Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Word on Red Lipsticks

Taking my cue for Karen at The Makeup and Beauty Blog, I've been spending some time this week considering red lipsticks. Namely, why I don't own many of them. Now, it's not like I don't enjoy red--it's one of my favorite colors--or that I don't think I can pull off red lips--I know I can. Honestly, when I think of red lipstick I think of supreme confidence, and that's just not something I feel I have when it comes to my physical appearance.

This isn't to say that I don't like the way I look. I do. I'm never going to be show-stoppingly gorgeous, but I'm both old and wise enough to know that doesn't really matter. So where does this lack of red lipstick-level confidence come from? "Society" is too easy and flippant an answer, and it's also really not true.

I don't know that I have an answer to this question yet, but I'm going to keep pondering it. In the meantime, I'm going to make a point of buying and using more red lip colors--in this case, seeing may be believing.

NARS lipstick in Flamenco pictured.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tarte Smoldereyes Liners--An Amazing Deal, but Worth It?

I was thrilled when the Tarte Smoldereyes liner set came back into stock at Sephora; $39 for six liners than normally retail for $25 each. Now, I love me some Tarte, but that is an insane price for an eyeliner. The set works out to just over $6/pencil, though, which is a steal.

Left to right, the liners come in Golden Beige (champagne with shimmer), Moss (olive green with shimmer), Violet (purple sparkle), Espresso (medium brown with shimmer), Silver Black (black with glitter), and Smoke (metallic silver with shimmer). The kit also comes with a basic sharpener, which is a good thing because these babies are far thicker than any other eyeliner that I've ever seen. They're more the size of an eye pencil intended for use as a shadow than as a liner.  Each pencil also comes with its own smudging sponge, which works remarkably well to smoke out the colors.

First impressions:

Silver Black:

Silver Black was the first pencil I tried. I'd been warned about the huge chunks of glitter in it ahead I'd time, but was still surprised at how much glitter I saw when I started applying it. Most of it ended up tangled in my lashes, and proceeded to fall into my eyes for the next 30 minutes. Still, the color payoff was excellent, the formula was pleasantly soft and easy to work with, and it was fully opaque after one pass. Personally I don't really mind the glitter overall since I already have enough black liners that are work-appropriate and have been looking for a special occasion one, but if you're in the market for an everyday liner you should look elsewhere. 

Wear time in the upper lash line: 10+ hours
Wear time on the waterline: I am so not even going to try this given how much glitter this pencil has. Beauty is pain and all of that, but I'd need to be a masochist to put this that close to my eyeball.


Smoke was my second liner, and thankfully there was no glitter in this shade. It's a lovely medium metallic silver--very similar to Urban Decay's Gunmetal, but with more shimmer. Like Silver Black it's a soft, creamy pencil with excellent pigmentation. I almost think it's too soft as I kept having to comb little pieces of it out of my lashes as I applied it. You can even see in the top swatch that there's a small chunk of liner that came off onto my hand when I applied a line of color.

This one isn't dark enough to be worn alone on the upper lid, but looks nice when used over a line of darker liner. It smudges particularly nicely using the attached sponge.

Wear time on the upper lash line: 12+ hours
Wear time on the waterline: 4+ hours


I tried Espresso next, and like Smoke it felt very, very soft. A good liner needs to be soft to apply properly, but again, you shouldn't have to pick bits out of your lashes. I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled with how Espresso applied or wore on the waterline. Pigmentation was far less impressive than Smoke in the same area, and wear time was much less. Application on the upper lash was unusually tricky with Espresso, as the pencil was so soft that I couldn't keep a point on it to save my life. I'll experiment a bit with this one (it's occurring g to me as I type to stick it in the fridge for a few hours before sharpening/applying again) but as of this writing I'm not a big fan.

Wear time on the upper lash line: 12+ hours
Wear time on the waterline: under 3 hours

Golden Beige:

Golden Beige was next on the docket, and much like Silver Black it is chock full of big flecks of glitter. Pigmentation-wise this is a very light champagne color, probably best worn as either a highlight shade or above a darker liner right at the lash line. The color is totally overwhelmed by glitter, though, and it was really hard to tell where I was seeing pigment versus glitter at times.  If it wasn't for the sparkle factor this would become my everyday highlight color, though, because it really is a lovely golden champagne color.

Wear time on the upper lash line: No idea. Try as I might, I could not get this to show up well enough on my pale skin to gauge wear time. I'm going to guess that it's the same as the others, in which case it's an all-day affair.
Wear time on the waterline: 3 hours


Moss applied beautifully, and like Smoke and Violet is shimmery without being glittery. The shimmer in all three shades is muted enough to be work appropriate (unless your workplace is extremely conservative). Like Golden Beige, Moss is light enough to need a bit of help from a darker shade on the upper lash line. It's a gorgeous golden green, and provides a not-insignificant amount of brightening, especially above the lashline.

Wear time on the upper lash line: 12+ hours
Wear time on the waterline: 3 hours


Violet is bright purple, and walks the line between the set's shimmery colors and its glittery ones.  It sparkles, but doesn't have the huge chunks of glitter that make Silver Black and Golden Beige problematic.  The color is intense, and I actually had to remove my first application and re-apply because it was too much for the look I'd already created.  The intense pigmentation also helped it last longer on the waterline than the others I tried, which was nice.  This pencil definitely had the softness issues that I discussed above, but wasn't quite as hard to work with as Espresso.

Wear time on the upper lash line: 12+ hours
Wear time on the waterline: 4 hours

Bottom line:  this set is absolutely worth the money IF you're looking for liners to create smokey looks rather than precision lines.  These pencils are too thick and too soft for detail work, though one could probably deduce as much from the "smolder"part of the product name.

The single best thing about the Smoldereyes liners is their longevity.  Wear time for every one was incredible--I wore each for at least 12 hours before removing it, and still had to scrub a bit to get the last vestiges of liner off after removing the rest of my makeup.  They have far more staying power than Urban Decay's 24/7 liners, though you do have to trade off precision for longevity when you go with Tarte.  Given my penchant for 14+ hour days, this is a set I will definitely use until the last stub of pencil is gone.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bobbi Brown's 20th Anniversary Palette--Twee is Putting it Lightly

I had been warned that the Bobbi Brown lip palette was disappointingly tiny, so I wasn't shocked when this box:

turned into this box;

before finally revealing the palette itself:

That said, WOW, it is tiny. Each pan is roughly the size of a pencil eraser, and the brush that comes with the palette is toothpick-sized. It's like an American Girl Doll accessory or something.

That said, as a sampler pack this isn't bad at all. I really like Bobbi Brown lipsticks, and a set like this is an opportunity to try a crapton of them. For $60 I'd have preferred more product, but since it was a gift I'm willing to overlook the gross pricing issues and focus on the lip colors themselves.

You'll forgive me if I don't swatch everything--I'm guessing there's fewer than 10 wears for each pan based on the amount of product in them.

The top pan is composed of mostly brown-based reds, pinks, and neutrals from Bobbi Brown's original launch line. The bottom pan contains a much brighter and bolder selection of links and corals that are current or new shades. A mirror separates the two pans when the palette is snapped shut.

So far I'm a fan of the colors in the palette with the caveat that it is an absolute ripoff given how tiny it is. I know a lot of fans and customers have been giving this set incredibly bad feedback based on size alone, and they're not wrong. We're used to getting a lot more bang for our buck when we buy a palette than Bobbi has offered here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A word on packaging, and why it matters

Dear Makeup Companies of the World,

Hi there, how's it going?  Not much new with me, save that I've been doing a lot of experimenting with your products over the last year, and have come to some conclusions about packaging that I feel compelled to share with you.

Packaging matters.  Not only does an attractive compact or case attract a busy shopper's eye in a crowded display, but it affects the way we as consumers use your products.  Case in point, Benefit blush:

Benefit's packaging definitely stands out from the crowd on a store shelf--I don't think I've seen another brand using anything similar--but the way one has to hold the box and brush in order to use the product is less than lovely.  When one uses Sugarbomb, or one of your other multi-colored shades, it requires a not-insignificant amount of physical dexterity to sweep the brush evenly around the face of the pan in order to pick up an even amount of each shade.  It's awkward, and while I like the product enough to keep it in spite of this flaw, it will make me think twice about purchasing another blush from your line.

Moving on to a design that works, let's examine the Naked Palette, and Naked 2

*sigh*  Urban Decay, you rock so hard.  As much as I love Naked 1, Naked 2 has stolen my heart, at least in part due to the really solid packaging upgrade.  From a luxe (but easily dirtied) velvet box closed with hidden magnets to a solidly constructed metal casing that snaps closed tightly but isn't difficult to re-open, you've managed to make an already appealing shadow collection even more desirable.  What's more, you upgraded the mirror to run the full length of the palette, which is incredibly helpful on-the-go or while traveling.

There's no awkwardness about the Naked Palettes, and that's really saying something given how difficult-to-use certain other palettes are.  Say, for example,

the Tarte for True Blood palette.  It's lovely, sexy, and visually stunning.  Everything that compelled me to buy this palette in the first place still screams at me from my vanity every morning, but actually using the shadows is a lot less fun than it should be. 

For one thing, they're all crammed together to the point that cross-contamination happens even when a shadow has barely been touched.  Plus, due to the way the shadows are organized, you're not just contaminating one or two adjoining shades--there are 4+ other shadows touching each pan here!  Doubleplus, the organization of this palette makes it difficult to figure out which shades should pair up together.  Some connections are obvious, but others...not so much.

And then there's the product that is priced high, but whose packaging feels like something out of Rite Aid.  Not to knock drugstore cosmetics at all--there are wonderful drugstore products out there--but in terms of a compact's feel, there's typically a big difference between a Sephora-level product and a drugstore one.  Tarte's Amazonian Clay blushes don't seem to know this, though, because in spite of their steep $25 pricetag and amazing quality, the compact feels $3.99 in my hand.  It's cheap, flimsy plastic that I seriously doubt would do much to protect the pan if it was dropped (please correct me if I'm wrong here--I have no desire to test this theory on one of my own blushes) and is difficult to open to boot.  No $25 compact should require me to sacrifice intact nail polish just to open it up.

And yes, Bobbi Brown, I'm also looking at you here.  Your Party Palettes are ridiculously difficult to open.  I use them plenty, so it's not a matter of breaking in the closure--there's a design flaw here that needs examined.

My point being, packaging matters.  I know you know this, and I know that you probably run zillions of focus groups just to figure out what kind of packaging will appeal most to consumers.  The emphasis on curb appeal to new buyers has to be balanced with usability for those of us who've already purchased the product, though.  Because when push comes to shove, I'm not going to spend another $40+ on a Bobbi Brown shadow palette next season, especially when I don't use the ones I have as often as I might due to packaging issues.

In conclusion, PACKAGING.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Organizing the Stash

As all makeup junkies know, organizing a makeup stash is essential.  The alternative is to have eyeliners rolling around with lipglosses rolling around with a crappy tube of mascara you bought a decade ago and have been meaning to toss but can never find when you're thinking about it.

Not that I've been there or anything.

So because my husband is awesome, I'm fortunate enough to have the master bathroom all to myself.  I tell people that one of the secrets of my (thus far successful *knock on wood*) marriage is that we have always had separate bathrooms.  Ergo, space shouldn't be much of an issue, and yet it is.  My spouse, who believes that toiletries are items to be tolerated but not enjoyed (tough luck, buster, you're getting a nice shaving set and lip balm for Christmas!) shares a bathroom with our two small sons because together they need less counter space than I, the makeup-obsessed lone female in the family, do.

At least we all know where we stand vis a vis the bathroom situation.

So, on to my organization situation.  There are two rather spacious under-sink cabinets, which are mostly full of bulk toiletries from Costco and a variety of random crap that has slowly accumulated under there for the last six years.  Mostly I don't mind that this space is largely wasted.  It's inconvenient and uncomfortable to bend down there multiple times every morning, so I wouldn't want to store anything there that I'd need on a daily basis.  My one easily accessible bit of built-in storage is a long, shallow drawer between the double sinks, and for years it was good enough.  Granted, I did have those manky old tubes of lipgloss rolling around in the back, and it always took some digging to find my good mascara, but with a small stash of makeup I didn't feel the need to upgrade my storage.

Then I had a second baby, turned thirty, and started caring about cosmetics.  Check out the rest of the blog for the full backstory on all of this.

So my first step after realizing that my growing collection of cosmetics wasn't going to work with my organization-less system, I spent a few minutes browsing around the bathroom organization section of Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  No good.  All of the freestanding units had drawers that were way too deep for easy access to my products, and all of the in-drawer systems were too deep for my shallow drawer.  On my way out, though, I passed through the kitchen section and had an epiphany.  Silverware drawer organizers!

This one doesn't fit perfectly into my drawer, but the space it leaves on the right is narrow enough for me to be able to use it effectively.  One space for eyeliners, one for skincare, one for blushes, two for lipstick/gloss, one for single-color eyeshadows and miscellaneous eye products, and one for foundation and primer.

And yet, even with all that I was still running out of room.  Samples, extra products bought on sale (thankyouverymuch Black Friday), and larger products that had started to accumulate on my countertop but didn't get daily use all needed somewhere that wasn't the black hole of my cabinets.

It's not perfect, but Target had exactly the kind of shallow-drawered (not a word, but I don't care) storage I needed.  The downside here is that it's behind a closet door, and thus subject to neglect/forgetting about, but the upside is that my counter is much cleaner, and I have a drawer just for samples, so that when I run out of a product I know exactly where to look for sample alternatives before I buy again.

What are your makeup organization strategies?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Urban Decay 24/7 Liners

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a fan of Urban Decay's 24/7 eyeliners.  I'm such a fan, actually, that I currently own 10 pencils in a variety of shades and am planning to invest in more in the future.

Yeah, I have a bit of a problem with eyeliner these days.

The thing about eyeliner that's so appealing to me is that it can add another dimension to my eye makeup without being hugely obvious or flamboyant.  It can certainly be those things as well, but it doesn't have to be, even when I use a bright color, which is why I like it. 

My first foray into color was with the purple-toned Rockstar shade:

Rockstar is dark enough to look like a brownish black on the upper lid, but you can definitely see the purple when it's applied to the waterline.  It's almost nothing like its sister color, 1999, which is a much lighter and more vibrant purple with glitter:

1999 doesn't show up well at all on the upper lid when paired with shadow and mascara, but is great on the waterline.  I'm experimenting with wearing a line of black (either Urban Decay's Zero or my faithful Caviar Ink Bobbi Brown gel) at the lash line and a line of 1999 just above it to make the color a bit more noticeable.  So far, I like it.

I was raving about these liners to my mother last month when she was visiting, and she asked me to explain what made them better than, say, the $5 drugstore liners she'd always bought.  In terms of colors, I really don't know.  I assume that you can find dupes for pretty much all of Urban Decay's shades (perhaps not with the glitter) in the drugstore if you look hard enough.  For me, the difference is in application.  Even Clinique's quickliners don't go on as smoothly or with the kind of color saturation on a first pass that Urban Decay's do.

(Left to right: Rockstar, 1999, Yeyo, Stray Dog, Gunmetal, Zero, Underground, Demolition, and Bourbon)

I'm a mother with two very young children, and already get up before 6:00 every morning in order to get all of us out the door on time.  It's been hard to justify spending an extra 10-15 minutes on my makeup since I started doing more than swiping on a bit of mascara and lipstick before declaring myself done in the bathroom.  Going over my eyeliner more than once just isn't an effective use of my time.  The fact that Urban Decay and Bobbi Brown liners are pigmented enough for me to be able to make one pass and go makes them worth the extra cost in my book.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner--Or, How I Stabbed Myself in the Eye With an Angled Brush

I resisted gel eyeliner for a long time.  And by "long" I mean "for the last year since I started paying attention to makeup again."  Eyeliner was one of the first beauty products I ever used, though, and the tried-and-true pencil liner was one of my few makeup essentials back in middle school when I was first allowed to wear makeup.  I distinctly remember my mom showing me how to stretch out my lid to apply it smoothly (I wince inwardly every time I think about it now) and many failed attempts resulting in a distinctive line of skin between my lash line and the liner before I learned how to use the pencil correctly.

Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that I've stuck mostly to pencil liners (primarily Urban Decay's 24/7 line, though I've also tried Pixi and one terrible, TERRIBLE Sephora-brand pencil) for the last year.  I love the way liner looks when paired with mascara and eyeshadow, and have finally branched out beyond brown and black into purples, greens, and blues.  There are a LOT of pencil liners in my collection these days.

I kept hearing about Bobbi Brown's gel liner, though, and given that I already had several good angled liner brushes that had come with various brush sets I'd purchased (the Sigma angled brush is my favorite for gel liner, by the way) I decided to take the plunge.  I stuck with basic black--the Caviar Ink shade--for my first gel liner, and held my breath as I dipped the brush into the little pot for the first time.

First, the gel liner is very, very dense.  It's the perfect consistency for someone who really doesn't know how hard to press the brush into the pot, since it's neither too hard nor too soft to know that you've got a good amount of product on the bristles.  Without a fairly stiff brush this might not be the case, which is why I'm a fan of the Sigma.

Now to the stabbing part.  See, I'm not terribly coordinated.  My mother actually confessed during a recent visit that she probably should have put me in occupational therapy as a child because I was clumsy and uncoordinated to the point of NEEDING therapy.  No joke.  So it's not like I wasn't halfway expecting to skewer my eyeball with the brush, but I was still surprised when I did it.  Let it be known that as great a product as Bobbi Brown's Long Wear Gel Eyeliner is, it is NOT fun to get it in your eye.

Once I'd removed the gel from my eye, however, I found that I loved using it.  It's far easier to get a really precise line from the gel liner plus brush than it is when using a pencil, and there's no stopping to sharpen a pencil (thereby losing a fair amount of product in the process) mid-application, which I appreciate.

Ultimately I'm very happy with this purchase, and will likely be trying out several other colors of gel liner once I use up some of my pencil stash.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Watt's Up, Benefit?

As I've been on a blush kick lately, I decided it was time to mix up my highlighter routine too.  I mentioned a couple of months ago how disappointed I've been with NARS Orgasm illuminator,  and even though I know they get great reviews I just can't get on board with the $$$ illuminating products from Chanel and Dior. 

I noticed Benefit's Watt's Up highlighter while I was browsing for a Benefit blush to try, but at $30 it seemed too pricey, especially for a first foray into a new-to-me brand.  Then came Ulta's 20% off holiday coupon.  I decided to give a tester a try, and was not disappointed.  The color blended beautifully (without the aid of the weird sponge thing on the opposite end of the illuminator stick) and provided a great champagne shimmer that didn't settle into the visible pores and fine lines of my hand while I shopped for the next hour. 



Isn't it pretty?  I've used it here with Sugarbomb...


and here with Tarte Tipsy.  It compliments both shades very nicely, and has decent staying power.  I'd say I'm getting 6+ hours of wear from a very light application.

Overall I'm not sure Watt's Up is worth the $30 price tag Benefit has given it (and I'm glad I only paid $24 with my coupon) but it's a far sight better than NARS' illuminator at virtually the same price point. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Benefit Sugarbomb--Is it THE Bomb?

God, Sephora, why do you hate my wallet?  First it's the Friends and Family sale, then the VIB sale, THEN $20 off a $50 purchase.  Really, it's like you think I'm capable of resisting slightly discounted cosmetics.  Which, by the way, I'm not.

Do not even talk to me about the 20% off coupon I received from Ulta yesterday.  

So I obviously had to buy something with my free money, and decided to give one of Benefit's much-lauded blushes a try.  Initially I wanted Dandelion, but after examining swatches on Temptalia's unparalleled swatch gallery, I realized that even on my very fair skin it would be too light.  So I decided to go with Sugarbomb.

Good choice, don't you think?

Sugarbomb is very, very subtle.  I seem to be doing a lot of subtle blushes lately (see Monday's review of Tarte's Exposed shade) and am liking the change-up from my usual NARS Orgasm/Tarte Natural Beauty routine.  I never thought I'd be a multiple blush kind of girl, but it's pleasant to have more options for both workdays and weekends.

In any case, on me Sugarbomb leans quite peach, though a pink-peach.  I'm not a huge fan of having to swirl my brush around the face of the pan to get even color distribution, but I can see why it might be nice to (at some point) be able to modify the color of the blush more or less pink/peach depending on my needs.

I didn't get quite 12 hours of wear time (my usual with Tarte and NARS) but since I don't see any specific wear time promises listed from Benefit I'm still calling this a win.  I definitely saw color 8+ hours after application, which is a full day for most people.  I did pair Sugarbomb with a highlighter on my cheeks (Benefit's Watt's Up, which I'll do a longer review of later this week) as I think the color improves when augmented with some additional pep.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dior Nocturne Rouge Dior Lip Color--Divine Shimmer!

I'll be honest here, I wanted to love Nocturne more than I do.  It's a gorgeous shade and I'll wear it until the tube is empty,'s not what I was expecting.

Nocturne is a rich raspberry shade infused with gold shimmer.  Raspberry and I don't get along as a rule, mostly because I have a warm complexion and most raspberry shades I've encountered are cool-toned.  I also prefer red lip colors to pinks, which is what I hoped Nocturne would be.

And yet, the gold shimmer looks lovely.  I really like how Nocturne pairs with Tarte's Natural Beauty cheek stain, and especially how it looks when I'm wearing a shirt in a cooler color.  I think it really is one of those shades that flatters both warm and cool complexions when worn with the right coordinating shades.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dior Vernis Nail Laquer in Apparat--AKA, Awesomesauce

From the minute I first saw swatches of Dior's limited edition Apparat nail polish I knew it had to be mine.  My nail polish collection has been growing exponentially lately, and Apparat is really the crowning jewel of my purchases from the last couple of months. 

Please ignore the couple of small chips here--this was taken after a day of holiday baking.

Apparat is a medium-dark, rich red with subtle golden shimmer that makes it glow on the nails.  It applies thick and smooth, and the applicator brush is amazing.  It's angled in a way that makes precise application incredibly easy, and is the best applicator I've ever used.  Chanel and OPI (both of which have applicators I love) have nothing on Dior.

Apparat is still easy to find online (I bought mine from but may be scarce in stores.  I know the mall where I do my brick-and-mortar shopping was sold out of both Apparat and its sister lipstick shade (to be reviewed tomorrow) Nocturne.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Exposed

As you may remember, I'm a big fan of Tarte.  I love their cheekstains, eyeshadows, and lip products.  I especially love that I have yet to encounter a dud product from them, which makes me far more likely to try new things from the brand sight unseen.  That said, Exposed is a shade that I purchased on a whim and probably wouldn't have looked at twice if it hasn't been for Temptalia's review a couple of weeks ago.

(an aside--my husband replaced all of the lighting in my bathroom this weekend, and I'm still trying to figure out the best angle for swatching.  Blog readership, meet my sink!)

Lovely, isn't it?  Very subtle, and perfect for a laze-around-the-house-no-I-shouldn't-be-wearing-makeup-but-I-am-because-it-makes-me-happy day.

In terms of wear time, I definitely get the full 12 hours advertised, which is pretty impressive for a powder blush.  I get at least 12 hours from Tarte's cheek stain too, for what it's worth.  I didn't pair Exposed with a highlighter here, and honestly I'm not sure it would look right with one.  Just as I wouldn't wear a glittery lipgloss over a my-lips-but-better lipstick,  I wouldn't pair my-cheeks-but-better Exposed with highlighter.

Regardless, I'd heartily recommend Exposed to pale-skinned, warm-complected ladies looking for a blush that won't make you look at all like you're wearing blush.  Check it out!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

OPI for the Muppets--Warm and Fozzie

I love, love, love the Muppets collection.  Have I said that already?  Oh, wait, I have.  Well, it bears repeating.  Especially now that it looks like the Hunger Games polish line isn't going to happen, I really love that OPI did such a bang-up job with their Muppets-inspired looks.

Warm and Fozzie is a warm metallic brown polish heavy on multicolored micro glitter.  Mostly the glitter looks like the same pink/red in Designer de Better, but I've spotted green and blue in there as well.  The overall effect is a lovely dark copper, which would probably work better for the Fall, but I'm going to sport it pretty often in this Winter as well.  Because it is gorgeous.

Wear-wise I'm about as underwhelmed with OPI as I always am.  Even using Zoya Anchor and Seche Vite (thanks to the commenter who suggested I try it!) I'm still only getting three days of wear with chips after day one.  Applying three coats of polish helps, but for some colors that's just too heavy.  So...back to the drawing board.  As always, let me know if you have any suggestions!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Clinique Acne Solutions Spot Healing Gel Review

In spite of the progress I've made in the last year bringing my hormonal acne under control, I do still get a zit or two at various times of the month.  This month I was lucky enough to be visited by one at the bottom of my right nostril (awesome!) a site where the worst zit I've ever had appeared when I was 16.  That site is home to one of the few true acne scars I have, and is thus a place I approach with trepidation whenever I feel a blemish coming on.

Luckily I'd received my Sephora Mystery Bag the night before this zit appeared, and whipped out the Clinique Spot Healing Gel as soon as I stepped out of the shower that morning.  It took at least two days of regular applications (one at night and one in the morning) but the gel did the trick.  Since my experience with blemishes in this particular area is that they tend to stay inflamed and tender when left untreated, I feel safe in saying that the Clinique gel sped up healing time by at least 5-6 days total, and almost immediately eliminated the redness and swelling I'd been experiencing.

I'll spare you photos of my zit's transformation.  Trust me, you want to take my word for it.

That said, this gel is no joke.  a bit must have gotten into the crease between my nose and cheek, and the area has been peeling for almost 72 hours now. I definitely wouldn't use the Clinique gel on any zit that couldn't be taken care of easily with a quick drain or a milder spot treatment.

Overall I do plan to buy a full-sized tube once this sample runs out, though I expect that will take awhile.  Not only is my current skincare regimen working, the sample is generous and shouldn't need replacing for at least another couple of months.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sephora Mystery Bag and the Big Black Friday Debacle

Did you stay up until midnight for Sephora's Black Friday Sale?  I'm almost embarrassed to say that I did, even though I didn't have to work the next day and thus could sleep in to make up for my very late night.  Ten dollar deals (specifically for Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes mascara, which is my current favorite) were too good to pass up, so I made a trip to Starbucks late Thursday afternoon and had my laptop up and running at least half an hour before midnight EST.

Now, prior to the beginning of the sale there was a fair amount of confusion over when it was actually scheduled to begin.  The flyer Sephora had been sending out via snail and e-mail listed the end of the sale in Pacific Time, but only "midnight" for the start time.  Like many others (too many, as it would turn out) I figured that midnight Eastern made the most sense, so at 10:00 pm local time I started refreshing the Sephora home page.

Nothing.  No change.  No sale banner, no link to the page where we could purchase the items.  Nothing.

I then checked the Sephora Facebook page, where people were posting left and right that they'd been purchasing their $10 deals since 11:45 Eastern, a full 15 minutes before the advertised start time.  Thankfully someone posted a link to the hidden page where one could find the deals, and I quickly clicked over and added the items I wanted (LCL mascara and a Josie Maran blush) to my cart.  Just then, the site crashed.

To make a long story very short, Sephora's site stayed down for roughly two hours.  In that time so much gnashing of teeth and venting of spleen occurred on the Facebook page that you would have thought more than cheap makeup was at stake.  Mixed in with the righteous indignation of tired and cranky would-be Black Friday shoppers were periodic comments from people who wondered why anyone could get worked up about makeup when there were starving children in their communities (fair point, but a bit ironic on a makeup store's Facebook page where presumably people come to talk about makeup and not ending world hunger) and the periodic comment from someone clueless asking when the sale was supposed to start.

Conspicuously absent from the discussion for at least the first hour of the site crash was a representative from Sephora Corporate. 

Now, I'm not one to argue that corporations inherently owe their customers anything beyond a reasonable level of customer service.  Midnight on Thanksgiving is going above and beyond, in my opinion, EXCEPT when you have a major event scheduled to start at that time.  If you don't want to make your employees work during a holiday, don't begin a large sale/promotion during said holiday.  I don't think that Sephora owed customers anything more than an apology for the crash--after all, it was up to us whether or not we wanted to stay awake past our bedtimes to purchase items--but that apology and assurances that the IT staff were working to resolve the problem needed to come sooner given the scale of the sale's promotion. 

In any case, Sephora did start offering free shipping codes and (according to them) opened up the mystery grab bag promotion sooner than scheduled to appease angry and sleep-deprived beauty shoppers.  Seeing as how I'm a makeup whore, I snagged one on Saturday when I bought another few items.  Which brings us to:

It's black!  It's pretty big!  It's full of samples!  It's THE MYSTERY BAG!

List of samples I received:
  • Clinique three-step skincare sample pack
  • L'Occitane hand cream deluxe sample (score!)
  • Clinique spot acne treatment deluxe sample (review of this coming up tomorrow--IT WORKS!)
  • Murad skin system deluxe samples
  • Dior skincare sample
  • Shisedo Pureness sample set
Not too shabby, especially as a GWP of $25 or more.  Extended reviews of all items to come in the next few days.

Did you stay up for the Sephora Black Friday sale?  What did you think of the site outage or of any of the other well-publicized site outages around Black Friday and Cyber Monday (hello, LOFT, looking at you here)?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stila Loves BP (and I love Stila) palette

I'm back!  Naturally all of my Black Friday/Cyber Monday/What the Hell I Like to Online Shop on Tuesdays Too purchases showed up the second I went on blog hiatus.  I'm still holding off on trying a few things until I know I can swatch and do a writeup on them, but I couldn't resist taking the new Stila palette for Nordstrom out for a spin.

Like all of Stila's travel palettes, this palette is very thin and small--it fits easily in my hand, and would easily slide into a small purse or medium-sized makeup bag.  It features four eyeshadows, one "bronzer," one blush, a "get the look" guide, and a small mirror.

Going clockwise from the top left the eyeshadow colors are: Clique, Bestie, Hipster, and Wink.  The "bronzer" (which is bizarre and totally not a bronzer shade) is Crush, and the blush is Flirt.

Swatches of the shadows:

Clique, Bestie, Wink, and Hipster (top to bottom)

As you can see, Clique is very, very pale pink.  So pale that it really doesn't show up as anything more than flesh-colored shimmer on my lids.  It's a decent base color for a very natural or sheer look, but not much good otherwise.  Bestie and Wink are my two favorites from this palette, and I'm very pleased with the quality of the shadows and the colors themselves.  I'm a sucker for a rich, dark pink, and that's exactly what both of these are.  Wink is quite glittery, but the glitter doesn't translate from the pan onto the brush, and I haven't noticed any fallout at all after several days of wearing it on my lids.  Bestie is a good warm neutral pink, and while I wouldn't buy singleton of this color it does look nice when paired with the other shades in the palette.  Hipster is your standard brown matte, and as you can see in the swatch above, is pretty sheer for such a dark chocolate brown.

On to the "bronzer" (I really can't get over this bright pink being labeled a bronzer--WTF, Stila?) and blush:

Yeah, nothing to write home about here.  The bronzer is clearly a joke (might be good as a blush on someone with a cool-toned complexion, but not on me at all) and the blush is really sheer. I stopped counting swipes with my swatching brush because it took so many just to build up enough color of either shade to get the incredibly light swatches you see above.  These are totally wasted pans, and very disappointing overall.

On the whole I really do like the shadows in the Stila Loves BP palette (and I absolutely think it's priced right at $14) I wish that the blush/bronzer combo wasn't such a waste of space and product.