Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Last Chance Saloon: The Good, the Bad and the Binned.

I could have titled this 'the good, the bad and the sold-in-a-recent-blog-sale', but sometimes, even with my verbosity, I have to recognise a title too triumphant and its subsequent trumpeting of one of my worst foibles (and well - some of these products really did end their short life in the bin).

I'll hold both of my hands up and say it, though, that another one of my foibles is being easily bewitched by makeup products. The problem is that I'm instinctive, and not in the useful DUCK! THERE'S AN ANVIL SWINGING TOWARDS YOU! kind of way; it's more the BUY BUY BUY! HOARD HOARD HOARD! instinct which kicks in, a remnant from those hunter-gatherer days, except for those more cosmetically-inclined. It is, in its very essence, a kneejerk, a lurching swoop of greedy-eyed consumerism winked into existence by a complicated game of Chinese whispers on YouTube - of course you've already heard, you already know: you've already bought the product on someone's say-so. Other peoples' warnings on the pointlessness and awfulness of this product become a tinny litany drowned out by the deafening noise of the cash register, and the dollar (sorry, but pound sterling doesn't have quite the same ring...) signs lighting up with a sharp ping over the heads of CEOs of major corporations.The thing is - and here's an admission for you - I do this all the time.

And it's not just that I do it all the time, it's that I'll go back to a product multiple times, despite hating it, just in case it's better the next time, because someone said they like it.

I'm all about being rigorous - which I can keep telling myself while I keep getting seduced. However, it's not me waking up to the proverbial absent other side of the bed, but the product in this case, as I sneak out in the small hours, shoes in hand and trying not to trip over anything.

If you're going to force me to get to the point, I'll give it a go (somewhere in the next 4 paragraphs, hopefully). This blog post is dedicated to not those products I simply disliked, but those products I disliked and then purchased multiple times (whilst stillnurturing said dislike), and how they fared in my 'rigorous' (read this as indecisive, or monumentally stupid) testing procedures.

First up, the good:

All images from Google Images.

1. Urban Decay Liquid Liner in Perversion: I actually read reviews on this and made what was probably the most informed purchase since I got into the whole makeup thing. I tried it at home and felt like throwing it against a wall: who were these reviewers who dared to express the words 'holy grail' in reference to this product? And how could any purveyor of fine (in both senses) liquid liner corroborate their views? Surprisingly, nobody put their hands up to that one, and I was left angry and stuck with a clingy product. Months later, I had an argument with my Shiseido Fine Eyeliner and was forced with one of two options: wear no liquid liner, or wear the Urban Decay liner. I tried it and it was okay. Then, being the lazy, apathetic thing that I am, I continued using it until it ran out. And THEN, not knowing what to do, I panicked and bought another. And that is how the Urban Decay liquid liner won its way into my suspicious heart. It's the blackest black, lasts all day and the brush is fantastic. Shame about the poorly-designed bottle, though...

Only one product? I'm a harsh mistress. Let's move on to the bad.

2. MAC 266 Brush: Are you all hiding comfortably in your bomb-shelters? Only there's more high-end bombshells to come... The MAC 266 is one of those superfluously must-have brushes, by which I mean that you think it's must-have until you buy it, and then conspicuously ignore it (all the while justifying your purchase) for months. The 266 brush came to me when it was pressed into my hands by an obsequious shop assistant quick on the link-sale. Oh, I was buying Fluidline, she enquired, then perhaps I might like to try a brush with it? I acquiesced. Famous last words. This brush is lauded for perfect eyeliner application, but on me, it just shuffles product around rather than placing it and don't even get me started on doing a cat-eye. Not perfect enough.

3. MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack: This inky pot does not aid the metamorphosis into carbon-eyed femme fatale - rather it's all a little femme banale. It's dull, not black enough, too thick, too time-consuming, too dry and - what's this? You need to use a separate brush with it? ... If you're like me and wear liquid eyeliner everyday, and if you're also like me and prolifically lazy, then cleaning your brush everyday becomes a machination you really just can't be bothered by. The thing is, Fluidline was supposed to be the best of the best, cat's whiskers, crème de la crème... But it's just so average.

4. MAC 187 Brush: I feel as though I'm descending into an illicit subculture by bad-mouthing this darling of the world of cosmetic brushes, but let me explain. I've bought this brush 3 times (sold 2 and gave one away to my mum). It's had 3 chances to impress me, and it's always been a nasty, bristly cad who leaves broken brush hairs embedded into my makeup, and that would be alright if it actually... did something well enough, instead of doing several things poorly. For me, this brush doesn't even rank as high as a one-trick pony, as it can't even get one thing right. Take it out the back and put it out of its misery, its golden years are numbered.

An ominous gunslinging whistle and a tumbleweed... it must be time for the binned.

5. BeneFit BeneTint: Painting on my makeup is sometimes described as donning one's proverbial warpaint, and this frivolous slip of a thing takes that to a whole new level. BeneFit advise to apply three dots to the cheeks and blend upwards - and perhaps I'm not quick enough with this, but I either end up like I have extremely accurately-positioned acne, or watercolour battle stripes. And warcries and tomahawks aside, that kind of look only really goes down well in one other place: a fancy-dress party.

6. BeneFit Bad Gal Lash: I always get a surge of hope when I buy a BeneFit product. Maybe this time it'll be different. Maybe this time, even if there's no long-term potential, we'll flirt a bit and have a second date. I'm always wrong. You see, for the tiniest while, Bad Gal Lash was my official holy grail, right before the point where I cracked and bought my first Diorshow. There came a day when I purchased my second garish tube, and excitedly bore it on the bus home. I applied it and it was like an epiphany, of sorts. My lashes looked spidery, ready to crawl off my face. They looked thin and spindly, like the worst kind of spider that used to live in my attic and terrorised my childhood. They looked grey. From then on, we ignored each other forever more and I considered another (very expensive) mascara as a potential family member instead. BeneFit never fail to disappoint.

7. MAC Fix+: There are only so many pretty little epithets I can pepper this post with. I'll save them for the product which makes me most angry of all, however... which isn't this. However, I'll just leave you with just this (don't ever think I'm running out of steam; I'm conserving energy): It is water, with things added, in a spray bottle. And we're paying £11. That's gotta be some excellent quality plastic in the bottle, seeing as the product itself doesn't seem to consist of much...

8. Highlighting Pens: An overly-made-up lady forced me into a too-high chair at a counter one day and prodded me with her fingers which smelled of cigarette smoke. She told me I looked tired, and that my under-eyes could use some pep. She applied a dubious pink goo and patted it in. And then looked at her handiwork proudly. There's such an awful catalogue of errors here, that I don't know where to begin, but somehow, being insulted, annoyed, fumigated and shoved into a vertiginous chair made me buy the product: the famous Touche Eclat. It was probably curiosity - maybe it was going to be better than the Dior SkinFlash I'd bought 6 months earlier? No? Oh. Well that's that then. If it's not technically (and I say this with the deepest scorn) a concealer, but it's not shiny enough for a highlighter - then what is it? Oh, it's only the world's quickest selling beauty item, priced at a shiny twenty-something pounds. But what does it do? Sweet F. A.

So there they are, hung out to dry - those products which I've repurchased (cha-ching!) and their own special saloon-style shoot-em-up.

Much love to all of you - especially if you made it all the way down to the bottom.


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Beauty A-Z: C

The thing is, I'm not a very busy person. I get up leisurely, exercise, do some work, maybe tidy up a bit and then BOOM! It's time to cook dinner and then the evening's basically gone. Somewhere along the line, however, my days just run so fast they blur into one another, despite permanently existing in a status of Not Doing Much.

Recently, my time has been mainly consumed by worrying about whether or not Kiwi and I will get our new flat, exercising (1 hour a day and it kills me), worrying about going up to Nottingham for my 'academic review' (passed with flying colours!) and sitting down with every intention of swotting up for said meeting, and then aimlessly Googling pointless things on the web, like the new Zelda game, kittens, or rumours of the iPhone 4 in white (rumours of its existence are greatly exaggerated...)

So now I'm sitting down while my makeshift chorizo, prawn, chilli and ratatouille thing (the ratatouille was already defrosted, so now it's being - what's the phrase - upcycled) to just write, because if I don't, I'll just keep shuffling through these disused thoughts and unfinished sentences and never manage to write anything substantial. Ever.

So for today's post, I'm keeping it simple: I'm going to tell you (without the Sesame Street theatrics) my favourite products beginning with the letter C.

  1. Corals are the colour which led me into that first exciting purchase of a MAC lipstick - I remember keeping the MAC-branded bag and box for a little while and kept taking the lipstick out to look at it. Corals are a beautiful colour for summer, but are also for those days when you want to look polished and healthy without going for something more bright or wazoo. My first and favourite has always been See Sheer and it's perfect right now for those summery turns.
  2. I remember my first pair of eyelash curlers, a plastic, glittery pair from Accessorize, and how I became so addicted to the wide-eyed ingénue look that I broke them within a week from squeezing too hard. For me, there is no contest, no matter how little time I have in the mornings. I'd love to recommend you the Shu Uemura ones - but honestly, any pair is the same. Unless you're lucky enough to be blessed with naturally curly eyelashes, then these are an essential to make you look both flirty and awake, even when you don't feel it.
  3. Kiwi picked Copperplate eyeshadow by MAC on one of his many weary visits to the counter with his increasingly-expensive girlfriend. Whether he picked it out of boredom or whether he actually cared, nobody will ever know, but this is a staple MAC eyeshadow I can't do without (and nor would I care to). It's a soft greyish-taupe with no shimmer which is perfect for both definining the crease and making my eye colour (whatever it is as it changes far too much...) stand out. When I wear this shadow, I feel simply pretty. There's no flashing lights or bells on this shadow; it just does what it does, quietly and unpretentiously. No drama.
  4. My initiation into the terrifying world of Cleansing Oils came about by way of the January sales, quite by accident. There it was, a bottle of something I'd never heard of, much less tried, for half price. Half price! Who am I to resist such a bargain? The thing is, it's hardly revolutionary and there are only so many ways to take off your makeup (and I'm not even going to count those mechanical gadgets with 4 rotating heads and a price to match), but for me, this just works. It cleanses, it softens and it stops me from getting spots. My cleansing oil of choice is from Nude - an eco-conscious company who only put things in your products which aren't comprised of ominous-sounding suffixes. I can get behind that.
And here we are! Has everyone had a good week? I'm seeing Spamalot on Saturday - yay! I've seen it before - when the wonderful Tim Curry was in it - but this one's going to be a more local production. I'm hoping Kiwi will be swayed by the shiny lights and hilarity, and then he'll accompany me to more musicals. *rubs hands in maniacal glee*

Much love.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Review: Bee-Luscious Garden Girl Palette

You may have seen in recent posts that I've been including the ominous (ever-so-useful) FTC-approved disclaimer in reference to a certain palette provided to me for review by the company Coco Beau Cosmetics. It all started when I was contacted by Ria on behalf of Coco Beau, who offered me the chance to be on the list to review some products in the future. So, here we are. An unexpected box appeared on my doorstep, all pretty in light blue tissue paper. I really tried not to rip it open, but it's a little difficult when you're wide-eyed and caught wriggling in your own excitement.

So, this is what was in my little package, the Bee-Luscious Garden Girl palette. It's a palette comprising of a mixture of eye, lip and cheek products in, with a mixture of mineral and regular formulations and a variety of finishes. It is currently retailing here for £67.50.

Now, I'll admit, I balked. £67.50 sounds an awful lot of money to spend on just one thing, however, that was until I had done the maths:

Using MAC eyeshadow pans as a comparison (which I'll explain in a minute), the eyeshadows in the Bee-Luscious pan are exactly the same size in diameter. I'm willing to go out on a limb and guess that they both contain the same amount of product - 1.5g - as 26mm eyeshadow pans tend to be of the same ilk.

1 x MAC Pro Palette Refill Pan = £9.
16 x MAC Pro Palette Refill Pan = £144

And why am I comparing the eyeshadows in the Bee-Luscious palette to those of MAC?

... Because they are actually on a par in terms of quality.

I'll leave you poised and tantalised until I come to that part of the review, though...


I have to admit that the packaging is a little low-key and Coastal Scents-y than what I would have expected from such an expensive product, especially given the quality of the products inside. However, in terms of actual contents, I'm surprised it's not much larger - there are 16 eyeshadows, 4 blushes and 2 lip products. It's pretty compact, and it's functional, however, I am worried about the sticky lip products in a more open palette such as this, as mine have attracted a little dust already.


My favourite shades.

Within the palette, there are a few different shadow finishes:
Polychromatic: My favourite. Soft, really pigmented, vibrant and easy to blend. Metallic and pearlescent. Similar to the Starflash formula, and also similar to Veluxe Pearl from MAC.
Mineral: Soft, pigmented and smooth to apply with a bit of shimmer. Very similar in formulation to the Polychromatic, except of course, they're mineral.
Mineral matte: Very smooth and pigmented with a matte finish (obviously!), but not chalky.
Dimensional: My least favourite, but the most interesting-looking. Matte-feel shades which are extremely pigmented with glitter.
Sheer Satin: Similar to Polychromatic, but sheerer and less pigmented with a pearlescent quality. Most similar to a MAC Satin finish.

All in all, I'm really impressed with all the shadows bar the Dimensional shades, as the glitter does not translate onto the eye unless you really press it with a brush, or use it with some kind of mixing medium. That's not to say the colours aren't gorgeous, but the glitter disappearance plus the difficulty in blending these shades leaves me feeling sad and glitter-free. The other eyeshadows are all fantastic - soft and smooth application with vivid colour pay-off and real lasting power. I'm shocked to find a dupe for MAC Pro's Platinum pigment in the mix in the form of Bullet, a liquidy metallic shade which is perfect with all the purples and teals in the palette.


Wearing Coral Sun Mineral Blush

I love the blushes in this palette, although I was unsure about the lightest shade and what it was there for at first. The two more coral-toned shades are very similar to NARS Orgasm, but are softer and more pigmented. I'm not saying they're exact matches, but they're both coral tones shot through with gold which look beautiful on.

The only colour which gave me a bit of a comic question-mark above my head was the lightest blush shade in Natural Beauty - but when I applied it, I realised its function: to look natural. Box ticked. However, although this blush suits my fair skin, it may look ashy on darker skin tones. All blushes wore very well and were soft and pigmented, with the more Orgasm-like shades actually better than the real thing, as I didn't have to struggle to get a decent amount of product.


Left: My best Kate Winslet face...

Originally when I saw the colours for the lip products, I was a little skeptical; the fuchsia looked lovely, but I'm still reconciling my differences with it, and bubblegum pink has always been a no for me. However, the lipsticks themselves are decently pigmented in that they're easy to wear sheerly and build up, and work well when layered one over the other. They last a decent amount of time and aren't too drying - I even grow to like the bubblegum pink shade.

I've had a singularly lovely experience with this company, who dealt with my emails of oohing and aahing and general questions about the product in a breezy and personable nature - so friendly and a pleasure to deal with.

The experience with Coco Beau Cosmetics has been second-to-none, and I feel privileged to have been asked to review something by such a friendly, lovely company. Although I am not a huge fan of the packaging, which doesn't have the luxe factor I'd like from a £70 palette, it is functional and contains a lot for something so slimline. My only concern is the lip products, which seem to be attracting the eyeshadow fall-outs at an alarming speed - but the palette feels 'complete' in its selection of products and it comprises of eye, lip and cheek products. I was floored by the quality of the products in this palette, however, and can say with every confidence that nobody could be disappointed with this, unless you like unpigmented chalkiness from your makeup.

Two very enthusiastic thumbs up - good job Bee-Luscious and Coco Beau - and thank you!

* I was sent this product for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and I received no monetary compensation for writing this review.

Monday, 7 June 2010

FOTD #4: Kiwi's Confusion

Apparently I'm liking these FOTD posts recently - but it's all worth it for the look on Kiwi's face when I come out of our bedroom looking a bit more scary dramatic than usual. This post is so-called because it plunged Kiwi into confusion and left him most perturbed and I could almost witness the interior mechanisms clunk into action as he parsed my face (rather like when there's a surprise filling in his sandwich he can't quite identify). Eventually, he decided he liked it. But he wasn't sure about the blue, or the purple, or the combination. For some reason this look worried Kiwi.

He thought he liked it, but then he also thought he didn't.

A definite Kiwi-worrying look.

I wish I had a picture of Kiwi looking worried, but I don't. He generally is quite good at not looking worried, mainly because he never worries.

I, however, loved it. I am a complete dodger of any notion of colour near my eyes, so this was like low-cal colour for me - still jazzy but not too RAAAAH-waving-your-knickers-in-the-air crazy.

Please excuse the strands of hair - I'm not going to win photographer of the year any time soon ;)

Products used:
  • Clarins Instant Smooth Primer
  • Diorskin Nude Foundation
  • MAC Lustre Drops in Pink Rebel
  • Usual concealers and powder
  • MAC Mineralize Blush in Daft Pink
  • Bee-Luscious Palette* Eyeshadow in Neo-Plum applied wet (medium-dark purple)
  • Pixi Eye-Colour Sealer
  • Shiseido Fine Eyeliner
  • Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil in Electric
  • Diorshow Blackout Mascara
  • MAC Pro Lipstick in Violetta
  • MAC Lipstick in Pompadorable to mute
And, you know - for your annoyance viewing pleasure, here's something to get on your nerves:


* Bee-Luscious Palette provided me for the purposes of review (which I'm working on!) by Coco Beau Cosmetics.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Shred Update: End of Stage Two

The Shred, stage two. It sparks fear in my heart and aches in my bones. It starts innocently enough with reiteration of exercises from stage one, and I find that I'm excellent at walk-out press-ups, which involve touching my toes and walking my hands out to a press-up position. And then that's where it all goes wrong...

I start to get pain in my knee from a once upon a time 2 years ago when I rolled over in bed in the middle of the night and left my knee behind. So, I buy a knee support, and wearing it makes me feel like the Terminator. The feeling of omnipotence and part-woman, part-machine doesn't last, however, as I baa-baa-black-sheep my way back into the mindless circuit of lunges with hammer curls and exercises which are too hard for me. It's like one of those problems you are given when you are little: one of these is not like the other - the eponymous muscular bawling woman at the front, the smiling two ladies in back and then the red-faced flapping buffoon trying to emulate them from the 'couldn't swing a cat' space of her bedroom.

It leaves me discouraged when I don't have the energy, strength or inclination to do the exercises. First, I'm discouraged, which then brings the lack of inclination. If I can't do something, I pretty much find that I won't really try with the other exercises either.

All this culminates in giving myself more than just one day off... and a trip to Nottingham, where it is much more difficult to control what I'm eating just makes me fill with dread and feel more discouraged. My plan in Nottingham had been to just do the exercises not requiring weights, such as abs and cardio, and to try and eat a lot of fruit. This becomes incredibly difficult at meal times when there is a limit to what I can prepare for myself in my hotel room with only a kettle with which to boil hot water, and the fact that my suitcase takes up the tiny amount of floor space available.

So, I eat junk food for 3 days. And when I get back it's almost the weekend, which is always a tough time for me. I let Kiwi take me out to dinner, and then the next day, his parents want to take us out for lunch. I develop this habit of anxiously chewing my lip, trying to calculate the calories I'm consuming versus the exercise I'm actually completing. My obsession with this stems from the fact that I feel so pissed off at myself; I should be able to complete stage two, but the fact that I just can't be bothered to continue when I can't do something spirals me into anxiously counting everything I put in my mouth.

My mind begins to swirl with numbers and it's not a good way to be. I feel like I'm losing both enthusiasm and the reasoning behind this self-inflicted torture.

Thankfully, there is respite with the end of stage two. And I lost some weight. Not much, but considering the knee injury, the days off lying in bed dreading this new form of torture and the huge amounts of bad food I've been eating, I feel pleased that there's even a loss, however small.

So, my stats for this round:
Before shred: 9 st 7/60 kg/132 lbs (though these results are most likely erroneous)
After stage one: 8 st 13/56 kg/125 lbs
After stage two: 8 st 12/55 kg/124 lbs

Considering I've had what would be termed as a bad run, I'm not too concerned. Obviously, I'm disappointed, but the fact I lost weight at all, through the junk food, the meals out and the injuries and days off means that I'm still alright about it.

I privately resolve to make it up to myself, and this week, in light of my fiendish calorie-counting ways, I'm going back to level one, to both give myself a 'break' and to give myself a good half-hour of solid exercise every day, rather than dribs and drabs of fairly unenthusiastic exercise. I also want to give my knee a break, and to give my brain something new to focus on.

What I've learned from stage two:
- It's okay not to be super-woman and to not be able to do everything in the harder modification of the exercises as that's not the point.
- Stop feeling discouraged and disappointed in myself as it's not conducive to weight-loss or energy levels.
- Stop counting the calories so much and just focus on eating well - be happy!


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