Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Loving Lately - February 2016

Toronto is currently in the midst of a wintry mix storm, so I figured I might as well hunker down and write about what I've been reaching for more often than not this past month. I was a bit out of routine this month thanks to Family Day/NBA All-Star Weekend, but I'm getting back into it all gradually. I've found myself focused on using things up since I have a bit of a habit of flitting around from product to product, then clearing out the product pile-up on my bathroom counter and starting all over again. Suffice it to say, this habit is kind of awful and eradicating it is a work in progress. On to the goodies:

The idea of a capsule collection targeted at Millennials and sold exclusively through Sephora seems like a no-brainer in terms of Estée Lauder really chasing down a market they've been missing in recent years aka flaunting its brand ambassadors (Hi, Kendall) turned "guest editors". The collection is 26 products that are meant to embrace the idea that EL built its brand on, which is "Beauty is in attitude". The collection hit over the weekend and I was drawn in by this mascara (and a blush, which was a patchy nightmare upon application, so it went back to Sephora). I like the idea of a double-ended mascara because it's two looks or functions for one price, and this was no exception. When I got my hands on the tube, I instantly saw a resemblance between the "curl/lift" brush and MAC's Upward Lash brush, and the "volume" brush actually reminded me a lot of now-discontinued MAC Plushlash Mascara. I can't say the wands are identical to the MAC counterparts I just mentioned, but they are hugely reminiscent and both perform well. The formulations are wet, so thinner lashes may want to steer clear ...or leave the tubes open for a while to dry'em out. I found that applying with the "volume" side first and then following up with the "lift" brush was the best method for my lashes, giving me a full, fanned-out effect.

When it comes to exfoliation, I'm an acids girl the whole way. The occasional physical exfoliant can feel good, but on a nearly daily basis, I reach for products with lactic or glycolic acid for even, smooth skin. A recent trip to the IDI led me to snap this cleanser up and I have been really happy with its performance. Now, this cleanser is in no way meant to be used to break down makeup - definitely use it on already-clean, damp skin. Massage this stuff in for 30 seconds and feel the difference in your skin after, thanks to the lactic acid (third ingredient in the bottle) that works to break down the built-up dead skin. I use this a few times a week and in conjunction with retinols/retinoids and don't experience any irritation. Give this a whirl if you deal with congested skin on the reg!

Yes, a candle just made the cut into this post. There's a slew of things from Jo Malone that I feel like I have glazed over before, including the brand's Just Like Sunday range, which is a collection of home candles that are meant to evoke specific scents reminiscent of Sunday meals. All that aside, if you like Diptyque Baies, you'll likely be into this scent, which is a bit more green with a hint of moss, but ultimately similar to Baies, probably because of the cassis note. I like Diptyque plenty, but it was nice to explore something different from Jo Malone. I also wanted to give my Jo Malone Moroccan Rose & Cardamom candle a rest because it was limited edition last winter and I'm one of those nutty people who just longingly admire candles if I know I can't buy them again. Noteworthy: this candle has excellent throw even when it isn't lit, so candle hoarders rejoice!

When I first saw this eye palette, I loved the overwhelming warm tones of the eyeshadows and then I had a flashback to this Lisa Eldridge tutorial that she did in celebration of 100 years of Bollywood. The quad she used on her model was Tom Ford Eye Colour Quad in "Burnished Amber", which was a limited edition offering years ago. I have watched and re-watched this tutorial many times over the years and never really forgot about how flattering this quad was on East Indian skin. I got my hands on Honeymoon a little after its initial launch and have absolutely loved it. As much as I wear and love cool-toned taupes and neutrals, there's something alluring about the copper-tinged gold, warm bronze and cranberry shades that I'm really loving, and the deep plum has a soft warmth to it that is also wildly flattering when worn along the lash line. The shadow formula can be worn wet or dry (any Tom Ford shadow stamped with TF in the pan is this versatile formulation), and I have worn this daily since getting it. Fave palette I own - huge statement - hands down. 

Like I said, acids and anything that helps with skin cell turnover are my go-to for even skin. That philosophy is now spreading to my body. As a person who is no stranger to scars (two escalator falls in the last 2.5 years, one of which ended with escalator teeth scars on both my shins), introducing a retinol-boosted product into my body care routine made perfect sense. This oil has been kicking around my bathroom for a while, so I finally threw it into the mix after seeing it pop up on a fellow beauty fan's IG the other day. In addition to scars, I have really uneven skin on the tops of my thighs. A part of me thinks it's from friction caused by clothing or activity, but the skin in this area sort of resembles keratosis pillaris, which is a bummer. This oil has basically cleared up my uneven skin on my legs and has diminished my [very dark] scars from my tumbles. It has 1% retinoid to even out skin tone and texture, and it's a dry oil texture, so it absorbs rapidly after applying. I tend to layer this underneath a body lotion, such as Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Body Cream (which contains a happy trifecta of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids) for maximum impact. Obviously, as with any retinol or acid, slap on SPF if you're going to be in the sun because your skin will be more susceptible to burning when you're using a retinol or acid product. 


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Drugstore Beauty Jackpot - Winter 2016

January and February are welcomed with arms wide open when they bring a flurry of new drugstore launches. New mascaras, contour kits, brow pencils, lip much newness it's hard to sift through and find the good stuff. I've been toying with new launches for a few months and want to highlight some real winners that are comparable to more pricey options that you'd find at Sephora and/or department stores. Off we go:

The original and recently reformulated Dior Diorshow mascara is not my cup of tea and seeing it on "Best Of Beauty" lists has made my blood boil time and time again over the years. I think Dior's New Look Mascara has been overshadowed by its big-brush counterparts since its inception, but it has always been my personal favourite (tied with Diorshow Iconic Overcurl) for best mascara offering from the brand. This new launch from Revlon's recently overhauled mascara range (1 of 5 new formulas!) looked dubious to me at first and instantly reminded me of Dior's New Look mascara. (Note: A smaller-scaled sample of Diorshow New Look mascara is pictured above, as my standard size tube has gone astray, but rest assured the wand size is the same for the full-scale version)

It's a fibre mascara formula, so contact wearers or sensitive-eyed readers, beware. These fibres are kind of massive; I initially thought a stray lash or two had wound up on my wand after I first tried it. The tiny wand might be difficult to wield at first if you're accustomed to massive mascara brushes, but you can reach each and every tiny lash with ease. If you're after a real eye-opening look, pick up a tube of Revlon All-In-One.

Hourglass launched a mechanical gel eyeliner a couple years back and it's probably fair to say it was largely eclipsed by all things Ambient that the brand has launched since, be it powder, blush, bronzer and now strobing powders *sighs deeply*. The formula was a sound option for anyone interested in matte black gel liner applied with the ease of a pencil format. Sold in packs of 3 or individually, the brand really seemed to be striving towards creating a product that people would never want to be without. Fast forward two years and Maybelline grabbed my attention when they launched gel pencils  this past summer, and now they really have me hooked with the release of these skinny gel pencils that are essentially the Define-A-Line liners done up with a gel formula that glides onto the waterline with mega ease and superfine tip. Below, both gel liners are swatched, Maybelline Master Precise Skinny Gel Pencil in "Defining Black" on the left, Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Liner on the right.

Both formulas apply effortlessly and are creamy when gliding onto the eye area. Ultimately, I do find both formulas are vaguely drying for my eyes with Hourglass being a worse offender, but I'm pretty sure any liner does that to my waterline if it's designed to be long-wearing, so c'est la vie. Maybelline certainly has a leg up here given its palatable price point and shade selection (Hourglass still is only offered in Obsidian).

While I feel pretty confident in my ability to find a suitable drugstore alternative in virtually all categories of makeup to any high-end product I'm really loving, brow products occasionally left me underwhelmed (at least, until recently). I often turned to a lot of different brow definers that were anything but cheap (including Burberry, Tom Ford, Dior, Smashbox), but certainly offered up impact and a suitable shade range. I think my favourite mechanical pencil to date would be a tie between Maybelline Define-A-Brow, which is virtually impossible to find in any shade other than "Medium Brown" these days, and Anastasia Brow Wiz. These two pencils are very similar in effect, the latter being easier to buy on a whim, but pricey as hell given how quickly one can burn through a single pencil. Enter L'Oréal Brow Stylist Definer, a mechanical brow pencil that has the same tiny pencil that allows you to draw in strokes of colour to resemble hairs and build up a natural brow shape. If you're a bit of a fusspot (and aren't we all at times?) when it comes to shade range, stick to Anastasia. If you're not, drop your money on L'Oréal, because it's less than half the price of Anastasia and is the same product, right down to the weight of the product (0.003 oz).

Sidebar: Liquid Matte Lip Colours
And now for a separate but notable trend: liquid lip colours. I'm not even going to really say that the new drugstore launches are matte, though these 3 formulas all claim to be when virtually none of them are in a true, traditional sense of the term. When I think of matte lip colours, I think of MAC's Retro Matte formula that lasts all bloody day but also makes your lips feel like the Sahara. These new formulas are leaning towards a plush velvet feel more than anything, maybe with a hint of shiny cushion that never sets to a fully matte finish. Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid comes in 10 shades (including a couple that are deeper/edgier/on-trend) with an extended doe foot applicator and notable vanilla-driven scent. The texture is comfortable and leaves lips with a satin finish. L'Oréal Infallible Pro-Matte Gloss is also available in 10 shades with an indented teardrop-shaped applicator that gives excellent application control of the product. This is probably the glossiest finish of the bunch, hence the wildly ridiculous "Matte Gloss" moniker. There's a small but real chance your hair will get stuck in this one. Life! Finally, we have Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor, available in 8 shades and making me quietly wonder why "lipcolor" is one word in this product name.

Swatched (L to R): Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid in "Nude Flesh" & "Nude Thrill", L'Oréal Infallible Pro-Matte Gloss in "Statement Nude", Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor in "Addiction".

Truthfully, I love the rich purple-based berry shade Devotion in this range, and find it wears pretty well and can be dialled up or down depending on the look I'm going for. All of these liquid lip colours are excellent and I'd encourage all of you to check these out before scurrying off to Sephora for Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick (incredible shade range that is usually out of stock; debatable value given how uncomfortable some long-wearing lip colours can be) or any of the numerous liquid lipsticks dropping every day.

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