Tuesday, June 17, 2014

nars summer 2014 color collection

At the NARS booth for TMSLA, they were including a card with purchase for 20% off at their Melrose location. I visited the boutique back around the end of April just when their new summer collection was released, and was incredibly impressed with both the layout of the boutique and the friendly and talented artists. They unexpectedly offered to do my makeup in order to really "play around" with all of the new products. It was one of the best experiences I've had with a makeup artist and suffice to say, I left with a lot of new makeup tips and a smaller bank account.

The first must have item that I knew I wanted was the new Contour Blush ($42). I was going to get the medium shade, Paloma, but they talked me into getting the lightest shade, Olympia. I'm glad they did, because it is a foolproof subtle daytime contour color (I'll still be sticking with my Kevin Aucoin Sculpting Powder for evenings). After playing around on my own for the past few weeks, I've found this to be a very unique product. The contour shade has a definite pink tone, but not really enough to be a normal blush. I like to use it right below my cheekbone, but above where I would normally contour. It gives the subtle effect of wearing both. While the highlight side is incredibly subtle on the face because it's matte, the NARS artist said her favorite way to use it is as a browbone highlight.

Next up were the new summer collection eyeshadows. The single in Malacca ($25) was the obvious choice, especially once I swatched it and they applied it. For having such a duochrome appearance in the pan, it can be applied softly and blended out look like a complex brown shade, or easily built up to it's smoky max. I had a difficult time deciding between the Tropical Princess and Lost Coast duos ($35 each). Lost Coast seemed like the more obvious wearable choice at first, but this is where the NARS artist pretty much blew my mind. The secret to the Tropical Princess duo is layering. First she used the golden shade in the Isolde duo all over the lid (now on my wish list, by the way). Next she put Malacca in the outer corner and really blended it out and into the crease. The final step was to layer the green shade from Tropical princess over the lid, and the entire look just popped in this perfect, subtle way. I can't get enough now of layering both the green and purple over everything. It looks especially nice under the eye as well for a subtle pop of color. It can even be easily built up on it's own if that's your thing (gorgeous and unique on pale skin as seen here).

The last item I was sold on was their Yachiyo Kabuki brush ($55). I've been wanting a brush like this for a long time, in particular the Hakuhodo one, but the price has really held me off. Figured with the 20% off and the expert guidance from the NARS artist on how to use it, now was as good a time as any to go for it. The trick to using the Yachiyo is to hold it from the very end, and let the flexible handle and stiff/soft brush do all the blending work for you. It makes every blush from subtle to intensely pigmented blend like a dream.

I'm still lusting after the Iraklion Soft Touch Shadow Pencil and the Lost Coast eyeshadow duo that I resisted. Another trip to the NARS Melrose boutique is probably in order soon!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

lazy sunday: summer foundations

So, I've suddenly become tan. It sort of snuck up on me. This means it's time to pull out some of those "too dark" foundations, or use it as an excuse to pick up some new ones I've been wanting to try. So here are my current favorites that I've been using a lot recently, with my thoughts on what I love (and don't love) about them. Keep in mind that my skin is very much combination and I breakout easily.

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Even Finish Foundation SPF 15 in Warm Beige ($48, $33.75 at CCO):
I've wanted this foundation for a LONG time, and when I finally made a trip to the Cosmetics Company Outlet about 3 weeks ago and saw it for only $33.75, it was the first thing in my basket. So far I've found it to be a great day-to-day long wearing foundation. It is a lot lighter than something like a Double Wear, and has more medium coverage with a satin finish. The texture is surprisingly watery, but even so I prefer to use it with my beauty blender. Lasting power definitely maxes out at 12 hours. I can see it starting to break down by the time I get home from work, but that's really all I need my foundations to do. The packaging is a simple glass jar and pump, which is perfect at home but not so great for traveling. The biggest downside is that it does my skin no favors. It has lavender in it which smells lovely, but has no benefit other than irritate your skin. While I don't think it's caused any major breakouts, it hasn't helped and I make sure to thoroughly wash my face in the evening.

Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick in Warm Beige ($44):
I've had this for a few months now, but it was slightly too dark. Instead of returning it, I could tell that it would be perfect for summer. It has medium coverage and disappears into the skin once blended.  The finish is not quite matte or dewy, just very skin-like. I've found it to be ideal when I'm in the mood for partial foundation, I just put a little down the center of my face and blend into nothingness. It can also double as a concealer because it builds so easily. The packaging is a lovely simple tube that is perfect for both storage at home and for traveling. The downsides are the lasting power and the size. It maxes out around 8 hours for me before I notice it breaking down, and it only has 0.31 oz. While most foundation sticks are on the smaller side, I just feel like I'm using it up way too fast already. Even Tom Ford gives you 0.5 oz!

bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation in Bare Nude ($29):
See my first impressions post here. I've since exchanged Bare Ivory for Bare Nude and have continued to fall more and more in love with this. I highly recommend visiting a bareMinerals boutique and getting color matched, we went through about 4 shades before we landed on this one which just disappeared into my skin. It was also a good lesson in pushing the SA's a little, she was ready to stop on the 2nd one but I kept saying it wasn't quite right yet. Anyway, I've really found most of my points from my original post hold true, I use only 4 drops for my entire face and buff, buff, buff, buff. It just seems to even out my skin tone and give a wonderful glow. Any more than 4 drops is too much, but the correct color match has definitely helped with my previous issue of it "sitting" on top of the skin. Even with a light moisturizer now it seems to just disappear and give me more even-looking skin all day long. A little mineral veil on top, at least down the t-zone, helps it last all day. As mentioned in my first impressions post, in my opinion this is absolutely a sheer foundation, not at all full coverage. The biggest issue I have is covering any spots. Because the foundation is so lightweight, I feel like any concealer is very visible on top. I try to keep it minimal and well blended.

One thing you may have noticed, especially from the swatches below, is that these are all very yellow toned foundations which can be difficult to find. Bobbi Brown is  well known for their yellow foundations, and the new bareMinerals Bare Skin has a great range of "golden" shades. I've been known in the past to actually mix OCC Traffic in with foundations before to make them more yellow, especially drugstore foundations. Maybe I'll do a post on that in the future.

I hope this has helped anyone looking for a new foundation. This is one of those products that is so personal, and I would love to hear your thoughts or recommendations.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

crown duo fiber blush brush and small round buffer brush

Crown Brushes have been around for a long time and are well known for their extreme affordability, extensive selection, and decent quality. I decided to finally try two of them at The Makeup Show.

First up is the C451 Small Round Buffer Brush. I've been wanting a  dense buffing brush like this. It works well for the price and is very dense and a nice size for blending foundation, although I also find it to be a little rough and can leave streaks if you aren't careful. It can be difficult to clean, but I've found the Beauty Blender Solid Cleaner works wonders with this style of brush, both cleaning and rinsing easily. Overall though, I think I prefer the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush because it is a similar price point but much softer. I've had my eye on the flat top Sigma version also.

Second was the C427 Tapered Duo Fiber Blush because it was recommended by James Vincent. I have found it to be perfect for pigmented blushes (like my Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Radiant Magenta) because it picks up a very small amount of power and can both precisely apply the color and blend it out. Not only is it affordable but it is a very uniquely shaped duo fiber.

Side view:

Monday, April 21, 2014

pixi glow tonic

I am a huge fan of Caroline Hirons' no nonsense skincare blog, so when her highly recommended Pixi Glow Tonic became available online here in the US I had to get one right away. I was not disappointed and this is now my second bottle.

Skincare is a difficult thing to review because it is so different for everyone. My skin is not particularly sensitive to harsh products, however I do break out easily. I apply morning and night after washing my face and prior to moisturizer. While it does not do much when I have a breakout, it is amazing at clearing up the mark left after and helping to prevent more. It has really helped to even out my combination skin as well, my T-zone is less oily and the dry areas are much smoother.

This is nothing like the alcohol based toners I used to use, and it is a vast improvement from the "non-alcohol" toners that I used to use which felt like there was a film left on my face. The key is the 5% glycolic acid which is a chemical exfoliant to help promote cell turnover. I had not used many chemical exfoliants prior to this, but now I want to try more because my skin has responded so well!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

first impressions: bareminerals bareskin pure brightening serum foundation

Note: Updated review can be found here.

Like many people, bareMinerals Original was one of the first foundations I ever used. I couldn't even count how many I went through in high school and college. Next was the Matte formula, which I tried but never really liked since I prefer a more natural finish. Then came the READY formula. While I readily embraced the READY mineral veil, I did not fall in love with the foundation version. The main reason was the finish, it was somewhere between the Original & Matte versions, and overall seemed to have heavier feel. I did get the brush and went through most of one of the compacts, and even got a second in a lighter shade when I lost my tan. However, around that time I started experimenting with liquid foundations and my powders were eventually set aside.

Now bareMinerals has finally come out with the inevitable liquid foundation, bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation. I advance ordered through QVC back in February, seemed to be a great deal with both the brush and foundation for $39.96 (currently they have the same set for $43.96). I eagerly waited for it to arrive, and to my delight it showed up earlier than expected on Wednesday.

Before I get into my thoughts, here is the description from QVC's website:

This unique, lightweight, ultra-thin, skin-perfecting fluid delivers adjustable coverage and a flawless finish, while also providing skin care benefits. The mineral infusion is formulated with ingredients that help deliver a noticeably brighter, more youthful appearance. And it's formulated without water, oil, silicone, parabens, or fragrance.

The new Perfecting Face Brush has a specially engineered reservoir that holds the fluid formula, while the longer, surrounding bristles smooth out the finish upon application.

How do I use it: SHAKE well to combine the ingredients. DROP one to two drops of foundation into the reservoir of the Perfecting Face Brush. BUFF gently onto skin in circular motions. Start in the center of face and work your away around the complexion.

For desired, adjustable coverage, only use up to two drops at a time on the brush.

Two drops = sheer coverage.
Four drops = medium coverage.
Six drops = full coverage.

First up, the color I selected, Bare Ivory, is a little too light for me right now. That's the unfortunate problem with ordering something like this online. It would have been perfect for me in the middle of winter, but it's been pretty sunny here in So Cal recently and I've started getting a slight tan. I'm going to exchange it for the next "golden" shade up, probably Bare Beige or Bare Nude. One thing I do really like is that they specifically have "golden" shades. I always found their powders to run a little  to the pink side.

I have used this for only three days, so keep in mind that these opinions are definitely first impressions. I would normally wait much longer to post a foundation review, but I was too excited about the idea of a bareMinerals liquid to wait!

The "reservoir" brush seems a little gimmicky to me, but it is a nice smaller size and very soft. I have always liked the shorter handles of bareMinerals brushes as well, and have never had any shedding issues. I haven't tried any other brushes yet, but it think my Real Techniques Expert Face Brush would probably work just as well. It definitely needs a "buffing" style brush though, as I have found buffing is really one of the keys to using this, similar to the powders.

The packaging for the foundation is very small and simple. The bottle is smaller than I expected, and it's a little difficult to squeeze which helps to control the amount that comes out. It has some sort of ball or mechanism inside to help when you shake, which apparently is a very important step since the packaging says "shake well" multiple times.

The finish of this foundation has a definite glow. A tinted "Serum" is a great description, because this is different from any foundation / tinted moisturizer / BB cream that I've ever used. It takes some experimentation. The first two days, I kept trying to use way too much. I figured there was no way that 2-6 drops would be enough for my whole face, especially since this is silicone free. I also kept using it over moisturizer and primer, like I normally would use any other foundation. The problem I ran into was that it never dried down. I felt like I had a thin greasy layer on my face that just sat there. So finally, this morning, I decided to try skipping my moisturizer and primer, and really using only the suggested 2 drops at a time tapped all over and then buffed like crazy. I used only two drops for each half of my face (four total). The results are amazing, it evened out the tone and my skin feels so soft and moisturized without feeling greasy at all. My advice would be that less is more with this foundation! It seems to work well with their Mineral Veil (a long time favorite) as well, I just tapped it lightly over my T-zone to set any concealer.

While not necessarily a negative, the biggest disappointment I have with this foundation is that it is sheer coverage. Maybe medium coverage at best. It may tone down blemishes, but do not expect it to cover everything. They should not call this buildable or full coverage, from my experience if you build to full coverage, you are using too much.

The best part about this is really the skin care aspect. As mentioned earlier, I have only been using this for three days, but when I wash my face at night it really does seem to have a nice "brightening" effect. Usually by that time my skin is dry and tired, but it seems like bareMinerals has really come through on the promised skin care benefits. Perhaps this is due in part to being formulated without silicones or parabens.

I look forward to using this throughout summer as a light foundation option, however I will not be giving up my full coverage foundations any time soon!

Swatches in the sun and indoors, blended on the left side. You can really see how other than the color, it is almost invisible.

Here are some random shade comparisons also. I have included the only two bareMinerals foundations I currently own, as well as my current go to NARS foundation.