March 26, 2012

How To Pronounce Those French Brand Names

As a French speaker, I have to admit to the occasional wince when watching beauty youtube videos. French is a difficult language to master, so the butchered pronunciation is not unexpected. However, names can be learned phonetically, so when I came across this set of videos from the lovely LifeInColors55, I thought they were perfect and deserved to be shared.

March 25, 2012

Estée Lauder Shimmering Sands Illuminating Powder Gelée

I purchased a few things from the Bronze Goddess Capri collection, but let me start with the star of the show.

By now the Illuminating Powder Gelées from Estée Lauder are an auto-buy for me. Having missed out on Modern Mercury and having adored Topaz Chameleon, I snatched Shimmering Sands up faster than you can believe.

And it's freakin' gorgeous. Not quite as bling-tastic as TC with its reptilian print, but pretty lush all the same.

I won't go into too much detail about the particular texture of the Gelée, as I elaborated on it in the review for Topaz Chameleon. Suffice it to say that the texture is the same, though this is a shimmer rather than metallic. The pigmentation on this is almost as strong. It can be used as an eyeshadow, blush, bronzer or highlighter, depending on your skin tone and application technique.

Indirect natural light.

Artificial light.

I think Shimmering Sands pairs beautifully with a basic bronzer applied first for contour and depth, and then this swept on the top of the cheeks, at the outer planes of the forehead, and on the eyelids. The combination gives a burnished, deep-summer tan effect, like those luscious St.Tropez ads from the early 90s.

As an eyeshadow it's lovely for a light wash, or for warming up the crease of a smoky eye.

As a blush, the shimmer finish might prove a little challenging to the frost-phobic. In those cases, I would recommend using a matte shade as a base, and then buffing this in overtop for a gorgeous glow. 

Like Topaz Chameleon, it can be used with a fluffy synthetic brush for a more delicate application. Because of the deeper color, it won't work as a traditional highlighter on paler skin tones, but applied lightly it lends a beautiful radiance while adding a bit of color. The rose-amber tone could potentially be incredibly flattering on deeper skin.

Indirect natural light.

Artificial light.

Availability: On the website (the Canadian version is now more complete and offers free shipping over 50$!) and counters at department store like The Bay and Sears. Price is 50$ CAD.

Pros: Knockout style and design, great pigmentation, unique color, versatile application possibilities.

Cons: Pigmentation, shade undertone and shimmer might make it a challenge to use as highlighter, bronzer or blush with some skin tones. (But for me personally I think the versatility outweighs the limitations.)

(I purchased this item at the EL counter at The Bay.)

March 19, 2012

Quickie - OPI Planks A Lot

This incredibly lovely Spring teaser weekend had me digging into the stash for an appropriate nail polish.

OPI Planks A Lot, from last year's Pirates of the Caribbean collection. In my opinion, a vastly under-loved series of dusty pastels and neutrals.

March 18, 2012

Clarins Ever Matte Foundation

Matte is in again, it seems. Several companies have launched (or reformulated) matte foundations just in time for spring/summer, answering the need for heat-ready performance with new, lightweight textures that keep the Joan Crawford crinkliness to a minimum.

Clarins recently debuted their Ever Matte line, which currently consists of a powder and foundation duo. I very much wanted to try out the foundation, as I am always on the hunt for that Holy Grail of foundations - something that will keep my skin matte yet fresh and natural-looking - so when I was offered the chance to review it I was delighted.

First of all, I love the packaging. It's clean and elegant, but so practical to tuck into your purse or travel bag. (And in fact, I took this on vacation with me last week!) It doesn't take up too much space and the squeeze tube keeps things hygienic.

But the more important question is, how well does this foundation perform? Clarins certainly makes great claims for Ever Matte:

Though it's not quite my personal HG, I think Ever Matte delivers on most of the promises.

I was incredibly impressed by how well it controlled my oily areas. I have combination skin, which means foundations can be especially challenging, as what fares well on my dry, flaky cheeks tends to slide right off my nose by mid-day. Not so with this - applied in the morning, Ever Matte lasted until I took it off in the evening. As the day wore on, it actually looked better on my t-zone. The oil never broke through, so instead of looking patchy and faded, the foundation just seemed to look more natural, without losing the matte finish and initial coverage level. I didn't need to powder it, which is a wonderful option to have in the summer when any extra layer, no matter how fine, can feel like one too many.

Ever Matte didn't settle into my pores, and in fact did a great job masking them. I was a little concerned that this would translate into clogging, but after a week of testing I had no problems with it contributing to acne. If you're sensitive to silicones though, be aware that it's the first ingredient.

What's also unique about this, and on-trend with the new foundation textures, is how incredibly lightweight it is. It really feels like you are wearing nothing, despite the initial creaminess. It blends right into the skin. This means that even with the matte finish, it looks natural.

Shade 105 Nude, in natural lighting.
Looks a tad too peach like this...
...but blends perfectly.

The coverage is what I would consider light to medium - enough to even out skin tone and minor discoloration, but would still require a concealer for stronger pigmentation or acne issues. I think this looks best when applied with a damp Beauty Blender, which keeps the coverage light but emphasizes the skin-like finish. It also dries fast, so it's best applied in smaller areas at a time.

This is not for all skin types, though, as it did emphasize flaky patches. For a matte finish, it is surprisingly kind to textured areas (read: pores and fine lines), but it cannot, and should not, be expected to deal with dehydrated skin. Due to its lightweight texture, I think it's probably one of the nicer foundations to wear if you have dry skin and still want a matte finish, but you will definitely want to make sure your skin is exfoliated and super-moisturized. (But honestly, matte is just not the best finish for dry skin.)

I should also mention that it has a distinct cucumber-floral fragrance. I enjoy it, but it might not suit your taste (or allergies). It also does have a sunscreen ingredient, which may or may not be a plus depending on what you prefer.

Availability: Can be found at, The Bay, as well as at select Pharmaprix/SDM and Murale locations. Price is 38$ CAD.

Pros: All-day matte finish and oil control. Featherweight texture and lighter coverage, great option for those looking for a natural but polished look. Easy and practical to use, as it cuts down on the need to powder and touch up.

Cons: Will - like any matte foundation - emphasize dry, flaky skin. Currently only has 7 shades and none for deeper skin tones.

(This item was provided by the brand for review.)

March 07, 2012

Josie Maran Argan Eyeshadow Quad

I was introduced to the Josie Maran brand back in my Sephora days. Like the case is with most brand debuts, we had a full-store training session, where a rep from the company did her very best to convince us that THEIR brand was everything we had dreamed of and more. It honestly didn't take much convincing. Josie Maran has simple, elegant packaging, a good range of products, lovely colors and an eco-conciousness that's easy to get behind. I haven't experimented much with it since leaving the store, but I recently ordered a few items to see if they lived up to my remembered impressions.

The limited edition Argan Eyeshadow Quad seemed like a good place to start, as it contains four eyeshadows, including one from the regular line.

The packaging is simple and sturdy, made from partially recycled materials. The colors inside are described as:

Partagas - a rich, spiced rum shade with flecks of golden glitter
Cloak - a pitch-black matte shadow with peekaboo silver glitter
Valencia - a warm copper color with a sprinkling of bronze glimmer
Cinnamon - our best-selling champagne pink shimmer

This is a fairly neutral palette, though Valencia might be difficult for cooler complexions. What's really nice is how well the shades all work together, and can be combined to create anything from a nude, subtle look to a fairly dramatic smoky eye. This is the kind of palette you can take traveling and have most most of your bases covered.

With flash.

Indirect natural light.

Partagas has wonderful pigmentation, applies and blends smoothly, and feels wonderfully soft. Dip your brush carefully, because it will kick up some powder if used too forcefully. The tiny bit of gold mico-glitter doesn't really read upon application.

Cloak is not what I would call pitch-black, it's more of a soft black. It applies well for a matte (no patchiness), even though it has a drier texture than all the others in this quad. The glitter does fall-out a bit, and disappears pretty much entirely when blended in. It is, however, the perfect shade to smoke a crease without going too dark, and adds a nice layer for evening versatility to this quad.

Valencia has a similar texture to Partagas, though softer and even more pigmented, and a shimmer/metallic. It's really lovely.

Cinnamon is a shimmer, again very soft, with sheerer pigmentation. Beautiful as a highlight, though it also work well as a lid color to brighten up the area. I have no idea why they named it Cinnamon, as it is the least likely color for that moniker.

All of the shades held up well over a primer, with no creasing, and only slight fading (for Cinnamon only) at the 8 hour mark.

Indirect light.

Indirect light, different angle.

Availability: Can be purchased from for 24$. The site does ship to Canada, and purchases over 25$ ship for free. Which is pretty damn awesome!

Pros: Soft textures, great pigmentation, and the shades work well together, making for a simple but versatile palette. Eco-friendly and very reasonably priced.

Cons: The slight glitter fall-out on Cloak, and Cinnamon could be a smidge more pigmented.

(I purchased this from the Josie Maran website.)

March 05, 2012

theBalm Frat Boy Blush

Too Faced, Benefit and theBalm are the trifecta of brands that do the cute, vintage thing for their aesthetic. Out of all three, I think theBalm most consistently succeeds in putting out product that matches quality to styling.

I got into theBalm with their Hot Mama blush (which is a variant on the Orgasm-type golden-peach-pink) and have been collecting their blushes ever since.

Frat Boy was one of my recent acquisitions, which I didn't break out until last month - it called to me as a harbinger of spring, with its cheery pink shade and fun graphics. I thought now might be a good time to post this review, as theBalm is currently on sale at

Frat Boy is packaged in sturdy cardboard with a mirror on the top flap, and a protective paper slipcover. It may not be as durable as plastic or metal, but so far I have't had any problems with any of theBalm packaging ripping or otherwise getting mangy.

Frat Boy is described as "peachy-apricot" on the site, and while it certainly has a strong peachy tone to it, I think it has equal amounts of warm pink as well. It actually ends up reading quite pink on my skin, but it may pull differently on warmer or cooler skin tones.

Indirect light.
I would consider this a matte finish, though it does have the faintest sheen in the sun, barely perceptible. The texture is very, very fine, smooth and a little dry to the touch, without being powdery or chalky. It actually reminds me a bit of how the Tarte Amazonian Clay blushes feel, though not quite as silky-fine as those. It also wears well, 8 hours minimum over foundation.

Indirect light.
It applies seamlessly to the skin, blending out and building up with ease due to its texture. The pigmentation is excellent. The first set above are swatches applied with an eyeshadow brush, two layers, and then the second set are light, blended swatches applied with a small blush brush.

And yes, it's all on my skin. Bizarre how much the light change alters the way the camera (*cough* iphone *cough) reads skintone.

Availability: From theBalm website, which does ship to Canada, as well as Hautelook occasionally. Also at Sephora and the odd Jean Coutu. (Looks like Sephora might be downsizing theBalm. They're gone from my local store, and only some of the products remain on the site.) Price is 21$ USD, about 28$ CAD.

Pros: Adorably packaged, light-textured and pigmented, it blends like a dream and lasts well.

Cons: None, really, aside from maybe the color description not matching up to the way it actually looks, but YMMV.

(I purchased this from theBalm website.)

March 04, 2012

MAC Extra Dimension

Now THIS I'm excited about. After nearly a year of yawn-worthy limited edition collections, MAC seems to have finally put together something special with their Extra Dimension collection. These not only look to be gorgeous colors, but they boast a new technological formula and metallic finish.

All images courtesy of MacKarrie.

Except... isn't this familiar? These look like the MAC version of the Estée Lauder Pure Color Cyber eyeshadows and tri-brid Illuminators. It seems MAC is lagging a step or two behind her older sister. (Did MAC somehow become the Jan of the EL empire?)

If it makes MAC feel better though, it seems like Estée also took inspiration from Italian brand Kiko cosmetics, which came out with their water eyeshadows in Spring of 2011. And which Sephora copied almost EXACTLY with their Prisma Chrome line just a few months ago.

Image from
Image from

I guess a good thing can't be contained?

I will definitely be ordering from the new collection, because I think the texture on these tri-brid powders is incredible, and I like that there will be more colors available. With this range of choices, will you guys be sticking to one brand or dabbling in all of them? 

March 03, 2012

Retail Therapy - Chantecaille, Jo Malone, Estée Lauder, Lancome and Clarins

I haven't quite mastered the art of the no-buy (or low-buy), though I am drawing inspiration from Liz over at Beauty Reductionista. Chances are I'm not likely to anytime soon - I'm a hoarder collector. Blame my magpie Pisces soul, and its inability to resist anything pretty and shiny.

So in the interest of being true to my nature, I'm indulging in a little retail therapy, both real and of the wishful thinking variety. (And hey, it is my birthday month, and 34 is the sort of age that calls for significant splurging, n'est-ce pas?)

I've resisted the draw of the Neiman Marcus beauty event, but by the skin of my teeth. These are my top two lemmings:

Picture courtesy of
I'm not a big Jo Malone fan. I've found her fragrances to be a little tame, honestly. But I freakin' LOVE lilac. And isn't the botanical print on the bottle just precious? I am going to wait until I have a chance to sniff this in person when I'm in New York, because 110$ isn't exactly loose change.

Picture courtesy of
The Coral Reefs palette from Chantecaille. Do I even need to explain this one? It's stunning. Absolutely stunning. And from the swatches I've seen, worthy of a splurge. I've convinced myself (barely) to wait for a promo code from

I did indulge this week, with the new summer collection from Estée Lauder, as well as a couple of fresh lip items from Clarins and Lancome. (Though the idea of summer collections already being out while the snow continues to flaunt its presence is perhaps a little obscene.)

Reviews coming as soon as I have a chance to test. =)

In the meantime, here is an incredibly imprecise lip swatch of one of the Lancome Rouge in Love lipsticks. 

Not the one I picked up, as I have an overabundance of fuchsia lipsticks, but a lovely one all the same. This one was swiped on really quickly and blotted down.

(Please excuse the unruly brows, I'm due for a threading appointment.)

So what are you guys currently lemming or hauling?

March 02, 2012

Rouge Bunny Rouge Long-Lasting Eyeshadow

Rouge Bunny Rouge is one of those brands that has emerged out of left field, and has achieved a small, but extremely devoted, cult following. I wasn't even aware of them until a few months ago. After reading a review on a blog (can't recall which one now), I located the website and became infatuated with the pretty, feminine aesthetic and the whimsical names. I had to have these.

Luckily I became aware of shortly after discovering RBR. (They are a UK online store that features high end and niche cosmetics, and they ship internationally.) When they had a 20% off promotion, I jumped right in with my first order of five RBR eyeshadows and a blush.

Today I'll be giving you a look at the eyeshadows, called Long-Lasting Eyeshadows When Birds Are Singing. (Yes, really. All the shadows are named after bird species.)

I have to say that for approximately 34$ CAD, I was expecting a little more from the packaging. 

The design is lovely, both on the box and the item itself, but the quality of the actual materials is nothing to write home about. Basic black plastic, indistinguishable from, say, Too Faced. I would expect something weightier and more refined, like similarly-valued items from Burberry, Guerlain and Dior. For 34$, I want some bling, and enough heft to take out an eye.

I like the inclusion of a mirror on the inside of the lid.

top row: Unforgettable Oriole, Abyssinian Catbird, Whispering Ibis
bottom row: Delicate Hummingbird, Bejeweled Skylark

However, it's what's inside that really counts, and here RBR does not disappoint. These shadows are outstanding. They have an incredibly smooth, dense texture, very finely-milled and with fantastic color payoff. Something like a cross between Le Métier de Beauté and Stila eyeshadows. They are all shimmery.

They pick up really easily, to the point where you have to tap off the excess or you risk some fall-out. They actually do better with softer brushes, as my usual laydown brush (the MAC 239) was almost too stiff, creating a little divot on the pan with just one dip. Better to use a softer brush and layer for intensity.

Brush mark on the right.
I was deeply impressed with their longevity as well. I almost always wear primer, because there are few powder eyeshadows that will last longer than a couple of hours on my eyes. These wore perfectly for 6 hours when I tested them on bare lids, with some fading (but no creasing) after that. (So not quite the 8 hours they claim, but on my lids, that's a minor miracle.) Over primer, they wore like iron for a full workday and well into the evening.

Unforgettable Oriole - Stunning champagne cream with fine golden shimmer. Amazing for the inner corner, but also makes a lovely highlighter over the cheekbones when applied lightly.

The sheerest out of the five I tested.

Abyssinian Catbird - Antique bronze with a distinct olive undertone. I'm a sucker for shades like this, and this one is exemplary.

The texture on this is even more buttery, and intensely pigmented.

Bejeweled Skylark - Deep, luscious red-brown with copper shimmer, much like Catbird in terms of texture and pigmentation level.

This is beautiful with my brown eyes, and would be stunning with blue ones.

Whispering Ibis - Slightly smoky green with a very faint blue undertone and gold duochrome shimmer. Gorgeous when it catches the light.

This has a slightly sheerer pigmentation, but nothing to cry home about.

Delicate Hummingbird - Lavender-mauve-taupe with fine red-violet shimmer, this is the sleeper hit. It's the perfect non-beige, non-boring neutral.

Used as a wash, it's ideal for adding just a bit of polish during those rushed mornings.

Swatches on bare skin, from left to right: 
Bejeweled Skylark, Delicate Hummingbird, Unforgettable Oriole, Abyssinian Catbird, Whispering Ibis.

Indirect natural light.


Artificial light.

Availability: A bit hard to track down in North America, the best place to get them so far is (They have fantastic customer service, fast shipping and the occasional sales that are worth stalking. I suggest making a wishlist and jumping when they do post a promo, as RBR sells out fast.) They are roughly 34$ CAD with the current exchange rate.

Pros: Dense, buttery texture, long-lasting, silky finish, amazing colors and good pigmentation. Overall aesthetics are delightfully whimsical.

Cons: Packaging could be better for the price, some fallout upon application that requires a gentle hand and/or a soft brush for best results.

(I purchased these from Zuneta.)