Friday, July 31, 2015

Shade Highlight: TKB Trading Luna Blue Pigment

I love pigments. And I've been trying and collecting them since before I started blogging. TKB Trading is my default place to go for pigments, and some of my faves in recent years have been the multidimensional synthetic fluorophylogopite formulas. 

Don't be scared off by the name. These are synthetic pigments which have a slight edge over natural mica in the sense that they have stronger shine, beautiful translucence, and can be shaped in a spherical way to give holographic effects in nail polishes and eye shadows. They're also used in lots of glosses. Natural mica pigments are unable to throw off so much shine and color when blended with other pigments. They often get muddy and dull. But not these synthetic ones.

Which makes them FANTASTIC for layering over other shadows or mixing into other loose shadows. And they are also great mixed into top coats and applied over other polishes. It's magic - try it.

It's hard to capture on camera; these look so much cooler in real life or when suspended in nail polish formulas. In real life, Luna Blue shifts from rosy-violet to blue to teal. I couldn't capture that on camera swatched on the skin, but I did manage to get a shot below where Luna Blue is throwing off 2 shades (blue and green) at least. You can probably see all 3 colors by looking at the sacket above; rose (center), green (bottom), and blue (top) tones.

This is what makes them different from natural duochrome/interference mica, which can only reflect 1 different color.

Synthetic Mica is more expensive than natural mica. It's $15 for a 1oz bag, compared to other pigments which can cost only a few dollars. But most people will typically only need to get a sample size sachet, which costs $2.95 and will last you ages and ages. Highly recommend you check it out if you love playing with fairy dust.

This type of sparkly mica will dust off your skin easily, so especially if you're layering it over other shadows I suggest dampening your finger in something like an alcohol-free toner, then dabbing it in a small amount of pigment, and gently rubbing and pressing it onto your lid. This helps the pigment to adhere instead of all falling off onto your cheeks, and also helps you get a more intense shine right where you need it.

In this look, I actually have a deep dark brown shadow on most of my lids and a bronze gold around the socket and inner corners.
I rubbed Luna Blue around just the center of my lids and along my lower lash line (I love the dewy sparkly gleam below the eyes), and left my inner and outer corners alone.

This gives a very unique, hard to describe effect, because you have a warm smoky eye, but depending on the angle of the light, your shadow will suddenly shift to blue, then back to bronze, then to teal, then sometimes violet.

Absolute magic.
There are 5 shades in the Moon Dust collection, and I love all of them. You can go on the site to search for individual colors but I recommend getting a whole set of sachets for just USD$12.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dior Fall 2015 Cosmopolite Collection Eye Product Swatches plus Addict Fluid Shadow Review

Dior's launched 6 Fluid Shadows with their latest Autumn 2015 Cosmopolité Collection. The items that took my attention immediately were obviously the Fluid Shadows, which are something new to the brand.

These six shades come in the usual Dior Addict tubes with the Dior button on the top, and often get mistaken for lipglosses because of the 3 rosy tones (petal, burgundy, and violet) in the collection.

Dior Addict Fluid Shadows in 275, 875, 825, 655, 025, 545
Now there are different ways you can use this. If you dab it on with your finger, you get a very sheer translucent sheen. But if you want intensity, stroke it on straight from the tube using the brush, and then lightly tap and blend out the edges. You have a reasonable amount of time to pat and blend before they set, but they do go to a powder finish so don't work too slowly.

If you want to layer, wait until the first layer is completely dry first, then dab on a second coat, but be careful to dab instead of rubbing when blending the second coat or you can end up dissolving and shifting the bottom layer.

You can layer shadows on top of these, but I think it's a bit of a waste to buy something so shiny just to cover it up. I would recommend just applying a deeper shadow (like the matte brown I used below) along the socket line to add some definition and transition, but to leave the liquid shadows to shine.

For the finished look below, I applied the 825, the pale pink liquid shadow, then a matte brown powder shadow along the socket line, before dabbing 875, the deep wine-red shade to the outer corners. Then finally, I used a small liner brush to apply more of the deep red along the lash line as a subtle liner.

I've worn these out an entire day with no creasing, but then I don't have oily lids, so I can't speak to its lasting power for those who do. It did hold up rather well for me in any case. I would never consider these ultra-longwear products though. They are relatively easy to remove with makeup remover so I'd consider these more special occasion makeup than all-day every-day products. 

I do recommend these worn opaque rather than sheer, because there's not much point to investing in something like this and not getting the full effect from it. You can use it as a base, but do note that these set to a powder finish and will not grab onto shadows extremely well after that, so if you want them to hold your powder shadows in place, you need to apply your powders before the liquids set too much.

But if you ask me, I wouldn't see these as a base at all. These give plenty of drama to your lids, and powders blend well over and around them, so I would use them as accent colors when you want your lids to really glimmer and sparkle.

The Autumn Winter 2015 Cosmopolité Collection features the above eye products; 6 Dior Addict Fluid Shadows (SGD$53) and two 5 Couleur Palettes ($104), which have an intensity and pigmentation that is actually much higher even than the regular 5 Couleur palettes. I have to admit I prefer the usual quilted embossing but when I swatched these I was quite impressed.

 I did end up picking up 766 Exuberante from the collection. The mix of neutrals and a pop of intense royal blue really appeals to me. There are more options for day and night looks with this palette, versus 866. You can get softer looks with the plum toned palette, but the options are a bit more limited because you wouldn't be able to create any warm-toned looks with it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Blame It On NARS Summer Gifting Kits: Swatches and Overview

We are in the thick of previewing all the Fall Winter 2015 makeup releases, but I just had to talk about NARS' 3 Summer Gifting kits which launched in Singapore this month.

There are 2 Lip Pencil kits and 1 Blush Palette. And these are all gorgeously colorful and perfect as a nice luxurious gift for someone special.

There are unique paint swirls and spatters on each of the covers. My favorite is probably the Blame It On NARS blush palette (SGD$120), with the pink, yellow and violet swirls. But just based on the contents, this would be the one I would invest in as well. I was very pleased to see that none of the shades within are repeats of the shades in my Virtual Domination palette from the holiday season last year.

Casino is a bronzer I've been meaning to try, so having it in a convenient palette along with 3 other shades is perfect. Daydream and New Attitude are gorgeous soft pink blushes as well. The only shade I am not quite as enamored of is Satellite of Love. It's just way too sparkly, and just not the type of shade I wear as highlighter. (I prefer fine-grained pearlescence so it looks less like fairy-dust, more like a dewy gleam on the cheeks.)

The Kit also comes with a mini Ita brush for you to tint and sculpt your cheeks.

The Lipstick Kits ($85) are worth checking out too.

For soft-lip lovers, Ultimate NARS is the way to go. You get 1 matte pencil, the gorgeously wearable Sex Machine (the rosy plummy bitten lip shade) and 2  Satins, a soft caramel beige Biscayne Park, and a pale cotton candy pink Stourhead.

Stourhead might be a bit intimidating for some, but you can always wear it sheer as a soft tint so you don't go too Snooki.

My personal pick is True NARS Kit for sure.
I love all 3 shades within, and these are colors I'd wear regularly. Yu is a magenta pink, Luxembourg a cherry-red, and the only Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, Provocative Red, is a muted, elegant oxblood.

Each Lip Pencil Kit comes with a sharpener.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Clé de Peau Beauté Fall / Winter 2015 Collection: La Beauté Vénitienne

Cle de Peau Beaute's F/W 2015 Color Makeup Collection is inspired by the waters jewel-toned colors of Venice, and plays with light and shadows to create hazy, yet impactful colors.

There are a total of:

  • 3 quads - 311, 312, 313 (SGD$80 for each, $30 for the refillable case)
  • 5 Powder Blush Duos - 101 to 105 ($68 each, $40 for refillable case)
  • 10 Enriched Lip Luminizers - 227 to 236 ($80 each, $30 for the refillable lipstick holder)
  • 2 Bronzing Powder Duos - 1 and 2 ($130)

The showcase item for the collection is probably the Eye Color Quad in 311, which pairs gossamer cool neutrals with a deep, luxurious teal that's a perfect cross between green and blue. Cle de Peau's not usually the brand one turns to for outlandish strong colors, so I was quite surprised when I saw this palette.

But if you're worried about the colors looking garish, don't worry. There is only that one single shade that is a bit stronger, and the rest are like veils of shimmery fabric. The teal you can apply as an accent just along the lash line to add a bit of interest to a neutral look, OR you can do what I did and wear it stronger as a lid shade.

I personally love those blush duos. The colors look soft but you can get quite a good intensity if you pack it on with a good brush, so don't go overboard. I like swirling both the more intense and the more pearlescent shades together because the combined color is just more luminous and pretty, and add a "lift" to the cheeks. You can try to wear them separately, but I personally feel there isn't enough of a visible difference in tone between the 2 shades to warrant the effort.

The Enriched Lip Luminizers are great if you have dry lips or want an ultra luxurious balm-stick for daily use. They come in a mix of creme and shimmers. I'm just not sure I would rush out to purchase more shades because I for one go through these lip butter type lip products extremely fast, so at $80 a pop for just the refill, these can be quite a heavy investment if used frequently.

Also, an interesting thing to note if you didn't know, is that unlike the regular lipsticks, or most of the CPB products where you can get away with just buying the refill if you want the quality and colors, but don't want to shell out for the refillable packaging, these Enriched Lip Luminizers can't be used without the $30 lipstick case. There's a little click mechanism in the case that twists the lipsticks out of the tube. Without the case, you can't twist it. Just thought I should let you know!

In the case of lipsticks though, I would say just go ahead and invest in at least 1 case, if you intend to buy the colors. This is the one item aside from powder that you bring out to touch up, and without the sturdy, elegant, midnight blue case to keep it securely capped in your bag, you might end up making a very expensive mess.

The only products I have not featured in this post are the 2 bronzers, which I want to write about separately.

And now, with the swatching and quick review out of the way, here is the step by step to recreate that eye look!

On the cheeks, I am wearing 103, the petal pink blush.

For the lips, I wanted to keep things soft so the focus is on the dreamy teal eye, but at the same time I didn't want to remove the romanticism of the look by slapping on a nude lipstick, so I layered the deep raisiny shade 235 over a beige lip balm so there would just be a translucent stain of color, like you've bitten your lips.

A Little Love for "Little Red Love", from The Little Red Dot

As cities go, Singapore isn't usually the source of inspiration for many fine fragrances. There are plenty of scents named after places like New York, Tokyo, London, etc. Cities that have traditionally been acknowledged as having such distinctive cultures and atmospheres that they resemble nowhere else in the world. 

But this year, Sephora has teamed up with Firmenich nose, Alexandre Freile, to launch a special fragrance in honor of Singapore's 50th year of independence.

Little Red Love (so named for the "Little Red Dot" used to fondly refer to our island nation as it appears on world maps), was inspired by Freile's 8 years of living and working in Singapore. I admit when I first received the 12ml rollerball, I was slightly intrigued. There is no brand, no perfumer's name written on the bottle to mark ownership, nothing to indicate its identity aside from the name and visuals. And all they say is "this is Singaporean".

I was frankly a little apprehensive because it could turn out like those gimmicky things like "I love Singapore" magnets and Merlion-shaped chocolates. Singaporean only on the very surface.

But the moment I rolled it on, I went "ahhhh". It's a little familiar, a little unique.

Little Red Love features some accords and natural ingredients from Asia that I love in perfumery.
Top: Citrus, Osmanthus (Chinese speakers might know it more as "Gui4 Hua1"), plum blossom
Heart: Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, tea, mint, rice
Base: Incense resin, sandalwood, cashmere wood, musk
But what really impressed me? The orchid.
In Western perfumery, "orchid" is a very often-abused name used for floral-vanillic accords. There are a dozen cheap celebrity fragrances claiming to contain some fantasy form of orchid or other ("white chocolate orchid", "fire orchid" and all that nonsense), and I often find it funny when I hear people claiming their favorite floral note is orchid, based on scents that mostly smell nothing like orchid.

It was extremely refreshing to smell a much more realistic, watery, fleshy, NON-sugary orchid accord here. On me, the fresh citrus-osmanthus opening lingers quite a while and blends in with the orchid-tea heart. The plum blossom barely adds a little sweetness and I don't get a lot of tea. The mint isn't a pepperminty/spearminty toothpaste scent. It's barely there in the background and just gives a cool freshness to the overall scent.

For me this is pretty linear actually. It sweetens and goes from fruity-floral to more of an herbal-floral as it warms up, but there isn't a very dramatic change. Even as it dries down, it doesn't become a dark musky scent. It's still quite a soft, luminous orchid floral, but with a clean, warm skin-scent.

I have no info on the concentration (whether it is classified as an Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette). Lasting power was surprisingly high for a fresh floral - I was surprised when the drydown lingered on my skin overnight. It stops projecting after about 3-4 hours for me though, and becomes a soft skin scent after that. I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys fresh florals (which is almost everyone in Singapore) and are curious to try something that is just a bit different from the other fresh watery fragrances around. This isn't a fruity Summer-cologne scent. It has that sparkle and breeziness, but is slightly more grown-up and cosmopolitan at the same time.

The 50ml size is housed in a clean, minimalist glass bottle with squared shoulders, with cute font and a sketch of a couture gown in red and white, Singapore's national colors. It's quite a nice representation of the scent itself; there is a certain pared-down, easy-going glamour. It feels familiar, but just when you want to dismiss it, you catch a whiff of something just a little unique. Not too unlike Singapore, I guess!

 “Singapore has a purity and an intensity no word can describe. In this creation I strived for encapsulating its unique blend of cultures, harmony of traditions, and mix of smells, as a gift to a country that has so warmly welcomed me. [...] This is my creative interpretation of harmony & love, both of which I have experienced in my time here." -  Alexandre Freile

Little Red Love is available only at SEPHORA ION from 23 July 2015 while stocks last. The 50ml is priced at SGD$88 while the 12ml is only launching August, so keep an eye out for a pricing update!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Red Velvet vs Red Velvet Cupcake

Red Velvet Cake is one of those things that is a little odd when you think about it. 
It's chocolate-flavored but not really chocolate. It's colored a vivid red with food coloring (eww). And it doesn't taste quite like chocolate cake, vanilla cake OR cheesecake. Unlikely as it is - it's one of those things that has just developed its own unique charm, and I'm one of the ones that enjoys eating it, AND smelling it. Any time of the year.

As always, cold and hot throw is extremely different. If you're one of those people who've picked up a jar in the store, sniffed it and gone "Gross!" and wondered at how heavy and cloying it would smell in your home, you might be pleasantly surprised when you actually melt one. A lot of the bakery scents from Yankee and Bath and Body Works are actually softer than many of the fruit and floral scents. And these two smell pretty authentic when the scent is released from hot wax.

Yankee's Red Velvet is described as:
A most decadent creation of creamy frosting atop moist cake and a touch of brown sugar. So very sweet!
I don't know if there's cream cheese in there as a note, but it is the more buttery and savory of the two, and heavier on the frosting.
The throw is pretty good for a single wick mottled wax large tumbler, although it's not an extremely strong scent to begin with. I've not had any problems with my jar tunneling and the scent smells true and hasn't gone smoky or odd after about 3-4 burns. If you smell it beside a Frosted Cupcake candle, you will be able to tell the difference, but on its own, the chocolate note isn't really that noticeable.
Large 1-wick mottled wax jar burns 110-150 hours, and this has performed consistently well into the 4th burn, without noticeable sooting or tunneling.

Bath and Body Work's Red Velvet Cupcake is described as:
This Southern classic is perfect for the holidays - rich vanilla frosting and authentic red velvet cake.
If you like lots of buttery rich cream-cheese frosting, you may not like this one quite as much. The BBW Red Velvet Cupcake has a much more prominent cake note, and I personally enjoy the smell of this more than the Yankee version simply because there's a more prominent edge of cocoa that gives some depth to the overall scent. There is zero cream cheese I feel. It's more of a regular vanilla frosting note here, which is more subtle.

That said, the throw is very soft for a 3-wick. If I have anything else melting in the house at the same time, I will not be able to smell this at all. It does burn pretty well, and I get a full wax pool within about 30mins mostly. But most of my BBW 3-wick flames get very low and small after the first couple of melts. Not to the point of drowning.

BBW 3-wicks are fast burners with 25-45 burn time only. They are SUPPOSED to give stronger scent and better throw than the 1-wick Yankees in return for a much shorter burn time, but in cases like this where the scent actually is very weak, I'm not actually sure it's worth the money, even though I do like the scent more. That's the dilemma for me.

Of course, if you're one of those that burns your candles for just an hour or so, and want to blow it out instead of leaving it going for hours, Yankee's mottled wax large jars are just not the best option for you because it frequently takes up to 3 hours for a full wax pool to form, which means you need to let it burn for a longer time before you can blow it out. Otherwise you run the risk of causing your candle to tunnel.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Maison Martin Margiela's REPLICA Fragrances

Most run-of-the-mill mainstream fragrances are like Summer blockbuster flicks. Designed to be worn by as many people as possible in as many occasions as possible. They are versatile and pleasing to most noses, but also instantly recognizable and - sadly, often quite common. "She's wearing Light Blue." or "Oh, that's the third person in the office wearing Coco Mademoiselle."

A lot of niche houses on the other hand, try to give you the nasal equivalent of an art film. Sometimes quiet and melancholy, some occasionally pretty, some violently disturbing, but mostly politically incorrect and aimed at a very small section of the population that is often willing to pay a hefty price for an olfactory adventure, and to smell unique.

I understand they use slightly more expensive ingredients in many cases, but they also save millions and millions by skipping the mainstream ad campaigns and retail outlets, so I don't really see a reason to charge us so much for a bottle of Amouage - but Maison Margiela (which I'll call MM for now) - has created a line which I like to classify as "niche-lite", because it aims to combine the benefits of both mainstream and niche fragrances; the slightly more accessible price of a designer fragrance, with a little of the uniqueness and evocative nature of a niche line.

Everything about this series says "relaxed minimalism with a twist". It's all beautifully chic. From the plain labeled cardboard boxes with a single faded image to serve as a "window" into the scent, to the practical, almost clinical-looking cap-free bottles, and the surprising accent of a label made of fabric.

Martin Margiela REPLICA in Lazy Sunday Morning
The 10ml roller ball tubes cost just SGD$23 and the large bottles - which I forget the exact price of now - are definitely below $200 in Singapore. Lazy Sunday Morning has just been sent to me, and I haven't worn it enough on my skin to give a proper review but I can tell you it's very charming, and it lasts and projects pretty well considering it's a fresh floral in a roll-on. A perfect introduction to the line if you aren't ready to veer too far off the beaten path. Strangely, this reminds me a bit of old-school floral colognes that women in earlier times used to splash on - in a good way. It contains white musk, iris, woods, pear, and rose. This was created by Louise Turner, who made Chloe's Love and J-Lo Glow, so you know she does fresh florals extremely well.

It doesn't remind me so much of Sunday morning in bed (well my bed doesn't smell like flowers) as it does Sunday morning at the dressing table surrounded by luxurious skincare and makeup.

I discovered MM a year ago at the TANGS fragrance section - and picked up Beach Walk, which is one of MM's first 3 scents. Created by Jacques Cavallier - responsible for classics such as Issey Miyake l'Eau d'Issey, Jean Paul Gaultier Classique housed in that famous bodice bottle, Stella by Stella McCartney, and Dior Midnight Poison, just to name a few - and his frequent collaborator Marie Salamagne - who did Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic, Jo Malone Silk Blossom and Tuberose Angelica, as well as the mainstream hit of 2014, YSL Black Opium, this particular scent has a lot of creative clout at its back.

It's surprisingly wearable and "easy" to like though.

Meant to evoke warm, clean, sun-kissed skin that has a tang of salt from the ocean, this contains bergamot, lemon, pink pepper, ylang ylang, coconut milk, musk, and heliotrope. It's almost tropical, and settles into a nice, slightly-salty oceanic white floral. If you enjoy those beach holiday candle scents from Yankee and BBW, you might just love this one. If you were expecting some super-unique niche smell that will singe your nose hairs and make people' eyes roll up in the elevators, look somewhere else.

Jazz Club, on the other hand, was the other fragrance I wanted - but had been sold out the first time I was at the counter. I eventually managed to grab one - the last bottle at the time - during a later TANGS members' sale. 

I'm still slightly surprised it's popular here in Asia. I haven't met a single person who actually wears this. Where are all the cool men (and women) in Singapore smelling like Jazz Club?! Do people buy this and pull it out in secret to sniff at home when nobody is around? (It's like bright limited edition lipstick colors from MAC. They always sell out in Singapore, but you never see anyone wearing them when you're out.) Odd but true.

Anyway, Jazz Club was created by Alienor Massenet, who is not that familiar to me. She's better known for working on niche lines like Memo, and has quite a few unisex and male fragrances under her belt. Jazz club has just 3 main accords. Tobacco, Leather, Rum. It's deep, smoky, sexy, but surprisingly slightly translucent as well; not dense and thick or sugary. The tobacco and leather makes it masculine at the first sniff, but it warms up once the slightly syrupy rum comes in. If you like scents like Tom Ford Velvet Orchid, you would probably at least like this a little. It's listed as a Male fragrance, but I daresay it can just as easily be the femme fatale, as it can be James Bond.

All in all, I would say this line isn't all-out niche. It won't give you the level of excitement or concentrated strength of a Serge Lutens line. It's probably closer to Diptyque territory, or a less-posh Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Think of it as cK to the more expensive Calvin Klein, or Armani Exchange to Armani. It's designed to bring a little upscale creativity and "guts" into the mid-range market. And I respect them for that.

Performance is just ok. These won't last for 8 hours and - interesting as they are - none of them blow my socks off. (I can say the same for most other fragrance lines by the way.) But I still think it's a great one to start with if you are getting ready to move beyond designer scents and mainstream cosmetic brands like Fresh, etc.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday FOTD: Tom Ford Eye Color Duo in Raw Jade

Sunday makeup! Was on my way to town to check out some things at Sephora (and grab a few more candles from Bath & Body Works while they still have the holiday stock on 50%) so threw on a quick face using a few products I'd neglected for awhile.

If you've not seen the duos, they're supposed to be limited edition, but I've seen them still at the Tom Ford counters locally. I think a lot of people here pass them over but I'm here to tell you - don't. They are gorgeous. If you like the silkier, more diaphanous, less powdery textures of 03 Nude Dip quad, these duos have that same texture.

I have a full review and swatches of all 3 duos at

And just to show you green doesn't need to be outlandish, I've applied the dark shade all over the lid and also along the lower lash line, then the pale green duochrome down the center of my lids and in the inner corners. Then I finished with black pencil in the water line and mascara.

I have to say Green shadows are gorgeous on Asian skintones; if you want a subtler, more chic look that suits most occasions, skip the crazy bright emerald greens and matte textures and go for the deep, rich evergreen colors in shimmery textures. It's actually often more flattering and brightening for the skin than typical neutrals. And flush of translucent neon pink stain on cheeks and lips will tie everything together and soften the overall look.

I used Stila's Convertible Color in Fuchsia from my Field of Flowers palette on cheeks, and then dabbed it over a layer of nude liner on the lips, concentrating the color in the center for a slightly stained effect.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make Up For Ever Fall 2015 9 Artist Shadow Palette - 1

Look at this ridiculous gorgeousness!
The Fall 2015 makeup releases have barely started coming out and I already can say without a doubt that one of my top recommendations this season will be the Make Up For Ever 9 Artist Shadow Palettes.

There are 2 which will be available in Singapore at SGD$69 each (exact release date in July is yet to be confirmed at this point); a neutral palette which is permanent (No 1), and a pop color palette which is limited edition (No 2). I'm a neutral fanatic - and I have a few of the shades in the No 2 palette, so of course this was the one I picked to review. 

First of all, this is just ABSOLUTELY great value. Come on - you don't often find 9 x 1.8g shadows in Singapore (the typical MAC and UD shadows are about 1.5g each) - at this quality - for that price. If you have not tried any of the Make Up For Ever Artist shadows, you really need to. They are all buttery smooth and densely pigmented, and they're pretty much my benchmark for high-impact colors because they are much creamier and luxurious-feeling than typical highly-pigmented brands like Urban Decay and Inglot. 

But it can be a huge investment because MUFE Artist shadows don't come cheap. And to own  a good range of shades would usually cost you quite a bit more than $69. (You can usually only get 2 full-size Artist shadows for that price.)

The palette itself comes in the standard black and white box along with a booklet.

Unlike most cardboard packages, this one is hefty and heavy. You don't get the feeling when you pry open the lid that the paper is going to come apart or unglue itself at the joints after awhile. And the magnet is sturdy enough that you can probably travel with this and it wouldn't open up in your bag.

Ultimately, if you're looking for great products and you'd rather not be paying a ton of money for fancy packaging, this is it.

The shadows themselves come grouped in 3 trios. Each column is one "look", and the booklet shows you exactly which shades go together. 

There are also step by step guides for each of the 3 looks; Chic, Natural, and Smoky. So if you're new to all this and need ideas, they've got you covered.

But I'll say these are useful references. You can by all means mix and match any of the shades. They are neutral, and it's almost impossible to go wrong no matter which ones you group together. If you want a soft look, match 2-3 shades in the top 2 rows. If you want a dark, sexy, smoky look, wear colors in the bottom row.

Ultimately, no matter how many of these extra fancy stuff they include, it comes down to the quality of the shadows for me. And these rock.

The Chic trio is the only one that contains 2 matte shades. And they are super smooth. I don't get much fallout, amazingly enough. These aren't as powdery as a lot of other mattes around.

The Natural Look is more of a highly pearlescent neutral trio. If you want gleaming, dewy-looking lids in the most luscious metallic bronze and taupe tones, you will love this center column.

The Smoky column is more of a warm/gold trio to me. You get 3 metallics with a golden undertone; perfect for a beachy Gisele-esque effect.

And I swatched all these dry, without primer. That's how intense and rich they are. I can't say enough about what great value this palette is. If you were to pick up all 9 shades separately at full size, it would cost you easily close to $300 without a Pro discount. And that's too much of an investment for non makeup artists anyway. (Each full size Artist palette has 2.5g of product so you have to REALLY love a shade and use it to death to want to invest in the full-size vs getting an entire palette of 9 x 1.8g shades for a little over the price of 2 singles.)

I've yet to check out the 9 Artist Palette - 2 up-close, but I do have 2 or 3 of the shades (the neon pink, purple and one of the pale beiges) in a custom palette of my own, so I know the quality is just as outstanding. If you love the idea of having a mix of ultra-bright tones and having a few neutrals thrown in for good measure, then No 2 might be a better and more versatile investment for you.

FOTD wearing the Make Up For Ever 9 Artust Palette - 1 using the "Natural" trio.
The only criticism I MIGHT have if I really had to nit-pick, would be the fact that there are only 2 matte shades in the neutral palette (and what looks like none in the pop one). If they could include just 1 more matte in a pale color for blending, this would probably appeal to a lot more people. 

Still, this is just nit-picking. We can easily buy mattes and many of us probably already own some. The Artist matte shadows are great, but their stars are really the metallic and iridescent shades so I'm really not complaining about getting more of them in the palette.