January 30, 2013

Look Back at 2012: Best Makeup Sets - Tarte Holiday

Tarte is well-known for doing really amazing sets and palettes, especially for the holidays. I've purchased several over the years, and I've developped preferences for what I like from them.

I'm generally less fond of the big, blockbuster type palette. You know, the ones that have multiple layers and drawers and wings that open up. For me, they just end being too bulky to store, and less usable than I'd like.

HOWEVER. The smallers sets and palettes are among my favourites. They offer great quality and quantity for the price, and you can tailor your choice among them to suit your needs. They also make for a great introduction to a product type, since you get a fair bit of variety. The Holiday 2012 sets were particularly excellent.

Fantastic Foursome 4-Piece Amazonian Clay Blush Enthusiast Set (35$ USD, value of 60$)

I'm a huge fan of the Amazonian Clay Blushes, so this sampler was a must. These are smaller versions of the regular blushes, 3.03 grams versus 5.6, so still more than half the size. The shades are exclusive to this set, which is somewhat unfortunate, as the highlighter is gorgeous.

These have the same formula as the regular blushes - seamless texture and great pigmentation. Fantastic is perhaps a touch too cool-toned for me to wear as is, but works nicely as a pop over a warmer blush. Magic is coral, and perfect, of course. Stellar has a shimmer finish, which is not common with these blushes, and has a somewhat creamier texture. It is, as I mentioned, a fantastic highlighter, very much in the Nars Albatross family. Stellar is perhaps tricker, as it is a shade that would be great for contouring, but the glitter defeats that. Most of the glitter actually brushes off, but I do think it works better as a very natural blush than as a contour.

tarte Holiday 2012 Fantastic Foursome 4-Piece Amazonian Clay Blush Enthusiast Set
Top: Fantastic, Stellar
Bottom: Magic, Angelic

tarte Holiday 2012 Fantastic Foursome 4-Piece Amazonian Clay Blush Enthusiast Set
Clockwise from top: Angelic, Stellar, Fantatic, Magic

tarte Holiday 2012 Fantastic Foursome 4-Piece Amazonian Clay Blush Enthusiast Set swatches
Left to right: Stellar, Angelic, Magic, Fantastic

5-Piece LipSurgence Collector’s Set (34$ USD, 120$ value)

Super easy, no fuss lip products. I've come to really enjoy the LipSurgence pencils, and this was a nice, neutral-focused selection. (They are not comparable to the Revlon Just Bitten, in that they are more of a gloss than a stain.) If they do a set like this next year, I do hope they include a matte lip tint, and perhaps more variety in the colour palette. A deep berry or red would be fun, and holiday-appropriate.

tarte holiday 2012 5-Piece LipSurgence Collector’s Set

tarte holiday 2012 5-Piece LipSurgence Collector’s Set
Bottom to top: Buff, Exotic, Escape, Elite, Sweet

tarte holiday 2012 5-Piece LipSurgence Collector’s Set swatches
Left to right:  Buff, Exotic, Elite, Escape, Sweet

6-Piece SmolderEYES and Skinny SmolderEYES Collector’s Set (39$ USD, 144$ value)

I loooooove the SmolderEYES formula (which I go into detail about in my post about last year's set). They are awesome as liners, eyeshadows and bases, and once set, they wear like iron. I can't vouch for the waterline wear, however, as I found these slightly irritated my eye when I tried wearing them there. On the lid and lashline however, all was gold.

As much as I enjoyed last year's set, I think this one knocks it out of the park. The shades are excellent - varied and very wearable, with not a glitter particle around. I am particularly fond of Gunmetal, an excellent taupe that makes for an easy lid colour or a subtle liner.

I also like that they included the Skinny version to test out. This guy applies almost too easily, with intense pigmentation on the first pass.

tarte holiday 2012 6-Piece SmolderEYES and Skinny SmolderEYES Collector’s Set
Top to bottom: Ash Violet, Rainforest Black, Gunmetal, Gold, Champagne, Onyx.

tarte holiday 2012 6-Piece SmolderEYES and Skinny SmolderEYES Collector’s Set
Top to bottom: Ash Violet, Rainforest Black, Gunmetal, Gold, Champagne, Onyx.

tarte holiday 2012 6-Piece SmolderEYES and Skinny SmolderEYES Collector’s Set swatches
Left to right: Champagne, Gold, Gunmetal, Rainforest Black, Ash Violet, Onyx.

So what about you guys? Did you pick any of these sets up? Do you have any other picks from this past year?

(I purchased these items from Sephora and www.tartecosmetics.com.)

January 29, 2013

Almay Get Up and Grow Mascara

I love finding great drugstore mascaras. I have my favourites, and after seeing Emily from Beauty Broadcast shower Almay's Get Up and Grow with love, I was sure it would be joining the ranks.

Sadly, this is not the case.

In the tube, it looked promising. In the shade Blackest Black, with the kind of brush head that I generally favour - bushy but relatively narrow.

Upon application, I quickly learned that this was not the mascara for me. If I applied one coat carefully, with a straight sweeping motion and no wiggling, I found it was ok. It added some volume though not much length, and it was indeed very black.

With a second coat, however, it started clumping. Nice, if undramatic, lashes started going down the road to Tammy Faye Baker land. In keeping with Tammy's schtick, this mascara also smudged like crazy when I applied it to my lower lashes. 

I dunno. I think if you have sparse lashes, the way it coats may actually work for you and give you the effect of fuller lashes. For me though, this is a miss. 

Two coats, using sweeping motion.
Availability: Pharmprix and Jean Coutu and similar drugstores, as well as Ulta. Price can vary especially with coupons and discounts, generally between 8$ USD and 12$ CAD.

Pros: Very black. If you want something that will give you some immediate but not excessive volume with one coat, it's ok as long as you sweep. May be suitable for sparser lashes.

Cons: If you have fine but fuller lashes, this will likely clump and give you spider-leg lashes. Difficult to build volume this way, not much length either. No definition. Smudges easily.

(I purchased this from Ulta.)

January 28, 2013

Guerlain Écrin 4 Couleurs - Turandot

I lusted after the Turandot palette like few others this Holiday season. I had already blown my budget for the season by more than I care to put down on record, and I was determined to not get sucked in by this one. Difficult for many reasons, including the fact that I tend to freakin' love Guerlain.

And then I saw it in person at the Bay, toward the end of December. And the SA said the magic words: "It's the last one."

My response was to hunch over it like Gollum. Possibly hiss at the other lady browsing the counter next to me.

I'm not embarrassed though, because despite rumours that this will be a permanent addition to the line-up this year, it is absolutely impossible to find at the moment. AND I HAVE ONE.

guerlain turandot ecrin 4 couleur palette

The packaging is no fancier than the usual Guerlain Écrin 4 Couleurs, but that's not damning it with faint praise. Like Burberry, Guerlain delivers on all fronts. You've got your weight, your bling factor, your luxury right here.

guerlain turandot ecrin 4 couleur palette

guerlain turandot ecrin 4 couleur palette

This palette is stunning. Strangely autumnal for a Holiday palette, perhaps, but the palette creates a burnished, smoky look that seems like exactly the kind of warm counterpoint one would need in midwinter.

The shades vary in texture and finish to some degree, which makes for a dynamic palette.

The soft gold on the left is almost metallic, with a soft, dense and rich texture that delivers wonderful payoff.

The redwood shade in the top middle has a matte finish with a soft sheen, and has a super smooth, silky-dry feel, and good pigmentation that applies even better on the eye.

The grey-brown shade on the right is in the same colour family as Moth Brown from MAC - a deep taupe that almost seems to have an undertone of plum, or at least enough warmth to play well with these other shades without being explicitly warm-toned. It has lovely shimmer, a buttery texture and excellent payoff.

The reddened-plum in the bottom middle is matte, with the same texture as the redwood shade and medium, buildable pigmentation that again works very well on the eye.

guerlain turandot ecrin 4 couleur palette swatches
Mix of natural and artificial light.

guerlain turandot ecrin 4 couleur palette swatches
Mix of artificial light sources.

Availaibility: None at the moment, unless you hit upon an errant one at a counter. The word is that it will be permanent, however. Price was 60$ CAD.

Pros: Glam packaging, and a well-executed palette that offers enough variety while still being tonally tight. The two matte shades are a smidge less pigmented, but not in a way that translates on application

Cons: Fairly dupable colours that may make the price tag attached cringe-worthy.

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

January 24, 2013

Burberry Lip Cover Soft Satin Lipstick - Antique Rose and Rosewood

My Burberry fixation continues...

I picked up a little bit of everything from the Burberry range during my first foray into the brand, to give it a fair test. I am inordinately pleased with the lipstick I chose (Lip Cover in Antique Rose), and even more so because the amazing SA threw in a mini sample of another shade (Rosewood) when she saw me hesitating over the right shade.

Adorbs, right??

burberry antique rose rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick

For comparison, the regular lipstick is 3.8 grams, while the sample is 0.8 grams. That's about one-fifth the size, which is nicely generous.

burberry antique rose rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick
Top: Antique Rose Lip Cover
Bottom: Rosewood Lip Cover deluxe sample
Let me tell you, this is some pretty swanky packaging. As you may know from my previous Burberry post, I loathe paying top dollar for packaging that suggests anything but. No worries about that here - while the lipsticks don't come in those premium velvet pouches, they are packaged in the same metal casing that snaps closed with a magnetic closure. Fancy!

burberry antique rose rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick

These are ridiculously creamy. Like the Häagen-Dazs of lipsticks, if you'll pardon the strained simile. They are so smooth to apply, with beautifully full pigmentation on the first pass. They feel hydrating on the lips, and though I can't say the long-term effect was equal to the sensation, they were not drying in the least. 

The finish is softly shiny that remains satiny as it dries, and the wear is very good, lasting until a meal but not past it. Then again, where's the displeasure in whipping out that gorgeous tube in order to re-apply?

One thing I do not enjoy is the scent - not floral, fruity or sweet, it smells like old-fashioned lipstick, or cold cream. It does dissipate, but it takes a while.

burberry antique rose rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick swatchesburberry antique rose rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick swatches

I am a little fanatical about nude pink lipsticks. It is the first shade that I will test from a new-to-me line, because I fell like it is the one shade every brand should get right. (Terribly self-centered of me, I know, since my ideal Nude Pink could by another lady's Washed-Out Corpse Pink.)

By "nude" I don't mean fleshtone, but rather the kind of muted pink that I wish my lips were naturally. It's the exact shade of pink that doesn't scream that you're wearing lipstick, but instantly perks u your face. Antique Rose falls squarely in that family of shades. I have some lip swatches below for you, but if you want to see a full-face picture, I'm wearing it at the bottom of this post.

burberry antique rose lip cover soft satin lipstick swatch

Rosewood is a deeper, richer shade. Still very neutral and wearable, however, and another shade-type that I tend to gravitate to.

burberry rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick swatchburberry rosewood lip cover soft satin lipstick swatch

Availability: At Nordstrom for 30$ USD, and at select Holt Renfrew locations for 40$ CAD.

Pros: Sublimely creamy, opaque texture, very smooth application, fairly tenacious though not long-lasting finish. Slightly hydrating.

Cons: Creamy texture may feel too slick or heavy for some. Classic "lipstick" scent may be off-putting.

(I purchased Antique Rose at Nordstrom, and received Rosewood as a GWP.)

January 23, 2013

Marcelle BB Cream

Bb creams. We've all heard the criticism by now: the Western versions are but sad bastardizations of the Asian original, and not worth the hoopla. Fair point, and I do think it odd to use the same name for something that is qualitatively different. The thing is, it's only smart to adapt a product to the target market, and I don't know how well the "real" deal would play to a demographic that demands invisible finish and a range of perfect skintone options. Somehow I don't see a product with a generally thick texture and extremely limited shade options being terribly successful.

That said, I've been disappointed by BB creams that are really nothing more than repackaged tinted moisturizers. Not that those are bad products in and of themselves, just that with the immediate buzz a new product garners, I wish more brands would try their hand at creating something truly new and unique.

Like Marcelle did, with their Beauty Balm.

Not the usual background, because it's hella difficult to photograph white on white.

This is not a lightweight foundation, or a tinted moisturizer. It's a...tinted primer? Sort of? Make-your-skin-better cream thingie? I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, though I suppose the "skin enhancer" Marcelle calls it is spot-on.

In shade Light to Medium.
This will not cover a lot of skin sins - some redness, mild pigmentation, but not significant discolouration. What it will do is something akin to light photoshop blurring. Light will hit your face and bounce drunkenly away, diffusing those imperfections in its path. This only comes in three shades so far, but due to the sheerness, it should match up unless you fall into the very pale and deep range. (I'm perfect with the Light to Medium shade.)

The texture is creamy but lightweight, with a liquidy but slippy silicone feel. It applies best when massaged into the skin with your hands, not so much with brushes. Unlike a lot of other BB creams on the market, this doesn't feel greasy or moist at all - it dries quickly to a nearly matte finish that still allows for some natural radiance. It can be layered lightly for some extra coverage, but I wouldn't overdo it or it can start looking patchy.

It does appear to have some primer-like qualities, and if you wish you can layer on your foundation overtop. I found the best combination was actually with a powder foundation, like MAC Skinfinish or Cargo Blu-Ray.

Below is a before and after comparison on freshly washed and moisturized skin.


And on a different day, in different lighting.

The after picture is just the Marcelle BB on the skin, with the Guerlain Turandot palette, Lancome Definicils mascara and Tarte SmolderEyes in Gunmetal used on the eyes, and Burberry Antique Rose on the lips.

Overall, I like this for my no-fuss days.

And of course, the Instagram version. ;)

Availaibility: At Jean Coutu and Pharmaprix locations, as well as the Marcelle website (which does ship to the US). Price is 22.95$ CAD.

Pros: Very lightweight, matte finish that doesn't look dry, diffuses minor imperfections and fakes the look of better skin without adding visible texture. Can be layered with other base products for increased coverage.

Cons: Won't cover anything substantially, if that is what you need. Dry skin may not like the finish.

(I purchased this item from Pharmaprix.)

January 22, 2013

Burberry Sheer Eyeshadow - Trench and Midnight Brown


This post goes back a ways, as I purchased these back in October during my NYC trip. I've since acquired a few more during the Clarins warehouse sale, but these are indeed the ones That Started It All.

Behold, Burberry Sheer Eyeshadows in Trench and Midnight Brown:

burberry sheer eyeshadow midnight brown trench

You have to enjoy a brand that takes "high-end" seriously. I really dislike paying premium dollar for plastic, flimsy packaging, and there's no worry of that here - everything from the sturdy card stock used for the outer box, to the classic burberry check used on both the velvet sleeve and the heavy, metallic flip-top pan announces luxury in hushed, refined tones.

burberry sheer eyeshadow midnight brown
Sheer Eyeshadow in Midnight Brown.
Midnight Brown is a neutral medium brown with shimmer, the kind that can be used lightly as a wash, intensified for crease work, and smudged into the lashine for sophisticated definition. You no doubt have this shade somewhere in your stash - it IS a basic. But it's basic done exactly right.

Despite the name, there is nothing sheer about this shadow. It is beautifully pigmented, soft and rich in texture. It does kick up when you dip your brush in, so be gentle, but this applies super-smoothly and blends like a dream. Wear time is good, some fading after 6 hours without a primer, a workday and beyond with a primer.

burberry sheer eyeshadow trench
Sheer Eyeshadow in Trench.
Trench is almost exactly the same shade as my NC 20-25 skin. On deeper skin, this would make a perfect browbone shade. On me, it's ideal as an all-over eyelid shade, neutralizing redness and darkness and subtly brightening the area.

It is a matte, but has the very slightest sheen to it to keep it from looking flat. It has a soft texture, not a hint of powderiness and goes on lighter and sheerer than Midnight Brown. It blends as well as Midnight Brown, though it can sheer out too easily. Again, not a unique shade, but one done right.

burberry sheer eyeshadow midnight brown trench swatchesburberry sheer eyeshadow midnight brown trench swatches

As you can see from the swatches, these guys make a good team, and indeed it's the combo I had on my eyes in the previous post.

Availability: At Nordstrom,  Burberry.ca and Holt Renfrew locations in Toronto and Vancouver. Price is 29$ USD and 30$ CAD.

Pros: Gorgeous, hefty packaging, lovely pigmentation, very blendable texture.

Cons: Trench can blend away to nothing, requiring care in application.

(I purchased these from Nordstrom.)

January 21, 2013

Becca Radiant Skin Foundation and Shimmering Skin Perfector

I first encountered Becca as a brand at The Makeup Show a couple of years ago. The line had immediate appeal - a natural but polished aesthetic, focus on healthy, glowing skin and some of the sweetest people manning both the booth and the company. My budget at the time didn't stretch beyond a small sampling of their wares (a lipgloss), but I walked away with the the intention of getting some more items as soon as I could.

"As soon as I could" stretched until fairly recently, unfortunately. I heard that their UK distribution was closing down, and I thought that was a shame, as this is a brand that deserves more attention. Not everything they do is perfection (it seems like their eyeshadows have been hit-and-miss from what I've read) but they do excel at face products, which is what I splurged on when I placed my order. I ordered the Radiant Skin Satin-Finish Foundation in Buff, the Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal (and received a sample of the same in Topaz), and a couple of their renowned Beach Tints (which will be reviewed separately).

becca radiant skin satin finish foundation buff
Radiant Skin Satin Finish Foundation in Buff
I originally planned on purchasing the Luminous Skin Foundation, which is what they are famous for, but it has the coverage level of a tinted moisturizer, which I wasn't really feeling at the time. Radiant Skin purports to have "medium buildable coverage" and a "lightweight radiant finish", which all sounded aces to me.

Picking out a foundation colour online is always a delight, but Becca did make it easy with good descriptions and swatches on the Sephora site, and a foundation finder on their own site. I went with Buff, which is just a touch too yellow-toned for me (more so in the swatch below than when actually applied) but otherwise very workable.

becca radiant skin satin finish foundation buff
Radiant Skin Satin Finish Foundation in Buff
Part of what makes it workable is that this is not exactly a medium coverage foundation. I would say light at one coat, medium at two. You can build it without it looking cakey, but you need to do so carefully. I found I had the best results with a flat-type foundation brush, particularly the Contour Brush from Glamcor, which maximizes the coverage without leaving behind any streaking. When I used my favourite buffing brushes, the foundation picked up too much on skin texture and had a hard time applying smoothy.

The finish is interesting - it does indeed possess a radiant glow, yet unlike many satin-finish foundations, I found it dries very quickly and almost matte at first. It needs about thirty minutes to settle into the skin to achieve that luminosity, and continues looking more and more like skin as the day progressed. It doesn't settle into pores or move around, though for that first half hour it does pick up surface dryness. It lasts relatively well, with some breakdown around the corners of my nose at the 7-8 hour mark. (For what it's worth, my skin at the moment is combo/normal to dry, with visible pores on and around my nose.)

Overall, it actually reminded of the Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Gel Foundation.

Now as for the Shimmering Skin Perfector - well, this is the be-all-end-all product in their range, to hear it told. It has achieved a certain cult status thanks in part to the exposure it received on the Pixiwoo YouTube channel. And after testing it, I have to agree with the accolades.

Large bottle: Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal
Small tube: Shimmering Skin Perfector in Topaz
I debated between Pearl (which is more white-based) and Opal (which has a golden-peach hue) and opted for the latter because I tend to favour warming highlights. And it is beautiful. While it appears alarmingly opaque when first pumped out, it sheers out to the perfect shimmer, reflective and dewy, not sparkly. The peachy undertone isn't perceptible on my skin, it just allows the shimmer to blend in without looking stark.

It can be used straight to add a more focused shimmer, or it can be mixed into a foundation to add all-over glow. I would be very light-handed with the latter, because while this is a very refined shimmer, it does still pack a punch. You may end looking a little more Studio 54 than planned.

I didn't have a chance to wear Topaz, so I can't comment on it, though I imagine it would look fantastic on deeper skin tones than mine.

One caveat I have is that the pump bottle is sleek and elegant, but it pumps out more product than you probably need at one time. I also don't see the point of having an SPF in something that tends to be used in spots rather than all over.

becca shimmering skin perfector swatch opal
Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal

becca shimmering skin perfector swatch topaz
Shimmering Skin Perfector in Topaz
And in keeping with my New Year's Resolutions, I wanted to add something to the review format. Instead of just swatches, a quick before-and-after application.

Becca Radiant Skin Foundation

I kept this makeup very simple, mostly to demonstrate the two products reviewed.

Embryolisse Lait-Creme used as a moisturizer/primer.

I applied and blended the Radiant Skin Foundation with a Glamcor Contour Brush (which is best for achieving stronger coverage without the "stroke" marks of a tradition flat foundation brush), going over some areas with a dab more. I went without concealer to show the level of coverage. I did not apply powder.

For the blush, I used a Real Techniques Contour Brush to apply Becca Beach Tint in Watermelon (and applied the same to my lips using my pinkie). I applied the Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal to my browbone and the tops of my cheekbones with the Real Techniques Setting Brush.

For my eyes, I applied Burberry Trench all over the lid as a base using a MAC 239, and Burberry Midnight Brown very softly through my crease using an Inglot 6SS Crease Brush, and under my lower lash line using the MAC 239. For lashes, I used one coat of the Buxom Lash Mascara.

burberry trench midnight brown becca radiant skin foundation buff shimmering skin perfector opal beach tint watermelon

And for fun, the look under an Instagram filter, feeling all Monica Vitti.

Availability: The Radiant Skin Foundation is priced at 42$ USD on www.beccacosmetics.com, and 51$ CAD at www.sephora.com. The Shimmering Skin Perfector is 41$ USD and 50$ CAD at those same sites.

Pros: Radiant Skin is dewy, light-feeling, ideal for skin that doesn't need a ton of coverage but needs some extra luminosity. Shimmering Skin Perfector is concentrated glow in a bottle, sheerable to the most natural, healthy-skin effect.

Cons: The foundation does take a bit of time to settle, during which time it can pick up on dry texture. It is more light than medium in initial coverage, has to be built up with care. The only downside to the Perfector is the over-generous pump.

What do you guys think? Have you tried any Becca products? Are you, like me, hoping they continue to be a presence on the beauty scene?

(I purchased these items from the Becca website.)

January 20, 2013

This week on Instagram...

It took me a while, but I've succumbed to the lure of Instagram. It's the filters. I blame the filters, and their soft-focus magic. I wish my actual life was half as pretty as the pictures purport it to be. (Note: If you follow me there, this post may be somewhat redundant.) 

This week has been a strange one, mostly focused on nesting activities, for lack of a better word. We acquired a new carpet, new curtains and a new coffee table, which spurred a frenzy of organizing and house styling. Or maybe a vacation from work left my merchandising muscles feeling underused? Either way, I ended up re-doing all my bookcases, including this one - which is where some select crockery and keep-worthy home decorating magazines now reside.

Speaking of crockery, I picked up these little gems at Home Sense. (The one near me is newly opened, and NO ONE goes there. Seriously, the week before Christmas, there may have been five people in the store at any given time. Which means you can actually find cool stuff without having to body-check the lady shopping next to you.)

I also felt compelled to give my bathroom a boost, to distract from the unfinished state (i.e.: the walls sadly in need of fresh paint, and the mirror that is still propped up on the wall after the old one abruptly - and alarmingly - fell off and crashed into a jillion pieces).

Of course,  I did have to work in some beauty-related organizing. I've mostly finished re-doing my vanity and beauty storage, and will be re-filming my collection video soon. (I've already posted pictures of some of the drawers. Let me know if you want a detailed pictorial on the blog to go along with the new video.) This is a quick look at the vanity.

And since one can never have enough storage, I pressed upon the kindness of my darling hubby to build me a second nail polish rack. And voila! A little wall of OPI.

So that's been my week. How was yours?