Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Loving Lately - July 2016

July was a whirlwind of weddings, Jays games, a baby shower, early arrival of a new niece and a seemingly endless heatwave, which made wearing makeup a particularly challenging endeavour. As per most beauty fans out there, when summer weather is coming in hot, I actively try to lighten up my routine, but that doesn't really stop whatever makeup I do decide to wear from melting down my face. I rapidly become a slave to Rimmel Stay Matte Powder (which is a long-time favourite), and make a habit of blotting whatever base I choose to commit to for the day before powdering to remove a bit of excess product before sealing everything in. This little trick is a gem I picked up from a Wayne Goss vid ages ago, which actually ties into one of my favourites. On to the goods:

Okay, I'll level with you. I'm pretty sure this brush was limited edition, but if the balance of Wayne Goss' brush range is anywhere near this soft, then they are absolutely worth checking out. Full disclosure: Goss' brush range does use animal hair, so stick to the plethora of synthetic options out there if that's your preference. This particular brush was created with the "buffing" technique in mind, as well as contouring, blush, bronzer and general setting, which Wayne explains in full here. I own a lot of brushes of varying quality, and this is hands down the softest brush I own that gives me the most seamless finish ever when applying blush and bronzer. I have always felt sort of underwhelmed with cheek brushes in my arsenal, feeling as though they applied too much product or didn't blend product effectively without moving my foundation underneath. As Wayne explains, the bristles are not that densely packed, so the chance of disrupting your foundation/concealer while blending your powder products is pretty much nonexistent. This brush was priced at $35 and I'd pay way more for the results that it provides. I believe this brush from the same range is a similar concept, slightly different shape.

Can't say I ever really dove into the cushion craze, especially when most of the Eastern versions were simply way too light in tone and the Western versions were... well, I don't know, they just didn't really strike me as anything particularly special. As a self-proclaimed foundation fanatic, I couldn't believe I'd never tried Lancôme's original Teint Idole Ultra fluid, as it's increasingly raved about. That being said, I can't really comment on this cushion formula versus the original fluid. I can, however, tell you that this stuff has solid coverage and a little goes a very long way (max 2 light-pressure taps on that cushion - for real). I like how skin-like the finish is even though coverage is still very much present. I also don't mind the colour match (420 Bisque roughly translates to my NC42ish summer colour). It holds up to heat decently, to boot! 

While sifting through my various drawers of makeup, I was pretty pumped to find this nearly untouched compact of Armani powder foundation. I never really fell for the Lasting Silk offerings the way I did for the Luminous Silk range, but I figured I'd give this powder a go, and I'm really fond of the smoothing effect of this powder. I've definitely had some skin woes this summer, so it's been great to have a powder that really goes the extra mile to seal concealer in and keep my makeup in tact regardless of the high temperatures. I don't think this one is available in Canada, but it's definitely a worthy purchase when in the US. It gives skin a virtually air-brushed finish, which is gorgeous.

It was only a matter of time before this product launched! I say that largely because it had become damn near impossible to find Maybelline Define-A-Brow in any shade aside from "Medium Brown" over the last year or so. This is not merely a repackaging, as I feel this pencil is a touch waxier than the Define-A-Brow formula, which felt stiffer overall, but any drugstore alternative to Anastasia Brow Wiz is welcome in my makeup bag. The tiny point allows for natural-looking strokes to mimic brow hairs. It's been my go-to for creating a slightly more handsome brow shape [I've been eyeing the beauty looks on the Sabyasachi IG account a little too much lately (this one slays me)]. Love following this pencil up with a clear brow gel for a brushed-up, fanned-out finish. 

Yes, I'm at that point where products launched by bloggers aren't something I rule out instantly (well, maybe not the launches are marred with drama or controversy). I have to tip my hat to Huda for taking a bit of time to create her products and build out her business gradually. I also have to commend any brand that gets picked up by Sephora for distribution - that's no joke in scaleability and it takes a lot to fulfill a PO like that. Down to the brass tacks: this shade, Trophy Wife, is described as "rose wood" (fun note: the corresponding lip pencil from Huda Beauty is described as "the new best-selling rose wood" - that's a little loud, hey?) and I'm usually a sucker for anything described as this colour. In person, there's definitely a terra cotta vibe to the colour, but I'm pleased that this shade wasn't too light for my lips (a common occurrence with liquid lipsticks - they look absolutely absurd against the deeply pigmented outer edge of my mouth) and the formula was crazy comfortable. The colour settled in lines of my lips a bit, but frankly, my lips aren't smooth when my mouth is relaxed, so that's basically inevitable for me with any liquid lip colour. I counteract this with a tiny dab of lip balm on top of the liquid lipstick once it's set and all is well in my beauty world again. I found one layer of this lip colour was ample (two was overkill), and the shades are collectively noted to deepen once applied (says so on the packaging!), which Trophy Wife absolutely did do. It all resulted in a shade that's on trend without being too '90s for my personal taste, and my lips didn't feel like the Sahara after the fact - a winner in my books. I believe the full range of liquid lip colours will reach Sephora doors in October, with a handful of liquid lip colours and lip pencils available online now. 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Loving Lately - June 2016

As per usual, no idea where the month has gone, which tends to be the case when summer is fully underway. I spent a chunk of time in the suburbs this past month, so minimalism was the general approach when living out of a weekender bag. I had the joy of taking in a couple Jays games and spent lots of time with family, so all in all, June was a rather dreamy start to the season.

Here are some bits I've been really keen on the last few weeks!:

This fragrance was the first beauty product I purchased when I moved to New York in 2010 and it remains in my collection as a go-to scent for peak summer days when it's really heating up. I say this because it's a classic eau de cologne formulation, zesty as can be thanks to bright notes of neroli, bergamot and mandarin, making it right up any citrus fan's alley. Chanel dubbed this scent a celebration of summer, and I have to agree! It's a serious reprieve from all the stenches of hot weather that waft around in the city, so I appreciate the nose break. The staying power leaves something to be desired (unsurprisingly, as it is a citrus scent!), but I find it lingers longer when sprayed on freshly moisturized limbs (confession: I tend to spritz heavily when wearing light scents like this). I also have enjoyed layering it with a year-round fave, Byredo Mojave Ghost, if I'm in the mood for a citrus-floral combo.

Ok so I wasn't exactly dying over the formula of the original scentless version of this heralded all-purpose salve, but I did get the trio of new flavours when they launched out of curiosity (I fully admit this is what fuels most, if not all, purchases I make, particularly from Glossier). Spoiler alert: they're all pretty good, but the rose one takes the cake. The official description of this product describes the scent as a "sweet rose"; there's a vague sugary note, but it never crosses the line into cloying territory. It somehow remains almost fresh and uplifting instead. This balm has a soft pink tint to it that is essentially undetectable once applied (at least on my lips), but it's still a pretty welcomed addition to my trillion-strong lip balm arsenal. Honourable mention goes to Mint Balmdotcom, which is delightfully refreshing upon application, giving lips a light, tingly sensation for a brief period. Coconut has become a cuticle care staple lately and Cherry remains a cough syrup memory that I don't reach for nearly as often as the rest. Key lesson? Buy less and more selectively.

It's been a while now that brands have launched their own interpretations of gel nail colour ranges, spanning the two-step non-curing nail colour and top coat systems to the at-home light-curing systems that launched a few years back. I've personally been quasi-content with the at-home, non-curing nail systems, even if it meant winding up with a wardrobe of top coats to correspond with each brand (Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Diamond Top Coat, Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat, Dior's gel top coat, countless bottles of CND Vinylux top coat....). I appreciate the flexibility to change my nail colour without busting out the foils and hardcore acetone. With the market being somewhat saturated in gel-like nail colour with promises of extended wear time, the launch of Essie Gel Couture seemed almost late. That's what I thought until I tried it and realized it was late since it was being perfected to the absolute core. Essie Gel Couture launched with 45 shades and one top coat, designed to work in tandem to give you up to 14 days of wear. Normally, I'd roll my eyes at such a claim from any product that doesn't require light-curing technology. I am thrilled to eat my own words right now! I gave a vermillion red shade dubbed "Beauty Marked" a whirl and a week later, it was still going strong. I was a bit misbehaved the first time I tried this formulation, giving myself virtually no drying time before making dinner (washing and chopping veggies) and cleaning up thereafter (pots, pans and no gloves in sight!), and the red polish still hung on. Tip wear was inevitable (typing furiously will do that), but no significant chips occurred and the polish stayed relatively glossy through the entire wear time. This stuff is too legit to quit! The bottle is a twisted rendition of the usual Essie bottle, and it's actually more ergonomic than ever, nestling nicely between your index and thumb of the hand you're applying polish to. The brush stem itself is twisted so that the polish doesn't drip off in globs onto your nails, but rather it flows down the stem and onto the brush in a controlled manner. Another new design feature: I have never been a fan of the traditional Essie brush, as it's skinny as hell and I don't have crazy narrow nail beds, so it's never been a brush I've been drawn to. The Essie Gel Couture brush is a wider brush that covers more surface area with fewer strokes, making application so stupidly easy. It's kind of a dream nail colour range. I personally wish Essie would do more shimmers and unusual shades than the more safe, neutral shades (I've never been an Essie Ballet Slippers fan, sue me), but that's just my taste. This new formulation performs incredibly well, and I'm super happy to recommend it over any other gel polish out there. You can find this range on separate displays in drugstores nationwide right now. The shade pictured is called "Touch Up" and it's what I'm currently sporting; it's a subdued mauve-lilac shade. Happy to report it's been on 5 days and I have no chips in sight. Get into it!

Straight up, brows are a big deal to me and that's probably because mine take up a fair amount of time/focus in my everyday makeup routine (even more so for special occasions). I saw Charlotte Tilbury bust out this product in a sponsored Pixiwoo vid a couple months back and was instantly into it. The effect that this stuff gave Nic's brows in the video was natural, defined and polished aka my personal brow objectives. I waited patiently for this stuff to launch, and committed to Legendary Brows in Cara when the product finally rolled out online the week of the 6th. Y'all. This is the brow product of my dreams. I have been a two-product brow person for a while, using a product to fill in (pencil, powder, pomade, you name it) and then following with a brow gel to hold everything in place / feather out my hairs. Legendary Brows is my one-step wonder. First off, the spoolie is tinier than anything I've ever seen in the brow game, and I love it. I don't have massive brows, so the micro wand (smaller than all the tiny-wand wonders I wrote about here) is genius for applying the tinted gel (well, mine was tinted, but there's a clear version available!). Tilbury mentioned in the Pixiwoo vid that her team had to work on creating the perfect amount of suction to leave a manageable amount of gel on the wand, and I think they nailed this aspect of the product. The micro wand really does help you pick up on small hairs that normally are overlooked, which helps create a fuller brow shape without drawing in hairs or using multiple products. This will likely remain in my makeup rotation for a long time to come. I've gone through a couple brow gels lately that have applied like a nightmare (looking at you, NYX and MAC Pro Longwear Brow Set), in globs with no ease, so I am thrilled I tried this kick-ass brow product. It's a must-have for anyone; I don't care how low-key you are, everyone can use a little brow boost.

Y'all know I'm a retinol fan, usually pushing products laced with vitamin A derivatives on anyone who will listen. It's well-documented that I've been raving about La Roche-Posay Redermic [R] for a few years now, but I'm always open to newness. Sunday Riley is hardly a new brand on my radar, as I've been dabbling in cosmetics from the brand for at least 4-5 years now. I first came across the brand as an intern at Bergdorfs and the brand has certainly evolved since, shifting its focus towards skincare and away from colour cosmetics (also apparently in the midst of a site redesign, as there's no functioning official site for Sunday Riley at this time). Over the years, I've tried Juno Oil (both formulations, one for face and one for body), Disrobe Body Lotion and Ceramic Slip Cleanser, all to mixed results. I never felt too compelled to dabble in the brand over the last couple years, but I had a sample of this with a recent Sephora order and fell pretty hard for its skin-perfecting properties. This formula contains trans-retinoic acid ester, which is essentially a mild retinoid that improves the texture and turnover speed of skin. It also contains blue tansy oil and German chamomile to soothe and calm skin (a balancing effect to the retinoid). I used about 4 drops a night for my a whole face and the teensy sample lasted me a few weeks to get a proper sense of how this product performs. I noticed my skin's texture was smoother and clearer, more so than with my previous retinol. There's a reason people are raving about this stuff - it's a high-performance product that can seriously turn around your skin. As usual, try a sample before committing to this crazily priced oil, but it's a winner in my books. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Loving Lately - May 2016

This month entailed a jaunt to the west coast and an inordinate amount of time spent out and about, in spite of allergies. Sharing a few pics from our trip because staring solely at beauty products is a touch dull, no?:

Have you ever seen such a gorgeous ball park? I've gotten more and more into sports in the past 8 or so months and the Jays being in town just cemented our intention to hit the Jays-Giants game while in San Fran. The game went into extra innings and the Jays ultimately lost, but getting to spend 5ish hours staring at this view was awesome.

A stunning view that my best friend wakes up to every morning. Suffice it to say, it's a pretty prime spot she has found for herself, which I'm super happy for!

I've included a couple products that were very clutch during our San Francisco visit, as well as some products that have been in high rotation in the last couple weeks. Onto the goods:

I've had this set of travel-friendly reusable containers since the fall and finally decided to put them to use. The design of these soft, squeezable silicone containers is really smart; the bottles have very wide mouths, making them easy to load up with products and switch out one product for another - there won't be remnants hiding in the depths of the container. The actual dispenser has a rubber, no-mess spout akin to something you'd find on a condiment for mess-free dispensing of your favourite products. I filled the two smaller bottles with body wash (Dove Sweet Peony & Cream) and body lotion (Kiehl's Creme de Corps). I know travel-sized products exist for purchase, but if I already own oodles of products that I love, I'd rather spare the environment and opt for reusable bottles if I can. Tip: I haven't done it yet, but I've read these wash up like a dream in the dishwasher if you're swapping out products.

It's no secret that I have dry hair that has no chill. It takes a lot of product to get my hair to mellow out and resemble what I consider calm hair aka what most would consider organized chaos. In any case, I was curious about Dove's latest offering to address dry, curly hair. The key ingredient is buriti oil, which works to soften hair, and naturally, there are silicones at play here - but they work marvellously. This serum left my hair very soft and unbelievably manageable, which is a key claim from the brand, one that I'm happy to report Dove delivers on. I seldom find drugstore hair products that do the trick for my hair, so this was a pretty welcomed win. 

I've been waiting (im)patiently for Supergoop! to relaunch at Sephora Canada, which I was told would happen last year. That clearly didn't happen, but we do have very strict regulations regarding sun protection in Canada, so hats off to any brand that can get on the shelves here. In the meantime, put this SPF serum on your shopping list for your next visit stateside. I wore this under makeup daily while cruising around San Francisco and it kept me free of a sunglass tan (a common thing on my nose, which always gets a bit red after time outside) without any heavy sensation on my skin. The formula is very thin and comfortable to wear, and it's boosted with vitamins E and B5. I noticed my skin's texture has visibly improved with wear of this particular SPF, so that never hurts. 

I wasn't wild about this when I first received it, but I admittedly received two shades that were really dark for me at the time. I tucked them away for when I'd be a bit more tan, and that so happened to be after a few days in California. Even with sunscreen, I had a tiny bit of colour that made one of the shades a great match. My low-key skin days entailed blending a couple dots of this tint into my heavily moisturized skin using a Sigma F80 flat-top buffing brush and spot conceal with a bit of Diorskin Star concealer. I do set this with loose powder (Chanel or Laura Mercier), and it doesn't compromise the velvet finish of the tint. I like the polished finish that this formulation gives skin without looking overly perfected. 

I'm evidently softening my stance on silicones. I suppose it boils down to the feel of the formulation on skin or hair. In this case, I was sucked in by the packaging and then fell hard for the product thereafter. This blurring balm smoothes the appearance of skin while helping control shine. I think this is a great alternative to powder for anyone who is opposed to adding additional texture to skin. I apply this in a patting motion with fingertips (the included applicator is kind of a joke - comically tiny and will undoubtedly become dirty in no time) to my forehead and nose after applying foundation. I believe it can also be used as a primer, but I prefer to use it through my T-zone in the midst of my makeup application. Can we all pause to appreciate the pink and gold compact? A lovely addition to one's handbag or vanity, no doubt.

It's hardly a secret that I'm a Charlotte Tilbury fan and have been for a while. Not only do I appreciate the artistry of Charlotte Tilbury herself and how her brand came to be, but I also really admire how well each product performs, from the pencil liners to the eyeshadows to the concealer pens to the blushes to the powders and - most definitely - the mascaras. CT's Full Fat Lashes was a fave of mine before the brand even launched in Canada; I got my overzealous mitts on it through a cheeky online order to my dear brother's in NYC. I loved the volume, separation and lift that it provided, but I definitely deemed it an everyday mascara, nothing overly geared towards statement-making lashes. Legendary Lashes is apparently targeted towards evening, with a result that's all about length and buildable volume, two claims I can certainly agree with. Upon first stroke into my lashes, the traditional bristle wand (oddly described as "innovative" on the official site - nice try, but no, I don't think there's anything "innovative" about this wand) deposits a lot of product into the lashes without becoming a clumpy nightmare. From there, you can build up lashes to be as full-on as you please. The formula is enriched with tamanu oil and waxes to keep lashes soft and flexible, with no irritation or flaking in my experience. I'd rank this up there with Chanel Volume de Chanel as far as head-turning lashes go. They're right around the same price point, so I suppose it boils down to preference of volume vs length; if length before volume is your cup of tea, this is your best bet. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Loving Lately - April 2016

April has been a lotta carting myself to and from my folks' and it wound down with a great little weekend venture to Prince Edward County, the cutest, sleepiest interpretation of wine country I could possibly imagine. 

I spent a beautiful sunny day with 6 of my dear friends walking from one winery to the next (not a small feat, we covered about 20,000 steps that day) and taking in the scenery. Below is a pano snap from the patio steps of the Drake Devonshire, where we brunched before taking off for the vines:

Product-wise, there were some key items that I found myself packing repeatedly every time I was taking off for a couple nights at a time (or pouting if I forgot them), so onto the good stuff! 

How did raspberry extract wind up as "framboos"? A mild bastardization of the French term for raspberries, but onto the product itself. I've had this in my possession for a little over a year, but didn't really get into it until this past month. I'm sure I gave it a very fast trial run last year and cast aside before becoming infatuated with acid-laced everything in the last few months. The price tag on this stuff is so not desirable, but the fact is it works. Now, 12% glycolic acid is no joke, so if your skin is at all sensitive, steer clear, but if you mess with acids or retinols on the reg, this will be a great addition to your p.m. routine to prevent pores from clogging and keep skin in check overall (read: hi, smooth texture and brighter tone). Also: as usual, this is your reminder to wear SPF daily when playing with acids like this one. It doesn't have to be a scorcher out there to get sunburned when walking to and from your daily destinations.

Let's square this away right now - have you ever seen brow tools as adorable as these lil cuties in this Chanel brow palette? Teeny, tiny and surprisingly functional! Upon first use, I deemed the powders a little stiff and the pigmentation felt okay; I looked a little closer and recognized that the formula looked akin to the Chanel La Ligne de Chanel Professional Liner Duo, a wet/dry cake liner. I dampened an angled brush and wet a corner of each powder pan and felt like I'd basically unlocked some sort of marvellous secret to good brows. Yes, really. I would liken the wet application of this brow duo to the effect of a brow pen (along the lines of Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Colour, but less green in undertone). I love the effect of this brow powder when dampened because it's so natural-looking, which is something I felt I'd been struggling with as of late. I feel like I'm going to take a century to use this palette up, so that's certainly a plus when I think about how often I burn through brow products.

I'm not a huge fan of most silicone-based blurring products. This probably stems from my 2005 misadventure of Smashbox Photofinish Primer that usually just left me with a horribly heavy sensation on my skin. I've held most primers at a distance since then, usually relying on sunscreen as a mattifying primer of sorts (Chanel UV Essentiel being my go-to). I received a deluxe sample stick of this product with a Sephora order in March and have been testing it out on occasion after getting past my aversion to silicone-heavy products. What I like about this product is that while this is obviously a silicone-fueled formula, it doesn't feel heavy on the skin. It's really lightweight with oil absorption properties that are helpful through the T-zone. It blurs pores without suffocating skin the way some blurring products can, so I definitely like keeping this stick around for slapdash priming or touch-ups. 

I've been using a half-moon Ecotools brush for setting makeup with loose (Laura Mercier Translucent Powder) or pressed (Rimmel Stay Matte) powder for probably 5 years... until this collection of Featherweight brushes launched at Sephora. This powder brush is massive, reminiscent of Marc Jacobs Beauty's Bronzer Brush #12 in shape and size, but with a marginally friendlier price point. It's incredibly soft on the skin and, like all kickass brushes these days, is 100% synthetic. Washing this beast can be a bit of a concerted effort - when is washing making brushes not? - but it lays down powder beautifully and is a dream for setting makeup, bronzing or blending for a seamless look.

There's been a boatload of hype around this foundation since it launched last fall, but I didn't really explore its potential until recently. The formula is known for being pigmented as hell, with only a dot or two being required for medium to (very!) buildable coverage. After sampling a few shades and getting a feel for the formula, I was impressed with the overall performance. I love that I could add a bit more in areas where I needed it while really sheering it out in areas that I didn't. It's best for combo to oily skin - dry skin needs to be primed to high heaven and/or doused with moisturizer if delving into this foundation, as it can cling to dry patches. Finding a good colour match was a bit of a doozie with the variety of undertones available, but overall, the shade range is geared towards light, medium and medium-deep skintones with a handful of shades for deeper skintones. I find it's best buffed into the skin with a flat-top brush (Sigma F80 is where it's at), but plenty of people love applying this with a beautyblender, so that's always an option for sheering out the coverage. Give it a whirl if you're into switching up how much coverage you want on a regular basis, because this stuff is dope for that exact purpose.
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