup newbie that I don't understand the importance of good brushes, but I am new enough not to have a comprehensive brush collection yet.  My first brushes (Sigmas) were for eyes only, and it's been years since I last wore powder blush, so when I decided to give NARS Orgasm a try I realized that I needed to purchase a blush brush to go along with it.  This $25 set, which includes both large and medium powder brushes, a medium eyeshadow brush, a smudge brush, and an eyeliner brush, was a bit of an overkill since I wasn't in need of 4/5 of the brushes it provided, but I decided to give it a whirl anyway. 

First off, the large powder brush, which I use to apply Orgasm, is soft, supple, and provides even coverage.  It's perfect and lovely in every way, and if it was the only brush out of the set I liked I would still be pretty satisfied with my purchase.  The other two winners in the set are the medium eyeshadow brush and the smudge brush.  I already have Sigma versions of both, but these new ones provide slightly different coverage from the Sigmas that I'm really liking.  From the eyeshadow brush I can get a far lighter dusting effect when I use it to pat on a dark shadow, and from the smudge brush I can get a much denser (but still softened) eyeliner effect.  In short, they're keepers.

The medium powder brush isn't getting much use at the moment since I'm not really wearing anything these days that calls for a brush that size.  When I do, however, it'll be nice to have a brush on hand that I can likely trust.

My only criticism of the set lies with the eyeliner brush.  Before using any of these brushes I cleaned them (because...ew) and was really surprised when the eyeliner brush didn't return to its original shape after gentle cleansing.  There's a gap down the middle of the bristles that will not go away, no matter what I do.  Suffice it to say that it's headed for the trash.

Overall, I can heartily recommend this set for any makeup newbie (or longtime user looking for some good backup or full-sized travel brushes) who's looking to round out their brush collection.  Eyeliner brushes are really a dime a dozen, and the fact that this one wasn't up to par certainly isn't reason to write off the entire set.