Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Drugstore Beauty Jackpot - Winter 2016

January and February are welcomed with arms wide open when they bring a flurry of new drugstore launches. New mascaras, contour kits, brow pencils, lip colours...so much newness it's hard to sift through and find the good stuff. I've been toying with new launches for a few months and want to highlight some real winners that are comparable to more pricey options that you'd find at Sephora and/or department stores. Off we go:

The original and recently reformulated Dior Diorshow mascara is not my cup of tea and seeing it on "Best Of Beauty" lists has made my blood boil time and time again over the years. I think Dior's New Look Mascara has been overshadowed by its big-brush counterparts since its inception, but it has always been my personal favourite (tied with Diorshow Iconic Overcurl) for best mascara offering from the brand. This new launch from Revlon's recently overhauled mascara range (1 of 5 new formulas!) looked dubious to me at first and instantly reminded me of Dior's New Look mascara. (Note: A smaller-scaled sample of Diorshow New Look mascara is pictured above, as my standard size tube has gone astray, but rest assured the wand size is the same for the full-scale version)

It's a fibre mascara formula, so contact wearers or sensitive-eyed readers, beware. These fibres are kind of massive; I initially thought a stray lash or two had wound up on my wand after I first tried it. The tiny wand might be difficult to wield at first if you're accustomed to massive mascara brushes, but you can reach each and every tiny lash with ease. If you're after a real eye-opening look, pick up a tube of Revlon All-In-One.

Hourglass launched a mechanical gel eyeliner a couple years back and it's probably fair to say it was largely eclipsed by all things Ambient that the brand has launched since, be it powder, blush, bronzer and now strobing powders *sighs deeply*. The formula was a sound option for anyone interested in matte black gel liner applied with the ease of a pencil format. Sold in packs of 3 or individually, the brand really seemed to be striving towards creating a product that people would never want to be without. Fast forward two years and Maybelline grabbed my attention when they launched gel pencils  this past summer, and now they really have me hooked with the release of these skinny gel pencils that are essentially the Define-A-Line liners done up with a gel formula that glides onto the waterline with mega ease and superfine tip. Below, both gel liners are swatched, Maybelline Master Precise Skinny Gel Pencil in "Defining Black" on the left, Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Liner on the right.

Both formulas apply effortlessly and are creamy when gliding onto the eye area. Ultimately, I do find both formulas are vaguely drying for my eyes with Hourglass being a worse offender, but I'm pretty sure any liner does that to my waterline if it's designed to be long-wearing, so c'est la vie. Maybelline certainly has a leg up here given its palatable price point and shade selection (Hourglass still is only offered in Obsidian).

While I feel pretty confident in my ability to find a suitable drugstore alternative in virtually all categories of makeup to any high-end product I'm really loving, brow products occasionally left me underwhelmed (at least, until recently). I often turned to a lot of different brow definers that were anything but cheap (including Burberry, Tom Ford, Dior, Smashbox), but certainly offered up impact and a suitable shade range. I think my favourite mechanical pencil to date would be a tie between Maybelline Define-A-Brow, which is virtually impossible to find in any shade other than "Medium Brown" these days, and Anastasia Brow Wiz. These two pencils are very similar in effect, the latter being easier to buy on a whim, but pricey as hell given how quickly one can burn through a single pencil. Enter L'Oréal Brow Stylist Definer, a mechanical brow pencil that has the same tiny pencil that allows you to draw in strokes of colour to resemble hairs and build up a natural brow shape. If you're a bit of a fusspot (and aren't we all at times?) when it comes to shade range, stick to Anastasia. If you're not, drop your money on L'Oréal, because it's less than half the price of Anastasia and is the same product, right down to the weight of the product (0.003 oz).

Sidebar: Liquid Matte Lip Colours
And now for a separate but notable trend: liquid lip colours. I'm not even going to really say that the new drugstore launches are matte, though these 3 formulas all claim to be when virtually none of them are in a true, traditional sense of the term. When I think of matte lip colours, I think of MAC's Retro Matte formula that lasts all bloody day but also makes your lips feel like the Sahara. These new formulas are leaning towards a plush velvet feel more than anything, maybe with a hint of shiny cushion that never sets to a fully matte finish. Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid comes in 10 shades (including a couple that are deeper/edgier/on-trend) with an extended doe foot applicator and notable vanilla-driven scent. The texture is comfortable and leaves lips with a satin finish. L'Oréal Infallible Pro-Matte Gloss is also available in 10 shades with an indented teardrop-shaped applicator that gives excellent application control of the product. This is probably the glossiest finish of the bunch, hence the wildly ridiculous "Matte Gloss" moniker. There's a small but real chance your hair will get stuck in this one. Life! Finally, we have Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor, available in 8 shades and making me quietly wonder why "lipcolor" is one word in this product name.

Swatched (L to R): Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid in "Nude Flesh" & "Nude Thrill", L'Oréal Infallible Pro-Matte Gloss in "Statement Nude", Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor in "Addiction".

Truthfully, I love the rich purple-based berry shade Devotion in this range, and find it wears pretty well and can be dialled up or down depending on the look I'm going for. All of these liquid lip colours are excellent and I'd encourage all of you to check these out before scurrying off to Sephora for Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick (incredible shade range that is usually out of stock; debatable value given how uncomfortable some long-wearing lip colours can be) or any of the numerous liquid lipsticks dropping every day.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Loving Lately - January 2016

I'm going to cut to the chase here: I'm thrilled January is coming to an end, because it ultimately means we're making our way through winter and it'll be spring in due time. I know it's still a while away, but I believe that convincing myself it's not too far down the road is one of the multiple coping techniques I have up my (cashmere knit) sleeve for winter survival in Canada. I've been revisiting old products while dabbling in new finds and have found myself enjoying the process of makeup application all over again. On to the goods:

I have had this patchouli-, jasmine- and rose-driven shower gel for a while and always opted for my Coco Noir shower gel over this one when push came to shove. That changed this past month when I was instructed to consider switching to baths on occasion for the muscle-soothing benefits. I added a liberal drizzle of this ultra-fragrant shower gel to the tub and was rather in love with the end result: tons of bubbles and super-soft skin. If you know anyone who digs this scent - and chances are you do - this (or any Chanel shower/bath gel) makes a great gift.

Stepping away from the '90s lip is easy when you're switching to something this spring-y and pretty. I've had the original Lip Glow for years, glazed over the Coral version that launched a while back (I kind of hate coral cosmetics, it's a thing) and didn't think I'd really care for this Lilac version until I saw it on Sabrina. That was when I knew it could be a no-mirror, swipe-and-go lip colour that I could really get into for daily wear. Like its previous iterations, this lip balm reacts to your natural pH levels, developing into a custom shade once applied. It's not overly cool-toned so it looks surprisingly flattering on me, even with my lips being as pigmented as they naturally are. The formula contains mango butter to keep lips hydrated and smooth with each swipe.

This was a pleasant surprise when I opened a well.ca order the other day. A 30-mL tube of this stuff was sent along as a free sample and I was pretty tickled by that; well.ca will send you a full-size product when they note they're including a sample in your order, meanwhile sephora.ca will include a sample sachet of something if you spend a minimum of $35. Go figure. Anyway, back to the product. This multipurpose cream can be used just about anywhere on the body, but note that it is thick and greasy, but it will revive your skin in a major way. Once it absorbs, it is exactly what windburned skin needs. Skin Food is not just a clever name; lanolin and organic pansy are powerhouse nourishers. I'm super happy to have discovered this for the dry, freezing days we've had this month.

Frankly, I'm at a point where I cocktail 6 products together to apply to my wet hair...and that's after I've shampooed my hair about 4-5 times (reminder: I only wash my hair once a week), playing mixologist in the shower and using multiple formulations for colour neutralizing (I curse the day I thought highlights would be a good idea), smoothing, hydration, curls and shine. I'm anything but simple when it comes to my haircare routine and it's led me to have a generally experimental attitude towards trying products. I saw Janine rave about this product in her 2015 favourite discoveries post, and I'm late on this product as it's been around for a while, but it is really good. I spray it onto my damp hair and then follow up with styling products (all 6 of them), and the results have been softer-than-ever hair that behaves better overall, even when facing the woe of static electricity. The first time I tried this product, my hair was silkier than usual and I was so happy to realize that this leave-in conditioner made such a positive difference in my 'do. I believe wheat germ oil and wheat proteins can be praised for their hair-softening and strengthening properties. Huge love for this drugstore find, which eases the sting of being otherwise addicted to all things Shu Uemura, Davines and Oribe when it comes to my hair regime.

While it's slightly frowned upon to give any particular brand more attention than another on most blogs out there, I don't really care for this rule; I am picking favourites after all. When I first tried this foundation, I was sort of on the fence about it. It offers up light to medium coverage and a very natural finish, both things I feel I can get into. The real snag was that I tried it right after the holidays aka a stretch of time that entails me existing in full-coverage foundation (shoutout to Guerlain Tenue de Perfection, which actually *is* perfection in a bottle), so to see my actual skin was oddly jarring. After giving this foundation a whirl for the last month, I can very safely say the coverage is really lovely for daily wear and it really does even things out just enough for polished skin without veering into that "nice foundation" territory (Note: surely we can all agree it is always preferable to have someone compliment your skin vs. your makeup...right?). Related sidebar: This foundation is slotted to replace Chanel Les Beiges All In One Healthy Glow Fluid, which is a wildly different product in my opinion and experience, so if you were ever a fan of that lovely stuff, grab a backup or, you know, live in the now. 

Truth be told, I'm mildly obsessed with all Charlotte Tilbury skincare, from the Multi-Miracle Glow (a dry skin Godsend) to every form of Magic Cream the brand has churned out. Magic Night Cream is dubbed a "cream elixir" and I guess I'll go along with that, as it isn't really a cream texture, but rather it occupies a space between a cream and gel...yet I wouldn't classify it as a gel-creme. Whatever! The point is it's an unusual texture that you can certainly feel on your skin. Another review I read of this night cream referred to it as a veil that sort of seals in the rest of your skincare efforts of the day, and I'm inclined to agree. Two very superficial dabs will do it for your whole face; applying any more than that will be overkill. I find this cream leaves my skin soft, hydrated and plumped with no flakes in sight - a milestone achievement for any skincare product in my books. The formula contains time-released retinol (I still layered my own retinol underneath because I'm brazen like that), winter daphne stem cell extract (apparently known for its firming properties), vitamin E, red algae and a bunch of other bits that feel semi-silly to type about (looking at you, "bionymph peptides"). This cream has a light frangipani scent that I don't mind, but I'm sure anyone averse to fragrance in their skincare might! 


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Loving Lately - December 2015

I'm a few days late here, but let me start by saying happy 2016 to all of you! I can't believe 2015 has already wrapped and that the holiday season has come and gone. To me, the holidays always feel like the weirdest build-up and anticipation for this particular stretch of the year then it all winds down before I've even realized it's arrived. That being said, I had a fantastic holiday season surrounded by family and friends, so I'm grateful for that. I've had some new discoveries that have helped streamline my routine (the first two products mentioned below in particular), so let's delve in!

While I've certainly spent a chunk of time committed to a couple of brow products, in my usual fashion, I'm always open to something new. This pomade crayon made its debut at Toronto Fashion Week and was touted for its ultimate ease of application, resulting in unfussy brows that  actually look natural. As in not filled in meticulously with a slew of products. Just a few semi-errant strokes of this stuff through your brow hairs and you suddenly look more put-together. It's priceless. I use the spoolie on my Lancôme Eyebrow Reshaper Brush to brush the product through my hairs and call it day. On occasion, I may run Benefit Gimme Brow through my brows after if I'm facing a special event (such as holiday festivities), but overall, this stuff is simple, fast, good and affordable. That last attribute is key because brow products are one category I am forever replenishing.

I have this product in Deep Brown (heavily swatched on my hand, shown above), which I find ashy enough to not pull red on me at all, but anyone who needs a more ashy, black-based shade will have to continue their search for the ideal brow product. This pomade crayon is available in 4 shades and should be popping up in Canadian drugstores in due time; it's already widely available stateside. 

A huge deterrent of exercise was the unavoidable impact it would make on my hair. I usually only wash my hair once a week - that's all it tends to need, and my psoriasis seems to prefer less interaction with shampoo - so working up a sweat a few times in that week-long span throws off my usual hair regime. After picking up increasingly challenging (and thankfully fun!) BCBD classes twice a week (headed up by the one and only Eva Redpath), I found myself with heinous hair sooner in the week than usual. While I've obviously tried dry shampoos before from a bevy of brands - high and low - I wasn't too impressed and felt they usually only masked odour (functioning like Febreze - no thanks) and added tapioca starch in spades to my hair instead of actually quasi-cleaning it. Naturally, the geniuses over at Living Proof (MIT scientists are behind this concoction) threw a hat in the ring with this dry shampoo and it is better than any other formula I've come across. Not only does it absorb unwanted odours, but it also absorbs sweat. That basically sealed the deal for me! The formula takes about 30 seconds to kick in, so shake the can, spray on your roots, wait half a minute and brush out for hair that is a hell of a lot better-looking (and smelling) than it was before. 

Aside from the hyper-adorable packaging (resistance is futile), this blush palette offers up all 6 Too Faced Love Flush blush shades in a travel-friendly format with a handy mirror. The formula apparently boasts 16-hour wear time, but I'm not sure who that's actually a concern for; I'll just say these blushes wear for a long time without fading and the formulation is super pigmented, so a little goes a long way and call it a day - cool? 

Swatches (L to R): Love Hangover, Baby Love, I Will Always Love You,
 How Deep Is Your Love?, Justify My Love, Your Love Is King
The colours included can carry you from everyday looks through to evening looks. And it's cute. Like, abnormally cute. This palette was the only source of blush I took on a recent stint to Florida and it worked marvellously, standing up to the heat and humidity alike. Baby Love can also pass as a bronzer on me (I'm hovering somewhere around NC40/Chanel Beige 40 or Beige 50 these days), and I was surprisingly pleased with every colour in this palette. Oh, and it's actually a solid value for such a variety of shades. Snap this one up!

Aside from the usual seasonal dryness, I developed a tiny patch of eczema on my right hand that was annoyingly persistent. I decided to try to counter this parched patch of skin with persistence of my own in the form of consistent hand cream application. Normally, I'm kind of the worst with hand cream; I own a ton of different formulations in a wardrobe of scents, but I still seldom use the stuff. I have plenty of tubes I love (Cle de Peau's with SPF 18 was a staple in my school bag, I also love the Ambre Vanillé one from Laura Mercier), but nothing I would apply regularly. This Bliss formula contains macadamia seed and grape seed oil and no major fragrance (nothing offensive or distracting here) and really softens skin while leaving little residue. I can still use a touchscreen gadget afterward without leaving a ton of grease all over the place. I also have been reaching for Diptyque Baume Genereux (purchased before Diptyque repackaged from a jar format to a tube), which does leave a bit of a residue on hands since it takes a little longer to absorb. It has a warm, inviting apricot scent, which is actually kind of delicious and comforting. The formula contains Shea butter, argan oil, apricot kernel oil and vitamin E, for silky skin. It's a bit of a treat, but it's so lovely, particularly after a long or cold day. Highly recommend either of these formulations for knackered hands!

The holidays are usually a time of year when I would shift back into a gel manicure routine purely for longevity, but let's just say I was a bit lazy this year and dropped the ball when it came to booking myself in at Tips for a holiday mani. I stuck to my usual glittery reds and metallics, but as usual with most textured polishes, it's a challenge to prevent massive chipping. This Lancôme gel top coat actually let me go virtually a week with only minor tip wear. It takes a little while to dry, but patience pays off. Let me just go on record to state that I wash pots/pans by hand and clean my home pretty vigorously without gloves, so the lasting power this gel top coat afforded me is a mild Christmas miracle. All quick-dry top coats can exit my stash - they're notorious for chipping prematurely versus their slow-drying counterparts. 


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Loving Lately - November 2015

Another month has come and gone and it was a really busy one! We had a slew of family birthdays plus Diwali to celebrate, and I've been training more and wearing makeup a little more minimally, so this month's favourites are low-key essentials that I turned to repeatedly for a bit of an everyday look. Let's get right into it!

Facial Oils

Three in particular have captivated my attention in the last 4-5 weeks since I've been dealing with some flaking around my mouth and nose that is highly characteristic of my skin when winter rolls around. Around the time of Sephora's VIB Rouge sale, I started reading up on Herbivore Botanicals, which was recently added to the ecomm mix at sephora.ca; I took interest in the facial oils from this range. The Phoenix and Lapis blends were intriguing, but they were both out of stock by the time the sale began and were never replenished. Aside from the fact that each bottle was steep as hell as far as prices go, I didn't really want to delve into bottles of oil I'd never even felt before, even in spite of Sephora's solid return policy. I actually discovered Herbivore is carried at Bibelot & Token, and this (e)shop actually offers up much more palatably-priced rollerballs of these oils. I nabbed them up in a heartbeat, received them 2 days later and haven't looked back.

Herbivore Phoenix Oil is meant to be cell regenerating, with a blend of rosehip, sea buckthorn, meadowfoam and chia seed oils (omega 3-6-9 all accounted for here!) plus CoQ10 in a base of jojoba oil means you're in for an herbal trip, but it's really good for skin. My skin drinks this stuff up, especially in the random dry patches that have cropped up since the weather's taken a cold turn. I concentrate this rollerball oil application on clean skin around my nostrils, mouth and cheeks, and then I switch to Herbivore Lapis Oil for the rest of my T-zone. The Lapis oil is meant to be skin-balancing with the help of azulene, which is an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredient found in blue tansy, which gives the oil its subtle blue tint. The formula also contains veggie-derived squalane (moisture barrier enforcer!), vitamin E and kukui seed oil for hydration that all skin needs.

The third oil I've been toying with is Nude Skincare Progenius Omega Treatment Rescue Oil. I received a deluxe sample of this with a recent Sephora order and am blown away by it! The fact that this oil absorbs so rapidly (quickly enough to use it under makeup without compromising everything I apply on top) and applies so smoothly without containing any silicones or petrolatum is wild to me. It claims to contain a natural alternative to retinol, as well as a slew of omega fatty acids that flood skin with nourishment. Honestly, it's a great texture that I'm really impressed by. Definitely going to keep this in rotation in the winter.

I have been into the Charlotte Tilbury range since it launched stateside and I could get my paws on it. I'm super happy the range has since launched in Canada, as I have fallen really hard for the Magic Cream, and I do find it to be an outstanding daily moisturizer. Makeup applies better on top of that cream than anything else I've used in a long time. Being so sold on that moisturizer, I was intrigued when this dual-ended concealer came out because one end was an eye cream. Charlotte has a series of YouTube videos explaining that she created this product because she believes the entire world is tired and I'm inclined to agree. The eye cream provides a mild - but real - tightening effect and can then be followed by the brightening concealer. I'm dubbing it a brightening concealer because it definitely has a bit of a peachy undertone to act as a mild corrector while concealing. It's a pick-me-up in a pen and I appreciate it at all hours of the day.

After finally unearthing my TF Shade & Illuminate Palette from the depths of my closet (it had been misplaced for nearly a year), I wasn't sure if this highlighting duo was merited, but it is pretty stunning. Rest assured, these two products are incredibly different. 

This powder highlighting duo is meant to mimic the flattering nature of daylight (the paler shade) and candlelight (the rosier shade). When applied to the tops of cheekbones, these two shades are just awesome. The swatches barely do it justice, but rest assured, it's stunning.

'90s Nude Lips

I held off for a while, but I eventually gave in to the '90s lip trend. I don't mind nude lips when they are the actual shade of lips versus overly pale lip colours that look like concealer or foundation. I've yet to meet anyone who looks better with foundation run over their lips versus not, but that's just my two cents on that whole look. I came across Chanel Lip Liner in "05 Nude Mordore" (top swatch in image above), which I love because it's a brownie nude with a bit of a pink gleam to it, so it doesn't look flat on its own. I follow up with a few light dabs of H&M Beauty Cream Lipstick in "Brunette Ambition" (bottom swatch in image above) and I'm left with an on-trend lip combo that wears remarkably well through the day. The Chanel lip liner is a serious anchor - I actually had a bit of a challenge removing it with Bioderma when I did these swatches. 

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