Saturday, February 28, 2015

MAC Cinderella Makeup Look: A Sultry Twist

The MAC Cinderella collection looks all princess-y and soft; but if you take a closer look at the color tones and textyres, the combination is actually rather sultry and Bardot-esque. 

So - as usual - I'm going to be all contrary, and do a sexy glistening smoky eye with the collection (whereas I did a rather subtle look with the Toledo collection). 

MAC Cinderella collection look, featuring Stroke of Midnight eye palette, Lightly Tauped Studio Eye Gloss, and Coupe d'Chic Iridescent Powder

The eyes are amazingly simple. I used only 2 eyeshadows and an eyeliner. The eye gloss is an optional step which you do not need to take.
  1. I applied  thin layer of Vapour shadow (top left) all over from lashes to brows as a base
  2. Then I buffed Satin Taupe (bottom left) over the lid area, blending out into the socket line for a smoky effect. I also used a small detail brush from 13rushes to sweep Satin Taupe along the lower lash line.
  3. I smudged black liner along the upper and lower lash lines, then along the inner rims for a catty, defined look. No wing or flick was applied.
  4. Finish with mascara,

If you want a bit of special effects, then dab some sparkly eye gloss over the lid using a flat concealer brush.

MAC Studio Eye Gloss in Lightly Tauped

For the cheeks, 
  1. I actually used a soft tangerine-red cream blush (NARS Portofino) very high on the cheeks using my fingers. This was blended almost up to the eye, for a more naturally flushed dewy sheen.
  2. Then I swept the very gorgeous MAC Cinderella Iridescent Powder in Coupe d'Chic along the cheekbones to catch the light. This gives a soft warm gold sparkle. 
  3. As a last step, I used NARS Laguna bronzer with a firm shader brush (13rushes Ultimate Shader) along the hollow of the cheekbones to sculpt the cheeks. 

MAC Iridescent Powder in Coupe d'Chic

NARS Laguna bronzer and 13rushes Ultimate Shader brush

 Finally, on the lips, I only slicked on a light layer of Royal Ball Lustre Lipstick from the Cinderella collection. I do have to say this is perhaps the one item in the collection I've tried so far that I don't really like that much.

 The texture is a little dry for a lustre, which can make the sheer pearlescent color look a bit patchy on the lips. If you have chapped lips or any flakes, stay away from this lipstick. Otherwise, it IS quite a pretty color for muting down your lips and getting a soft pearlescent nude look to pair with smoky eyes.

And here's the finished look! Sultry smoky eyes (gloss optional), sparkly glowy skin, and muted pearly lips. 

Not quite Cinderella I would say.
And I would imagine most princesses would have flushed just-bitten lips rather than a nude mouth anyway, so the collection is more Brigitte Bardot than Cinderella to me!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dior 2015 Diorsnow Collection: A few picks!

Every year, Dior launches a special Asia-exclusive collection under their Diorsnow line.

Born of a skincare line targeted at skin-brightening for the paleness-obsessed Asian market, the line eventually expanded to include a foundation line, brightening powders, and then exclusive limited edition makeup collections.

Typically, these collections are not seen in the West, except occasionally in collaboration with malls like Nordstrom's as temporary exclusives. If you've never seen any of these items before and you're thinking of buying on eBay or through online sellers without being able to swatch and try them in person, then there are few things you might want to remember.
  1. The Diorsnow collections are primarily targeted at East Asians who not only prize fair skin, but also tend to have pale to medium skin tones in general.
  2. The makeup colors that are born out of the line cater to the Asian consumers who often steer away from strong, dramatic colors. Most of the eye palettes come in soft, pastel tones, and are short of strong definer shades for the lash line and socket. The blushes and powders can often leave a bit of a cast on darker skins.
If you want strong dramatic rich colors, or if you have darker skin, this might not be the collection for you. That said, the items are usually gorgeous and something Dior Addicts keep an eye out for each year, just for the collectible value.

The star product of the collection this year is the Les Neiges de Diorsnow Colour Correcting Radiance Powder in 001 Rainbow (or what everyone is simply calling "Diorsnow Rainbow"), which is designed to mimic the effect of light bouncing off fresh snow up onto the face.

Besides correcting unevenness and sallowness, I was actually quite surprised that it managed to really blur pores and fine lines exceedingly well.

In fact, the powder makes my skin surface look retouched. Besides looking more luminous and even (little veins and some redness is diminished), the most amazing thing is it mattifies and makes pores so much less visible, without looking flat or dull.

I had initially thought it would be like Guerlain Meteorites, but this is honestly a much better investment in my opinion, since Guerlain has the color corrective properties but not the texture/flaw-blurring effect.

Sadly though, if you have tan to dark skin, this WILL leave a bit of a cast on your skin especially if you take pictures in strong lights. That's simply caused by the reflective property of the pigments. Otherwise, it's fantastic and definitely the first item you should check out from the collection.

Les Neiges de Diorsnow embossing
Another item I'm really enjoying is Diorblush 966 Eternal Pink.

This looks super bright in the pan, but it's like a warmer version of Chanel's Joues Contraste in Ultra Rose. It goes on much softer and sheerer, and you can build it up.

Diorblush 966 Eternal Pink on the cheeks

This blush is actually very iridescent and quite a light bright pink. I would sweep it quite high along the cheeks so the product catches the light and does double-duty as a soft highlighter. Don't feel that it will be too strong and saturated if you are pale. This is after all a Diorsnow product. It actually works better on lighter skins in my opinion, because for darker skins, it can leave a cast.

The texture is gorgeous and more finely milled than many other Diorblushes I've tried.

Dior 5 Couleurs 836 Snow Petals

There are 2 eyeshadow palettes in the collection; one a petal pink grouping and the other a pale blue and charcoal set. My preference was for the softer, warmer palette simply because I'm really not into pale blue. If you need definition though, I would recommend the blue palette over the pink, because it at least has one darker shade.

836 Snow Petals has beautiful colors, but not a single one will work well as a definer shade in the socket line or along the lashes. This is a palette that needs complementary eyeliner, and lots of mascara. 

But it CAN work beautifully. The tones are soft but the textures and pigmentation are beautiful. Several of the shades are so creamy and soft they remind me of old palette favorites like Rosy Tan which are sadly discontinued. 

Here I paired the eyeshadows with a metallic grey liner (a discontinued Lancome Artliner 24Hr) and a silver glitter liner from Collection, which I also used to coat my lower lashes, so the sparkles peek out between the black mascara on the top lashes.

So as you can see, it CAN look quite dramatic depending whether you pair it with strong liner and big lashes. If you like strong eyeliner, a soft palette actually complements it. Strong shadow and strong liner can compete for attention and look quite over the top for daily life and quite "drag"-like even though it looks good on a blog, in videos, or on Instagram. If that's the effect you're going for, go for it. If not, stick with softer tones on the lids if you are going to be wearing thick, metallic or sparkly liner.

Lastly, the nail polishes. There are about 4-5 shades in the series, and all are cremes except for 045 Stardust, which looks like a molten metal shade in the bottle, but is actually a translucent sparkly fog-grey on the nails. Very ladylike and not too punk for more conservative environments.

Dior Vernis 045 Stardust

The Diorsnow collection is available at the ION Dior Backstage boutique, as well as Robinsons Raffles City at time of writing. ION seems to have run out of stock for the Diorsnow Rainbow powder compact, but the team has told me they are ordering more, so definitely check with the sales folk in stores and see if they can hold one for you when it comes in. 

Happy hunting!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sloane Inc S8.8 Aqualicious and S9.8 Skin Superfood

I've got 2 skincare products I've been testing recently.

Sloane Inc is perhaps better known as an aesthetics clinic, but they also have their own proprietary skincare line, all coded in numbers. I haven't looked into the line to see if the numbers have a specific meaning (i.e. all those beginning with 6 are of a specific category, etc), but the 2 I'm going to talk about today are S9.8 Skin Superfood Red Algae, and S8.8 Aqualicious.

S9.8 Skin Superfood is a special nourishing gel-cream treatment which contains Astaxanthin, a super-charged antioxidant with 6000 times the strength of Vitamin C. I'm a huge believer in using antioxidants daily for anti-aging maintenance, and this product not only contains plenty, but also also ceramides, which are fantastic molecules that behave like dry oils and keep the skin smooth and supple by forming an ultra-thin and comfortable barrier on the skin surface.

The most interesting thing is this comes in a fresh jelly form that melts into the skin and does a strange water-to-oil transformation, becoming silkier and richer as you rub it in. If you have dry or mature skin, this does a fantastic job of conditioning the skin and plumping it up.

The smart time-formula also releases the astaxanthin and ceramides slowly over a few hours, so the effects last for several hours.

S8.8 Aqualicious is a simpler formula which is great for oily and combination skins. If you've got blemishes or use a lot of anti-blemish products and exfoliants to try and keep your pores in control, you will be no stranger to the "Dry outside, Oily inside" feeling, which can be the most annoying and paradoxical feeling ever.

You barely keep your breakouts in check, and the surface is often tight and flaky, so makeup doesn't sit all that well.

If you experience that, then you probably need something that is fresh but that can pack a lot of punch in terms of oil-free hydration.

As you can probably tell from the name S8.8 Aqualicious, this product is designed to deliver a burst of hydration to the skin with encapsulated water in a light gel form.

There isn't a whole lot of magic to this product. It's literally a lot of water mixed with a little alcohol to help it penetrate quickly, and a lot of silicones to lock it in on the surface. Now I'm personally not against silicones in skincare. It's gotten a bit of a bad-rep, same as mineral oil. But it's really not a bad thing, especially for skins that can't handle oils. 

But then again, Aqualicious is effective and delivering quick moisture to the skin, at least compared to other gel formulas I've tried before. It actually managed to make my dry skin feel hydrated for a couple of hours. But for a longer-lasting effect, it isn't fantastic for dry skin, which needs a more hefty barrier protectant to lock the moisture in. 

For oily skins though, I have to say it's quite a nice-feeling treat that won't weight your skin down or cause more breakouts (unless for some reason you are sensitive to silicones).

Click to expand for product description and ingredients

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash

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Benefit Cosmetics' latest mascara offering is Roller Lash, a curling and lifting mascara designed for those who would like to bypass lash curlers in their daily routine.

It does this with a specially-designed curved "Hook n Roll" rubber brush which catches, grips and coats every lash. The formula is also designed to set and hold curl better than traditional formulas.

I've used this for a few weeks straight now, so I'll tell you what I think about its performance and what it's good and not so good at, regardless of the marketing claims.

Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Hook n Roll brush

First, the main thing I noticed about it was that it did grip a lot of lashes and did a great job of extending and thickening them. You can build it up to quite a good length, and also build up for quite a lot of dramatic volume. In these regards, it's quite similar to They're Real Mascara, except this formula sets a bit stiffer, so it does hold curl longer, and the curved brush and shorter bristled sides make it easier to control along the lower lashes.

This mascara also does stay on pretty well. There's nothing on the tube or box which says this is waterproof, but in my experience it hasn't smeared or run when wet, and it does take a bit of massaging with an oil-based remover to get it all off.

Now for the cons:

Where I am not too sure about the claims is the curling bit. The main factor that decides whether someone's lashes curl easily by using mascara is how fine the lash strands are. If you have medium-fine lash strands like me, they tend to curl and stay curled easily. 

For those with coarser lashes, it's much harder to curl in directions that are not natural to you,. no matter what you use. Roller Lash does extend lashes and lift them slightly, but it can't really bend your lashes backwards and create much of a curl where there isn't one. If you have short down-ward pointing coarser lashes, this will function about the same as any other typical waterproof mascara. 

I would still recommend that you curl your lashes before using this if you need to maximize the lifting effect.

Another thing is this does have a bit more of a tendency to make some of your lashes clump together. Not exceedingly bad clumping. But you might get a few strands bunching together into a cluster here and there. Some people actually like that effect because it's a much more dramatic look, so it might not be too much of a problem for everyone. My personal preference is for very fine tapered lash tips and a "fluttery" look (my favorite Benefit mascara is still Badgal Lash after all these years). 

Final verdict?

I do really like the formula and the visibly lengthening/thickening effect this gives with a single coat, and it does lift and hold curl well on medium to fine lashes. It's also great for girls who want moderately dramatic lashes. 

But using the curved brush on its own can only lift, and won't really curl, your lashes that much because a crimping/folding action (something needs to press down from the top to bend the lashes upwards) is necessary to force your lashes to really bend noticeably, and no mascara wand I know can do that. But that aside, it's actually really good at gripping and coating all your tiny lashes, so it does maximize whatever you do have. 

All in all, I would say its worth checking out because it really enhances your lashes and adds quite a lot of length and volume. If you want a subtle, natural-looking look, this wouldn't be the best mascara. And I wouldn't get it just because you're hoping that a mascara will be able to curl stubborn straight lashes on its own without a separate curler. 

Hang on to your lash curlers.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Full Coverage Camouflage Foundations: A Quick Overview and Look At My Collection

There are sheer foundations and high-coverage foundations. Then there are camouflage foundations, which are in a league of their own. These are designed to give you so much heavy-duty coverage that they function like concealers pretty much.

These are often used to cover severe acne and pigmentation, scars, and marks, and can come in 3 forms typically.

  • Sticks/Solids
  • Creams
  • Liquids
Many of the stick foundations available (Tom Ford, Bobbi Brown, Dermablend etc) have a pretty high coverage. They are highly portable, can be buffed on with a brush for a sheerer finish, sponged on for a buildable look, or swiped on straight from the tube and built up. 

Many traditional stage-makeup brands carry this type of solid wax-based foundations, such as the Mitsuyoshi Shatana foundation which I purchased on a trip to Tokyo. These typically tend to have a slightly heavier texture on the skin because of the high wax content, and are similar in texture to solid pot concealers such as MAC Studiofinish Concealer.

Personally, I only use these as concealers because the wax makes them a bit harder and drier, and they also can be more visible sitting on top of the skin. Of course, a lot of the luxe brands now use very smooth, soft waxes so they meld into the skin better, but I still find they feel just a little heavier than I like.

The next kind are the cream types which often come in small pots, and these tend to give the highest amount of coverage you can get. Most are simply pure pigments suspended in a blend of oils and waxes, and they don't set into a solid form in the tubs, but neither will they run if you tip the tubs over. 

The most well-known is arguably Kevyn Aucoin's Sensual Skin Enhancer. The difference between these, and the wax based solid camouflage foundations is the formulas tend to hold a lot more pigment than the wax-based ones, and are multi-tasking, because they're easy to sheer out so they meld with the skin, while allowing you to really build and build coverage if you need.

These can also be thinned out with moisturizers to create sheerer cream foundations, which makes them a very versatile option. For covering minor flaws and dark circles, you need just a tiny dot, so NEVER dip a brush into these and start buffing into your face. You will look like you are wearing a mask.

However, good formulas do not come easily, and they're also not cheap.

Covermark Extra Formula (the Japanese made formula, not the Covermark those in the West might be familiar with) has a premium Extra Formula line which costs well over SGD$100 per tiny 20ml jar. That said, each jar I've purchased lasted me 2-3 years, and were only thrown out because they had oxidized too much or were just too old. 

If you can access Kevyn Aucoin, I suggest checking that out as a first-choice since the formula and function is practically identical, but the KA is about US$50 for 15ml. 

When you first see these, it's always shocking how small they are, but I'm not joking when I say each jar will last you for ages, unless you're really packing on the coverage like there's no tomorrow. 

Still, these are finicky to use. Unlike liquids, you can't really just buff it into your skin all over. They have to be spot applied and blended in properly, and most of these waxes and creams do not set, so they might not be the best for those who have extremely oily skin. So if you don't have the time, or makeup seems to slide off your skin in a few hours, then you might want to look for a liquid variant.

2 of the best formulas on the market are Estee Lauder Double Wear Maximum Cover (not the regular Double Wear) Camouflage Makeup for Face and Body. Another great one is Vichy Dermablend Fluid Corrective Foundation 15 Hr.

These come in squeeze tubes and are much thinner and easier to blend then the waxes or creams mentioned earlier. They also have the added benefit of setting and locking onto the skin for hours, unlike the wax- or cream/oil-based ones which can crease (similar to waxy thick concealers) as the day goes on. They won't go on as opaque as the thicker type of camouflage foundations, but they are very buildable.

As with the previous types, I still think you would do well to see these as concealers, and use more only where needed. No matter what, high coverage makeup looks like makeup up-close.

Now there is a final one which is a cross between a cream and a liquid. Illamasqua's Rich Liquid foundation is a camouflage foundation made with a synthetic oil, so it's non pore-clogging, but has the silky skin-like consistency of an oil-based foundation. It doesn't exactly set, but enough of the oils will vaporize after application that you get a semi-matte velvet finish, but you will need powder on top to lock it into place because it can shift and crease otherwise. These have the benefit of not looking flat and matte on those with normal to dry skins. And they have more "slip" and are easier to blend or sheer out than the solid and thick cream kind.

But do remember that Rich Liquid Foundation's "pigment in oil" formula will separate after it has been sitting around for awhile, so you will need to spend a good amount of time shaking it properly before using. If you've ever used a Lip Tar from Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, these are the foundation equivalent of that.

In general though, people find camouflage foundations harder to use than regular foundations. It can look heavy, mask-like, cakey, or crease after a while. But I would say - if you run into these problems, you are probably applying too much or you are using a formula which isn't the best for your skin. You can't squeeze or scoop out the same amount of product as you would with a regular foundation and then buff it all in as per normal.

I never advise applying camouflage makeup all over the entire face. I see some people apply these on Youtube like they're applying tinted moisturizer, and it's just WAY too heavy and unnatural. It might look find on camera, but trust me - in real life - it is very cakey and aging.

What you should always consider doing is:
  • Use these like jumbo-sized, economical high-coverage concealers. Wear a regular lightweight foundation or tinted moisturizer all over and apply these only where you need concealing. 
  • Sheer these out. Apply 1 part foundation to 2-4 parts moisturizer depending on coverage you need and apply it all over the way you would with any other foundation. Then dab on undiluted product as concealer only where you need. 

Of course, if you have a skin condition which requires that you do heavy-duty coverage all over, moisturizing your skin well and wearing a good primer does help the product to go on smoother and stay fresh longer. But camouflage products tend not to mask texture all that well, so you should always set concealed areas with a good matte powder foundation if you have contoured/textured scars and marks to hide. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Perfect Matte Brown Cream-to-Powder Shadow: An Odd Trick

Sometimes it can be hard to find the perfect natural-looking brown cream shadow that has zero shimmer, sets and lasts, but still has a soft skin-like gleam a la Burberry makeup looks. 

Here's one of my favorite tricks for getting a soft sepia brown gleaming lid that is quite hard to duplicate with a cream shadow. 

What I use is this. A liquid foundation in the darkest shade I can find.

Sephora 10 Hr Wear Perfection Foundation in 65 Deep
In Singapore, it's EXTREMELY hard to find a shade of foundation deep enough to do this, so I was extremely happy to see that Sephora actually stocked a shade of foundation that was this dark. And because it's a long-wear foundation, it's perfect for what I want to do with it.

The color you get is a rich sepia-tone, and because it's designed to be a skin shade, when it's sheered out, it looks very natural. Smoky but still glowy.

All I do is apply a tiny pump to the back of my hand, then use a soft synthetic buffer brush to blend that onto the lids in circular motions, then along the lower lash line lightly as well.

If you need, just dab a tiny bit of soft highlight in the inner corners of the eye to add some dimension, and then apply mascara. That's all you need for a soft, subtly smoky look.

Sephora 10 Hr Wear Perfection Foundation worn on lids

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Surprise Chinese Takeout Haul from NARS for the Chinese New Year

This isn't about a new release or anything of the sort. I wish it were.
But one particular press delivery made me chuckle today, so I had to snap some images of it before I dug into the box and ruined it.

In honor of the Lunar New Year which is almost here, the team at NARS sent out a Chinese-takeout themed box filled with a selection of choice goodies. It's better than fortune cookies for sure.

So since I don't really do hauls usually, I figure this is as good a time as any to show an expected "haul" of sorts.

NARS Pro-Prime Instant Line & Pore Perfector
 First is the Instant Line & Pore Perfector, which is like a silicone eraser which you run over fine lines and areas with large pores to instantly blur and mask their appearance under makeup.

NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Carthage
 One thing I haven't really tried is NARS' Pure Matte Lipstick range, which is odd for a matte lipstick lover like me. Their regular lipstick line already includes a range of different textures, so I never really found a reason to pick one up from the Pure Matte range. But I'm very glad to see this gorgeous fuchsia here, cos that's going to get some use over the festive season.

NARS Black Room nail lacquer
 Not quite a Lunar New Year shade (I'm sure my grandma would love seeing my jet black nails... not), but very chic nonetheless. I always love a good opaque black so I'm hoping this will be one. I'll just wear it AFTER the New Year. If you didn't know, black is often considered an inauspicious color among many Chinese communities, and wearing too much of it during the Lunar New Year period is often considered a major faux pas.

My previous experience with a NARS polish wasn't all that great - it chipped within half a day - but hopefully that was just a dud and this one will be better.

NARS The Multiple in Portofino
 Ahh.... Portofino... If you were looking for a Multiple that would work great as a blush, you've got it here. It's a coppery coral-red which goes on very sheer and subtle, and can be built up for a warm flush. This isn't sticky and sparkly like some of the older Multiples, so I love it and can't wait to start wearing it.

NARS Olympia Contour Blush
Probably the item I'm most excited about out of all these.

I fall in and out of love with contouring/sculpting, and right now is definitely an "in" period. I've been really loving defining the cheeks subtly (no Snickers bars or dark grey stripes for me), so any product that can be used to that purpose makes me happy.

This is probably a touch warmer than I'd usually pick for a contour shade, but it would work quite nicely for light to medium skins. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

MAC Toledo Makeup Look: Moodyblu Palette and Oxblood Matte Lipstick (plus Toledo swatches part 2!)

MAC x Toledo is one of the most colorful collections of the season, with lots of intense blues, violets, lime greens, violets and rich deep reds. So it was a bit of a challenge for me when I decided I wanted to create a softer, more wearable everyday look with some of the items in the collection.
It's quite wearable and neutral for the most part, but I chose to keep a pop of very intense blue around the outer corners of the eyes for a bit of interest, and to define and draw attention to them. (There wouldn't be a point in doing a look with the Toledo collection if it was going to look like any other neutral collection!)
The star of the show here is really the sparkly metallic blue eye pencil, Petrol Blue. I highly recommend you check it out if you like colored eyeliners and want buttery smooth texture and intense payoff. The lasting power is pretty darned good as well, but of course, I had to intensify it and lock it down by dabbing a matching blue shadow (Deep Truth) over it. 

 And Oxblood matte lipstick? It's a fab, FAB kittenish peachy-beige. Not quite nude, but very pretty if you want something muted with a bit of color.

The surprise of the look for me was Azalea Blossom, the pink-purple blush ombre. I'd expected a very cool-toned shade but over my skin, the blend of pink and purple went on quite a bit warmer. If you're looking for a sweet pink flush, this is great. If you were expecting a very purple hue, you might not get it if you have a yellow undertone, or you're wearing a bronzer beneath.

MAC Azalea Blossom goes on surprisingly neutral on top of bronzer

Speaking of blush, I do owe you all the swatches for Ripe Peach Blush Ombre from the Toledo Collection, which was missing from the first delivery. Here it is.

I was also missing Victoriana matte lipstick in the swatches, so here it is swatched beside 2 other true reds. Tenor Voice is the true red in the Toledo collection, and Victoriana is a cherry red with slight pink undertones. 

Here, the 2 shades are swatched beside Carmine Red from the MAC Prabal Gurung collection, which is another vivid red. On first look they all look identical, but the difference is in how they sit against the skin. 

Tenor Voice casts neither a blue nor an orange border against the skin, while Carmine leaves a blue border. Victoriana has a rosy hue. This is how you check undertones of reds. And when picking one, look not at the color itself but how it makes the surrounding skin look. The best red for you, is one which brightens your skin and makes it look more glowing and even.