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 :)


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