Saturday, January 30, 2016

Shu Uemura Blanc:Chroma Brightening UV Cushion Foundation SPF50+ PA+++ Review

The cushion foundation that looks natural but has so much coverage that it negates the need for concealer? Shu Uemura's Blanc-Chroma Brightening UV Cushion Foundation SPF50+ PA+++ actually does just that for me.

This foundation feels light on the skin, gives a beautiful believable glow (almost exactly like Lightbulb foundation but much lighter and non-oily on the skin), has hefty sun protection, and an applicator that I like more than any other one that comes with cushion foundations on the market right now.

If you're like me you probably think "what - ANOTHER cushion foundation?? Isn't that so 2012/2013? Well I guess so if you are in Asia, but the trend is still alive and well in the West right now, which is why a lot of the large beauty conglomerates have only just started launching their own versions. 

Shu Uemura's was pretty interesting to me from the get-go because the delivery mechanism is quite different from most. Most cushion compacts will vary only in terms of whether you get a sponge (LANEIGE, Lancome, L'oreal, Innisfree and everybody else) or a metal plate (VDL, Givenchy).

Blanc-Chroma Brightening UV Cushion Foundation (SG$20 for the case, $55 for the refill) launches in March 2016 with 6 shades in Singapore, has a double-layer sponge and mesh to help control product dispensation, and I kinda like the surface because it has a "wiper" technology which helps the product sift out in a neater and more controlled manner. While it's not as hygienic as metal plate cushions which completely block the product off from the air, this still feels a touch better than an exposed cushion.

Shu has a strong focus on applicator tools though. Most of its recent foundation releases have been centered around specific applicators like the Lightbulb foundations.

This is no different. And here's one of my favorite parts. 

The Blanc:Chroma Brightening UV Cushion Foundation comes with an ultra-soft flocked puff, more like the ones you use for powder than typical stiff rubbery pads used with cushion compacts. This puff (SG$8 for a replacement) is much more pliable so you can get into tight corners, and the flocked surface also doesn't drag your skin, or leave you with circular rings around your pores... all things I dislike about typical stiff cushion puffs. The best thing is it blends product out much better as well.

You still apply in the typical patting motion - no pulling and dragging across the skin. And it also washes out easier than those hard, dense cushion puffs. It's a complete win in my book already.

I'm actually tempted to try this with other liquid foundations to see how it works with those!

Now the formula!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Elie Saab Le Parfum Rose Couture

Elie Saab's second fragrance Le Parfum Rose Couture launches Feb 2016, just in time for Valentine's. And it is perfect for the occasion as well, although I know many of you enjoy Rose scents for daily wear anyway.

Created by long-time collaborator, parfumeur Francis Kurkdjian, Saab's second offering takes a leaf from the original (orange blossom) but is less dense and heady, and has a crisper and fresher edge. 

Official notes
Top notes: orange blossom, rose petals, peony
Heart notes: rose nectar, fruity nuances, jasmine, vanilla
Base notes: patchouli, sandalwood

This scent is only available right now as an eau de toilette, and is described officially as a "bloomy chypre solar", which I know is not going to mean anything to most of you. So I'm going to break it down the way I experience it:

The opening is delicate and slightly "dewy" sweet, because of a blend of watery peony with a soft sweet rose. The orange blossom is very soft and just adds a light tanginess without being as fleshy and pungent as it can sometimes be. On my skin the initial phase only lasts for a short time, and the scent sweetens up as a denser, sweeter jasmine-rose accord blossoms. The jasmine and vanilla adds a more voluptuous, almost candy-like tinge to the rose at this point but it's still a bright scent, not dark and musky. If you like scents like Flowerbomb and La Vie Est Belle, you might be reminded of those at this point.

In the final dry-down, I expected the fragrance to get muskier and darker with the patchouli and sandalwood but surprisingly it just becomes transparent and almost like a clean skin scent. The peony, surprisingly, seems to come back out and blends with the woody base notes for a just-showered kind of effect. 

I don't consider it a linear scent (same from start to end), but it's also not really one of those scents that morphs from one animal to a completely different creature at the end; you can be assured that this has one distinct personality, but different facets/notes come out and take the spotlight as you wear it. 

If you're not a huge fan of florals in particular, you might still want to have a sniff and wear a spray on your skin, because it's got just enough fruity sweet woodiness to balance out the florals and keep it modern. I would say this is an extremely likeable, wearable scent. Elie Saab is not an avant garde line, and his scents are also designed to be tasteful, feminine and elegant. Don't expect something extremely unique and "out there". It's got presence but it's not extremely heavy, and I can see it being a year-round scent and equally nice in warm or cool weather.

The only con in my opinion is the lasting power is quite average. I get about 3-4 hours of presence, and then it fades to a complete skin scent unless I respray. But that's about how long many other eau de toilettes last on my dry skin, and I'm kinda hoping they will come out with an eau de parfum version. Otherwise you can purchase the body lotion and layer the scent on top for lasting power.

Elie Saab Le Parfum Rose Couture is available in 30ml (SG$88), 50ml ($125), and 90ml ($169) sizes. 
There will also be a promotion going on in Singapore at Paragon Lobby. From 29 Jan - 4 Feb 2016, customers can receive a little gift with every size of Le Parfum Rose Couture purchased.
  • 30ml - 4ml sample vial
  • 50ml - pouch
  • 90ml - perfume miniature
  • $250 or more - 10ml purse spray. PLUS from 29-31 Jan 1-7pm, you can get your own DIY rose bouquet at the pop-up station. 

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery PowerFoil Mask

I've been a long-time user of Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair Serum (I bought my first bottle in college about 15 years ago) and to this day it is still one of the best "work-horse" antioxidant serums I have ever used.

I am one of those weird people who will use this both at night and also in the day, under sunblock for extra free-radical protection. I even apply it over my arms and decolletage if I know I am going to be out in the sun and I'm worried that sunblock will not be enough. And I believe my skin's better off for it.

When I heard Lauder had come up with a mask that is infused with nearly half a bottle's worth of ChronoluxCB, Advanced Night Repair Serum's key complex, my first thought was not about whether it was going to be good. I seldom say this of many brands but I have rarely ever been disappointed by Lauder skincare. My first thought was - good lord, how much is it going to cost? 

Well it's actually not TOO bad. If you consider the amount you would pay for a single facial session, this is quite reasonable. A 4-pack which will give you a month of once-weekly uses, will cost you SG$120, which is $30 per treatment. The 8 pack is $216 ($27 per treatment). Not your typical drugstore dollar-mask price, but then this mask isn't exactly the typical drugstore mask either.

Besides the concentration of vitamin and anti-inflammatory loaded repair extracts, the delivery mechanism for this mask is also quite different. It is a split-face mask with a bottom and top half, so you can get a better fit, but what's special is (obviously from my top image) the fact that the cotton mask sheet is layered with a piece of special foil which is designed to help lock the moisture in, and help ingredients penetrate 25 times faster than a traditional cotton sheet mask.

The foil also helps the fiber mask to conform and fit to the face a bit better in my experience.

When you open a packet, you will see a translucent plastic separator sheet, and the two halves of the dual-layer mask within. DO NOT REMOVE THE SILVER FOIL FROM THE COTTON!

There is a lot of moisture and product, so if you want to get your money's worth, rub any remaining liquid onto your neck and down your chest as well. The amazing thing for me was the absorption process. I'm not a huge fan of typical sheet masks because they are drippy and messy, and only a fraction of the product gets absorbed. But with these, I know the product is not evaporating or drying up from exposure to air, and after 10 minutes, you can tell from how much drier the cotton sheets are that the liquid has absorbed into your skin.

The best proof is how smooth and plump my skin feels after use. Fine lines (and those pesky beginning nasolabial lines) disappear and there is just a smooth glow to the face.

You're supposed to use these at night before bed so you can just rub the remaining liquid into your skin and leave it to work overnight, but I'm going to be naughty and say you can use this before a special occasion. You need to rinse your face slightly to take away any of the residual tackiness from all the moisture-binding ingredients, but makeup goes on beautifully afterward.

The Lunar New Year period is coming up, and if my skin is going to look bouncy and radiant, I want it to be seen!
Just for your information, the mask smells exactly like the usual Advanced Night Repair serum. And I do recommend trying a sample of the serum on your entire face (if you have never used this range) before investing in a full pack of the mask - just to be sure you are not allergic to any ingredients.

Recommended for: all skin types that need smoothing and radiance, but especially for those with first-signs of aging

Ingredients list for the PowerFoil masks, for those who are worried about allergies etc.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

NYX News - relaunch under L'oreal in Singapore and new product range

The original cheap 'n' chic beauty brand NYX has relaunched this January 2016 under the L'oreal umbrella, and the great news is they have brought it a much bigger and also a more updated range. New products launch at the same time as they do in the US, so we're not stuck watching people talk about new things for 6 months before we can try them.

The bad news is it won't be all that easy to grab some of the more popular things right now - they don't seem to have put a ton of products on the shelf at this time, and the renewed interest from shoppers has caused a lot of things to be sold out very quickly. I say give it a bit of time for stock levels to even out.

Still, if you can't wait, I do suggest going down to see what's still available because the updated range at Sephora is really great. NYX has stepped up their game in the recent year or so, and a lot of the products are pretty much on point in terms of quality and composition. There are the Intense Butter Glosses, the Avant Pop palettes, and my personal fave - the Go To Palettes (SG$30). I have Wanderlust, which is an eye and cheek palette with 6 shadows, a highlighter, blush, and contour shade.

My reason for actually highlighting this palette is because in the past I've never been very impressed by eye and face kits from lower-end brands. A lot of times the concept is on point but you may get great shadows, an okay blush, and crap highlight and contour. But this palette is pretty impressive. I would say 95% of the products are things that I would consider buying if they were sold on their own for a good price.

I won't say it's a 100% hit but all the shades are definitely good. The shadows are GORGEOUS. You get 2 mattes, 1 satin and 3 metallics. The metallics are the most beautiful in terms of feel and texture, but the mattes and satin are still good. You also get the option of doing light soft looks, dramatic metallic looks, or smoky smoldering looks.

The blush is my one complaint; it is a tad sheer and dusty feeling (it will dust right off if you apply it on dry skin so I don't expect it to be long-wearing unless you use a setting spray or a cream blush as a base first) but in general everything else is very silky and blendable. The thing that sealed the deal for me was the highlight and contour actually. I usually expect the ones in a face-kit to be there just for the sake of it, and never that great quality.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Quick Look: NARS Spring 2016 Hot Sand Collection

NARS is launching several capsule collections of Spring makeup items, and a key one features 5 items and is centered around one divine peachy-champagne beige shade called "Hot Sand". Previously only a liquid Illuminator shade, the brand has expanded on the shade for a limited time.

Available only at the TANGS NARS counter in Singapore, there are 5 key products:
  • Hot Sand Illuminating Multiple (SGD$65)
  • Hot Sand Illuminator ($45 - this is a permanent item)
  • Hot Sand/Orgasm Blush Duo ($65)
  • Hot Sand/Laguna Blush and Bronzer Duo ($65)
  • Hot Sand Lip Gloss ($37) 

There is also a Hanamachi Kabuki brush ($65) which I am still trying out at the moment. It's very soft and plush, without any scratchy stiffness (unlike the smaller yachiyo brush in my top image). I can see it being good for applying bronzer or illuminating powders all over the neck, shoulders and down the chest, but I can't really see myself applying bronzer, blush or highlighter with it on my face as it's not small enough and I'm not sure I want blush and highlighter going everywhere.

Here's a look at the Hot Sand shade in its different textures. It looks slightly peachy in the tube/stick/pan, but goes on a beautiful beige. The slight peachy undertone is not apparent unless you have porcelain pale skin, and just adds a tiny hint of warmth that stops the shade from looking ashy or too silvery on deeper skin tones. If you have fair to medium skin tones, it will also look beautiful, if a bit more subtle than other lighter, more metallic highlighting products.

On the skin, the powder especially reminds me of a slightly deeper version of Kevyn Aucoin's classic Candlelight Celestial Powder, which is an illuminating powder which has enough matte pigment thrown in that it never looks too shiny or fake. 

I didn't receive the Multiple in my press kit but I did stop by the counter to swatch it earlier, and in terms of sheen it is a bit more shimmery than the liquid Illuminator and less shimmery than the powder highlighter. The Multiple shade is slightly deeper than the other products in the line as well and I felt it was just a tad too deep to give enough of a noticeable gleam on my NC25 skintone, while the liquid and powder were perfect.

Don't be put off just because you think this is such a "nothing" shade. The product is designed to be completely translucent against the skin, so it doesn't lighten the area or look visible brightened, but just imparts a subtle dewy effect. It's actually extremely flattering and makes it HARD for heavy-handed people to overdo the highlighting/strobing. I would love to end Albatross-abuse and replace it with this in many peoples' makeup drawers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

L'oreal Colour Riche Star Collection Lipsticks (Singapore Release) Shades and Swatches

L'oreal Paris has released their Star Collection lipstick series globally; and the shades are grouped into Pure Reds and Pure Nudes with the premise that everyone has a perfect nude and a perfect red that complements their skintones.

I definitely agree with that, but I really wouldn't restrict myself to ONE nude and ONE red. Considering how many different undertones there can be, that would be too boring!

In Singapore, the collection has been distilled down to 8 shades (SGD$21.90), each tagged to one style icon and bearing their signature on the cap. I do really like several of these - especially the Reds, and I'll tell you why later.  I daresay most people will find at least a couple of colors that they like in the series.

I still highly recommend swatching the testers in store whenever possible, because that's the only way to check the true shade of the lipsticks. The color indicators outside are not often that accurate for showing how they will look on skin. And - please - do not use the display images of the stars in store to try and guess which will suit you.

Below are the 8 swatches taken under white daylight lamps (these are pretty much what you get standing by the window in the day), and a brief description of the shades and what sort of skin tones they are recommended for.

Star Collection Pure Nudes (from front): Barely Coral, Barely Pink, Barely Plum, Barely Moka

Who doesn't love looking at marshmallow-y soft colors like these?

The Pure Nudes come in gold tubes, and are creamy in texture. I had initially been expecting the nude shades to be more universally wearable but upon swatching I realized that these are quite pigmented on the lips and 3 of the 4 shades are on the paler side, so they can come off a bit too pastel or ashy on medium to tan skins. Make sure you try these on before buying, just to see how they look against your face.

Barely Coral - fronted by Fan Bing Bing, this is a soft creamsicle orange-nude better suited to pale to medium-fair skins with yellow undertones

Barely Pink - is what I call a "beach bunny" nude which often makes people look more tan. The color is fronted by Doutzen Kroes and I would say it sits better on neutral to slightly pink-toned skins and will look more dramatic and pastel on yellow skin tones.

Barely Plum - more a dusty mauve pink bearing Sonam Kapoor's signature on the cap. It's not as pale as Barely Pink, but it's very cool-toned, so it will sit nicely on neutral to pink skin tones, or the very pale-skinned, but might look a bit ashy on yellow toned skin.

Barely Moka - possibly the most universally forgiving shade of the 4, this neutral creamy caramel brown bears Gong Li's name, and will suit a pretty wide range of skin tones. If you're very pale, it can look quite monochromatic so you might need a nice warm blush to pep up your face. For medium skins it's a nice warm toffee, and on deeper skins it's a great non-chalky nude.
I love the texture of this formula but I personally would pick Barely Moka and possibly Barely Coral from here if I want a more dramatic pale-nude look. I have a medium-light yellow-based skin tone and the two pinks look a bit stark on me. These are not sheer lipsticks, so they won't be as forgiving on non-complementary skintones. Not to say you can't wear all of these if you are medium to tan - just expect them to look quite dramatically pale on the lips.


Now, the Pure Reds I love. Every single shade. These come in black tubes and have more of a satin, semi-matte texture compared to the creamy Pure Nudes. They don't feel too drying on the lips, but just have a much more muted sheen and more intense color.

Ironically when I first saw the 4 colors printed on the store displays, which are (let's be completely honest) photo-shopped onto the lips of the stars, I wasn't sure what they would really look like. It's partially a problem with print quality, partially lighting, partially just what happens when you try to photo-shop someone's lips a completely different color from what they originally are.

Star Collection Pure Reds (from front): Pure Vermeil, Pure Amaranthe, Pure Fire, Pure Scarleto
Even looking at the colors in the lipstick tubes, especially if you are looking at these under bad store lights, you might not be able to see the clear difference between Pure Vermeil and Pure Fire, or Pure Amaranthe vs Pure Scarleto. Because these swatch completely different from how they look in the tube.

The formula of the red dyes used for this range have a tendency to look over-saturated in the bullet and come off more red than they actually apply. Don't believe me? See swatches below!

They are actually very different, and I wouldn't even classify Pure Amaranthe and Pure Fire as "reds" at all. Which is fine - because all 4 shades are GORGEOUS intense shades which manage to be both bright and deep at the same time, so they will look beautiful on a majority of skin tones. And to think I would not have known if I hadn't swatched them at home. 

Pure Vermeil - coral-based red; this beautiful bright red shade has a touch of orange and a touch of pink and probably looks good on most skins. Fan Bing Bing's signature is on the cover.

Pure Amaranthe - L'oreal has an older shade called Amaranthe in the regular Colour Riche line, which is a creamy deep pink that I love. This gorgeous deep magenta beats that one hands-down in the drama department, and has enough red in it that it's not too cool or blue-toned for yellow-based skins. I would say pretty much anyone can wear this and look good. Gong Li's signature graces the cap.

Pure Fire - bright saturated orange with a shot of red. This is a glorious shade that would look good on yellow to neutral skins from pale to deep. If you have a neutral to pink undertone, you might still be able to pull it off. Just make sure to neutralize any areas of redness with foundation or concealer first. Li Bing Bing fronts this shade in the visuals.

Pure Scarleto - a true ruby red for that classic old Hollywood look. It's different from Pure Vermeil as this is deeper, more grown-up almost, and doesn't have that neon undertone which makes Pure Vermeil "pop" against the skin. I can see all skin tones pulling off a true red, although it's especially flattering on medium to tan girls who don't want something too bright. Blake Lively's signature is stamped on the cap of this shade.
I love the Pure Reds and would recommend them all. They each give a very different look on the face, but in terms of uniqueness I would go with Pure Vermeil, Pure Amaranthe and Pure Fire, simply because they're such fun shades. Pure Scarleto is good but a classic red shade a lot of people might already own in one form or another. If you don't then check this one out. Do note these have great staying power but do leave a stain on the skin after removal.
On some lips, some of the pigments in these intense bright colors can go on darker. I'm not sure if it's the liquid dyes or oxidation or just the color of the natural lip coming through. If this happens to you and you want to maintain the brightness instead of having it show up as a deeper more red tone, simply buff a tiny bit of foundation or a matte beige eye primer over your lips before applying lipstick. This will help the lipstick pigments "float" and stay true. 


There's a Lunar New Year promotion going on from Jan to Feb 2016. Purchase any 2 Colour Riche Star Collection lipsticks for $32. Perfect time to try out all the different reds I say!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

MAKE UP FOR EVER Spring 2016 9 Artist Shadow Palette #3

I’m a big fan of the MAKE UP FOR EVER shadows because they have this very intense, creamy feel although I don’t always recommend them for newbies because the pricing of single shadows leans on the high side. So when they came out with the first neutral 9 Artist Shadow Palette for just SGD$69 it was a bit of a dream come true.

For 2016, they are releasing a limited edition Spring palette filled with fresh soda-pop colors. If you love colors in general, and want a mix of soft and strong ones, this is a more wearable alternative than Palette No 2 (limited edition in 2015), which leans towards strong, acidic tones.

This is a fun purchase to add to your collection if you already own some neutrals. There are lots of dusty pastels you can use for soft, sweet looks, and also some options for intense, bright peacock colors.

I especially love the gorgeous coral shade in the center, which has an iridescent gold glow. And the column of purples on the right make a beautiful trio.

This probably isn’t an item I recommend as a “first palette” purchase because you probably need a few neutral/matte shadows (brown, black, grey, etc) to use as transition and definer shades in the socket and along the lash line. That’s optional of course - if you like colors in the socket and along the lash line just go for it.

The most obvious way to wear the shades is to group them in columns top-down, and they look beautiful that way, but don't feel restricted to this. In fact, I would even suggest seeing this as a palette filled with single shadows - not necessarily that you need to create an entire look from within the palette. You also get 9 x 1.5g shades (each a full-size MAC shadow) for SGD$69 - which is incredible value considering you usually can't even get 2 full-size MUFE shadows for the price.

I did 3 different eye looks below using shades in the palette, and it's just a reference for how you can pick/pair colors, and also supplement your look with a matte color in the socket or dark pencil smudged along the lashes as a base to add dimension and definition.