Make Up For Ever HD Second Skin Cream Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315

I was a big fan of the original HD Microfinish Blushes from Make Up For Ever. You know, the ones that came in the pump bottles...and that you could never, ever finish unless you wore blush like Mimi wore eyeshadow? I love me some blush, but there was just no way to go through a whole bottle, let alone several, when the average use amount is the size of a sesame seed.

The new Makeup Up For Ever HD Second Skin Cream Blushes, however, seem far more...useable? Packing a respectable 2.8 gram content and lovely pigmentation, so a little still goes a long way, without verging on the ridiculous.

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush, clockwise from bottom left: #210, #330, #225 and #315

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush, left to right: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever claims that these blushes create the "second-skin look of a cream with the ease of a powder", and I would agree. This is a silicone-heavy formula, balanced with waxes and powder ingredients that give it a quick-dry, utterly weightless finish on the skin. Much like the new generation foundations (Chanel Lumière Velvet, l'Oréal Magic Nude) that blend right into the skin, leaving behind no perceptible texture, these blushes look completely, 100% natural. (Well, in so far as you opt for a shade that looks natural on you.)

If you're wary of cream blushes because 1) they seem difficult to apply or blend, 2) you're worried about applying cream products to oilier skin, or 3) you prefer the ease of a powder blush you can apply post-powder and reapply during the day....well, these guys are going to soothe all your fears.

One -  the HD Second Skin Cream Blushes are absurdly easy to use. Applied with fingers or a brush, they blend out easily and don't catch on the skin. They dry fairly quickly, but because they don't go on crazily opaque you have to freedom to start light and build up. For a sheer application, I like a duo-fibre brush like the Senna Cosmetics Airbrush Blender. For a stronger look, the MUFE 152 Medium Highlighter Brush has served me very well. Honestly, I think these are actually easier to use than powder blushes, because of how blendable they are.

Two - because of that mix of oils, waxes and powder, they don't feel or look weird on oily skin (or dry skin, for that matter, as long as you don't have flakiness, which I've found to be the case across the board with silicone-heavy formulas). They have a very natural satin finish, neither dewy or matte. They look like...well, skin. Beautifully flushed, radiant skin.

Three - these can be applied to bare skin, foundation, or over powder. They don't drag or go patchy, and they last really, really well. Touch ups, should you need them, are about as fussy as they would be with a powder blush.

In a pinch, these can also be used on the lips, but I do find them drying when applied straight on. (Over a lip balm, as a stain, no problem.)

I ordered a few from Naimie's as soon as they were available, and was sent one as a sample from Make Up For Ever, so I had a chance to test a good range. There are 16 shades in total, and they are numbered in a way to indicated the general skin tone they are best suited for: 200s for fair skin, 300s for medium skin, 400s for deeper skin, 500s for dark skin. That said, I think most of the colours can be worn by a variety of skin tones, as it's just a matter of preference and how intensely you choose to build it up.

In the pictures below, I've swatched these heavily (a solid swipe from the pan) and buffed out with a fluffy crease brush to show how adaptable they are.

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: 210 and 330
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush: 210 and 330

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush 210 and 330
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush: 210 and 330
These two are the more cool-toned shades I selected: 210 is considered a "cool pink" by Sephora, and I would agree with that. It's a very classic, English Rose sort of blush, very flattering to fair, alabaster skins. 330 is called a "rosy plum" on the Sephora site. I would consider it more of a medium pink with a watermelon undertone, warmer and more muted than the 210.

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush 210 and 330Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush 210 and 330


Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: 225 and 315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush: 225 and 315

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: 225 and 315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush: 225 and 315
On the warmer side: 225 is described as a "peachy pink", again very apt. This is a super easy, friendly colour that looks fresh on lighter skin and glowing on medium or tanned complexions. 315 is called "peach beige" and it has a bit of a redwood tone to my eye. When I wear it, it almost makes me look like I've caught a little too much sun - but sexy and beachy in that peach-blush-and-loads-of-bronzer way. I think this would be a really fantastic blush for olive and tanned skin tones.

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush 225 315Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush 225 315

And for comparison's sake, these are all four of the blushes side by side.

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush, left to right: #330, #210, #225 and #315

Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream hd Blush: #210, #330, #225 and #315
Make Up For Ever Second Skin Cream Blush: #330, #210, #225 and #315
The Second Skin Cream Blushes are available at Sephora stores and www.sephora.com, for 26$ USD or 31$ CAD. (They can also be purchased in-store or via phone order from Naimie's and Nigel's.)

Have you guys tried these yet? What do you think of them?

(I purchased all but one of these items, which was sent by the brand/PR to be considered for review. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored or otherwise compensated.)

Biotherm Aquasource - Deep Hydration Replenishing Gel, Nuit High Density Hydrating Jelly and Deep Serum

A few months back I was able to attend a presentation from Biotherm about their Aquasource line - which was actually one of my first experiences with the brand, with the exception of a BB cream I had sampled previously. (If you follow my Instagram, I posted some pictured from the event.) Since I had not previously used anything from Biotherm, I wanted to give myself several weeks of testing time with the new products to get a better gauge of how they performed for my combination, leaning-to-dry-because-of-this-damn-winter-that-will-not-end skin.

If you're a skin-care geek, you'll note that the formulations contain some unique ingredients and sophisticated formulations.


Biotherm Aquasource

The Aquasource - Deep Hydration Replenishing Gel for Normal or Combination Skin (47$ CAD - 39$ USD) features:

Mannose - a natural sugar derived from tree pulp, it increases skin thickness by 25% and helps it further retain moisture over a 48 hour period. Tested on reconstructed skin, it has the ability to encourage skin regeneration.

Life Plankton™ Cellular Water - a blend of minerals, including potassium, phosphor, calcium, iron, Zinc, copper and manganese, as well as b2 (riboflavin), b6 (pyridoxine), b8 (biotin) and b3 (pp). It is also rich in 23 amino acids ranging from aspartic acid to lysine. This fluid aids in preventing moisture loss and stimulates skin regeneration.

Biotherm Aquasource
Jelly!
The texture of this is really neat, something in between a cream and a gel. It goes on light and cool-feeling, like a gel would, but once smoothed in it feels the same as a an oil-based moisturizer would, only without that heavy, greasy feeling. It does contain shea butter and silicone oils in addition to the unique ingredients, as well as alcohol to keep that lightweight, airy feel in the formulation. (I was told that the potential drying effects of the alcohol are negated by the hydrating factors, but if your skin is  particularly dry or sensitive, you might want to take that into consideration.)

On my skin type, I found it was perfect for when my skin was optimal (slightly oily in the t-zone, dehydrated everywhere), but wasn't quite enough for when the central air was turning me into an extra from The Mummy. (Not unexpectedly, as it is geared to normal/combination skin.)

The Aquasource Nuit - High Density Hydrating Jelly for All Types of Skin (50$ CAD - 42$ USD) contains:

P. Antarctica - sourced from a newly discovered micro-organism that produces a glycoprotein enabling it to maintain its internal water levels even in the frozen climate of Antarctica. The extract derived from this extreme weather survivor increases the production of new keratinocytes (new, fresh cells in the skin)by up to 25% after just 48 hours, boosting the skin’s overall capacity to hold water.

This has an even cooler texture than the moisturizer. Basically an oil-in-gel formula, it contains micro-droplets of oil that are 10 to 20 times smaller than those found in the usual moisturizers or oil-in-water emulsions. Despite the jelly-like texture, I could feel it transforming into a light balm as I massaged it into my skin. That super-light film took about a minute or two to absorb completely, and my skin afterward felt incredibly soft and supple, with a velvety smoothness. The Aquasource Nuit is my favourite out of the three products, and one I continue to use on a nightly basis. If you have dry skin, you may need to layer something richer over it, but so far I haven't needed to, even on my drier days. It doesn't have anti-aging ingredients as such, though, so if that is a concern you will definitely need to add an appropriate product to address those needs.

The Aquasource Deep Serum - Deep Moisture and Light Concentrate (60$ CAD)contains the same Mannose and Life Plankton™ Cellular Water as the moisturizer, but in a 3x greater concentration. It also has a micro-pearl formulation (essentially fine mica), for an extra light-boosting effect that lends a beautifully unified finish to the complexion.

Again, the feeling on the skin is fresh, lightweight, and it sinks in immediately. The combination of the hydrating ingredients with the luminous finish makes for a flattering complexion boost. If you're not inclined to wear much makeup, this by itself does a lot to create the look of smooth, glowing skin.

Overall, I think this is an elegantly designed line with ingredients and textures that are unusual enough to stand out from the usual counter offerings, and effective enough to merit some serious attention. Though it's not ideal for those with drier skin or anti-aging concerns, the lightweight formulations should be especially appealing to those with normal-to-slightly-oily skin who need that boost of hydration but who cannot tolerate a greasy feeling.

These swatches suggest the kind of jelly/gel texture these products have:

Biotherm Aquasource
Left to right: Aquasource Moisturizer, Aquasource Nuit, Aquasource Deep Serum

Availability: At Biotherm counters at Hudson's Bay and Pharmaprix/Shoppers Drug Mart locations, as well as online at www.biotherm.ca and www.lancome-usa.com.

Have you guys tried anything from the Biotherm line? I have a couple of products from their dry/mature skin line to test next, and I'm really curious to see how they stack up. :)

(These items were provided by the brand/PR to be considered for review. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored or compensated.)

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter

I'm not generally a makeup conservationist, but there are a few products that I have in my collection that I have yet to touch - their sheer gorgeousness will not be despoiled. The Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette almost joined those ranks, were it not for the fact that it was a press sample and the desire to do some Gollum-worthy hoarding didn't seem like the thing to do.

But I mean seriously.

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter

This is a stunner, no doubt about it. Named after the Belladonna flower (poisonous and psychotropic, yes, but also used in cosmetics and medicine), it also bears the bas-relief imprint of the self-same bloom.

I have to give GA some love here, for choosing this dual-natured flower as opposed to something more prosaic. It takes a certain appreciation of history and horticulture to base the centrepiece of the angelic-toned Spring collection on a plant that evokes the "beautiful woman" with its name, yet also possesses a murky history and a strong association with the darker arts.

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter

The packaging is classic Armani, sleek and elegant and somehow practical, with a heavy plastic compact that flips open to reveal the mirrored pan and a storage compartment beneath for the circular fan brush. (This brush would be  just "meh" in a blush palette, but actually works well when it comes to applying a highlighter like this along the cheekbone.)

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter

The product itself....GAH. Pardon me while I wipe the drool. It's a gorgeous champagne shimmer that looks incredibly reflective, even metallic, when viewed in the sunlight.

Now, if you've tried the MAC Extra Dimension line, or the Gelée textured products from Estée Lauder, then you're familiar with the type of formulation that this has - a hybrid of powder, cream and liquid. It has the same bewilderingly complex texture, and feels dense, without any powdery kickback or that touch of dryness that these kinds of products tend to have. It also feels smoother and more finely-milled, and blends more easily.

It can be used wet or dry for varying intensity, and built up for greater opacity. Applied with a fluffy brush, it leaves a soft, sparkling glimmer, like fairy dust. The sparkle is incredibly fine and ethereal, the polar opposite of club-y.

With a firmer, synthetic brush, it can be applied for stronger shimmer highlight, and over eye primer it builds up to a wet-look gleam. The latter is super beautiful when paired with a simple, lash-heavy eye look.

Lasting power is great when worn as a highlighter, maintaining a nice sparkle and sheen over 8 hours (though I would welcome the excuse to take the compact out in public for touch-ups). As eyeshadow, it does best over a primer, otherwise starting to crease after about 4-5 hours.

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter

In the swatch below you can see it applied straight on the left, and buffed out with a fluffy brush on the right.

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter swatches review

Although I have a lot of highlighters in my collection, I actually had a hard time finding a dupe for this. The closest is the lighter shade in the MAC Definitely Defined Skinfinish, and even at that it is cooler and more pink-toned, and doesn't quite buff out to that same fairy-lit finish.

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter MAC Definitely Defined

Here you can see the Belladonna Highlighter on the left, and Definitely Defined on the right.

Giorgio Armani Belladonna Palette Highlighter MAC Definitely Defined swatches review

I was quite surprised to see that this is that rare luxury beauty product that is actually less expensive in Canada than it is in the United States: it's 70$ at Holt Renfrew, compared to 88$ on the Giorgio Armani website. I KNOW. It's not a steal by any means, and like I said, you can find a similar formulation from other brands - but the gorgeous design, the finer texture, and the particular way it reflects light and sits on the skin is truly unique. It is the luxury version in more ways than one.

Have you guys tried the Belladonna Highlighter yet? What do you think of it? How does it compare for you?

(This item was provided by the band/PR to be considered for review. This post is not compensated, all opinions are my own.)

Sephora VIB Rouge In-Store Event

It's no secret that the Sephora VIB Rouge program has had some hiccups. (My faves are the inconsistent treatment and non-existent or irrelevant perks - really, does anyone jump at the chance for free makeovers with germ-laden testers?) Whether you think people had overly high expectations or Sephora just under-delivered on its promises, the grumblings on the interwebs made it clear - this is a program that needs to be revamped, ASAP, or risk alienating those high spenders they were courting.

I've generally been pleased with what is the biggest (and arguably, only) perk for me - the unlimited free shipping. When few US companies and even fewer Canadian companies offer free shipping to Canada, being able to make a 20$ order on a whim is deliriously freeing. (I had no trouble making the 75$ minimum before, but it's SO nice not to have to - especially in conjunction with those 25$ minimum purchase promo codes. As a side benefit, orders under 20$ also ship duty and tax free! Win on all sides.)

That said, there's always room for improvement. If this weekend's Spring Social Rouge events are anything to go by, it might be a case of one step forward, one step back. Early access to chic week and an exclusive event is nice, but there's still a fair bit of dismay on chat forums about the discount amount (same as what BIs and VIBs will presumably get during Chic Week) and the stinginess of foil samples in the free bag.

I'm a cheap wily shopper, so when it comes to Sephora I tend to shop online, where I can combine the free shipping, promo codes and Ebates cash backs to the best advantage. Knowing the discount would barely account for the taxes and having heard about the minimal samples in the goodie bag, I went to this event with a small list and low expectations.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I should mention that I had to drive 30 minutes through a snowstorm, so being greeted personally by the Store Director was nice (she knew my name without asking) and I very much enjoyed the good coffee, chocolate croissants and the deluxe sample bar (3 samples per Rouge, from a great selection).


The service was spot-on - all the SAs were friendly and cheerful, and they had a nice selection of reps across makeup and skincare. I wandered idly by Caudalie, where the fabulous rep took me in hand and somehow convinced me to buy that 100$ eye cream that I had been contemplating not at all. Seriously, she used sorcery of some kind. She then placed some amazing GWPs into my bag, which amounted to a 70$ value!


I also got two sets that are not available on-line (the Fresh Skin Superstars), or at least not on Canadian orders (the Sephora X system), as well as a staple I didn't want to wait for (Josie Maran Cleansing Oil) and the lone Hourglass Ambiant blush missing from my collection and out of stock online (Dim Infusion). No worries about sacrificing my Ebates cash back, and then I still received my deluxe samples and the Rouge bag o' samples.

Overall, I was very happy with this event and felt like it was well-organized and fun, and a good value for the amount of money I dropped.

But it appears like that experience was uneven across the stores in the Montreal area, and that is perhaps the biggest issue with Rouge at the moment - the lack of consistency. Some people get to experience awesome events because they're in NYC or SF (I would have enjoyed meeting Marc Jacobs and receiving a free MJ palette as well, not gonna lie). Others get full-sized products included in orders. (Only a handful of people, it seems, but this one has fostered whale-sized resentment.)

What do you guys think about the program and/or this event in particular? If you're Rouge, are you feeling it? If you're not Rouge, are you enticed to try to qualify?