February 26, 2014

Sephora Divergent Makeup Collection Spring 2014 - Photos and Info

I haven't been this excited about a film/makeup collaboration since MAC Venomous Villains. Extra awesome is attached to this one because it was a book before it was a movie. (For those who don't know, I work a day job at a bookstore/gifting store as a visual merchandiser. Divergent was one of those books that got a ton of really intense love from the sales staff way before it ever hit the popular list. It was the kind of book that staff were devoutly pressing into customers' hands, assuring them that THEY HAD TO READ IT. And customers would inevitably come back three days later, asking WHERE IS THE SECOND BOOK, and cry bitter tears because it wasn't out yet.)

The Divergent collection will be coming out in March, as a limited and exclusive collection available at Sephora. Both the colours and the packaging will be inspired by the iconography and characters of the film, and the collection will feature some new and innovative formulas and textures.

Three pieces and sets are included in the collection:

Sephora DivergentMakeup Collection Spring 2014 - Photos and Info

Divergent Limited Edition Multi-Piece Collector’s Kit ($71.00 CAD - $59.50 USD)

With three limited edition eye shadow palettes, a cheek palette, and four lip glosses inspired by the traits of each Divergent faction, and a double-ended application brush, this multi-piece kit includes everything to define your inner self. For inspiration, three “Get-the-Look” cards are included and provide tips for creating different Divergent looks. 

Each of the three Eye Shadow Palettes contains four coordinating High Pigment Eye Shadows plus one High Gloss Transforming Eye Shadow to draw immediate attention to the eyes. The transformer shades impart a diamond illusion, shimmery, mirror-like reflection that is transparent when applied dry, and translucent when applied wet, showcasing fluid, twinkling particles that look like they are suspended in air. What’s more, you can mix and match the High Gloss Transforming Eye Shadows to give you a unique look every time by breaking apart the palette and swapping with another. Along with these 12 stunning shadows, the kit includes a Cheek Palette with two Long-Wear Blushes, Shimmering Bronzer and Radiant Glow Illuminator, four High Shine Lip Glosses and a Double-Ended Eye & Cheek Brush for flawless application.

Sephora Divergent Makeup Collection Spring 2014 - Photos and Info

Divergent Limited Edition Multi-Piece Collector’s Palette ($39.00 CAD - $32.50 USD) 

Portable but impactful, this limited edition palette contains three High Pigment Eye Shadows in versatile neutral shades: Candor Lace, Luminous Taupe, Envious Chocolate, one Long Wear Blush in Rosy Horizon, one Matte Bronzer in Compassionate Copper, and a High Shine Lip Gloss in Artistic Mauve.

Sephora Divergent Makeup Collection Spring 2014 - Photos and Info

Divergent Limited Edition 7-Piece Nail Art Kit ($33.00 CAD - $27.50 USD) 

This 7-piece set includes five Long-Wear Nail Lacquers, one High-Gloss Transforming Nail Lacquer and six Nail Water-Transfer Tattoos so you can proudly signal your Divergent allegiance on tips and toes. Create endless nail art looks by layering the unique High-Gloss Transforming Nail Lacquer over any shade to create an opalescent, shimmering finish, and then add one of the exclusive, easy-to-use Nail Water-Transfer Tattoos. Just cut the paper to any shape or size desired, add water, hold onto nail, and peel back for flawless application.

You obviously can't see me right now, but I am making grabby hands at everything here. I am especially tempted by the set, which seems like a really good price for all that's included, and I am intrigued by the High Gloss Transforming Eye Shadows. (I'm thinking something like the current Kat Von D holo lip gloss, but for the eyes?)

What do you think? Have you read the books or are you taking it as it comes as a makeup collection without getting invested in the story behind it?

(All images courtesy of press release.)

February 25, 2014

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

Some eyeshadow palettes are the black skinny jeans of makeup - comfortable, easy to wear, and can be dressed up or down. The omnipresent neutral palette (whichever brand), for example.

And then you have the YSL Pivoine Crush Palette from the Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection. This one is the the silk chiffon dress - absolutely gorgeous and a statement piece, but not exactly all-around or low-maintenance.

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

Not gonna lie - this palette is a stunner. As I mentioned in my review of some of the lip products from this collection, I pretty much had heart palpitations when I saw the promo images. In person, it only looks more beautiful. The packaging is substantially weighted, and the design is both glamorous and feminine: a mix of gold and magenta, and the abstracted floral motif interposed with the YSL logo.

What's inside is equally breathtaking...

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

Five beautiful shades, full of shimmery goodness.

The colour range is decidedly bloom-like, evoking the bright pinks, sherbet oranges and soft peaches of flower petals, with a shadowed plum-brown accent and the pale, sunshine-y gold. Like the lip products in the collection, it's decidedly more vivid than the usual Spring offerings, but just as apt if you think about the actual colours in nature that provided the inspiration.

One thing you have to know going into this palette is that the eyeshadows are sheer. That analogy to chiffon wasn't random - these apply as a soft veil of colour, shot through with a fine diamond sparkle. Applied dry, they actually feel powdery, and you're better off patting them on over a primer to get them to last (though the sparkle doesn't fall out, which is unusual).

If you want these to show up with greater intensity, you can always apply them over a creamy white base, but I don't think that really does this palette any justice.

To get the real wow factor out of Pivoine Crush, you have to go in with a little Fix+, or a mixing medium. (Or, you know, plain water.) This doesn't magically make the eyeshadows opaque, but it does deepen them and adds a beautiful, opalescent quality. The sparkle and the soft pigments blend together, and the effect shifts from glitter-dusted chiffon to shimmering, fairy-spun silk.

It's really, incredibly lovely - but it's also a very specific look, with a particular technique. Eyeshadows that start out very pigmented can be sheered out, after all, whereas those with soft pigmentation - even when used wet - are inherently more limited in terms of how they can be used. I always think of it as the difference between painting with watercolours versus acrylics. (I was trained in both, and when I was younger I always preferred the flexibility and ease of working with acrylics. Now I feel like I can better appreciate the precise technique and subtlety of watercolours.)

At this price point though, you really have to like both the look and the process involved, or you're likely to feel disappointed. (Unless you're just enthralled by the aesthetics of the palette. In which case - NO JUDGEMENT. Trust.)

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette
Swatched dry.

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette
Swatched wet.
I experimented with a few different applications, and this is the one I liked the most. I layered the pink and peach shades over my entire eye, using a wet application. I then blended the plum-brown shade in my crease, using a dry application for a softer finish. I went in quite high at the mid-point and inner area, since the dry application gave more of a shadowed look than a strong layer of colour. I then applied a bit of that shade wet, very lightly through the outer part of the crease to depend the colour. I then used the pale gold to highlight the inner corner of my eye, also using a wet application. I also smudged some of the plum-brown over a purple liner on my lower lash line.

I think the total look is layered, translucent and shimmery - but paired with a strong liner, it also works as something dramatic and evening appropriate.

This palette was sent to me, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to test it out because upon initial swatching at the counter, I probably would have passed. Now that I've had the chance to experiment with it, I would buy it. It's too beautiful and unique for me to pass up, despite - or maybe because of - its finickier nature. (Though in all fairness, would I be equally enthralled with an equivalent palette that came in less delightful packaging? Possibly not, but part of the appeal of high-end makeup is the packaging.)

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow PaletteYSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection  - Pivoine Crush Eyeshadow Palette

Availability: At select Hudson's Bay and Holt Renfrew locations, as well as at www.yslbeauty.com if you're in the US. Price is 74$ CAD and 58$ USD. (And I do think the price difference is painful to swallow. I really wish luxury brands would align their US-Canada prices more closely.)

Pros: The packaging is just sublime, and the colours are beautiful. The wet application creates a fairly unique, mother-of-pearl blend of shimmer and translucency. Colours blend easily, and there is surprisingly minimal sparkle fall-out when used dry, and none when used wet. Applied wet and over a primer, they last over 10 hours without creasing or fading.

Cons: Applied dry, the eyeshadows are sheer and somewhat powdery, and will fade and blend out too easily without a primer. If you prefer pigmented, buttery formulations, this will not be up your alley.

What's your feeling on special-occassion dress equivalents when it comes to makeup?

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

February 20, 2014

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

Some makeup collections have you at first sight. Price, availability, previous reviews - it's all irrelevant in the face of the sheer perfection evident in that first preview picture. The Spring 2014 collection from YSL was like that for me. I saw the stunning packaging on the blush and eyeshadow palettes, and the vivid pinks and corals and deep burgundies of the shade range, and that was it. I was a goner - love at first sight.

And unlike some fast and easy loves that leave you crushed and disappointed when exposed to the cruel light of day, I found my affections had not been misplaced when I finally had a chance to sample some of the items in the collection.

The Rouge Volupté in #34 Rose Asarine and the Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain in #33 Bourgogne Artistique rank especially high.

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

They are also, perhaps not coincidentally, some of the least stereotypically "Spring" shades I've seen this season. Pinks and corals are commonplace, but YSL takes the "crushed flowers" theme to a more luxurious realm. Flower petal shades yes, but these are hothouse blooms, vivid and bright and deep.

YSL Spring 2014 Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

The Rouge Volupté in #34 Rose Asarine is an intense fusion of coral and hot pink, saturated and attention-getting. This is the kind of shade that demands either impeccable makeup or supreme confidence to pull off. You have to commit to wearing this shade, or it'll wear you.

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

But holy cow is it ever gorgeous.

The formula is classic Rouge Volupté - very opaque, creamy to the point of slickness and hydrating. I know some people find this formula drying, but I've found the opposite to be true for me. On the other hand, it does pick up on flakiness like you wouldn't believe, so good exfoliation is key.

It has a rich, almost glossy finish when first applied, and dries down to a satin. Blotted down, it looks matte and loses none of the intensity. Wear time is good, going strong for 5-6 hours or until I eat, at which point it erodes on the interior of the lip. (If I don't specifically remove it, I still have some of the stain left over in the morning.)

It has a fairly strong, watermelon-candy scent.

The Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain in #33 Bourgogne Artistique is the first deep shade I've tried from this product range (I've only owned a couple of nude and pink shades). I wasn't sure what to expect, as vampier tones can be difficult to pull off in a formulation like this.

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

YSL Spring 2014 Flower Crush Collection - Rouge Volupté #34 Rose Asarine and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain #33 Bourgogne Artistique

I needn't have worried.

Applied as one coat, it pulls more cool-toned than it looks in the lip swatch above, closer to the shade in the tube. It looks pinkish burgundy, sort of like wine-stained lips. Although I like the colour at one coat, I find that it tends to seep into the lines of lips in an obvious way. At two coats, that ceases to be an issue.

With the second coat, it also deepens and warms to more of a cherry red. Although it becomes more intense due to both the opacity and darkness increasing, it also becomes less bright, more muted. Not quite a Fall lip, but definitely a richer tone. If this is meant to evoke crushed blooms, we'd be talking blood-red roses.

I have to mention the applicator here - it has a fantastic pointed tip combined with a nice, flat paddle shape. I can get both a precise edge and a quick fill with equal ease.

If you've never tried the Vernis à Lèvres/Glossy Stain formula, I recommend giving it a try next time you're at Sephora or Hudson's Bay. It really is singular, despite its very close drugstore cousin from l'Oréal. It's somewhere between a pigmented gloss and a liquid lipstick, with better wear than the former and more translucency than the latter. It also maintains that glossy finish throughout its formidable wear time (6 hours easy on me, unless I eat).

I do find the formula can take a little getting used to. It's not tacky at all, but compared to a lot of glosses that eventually seem to meld with the lip, I can always feel like I'm wearing gloss as long as I have this on. It's not uncomfortable or thick feeling, but it's unusual to be conscious of having something on your lips like that. I think part of that is because of the way it adheres to the lip, creating sort of a film that doesn't rub off or move around, but that remains glossy looking and feeling when I press my lips together. In comparison to the Volupté, I don't find this hydrating at all, and I do need to apply lip balm to my lips after wearing it for the day.

It also has a scent, which is more floral, though still a little sweet. (I personally prefer the scent of the Volupté, but it's not unpleasant.)

Availability: Both are priced at 39$ CAD and 35$ USD, and can be found at YSL counters at Hudson's Bay and Holt Renfrew. They can also be ordered from www.yslbeautyus.com if you're in the US.

Pros: Swank packaging, as always. Saturated pigmentation balanced with glossiness for the Volupté, hydrating feeling. Longer-wear and maintained glossiness for the Glossy Stain, and an excellent applicator. Unusual and gorgeous shades for Spring.

Cons: Volupté formula can pick up on flakes, despite hydrating factor. Glossy Stain can feel weird on the lips due to the particulars of the formula, is more drying.

Have you guys checked out this collection? If so, are you enjoying the more intense shades, or are you gravitating to something more traditionally pastel for your Spring looks?

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

February 17, 2014

Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit

If you're looking to get acquainted with a brand, a sample set or mini kit can be a low-risk and even economical way of trying out the biggest hits. Benefit is a master of this strategy, offering several different versions at Sephora.

I don't have any of the current ones available, but I thought I would analyze the concept and execution with The Beauty Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit that was out just recently.

Exteriors first: this guy is all up in the kitschy retro-ness that is Benefit's calling card, with the vaguely psychedelic purple floral print of the metal container, as well as the romance novel worthy illustration on the lid. (I totally had a flashback to the Harlequin Presents books I used to buy for 25 cents from the used book store, back when I was 13.)

Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit

The kit also came with a cute little instructional booklet. It doesn't offer any revolutionary information or techniques, but if you're buying this kit as an introduction to makeup, then it's actually quite perfect.

Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit

The contents contained a nice variety of deluxe samples and full-sized products. The eyeshadows included two shades that are in Benefit's current line-up of Longwear Powder Eyeshadows - Guilty Pleasure (golden sand) and Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy (spiced brown). It also contained a mini duo of Dandelion and Gimme Fever, a large samples of The Porefessional primer, They're Real Mascara and the classic Benetint.

Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit

Let's take inspiration from my favourite blogger at the moment (Brightest Bulb in the Box - seriously, go read her, I'll wait) and do a value breakdown.

The kit itself retailed for 43$ CAD (and all listed prices will be in CAD).

Eyeshadows - two are in the current line, so I'll assume they're a comparable formula. The regular singles are 0.11 oz and retail for 24$. These are 0.04 oz each, which means a total weight of 0.16 oz. That means that the shadows alone are worth 34.90$, which is already about 81% of the total value of 43$. Qualitative value can be added for the fact that two of the shades are limited edition.

Porefessional - the regular 0.75 fl.oz tube retails for 36$, and the sample is 0.25 fl.oz, which means it's worth 12$. That brings up the total value to 46.90$, which already surpasses the retail price.

Blush duo - one one half (Dandelion) is currently in the regular line-up, but let's assume the same value of 36$ for 0.25 oz. The kit weight is 0.1 oz, so 14.40$. Total value is now at 61.30$.

Benetint - the regular tube is 36$ for 0.42 oz, so this little guy, coming in at 0.13 fl.oz, is worth 11.14$. Total is now 72.44$.

They're Real mascara - Sephora currently sells the exact same size contained in this kit (0.14 oz) for 12$. The actual value, compared to the full sized 0.3 oz at 29$, is 5.60$. (Which means the mini size is quite overpriced.) That boosts the total value of this kit to 78.04 - which is nearly double that of the actual cost. (Since we're all Math Fu here, let's put it exactly at 1.81 times as much.)

Purely from a cost-to-weight analysis, a kit like this is a pretty awesome deal, especially if it happens to contain items you'd like to try out.

All the deluxe samples have a really nice amount of product and are comparable to their full-sized counterparts. I already knew how I felt about both the Benetint and the Porefessional, but I was really glad to finally see what the fuss over They're Real was all about (in short: Holy Long Lashes, Batman!). A full review of that one will be forthcoming when I can get the full-sized version.

I also really liked the eyeshadows. They all have good to great pigmentation, and Shimmer Down is especially lovely, a lighter and slightly rosier version of Satin Taupe. Tickle My Ivory is that rare thing, a very pigmented and creamy smooth white-beige matte. Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy is the weakest of the four, having a drier texture and being more prone to powderiness, requiring a deft hand in blending. All have a decent wear-time, and hold well without creasing or fading on me for 9 hours with a primer.

Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit

I messed up the order in the side-by side pictures up there, but from lightest to darkest, they are as follows: Tickle My Ivory, Gilt-y Pleasure, Shimmer Down, Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy.

I liked the blush well enough, though Dandelion was bit too pale and a touch too powdery for me. Blended together with the shimmery pale plum of the Gimmer Fever side, however, it made for a really pretty warm rose tone that didn't come across as overly sparkly. The pigmentation was on the sheerer side.

Benefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup KitBenefit Groovy Kind-a Love Makeup Kit

Overall, I think a kit like this offers a great value. The box itself can also be re-purposed for storage if the other items are removed. (I wouldn't travel with a case like this, as it's impractical and bulky for that, nor would I bother to keep anything in it. I'm planning on de-potting the eyeshadows and blush, as well.)

Out of the ones available on Sephora at the moment, I think something like the Go TropiCORAL would be my pick to try out.

Have you guys tried any kits like this? Are you fans of the concept, or do you prefer purchasing full-sized products?

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

February 12, 2014

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

I'm a fan of neutral palettes. They're easy, no fuss, and usually a good value for the daily use you can get out of them.

And then sometimes a palette just grabs you by the throat and says "BUY ME. I'M HIGH MAINTENANCE AND YOU WILL LOVE EVERY FREAKING MINUTE."

The Cargo Cosmetics Let's Meet in Paris is such a palette.

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

The lush but still relatively classy exterior brocade of the packaging implies that this will be a nice palette for a night out, but in a somewhat traditional kind of way. Dinner and a movie, though probably the midnight showing.

Oh no. This is a palette that will take you to an underground speakeasy at 1am, discuss Rimbaud and then dance on tables for good measure.

This palette is intense, kind of crazy, a little hard to deal with but fascinating and layered and awesome all the same.

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

You have to know that this is not a stand-alone palette. There is not a matte among the shades here - even the ones that look matte-ish are actually loaded with micro glitter. If you want the safety net of transition colours and a cream highlighter, you will need to look elsewhere. Here it's all bling, all the time. You get deep frosts, and glitter-loaded mettalics and those afore-mentioned deceptively sparkly mattes.

Texturely, it varies quite a bit. Straight on shimmers and frosts like Baguette, Macaron, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Croissant and Creme Brûlée are the epitome of the (much) over-used "buttery", "creamy", "dense" and "pigmented". They make Urban Decay eyeshadows look like they're trying too hard.

The other half of the palette...well, you need a firm hand, a good primer and a mixing medium to really appreciate how awesome it. Versailles, Bonjour, Café, Madame, Bastille and Beret are all just as pigmented as the previous shades, but they have textures that vary from a bit powdery to downright crumbly. They swatch well, but when applied to the eyes they really need to be pressed on over a sticky base, and you are still likely to get a fair bit of glitter fall-out.

However, applied wet or mixed in a medium, they are STUNNING. Metallic, sparkly and hyper intense, they make for a killer jewel-toned smoky eye, the kind that only gets better as the night goes on and it starts getting less glitz and more rock.

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette
Left to right: Macaron, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Baguette, Croissant. Versailles
Macaron is a champagne metallic, very dense and pigmented. Eiffel Tower is an old gold metallic, also very smooth and deep. Louvre is a pale steel metallic frost, intensely pigmented and creamy. Baguette is an ultra-smooth pale peach-beige shimmer. Croissant is a maroon-teal duo-chrome shimmer with fantastic pigmentation. Versailles is a deep green with a smoky undertone, loads of silver-aqua glitter and a very crumbly texture.

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette
Left to right: Creme Brûlée, Bonjour, Café, Madame, Bastille, Beret
Beret is a rosy gold metallic, very intense in pigmentation. Bonjour is a dark brown shimmer with olive bronze glitter and a crumblier texture. Cafe is a soft brown matte with gold micro-glitter and is both pigmented and powdery. Madame is a satin eggplant with silver micro-glitter, and somewhat powdery upon application. Bastille is a smoky silver metallic with teeny silver flecks, the sheerest of the lot, though still pigmented. Beret is a charcoal satin-matte with silver micro-glitter, quite powdery.

And these are examples of the more troublesome shades applied wet: Beret and Versailles, and then Bonjour and Madame.

Cargo Let's Meet in Paris PaletteCargo Let's Meet in Paris Palette

Essentially, the left side of the palette is near-to-perfect. Amazing payoff, superb texture, great blend-ability and very good wear. The right side is finicky, problematic and gorgeous on a whole other  level when applied wet.

It's up to you whether you want to deal with the bad to get the awesome,.

The palette itself doesn't seem to be available on the Kohl's, Macy's or Ulta websites in the US, or on the Murale site in Canada...but it might still be in stores. It was 39$ US, and possibly around 42-45$ CAD. If anything, it might pop up on Hautelook as some Cargo items did recently.

(I purchased this item. This post is not sponsored or compensated, all opinions are my own.)

February 11, 2014

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection - Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine

I used to do ballet. I never made it to pointe and I was much too tall - even as a child - to pursue it seriously, but I remember those classes with a profound fondness. I still get a flutter of excitement when a dance movie comes on...and let's not even speak of the wondrous perfection that was the too-awesome-for-its-network Bunheads.

In short, I love ballet, and when I saw the original promo image for the Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 collection, I may have actually gasped. 

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection Maggie's Makeup
photo credit: Lancôme
Lily Collins - invoking the essence of Audrey Hepburn - is sheer perfection as a modern-day yet hazily romantic ballerina. I'm not generally given to super-soft pinks and pastels, but all of a sudden I needed to have a piece of this collection.  

And then this beauty landed on my doorstep: the Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine.

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection - Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection - Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine

There's no denying this is completely gorgeous. Lancôme does "feminine" and pretty" like George Clooney does "debonair". In other words, perfectly.

The mirrored compact, the lovely heft, the sweet bow, the classic rose bas-relief - it hits all the right notes.

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection - Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine

The powder is silky and finely-milled, smooth to the touch but not so soft that it kicks up powder. It blends well and doesn't look remotely evident on the skin.

The shade is a light, seashell pink with no perceptible shimmer when applied to the skin, despite the way it reflects the light in the pan. It has more of a satin finish that still imparts the impression of a low-level glow.

The pigmentation is true-to-pan but not intense, so while it shows up as a delicate pink flush on my light skin tone, it may need to be built up a bit on medium or olive skin tones. (The light, fine texture allows a good level of build-up without textural issues, but because of the pastel hue, I suspect it will read ashy on deeper skin.)

Despite the name, it's not a highlighter per se, but more like a blush that has a skin-brightening undertone, and creates a subtle illumination as a result of the finish.

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection - Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine

This is the kind of shade that obviously works well as part of a daintier makeup look, but it also begs to be paired with a more dramatic eye. Here I teamed it with the new spring eye palette from YSL (review coming soon!).

Lancôme French Ballerine Spring 2014 Collection - Highlighter Blush in Rose Ballerine ysl pivoine crush palette

In short, it's almost as awesome as Bunheads. Which is high praise, indeed.

Availability: At The Bay, Holt Renfrew and select Pharmaprix/SDM locations. Price is 52$ CAD.

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

February 05, 2014

Benefit Lollitint Lip and Cheek Stain

It is the year of the Radiant Orchid, and if you're a fan of pink-tone lilac, then you have offerings in spades.

One of the best ones is the Lollitint Lip and Cheek Stain from Benefit, which joins their already substantial stain line-up. With this one, Benefit took their usual cuteness factor and turned it up to eleven.

Benefit Lollitint Lip and Cheek Tint

The packaging is girlie and pretty, the container a plummy bubblegum with a stylized pinwheel floral design. It's fresh and youthful and feminine - much like the colour it will bring to your cheeks and lips.

The texture is milkier than the classic Benetint, though still extremely liquid and sets to an ever-so-slightly luminous finish. It doesn't feel like anything to the touch, but it doesn't look matte or flat either.

Though the recommended application is using your fingers to quickly rub it in, I find I get the best application by using a brush that has already been used to apply foundation. I dab a bit on, and then blend out quickly. The formula of these tints is so lightweight that it melds completely with the skin, but you do have to be careful about edges. I find the "wet" brush helps to buff out those edges. The result is a completely natural, flushed from within look. And once this sets, it will absolutely not budge. You can go swimming, dancing, para-sailing, and your cheeks will remain as they were in the morning until you take your makeup off at night.

The colour itself is a stunner. A cool-toned pink with a strong lilac undertone, it seems like it might be difficult to pull off, especially for warmer complexions. On the contrary, I find it looks like beautiful, natural, flushed cheeks. The much-invoked (and in this case, perfectly apropos) came-in-from-the-ski-hill cheeks.

With pale skin, the effect is delicate and sublime. On medium, neutral skin, it looks bright and lovely. On deeper skin, I suspect it will look softly pink. On skin that tends to sallowness, it might have a brightening effect, or it might emphasize the yellow-green undertone - it's worth an application test if you can manage.

Benefit Lollitint Lip and Cheek Tint

Like all of the Benefit tints, it can be used as a stain on the lips as well, where it dries to a matte finish. (If you're prone to dry lips, you may want to add a balm.) It can be dabbed on lightly, where the effect is more of a cool pink haze, or it can be layered up for a berry smoothie stain. I personally prefer using this as a cheek colour, because I don't love the taste, but if you're not picky it's a great double-duty product.

What about you guys - have you tried any of the other Benefit tints? Are you feeling the RO version?

Availability: At Sephora, select Murale and Pharmaprix/SDM locations. Price is 36$ CAD.

(Item was provided by the brand/pr to be considered for review. This post is not sponsored or compensated, opinions are my own.)

February 04, 2014

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set

I'm not generally a makeup snob, as anyone who's ever vacationed with me in the States can attest. (I can locate any CVS, Walgreens or Rite-Aid within a mile, with freakishly mutant-like accuracy.) I will admit to being a bit of a brush snob, however. A really great quality brush is an investment, but I have yet to regret any high-end brush purchase I've made, whereas I can't say the same for some of the discount-brand brushes I've picked up over the years.

That said, I love my Real Techniques brushes, which are a steal, so I was looking forward to trying out the Sonia Kashuk ones, especially considering how much I adore her Eye On Neutral palette (reviewed here).

The Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set came out this past fall, and is still available at some Target locations. (Assuming your Target re-stocks the cosmetics department. Mine always look like they've been ransacked by hordes of makeup junkies.)

It's a pretty set, done up in a tropical floral print with silver caps on the bottoms and matte black ferrules.

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set

First thing - this set sells for 16.99$ USD (possibly a smudge more in CAD, though generally the prices are comparable). That's about 3.40$ per brush. Assuming all the brushes are good, that is a phenomenal deal.

So the questions is: are they all great?

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set

The powder brush is excellent. It's soft and fluffy, moderately dense, doesn't feel scratchy, picks up powder nicely and hasn't shed after several washes. It might be a little small for some preferences, but I do tend to prefer smaller brushes so it works for me. It also doubles well as a blush brush.

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set

The foundation brush is where I deduct some points. It's ok, but the way the bristles were cut on the edge leaves them feeling a little prickly instead of smooth. This also isn't my kind of brush for applying foundation, as I find traditional flat brushes (be they rounded or square-cut like this) tend to leave a streakier finish that needs to be buffed in. (A flat brush needs to have exceptionally smooth, rounded edging to leave behind a texture-less finish.)

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set
top to bottom: MAC 286 and Sonia Kashuk duo-fiber brush
The duo-fiber blending brush, on the other hand, is fabulous. It blends out eyeshadow beautifully, but I love it most of applying and buffing in concealer. The duo-fibers make it optimal for picking up and distributing just the right amount of product, so it essentially does all the work for you. It's a very close dupe for the MAC 286, with a slightly more pointed end and perhaps a touch firmer. It's also one-tenth the price of the MAC one, so...you know. That's a thing.

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set

The eyeshadow brush is a full, very dense brush with soft but firmly packed fibers. It's good at packing on powder, and with the larger size it will do so quite quickly. You won't get as much precision as your would from a smaller, flatter lay down brush, but  I personally love it most for applying a brow bone highlight. It picks up the right amount of powder and is dense enough to blend that upper edge of transition colour.

Sonia Kashuk Couture 5-Piece Brush Set

The liner brush is definitely thicker than I'm used to, but will work if you prefer a stronger, more graphic liner look. I tried to use it for applying/smudging out powder shadow as a liner, and found it was a too rigid to use like that, particularly for soft eyeshadows that tend to powder up. It's definitely best for cream liners - or as a pinpoint concealer brush. I also had good luck using it to blend out lipliner, where that firmness worked in its favour.

So overall? One really excellent brush, three good ones  (including one that I preferred for several other functions than the intended one) and one that didn't work for me. Considering I would pay double the price of the set for the closest equivalent of the awesome duo-duo-fiber brush, 4 out of 5 still puts this set far ahead.

Have you guys tried any of the Sonia Kashuk brushes? I only have one other, from years ago, but now I'll be checking out the rest of her line.

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

February 03, 2014

Benefit POREfessional and POREfessional Agent Zero Shine

I have pores. Everyone does, obviously, but some folks are more "blessed" than others. Mine aren't huge craters worthy of expeditions, but they're certainly more present than I'd like them to be, courtesy of teen acne and oil production that went into overdrive.

Enter Benefit's POREfessional. Once limited to a primer (or balm, as Benefit calls it) that promised to minimize the appearance of said pores, it is now joined by a shine reducing powder, the POREfessional Agent Zero Shine.

Benefit POREfessional and POREfessional Agent Zero Shine

Benefit POREfessional and POREfessional Agent Zero Shine

Like all things Benefit, these guys nail the kitschy-cute factor. (Whether that's an appealing aesthetic is, well, up to you.) What's more impressive is that the design for the POREfessional Agent Zero Shine is as clever and practical as it is adorable.

This is a loose powder packaged in a shaker-like tube, with a cap on the top and a hidden compartment on the bottom for a travel-sized kabuki brush. The top cap comes off to reveal the shaker perforations, which can be opened or closed with a twist.

As someone who prefers loose powder to pressed (less binders and oils being added to your face = less caking), I love the fact that this is a travel-friendly version. I don't have to worry about spills at all. The brush is a nice add-on, though I do find that's both a little small and a bit stiff to be a true replacement for a good powder brush. That said, it's a great thing to have when you need it, far more useful and ergonomic than the vast majority of brushes included with compacts.

Benefit POREfessional and POREfessional Agent Zero Shine

Benefit POREfessional and POREfessional Agent Zero Shine

In terms of performance, the POREfessional Agent Zero Shine takes the the promise of no-shine seriously. I took this powder with me to Barbados during my recent vacation and, let me tell you, I was more than impressed by how well it held up to the heat and humidity. When all the other ladies were forgoing face stuff for fear of the inevitable melt-down, I was gleefully spackle-ing myself like cheap drywall. My skin looked matte for a couple of hours after application, progressively taking on a satin finish as the sultry night went on. My makeup stayed intact throughout.

The texture is fine, lightweight and dry, making it a really great mattifying powder indeed. It doesn't cake up, and because it's a loose powder you can re-apply without it building up. The texture may be a too drying for some skin types, but I didn't notice this calling attention to my fine lines. I used it to set my concealer under my eyes, and it worked perfectly, without emphasizing any creasing.

It comes out as a light yellow powder, but it blends out without any perceptible tint on the skin - at least on my light-to-medium skin tone.

Now...what about those pesky pores? The back of the bottle indicates that this "pore perfecting" but truthfully I didn't notice a major difference in terms of minimizing the look of pores. Unlike some powders that boast a blurring effect, I think this one's strength really lies in its oil-control capacity. (Though presumably pores that aren't producing as much oil will also look less dilated.)

The POREfessional primer, on the other hand, works specifically at smoothing the appearance of pores. A beige-tinted silicone cream with an immediate silky-powdery dry down, it smooths the surface of the skin quite efficiently. I don't personally love it on areas that are showing age (I prefer a more hydrating primer with a lot of slip, designed for mature skin), but in the t-zone it's perfect. It fills in pores and creates a more matte surface, and helps foundation adhere and last better.

Benefit POREfessional and POREfessional Agent Zero Shine

Availability: At Sephora, as well as select Murale and Pharmaprix locations. Price is 36$ CAD for each.

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