November 16, 2014

Beauty Thoughts #1 - Truthiness in Blogging

I've been at this blogging/vlogging thing for a few years now. I actually started under a different name, several years back, when I was more into green beauty, and I've been an avid consumer of beauty writing and vlogging for even longer before that. And over the past year, I've grown more and more disenchanted with it.

Monika, from Rocaille-Writes, has written an eloquent post about her own unease with the current state of affairs, specifically in relation to the YouTube Celebrity version of the online beauty community. I highly recommend giving that a look, if you haven't already. And for a mini-rant along those lines, check out this video post from Kirsten, of ItsKeerstin. The part I'm referring to is at the beginning, but if you do want legit beauty reviews, I say watch the rest of the video. And then all her other videos. ;)

As a consumer of both beauty products and the online beauty community, everything they've said highlights my own unease. I don't begrudge anyone their success, and I think it's awesome that there are so many avenues of potential career growth that just didn't exist 5-10 years ago. I think the major problem is that something that started out being an organic extension of Makeupalley and chat forums - where people talked about what they liked and didn't like, and offered great personal recommendations - and an avenue for aspiring beauty journalists, has essentially become another form of advertising. And I'm not talking about having ads on the page or before the video. Blogging about beauty takes time and money - I know for a fact - so some funds coming in from passive advertising is appreciated, and I don't think it takes away from anyone's experience. For professional bloggers, I also do understand that the costs become even more of an issue, and I get the need for some sponsored content. As long as it's well-written and explicitly disclosed, all the power to you.

On a personal level, though, the more sponsored content I see, the less I trust the individual's authenticity. The post or video could be fantastic, and I can certainly enjoy it on an aesthetic level for all the production value and thought that went into making it (see all of Hey Claire's sponsored videos) - but I view it the same way I do any other commercial, with the assumption that someone is trying to sell me something. I don't care if the claim is that "I only do sponsored posts/videos for things I genuinely love". At some point, you end up sacrificing your trustworthiness. We all present a certain version of ourselves when we interact publicly - no one is 100% themselves in those kind of situations, not even on reality shows - but if you are presenting yourself as someone who is giving honest, personal opinions about products, then your whole persona has to be as close to the core as possible. If you're bound by a contract to say certain things a certain way, then you're not being authentic. You're advertising.

And again, if your content is advertorial in nature and you're explicit and honest about that, then I'm cool with it - I just won't take it for gospel. And if you're anything less than 100% transparent about it? Well then, good-bye, and thanks for all the fish.

As someone who also blogs and vlogs, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I go about things myself. I already don't do sponsored content, but I'm pondering things like PR-provided product and events. Lipstick does not pay the mortgage, so free product certainly isn't in the same category as paid sponsorship. That said, it can become hazy territory as well. Some people manage to maintain their credibility perfectly even while getting PR-provided samples constantly. (Temptalia, for example, and Tracey, from Beauty Reflections.) They either have a very strict, mathematical approach to reviewing, or such an upfront personality and complete transparency that you never doubt their opinion is genuine.

I can say from experience that it's actually a lot harder to do that than you'd think. When you start out, the temptation is of course to be softer on reviews because you want to be on good terms with PRs. And sometimes that is a legitimate factor. I've never had a PR say or suggest that I shouldn't post a review with negative content, but I have heard of it happening. (And I know people have lost PR relationships because of a more negative post.) So even if you're committed to total honesty, I have no doubt that does affect the content in some subliminal way.

And then there's something even more basic - most of us are women, and most of us were trained from a young age to be nice. Double that if you were raised to be a polite Canadian girl. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all, right? (Some bloggers have that as an explicit policy, actually, in that they will only post about things they like.) That is a really hard thing to overcome, and especially so when you get to know and become friendly with the PRs. (I know it's something I've struggled with, trying to find the right word that is both honest and "nice".)

This is why I'm actually debating my policies, and whether I want to continue accepting gratis product. I don't enjoy the mental struggle of finding the "right" way to say something, and I REALLY don't like the idea of having my trustworthiness put in question. And knowing that I already give some blogs and youtubers the side-eye because of this, it feels important to be clear.

(As a side-note, there's another aspect to all this, which is the ever increasing emphasis on consumption. I know I'm the last person that should be speaking about this, considering how much makeup I have...and yet. Companies want to sell things and make money. PR groups want to help companies sell things and make money. Bloggers and vloggers who are PR-friendly - for lack of a better term - also want to make money, so it's in their interest to promote consumption. And I'm not sure I want to be part of that specific cycle. I like makeup, and I like collecting, but doing the Declutter series has put some of this in a different perspective.)

Eeesh. That's long-winded, and I apologize for that, but I had to get it off my chest.

November 09, 2014

My Apothecary Website

So I don't normally plug my micro-biz here. I generally feel a little weird doing so, though I'm not really sure why - they're tangentially related after all, being about makeup one one hand, and soap/perfume on the other. I guess maybe because this blog is really more of a personal hobby, whereas Pretty Indulgent is more of a side-job, I feel strange using one to talk about the other?

That being said, I've worked really stinking hard on re-booting the site (and I am NOT tech-savvy), so I feel like I really need to share the result of that blood, sweat and tears with folks who might enjoy it.

Anyway. :)

Here is a peek at the storefront, and if you feel like looking a little further, the link is here. (And if you do feel like getting something, I'm putting up a a 15% off code - blogfriends - for you guys. It'll be good until the 31st of December this year.)

I'm still working on updated some of the product images, but if you happen to spot anything else that's wonky, feel free to poke me about it!

November 03, 2014

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude

(Affiliate links.)

If you're a hardcore beauty junkie or makeup artist, you probably already know about the wonder of the Viseart palettes. And if you're Canadian, you've probably cursed the heavens for the relative difficulty in acquiring said palettes, as until very recently they were only available through pro stores in the US, like Alcone, Naimie's, Nigel's and Frends. (All of these ship to Canada, but not without the hassle of extra taxes, fees and duties when passing through customs clearance. Without the benefit of a pro discount, the added costs were especially dissuasive for a lot of non-MUA consumers.)

And then...a miracle. I was browsing the palettes section of the Sephora site, checking for anything exciting and new (fellow addicts, please stand up) - AND THERE WAS VISEART. Four eye palettes (two of which I don't have and ordered as soon as they were in stock), two lip ones, and two concealer ones.

If this brand is new to you, let me give you some context and the broad strokes info:

Viseart is and has always been an artist-oriented brand. Their palettes, and especially their #01 Neutral Matte, are kit staples for many, many artists - and for good reason. Made to exacting standards in France, the eyeshadows are triple-milled for an incredibly refined texture that balances perfectly between softness and adherence. The satin and shimmer shades in particular feel silky smooth to the touch, with a plush, creamy texture. These eyeshadows have brilliant pigmentation, and blend and build so easily that you'd swear they apply themselves.

They are, in my opinion, some of the best eyeshadows currently on the market. They easily compete with any other high-end brand I've tried, including Chanel, Dior, and Charlotte Tilbury. Like most brands geared towards working professionals, the packaging is very practical and simple, with sturdy plastic housing the pans and a clear lid cover. Not sexy or swanky, but in this case it really is the stuff that's inside that makes it worth the eye-blinking price tag. (Yeah, the 80$ took me a while to swallow down, but after spending 60$ or so on high-end quints or quads from other brands - sometimes with disappointing results - I managed to talk myself into trying Viseart out. And I'm really, really glad I did.)

Basically, if I could only pick one brand of eyeshadows to use from now on, I'd be hard-pressed to select anything over Viseart - and at that point it might only come down to either the packaging or the variety, as Viseart generally focuses on more neutral, pro-friendly shade ranges (though they are apparently working on an editorial brights palette).

I'll start with a review of the two palettes that I've owned and used for a few weeks - the #06 Paris Nude and the #05 Sultry Muse.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review

The Paris Nude is a beautiful range of shimmery and satin neutrals, or quasi-neutrals. They're wonderful to integrate with existing matte shades in your collection (or the #01 Matte Neutrals palette), but also work beautifully used together for a softly shimmery haze. The reflective quality here is relatively low-key - this is not a metallic or glitter-leaning palette, so it would work very well for a work-appropriate look, or for a gentle, blown-out smoky eye. (I feel like you would need something deeper and matte to amp up the drama.) There are two shades with micro glitter that have a somewhat drier texture and sheerer application, and to my mind are best applied wet, otherwise the glitter can fall down. Personally, I could have done without them but they do add the potential for greater drama, should you wish it. They do add a beautiful wet-effect sparkle.

What I find interesting about this palette is how bland it looks at first glance. All the shades look sort of muddy, but when actually applied to the skin they have this incredible dimensionality. All of them have a subtle duochrome or hidden shimmer adding depth and complexity.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review
Pont des Arts, Champs-Élysées, Beax-Arts, Alexandre Trois, 
Saint-Honoré, Orangerie, Marais, Montaigne, 
Vendome, Jeu de Paume, Grand-Palais, Saint Germain
Pont des Arts is a peachy pink shimmer. Champs-Élysées is a white gold shimmer with very faint pink duochrome and small, flaky gold micro glitter. Beaux-Arts is an almost metallic rose gold with a peachy copper duochrome - completely gorgeous. Alexandre Trois is pale gold beige with gold micro glitter. Saint-Honoré is a slightly plummy mauve with a warm taupe undertone, very lovely. Orangerie is a changeling, looking alternatively light brown, bronze or peach depending on the light.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review
Pont des Arts, Champs-Élysées, Beaux-Arts, Alexandre Trois, Saint-Honoré, Orangerie
Marais is a rich copper. Montaigne is a pale old gold, with a khaki undertone. Vendome is a dusty lilac, with lighter lavender-pink shimmer. Jeu de Paume is a light, silvery sage. Grand-Palais is a smoky olive with a faint mauve shimmer underlay. Saint Germain is a plummy pewter shimmer.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review
Marais, Montaigne, Vendome, Jeu de Paume, Grand-Palais, Saint Germain
Sultry Muse is a more dramatic palette, with a higher degree of contrast between the shades and four of those micro glitter flecked shimmers. It also contains a few outright metallics. It suits more deeper, smokier, more outgoing eye looks, though you can definitely create a daytime appropriate looks as well. Of the two, it's probably the more versatile palette because of that range of colour depth and created texture variation.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review
Yves, Camille, Kifu, Gitte,
Tym, Jori, CIndi, Chantille,
Chloé, Melonié, Diane, Ceska
Yves is an icy white with silver micro glitter. Camille is an almost metallic warm, light brown. Kifu is a pale beige with a slight pink undertone and golden-pink micro glitter. Gitte is a deeper beige with gold micro glitter. Tym is an intense copper metallic with a distinct rose undertone. Jori is a deep, cool, bittersweet chocolate brown. 

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review
Yves, Camille, Kifu, Gitte, Tym, Jori
Cindi is another intensely metallic copper, this one with a strong orange cast. Chantille is a muted burgundy brown. Chloé is a silver-slate metallic, with silver micro glitter. Melonié is a slightly dirty peach with a melon pink undertone. Diane is a deep charcoal shimmer. Ceska is a soft gold shimmer.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude swatches review
Cindi, Chantille, Chloé, Melonié, Diane, Ceska
I also have some quick comparisons with the two brands that I think have the closest match in terms of pigmentation and/or texture. (I wasn't able to get exact colour matches, but something in the general family to give you an idea.)

Below are the three shades from the Charlotte Tilbury Dolce Vita quad (minus the glitter shade) versus three from the Viseart Sultry Muse (Melonié, Chantille, Jori). Among my high end brands, including Chanel and Dior, the CT has the closest similarity when it comes to texture. They feel alike in terms of silkiness, softness, creaminess and refinement of the pigment. I find they also apply and blend very, very similarly on the eye. That said, I do think the Viseart are a bit more pigmented - not a huge difference, but enough to note.

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude

Below are three shades from Urban Decay (Derailed, Half-Truth, Chase) versus three from the Viseart Sultry Muse and Paris Nude (Grand-Palais, St-Germain, Ceska). Again, I didn't have a chance for closer colour matches, and Chase is more metallic in finish compared to the gold from the Viseart. But you get the idea. These are some older UD and definitely represent the best of their quality - they are perfect in terms of opacity of pigmentation and creaminess. They have that classic UD richness and are denser and more buttery feeling than the Viseart, which feel finer and silkier in comparison. The Viseart are somewhat easier to blend out and use, due to that refinement, but the pigmentation is similar. I think these are both excellent formulas and it would be a question of preference. (The ease of use with the Viseart is probably why they end up in pro kits with far more regularity.)

Viseart - #05 Sultry Muse and #06 Paris Nude

Availability: From pro shops like Naimie's, Frends, Nigel's, Musepro, and now at Sephora, as part of their pro-oriented line-up (though available for anyone to buy). The price is 80$ CAD and USD. I would highly recommend giving them a try during the VIB/Rouge sale, coming soon.

Have you guys had a chance to try these yet? I'm kinda obsessed, if you can't tell. :P 

(PS - I'm trying out the wider shots of arm swatches, for a clearer context for the colours. Let me know if you have strong preferences either way!)

(I purchased both palettes. This post is not sponsored or compensated, all opinions are my own. Contains affiliate link.)