Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Focus on Embryolisse: Lait-Crème Concentré

If my skin care routine and I ever made it to the stage of being in some sort of a relationship, we'd be the Facebook equivalent of 'It's Complicated', the woolly, vague masker of all sins. Skin care isn't really my favourite thing to talk about. I buy products, I have no real opinion of them and then I wait for them to run out so I can buy another, similar product (but of course with different promises). Rinse, repeat. I seem to be suffering from what I'd call Cosmetic Fatigue; products I'm bored of don't seem to be running out fast enough so I can move onto the next shinier thing.

So you can see why I'm not the best for talking about skin care, given our past failure to have a meaningful relationship.

Generally what happens is I find what I like, and hang onto it, gripping wildly, until I am unceremoniously dumped by it (probably via Facebook) and it just stops working for me anymore. A shake-up was needed, and I think I have the products in mind.

Embryolisse has been a bit of a buzzword in the beauty community as of late, from makeup artists to beauty addicts, and it's not without reason. Embryolisse, a French pharmacy brand, has been catapulted into the beauty consciousness recently due to their cult Lait-Crème Concentré - touted as a 'miracle cream' which seems to do just about everything minus groom your pet and cook you dinner.

Attention is now falling to the other products by this Parisian brand, to see if they match up to the high standard Embryolisse has set for itself. And having been sent some samples to test from Coco Beau, I've got good news for you: some of them do...
First up in this series - the cream. (I talked far too much to be able to fit all the reviews in one post - can you tell?!)

The Cream: Lait-Crème Concentré - the '24 Hour Miracle Cream.

Image snaffled from cocobeau.co.uk.

Starting with the product which started the furore, then, I actually cracked and bought this one myself after the ravages of a particularly virulent cold left my skin dry and painful, and I fancied treating myself to a fix-it-all.

The product is packaged in a aluminium tube, which feels slightly retro and not altogether to my taste as metal packaging and I have a huge history of it rupturing somewhere in the depths of my handbag and the product exploding everywhere.

The cream itself is a bit of a trompe l'oeil; it seems really rich and thick and full of emulsifiers, but when you begin to rub in the (tiny pea-sized) blob into your face, it immediately begins to melt in effortlessly, much like the name would suggest - a milky-cream. However, whereas others reported it sank in very quickly for them, this actually takes longer than my usual moisturiser to sink in, but seeing as I, with my stubborn combination skin, am not Embryolisse's target audience, then I can understand.

Their target audience, then, is those with dry skin and it seems to be working very well for them, given the floods of positive reviews. For me, I have to agree. Although my skin took a little while to adjust to such a hydrating cream and rebuked me laughingly with about a week's worth of oily skin, I persevered and was pretty amazed by this moisturiser.

My skin after having adjusted to prolonged daily use is softer, plumper and more radiant, and it's actually less oily than before - meaning it was most likely chronically dehydrated and that the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré has redressed the balance. All my winter dry bits have vanished completely, and better still, they didn't reappear part-way through the day in flaky, nasty, very visible patches through my fading foundation. The moisture was truly locked in with barbed wire, patrol dogs and very high walls.

Anyway - what about the 'miracle' epithet often descriptively afforded to this product? Well, it's a product of many uses: a moisturiser, a primer, a cleanser and post-shave soother. Have I tested it in all of these contexts?

Er, no. However, seeing as I moisturise in the morning and then apply foundation, I can vouch for the primer aspect: foundations which are more difficult to blend, such as the Bourjois Bio-Detox, or MAC's Pro Longwear, glide on effortlessly - so much so that I've been forced to reverse my previously negative opinions of the Bio-Detox foundation because of the way my skin has been transformed by this product.

As a cleanser, I liked it, but infinitely preferred it as a moisturiser - 'cold cream' cleansers are not my favourite way to go, but this will work nicely if that's your favourite way to go, especially with a muslin cloth to exfoliate.

In terms of ingredients, there's quite a lot of interest too; it contains shea butter, beeswax, aloe vera and soy protein and is formulated specifically to minimise the likelihood of allergic reactions. More scientifically, it contains something called SymDiol 68T - sounds a bit scary, but actually it's there because it is a great moisturiser with the added benefits of anti-oxidant properties.

Did you know I could talk this long about a face cream? I didn't either. Suffice to say, though - this face cream has completely changed my skin and my skin care routine - my skin is hydrated and rebalanced and I seem to be beating the notorious (and loathed) winter dullness. Foundation is no longer sticking to dry bits (because there aren't any), my skin is smooth and glowing and happy - basically this is a dream come true for my skin. It is light on the scent - sort of a very clean, light floral and nothing too strong or distinctive. I say: yes please, and lashings of it.

I purchased the 75ml size from Coco Beau here for £16.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Friday 5: 5 products of 2010/5 oldies and 5 newies.

Irrelevant picture is irrelevant. Context: none. Subject: sockbunny disguise comprising largely of a hairband with two socks tucked in.

Whoops! You must mind out for those pesky internet potholes - I appear to have fallen in one for the past week and only extricated myself today. If you knew me extra-super-well, you'd probably hazard a calculated guess that I've been playing Zelda Twilight Princess a lot this week, fuelled by a new yes-I-can! conviction that I can in fact beat the evil overlord Ganondorf to prevail, save the princess from certain death and restore Hyrule to its former glory.

If you knew me extra-super-well.*

Anyway, because it's the 17th December (how?!) and none of the gifts Kiwi belatedly ordered me for Christmas and/or birthday have arrived, I'm sitting in on a Friday evening while Kiwi gallivants off with his buddies, watching Christmas movies and fuelling the Christmas spirit in other ways (Haribo Tangfastics and a pear cider).

So today, I'm relighting the touch paper for my Friday 5 series, and today's is a little different; it's 5 products of 2010, and then some classic Christmas fanfare in the form of a playlist.

The 5 favourite products of 2010? Let's GO!

1. FACE atelier Ultra Foundation: A lot of people hear me rave about this, and with good reason. It's a pigmented, silicone-based formula which blends effortlessly onto the skin, doesn't adhere to your scaly patches and looks simply beautiful while it lasts. This is currently my winter staple, as when I wear it and glance into the mirror in the fading light, I don't get a shock! horror! moment when I notice that [insert usual mattifying foundation here] has dried out and shrivelled up and died.
2. ELF Powder Brush: This brush is perfect, perfect, perfect! I'd hail it with the prestigious title of 'one of the best foundation brushes wot I own'. It's soft, well-made, blends foundation effortlessly and survives daily use very well indeed. It's definitely my stand-in for when my current love (the Coco Beau Pro Big, Fat, Firm Foundation Brush!) is grubby.
3. MAC Greasepaint Sticks/NYX Jumbo Pencils: Lumped together by virtue of being similar products, but actually a type of product I've been obsessed with - the cream shadow. My favourite thing to do with these is smear some blearily into the outer-v and then blend it out with my new favourite E.L.F. Studio Eyeshadow C Brush (so. perfect.) and then blend the main lid colour over the lid, followed by a contour shade. Perfect, quick and easy daytime (and rainy times and times in between) look with minimal effort.
4. Inglot: I never really get to explore, as they're far away from me, but their eyeshadows are the bees-knees - soft, creamy and pigmented, and better than MAC for their price. Their AMC cream blushes are lovely and soft, and their AMC lipglosses are lovely too. This is a brand which thoroughly deserves the attention its slowly garnering.
5. MAC Pro Longwear: As if I'd leave this one off. I've bought a lot of different foundations this year, and only 3 really stand out; the last one is Estée Lauder's Doublewear, but this one edges it out in terms of longevity and delivering its promise. Lovely finish, lasts for the full 15 hours on me and just all-round greatness - a rarity from MAC.

And for some festive cheer, I compiled a couple of lists for festive cheer - one of my favourite golden oldie Christmas songs, and another for some you might not be quite so familiar with.

Friday Playlists #1 - Golden Oldies:
1. Shakin' Stevens - Merry Xmas Everyone: My ultimate favourite - it instills this kind of festive euphoria in me.
2. Chris Rea - Driving Home For Christmas: A song can always be so evocative of a journey, a place or something you were doing at the time. For me this brings back those fuzzy memories of sitting on the train home from Manchester to London and feeling the same déjà-vu every single year.
3. Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday: The iconic cash register and image of a choir of chubby-faced enthusiastic children singing the chorus makes this a Christmas keeper.
4. Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home): A distinctly 60's feel with a wistful undertone and laden with huge false eyelashes and an iconic Mary Quant miniskirt.
5. Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel - Baby It's Cold Outside: Zooey's dulcet tones with the deep rumble of Leon Redbone make this a sweet festive duet.

Friday Playlists #2 - Something Different:
1. Guster - ¿Donde Está Santa Claus?: Actually in English, and actually a cover - but this is a sweetly-laconic version of the more saccharine original. It has a jaunty, jangly rhythm and I promise you will be bopping, even just the littlest bit.
2. Low - Just Like Christmas: A slightly wistful feeling Christmas song for chilling out amongst the festive stress.
3. Jason Mraz - Winter Wonderland: I don't usually like crooners, but this is a lovely arrangement with a little twist of skibbadeedee-ba-ba-da-da-da. You'll understand when you hear it.
4. Ben Folds - Bizarre Christmas Incident: Done in true clever Ben Folds style, he croons to a piano about a naked, dead Santa covered in Crisco oil ending up stuck in his chimney. Simply brilliant.
5. Belle & Sebastian - O Little Town Of Bethlehem: A version shot through with a little jazz, funny narration, and while a little rough around the edges, utterly charming.

Bonus track? Try the world's most awesome Youtube band, Pomplamoose and Always in the Season for some big band loveliness.

So, what are your top 5 songs for festive cheer? And what are your top 5 products of 2010?


* You know me so well. I beat it, woohoo! Hyrule is safe. I made Kiwi applaud me at the appropriate moment and then I took a high-five from his reluctant palm.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Curious about the E.L.F. Stippling Brush? Me too.

Recently E.L.F., budget cosmetics magnate, released a flurry of new brushes for all of us to ponder over. One of the brushes which has piqued curiosity in particular is their new Studio Line Stippling Brush, which shows how E.L.F. have noted the niche market of MAC's 187 and decided they would have a pop as well.

Having owned three 187 brushes, been bitterly disappointed and foisted them off to various friends and family members, I still fell hook, line and sinker into the trap; lured by the £3.50 price tag and obvious simulacrum of MAC's iconic skunk brush, I was interested to see how this compared, if it did indeed compare.

You can see by the pictures that this isn't a straight-cut dead-ringer for the much-beloved 187; its proportions of a long, skinny handle and long bristles make it more of a dense 188. It is extremely lightweight - not a bad thing but borders on feeling flimsy, and unlike other Studio brushes by E.L.F., it doesn't feel reassuringly well-made.

Full-whammy shot!

The bristles let this brush down. During its first wash, 4 bristles fell out immediately, and more broke upon using it to stipple my foundation on; I doubt it would last very long for daily use, and is definitely not suitable for professional use. The bristles themselves are soft to the touch, but far too soft to get that airbrushed look people flock to these sorts of brushes to achieve. The bristles just seem to collapse when touched to the face for some stippling action; they're just not robust enough - which makes me think that this may well be better as a blush brush.

Detail shot!

Not dense enough, not well-made enough and a cheap pipe dream of a MAC 187. It is functional but flimsy-feeling; the bristles are too soft and pliable with 4 falling out on the first wash. The finish it delivers isn't half bad, considering, and it's worth its £3.50 price tag, but definitely no more than that. If you're a serious stippler looking for a cheap 187, then go elsewhere, but if you're looking for a functional foundation brush on a budget, then this may work for you - but the Studio Powder Brush tramples all over it in terms of quality and finish.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Introducing: The Coco Beau Pro Big, Fat, Firm Foundation Brush!

So, recently I was sent* a brrrrush to try out. Not just a simple, plain brush, but a brrrrush; a bigger, better, beastie of a brush, a brush which crosses the finish line in 10 seconds flat, leaving your face flawless and all other brushes sprawling in the dust and consigning themselves to a lifetime of being second-best to the new pretender.

Meet the Big, Fat, Firm Foundation Brush, the inaugural brush in Coco Beau's new brush range, simply named Coco Beau Pro. It has come to be known in my mind as one of two things: The Beast, or alternatively, the BFF, both of which will be explained in due course. What I will say is that you might want to go ahead and add this on to your already lengthy Christmas list, because it's pretty awesome.

Now, as a small aside, you'll have heard me talk about Coco Beau a lot on this blog, and I feel lucky to be able to talk about them so much, in truth. They're a wonderful company, real purveyors of fine beautifying goods and have a great stable of quality brands on their website. They're ridiculously friendly, too, and work really hard launching new products on the website - I'm no longer surprised when an email pops up in my inbox past midnight from them. I could go on, yadda-yadda-yadda, but at the risk of sounding like I've mysteriously been added to their payroll as an employee, I won't. Just know this, though: they are small yet mighty.

So, on to their brush, The Beast, affectionately named so due to its size, or the BFF, if you'd prefer, because it won't let you down.

The Big, Fat, Firm Foundation Brush is a hand-crafted, synthetic-haired foundation brush with a stocky wooden handle. It's designed with fast yet thorough coverage in mind, so perfect for a couple of bleary-eyed swipes in those less perky mornings.

The quality of this brush is superb, as I would expect; the bristles are extremely soft and uniform length, the ferrule is firmly attached and the handle is thick and good quality without being too heavy. On repeated washes and a week accidentally spent in my handbag (I put things in my handbag to tidy away in the bedroom and forgot...), I have to remark on its amazing resilience to being toted about, battered, possibly sat on and washed. Not a bristle was shed, and the bristles are still as soft as when the brush arrived.

Actually, it's funny, because the 'handbag test' was probably the best and most useful test for a brush which Coco Beau claim to be capable of withstanding the rigors of daily use for a makeup professional. It certainly withstood being battered about in my handbag and emerged slightly grubbier, but without a hair bent out of place. The quality and care here speaks for itself.

So, in a market already saturated foundation brushes, what's the selling point for this one? Well, as I may have hinted, it's huge. Have a comparison picture - shown here by the Sigma F80 and the Louise Young LY34 - sadly I don't trust MAC to make me a foundation brush, so I don't own any for comparison purposes, though you can see one at Beauty Blogging Blonde for further reference.

The Big, Fat, Firm Foundation Brush in all its glory.

Comparison shot: top to bottom - Louise Young LY34, Coco Beau Pro Big, Fat Firm Foundation Brush and Sigma F80.

It's pretty hard to get an idea of the scale of this brush in the pictures, but it's bigger, fatter and denser than anything I currently own, and it's a completely different shape.

It takes on the form of a slightly fanned classic foundation brush with about 3 times the density, and the very tip of the bristles are rounded. All this contributes to you applying your face in about 10 seconds with decent coverage, no streaking and a beautiful almost air-brushed effect.

Detail shot of the fanned shape and curved edge.

Despite the fact I am unaccustomed to flatter-style foundation brushes, this one is a cinch to use right off the bat; I use short, quick strokes to disperse the foundation easily over my face, and since the bristles don't splay (looking at you, MAC 187), there's no dangerous eye-pokeage going on. In fact, the curved and tapered edge makes it pretty easy to manoeuvre around your facial nooks and crannies.

Coco Beau also suggest stippling with this as an option, for areas which may need more attention - this isn't something I've tried as I lack the attention-span to bother with that with any brush, but it's nice to know the option is there.

There's no other word for it except... Awesome. This brush has quickly become indispensable for everyday use and I reach for it above all others. It is a little more difficult to wash than other brushes I own due to the dense nature of the bristles, but makes foundation application so obscenely easy - no streaks or added blending, great product dispersal without soaking up all your foundation and very well-made.

Coco Beau said this would exceed my expectations and that I'd never go back. They were right. It's priced at a very reasonable £29.75 and is available here.

* This product was sent for review from Coco Beau. I am not being financially compensated by Coco Beau and all opinions are my own - and I'm always honest :)

Monday, 29 November 2010

iPulse, my bad genetic make-up and the elegant Blogger Event

A little while ago now I was privileged enough to be invited to My First Blogger Event, hosted by iPulse at the elegant Mayfair Hotel in London. I have to admit, for much of the event, I was suffering from an inferiority complex - so many illustrious denizens of the Big Bad Beauty Blogging world who routinely perch atop their soapboxes to deliver wonderfully-composed beauty tidbits, and then little old me?

Thankfully, none of them were scary - I got to meet the lovely Jen of Mizzworthy fame, and the equally lovely Sarah of I Heart Cosmetics.

The whole point of the event, because I'm not very good at getting to the point myself, was a round table event where we were invited to grill the CEO Scott Wotherspoon and his tribe on concerns, problems and general questions about the current iPulse device.

I felt spoiled; champagne, nibbly canapés and fish and chips! In a cone! An evening spent in good company, food and a good chinwag about beauty and all things hair removal... And Mr. Wotherspoon was surprisingly knowledgeable considering he was surrounded by a room of not only the more hirsute of the female population, but most likely his most discerning critics too.

In true 'me' style, I actually managed to leave all of my carefully-scribed notes from the Question Time style affair right where I wrote them... On the table. But, I do remember a few little tidbits of information for those of you who own an iPulse, or are thinking of owning one:

1. Fake tan matters: If you tan or fake tan, the iPulse is not going to be as effective as it would be with natural skin. You shouldn't use the iPulse after exposure to sun anyway, but even if you've fake-tanned, you need to scrub it off and treat your pasty skin as it is.

2. Facial hair is special: Facial hair is a different kind of hair to that on the rest of your body, and even if you're pale-skinned and dark-haired like me, it'll take much longer to treat and may not go away completely. It may be more of a maintenance job rather than a Bye Bye Beardy one.

3. Weekly treatments: The thing about the iPulse as opposed to treatments in a salon is that you do the iPulse treatment weekly, whereas a salon treatment is performed on a monthly basis. The reason you can only have a salon-style treatment once a month is to allow for skin repair - however, this doesn't make the iPulse any less powerful or effective as you're doing it 4 times a month rather than one and it all works out the same overall.

4. Unibrow: Bad news for those of us wanting to treat our eyebrows and rid ourselves of tweezers forever: it's not a good idea to treat your eyebrows at all. Remember how you once accidentally plucked an eyebrow hair out and it looked really obvious and it never really grew back and you had a gap there forever? The iPulse will do that, but 10 times over - you may well end up with only half an eyebrow. Not a good look. The light is not unsafe to the eyes, though.

5. Slather on that gel: The gel provided is dual-purpose in that it acts as both a skin cooler for your comfort and it also focuses the light to where it needs to get to. Without it, your treatments will be both more painful and less effective.

So, how did I get on? Well, in the interests of beauty, I've shaved various parts of myself including my arm and my face and have been lucky enough to get pretty good results. My legs (as a result of a combination of salon laser treatments 5 years ago and the iPulse) are patchy and bald and take much less upkeep. My bikini line is receding in terror and my underarms too.

It is a time-consuming treatment, however, which does take a lot longer than it estimates on the site and this, for me, is the reason I am not as diligent as I should be about going through those all-important hair-zapping machinations. After the event, I've been more motivated to keep up the treatment, and while I will say that it hasn't obliterated all hair everywhere within the 12 week time-frame and declared all-out war on those follicles, it's definitely working, and I'm definitely a much improved model from my starting genetic makeup (thanks, Dad!)

So, I put it to you: Any questions?

Much love.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sugarpill, and the field trip away from monochrome

Much like the famed canine buddies of Pavlov, I respond to certain stimuli, although I am fortunately much more housebroken in my daily life than I suspect the dogs were. Equally fortunately, I don't usually start drooling at the merest tinkle of a bell, but I do often get the glazed look of longing when I spot a particularly coveted makeup item, or feel compelled to hit refresh repeatedly on the MAC website when a new collection releases, even when I don't want anything, just to check what's selling out.

Pretty colours and shiny things bring out the worst in me - a double-edged sword of WANT cut with a silvered blade of 'but I don't even wear colour'. I think twice about my purchase and usually reluctantly put my beaten debit card, sighing and huffing and talking myself down all the way.

However, when I saw an FOTD on Lillian's blog a very long while ago, I was powerless to resist and the WANT train hit me full-smack in the face. I simply had to have.

The product which prompted it all was Sugarpill's Chromalust Loose Eyeshadow in Royal Sugar, and it is the colour dreams are made of. The notion of blue eyeshadow actually strikes fear into my heart usually, but we (the blue and I) reconciled our differences of 80's blue eyeshadow up to the eyebrows and offensive pink lipstick and shoulder-pads and I clicked 'order'.

4 weeks of waiting followed as the Royal Mail lost my package and took 2 weeks sending it back. Fed up with waiting, I attempted to place a new order and Paypal limited my account for reasons spurious and apparently routine. Despondent and fearing my colourful dreams were not to be, I was nonetheless itching to get my order, so I ordered elsewhere, and then somehow 3 other Sugarpill shades fell into my basket.


However, what I'm trying to say here, in a roundabout fashion (because it wouldn't be me if I weren't roundabout), is that Sugarpill is fully responsible for reawakening that childish SQUEE! emotion in me, that excitement I lost when unboxing a new product for the first time. I want more and I want to put them all over my face and be colourful and shiny and bright and look like a rainbow threw up on me. Even if they scare me a little.

Enough of the syntax and pontification though - you have to see these swatches. I was so amazed by these new jars of shiny that I wanted to go back to MAC with all of my pigments and demand a refund for their having been so dull all this time.

I suck at swatches, as always: 1. Darling (teal with teal shimmer); 2. Royal Sugar (royal blue with silver shimmer); 3. Paperdoll (lilac with magenta shimmer) and 4. Stella (black with multicoloured shimmer).

I've got my Gollum face well and truly on - that face of selfish wanting - I want MORE MORE MORE of Sugarpill and LESS LESS LESS of MAC. Oh, how I wish I'd discovered it sooner - it's like finally finding the big X on the treasure map, and it was right in front of your nose the whole time.

A few things I've noted while using this and enacting my first wide-eyed foray into what feels like Dorothy's Oz:
- These are ridiculously pigmented and can stain - the only thing which got this off my hands and arm after swatching was oil.
- They throw up quite a lot of dust - they are more finely-milled than MAC and require a more sticky base, such as Fyrinnae's Pixie Epoxy (which I don't own, but can justify now!)
- Using them wet with water, especially for concentrated areas (liquid liner) can mean the shadow cracks on the eyelid as the pigment is much more loose and finely-milled than a MAC pigment, so try MAC's various mixing mediums.

Have you ever tried Sugarpill?

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Beauty 5: 5 ways to combat dull Winter skin

My skin is subject to some turbulence due to some cold air invading my otherwise usually balmy atmosphere; it seems that I'm always due at least one horrific break-out and attack of the dermatological flatline with the change of the season. It mainly involves dull skin punctuated by the angry, radioactive glow of a brigade of surging pockmarks and dryness, rather than the advert-ready glow of healthy skin and having basked in 12 hours' worth of sleep.

Despite drinking more water and eating more fruit, my skin still feels lacklustre and a C+ "could try harder" student. Whilst I've managed to stop picking at my boils long enough for my face to heal, my skin feels grey, flat and one-dimensional, and I'm trying to remedy that, battling along valiantly with a few products.

It's working, and I feel the need to share. Here are my top 5 products for combatting the dull, rough-hewn skin that Winter is bringing in flurries.

1. Exfoliate: One of the easiest and best and oldest-est ways to happier, flake-free skin. For the face, the Body Shop Facial Buffer is a force unto itself and completely unbeatable. It's cheap, you can use it with your existing chosen face unguents and potions, and er... It's just brilliant. For body, Soap & Glory's Flake Away is a coarse sugary scrub which smells sweet and fruity and leaves a little of its oils on your skin to keep your grey elbows moisturised throughout the day - perfect if you're a chronically-lazy person for moisturising, like me.
2. Consider oil: As a night treatment, I like to use oil to moisturise when my skin feels sore and wind-beaten. My two very favourites are the A'Kin Rosehip oil, sent to me by my almost-favourite Aussie Jade (my actual favourite Australian happens to be Karl Kennedy FYI), and the Nude Replenishing Night Oil. The Rosehip Oil happens to smell... interesting, but is lovely and moisturising and reasonably-priced for brightening up my skin. The Nude Replenishing Night Oil is a more high-end product, but is lovely and light, and sinks in easily for overnight em-plumpening purposes.
3. FACE atelier Ultra Foundation: I can't sing the praises of this foundation enough. It doesn't cling to winter dry patches and glides onto the skin effortlessly for a healthy, dewy-but-not-too-dewy finish which is a perfect usurper of a whole summer of stay-put matte finishes.
4. Cream blush: The emollient nature of the cream blush is perfect for duller, dryer skin seasons, as it lends a little gleam and glow to the skin if you've still not made friends with the bewildering world of highlighters. My pick for the harsher climes is MAC's Blushcreme in Posey - a deep pink of tramping through cold weather, but being rewarded with a mulled wine and a mince pie for your pains. Lovely.
5: Highlight: Oldest trick in the book - but it works. Dior's Amber Diamond, currently the rightful recipient of a huge amount of hype, is a lovely highlighter which is low on too much glitter and just adds a beautiful, soft sheen to catch the fading light on dull days.

So, that wraps up my little list of essentials for faking a little brightness in these colder, darker days.

What are your secrets to brighter skin?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Review: Bésame Voluptuous Lip Colour Set in Red Velvet

A few weeks ago I posted about a new red lipstick I had allowed into my relatively small inner-circle of scarlet-hued beauties. As a capricious 20-something female with a penchant for classic Hollywood-style glamour, I am hugely selective about the red lipsticks I allow into my stable (filled only with the best, most racing thoroughbreds). I like the strong, screaming and stubborn - and who wouldn't? Red is a colour which can often put the frighteners on many an unaccustomed lady, but when you want it, you want it to be strictly non-migratory (such as the African swallow... thanks Monty Python) and to last the distance.

I think the main thing I find frustrating about the red lip, though, is the little question of lipliner. I once hustled to NARS after having purchased the ultimate Cruella de Vil lipstick - Red Lizard - and was approached by a sales lady inquiring if I needed any help in a twinkly-sweet-customer-pleasing voice. I explained: I needed a lipliner which matched exactly; no half measures. I wanted a screaming lipliner to match my screaming lips. She looked blank and pulled out a little drawer, displaying the paltry selection of various nudes before starting dubiously towards the darkest one, uttering the fatal words 'This might go?'

Anyway, before this post is overtaken by a rant, I'll stop with the digression and get to the point. It's rare that I'm genuinely impressed by all-in-one type kit products because there's always one product which lets it down. When I received a little kit from Bésame to review, care of Coco Beau, I was understandably a little wary and was beady-eyed from the beginning.

The product in question is a Voluptuous Lip Colour Set in Red Velvet, a vintage-boudoir-inspired set containing a lipstick, lipliner and a lipbrush. Bésame feel like a brand with a flair for finishing touches - the brush, the mini velvet travel sleeve and a helpful set of friendly tips make for a nice addition without being patronising. In short, this is a one-stop easy-install model for instant glamour with vintage-styling which would look great with a lightbulb mirror, and a matchy-matchy feel which is kitsch and appealing.

Both colour and texture-wise, the lipstick in this set is between MAC's Dubonnet lipstick and Red Lizard by NARS. It has a warm-pinkish lean within the classic red range and is creamy and smooth to apply with a satin finish rather than the classic Hollywood matte. The lipstick screams with pigmentation - perhaps down to the mineral formula - and is a full-on red which can easily be sheered out (but why should you?!) Lasting power is great; I wasn't counting the first time, but I consistently get great wear out of this whilst both eating and drinking and it doesn't feel drying on the lips. I do detect a hint of vanilla-y waxy scent from this, which doesn't bother me, but may well bother others. This lipstick, interestingly, does contain a veritable apothecary of intriguing ingredients, though: rose wax for silkiness, and aloe, green tea and botanical oils to protect and soothe.

Lipstick and lipliner swatched together.

My favourite thing about this set are the matching products which tie it all together. The lipliner is, of course, a perfect match for the lipstick and all the hard work is done for you here. It is an automatic pencil and twists up smoothly with no need to sharpen. It is creamy and smooth and works well on its own too, as well as underneath the lipstick, and it's lovely and easy to apply with no dragging on the lips.

The brush is a petite little thing which at first sight may look a little flimsy, but don't knock it 'til you've tried it. It's actually perfectly ergonomically designed to fit between the thumb and index finger, the bristles are soft and are staying firmly put. They're just stiff enough to glide around the contours of your lips but not too stiff to hurt. One main criticism I do have, though, is the lack of a little lid or protective cover to stop the residual product from getting all over your makeup bag. It's a small detail, but for me, one I would have liked to see.

ALL IN ALL, I have to say I love this little set - it's definitely a La-Z boy set with everything included and pre-matched for you. I love the packaging and style of the whole set, and the way it's carried through, even down to the lipbrush, and the product itself is exemplary - beautiful on a fair few skin tones, creamy, pigmented and moisturising and the one-way stop for Hollywood-style glamour for those of us less-inclined to play matchy-matchy with finding a lipliner in the bewildering world of brands! brands! brands! and sell! sell! sell! It retails at £30 from Coco Beau, and you can investigate the other shades here.

* This product was sent to me for review from Coco Beau. I am neither affiliated with Coco Beau nor Bésame Cosmetics, and I do not receive financial compensation for reviewing the products - and I wouldn't show you them if I didn't love and truly recommend them.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Recent Ins and Outs

I feel like I've not had time to breathe recently - Kiwi's not had to go in to work due to it being half-term, so he's off enjoying a nice holiday like the rest of his kiddies... This leads to constant 'what are you going to feed me today?' whines and big, sad bottom lips when I tell him it's something low-fat with no actual food content.

I miss my old hair - can haz haircut? Internets, tell me the answer!

I've not actually been able to walk properly most of this week. I decided to do the operation: lose the blubber again, and as a result have been hula-hooping and Shredding with the Supreme Evil Overlord Jillian Michaels. I try to exercise in the morning so she gets the brunt of my rage and my soul feels cleansed... Anyway, I overdid it a lot somewhat and could only walk at a snail's pace - and a robotic snail at that, which prompted Kiwi to keep hustling me to 'HURRY UUUUUP!' I never want to get old - because overdoing it on a workout made me feel like I was trapped in a lead suit, and I imagine that's how the older and wiser feel!

So, anyway - enough of the pointless rambling. Here's a little Sunday afternoon Ins and Outs for you, to show you what I've been enjoying, what I haven't, and er... what I'm on the fence about!

- Hula-hooping: This is genuinely my most favourite form of exercise apart from dance, mainly because it involves dance, and singing and jiggling around like an absolute prat to all of my favourite tunes. Yesterday I did the Time Warp whilst maintaining perfect airspeed velocity rotation speed - and the best thing was that Kiwi didn't even raise an eyebrow and retained complete composure at the sight of me shaking my booty-thang in my delightful sportswear.
- Statement lips: MAC's Toxic Tale, Lustering and Violetta, NARS Red Lizard, vampy shades and anything else which nears the day-glo paradox is my thing right now. It's low-key showing off one's plumage without too much commitment.
- Ebony/chocolate hair: I fell out of the phase of dying my hair black with a violet undertone and went for something a little more grown-up: I dyed it a beautiful deep-brown (the deepest, darkest one before you hit black) and it looks beautifully shiny, glossy and in keeping with the season.
- Inglot: I LOVE YOU, INGLOT! Your buttery shadows seduce me and your blushes and your lipsticks and and and... This is a not-so covert attempt to get them to GET THEIR SHOP ONLINE DAMNIT.

- Bourjois Bio-Detox Foundation: I'm still not sure. I think it's the colour being too yellow-toned - some days I can pull it off, and some days it makes me look like an extra from The Simpsons, which is NOT cool. It wears well and has a matte finish, but a peculiar smell. Hmm... This is a head-scratcher of an enigma.

- MAC: Again, MAC are on my naughty step, because of the absolute atrocities committed with their newest collection. I felt like I needed eye bleach the first time I saw the packaging, and the products look absolutely terrible. Thank you so much for releasing a crap collection, MAC, because now I actually save some money for something useful... like that eye bleach.
- Long hair: I had a comment on my YouTube channel on a very old video way back when I had awesome short hair. I miss it; long hair makes me feel more 'classic' and I can wear less makeup, but short hair makes me feel spunky and more interesting. I'm so bored of trying to grow my hair - can I cut it all off yet?

And Happy Halloween! I don't 'do' Halloween - but I did do a video tutorial of the neatened-up and straightened-out deer look I posted last week!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

FOTD #6: A fairy tale in miniature

Once upon a time there was a girl who already had found her prince, but still wanted to go to the ball anyway; she was prone to such flights of whimsy. She already had the dress, and the pumpkin coach was ready and waiting, yoked to six stamping horses in shining bridles. The perfect lipstick, however, was yet to be had.

Hopefully, and one might add, somewhat belatedly, she placed an order at MAC Cosmetics online, having located that one shade to make her eyes sparkle and her smile more talkative.

As with all fairy tales, there's a always a point at which something starts to go wrong. For Sleeping Beauty, it was that innocuous-seeming spindle. For Snow White, it was the apple (and perhaps, we could argue, greed to eat said apple). This girl's problem - or should we say venomous villain - came in the form of an email and the words 'Out of Stock'.

Thankfully, a solution came in the form of a Liverpudlian Fairy Godmother - because every good fairy tale has one. She said 'Ey up, chuck?' and waved her magic wand... And then there it was, the lipstick to complete the girl's outfit from a lovely Northern benefactor.

So the girl went to the ball and had a super time, yadda yadda, and all that stuff about happy endings, but what we're all dying to know is not the prince's shoe size and precisely how many types of vol-au-vent there were, but the name of the lipstick.

It's Toxic Tale and I've forced it to suit me - I almost feel like it makes my eyes shine more green - and it definitely makes my pout shout-out-loud bright. I love it, officially and truly. I guess stubbornly never listening to anyone's recommendations of what cosmetic colour palette I should sport is paying off - because if I had, I definitely wouldn't be wearing this.

The official facial expression for the phrase 'hmm...'

Staring off into the middle distance is in vogue right now.

Products used:

- Bourjois Bio-Detox Foundation
- NARS Blush in Orgasm
- Dior Amber Diamond

- Urban Decay Liquid Liner in Perversion
- Eyeko Big Eyes Mascara
- MAC Greasepaint Stick in French Quarter

- MAC Lipstick in Toxic Tale

Happy Sunday to all of you - mine has been spent eating cake with custard and drinking tea. Nom...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Doe, a deer...

Today I found one of those perfect ways to while away a Friday afternoon after a stressful morning (ha!) trawling London for the perfect products: face-painting!

I've been thinking about this look for Halloween for a while now - and today I finally took the plunge and... painted about half of my face brown. I saw the idea such a long time ago on another blog, and tweaked it around until it suited me - and I plan to do some more tweaking later!

It took me a while to adjust; I looked like I'd been left out in the sun too long, just like the marvellous David Dickinson who permanently seems to live his life in sepia. And, after about 10 baby wipes and thrashing out the details - which still require a little more thrashing - and the donning of some purple antlers (surprisingly hard to find even though we're edging nearer to the C-word (not THAT c-word!) )... I became a deer.

Insert terrible Photobooth candid here.

It's far from perfect - it looks a little ganguro girl chic as the brown face paint was too orangey - and the white looks too stark... But I'm enjoying my current costumey status.

What's your chosen Halloween transformation?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Flash Review: Sigma Flat Top Synthetic Kabuki

Also known by its alter-ego code-name the 197, the Sigma Flat Top Synthetic Kabuki is perhaps the jewel in Sigma's admittedly lacklustre and precariously-placed crown. I'm not a huge fan of Sigma's products - an opinion, I'm ashamed to say, formed mainly through hearsay - but when there are so many overwhelmingly bad reviews by the more discerning makeup addicts out there regarding Sigma's less-than-exacting attitude towards quality control, I can't honestly say it's a company where I'd like to spend my money (phew, long sentence!)

However, the Flat Top Synthetic Kabuki is definitely one of their products which bucks the overall negative trend and is easily my first port of call for swift no-effort foundation blending. It's worth the $16 price tag, but I couldn't say I'd pay any more for it unless Sigma seriously up their game and attention to detail. Here's an easy-to-swallow flash review in your 5-a-day-sized portion.

Image borrowed from Google.

1. Quality control: Sadly, the first thing I noticed about this whilst unpacking it was the lack of attention to detail - there were bristles of different lengths sticking out and I had to trim the brush myself. The brush felt rushed and unfinished and there was a definite lack of care in the manufacture.
2. Tap, Twist, Snap: Despite my grumbles, this brush truly does make makeup application a snap and my foundation is always perfectly blended in seconds due to the dense bristles and long handle, which is perfectly ergonomically-designed.
3. Get a handle on this: Speaking of handles, the long handle on this brush makes it a perfect candidate for applying foundation as it offers just the right amount of manual control, and is therefore easier to use than a traditional short-handled kabuki. The handle feels sturdy, is well-glued into place and fits the contours of my tiny mitts nicely.
4. The soft parade: While I wouldn't say this is the softest brush to grace my face, it is still sift and the bristles have just the right amount of give either way without being harsh on my skin.
5. Don't shed a tear: Despite my initial gripe about the shoddy workmanship of this brush, no bristles have actually been shed, nor has any dye run. Given that even my MAC brushes have shed (don't even talk to me about the 187), I was impressed despite my negative first impression.

The Conclusion:
This brush is both an excellent starting and ending point for the Sigma brush range if you'd like to see the very best of their capabilities. Although the bristles stained indelibly from the first use, it's a great everyday staple which doesn't set you back a fortune.

What do you think about Sigma brushes? Have you tried the Flat Top Synthetic Kabuki?

Much love x

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Review: MAC Pro Longwear Concealer

This week has been an excellent week to review a concealer; my usually amenable skin is suffering from a series of glitches, technical errors and Error 404: Page Not Found. In other words, I'm currently suffocating in the midst of a nasty acne outbreak and it hurts to move my chin.

So yes, this week, in essence, is the perfect time to review a concealer and to test it to its limits. The concealer in question is MAC's latest offering: the Pro Longwear concealer, littlest sister to the foundation of the name name. Same name, same claim, same... performance? Well, we'll see...

Image borrowed from Google - I forgot to take my own!

THE PACKAGING is the most disappointing aspect of this whole product and I keep trying to rationalise MAC's use of it until I'm blue in the face; it's quite possibly the most ill-advised packaging I've ever had to use. Using it on a day-by-day basis is a constant frustration - I very rarely get just the right amount and end up distributing the rest pointlessly over my other less pockmarked areas of my face. I saw a comment on a blog regarding this problem: simply pump it into a sample jar and save the unused amount for later. It's a practical suggestion, but I still feel bitchy about it - why, indeed, should I have to resort to such measures because of MAC's failing? At this high-end price, I feel justifiably miffed.

THE TEXTURE is fairly liquid but it has a soft, creamy feel. It certainly doesn't have the sticky feel of its matching foundation. It sets as quickly as its counterpart product, however, so swift blending is an absolute must and the prospects of building this up are slim: it cakes, and cakes badly if you don't move quickly.

COVERAGE is good and pigmented for under-eye circles, but mine aren't usually too prominent. I am satisfied with the coverage, however, but others with more prominent under-eye circles may not. On blemishes, I have to admit, I'm not sold. Although this is not marketed as an all-purpose concealer, I was curious to see its performance in other areas. I'll be blunt: it was poor. It was too liquid to conceal effectively and it caked upon subsequent layers - and then to add insult to injury, it oxidised. It just wasn't working on that front - but I can't judge it too harshly; it's definitely not its true calling.

500 B.C. (Before Concealer).

500 A.D. (After Disguisement).

Although at first, I applied this with a fluffy brush, I encountered two problems. The first was that the concealer was setting before I could blend it as I pleased around the eye area, and the second was that I could barely cleanse it from the brush without resorting to oil to break down the product. As it stands now, I prefer to blend this using my fingers, as their warmth gives me the tiniest extra snippet of time with which I can blend it perfectly before it sets for the next 15 hours.

THE FINISH matches that of the foundation - it's a matte finish without being too dry or mask-like. For oily skins, this type of finish is going to work well, but for those who have drier skins, this will grab to drier areas unless you have an excellent eye cream at your disposal.

WEAR, however, is where this concealer does at least fulfil its briefs: it wears for the promised 15 hour period without budging or creasing, and even in hotter, sweatier climes like the infinite delights of the cavernous London tube. It's such a shame, really, that this is one of the only positive notes in a miserable mire of negatives and tactical errors.

So, where does that leave us? I'm disappointed. Although it delivers on its claims of 15 hour wear and covers my under-eye circles effectively, the terrible choice in packaging and one-trick pony nature which cannot deal with a simple blemish leaves me cold. Why why why isn't it as good as its foundation of the same namesake? Oh, MAC, you could have done so much better with this. I'll use it up, but I'm not convinced - I'm betting Estée Lauder's Double Wear is going to be a vast improvement.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Mission #3: Neon Eyes

Just so we're absolutely clear: I feel ridiculous wearing this look, the latest of my Beauty 5 challenge series on the 5 looks I'm scared to wear. I came up with this miniseries as a form of slap to the face, a jump-start out of this beauty rut my makeup's been idling in, a need to stop my love for makeup atrophying. On the way so far, I've tried fuchsia lips and going natural - both easy, trifling little slips of dares which eased me in nicely.

And then I got here and the brakes screeched and I was too scared to even dip my toes in. The first two? Oh, they were easy. The next three on my to-do list, however, are the big guns, and when confronted with them, all I can do is squeak in reponse.

Oh, what's that? The music from The Twilight Zone is beginning to play, softly and eerily. Must be time for Mission #3: Neon Eyes.

As usual, a summary of today's arsenal:

1. MAC Pigment in Vanilla: I choose a soft white-gold pigment to blend into the inner corner and tear duct, for fear of neon orange all over the lid looking like I've contracted some tropical (and decidedly nasty) disease.
2. Sleek i-Divine Acid Palette: I home into the neon orange shade for this look. As a caveat, I normally love Sleek Palettes, however the Acid Palette is chalky, the shadows are not buttery smooth but rock hard to the touch and they are a bitch to blend.
3. Estée Lauder Double Wear Liquid Eyeliner: I forgo my usual Shiseido Fine Eyeliner for this beauty; it's the blackest black and is perfect for the job at hand. I know it won't fade or budge and it makes me feel more human.
4. NARS Multiple Tint Tube in Turks & Caicos: I pick a blush which is offensively neon-looking to match my orange eyes. However, this is a beautiful match as when applied, it tones down to a lovely peachy shade which complements the ocular monstrosity.
5. Beauté Liqui-Gel Stain in Fluoron*: Only the most perfect lipstain known to me and my ever-changing arsenal would fit here - lipstick wasn't right as it felt too much, and nothing else 'spoke' to me. I pick this offensively-coloured lipstain and blend it over my lips to a beautiful flushed pink. Nothing's ever as scary once it's out of the bottle.
And here's what it turned out like:

The only photo I don't actually hate - and no, I couldn't bring myself to dazzle you with a smile...

Another one of the best out of a bad lot - check out the hair. This is comedy gold...

I feel like I'm too early for Halloween, like that person who always jumps out and yells 'SURPRISE!' just a little too early. I feel like a plastic supermarket pumpkin and feel very out of sorts.

Oh well, the kicker is yet to come. As I present my face to Kiwi (does anyone else do that?! I always show Kiwi and he gives the final judgement and if it's bad, I just accuse him of not 'understanding' the brief...), there is a measured pause. Crickets stop cricketing, tumbleweeds stop tumbleweeding and the whole world holds its breath.

'Well,' he intones seriously, 'I like the orange. Looks good.'

Pardon me?

- The Sleek Acid Palette made my job for this challenge unnecessarily difficult; next time I'd go to Barry M or another brand, as the neon orange shadow I used was chalky, impossible to blend and nowhere near the buttery smoothness I'd expect from Sleek.
- The look? It's just not for me - except on fancy-dress occasions, however, I don't actually mind the juxtaposition of my blue eyes and the orange eyeshadow too much at all... I just wouldn't wear it everyday. Or every week. Or month. Maybe once a year? October 31st seems about right...

Comedy photo too good not to share: mid-blink is the most sultry of all.

*Product sent to me as a gift from Coco Beau. I am not being financially compensated to feature it, and I am neither affiliated with Coco Beau nor Beauté.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Review: Beauté Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron

I'd never say I was a connoisseur of the lipstain, but I'm definitely not flying blind with this next review. All I know is what I do like, and what I don't - and I am definitely, irrevocably in the camp of people who hate BeneTint (we have a support group on Thursdays at 9!) It leaks in my handbag, it gives me unblendable warpaint streaks and is quite clearly surfing on a wave of cult status without having done anything to gain it.

So you can imagine my delight when I received a lipstain in a formulation I'd never come across before: the gel. After I'd stashed it in my handbag for a week with no leaking, I was already impressed. I applied it leisurely without feeling like hesitating a millisecond would make me look like I'd rouged my cheeks in the dark and painted a scarlet bullseye in the centre of my cheek. The name of my new favourite stain, then, is Beauté's Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron,* and I'll admit, if it were a party guest, it'd be the annoyingly brash friend-of-a-friend who nobody will admit to inviting, and who will walk around clutching two beers and laughing at their own jokes.

Once you get to know them, though, it's truly a beautiful relationship.

Beauté Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron - check out that colour!

THE PACKAGING of the Beauté Liqui-Gel Stain is simple, understated and chic, and incorporates a fairly stout lucite tube with a doe-foot applicator for easy application, which works well with the gel texture as it does not drip from the applicator like some stains can.

APPLICATION of this retina-scarring wonder, as I have said, is easy-peasy. As with all stains, you do need to blend it quite swifly, but you're not going to experience the stupidly fast-forwarded time constraints like from a more liquid formula. I choose to blend with my fingers (which obviously end up a little pinkened from this process), though using a dense flat-topped brush on the cheeks works well too. It's pretty easy to apply, though I'd suggest application on a cheek-by-cheek basis (which sounds a bit rude, but it's not!) and apply a dot and gradually build the colour.

One coat of this product gets you the perfect just-smooched look and a beautifully-flushed cheek which is a great afternoon pick-me-up when your blush has already begun to fade. Two coats (you thrill-seeker you!) will deepen and brighten the beautiful pink shade for a bit more of a pow! kind of feel. This product works well for layering due to its fabulous formula, which doesn't sink into fine lines and disperses evenly over lips and cheeks.

Flouron on the lips!

Cheek shot (this is the dewiest you'll ever see me, eek!)

HOWEVER, less is more with this product: the formula is both extremely pigmented and longwearing, so take it slow and build up gently. Flushed cheeks may be in, but the pantomime season isn't quite here yet. On my first go, I'll admit, I was over-enthusiastic and misjudged the liqui-gel's pigmentation completely. Kiwi didn't even falter on that one and sent me scurrying back to the bedroom with a sharp 'What have you done to your face?!'

LONGEVITY is good with this product and I get at least 6 hours' of wear with this on my lips, both eating and drinking (but not all at once...), and I get longer wear on the cheeks. It fades well without creating that nasty tidemark some lip products can bring about and is definitely less drying than other stain products.

Things you may need to know about this product is that I did detect a light scent of roses with an added floral undertone. This is very likely due to the fancy ingredients: Essential Rose Extract and Orchid Extract OS. The former is added for anti-viral and moisturising properties whereas the latter is rich in minerals which occur naturally in the skin.

Putting it in direct competition with BeneFit's offering, it is priced at £23.50, and for me, this delivers where BeneTint fails to: it's more practically-packaged, blends more easily and lasts longer. It's underrated and overshadowed by BeneFit's cult product, but overshadows it effortlessly in terms of quality.

It is available in three other colours and you can investigate it further here. I can tell you now that I'll certainly be investigating the other shades soon. Simply perfect.

* This was sent to me as a gift by Coco Beau. I am not being financially compensated for this review, nor do I have an affiliation with Coco Beau or Beauté. All opinions are most definitely my own.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Review: MAC Pro Longwear Foundation

Hands up if you're unsurprised by the fact that I broke my no-MAC-foundations rule and ran to buy one?

That'd be a full show of hands, then, because I am nothing if not principled and a woman of my word... Except until I decide to change my mind.

My grievances with MAC foundations are few, as it stands; I merely prefer to buy elsewhere because I've never really been that... bothered by any of the furore surrounding the celebrated Studio Fix Fluid or the Mineralize Skinfinish Natural. As it is, MAC and I did have one brief fling when I tried the Studio Sculpt foundation, which left me an oily, greasy mess and smelled oddly of paint. So we stopped talking, and delicately extricated ourselves from our embarrassingly quick and pleasureless fumble.

And then came Pro Longwear, enticing me with its saucy promises of 15 hour faces and the thought of not battling oiliness. I was seduced, and despite the fact that every opinion I've seen about this foundation has expressed the contrary, I still feel justified in saying it's amazing and it's probably verging on Holy Grail country for me. Colour me surprised: it's actually really bloody good, in my humble opinion.

For this foundation, MAC gives us a pump ready-integrated with no extra purchase necessary. The formula itself is fairly thick and requires speedy blending and application as it is quick to set on the skin. The finish is matte but not mask-like and the coverage is pretty good, but not full. I found this foundation to be less buildable than others (certainly less buildable than other silicone-based formulas I've reviewed), but building it up is certainly possible... but it could end up in a stubborn hands-flapping bitch-fight if you're not quick enough.

Photographed in natural light featuring guest blogger of my pile of laundry in the background.

The feel of this foundation is what keeps it from being Holy Grail; although it sets quickly, it leaves this almost tacky feeling which feels like it's sorely in need of powdering, rather than the silky feeling I'm used to. It's not a deal-breaker and indeed, I got fantastic wear from this foundation without powder, but it just felt nicer when I dusted a little over it. So to those who like to powder, be aware: use a light hand, a fluffy brush and a finely-milled powder and only dust over the places you need it - overdoing it will make a cakey, powdery mess.

Another view, because I'm narcissistic enough to believe you love looking at endless pictures of my face.

Onto the most important thing about this foundation: the wear. I wore this on a transatlantic flight, with all the hours and stressing in between, clocking up an impressive 16 hours' wear. When I finally got to the hotel and removed my makeup, it was still all there - despite recycled air on the plane, the inevitable dehydration of cruising at 35,000 feet and my fretful touching to see if I'd become oily yet.

EXTREEEEME CLOSE-UP (after having cleaned the house from top to bottom, phew!)

So for wear? Well, 16 hours with barely any breakthrough oiliness and no mask-like skin despite encroaching fatigue? It speaks for itself, really.

However, although I experienced no adverse reactions from this foundation, I would definitely point out that it does feel heavy on the skin and the long-wearing formula (and its ingredients) could cause people with more sensitive skin to break out. I'm not saying it's a given, but as I've heard reports of cystic acne from the famous Studio Fix Fluid, then it could happen here, too, so always get a sample! It's also worthy of note that it does contain SPF10, so therefore will protect your face but is not suitable for flash photography unless you happen to enjoy the Casper look. It doesn't oxidise too badly (if at all) on me; I'm yet to experience it doing so.

Taken with flash - not too bad for whiteness factor, but there's still a white cast there.

While removing it, an oil-based cleanser will definitely lift all of the product off, and this is something to consider whilst cleaning your brush of it as well; I found it quite difficult to clean my brushes just using a shampoo. In terms of brushes for application, it works well with denser brushes with a flat top, such as the E.L.F. Studio Powder Brush or the Sigma 197.

The final word? I've worn it every single day since I bought it and it's definitely a straight-A student for me. It really does deliver what it promises and your face will last until the end of your day with no problems. As much as it pains me to say this about a MAC foundation - don't hesitate and go grab a sample. The flawless-faced you will thank me in about 15 hours' time...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Jetlagged Ins and Outs

So, I'm back from the heaving metropolis of New York after a midnight flight on a too-cold plane where the food was inedible right down to the little cheese triangles they give you for afters. I didn't sleep one inch and I've been passing the day in a largely somnambulistic state; stumbling about with my eyes half-closed and tripping over things. I fell asleep with my hair wet and woke up 2 hours later, mumbling about the time and feeling concerned that I'd done something awful to my body-clock. Luckily it was only 6pm, but I'm still trying to shake off the lumbering fatigue which shuffles after me and leaves my brain shackled and useless in a dusty corner somewhere.

So, before I have to think too much, let me recap my week, which was mostly spent wandering wide-eyed around the Big Apple. The subject of fruit is an interesting one: I was paying for a coffee in Macy's when a slender-waisted employee presented the cashier with her 'lunch'.

'What's than, an apple?' the cashier asked.
'No, it's called a nectarine - it's a type of plum,' the girl responded.

I'll admit, I turned around and stared.

Not the point of this post, I'll also admit, but sometimes anecdotes are good for the tired brain. I had my conference from 10am - 10pm on 3 days, which left me in academic fatigue and reeling with a case of youthful stupidity; everyone was just so much cleverer than me. However, I ploughed through and did a little shopping and fell in love with Essie polishes (but interestingly, not the city itself). Enough about me? Good, I'm too tired for much more talking.

- Victoria's Secret: This shop can't come to the UK fast enough; the bras are lovely and I bought 2 of the same style (in the same colour) as it was so comfortable on my saucy lady lumps that I had to. The choice is great, the saucy underroos are galore, the prices were pretty good in the US (which probably won't be a mainstay in the UK), but overall, very happy.
- Viva Glam Cyndi Lipglass: Things that don't require much effort but pull my makeup look together in seconds are very popular with me, and this is one of them. It's lovely and opaque enough with a beautiful colour to wake my face up - although definitely not a good lip choice when there's a breeze - the hair-in-lipgloss scenario is such a terrifying menace.
- MAC Pro-Longwear Foundation: I wrote a review of this (in my Moleskine notepad, because I am infinitely pretentious), during a conference lunch break, and will be telling you all about it in a review (probably tomorrow). Needless to say, it's amazing and I've worn it basically every single day. It stays on until I take it off. AMAZING.
- Being home: Hate to say it, but I'm not cut out for the US; I missed my Kiwi and I missed England with all its infinite quirks.

- Summer: Bring on the deep red lipsticks and the plum ones too, oh and the crackling of bonfires and sparklers and spicy cinnamon scents. Summer is done with and I'm glad about that. Just think: no more wasps!
- NARS Sheer Glow: I bought it, I loved it, I finished it and then I did not repurchase it. I found there is more that the world of foundation has to offer me which blends much better, stays much longer and is just much better for my skin type. Still love you, Sheer Glow, but sayonara for the foreseeable future.
- Airplane travel: 7 hours of sitting in the same seat, next to the same awful member of the human race, breathing the same recycled air, eating food 1 molecule away from being plastic and not being able to drink enough water because the person next to you is so asleep they're drooling onto their free pillow so you don't feel you are stealthy enough to step over them to use the stinky airplane bathroom? Oh my skin - I'm so sorry. I'll make it up to you.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Hair + Oil = match made in heaven?!

I rarely blog about hair.

It's mostly because I don't know anything about hair. My hair generally does what it does, and I'm cool with that. We have a tacit understanding: what happens with my hair happens, and we most certainly do not talk about it (unless it's a Really Good Hair Day, in which case we will most certainly congratulate one another and high-five on a most propitious case of working as a team).

So, yesterday, I went to get a haircut, after several days' worth of dithering over salons, special mega-deals and so on.

Finding a hairdresser in London is hard; everything is overpriced - apparently I'm not already paying enough for the privilege of living in the capital. London's hairdressers, it seems, are a greedy-eyed parade of scissor-wielding corporate ventures, something I try to avoid.
It's not that I have anything against a chain salon... Not really. I always find, however, that the price is always unfairly bumped up and you're always 'offered' (I like to think of it as bothered) the new super-duper awesome one-day-only hair treatment. Once you've nixed that suggestion, you're subjected to the hard sell - you definitely 'need' to buy the clarifying shampoo and conditioner, and you should probably use the spray wax as an expensive outro/postlude to your hair routine.

So, yesterday, armed with a 50% off coupon for first-time customers, I made my way (yes, despite the strikes!) to the first chain salon I've been to in years.
The haircut, as it goes, was excellent. I went to Rush in Covent Garden and was introduced to my stylist Sanchia (hardest name to remember ever), a quirky South-African lady who reminded me of a boho pixie; she was sunny and happy and she gave me a great haircut. She didn't even try to sell me anything (well, not really).

Apparently £70's worth of haircut.

At the time of paying, I nearly choked on my complimentary cranberry juice when they asked, without a trace of a smirk, that I hand over £70. That voucher sure came in handy at that point. And I would go back... given an unexpected windfall/lottery win/special occasion/someone else paid.

One lovely thing to come of the haircut, though, was the product she used on my hair. Brace yourselves - it was an oil. AN OIL. She warmed the tiniest amount up in her hands and applied it to the ends of my hair; it smelled delicious so I was naturally curious, and then horrified once I found out what she'd used. My hair is fine, but there's a lot of it, so product build-up is a problem for me; my hair falls flat if someone just talks to me - like it has built itself up to be a letdown every time.

However, this oil... was magic. I have never had softer, shinier locks in my entire life. Ever. She recommended I buy a sample bottle, priced at £5, which she said would last me ages - and advised against buying the huge one.

Image borrowed from Google.

And you know that thing about how when you go into a salon and you come out with a product they used, full of hope that you can get it to make your hair how they made it look with this miracle chemical mixture? It never happens, does it? You spritz and tweak and your hair ends up like an oil slick, or sticking out in funny places...

Well, I used it this morning, expecting the worst, and now my hair is exactly the same as it was styled in the salon: unbelievably soft, shiny and just... lovely.

Apparently the future of hairstyling is Macadamia Oil. Try it and see, it's bloody magic.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Scarlet Fever.

"When in doubt wear red."
- Bill Blass

Candid in-car-on-the-way-to-the-Supermarket shot. Today's choice of red: Bésame Voluptuous Lip Colour lipstick in Red Velvet.*

It could be the new hair style and colour I've been sporting recently. It could be the new girl I discovered on YouTube who I met at a recent meet-up whose retro stylings and effortlessly classic makeup style had my jealous heart aflutter. It could be the fact that it's September, that the nights are drawing in bit by bit and it's finally time for anything but coral.

Recently I've been shyly reaching for deeper hues; at first I pansied about and dabbed them as a stain, and gradually built myself up for the full whammy, the Hollywood sexbomb, the proper scarlet pout. There's just something in this shade which makes me feel right at home, confidently sassy and ready to get on with the day. Matte, glossy or peppered with shimmer - it doesn't matter; just as long as it's scarlet and screaming and paired with a glossy liquid liner, a perfect face and an insouciant cocked brow.

Well, there's always a reason why trend after trend passes the simple red lip by, but never surpasses it: the confidence and pure sex you exude while wearing it are simply incomparable.

Insouciant brow? Check.

* Bésame Voluptuous Lip Colour lipstick set provided for the purposes of review. All opinions expressed here are my own and I am not being financially compensated. I am not affiliated with either Coco Beau or Bésame.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Beauty A-Z: D

Did you think I'd forgotten about my epic voyage, Sesame Street-style into the beauty-related alphabet? No. I just couldn't think of anything for the letter D for the longest time (imagine what will happen at Q, X and Z if I'm failing so successfully now?) I won't bore you with snippets of life interludes or pontifications upon life and its meaning... This is a beauty blog, so today, just because, we're actually just going to talk about beauty without my usual fanfare.*

1. My first D is for Diorskin Nude foundation, the one foundation which is never capricious, or never makes me suffer with unpredictable no-I-don't-want-to-blend-today or gonna-cake-your-skin-up mood swings. Thankfully, there's no teenage door-slamming phase from this foundation; it's pretty much foolproof. Apply as much as you want, in as haphazard a fashion as you want; use fingers or brush, or implement of your choice (trowel?) and you pretty much can't streak it or get it wrong. It lasts a decent amount of time and gives your skin a beautifully natural luminescence, just like you've slept on clouds, that you've been drinking your prescribed 8 glasses of water and eating food pooed out by unicorns (as everyone knows that unicorns poo rainbows and love).
2. Dubonnet by MAC was my first ruby-hued lipstick love, the gentle Colin Firth-style one who broke me in to a different set of options; the lipstick I viewed with soft, adoring glances before I became steely-eyed and more courageous with its scarier, tattooed cousins. Dubonnet is the perfect red, for both skin tones. It's more of a sultry red than a screaming pillarbox colour, and it's the perfect tone to just dip your toe in more crimson waters. It's perfectly creamy with a bit of a sheen and wears quite well with an elegant fade. It's the perfect starter for ten.
3. I didn't realise, when I hastily clicked the 'Buy Now!' button on a website, how much a grey cake eyeliner would come to be indispensable. Devout by Illamasqua is a fabulously-formulated product which dries to a medium grey. When wetted, it's creamy and beautiful to apply, and gives my eyes that extra unexpected zing - they look pretty and emphasise their different hues, but you can't tell until you're up close and personal what exactly it is that's making them smoulder.

* Apologies for those who love the splendiferous fanfare of verbosity usually seen in these posts. The management has registered your complaint and will take it under consideration.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Hey there, beautiful...

Guess what I got today? House of Fraser started sneak-selling these in a covert fashion at the beginning of this week, and as soon as I'd gleaned this little piece of news, I jumped on a train dragging a protesting Kiwi behind me and headed straight to Oxford Circus. I rang up beforehand and a lovely lady stashed me a palette away in a cubby, just so I wouldn't miss out on the one beauty item I've been waiting for for the last 2 months.

And yes, it's beautiful. And if you like your neutrals, you will LOVE this. It's not the haphazard colour splash of the Book of Shadows where there's bound to be at least 4 shades you will never, ever use. I can say with confidence, that this will get obscene amounts of love from me. All the shadows are smooth and buttery and just stunning. I'd give you swatches, but you all know them off by heart from Temptalia by now...

For those of you worrying of boyfriend maltreatment, Kiwi was treated to a flapjack for his pains, and his favourite dinner.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Bright-eyed and jammy-lipped: my first cosmetics

I made my first jammy-lipped foray into makeup with Avon's Little Blossom range, with its sugared almond packaging. It was a Christmas morning, and I'd just unwrapped all of my presents within the space of five minutes, in that haphazard, small mad-haired child tornado way, barely registering my parents' indulgent smiles.

Wide-eyed, I inspected my gifts of and silently cross-compared them with my big-girl red coat and big-girl watch with a frog on the face. Confirmation. I bore everything upstairs jealously and promptly hid everything in the attic so that I could consult my new 'collection' at my leisure and away from prying eyes. There was a reason for this childish hoarding: every Christmas, upon receiving my Advent Calendar full of chocolate, my dad would pretend-threaten to purloin it and eat all of the chocolate. I learned quickly and hid it behind my dresser every night and privately worried about a moustachioed fat man who wasn't Father Christmas slipping into my room in the depths of a dark night and stealing away with the precious calendar and its tasty contents.*

A moustachioed chocolate-thieving man identified as NOT Father Christmas.

So, hence the paranoid hiding of my newest favourite thing: a strawberry-tinted lip balm, a little bottle of perfume and a special sugared-pink peel-off nail polish from Tinkerbell. The lip balm smelled like strawberries and painted my lips a Riding-Hood red. I don't remember being especially particular about its placement on my lips; general vicinity of the mouth was fine. The perfume I'd splash on with aplomb; it didn't have a spray nozzle like the ones I'd seen my mother use, so at age 5, I successfully learned to just 'wing it'. The nail polish was the crowning glory, the one thing I guarded more jealously than all my gifts, leaving pink paint chippings all over the house, a non-toxic homage to Hansel and Gretel.

Obsession born, I'd later skulk about playing spectre to my mother's every movement, and waiting for her to become preoccupied by answering the phone or talking at the door, and then I'd launch a full-scale strike upon her meagre little stash hidden away in the bathroom. It was a calculated strike with every second accounted for in an every-girl-for-herself reconnaissance mission. The thing I coveted most was a palette from a high-street store,with unctuous, waxy-smelling lipsticks and a few eyeshadows, the most important of which was a pigeon-grey (because pigeons are darker in colour than doves, so that's what we're calling it), and it was selected because it was the darkest colour, and therefore, the best.

I'd daub it all on clumsily, occasionally stopping to powder my nose with a little powder puff like a grown-up, or launch a small-statured assault on a bottle of Clinique foundation at least 3 shades too dark and 2 years too old.

I'd always get caught and scamper happily back to my bedroom after having been told off in the most franglais style possible: my mother would utter 'Lá! La-la-la-la-la-la!' in an accusing rhythm whilst wagging a finger.

Don't let the innocent façade pull you in; that's the mistake my parents made (PS: Dog not mine!)

I can only assume it was her version of saying 'tsk', but for someone who grew up with the term of endearment 'puppet' as their mother couldn't pronounce 'poppet' properly (and that alone took me until I was 21 years old for that epiphany to happen), I can only go by what my mildly-trained ear tells me.**

I think it was always my mother's indifference to makeup and her refusal to let me have ALL OF HERS which was the problem. I argued with her relentlessly in a supermarket, aged 6, when she wouldn't buy me an obnoxious pink nail polish. There may have been feet-stamping. There may also have been a minor tantrum. I got it in the end and bore it home proudly, despite my father's unadulterated horror and refusal to let me eat dinner until I'd cleaned it off again.

And that was that; absence only makes the heart grow fonder, after all.

When I was a little girl, I believed that uttering arbitrary syllables meant I was 'speaking French' and that my dad's Adam's apple was actually a walnut (so he told me) that he'd accidentally swallowed whole. I believed, on a fateful trip to Scotland, that a plastic model of the Loch Ness Monster floating in a pond was the real thing and genuinely believed that when I grew up, I'd become a princess, despite the logistics of my parents not actually being of royal blood. When all those silly childhood fantasies faded away a little, I was left with one remaining: that even if nothing else were true, my mum should definitely have let me play with her makeup a little more.

It was only rude not to; she'd already unknowingly created a monster.

How did you all first get hooked?

An excellent demonstration of the more impressionistic route in makeup application (of a 6 year old child).

* Other strange behaviours I exhibited as a child included hiding my toast crusts in the drawer under the table: having been informed at an early age that eating my crusts would give me curly hair, I took a strong dislike to them and hid them rather than eat them. It's a shame really, considering I now spend so much time trying to get my hair to curl even the slightest bit. We're not here to talk about my idiosyncrasies, but I could tell you were all curious...

** Other words my mother still can't say after 35 years in England: squirrel (which she says 'scure-rel'), crisps ('crips') and farce ('fast'). Invariably these days, my mother will also call out the cat's name when she means mine, so it's not like her idiosyncrasies have waned over the years...


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