Monday, September 30, 2013

The search for the perfect setting powder

I'm not really a powder person.  Even my beloved Guerlain Terra Cotta four seasons leaves me feeling a little old even though it's touted as one of the best bronzers money can buy (my shade, 01, has a pink quarter so it can double as a blush depending on how you swirl your brush). 
I'll put a picture in here just for fun, even though this is not a bronzer post.  Bottom line on this one - I agree with the reviews, best powder bronzer.  Smells nice and you get a large quantity.  You may never have to re-purchase. The compact is beautiful and luxurious with a magnet closure.  It has a pin hole in the back suggesting it can be refilled but I haven't seen any refills.  I'm sure they exist somewhere.

Anyway, back to the point.  A while ago I thought that with all the moisturizing I've been doing for my very dry skin (night-treamtent-like creams by day with a layer of tinted moisturizer on top) I needed to add a setting powder lest my makeup all slide off my face and onto my phone or hands or whatever by noon.  If I have an itch on my forehead or go to move stray hairs out of the way I litterally get little spots of collected makup on my skin.  Very embarrassing.  So I've cut down on the moisture and first went to Chanticaille's HD Perfecting Powder.  It's among the best-rated and most expensive (at $72) setting powders on the market.  Especially since it has no other function to offer.  It is not illuminating and not hydrating and doesn't boast an SPF.  It's just a transluscent powder.  At this price point I expected it to melt into my skin leaving a matte, soft-focus, blemish-and-line-concealing finish.  But when applied it looks like you're wearing a powder.  With all the attendant problems of a true pressed powder.  It sets makeup.  But it highlights red and dark spots, lines, an any uneven application of foundation because it totally eliminates any glow the foundation might have contributed.  After really trying to like this product I decided powder just was not for me.  It went back.

By necessity, my morning routine is still fairly high-moisture and being a beauty product addict, of course it was only a  matter of time before I started looking again.  Not searching for a powder, per-se, but noticing them, reading reviews, and wondering where my holy grail setting product was (since primer is one more layer of fluid makeup it really doesn't help with the makup sliding off problem).  Enter Guerlain.  Having loved their foundation and having not been able to help but notice these strange small pastel-colored balls we call "Meteorites" I became curious.

Novelties aren't really for me, so without even trying the pearls I went straight for the very expensive ($170!  omg) but refillable compact.  One reviewer described this compact as heirloom-quality.  It really is.  Very heavy but sleek, magnet closure, this one isn't getting thrown into the empties pile:

Allow me to summarize the thousands of reviews out there:  A setting powder that is not an obvious highlighter.  Rather it makes your skin glow from within.  Sold!  Having finally tried this out, I think it is exquisite for the T-zone.  It is illuminating.  And it is a setting powder.  And it would probably be fine on it's own.  But I may try a finishing powder in addition (because I'm an addict).  Either in the morning or as a touch-up product that I keep at my desk.  This is the one currently on my lust list, it's a illuminating and mattifying powder, also from Guerlain, that comes in I believe three shades.  One that's close to white, this one which is "Rose Teint," and a slightly more bronzy version.

 I had the Guerlain representative swipe some of this on me this weekend and it absorbs as well if not better into the skin than the colorful compact.  It's probably as close as a true powder can get to acting like a cream, it's that finely milled.  I will update when I get it. 

What is your setting routine? 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Here comes Tory Burch Beauty

She is not one of my favorite all-around designers, but when she's on, she's on.  And I'm intrigued by her minimalist approach, being a fan of simple when it comes to beauty myself.  So I'm looking forward to this.  Not sure how she got the rights to Vetiver but as a new Guerlain loyalist, I have to say I'm a fan of the fragranced makeup.  It makes the experiece all the more luxurious and fancy.

Check out the (brief) NYT story here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013



Here are some I've tried lately, with reviews and pictures.  As a disclaimer, I'm a neutrals girl when it comes to lip glosses and colors.  I rarely go for the straight up "lipsticks" preferring instead the more natural looks of tints, glosses, etc.  

Guerlain Maxi Shine.  Really beautiful subtle colors and stays on a while for a gloss.  I do think they are worth the $30 pricetag - the quality is in how natural they look and how well they stick.  People have complained that they're a little tacky on the lips but that's hard to avoid in a long-lasting gloss.  I bought Pink Clip, Bubble Gum (shown right), and Browny Clap.  Bubble Gum would look adorable with any look that highlights fuchia or pink, it would even work with a pale pink outfit and the appropriate blush.  That said, it was just a tad too pink for me, I tend to stick to variations of red or brown hues.  Sometimes I venture towards Rose.  But this is a true bubble gum, although sheer enough to wear to work.  Several of the colors have a subtle illuminating glitter.  This is true for the Pink Clip color - it looks almost opalescent - but it works great on the lip by highlighting, rather than looking obviously like glitter.  The Pink Clip I bought because I was looking for something with a coral overtone and I haven't been disappointed.  This color doesn't add depth though, just shine and a light-colored tint - it works for peachy/pink ensambles.  The Browny Clap also has glitter but it's less noticeable and pretty much invisible on.  It's my favorite color for how natural and versitile it looks.  It has become an every day staple in my handbag.  It gives lips a deeper red/brown healthy shine. VERDICT: Amazing gloss, worth the price.

Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15.  I have several of these in my makeup bags and work stash.  The two pictured above are the birthday samples from Sephora - one colorless and one in Rose.  I layer the Rose on top of the original formula so the pinky red color doesn't smack people in the face, it looks much more natural diluted.  I also have Honey which is so highly pigmented that I have to use that with a clear gloss or treatment too.  I like the Honey color better than Rose because it's a little closer to brown-red that looks natural on me than pink-red, but both are great.  Petal is the newest release in this line and it's getting rave reviews.   


At $22.50 you should be expecting more than a tinted chapstick, and you get it, sort of.  The formula is so hydrating and the SPF is a nice touch.  The cons (and the reason I keep my eye out for samples but haven't made repeat purchases) are (a) the staying power isn't better than Vaseline lip therapy (b) the consistency is a lot like Vaseline lip therapy and (c) while the colored sticks are probably more natural looking and pigmented than products you can find in the drugstore, they too are not long lasting.  When the formula fades, so does the color.  Also, the high pigmentation tends to look overdone unless diluted, and who wants a two-step tinted lip balm?  VERDICT:  While I appreciate many of the product's qualities, I plan to return to Vaseline Lip Therapy when my supplies are out.

Shiseido's Lacquer Rouge.  This is the last item pictured in the first frame.  I picked this up when I returned the Perfect Foundation Brush reviewed here.  I wasn't able to return the brush for a refund, I had to exchange it.  So one point off for Shiseido for not having a better return policy.  This was a botique store that would only do returns if the returned product had not been used even though the receipt stated returns would be honored within 30 days with no other caveats listed.  Used items could only be exchanged.  There are so many competitors now (Nordies, Sephora, CVS, to name a few) who let customers return products they've tried and not liked, I have no reason ever to go back to that boutique.  Even for Shiseido products which I can get at department stores that will honor a return.  The 'lacquer' is a gloss formula and it's not great. Its very thick and doesn't spread over the lips well (or over a clear base) so you can get a patchy look if you aren't careful.  The thick formula paired with the high pigmentation means it absolutely should not be put on without a mirror.  I bought the most natural looking color (309 - another point off for not having identifiable names or having any indication of the color on the outside of the tube...what if you own more than one? You better memorize the numbers).  So it's a two step gloss with a mirror requirement.  Staying power is no better than my Victoria's Secret Beauty Rush gloss (which I have always loved but which are very sheer - this is weekend stuff).  VERDICT: Not worth the time or $'s.  I probably won't make it to the end of the tube.  Or even the middle.       

Clinique Almost Lipstick.  This is holy grail material.  I have two of the same color (Tender Honey) and use both of them all. the. time.  One is at work and the other is in my makeup bag.  And I have a third in the cult classic Black Honey for special occasions.  Very diverse shades of this stuff can look great on the same complections.  They are very versitile due to how natural the shades look.  They are creamy with some shine, but no more than a lipstick.  They feel great on and the lack of super vinyl shine that is so popular on lip products these days is consistent with the natural look.  While they look highly-pigmented in the tube, they are sheer enough to put on without a mirror.  They seriously deepen your natural shade and add a tint that makes you look radient and healthy.  They do your manicures for you too.  Just kidding. But I wouldn't be surprised.  They are that amazing. 
VERDICT: best of the bunch, and not because of the great price tag. 

Bite Beauty Lush Lip Tint.  This is billed as a conditioning tint and I was so excited to try it - I bought Lychee and Tangelo thinking they would be complimentary shades for darker and pinker looks, respectively.  They were both horrible.  The color is too pasty and not at all natural.  They are basically lipsticks, rather than tints, and on top of the too-strong-for-a-tint color, you have to put a lot on to get the conditioning benefits (as opposed to Fresh's Sugar offerings which, incidentally, are a couple bucks cheaper) so they both went back.  I didn't notice their staying power because I couldn't stand to leave them on for long.  VERDICT:  Fail. 

My newest additions are my first YSL Rouge Pur Couture 'Rebel Nudes.'  I have been pleasantly surprised by these.  I had received samples of Rouge Pur Couture in brighter hues in the past and found them too over the top to spend $34 on.  If I'm spending that kind of money I want to get a lot of use out of the tube.  I picked out of the most neutral of the Nudes have been wearing them to everything since.  They are first class lip stains and the neutral colors really serve to deepen a variation of a natural lip and to add illumination and gloss. 

This is such a complex formula that you really need to have the color just right.  They are buildable but wouldn't lend themselves to mixing well.  You can immediately feel the cool liquid aspect of it when you first apply it which gives way to a waxy layer that stays and stays.  It really does feel like you could eat a 5 course meal complete with wine pairings without smudging or losing the color.  And it's almost true.  This is, at heart, a stain.  The after-effect is a relatively un-frilly not-quite-matte color.  It's not a gloss.  And the color stays like a stain.  There are other stains out there.  But I've never owned one because I have found the colors unnatural and over-saturated.  Until now! 

I have Nude Provocateur (101) and Beige Anarchist (106) and love them both.  Nude Provocateur is a dark nude that adds a depth to the natural color of the lips.  Beige Anarchist is going to be my go-to when red, pink, or a wine color is part of the ensemble.  It looks bright purple in the tube but has a brown-red hint to it which makes it a little dressier than 101.  Both have an illuminating-grade glitter quality to them which makes them shine but not "sparkle" exactly.  I also like the applicator - it's like a typical gloss applicator but flattened and at an angle.  It really does a good job of simulating a brush.  One that you never have to clean.  The $34 price tag is nothing to scoff at.  It's the most I've ever spent on a lip product.  But it's worth adding a couple favorites to your collection.  VERDICT: go-to for occasions where you need staying power. 


What are your favorites?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Eyeliner - reviews and routine

Some things (and brands) I am very loyal to.  Eyeliner products are not one of those things.  I am always on the lookout for a better, easier, more solid colored, less smudgy eyeliner.  There was a time when I tired of pencils looking kind of, well, pencil-ish - by which I mean unsaturated, jagged lines that fade and smudge and basically disappear by lunchtime.   I thought liquid eyeliner was the answer.  But while I realize there are some looks that cannot be achieved with anything else, and while I realize it looks amazing and glides easily onto some lids, I've had to embrace the fact that liquid liner is not for me.  I don't know if I just don't have a steady enough hand or if my eyes are too sensitive (flinchy), but even with short brushstrokes I couldn't get my eyes done in under 3-5 minutes which is way more than I care to spend on just lining.  I did loads of research and testing of various products and techniques.  I found the drugstore brand applicator tips just impossible.  You get what you pay for.  So I purchased the favorably reviewed Lancome Artliner and Smashbox Limitless Liquid pen and grabbed samples at every opportunity.  I ended up returning everything that wasn't a sample.  I'm not the type to hang on to a $30 eyeliner just to throw it away years later.  My favorites were the Stila Stay All Day pen and the Smashbox pen for pigment, "ease" of use, and long-wear/smudgeproofness.  So if you're into this stuff, that's what I'd recommend.

Upon giving up on liquid, I tried tightlining with gel.  Not great at first because I had the wrong brush.  I used Bobbi Brown's Ultra Fine Eyeliner Brush which is fine for over-lash lining with powder liner, but ridiculous for gel.  It just leaves a faint, too-thick, unevenly pigmented mess.  The holy grail for eyeliner brushes, particularly for gel liner that you're stamping under the lashes, is Laura Mercier's Flat Eye Liner brush. 

No joke, this thing changed my life, importantly, and probably forever.  So now, after applying a base cream shadow or tinted primer I do a pencil line above my lashes in dark brown or black.  My current pencils in both colors is  MUFE aqua eyes because I like how easily it glides on and the color choices are amazing.   But I'm not married to these pencils.  I think I'm going to try Dior next.  Then I do a tightline to my top lid in bobbi brown's gel liner in black with Laura Mercier's Magical Perfection Liner Brush (same one as above, I just renamed it).  The BB gel is the only one I've tried.  Because why mess with a good thing?  It's a long-wear formula, it goes on easy, has a super-pigmented inky black and as long as you just make a line and don't spread it on like margarine on toast it will not stamp down onto the lower lids.  I've tried the margarine approach and it does transfer a little, but very little.  It actually is a good technique if you want a very subtle smudge of color along the bottom water line. 


It only takes a minute for the whole procedure because both products are easy to apply.  And the effect is really dramatic...and yet natural.  It looks like your lashes go on forever and really defines the eyes without looking like an art project close up.  When I want to look super sexy I add a stripe of a Laura Mercier caviar stick basically right on top of my liner (because the stick is a little wider than eyeliner it extends above it a smidge making for a sultry ombre look.  I love these sticks.  I have one in Amethyst and one in Sugar Frost and would love to get them in Cocoa and one of the grays.  I have only ever used them to enhance the eyeline (and the inside corner with Sugar Frost - careful with this one it's kind of glittery) but they can be smudged into submission in the creases and corners too. 
As an aside, a lot of critiques of the MUFE aqua eyes line (and tons of pencils for that matter, high end or not) complain about staying power.  I think eye pencils, like a lot of types of makeup, are one of those categories that is "only makeup" so to speak.  Liquid foundation falls into this category too.  No matter how well intentioned the formula, the stuff will come off.  You can set pencils up to succeed by applying them on a primer- or base-covered eyelid rather than directly on oily or moisturized lids, but regardless, it is not a tatoo.  I hold gel and liquid to a slightly higher standard but in my experience, pencil is categorically failable.

Other favorite pencils:
Smashbox Limitless Eye Liner - great pigment, not as smooth as the 24/7 or aqua eyes. 
Clinique's Cream Shaper for eyes - great value, decent pigment, a little dry.  I have a hunch that they might be discontinuing this soon as it's no longer sold at Sephora and they have so many new liners on deck.   

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brush vs. Sponge: The Verdict


First a review of the Bobbi Brown Foundation Brush.  It is worth the hype.  Recall how fond I was of my little Target trooper.  Unpackaging the BB brush made me feel like I was finally running with the big dogs.  The photo below shows them side-by-side for comparison.  And it doesn't just look more luxurious, it is softer, stipples better, and streaks less than the cheaper version.  I've cleaned and dried it twice now within 48 hours and it seems to be in good shape.  I know some may find that obvious but if a brush is going to wear out with washings, it typically shows some fuzziness on the first wash.  Take for example the Sephora professional fan brush.  Don't buy it.  It's frizz city after one wash.  I'm not going to waste any more time reviewing that one unless someone specifically requests more details.  Just don't buy it.  I'm serious. 

Anyway, so the BB brush is amazing, and the bigger size means more coverage each stroke and less time at the mirror.  I love it.  This is the third I've tried this month and my search is over for a while.


Both the BB and the Target brush (the one on the right, I wish I knew the manufacturer, this is a shoo-in for best budget buy - I've had it for positively YEARS and it still looks and acts new, if a bit less effective than it's more expensive counterpart) required exactly 1.5 pumps of Guerlain Parure de Lumier to cover my face adequately.  Foundation is generally not designed to cover every last inch of your face, it's more for problem areas.  But I have some overpigmentation issues - it's like freckles but not that cute.  So I put foundation everywhere except on my eyelids and brows.  That's not an overwhelming amount of product. 

And the sponge that I've been using for years requires.....(drumroll)


...2.5 pumps.  And the coverage is definitely more sheer.

And that's what the thing looks like at the end, lots left over.   

That's from ONE use!  I do miss how quick and easy the sponge is.  But as I've said, I'm pretty grossed out that I've been letting sponges go for so long before throwing them out.  I have to say that I think my skin is actually better having committed to a brush and daily washings over this past week.  It might be a coincidence.  But it does make sense. 

*I am embarrassed by the quality of these pictures.  The lighting is bad and yellow, the camera is not a dslr.  I think blogs are so vastly improved by good pictures and video and it is my intention to improve at this.  If this blog ever blows up, so to speak, I will definitely reward myself with a fancy camera. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday manicure breakdown

First coat: guerlain la base protectrice
Second and third: Dior in Plaza
Topcoat: Dior gel topcoat

I love all of these. This is pretty much the best money can buy. But you can still see a little wear on the edges. This manicure is about 24 hours old. Plaza is amazing.  It's classy enough for work but fun enough for a summer pool party and goes great with the highlighter colors that are so popular now.  Again the Dior topcoat is super high shine and really elevates the look. Two people asked me if I had them done professionally and even when I said no one of them thought I had gotten an at-home shellac kit. Nope. This can be done easy peasy in a haf hour in front of the tube between putting kiddies to bed and packing their lunch for tomorrow. 


Foundation brush challenge: week in review

So the bottomline is that I like the brush.  I feel like I have just as much control and coverage for general application as I do with a sponge.  I still use a sponge for concealer though, the sponge is nice for problem areas cause it wraps around blemishes and stipples with such good coverage.  I don't even think the Shiseido Stippling Brush (this is my name henceforth for their Perfect Foundation Brush) could do concealer like I want concealer done.  So there will still be sponges in my bathroom, but fewer of them and they will be used less frequently and replaced more frequently.  Having spent a week with the brush and washing it daily (two rounds of cleanser each wash) I'm kind of disgusted that I would let sponges go as long as I did before - two weeks sometimes.  Gross.  The washing of course adds that extra step that I got rid of by not having to wash my hands a bunch of times, but it's not as bad for my hands and I've gotten it down to about a half a minute.  I also got a new brush holder from the container store that I'm in love with so not only are my brushes easier to reach for but they're easier to air dry (before this week I had kept them in a bathroom cupboard).  This is absolute genius - it can sit on your countertop for normal days and get easily hidden back away in the cupboard when company is over.  

And it matches the acrylic cosmetic organizers that are so trendy these days. 

I like my Target brush, it turns out.  I think it's made of synthetic hair so it doesn't get all fuzzed out when I wash it obsessively like I do.  I did order the Bobbi Brown Foundation Brush which arrived today so stay tuned for that review.  I will probably do it in tandem with my sponge vs. brush standoff.  As I've mentioned, the brush has nearly perfect reviews.  The complaints when they do arise are that the bristles dry out with too much washing (altho they claim to be high-end synthetic) and that it absorbs a lot of product.  We shall see. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

And the winner is....FALL!

I took a little trip to my local Nordstrom and got the black T-strap Beverly!  To be honest I liked the non-T-strap a little better.  It's SOOOO classy on.  But this is my first pair of Guccis and what I didn't know is that their heels are not for girls with narrow heels.  Sadly, my foot slipped right out of a 35.  And the shoe doesn't come in a 34.5.  When I see strappy shoes like mary janes, strappy sandles, and t-straps, I have to jump on them.  And Nordies had to call around to find the last 35 black t-strap in the company. 
This is going to be a little over the top, even in a law firm.  And yet it's not so over the top that I could resist them.  The heel is conservative and the better they stay on, the better and more natural the person wearing them looks.  They are extremely wearable. 
Incidentally, there was more than one winner.  Another was a Laboutin Piou Piou in dark metallic red, almost burgundy.  They are so special.  I can't find a picture of the red anywhere online so I'll have to wait until they arrive and take pictures.  Below is the shoe in black.  The dark red goes SO well with the red sole.  This is also my first pair of Laboutins.  I'm starting to build a collection of one shoe of each major designer (so far I have YSL, Manolo, and Christian Dior - and now Gucci and Laboutin) but I haven't been back to the same one twice.   One of these days I'll do a 'what's in your designer shoe collection' video. 

Again I'm hoping these are not choices that take me away in the store and then end up looking overdone in the office.  But I think the conservative design of the Piou Piou is classy enough and I've been looking for the perfect wine-colored heels for years.  Who knew that would be an "it" color this fall.  While we're on the topic I want to recommend Ann Taylor's double strap mary janes (Jessy), but they run big and unfortunately I ordered a 5.5 and by the time I tried to exchange them for a 5 the 5's were out.  Story of my life.  They are a cute and very comfortable shoe at a fraction of the price of the big guns above. 

Finally, and this might be old news, but have you tried the Cassidy Booty from Cole Haan?  I got the brown leather last year and tried to find black as well but again, my size (5.5 this time) had sold out.  I looked everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  So you can imagine my delight when I walked in the store the other day thanks to their 25% off sign outside and found a whole new crop of Cassidys (in nubuck this year) waiting for me.  I tried them on with my new 'boysenberry' 7 for Mankind skinny jeans and the salesperson told me I should just walk out of the store like that - the looked so amazing. 

These are so versitile, so comfortable, and so flattering.  I don't own two of any other model of shoe.  That's how amazing they are.  Most of the colors they come in go with any color jeans, skinny or bootcut, work pants, even skirts if they're a little flouncy.  They can't replace a stilleto black bootie but they cover all the other bases.
Ok, I'm cut off of shoes for the year now (with the exception of a tall black boot that I might reward myself around review time).  But I will return to the subject when I review the Piou Pious and Beverlys once they arrive. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Obsession of the moment: Gucci 'Beverly'

Are you kidding me?  It's patent leather, work-appropriate height, adorable, and comfortable.  What is a girl to do?

AnOther pair of patent black pumps (to go with my manolo camparis) with a maybe-too-sexy-for-work t-strap?  Or anOther neutral color patent pump to go with my copius other pairs of nude heels...I have to get one of them.  It would be a crime not to.  They are works of art.  Both pairs. 

When I buy shoes I buy them for work.  And the black looks like it's ready for a party.  I have the YSL Tributes in patent leather for that (check these out, my favorite party shoes ever but can be dressed down). The mauve is amazing but a) won't stay on as well if you have a narrow heel and b) may seem redundant when stacked up against the three other pairs of nude pointy-toe shoes I own.  .....         Any votes either way? 

It will probably come down to whether I can get either in a 35.  This must be the most universally popular size because I can rarely find it.  For those that are feeling a little crazy it comes in the on-trend leopard print and in a grey tweed too, both in a slightly higher heel height.  $595-$895...but who's checking when the shoes are this breathtaking? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Foundation brush challenge: day 4: Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush review

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I like the compact design of this brush and was eager to try something so cutting edge.  But what it really is is a stippling brush.  The application is thus full-coverage, fully built, and while it does require less product than a sponge, it gives you a fully made up look.  It's hard to tell from the pictures online, including the one above, but if you're looking down at this brush from a bird's eye view the bristles are in a perfectly round formation, that is, it's a thick round collection of bristles razed off at a slight angle, like someone cut off a ponytail (I swear I will start posting videos soon, I'm realizing as I go that product reviews require either a lot more pictures or a video).  There are techniques for making the look a little more sheer that can be found on YouTube but I found these a little arduous and not very effective.  The technique requires you to move your wrist in a rotating motion as you glide the brush around.  The stroke is still pretty short and I can imagine getting carpal tunnel by the time I'm done with half my face.  The problem with this brush is not with the short strokes, it does a great job at that kind of stippling application, the problem is that you don't really have the option of doing longer strokes when you're working with the tips of the bristles rather than having some control over the angle you work at as you do with the typical flat and tapered foundation brushes.  The mandatory short strokes means not only a heavier look without the option of going more sheer but also that the whole process takes longer.  Even if I had been looking for a full-coverage look, I didn't like the lack of control.  The brush drags if you try to force the strokes and you feel a little trapped into short quick movements which, if you're covering your whole face, is tedious and time consuming. 

  • Soft, quality bristles, great resistance and concentration of bristles for stippling.
  • Compact eye-catching design
  • Doesn't absorb tons of product into the bristles so you don't waste product and it's easy to get the product out when you're cleaning.

  • Short stippling strokes are pretty much all you have the option of, even the rotating sheerer stroke technique doesn't give you the control you probably want for an every day foundation brush.
  • Takes FOREVER to dry so if you're using liquid foundation and washing the brush every day this might not work for you.

Bottomline: Quality brush for what it does but not the every-day, all-over foundation brush I am looking for. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Get to know me, and you.

This is brilliant, espeically for a new blogger.  It's a get-to-know-you (and your readers) Q&A from brilliant and hilarious makeup and beauty blogger Karen at Makeup and Beauty Blog.  Here goes, leave your answers in the comments or on your own blog!  And have fun.

  1. One makeup or beauty product that you can't stop hoarding.  La mer.  I have TEN products of theirs that I use EVERY DAY.  Also, on the other end of the expenditure spectrum, I've been hoarding samples of Living Proof's Prime styling lotion and Fresh's SUGAR Lip Treatment every time those come up as 100 point perks on 
  2. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
    Water.  On my way out the door.  This is as a result of lack of time and dehydration, not calorie counting.  I eventually concocted a make-it-yourself mocha using the starbucks machine at my office.  This is a typical routine for me on weekdays. 
  3. I’m happiest when ______.  I don't have work hanging over my head.  Pretty much everything is more fun when I can just put it away and stop thinking about it for a while.  My favorite things to do are playing with my kids - pretty much everything is fun when we're hanging out, and of course, shopping. 
  4. Don’t be afraid of ______.
    Trying something new.  Don't be a slave to routine, I used to be because I thought it gave me control over the future, but then I realized how mundane and ridiculous that is. 
  5. What’s one of your mantras?
    You get what you pay for.  This is true in more facets of life than I ever imagined.  It doesn't mean you have to be a big spender or very wealthy, it just means that you should balance the qualities you are looking for with the amount you are willing to spend and be very critical about making sure your purchases are worth what you're paying.  Indulge in areas that make you happy, be cheap in areas that you don't care much about.  For example, I have 6 Louis Vuitton pieces, a Tag watch, and buy only high-end makeup but I never eat out unless my work is paying for it.  And (confession) I don't love to travel.  So it all works out.  
  6. Something that inspires you?
    People who are excited about their jobs.  I'm really happy for people who love their jobs, it's certainly not the majority of us.  It gives me hope that it's possible for the rest of us. 
  7. What’s your secret passion?
    This is it.  I'd go to cosmetology school and do a career change right now if I had the resources. 
  8. You’d be surprised if you saw my _______.
    Wardrobe and makeup collection in high school.  I was totally out of touch fashion-wise, even for the time.  WAAAY off.  And the weirdest thing was that I just didn't care.  I didn't think about it.  I didn't really become a student of the game until I had money to spend - in other words when I was finally finished with school and got a job.  So you don't have to be born with it apparently.  My little girl though, she's obsessed right out of the womb.  Shoes especially.  It's amazing, she's one and a half.  When I get home from work she toddles over and demands that I take off whatever pumps I'm wearing so she can put them on.  Then she finds some sunglasses and wa-la, instant stylist.    
  9. One thing you love about your job?
    ....the paycheck.  I think that's about it.  Also my office is nice, I have door that closes and an outside window. 
  10. Something you have to do this week?
    Clean out the garage.  Seriously, it's time. Also, I always have returns that I have to do.  I have a reputation among my friends for being a big returner of things.  I spend a lot of money on things (and make a lot of online purchases) and if it's not just right it goes back.  This goes to my point in #4.  I am very, very loyal to companies with good return and customer service policies.  That goes a long way with me.  On my return schedule for this week is the Shiseido perfect foundation brush and a pair of 7 for mankind boysenberry jeans (I ordered two sizes). 

Foundation brush challenge day 2: Bobbi Brown pulls ahead on a technicality

I purchased the Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush yesterday.  It is a work of art.  It has the silky-yet-firm quality you want in a foundation brush and I like how compact it is, though this is a problem for some reviewers.  Despite it's high marks the one flaw reviewers have pointed out might be prohibitive for me since I'm using it with liquid foundation.  I unboxed it last night and gave it an initial rince with the Clinique brush cleaner and stuck it upright in a brush cup overnight and by morning...still wet.  And not just a little damp, really wet.  The density of the design makes it such that this brush may never dry if you're cleaning it every day.  Which, for liquid foundation, is kind of a must.  This is a dealbreaker for me.  I am liking the foundation brush concept so far, even with the daily cleaning.  I've adopted a technique that leaves even less waste and less product to clean out of the brush (this isn't groundbreaking - dispense the foundation on the back of your hand and dip the brush into the product).  But the brush needs to dry between uses to guard against bacteria buildup and keep the foundation application consistent.  So either this is getting returned or I will have to switch it out with another brush every other day.  Given my lack of tolerance for clutter I am fairly fixed on returning it. 

Coming soon: after my week long brush challenge I will use one day to test the amount of pumps of product I have been using with a brush against the amount I would have to use with a sponge to answer forever the question of the net waste using a sponge produces vs a brush.  This will be very scientific and exciting so stay-tuned. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Manicure Breakdown

Sunday nights are typically reserved for doing my nails in front of the tv. I have to do this after the kiddos are in bed, otherwise they beg me to do their nails too. Sometimes I will but I don't scour my polish labels to make sure the ingredients are kid friendly so I try to avoid letting them in on this particular form of pampering.  Anyway, last night's cocktail was: no basecoat. I know. But I'm in between base products right now. I have Guerlain's la base protectrice in the mail so will hopefully be reviewing that next Monday.  For today I have on two coats of illmasqua in Cameo and a top coat of dior's gel topcoat. The cameo is one of those shades that stopped me in my tracks as I was heading for the checkout counter because of its perfection. I have other illmasqua shades and while they aren't super pigmented or thick, they get high marks in the brightness, originality, and staying power categories. The Dior gel makes it worth it to do home manicures in the first place. It's the only thing I've used that can keep my paint chip free for longer than 24 hours besides shellac. It dries relatively fast for a gel topcoat and delivers the expected high shine.

Week long foundation brush challenge: Day 1

Holy streakshow.  I might break down and buy a higher quality brush before the week ends.  There is no reason for streaks with a quality foundation.  I had to use some serious technique to get rid of the lines.  Also I noticed the brush applies the product very shallowly, for lack of a better word.  by that I mean the product doesn't get deposited in hard to reach places like crevaces, lines and pores.  That might seem like a good thing but it actually served to highlight lines and pores since those areas didn't get makeup on them while the surrounding areas did.  Stippling helped that.  Just something to be aware of.  Otherwise the brush makes for a cleaner and more even application than fingers, but so far the sponge still wins on effectiveness, too bad about the waste.  Speaking of waste, when I went to clean the brush there was a lot of product remaining which made me wonder if brushes are really all that superior on this front...if anyone knows of an analysis of brush vs sponge vs finger product waste, please post it in the comments.  The product left in the brush also made for a long cleaning session.  I use Clinique's brush cleaner which is amazing and affordable ($15 for 8oz.) and deserves the rave reviews it gets, but even then I had to do the process twice.  It made for a long morning. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sponge vs Brush

I picked up my full size Guerlain Parure de Lumier today, much to my relief, right above the SPF 25 were the words "broad spectrum," which hadn't appeared until now.  They've changed the packaging since taking their marketing shots.  Even the Nordstrom and Guerlain reps I asked over the last week didn't know if the formula was broad spectrum.  Turns out it is.  Or professes to be.

In any case, unboxing the new foundation inspired me to try a week-long foundation brush challenge.  I've always used makeup sponges to apply foundation (fingers for tinted moistruizer) and I love the effect and the low maintenance of sponges for foundation.  Stippling is easy, finish is great, building is easy, and you just throw 'em out after a few days.  I haven't given in to the beauty blender craze just because I hate maintenance (and the idea of spending $20 on a disposeable makeup sponge).  So I've stuck with the white triangulars sponges you can get at your local drusgstore.  But having just spent $70 on a foundation it's hard for me to overlook one of the biggest problems with sponges which is waste of product.  The other biggest problem is bacteria spread and acne promotion but in order for this not to apply to brushes too the brush has to be cleaned basically daily.  So my plan is to switch to a foundation brush for a week with the intent of washing it daily to see if I like the application, if I can stick with the cleaning routine given my limited time in the morning, and whether it improves my skin to have less bacteria introduced then would be the case with a sponge or finger application.  

The only foundation brush I have is from Target.  Seriously.  That's how long its been since I entertained the idea of a foundation brush.  I was a student shopping for makeup implements at Target.  So that's the brush i'm going to use for the challenge. 

If I stick with it, I've already picked out the better quality brushes I plan to choose between.  The Shiseido 'Perfect' Foundation Brush ($30), and the Bobbi Brown Foundation Brush ($38).

The Shiseido has a unique shape and is best used only after watching a YouTube tutorial.  It won' InStyle's best foundation brush award for 2013.  The Bobbi Brown is as tried-and-true as the rest of the brush line.  These brushes both have stellar reviews.  Let me know your vote in the comments! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Foundation round-up

First, in the way of background (and in the way of a confession), I haven't actually been using foundation lately.  I've been riding the wave of the less-is-more trend and converted from high-coverage fluid foundation to tinted moisturizers about a year ago.  The switch inspired me to take better care of my skin and just looks more natural overall.  I have very light skin with red undertones which has proven hard to match so my primary problem with most foundations I've used is just that I can see them.  Here are my thoughts on what I've been through in the last couple years.

Dior Forever Flawless Perfection Wear ($47) - I love Dior products.  Especially their Hydra-Life moisturizer line and their nail polish.  But this formula is not forever, it's not even less transferrable than other high-end foundations I've tried, and the lightest color is not light enough for me.  It's actually a little orangey.  It is high coverage though and high quality so if you can find a color match this might be for you.  No SPF by the way. 

NARS's Sheer Glow foundation comes in in TONS of colors.  you'd think that would have solved my matching problem but NARS on the whole is a little too yellow for me, I've found, particularly in the lighter skin colors and highlighters.  I tried Siberia and discovered that for the first time in my life I had found a makeup line whose lightest color was (gasp!) too light for me.  Impossible.  But it was true, I looked like a mime.  So I tried Mont Blanc and that was better.  I should mention that I have no time or patience for mixing, I don't think that will ever happen. The foundation does give a sheer glow and stays put well.  One thing I really love about it is that it's super buildable.  Again no SPF.

I've had an amazing experience with Smashbox's high-def consealer, it's one of my 'don't leave home without' products (I actually have three on hand - one at home for morning spot treatment, one in my makeup bag, and one at work).  This is one of the few products I'm using right now that is a repurchase.  Since the concealer has worked for me, I tried Smashbox Studio Skin 15-hour wear hydrating oil-free foundation ($42).*  This is a great foundation for its price.  Great coverage, buildable, and looks really natural once it sets.  The lightest color is just a smidge darker than I'd like but I've worn this for months at a time without letting that stop me.  The coverage on this is so great in fact that when I'm using a lighter tint all over I sometimes use this as a spot-treatment consealer on trouble areas.  The only reason I gravitated away from this is because I was looking for something with lighter coverage.  I still pull it out for nights out and photo shoots. 

Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer ($43) is constantly hailed as the best-selling, best of the best, holy grail type of tintend moisturizer.  It's ok, but I didn't like it as much as the others I've tried.  The coverage is good, it has a broad spectrum SPF of 20, but it's not illuminating (they do have an illuminating version that I haven't tried), and - here's the dealbreaker for me - it does concentrate in pores as you're applying it so you get those tiny light dots that I don't get with Chanticaille's Just Skin or the NARS tinted moisturizer. 

Chanticaille's Just Skin ($66) has proven to be amazing for me.  This is my top choice tinted moisturizer.  You get what you pay for, right?  It looks so natural, no collectin in pores, it has great illuminating properties (NOT sparkly) and while the color choices are not many, color choice is a little less important with a sheer tinted moisturizer like this.  Alabaster (lightest shade of course) was a great match for me.  The only thing I'd change is the SPF, it's only 15 and it isn't labeled broad spectrum which is usually a hint that it's not. 

Seeking a higher SPF and a lower price tag I turned to NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF 30 ($42).  It comes in lots of shades which is nice because this is a high-coverage tinted moisturizer.  It has better coverage than some foundations.  True to its name, it does leave a radiance and that dewy glow that I love.  Again with the yellow tint though.   


So here I was, blissfully ignorant to the fact that there are quality and matchable foundations out there.  Here's the thing I've noticed after my year of tinted moisturizer.  While it works for the dewy sheer look, it also can look a little too dewy after half a day and just melt right off your skin (this of course could be helped by setting powder but I personally can't stand all-over face powders - they make me look so old).  If you're like me and do a lot of moisturizing, you don't need tinted moisturizer for the moisture.  There is such a thing as too much moisture.  And it turns out tinted moisturizers are not the only way to a sheer luminous finish.

There is a better way.  And that way is Guerlain!  Yesterday, a trip to Neiman's beauty department to pick up something else altogether (isn't that always the case) introduced me to the holy grail of light-coverage foundations. After years of trying to find a natural, sheer, luminous product, I think I may have found it in Guerlain  Parure de Lumier Light Diffusing Foundation ($59). 
The coverage is light, the color is amazingly natural - Guerlain seems to have really gotten that 'skin shade' that everyone else has trouble with.  The finish is luminous as advertized and it stays put and looks less oily than a tinted moisturizer.  The downsides are that it is not particularly buildable.  This is a true base layer.  Also the SPF 25 is not broad spectrum.  It has some UVA protection but not as much as the UVB SPF 25.  Also it's scented, as I think most Guerlain makeup products are.  It's a beautiful scent and doesn't linger (it won't compete with your perfume) but that might throw some people off.  Since I was looking for a true light base layer the lack of buildabilty doesn't bother me and I have resigned myself to using a broad spectrum SPF lotion on top of my moisturizer so any added SPF from the makeup is a bonus.  For me, it's the obvious choice. 

So how about you all?  What are your go-to base layers? 

*As an aside, I'm not particularly plussed about whether a foundation has oil or not. Oil used to be a bad word in the skincare world and now it's the fountain of youth. I am more concerned about how it works - does it look good, does it stay put, does it irritate my skin. The fact that it does or doesn't have oil in it usually doesn't tell me much about how it works and is not an automatic breakout sentence.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Product Review: Me Smooth

I. Hate. Body. Hair.  Hate it.  Hate it on me.  Hate it on him (a little is ok, but seriously, not a requirement and I'm not offended by males who shave or trim body parts other than their faces).  I shave everything every other day without exception even in the winter except on the weekends when maybe I let it go two days.  All this ridiculousness is costing me precious morning minutes.  It's hard enough to get out the door as I have 100% of the childcare duties in the morning - I would love to get back the hour or so per week that I spend shaving.  Especially because minutes in the morning seem to be worth more than minutes at any other time of day for some reason.  I had considered professional laser hair removal before but the expense and formality of it scared me off.  After all, I don't have a hair problem.  I have light, wispy hair (darker on my legs), no facial hair problems, I don't even wax my eyebrows because tweezers once a week is more than enough.  But I am human and I do have hair.  And I want to be smooth at all times.  So when I saw the Me Smooth on Sephora and it's stellar ratings, I considered the benefits of an at-home treatment.  My initial thoughts - probably if you stick to it it will save you money over professional treatments.  Will it be permanent?  Judging from the manufacturer's inserts, probably not, but it will probably save you a lot shaving time.  Particularly if you're a "good candidate" - light skin with dark hair, from my cursory research, although the Me Smooth supposedly works on all skin types.  I won't be able to test that claim.  I'm as white as it gets.  It's also nice to be able to do something as private as hair removal in the privacy of your own home.  Not to mention the convenience of not having to make appointments and drive somewhere.  The system isn't cheap - I paid $399 plus tax and every cartridge refill is $50.  But I hey, I have a job and if this thing means I only have to shave once a month or less, It'll be more than worth it.  I went for it.

Like I said, the reviews on were good, but I noticed that a lot of them were written as soon as the purchaser took the thing out of the box.  The reviews were basically reviews of the purchaser's excitement rather than of how well the system works.  People liked the large window of the "laser zapper" wand and they didn't like the placement of the power button because it's easy to accidentally turn off mid-treatment (this turns out to be really annoying but not a deal breaker).  They also like that it says that it works on all skin types (but does it really?).  And it's painless and easy (but does it work?).  One or two people said it really did what it said and was worth the money.  So to settle all my questions I'm going to do my own review, I'll set out the first few and last few treatments in excruciating detail for those who are interested.  If you just want the bottom line, you can skip to the last paragraph.    

First treatment 7/8.

I assembled the wand and followed the instructions to power up the machine, which are ridiculously easy.  If you somehow lost the instructions you'd probably be fine.  I did a test on low as the instructions recommend.  No irritation. So I went forth and did a medium treatment.  I guided the wand up and down my legs, bikini area, and under arms slowly and methodically, making sure to get every inch.  I tried to go in a continuous motion as instructed but i was being so meticulous that I felt compelled to stop and let the flash happen before moving again.  The instructions aren't totally clear on this point anyway.  They say move the wand as you would a razor, you don't need to stamp...but should you pause?  I typically do.  The wand basically flashes and clicks simultaneously every second or so as you move across your skin.  The flashes are seriously bright.  The brightness is probably my number one complaint about the machine.  I wore sunglasses and tried to look away the whole time and I still got blinded quite a few times.  I'm not sure why it wouldn't be feasible to provide shields so the user doesn't get flashed in the face 2,000 times per treatment (disclaimer: I'm not actually sure what the average flashes per treatment are, I was too involved in the RH of OC to count, I'm sure there is a statistic out there on the interwebs).   Aside from my own annoyance at the flashes I was sure I was going to get a knock on my door from the neighbors wondering if there was some silent alarm going off inside my house, or a police car parked out front.  I was sitting next to a sliding glass door and I'm pretty sure you could see these flashes from space. 

The other complaint I have is how long the treatments take.  As advertized, it takes "just minutes!" to remove all your hair. Forever.  Or at least that's the implication.  In reality, it took forever to slide that thing all over my parts and then, re-reading the instructions, I realized I had to do the same thing 3-4 times!!  In one sitting?  This could take hours.  And it pretty much did.  About two hours.  This will definitely not save time over shaving in the short run.  And then you have to do that 7 weeks in a row.  And once a month after that.  So if you're contemplating this purchase, be sure you have the stamina to stick with it long term.  The price tag was sufficient motivation for me to use it. 

Second treatment 7/15. 

As an initial matter, my hair kept growing during the first week.  Part of me thinks it's thinner but that might be all in my head.  It's only been one treatment after all.  The idea is that different hair follicles grow on different cycles and so if you do a weekly zap session for several weeks, you're bound to get all of them at the right stage.  But just doing it once will make very very little difference. 

I started the treatment on my legs on medium this time.  Since it didn't hurt I tried it on high and it was fine for my legs but got a little "zappy" as I neared the inside of my knee and the bikini line.  But still tolerable.  I'm one of those people that wonders if things work when they're not hard/painful enough. As I was playing around with the low/med/high settings this time I noticed that the flashes came very fast on the low setting and gradually got slower (and more intense) as I changed to the high setting.  As I was bound and determined to keep the setting on high, the slower flashes made for a very, very long treatment.  It lasted over an hour to do my legs three times.  and that was just my legs.  It was getting to be so long that I decided from now on to stagger my legs treatments and my bikini/underarms treatments.  I would have been there all night if I had tried to do everything.  And probably would have burned out the mechanism.  It was really hot by the end of the session. 

Mid August

I have dutifully done Monday leg treatments and Wednesday underarm/bikini treatments for the full seven weeks.  I don't have to shave my legs between treatments.  My underarms are getting to that point and don't have that in-between stubble that seems to grow out 24 hrs after shaving.  That means shaving once a week with much smoother skin in previously hair prone areas.  It's pretty miraculous.  I am very smooth.  I am going to give it about two more weekly treatments and then do a review one month after that (apparently, after about 7-10 weekly treatments you can move to the more leisurely once-a-month frequency).  So mid-October (where is my life going?!).   Bottom line so far is that this thing delivers on smoothness and reducing shaving sessions.  Whether it has long-term effects as remarkable remains to be seen but I am hopefull.  On the price factor, it costs a lot.  Not just the $400 or so for the machine (i think you can get it cheaper on @maz0n, but also the $50 per cartridge.  I am going through about 1.5 cartridges per treatment.  I am very meticulous though, I'm not saying this is a necessary consumption but I want this thing to work, darnit.  Others might get great results with less time and fewer cartridges.  Stay tuned.