Sunday, 29 April 2012

5 reasons I hate MAC right NOW.

MAC was the first red lipstick I ever bought, and the first red lipstick that then subsequently went into a blog sale, it was the place where I could spend hours just looking at the confusion of colour and spend hours just choosing one item.  MAC was this whole new shiny world where there were limitless choices and combinations of things and it was like a drug which held me in this colourful universe for years. 

I've been moving away from MAC recently, however, and you're gonna have to bear with me because I'm on a bit of a rampage with this one.  Here's five reasons why I'm less than amused at the Estée Lauder company's cosmetic powerhouse:

1. Animal testing in China.

Word reached my ears recently about MAC and their position in China under parent company Estée Lauder, and how their position to animal testing has been revised due to this move.  China requires animal testing by law, so although MAC has understandably wanted to conquer the huge, cash cow of the Chinese market, they have been forced to resume animal testing.  It's important to stress that the animal testing policy for MAC in other countries will remain as is - untested on animals - but just because we can't see China doesn't mean it isn't happening.  If true, this is a huge backwards step for MAC, and a huge embarrassment.

2. Eleventy billion collections.

I actually can't remember the last time I bought from a MAC collection.  Occasionally I'll peruse the core line if I've run out of something I use all the time, but I actually used to get excited about the new upcoming collections. I'd excitedly go on the Specktra forums and write long long lists and arrive at the counter on launch day ready to spend and take no prisoners.  Do you know why I was so excited for new MAC collections back in the day? It was because I actually had to WAIT for them.  Not just a week, either. A month, two months. Even more.  The anticipation was excruciating.  MAC's current policy seems to be a free-for-all with a new collection each week of crappy, badly-formulated products - a continual parade of mediocrity.

3. Limited edition, but not quite.

The thing about MAC is hype.  You remember Lightscapade? It only got repromoted a couple of months ago and then… oh! Look up there, a flying pig! While you were distracted MAC's creative team ran out of ideas and slid the very same product into the next collection and asked you kindly to look the other way.  I mean, come on! It's Lightscapade - an MSF so legendary you barely even dare speak its name. The continual repromoting of things that used to be hotly-anticipated big-ticket items for the year - and everyone would be clutching at their debit cards anxiously waiting to input their data and sell their soul the second it came online - well, that's gone. MAC have gotten greedy.

4. What customer service?

I often go by a general rule of thumb when shopping at MAC: if you want acceptable service, just avoid the MAC counter at Selfridges in London. If you want great service, avoid MAC altogether.  There are obviously a few exceptions to this rule - such as the lovely ladies I know who work at MAC, and the whole of the counter at Brighton - but one of the main things that puts me off working at MAC are the staff.

Some of them seem to put their makeup on in the dark.  Put their counter in the window of the store and it's like they are vampires revealed in the light: orange foundation, unblended contours and eyebrows painted on.  I'm not saying this is true for every MAC artist, of course, but some of them definitely would scare the innocent cosmetic-buying consumer.

There are a couple of types of customer service at MAC, but the one that seems the most widespread is the type seen in Selfridges London (see, I mentioned Selfridges for a reason).  The MAC counter staff gather in packs of laughing hyenas, congregating in groups of 8 strong chatting and if you dare ask for help, you'll get one of two reactions.  The first is that they'll palm you off on someone else who isn't earning money by chatting, and the second is that they'll actually help you - in the most grudging, rude manner possible.

No thanks.  I'd rather shop elsewhere.

5. Are they really even that good?

The conclusion I'm beginning to draw from conspicuously NOT shopping at MAC is that there's stuff elsewhere which, if not equal, is just BETTER. Illamasqua, Becca, Laura Mercier and NARS do it better, consistently, with better products which aren't hastily pasted-together launches which either offend (Rodarte) or lack any kind of spark (most of the other collections last year).  I'm getting to that point where I don't really care if something is limited edition or not anymore - I'm more interested in whether the product performs.  I don't need another glitterbomb Mineralize Skinfinish which migrates to my chin and eyebrows, I want a blush which stays on all day and stays wherever the hell I put it (even if that IS on my chin and eyebrows).

Sometimes I just get this kind of bee in my bonnet and I'm unable to stop the inevitable tirade of vitriolic spouting you're seeing here.  I'm kind of feeling like the sparkly blindfold of MAC and it's limited edition collections has lifted though.  I'll still buy from MAC as one of those kind of 'eh, whatever' consumers, but that flutter of excitement has long gone.

How do you feel about MAC right now? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Flushed and blushed: Daniel Sandler Watercolour Crème Rouge in Hot Pink

So, I totally need to start this post by bringing back an old phrase of mine (that I like to believe I coined, but I probably didn't) - MAJOR GOLLUM EYES at this new Daniel Sandler Watercolour Crème Rouge blush in Hot Pink.* I'd be tempted to call it a fuchsia, but let's not be too picky.

Daniel Sandler blush in Hot Pink - and swatched!
I've been loving cream blush textures recently, there's something so satisfyingly easy and pre-schooly about the dab and smear fingerpainting technique I can use to apply them. No effort, just dot on (perhaps with less aplomb than an over-enthusiastic small child wielding some paint) and then diffuse outwards… Doesn't saying diffuse make it sound a bit more adult? All the same, it's still fingerpainting for the face. Unless you use a brush like an adult, but I kind of enjoy the dab and smear.

Daniel Sandler blushes are a bit of a thing of mine. I first fell in love with the Watercolour Blush, those amazing just-add-one-drop-and-stand-well-back blushes which blend so smoothly to a translucent all-day finish. I didn't think I'd need to look any further than that because I kind of felt like I'd found one of those rare, perfect products, but then I was unexpectedly introduced to my first Crème Rouge, a gorgeous peach shade, and had to kind of admit they were pretty great, despite the unfancy no-frills packaging.  I am actually a huge fan of unnecessarily fancy packaging, but we'll let it slide.

Usual pretentious expression - and Hot Pink on the cheeks :)
Daniel Sandler's new Watercolour offering is this Crème Rouge in Hot Pink, a bright blue-based fuchsia colour which delivers colour in the form of a lovely great big whack. It blends fluidly like its liquid sister product to deliver a sweet, youthful flush over the apples of the cheeks with a cream-to-powder finish (I LOVE!) which lasts all day. It takes a little warming up, but was smooth and non-greasy and kind of gives an almost stain kind of blush - just a peep of the skin's natural texture. This one is for the sweet-toothed. Daniel Sandler's Watercolour Crème Rouge in Hot Pink is available from the Urban Retreat Beautique for £15.50.

* This was provided as a PR sample. All opinions are my own and are completely honest.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The shopping edit: May.

Most of my money reserved for a little treat this month was spent on something adult.  And before you get any ideas, it was also boring.  Consult my home-made Venn diagram below:

See? Adult and boring: choosing paint colours, trips to Ikea and cleaning the house.  Please note that I couldn't think of something which was adult, sexy AND boring at the same time. Please advise if you come up with something suitable (unless it just turns out to be Jennifer Aniston again).

So… yeah.  Sadly no gimp masks and PVC for me this month - we bought a washing machine. And unless you find those sexy (don't answer that, we all know what you like about the spin cycle), well - you're going to agree with me. It's an adult thing, and it's boring, and it cost £310.  Much of my life this month has been restricted to dreaming and looking endlessly at blog posts.  It's funny though as I've come off feeling rather virtuous after it all, which is usually what happens when I have a blog sale.  I feel smug, the amount of stuff I have is more compact, lightweight - I am zen.

I can never standing having loads of stuff around that I don't use, yet I'm trapped in this endless cycle of impulse to buy delightful cosmetic items that I will never, ever use up.  Despite this, I'm still dreaming - seeing as by looking at my purse this month, dreaming is all I can do. In the spirit of the  genius Meg from Lips So Facto, this is my little clickable poster of things I've been dreaming about this month...

Each product is clickable and takes you to a website you can buy it at! I don't do affiliate links or that shiz, so click with aplomb. I promise not to have done anything sneaky!
MAC Fix+ Diorskin Rosy Glow blush NARS Yachiyo MUFE Mat Velvet+ NARS Trouville Caudalie Eau de Beaute Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer

1. MAC Fix+

I've been struggling with my Chanel Perfection Lumière since January. It just doesn't seem to work with my skin and shows up every dry patch - even though my skin is oily. What gives, Chanel? It sets too quickly, I have to apply in sections and it oxidises on me to boot. Basically, it's less than I expected from a brand I have come to have high expectations from. Stacey recently posted about how she uses MAC's Fix+ in conjunction with this mess of a foundation, and how she ended up liking it. Do you know how many times I've owned MAC Fix+ and gotten rid of it? Um, well if I repurchase (I always swear it's the last time!) this month, then it'll be my 4th time. I hope it doesn't let me down this time!

2. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer

I've been wanting to purchase the trial size of this for a while, but it's always been sold out at the Liberty counter. Not cool, Liberty! I love that this comes as a smaller travel size for £20, rather than the full size for £52 - eek! I'm not a big lover of face primers but this one seems promising and made my hand so silky soft when I tested it that, well, for £20 it seems like a fair enough deal.

3. Caudalie Beauty Elixir

There's been a lot of talk about this facial spritz recently and I want in. Something that calms acne, soothes the skin and is a toner too? It also comes in a little travel size for around £9 and I'm sorely tempted.

4. Diorskin Rosy Glow blush

People keep telling me I need this candy-hued sweet pastel pink in a pan. Realistically, how many more pink blushes do I need in my life? I am, however, swayed by a gimmick: a blush that adapts to each complexion? Well, it sounds like utter bollocks, but I still want a piece of that sweetness.

5. Makeup Forever Mat Velvet+ foundation

Must. Have. Following the demise of my Face Atelier Ultra Foundation, which is one of my ultimate-Guinness-World-Record-cannot-be-beaten foundations, I feel like there's a slot opened up for something a little new. I'm really looking forward to trying this, I hear it's fantastic.  I'm dreaming of the perfect luminous matte - thanks for letting me down, Chanel!

6. NARS nail polish in Trouville

Oh but isn't it pretty?! It's like Spring in a bottle, a sweet soft floral kind of colour with a little warmth. I'm not entirely sold on the NARS nail polish formula, but I'm almost willing to compromise for this.

7. NARS Yachiyo brush

Um. I crave the bountiful shapely softness of this brush and its strange little handle. I look at it and do my best Gollum impression with eyes as big as saucers talking of the Precious. This is apparently the pinnacle of makeup brushes. Everyone seems to love it. She will be mine - oh yes! She will be mine.

Have you already spent this (as yet unpaid) month's wages on something you've been eyeing dreamily for the past month? Share your shopping list!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Tuxedo eyeliner with Illamasqua Precision Ink in Scribe!

Recently Illamasqua launched this incredible whiter-than-Tippex Precision Ink called Scribe with their swirling clashing collection, Human Fundamentalism.  The whole point of the stark product was the idea of reversing tradition and forcing people to think in a different direction.

Right: Precision Ink in Scribe. Left: swatched!
Isn't that what Illamasqua always try to do anyway?

The whole point was that they probably knew when packing my (amazing) goody bag with handpicked items from the collection that they'd have a fight on their hands.

I am a slave to black liquid eyeliner.  I love that flirty-flicked insouciance that pairs so well with a cocked eyebrow, heels and a fire engine pout.  For me, the classic black liquid liner is that sexy STRUT that some women get in an amazingly expensive pair of heels (on a side-note: in heels, I am horribly clumsy and fall over a lot. I do not have the sexy strut…) Winged eyeliner makes me feel confident and pretty, and without it I feel sort of… not-special and a bit like Gollum.

So I pretty much knew Illamasqua had a challenge on their hands with this white eyeliner and I.  The fight was on!

I tried the white eyeliner on its own and immediately reared back from the mirror in utter horror.  I was terrified! I don't know if it was the sheer contrast (well, that was sort of the point of the product…) or whether I was actually truly horrified.  It's definitely an adjustment…

While using this product, I became aware of just how much I really love the Precision Ink formula: it's pigmented, slick and stays on all day with no problem with one-swipe amazing pigmentation and no sheerness.  That may or may not appeal seeing as we're talking about a white liquid eyeliner here - because there's absolutely no easing yourself in gently here. Illamasqua simply don't seem to cater to that ;) A little point though: unless you're into the snow queen look, mind how you go as I managed to give my lashes a great white coating too.  Nothing a bit of Bioderma couldn't solve, but something to bear in mind.

ANYWAY so I hit on a sweet little solution which I quite proudly call… Tuxedo eyeliner, and I think it looks pretty great, and of course, it matches my awesome tap-shoe style brogues and it's sweet and subtle in a double-take kind of way.  It could equally be called skunk eyeliner too, though…  I'm kind of enjoying the go-faster stripes effect that Scribe created here - very subtle and an easy way to break myself in.

I'm still tempted to call it skunk eyeliner. Or raccoon!

That soulful gaze... Don't mind the creased concealer ;)
So... what do you think?! Do you think you would be 'brave' enough to wear some white liquid eyeliner?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

One reason Scandinavia has good hair: Four Reasons hair care.

I don't usually blog about hair, unless it's in the category of 'new' (in which case I blog straight away) or a passing tossed in mention to a hair product I've probably been using for about 7 years and refuse to budge from (Osis Dust-It, holla!) Generally though, I don't really blog about hair products, because I'm no virtuoso when it comes to styling my own hair. I don't pay attention to what shampoo or conditioner I use; I buy what's on offer in the supermarket.

Nothing I ever use works with my fine-but-lots-of-it hair, where product tends to weigh it down. I've tried my body-weight in Tigi products and ended up vacillating between oil-slick or 80's London punk on my head. It's safe to stay I just don't DO the whole hair thing. It styles itself, and we have a relationship of blissful ignorance of one another's existence.

A couple of months ago I was given the opportunity to try out a new haircare range launching in the UK from a brand called Four Reasons, a Finnish brand that I'd never heard of. Something kind of grabbed me about them from the off. I guess it was the packaging being kind of obnoxiously eye-catching and slightly off-beat. I'm usually a fan of off-beat. I received a couple of products to try, and I've been trialling them (yes! All this time!) since February.

The Volume Booster reminded me instantly of a Paul Mitchell product I tried years ago, right down to the bottle shape and colour scheme. I was a little worried this would make my hair crunchy or clumpy when I used it, but the nozzle dispersed the product evenly and my hair blow-dried without any problems.

The real surprise for me was the fact that my hair was not weighed down at all by this product - it was very lightweight and my hair didn't look too dull either (I hate that!). It gave decent enough volume but it wasn't superstar KAPOW, if you know what I mean. All in all, it's a great daily blow-drying product, and I've been using it pretty much daily since mid-February. For £11.95 (though at the time of writing on sale!), I think it's a little pricey for a product which performs reasonably well. If you're expecting amazing volume from this, that's not going to happen, but as a daily blow-dry spray it performs pretty well.

The Volume Mousse was the product I expected to like more, and I did. I always find mousse is a product which really works to give great volume in my hair which lasts well. This mousse has a pleasant smell (I don't know how to describe it apart from 'salon-y') and dispersed perfectly through the hair, blow-drying to give great volume which had movement and wasn't starchy or sticky. The 200ml size is £11.95, which I do feel is expensive. It doesn't quite perform to the level of my Tresemme 24-Hour Body mousse which is around a fiver, so although it performed well and gave good body to the hair, I'd reluctantly say the price is a bit of a sticking point for me.

Overall, if you're in the market for salon-quality products, Four Reasons might well be perfect for you. They are quirky and their products perform very well - however, with such great hair products available to the mass consumer I feel like they have cheaper competition.


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