Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Picks for Worst of 2013

Sub-par beauty products are one of those disappointing but inevitable realities of life.  One of the reasons I started this blog was because I faithfully read reviews prior to purchasing, which has helped cut down on those disappointments.  A few still happen, however, and here are the ones I reviewed in 2013:
  • Viridian Bloom Eyeshadow Trio by Elizabeth Arden (full review here):  Such a pretty palette and my first foray into Elizabeth Arden makeup products in years.  Sadly, this was such an underperformer that I'm now hesitant to purchase other Elizabeth Arden items, fearing similar bad quality.  So what was the problem?  Poor pigmentation tops the list, followed by patchiness and a hardening of the pigment surface when I tried to use them wet to get better color.  Top that with a hefty price tag of $32, and you can feel my disappointment. 
  • Champagne Shimmer and Starry Night True Color Creme Eyeshadows by Le Métier de Beauté ($28 each, see full review here):  It pains me to include Le Métier de Beauté on my worst of list, but if the shoe fits...  While lovely to look at initially, these crease within minutes and stay a greasy mess no matter how I prepped my eyes or used them - under shadows, over shadows, on their own.  It didn't help that the marketing material claimed they were crease resistant and long lasting, yet reps from LMdB later said they were really meant for a "messy" look and should not be used in the eye crease.  All righty then, big disconnect there.  My love affair with LMdB still continues, but this was an epic fail for me.
  • Miss Candy Nail Lingerie by L'Oreal ($9.95, see full review here):  Loved how these looked, hated how they felt and wore.  These are plastic nail decals and I found the edges ragged no matter how much I filed them, plus they kept snagging on things and picking up dirt.  At best, I could see them for a brief wear for a special occasion, but I peeled them off after about 4 hours. 
  • stila Smudge Crayons in Smoke, Umber, and Black (see full review here):  The major downfall of these pencil shadows by stila were their less than stellar wear time.  To be fair, stila claimed 'long lasting wear of 6 hours', but that's not long lasting in my book.  They start to degrade as opposed to creasing, but regardless, there are better pencil shadows on the market.  I believe these have been discontinued, so hopefully any new ones will have a better formula. 
  • Lash Domination Volumizing Mascara by Bare Minerals (see full review here):   I was able to get decent results on my upper lashes with this new mascara by Bare Minerals, but the large brush made it difficult to coat my lower lashes without smudges.  I get really irritated when I get mascara on my skin, and it seemed inevitable with this one.  Plus, the mascara seemed to get more and more clumpy, I believe because the brush kept picking up excessive amounts of mascara each time I used it.  I ended up throwing my deluxe sample out after a week.
  • Narc 24/7 Shadow Pencil by Urban Decay (see full review here):  Loved the color, hated how it applied.  I don't know if I got an old pencil, but first the tip broke off, and then it applied in this weird clumpy way.  I believe Narc has been discontinued, and perhaps poor performance was a factor in that.  I've had much better success with other Urban Decay shadow pencils, so I'm not sure if this was a fluke or not.
  • DD Creme and DD Concealer by Julep ($36 and $32, full review here):   Where to start, where to start....well, the hype surrounding this 'first ever' DD creme probably helped start it's downfall.  It is dangerous to build something up to the point where it's decline will be inevitable.  Then, there were the difficulties determining which shade to get, although to it's credit Julep seemed to try it's best in helping people figure that out.  However, the differing amounts of product contained in the tubes cemented the downturn in perception, and the negative roar from the masses on the Internet became a bit deafening.  Personally, I found both to be subpar in performance and well below the standard established by Asian BB creams, which are much less expensive even factoring in shipping prices.  Hopefully we are over the escalating alphabet creams, but it wouldn't surprise me to see an EE cream on the horizon. 
  • The Natural Beauty Box (see full review here):  This Canadian based natural beauty product subscription box service started off strong but went downhill within 6 months or so.  I subscribed month to month, which turned out to be a smart decision.  The decline seemed to begin with TNBB featuring it's house brand of products at rather inflated values, followed by delays (hadn't received products, shipping issues, etc.), followed by an increase in price, followed by skipping a month to catch up.....well, you get the picture.  Then, the founder of the company behind the service got into online tiffs with disgruntled customers, which is never a good sign.  It's just one of many subscription box services cautionary tales (Google Bondi), and I'm fortunate to have not gotten burned.  I actually liked many of the products I received, too bad they couldn't have gotten their act together. 
  •  Sparkle, Sparkle Holiday Lippy Trio by Butter London (see full review here):  Techically, this was a 2012 holiday release, but I didn't review it until 2013 so it made the cut.  I'm not really sure what I was thinking, I mean, glitter lip gloss at my age?  Well, age be damned, I would have worn them proudly if they performed well.  But, they didn't.  One looked like I had flecks of debris on my lips, another was uneven, the last looked like just a clear lip gloss.  This was a $34 fail for me.
What were the major disappointments for you beauty wise in 2013?  Was there something that really surprised you in a bad way?

My Picks for Best Body/Facial Care Items of 2013

Today I've got my 6 picks for the best of the body and facial care products I reviewed in 2013.  There were some seriously good items in this group that I'll be purchasing again in the future!

  • YonKa Vital Defense Intense Hydration (full review here):  YonKa is a French line that develops aromatherapy, phytotherapy, marine therapy and fruit acid based products.  I received the Vital Defense Intense Hydration in a New Beauty Test Tube and liked everything about this moisturizer, from how it smelled (citrusy) to how it performed (hydration without oiliness).  It is a higher priced moisturizer at $72 and YonKa is not easy to find (yeah for online retailers), so those are some potential downsides.  However, now that I'm aware of the brand, I'll be revisiting it in the future. 
  • St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Body Glow (see full review here): I go bare legged during the warmer months, which is about 9 out of 12 months here on the Gulf Coast.  So, a self tanner is a necessity, but I really dislike the scent of most of them.  Fortunately I disovered St. Tropez's One Night Only Instant Body Glow ($18), which gives me color without the smell.  It's not a self tanner per say, but a body tint that will wash off.  Fortunately, it's fairly transfer resistant (although not completely) and gives me streak free color that is realistic looking.   Unless I discover something better, this will be my go to when the weather warms up again.
  • Origins A Perfect World Moisturizer SPF25 (see full review here):  I went kicking and screaming into wearing sunscreen, but I finally got there.  I hated how most made my oily skin even more oily and/or gave me a grayish cast.  Fortunately, A Perfect World SPF25 ($39.50) does neither and doubles as a daytime moisturizer.  I've been using it for months now and don't see defecting, as I haven't found anything I like better for wearing under foundation. 
  • Fluffy Bunny Shea Butter Hand Cream ($14) by Farmhouse Fresh (see full review here):  This is my night time hand moisturizer of choice, as it's lavender/mint/cream scent puts me into an instant state of relaxation.  I like the formula as well and that it features 90% natural ingredients.  I just ran out of my tube and am currently using another Farmhouse Fresh scent called Whoopie! Cream (smells like white cake with buttercream frosting), but I'll return to Fluffy Bunny as soon as I use up Whoopie! Cream.  Love it!
  • One Fine Day Shea Sugar Flawless Face Polish ($25) by Farmhouse Fresh (see full review here):   Yep, Farmhouse Fresh again.  I guess they're my stand out body and facial care brand for the year.  One Fine Day has surpassed Suki's Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser, which I was not expecting.  But, I find myself reaching for One Fine Day over Suki, so there ya go.  I love the scent and how it leaves my face clean, smooth, and hydrated with no greasy after feel.  Total thumbs up on this one!
  • Skynn Iceland White Cloud Spot Corrector (see full review here):   Yes, my sunscreen hating ways (and age) have left me with spots.  The White Cloud Spot Corrector actually did a pretty good job of lightening them, and at a price that was reasonable ($55).  I'm currently testing another spot corrector, but Skynn Iceland's currently holds first place for me.  
What were your favorite body or facial care items for 2013?  Anything I should be checking out?

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Picks for Best Makeup Items of 2013

It's the last few days of 2013, and I thought I'd share with you the items that I thought were the best of the ones I reviewed this year.  I'll be breaking up the "Best Of" lists into makeup, body/facial care, and nail polishes.  Today are my favorite makeup items I acquired and reviewed in 2013, in no particular order.
  • Estee Lauder Pure Color Blush in Sensuous Rose  (full review here):  I love the Pure Color blush formula, and Sensuous Rose is my favorite shade of the 5 I've now acquired.  It's a soft neutral color that I use a lot, especially when I want to focus more on my eyes or lips and need something that will not compete.  I realize that doesn't sound particularly exciting, but this blush makes my skin look better than it really is and gives me a realistic looking glow that I adore. 
  • Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil Vault (full review here):  I guess technically this is 40 different eye pencils, but the Vault ($295) was my big ticket item of the year and remains something that I'm glad I splurged on.  Urban Decay brought the Vault back right before the holidays and it's still available at Urban Decay, although it's sold out again at Sephora.  I'm seeing prices on ebay upwards of $500, crazy.  
  • The All Natural Face Cream Blushes:  I was on a cream blush quest this year, and my favorites were from The All Natural Face.  They feature all natural ingredients, are easy to apply, wear well, and are inexpensive at $5.75.  Seriously, if you like cream blushes, these are worth a look.  Here are reviews on Bubblegum, Really Red, Touch of Rose, Terra Cotta, and Peachy Rose.  Which reminds me, I need to get a review up on the perfect for cold weather color Bordeaux. 
Olive Oil and Clay
  • Ulta Gel Eye Liners:  Having the Urban Decay pencil vault has not kept me from seeking out other pencil eye liners, and I've discovered a few good less expensive alternatives this year.  One are the Ulta house brand Gel Eye Liners.  I've gotten 3 now - Halo, Clay and Olive Oil, and I'm impressed with the price ($8) and color selection (23).  If you wait for one of Ulta's many BOGO sales, you can usually get them for $4.  Well worth it, IMO. 
Vivid Rose
  • Maybelline Colorsensational Vivids Lipcolors:  These are sensational, period.  I'm not even a vibrant lip color kind of girl, and these converted me.  Intensely pigmented, creamy, comfortable to wear and long lasting, all at a reasonable price ($8).  I picked up all the colors I thought I could wear, and here are reviews on Vivid Rose, Vibrant Mandarin, Pop of Cherry, and Shocking Coral.   
  • Revlon Colorstay Whipped Cream Makeup (full review here):  This has become one of my go to foundations, and aside from the rather awkward and potentially unhygienic packaging, I like everything about it.  It's a great formula for oily skin, the coverage is good without being cakey, and it wears well in Mobile's hot and humid climate.  
  • Mattify! ULTRA (full review here):  This versatile translucent powder acts as both a primer and a setting powder.  I've got oily skin and this has been perfect for helping to reduce shine and prolong the wear of my foundation.  It's become a staple for me and it's reasonably priced at $12.99. 
  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light (see full review here):  Another powder made my list, this time the more expensive but oh so lovely Dim Light by Hourglass.  It's hard to capture what the Ambient Lighting powders do in photos, but once you use one, it becomes more obvious.  I've since acquired Diffused Light and the Ambient Lighting palette that contains Dim, Incandescent, and Radiant.  Another item I use everyday, making Dim Light worth it's price ($45) to me. 
  • Ladybird True Romance Eyeshadow Palette by Kat Von D (see full review here):  I'm a fan of matte eyeshadow for a variety of reasons, and Ladybird is the best all matte palette I've tried thus far.  It's the only eyeshadow palette that made my list this year and one I use frequently.  Available from Sephora for $36.
  • Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Creme Foundation (see full review here):  I originally received 3 sample pots of this in my Eco Emi subscription box, and I liked the finish on this foundation so much I've since gotten a full sized jar.  It smooths over my pores the best of any foundation I've tried, and now that I use the Mattify! ULTRA powder, I can wear this more 'dewy' foundation without becoming an oil slick.  I love that it's a natural ingredient liquid (really more of a dense cream) foundation, one of the few I've seen.  It's become part of my foundation rotation and a full sized jar is $27.  
  • stila Smudge Stick in Turquoise:  I'm a fan of stila's Smudge Sticks, and this one made the list because of it's lovely jade green/turquoise color.  It was limited edition and if you didn't get one last spring, you're out of luck.  Or are you?  I see one that looks suspiciously like Turquoise on beauty.com, although it's called Teal.  Hmmm. 
  • Rimmel Exaggerate Waterproof Eye Definer in Precious Gold (see full review here):  Rimmel makes some seriously good eye pencils, and Precious Gold made my list for it's gold color that I did not have in my largish collection of gold pencils.  Plus, I've heard it's a good dupe for the discontinued and iconic Honey by Urban Decay.  Great drugstore find at $5.50!
  • Noir Precision Liquid Eyeliner by Le Métier de Beauté (see full review here):  My other splurge of the year was the VIP subscription service by Le Métier de Beauté, and the Noir Precision Liquid Eyeliner was part of the first month's box.  I love how thin and precise a line I can get with these felt tip liquid eyeliners and Noir has become part of my regular eye makeup routine to darken and define my lash line.  To be fair, Lorac's Front of the Line Pro liquid liners are every bit as good and are more reasonably priced ($23 vs. $42), but Noir still has a place in my heart. 
Tomorrow I'll have my picks for the best in body and facial care, and Wednesday will feature my favorite nail polishes of 2013.  No end of the year list would be complete without a "worst of", and I'll show you my three least favorite items of the year as well.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Naughty or Nice Mystery Box by Julep

I didn't take my Maven box from Julep this month, but I did get the Naughty or Nice mystery box.  Mystery boxes are always a toss up in that you can receive polish colors or products you may already have, but they are usually a good value and I love surprises.  Julep also sweetened the deal by offering two new polishes in the box, Brenda and Aviva, and since I liked them both I took the plunge!
Brenda, Aviva
I was fortunate to be able to use a discount code which lowered the price of the box from $24.99 to $17.49.   I heard that Julep deactivated the discount codes at some point during the open window period, however, so I was lucky to use mine.  I also heard they oversold the boxes, and those that ordered but didn't receive one got a $25 gift certificate instead.  Here is a breakdown of what was in the box:
  • 6 polishes:  America (already own, here is a NOTD post featuring it), Brenda, Aviva, Alaina, Joanna, Nellie
Beauty items were the kajal dual ended eye pencil with a sharpener, the lipgloss Timeless, Blank Canvas matte facial primer (already own), and a mini Rock Star hand creme.  There were also 4 foil packs, 2 each of the Luxe Repair serum and Luxe Care hand cream. I like Blank Canvas so a backup is not a bad thing.  You can see my review of it here
I like Julep's lipgloss formula, and while Timeless is yet another sheer gloss with shimmer (which I'm sure we all have more of than we need), I'll get use out of it.
I'll be interested to see how Julep's kajal pencil performs.  I've been wearing and enjoying Estee Lauder's kajal eye pencils, so now I have something to compare against.  All in all, quite the value for the price, IMO!  I'm almost at the point where I'd rather order a mystery box than a Maven monthly box, as the value is so much greater.  I'm sure Julep will find some way to entice me, though, they are pretty good at that :-)

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Linking up with The Nail Files hosted by Jennie at Well Shut the Front Door!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lauren Brooke Pressed Eyeshadow Duo in Toffee/Sandalwood

 I recently picked up a full sized jar of Lauren Brooke's cream foundation (I'm wearing it in all of the photos below), and since they were having a 20% off sale on their new pressed eyeshadow duos, I picked up one.  There are currently 8 duos to chose from, and I chose the neutral brown Toffee/Sandalwood duo.  They are both described as demi-matte, although I'd say Sandalwood is definitely a shimmer.
A bit about the formula - these have some unique ingredients I haven't seen in eyeshadows before (broccoli seed?):
  • Zinc: Natural UVA & UVB protection. Protects against free radical damage.
  • Broccoli Seed: Rich in Vitamin A & Essential Fatty Acids, Moisturizing.
  • Orange Peel Wax: Excellent emollient properties, provides a protective barrier for skin, anti-microbial.
  • Lecithin: Rebuilding, restorative agent. Supplies Vitamin B and reduces cholesterol build-up in the skin.
  • Jojoba: Nourishing and hydrating.
  • Allantoin: Stimulates new and healthy tissue growth, a skin cell proliferant.
Anything that can potentially help improve the quality of my skin I'm all for, although I now wonder if applying primer before hand would end up blocking the benefits anyhow. Hmmm, thoughts on that, anyone?
Over primer alone, Sandalwood over lid, Toffee in crease
Fortunately, I'm enjoying these for other qualities, including the lovely smoky brown eye I'm able to create.  That's right, I said 'smoky eye', a look that is elusive for me (I blame my small, narrow eyes). 
Toffee/Sandalwood over Tarte's Endless Taupe
I'm finding that a good primer or a cream shadow underneath works best for me with this duo.  They don't so much crease as start to break up after about 7 hours over primer alone (I've got very oily lids), but over a cream shadow I'm good to go for 9-10 hours.
Toffee/Sandalwood over Maybelline's Bad to the Bronze
I've been using Maybelline's Bad to the Bronze or Tarte's Endless Taupe as a base color, with the shimmery Sandalwood on top.  This deepens the color a bit and provides a nice base for the shimmer in Sandalwood. You can get an idea of how pretty the shimmer is in this picture, which has a decidedly pink cast.  If you're wondering why the difference, it's because I was standing under a tree loaded with pink flowers :-)
I lined my upper lid with Estee Lauder's kajal eye pencil in Blackened Cocoa and then applied Toffee on top.  It's a really simple but pretty look that I've been wearing all week!
The pressed duo shadows are regularly $12 but were on sale for $9.60 each.  The colors are rather basic, but I've got to say I'm enjoying mine.  So, if you are on the lookout for an all natural, organic pressed shadow, these may be worth a look!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

NOTD: Don't Be Koi and Fallen Angel

I'm wearing nail polish strips by Sally Hansen for the first time, and I like them!  I picked up Don't Be Koi for half price, and I love the design, even if my nails are currently too short to get a full fish on them.  Oh well, I decided the red, white, and black said "Christmas" to me, plus I wanted to use Fallen Angel by Estee Lauder:-)
Source: InkDance Chinese Painting Gallery
Not sure a thumb accent nail was the way to go, but it's actually growing on me.  I'm really impressed with how durable the nail strips are, as I washed two dogs Monday and my nails look none the worse.  Application was not a difficult as I was expecting, and I'm sure I'll get better with practice.  I was able to use just one of the enclosed packets for both hands, as one nail strip worked for two nails.  Am I correct in my understanding that any unused strips from an open pack go bad, or can they be used weeks/months later?
Fallen Angel is what I think of as a Chinese lacquer red, and is slightly darker but in the same color family as the red koi fish in the nail strips.  Formula was problem free and I used two coats, along with Zoya's base and top coats.  I also used the top coat with the nail strips to seal edges.
I hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas Day and Lily wishes you lots of good cheer!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All Star x12 Mini Lip Tar Set by Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
My love of lip tars continues, so when the 12 piece mini set came out I put it on my wish list.  It sold out quickly from Sephora, but fortunately was restocked in time for me to use my VIB $20 off coupon.
These really are the perfect size, IMO, as you use such a tiny amount of lip tar to great effect.  I saw lots of comments on Sephora from people who had received a half filled tube of the clear lip tar, but all of mine were full, so hopefully they fixed that problem in the restock.

Of the twelve lip tars, only one was a dupe for me, the lovely flamingo pink Divine.  That's a color I use a lot so I'm actually happy to have the mini sized version as well. Swatches do not include the clear lip tar, which is used to prep lips to help with hydration and prolong wear prior to using colored lip tars.
You'll notice that Stalker bleed quite a bit, and that is at least partially due to it being separated.  Lips tars will separate if they set in the tubes for a while, but they can be remixed.  Some of the darker colors may be prone to bleeding regardless of how well mixed they are, however, but a lip pencil can help with that.  I just purchased a clear lip pencil from Too Faced which I'll be trying out with these, review coming soon.
Strumpet, Stalker, Psycho, Clockwork, Divine (Creme)
Authentic, Electric Grandma, Super NSFW, Yaoi, Lovecraft, Pris (Metallic)
I've been mixing the metallic lip tars (particularly Pris) with the cremes, and I like the finish the two together make.  The metallic lip tars do have a different consistency than the cremes - they are thicker and feel a bit more dry on the lips.  I use the clear lip tar underneath, apply the color lip tip with a brush,  and then top with a clear lip balm that is not glossy after dry down, and this combo is comfortable without markedly reducing the wear time.
Clockwork + Pris
Here is one of the more bold colors, Super NSFW, but combined with Pris it makes for a daytime wearable look.
Super NSFW + Pris
I tend to use whatever mixture was left from the previous day and add a new color to it, so here is Yaoi with Super NSFW and Pris.
Yaoi + Super NSFW + Pris
My only complaint with the lip tars is that they are not convenient to reapply throughout the day.  However, there are plenty of DIY videos on how to make these into lip balms, and one day I'll get motivated and do that.  One day :-)  The x12 mini set is still available at Sephora for $58, and is well worth it if you don't already have many of the colors in the set!
Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!  The dogs and I will be opening our presents tonight - they have gotten quite good at it and enjoy the holidays as much as I do :-)