Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Picks: Favorite Products

I had a request to do a post on my favorite products from each category of makeup, and some categories were tougher than others. I didn't include categories where I don't have a go-to, because I didn't want to talk about products that I don't truly love and recommend. But there were also some categories where I couldn't pick just one product. 
Laura Geller Balance N' Brighten Foundation: Because I have oily skin and prefer sheer-medium coverage, I love a good powder foundation. This one is baked, and so has the creamiest consistency I've experienced from a powder foundation. It has build-able coverage and looks beautiful on the skin.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette: If I had to choose a range of powders, it would be these. And if I had to choose a single one, it would be Dim Light. This blurs imperfections and gives skin such a beautiful, glow-y finish. 

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush: I love the Tarte blushes, and still reach for my Off the Cuff palette almost daily (sorry to include a LE!) My favorites are Darling (the peachy, middle color) and Dollface (the right-most blush). Darling goes perfectly with just about any look, and Dollface (a permanent color!) gives that perfect, brisk-weather flush. 

Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer: I love a good, matte bronzer, and as you might already know, this one smells like chocolate! Because this is matte and not too orange in tone, I like to use this as a contour powder in addition to a bronzer. 

Anastasia Brow Wiz: I usually like a powder to fill in my brows, but this pencil has me a changed woman. I can change the depth of the color depending on how much pressure I use, and I really enjoy the Spoolie brush on the other end. If I'm traveling, this is easily my brow-product pick since I can completely do my brows with just this. 

Lorac Pro Palette: This is my pick for an eyeshadow palette. It has everything I need to do any complete eye look. With a variety of neutrals in both matte and shimmer finishes, I can't go wrong. But if I were to choose my favorite single eyeshadow, it would be...

MAC Eyeshadow in Sable: This is the bottom-left shadow in my MAC palette. This is a purple-toned brown with a shimmer finish. I love the way it looks with brown eyes. And I think this color is complex enough that if I pack it all over my lid and buff it into my crease, I can get a complete look with just this one shadow.  

Lorac Front of the Line Pro: I prefer liquid liner, and this is my favorite. It has a skinny brush-tip and rich-black color. This makes it easy to achieve the perfect winged liner.

Clinique High Impact Mascara: I like my mascara to have it all: volume, length, and curl. This one delivers. I like this better than Diorshow and Benefit's They're Real, so if you like either of those, try this (it's at least $6 cheaper!).  

MAC Lipstick in Rebel and Viva Glam V: I love MAC lipsticks, but these two are my favorites. Rebel (Satin finish) is the perfect pop of color during any season (but I particularly love it during Fall), and Viva Glam V (Lustre finish) is a great my-lips-but-better shade. 

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Morocco, Ibiza, Antwerp, and Zurich: Because I couldn't choose just one lippie favorite, I had to include these too. These are inexpensive, deliver opaque, long-lasting color, and smell great. For swatches and a more in-depth review, see this post and this post

I know I cheated on some of these, but if you could only pick one product from each category, what would you choose? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Products that Banish Body Acne

In the world of beauty, perhaps one of the most frustrating things is acne; especially when it shows up on your body. Well I've had my share of skin demons, so here are some of the products that I've used to help tackle them. None of these products will stain clothes. 
The Sprays: spray a thin layer onto clean skin
Neutrogena Body Clear Body Spray ($8): If you know that your acne responds well to salicylic acid, this is a good one to try. It has 0.5% salicylic acid, sprays very evenly in a fine mist, and smells pretty good to boot. It's one of the most inexpensive body-acne sprays out there, and it sprays upside-down which is really handy.

Murad Clarifying Body Spray ($37): If salicylic acid alone just doesn't cut it, the Murad body spray might work better for you. In addition to the 0.5% salicylic acid, this spray also contains glycolic acid which is a good exfoliant for acne-prone skin. Since my skin doesn't really respond to salicylic acid, this worked better for me than the Neutrogena one, but still didn't completely clear me up.   
The Toner: soak a cotton ball and wipe over affected areas repeatedly until cotton ball remains clean
Mario Badescu Special Cleansing Lotion "O" ($15): This is a toner with only six ingredients: Water, Boric Acid, Isopropyl Alcohol, Camphor, Benzoin Gum, and Hydrolyzed Yeast Protein. I had never heard of any of these ingredients being particularly helpful with acne before, so I didn't really know what to expect, but this stuff works amazingly. It's pretty crazy how much dirt remains on the skin even after washing. This made me feel like my skin was actually clean. I liked this better than the sprays as it almost completely cleared me up. However, I still had some stubborn bumps that just wouldn't go away. 
The Soaps: wash affected areas daily
Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap ($8): Let me just start by saying I really enjoy the Mario Badescu line. This particular wash takes a different route with exfoliation. Instead of the typical acids, it has papaya and grapefruit extracts. It also has oat protein to help calm skin. Although the previously-mentioned products all helped me at some point, this is what I'm currently using and loving. I use this in conjunction with the next product, and while I still get the occasional zit, together, these have basically cleared me up.

Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser ($7): This is marketed for the face, but I love it as a body wash. This has 10% benzoyl peroxide, and if your skin is stubborn with salicylic acid, this might be what it needs to put acne in its place. As I mentioned, I like to use this with the Mario Badescu Body Soap. I alternate which soap I use each day, and what I do is wash affected areas with this as my very last step before I get out of the shower. Using this as a last step ensures that residue from other products does not clog my pores.
The Topical: apply a thin layer to cleaned, affected areas
Neosporin ($5): I know you might be thinking that Neosporin is just for cuts and scrapes, but this is a general antibiotic, and acne is usually caused by bacteria. Therefore, this could help clear up acne, but it is important to use this as a spot treatment. This is because, in addition to the antibiotics, petroleum jelly is also an ingredient, and this could clog pores if used on a larger surface area. 

If you want to combine products, you could follow The Soaps with The Topical. However, I wouldn't recommend following The Soaps with The Sprays or The Toner unless you have already been trying one or the other for a while. And if you do decide to combine products from the first three categories, make sure to follow up with an oil-free moisturizer so as not to dry out your skin. 

Are there any products you love for battling body acne?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Baby Oil Gel as Shaving Cream: Does it Work?

I'd been seeing on Pinterest that shaving with baby oil, especially baby oil gel, is supposed to be a game-changer. Well I was intrigued enough to give it a go, and frankly, this does not work better than shaving cream (or conditioner, or just plain-old-soap). To find out why not, keep reading. 
First of all, the consistency of this is surprisingly solid. I know it's a gel, but it is thicker than shaving cream when it first comes out (before it gets foamy). And since I was expecting more oil than gel, this was sort of a mini, superficial letdown. To test it out the first time, I used this on one leg and shower gel on the other. 

The first actual letdown with this product is the nature of what it is. This is an oil, and as we know, oil and water do not mix. Therefore, the shaving process becomes a lot longer when using this product. The oil gel builds up in the razor, clogging it, and it cannot simply be rinsed off. I needed hot water with heavy pressure and soap to clean my razor out after every couple strokes. It took significantly longer (at least twice as long) to shave my leg using this product than the soap I used on the other. And when I did get the oil out of my razor, I had to make sure to wash it off of the floor of my tub (it didn't easily wash down the drain like other shower-product residue).  

The second letdown with this product is that the oil doesn't absorb into the skin. Rather, it just sits on top. I can't even tell you if it would absorb after a certain amount of time, because I only lasted four hours before needing to wipe it off my legs; I couldn't stand the shiny, greasiness any longer. And while my legs did feel conditioned, they did not feel any more moisturized than when I simply use lotion after shaving. 

The final letdown was that it did not provide me with a closer shave than the soap I used on my other leg. My hair grew back at the same rate on both legs. 

I mentioned that these were the results I found after the first time I tested it. I did try a second time using it on both legs, and found that points one and two remained the same (I'm sure three was also still the same, but I can't officially say that since I didn't have a control).

So overall, this product was just a giant letdown. I can't even use it as an aftershave-lotion replacement because it doesn't absorb. If you have tried this as a shaving gel and it works for you, please let me know how you use it. For now, I'll stick to my EOS shave cream.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stila In the Moment Palette: Mini Review+Swatches with Overall Thoughts on the Collection of Stila Palettes

Here comes the last of the Stila palette reviews! If you haven't already, make sure to check out the others: In the Know, In the Light, In the Garden

Again, this is one of the sample palettes, so I don't have the Smudge Stick that comes with the actual palette, but it's called Tetra, and is a deep, shimmery purple. Also, since I am using the shadows off of a card instead of out of a pan, I can't say if the textures I'm experiencing here are how they actually are in the full palette. In the Moment comes with ten shadows in a mix of mattes and shimmers (though this has the most shimmers of all the palettes), and retails for $39 at Ulta or Sephora. 
Like In the Garden, this palette is neutral with a twist. Where In the Garden features some green tones, this one features purple. There is only one truly matte color in the palette, and it is a light, blush-beige (Desire). The other (Catalyst) is a matte black infused with purple glitter. Of all the Stila sample palettes, Catalyst is by far the best shadow that I have swatched and worked with. It is buttery soft and smooth, has intense pigmentation, and I think it is quite unique. If Stila were to sell this color as a single, I would definitely buy it. But besides these two, the rest of the colors are shimmers. In the top row there's a blush-white (Instinct), a sheer lavender (Impulse), a blue-toned violet (Glance), and a warm plum (Improvise). In the bottom row there's a rose gold (Wonder), a muted gold (Spontaneous), a red-brown (Whim), and a purple-brown (Captivate). 
Top: Instinct, Impulse, Glance, Improvise, Catalyst
Bottom: Desire, Wonder, Spontaneous, Whim, Captivate
Following suit of the other Stila sample palettes, the pigmentation of these shadows (besides Catalyst) is somewhat lacking. The level is good for softer looks, but you won't be getting the colors in application as they appear in the pan (or in this case, on the card). As I've mentioned with the other sample palettes, you'll need both a good base and to use the shadows wet if you're wanting a bolder look.   
Top: Instinct, Impulse, Glance, Improvise, Catalyst
Bottom: Desire, Wonder, Spontaneous, Whim, Captivate
Wonder all over the lid, Glance on outer half of lid, Improvise on outer corner, through the crease, and on the lower lash-line, Catalyst lining upper lash-line, Instinct as brow-bone highlight, NYX Round Case lipstick in Tea Rose on the lips
At least Stila is consistent with these more shimmery palettes. The shadows are not the creamiest (excepting Catalyst), but they are not chalky or powdery either. They are somewhat sheer, but blend well, and there is little to no fallout with application.

Overall, I do appreciate the twist on the neutral palette, and I think this palette walks the same line as In the Garden. That is, I think it is universally friendly, but will work especially well for brown-eyed girls (we'll skip the Van Morrison reference this time) because the purple compliments the yellow tones that can be found in brown eyes. Since these yellow tones can also be found in hazel and green eyes, I think this palette will work well for people with these-colored eyes too. 

Of all the Stila palettes, my favorite is In the Know because I find the texture and pigmentation of the shadows to be superior to the others. However, if I were to pick amongst the three that have shimmers, I would choose In the Garden. I think that has the most unique combination of shadows and Smudge Stick, and since none have the best quality shadows, that is the aspect that matters most to me. Unfortunately, I have to say that I probably wouldn't purchase any of the Stila palettes that I reviewed in sample form (I already own In the Know and don't regret that purchase) just because I think I can find the colors that most stood out to me elsewhere in better quality (such as at MAC or Urban Decay). 

The colors from these palettes that I most enjoyed and will be looking for are:
In the Light: Night Sky
In the Garden: Freesia, Moss, Juniper
In the Moment: Wonder, Catalyst 

What do you think of the Stila palettes? Which is your favorite? 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Stila In the Garden Palette: Mini Review+Swatches

Here comes another Stila palette review! If you're interested in some of the other palettes, check out those reviews here: In the Know, In the Light

As this is another sample palette, I don't have the Smudge Stick that comes with the actual palette, but it's called Starfish and is a black with green and gold sparkles, which I think sounds gorgeous. Also, since I am using the shadows off of a card instead of in pans, I can't say if the textures I'm experiencing here is how it actually is in the full palette. In the Garden comes with ten shadows in a mix of mattes and shimmers, and retails for $39 at Ulta or Sephora. 
This is a relatively neutral palette, but as the name might imply, there are some more green tones than basic browns. The two matte colors are the highlight and base colors: a light cream (Chinois) and a beige (Nectar), respectively. The rest are shimmers. In the top row there's a brown-beige (Breeze), a taupe (Bark), a purple-blue (Freesia), and a purple-pink (Rosette). In the bottom row there's a deeper gold (Honey), a light green (Sage), a dark, olive green (Moss), and a forest green (Juniper). 
Top: Chinois, Breeze, Bark, Freesia, Rosette
Bottom: Nectar, Honey, Sage, Moss, Juniper
True to form of the other Stila palettes, the pigmentation of these shadows is not out-of-this world. It's decent, but a primer and base (and perhaps also using these shadows wet) will definitely be needed if you want to achieve bolder looks with these colors. They do, however, create very nice, softer, everyday-type looks with just a primer. And since this palette is more unique than the In the Light palette, the level of pigmentation does not bother me as much. 
Top: Chinois, Breeze, Bark, Freesia, Rosette
Bottom: Nectar, Honey, Sage, Moss, Juniper
Sage all over the lid, Moss on outer half of lid and smudged along lower lash-line, Juniper on outer corner and through the crease, Freesia used wet along upper lash-line over black liquid liner, Chinois as brow-bone highlight, MAC Venus on the lips
Again, these shadows are not the creamiest, but they aren't chalky or powdery either. They are somewhat sheer, but blend well, and there is little to no fallout with application. While this palette is still pretty universally-friendly, because of the greens in this palette, I think it works especially well for brown-eyed girls (sha la la la la...). This is because the green compliments the red tones that can be found in brown eyes. Although the quality of this palette isn't really superior in any way to the In the Light palette, because it can offer something different from the typical neutral colors (while still maintaining a neutral-vibe), I would choose In the Garden over In the Light. However, I have to say I still wouldn't purchase this palette...I would rather find the colors I like and buy them from somewhere like MAC or UD. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stila In the Light Palette: Mini Review+Swatches

After my review of the Stila In the Know palette, I realized that I had sample cards of the other three Stila eyeshadow palettes, so I wanted to provide some swatches. I can't fully review the palettes, as I'm not sure if the textures are somewhat different since I'm using the shadows off of a card rather than out of a pan, and I don't have the Smudge Sticks that come with the palettes, but I will be providing a mini review. This particular post will be devoted to the first of the three: In the Light. The actual palette comes with the Smudge Stick in Damsel--a matte, chocolate brown, and retails for $39. 
In the Light comes with ten neutral shadows in a good variety. The palette comes with the necessary mattes: a light cream for highlighting (Bare), a mid-tone mauve-y brown for transition (Bliss), a dark chocolate brown (Sandstone), and a black (Ebony). In addition to the mattes, the cult favorite Kitten, a champagne shimmer, is in this palette along with a shimmery dark copper (Sunset), a shimmery gold (Bubbly), a slightly deeper version of Sunset (Gilded Gold), a shimmery black-brown (Luster), and a shimmery grey-blue (Night Sky). Although Sunset and Gilded Gold are very similar colors, other than these two, I enjoy the variety of colors in this palette: I think there are a good number of different looks that can be achieved. 
Top: Bare, Kitten, Bliss, Sunset, Sandstone
Bottom: Bubbly, Gilded Gold, Luster, Night Sky, Ebony
But although there is a nice variety of colors, as you can probably tell from the swatches, these are not the most pigmented shadows. I had to build up most of these. Of course, with a primer, these colors will be intensified.
Top: Bare, Kitten, Bliss, Sunset, Sandstone
Bottom: Bubbly, Gilded Gold, Luster, Night Sky, Ebony
Because I thought the swatches made it a little difficult to tell the built-up color, I have also included some finger swatches. With a good primer and using the shadows wet, you might be able to achieve this level of pigmentation on the eyes. 
Sunset inner half of lid, Gilded Gold outer half of lid, Bliss as transition, Bare as brow-bone highlight, Luster as upper and lower-lash liner, MAC Viva Glam V on the lips
Even though these shadows are not the creamiest I've used, they are not chalky or powdery either. They blend nicely, and as long as I tap my brush before application, there is little to no fallout. 

Overall, I think this is a really nice neutral palette. However, if I were between this and some other neutral palettes such as the UD Naked palette or Lorac Pro palette, I would choose one of the latter: I don't think the quality of these shadows is quite as good as UD's or Lorac's. Although this palette has more mattes than the Naked palettes, it does not have as many as Lorac, so if you're looking for an even split, Lorac would be the way to go. Of the three, though, this is the least expensive ($42, Lorac and $52, UD) and the only one that comes with a full-size eyeliner. So if you're trying to save a few bucks, like having your eye products in one place, or just enjoy collecting neutral palettes, this could be the one for you!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

NYX Macaron Lippies Review+Swatches and Color Mixing Tips

I'd been itching to get my hands on the new NYX Macaron Lippies, and I have to say, I'm so glad I finally did. These come in basically all the colors of the rainbow, so for the colors offered, I guess you could say I played it safe with my picks. I grabbed the only 'normal' color--the pink, the darker of the two blues offered (the other being Earl Grey), the darker of the two purples (the other being Lavender), and the black. Besides these mentioned, there is also an orange, a yellow, two greens, a grey, and a white. These have a satin finish, a sweet smell (not unlike MAC lippies), retail for $6, and can be found at Ulta, ulta.com, or nyxcosmetics.com
Left to right: Rose (the bullet wouldn't stay up), Blue Velvet, Violet, Chambord 
Top to bottom: Rose, Blue Velvet, Violet, Chambord
Rose: This is a very light, cool-toned pink. I noticed with this one that it is slightly patchy in application compared to the others, and the color needs to be somewhat built up to hide this fact. However, it is comfortable on the lips and does not stain them.

Blue Velvet: I suppose this is the craziest of the colors that I picked up. NYX describes this as an 'electric blue,' and I find it quite fun to work with. The formula of this one is very creamy and comfortable, but it will stain the lips.

Violet: Described as a 'royal purple,' I found this color swatched very similarly to Too Faced's Melted Violet liquid lipstick but comes off slightly darker on the lips (so if you're looking for a more inexpensive purple, this is a good option) This one was just as creamy and comfortable as the blue, but also stains the lips. This stain is a nice one though: kind of a rosy-purple that you could wear if you wanted to work up to the full, opaque color. 

Chambord: Simply black, this lippie is also creamy though maybe not quite as much as Blue Velvet and Violet. The color is also not entirely opaque, and needs to be built up to achieve that smooth-black color. This also slightly stains the lips, though not as much as Blue Velvet. 
Clockwise from top left: Rose, Blue Velvet, Chambord, Violet
Perhaps my favorite part of these lippies is mixing them. I haven't played too much yet, but I wanted to share two that I really like so far. 
Left to right: Rose over Blue Velvet, Blue Velvet over Chambord
I really like the kind of ombre look that can be achieved via mixing lipsticks, and I adore the one created by layering Rose over Blue Velvet. Since pink and blue make a lavender-type color, if you fully mix these two, you can skip the Lavender in the collection and just make it yourself! Additionally, while I've only tried the blue so far, I think any of these colors can be mixed with the black (Chambord) to darken them up a bit. While these lippies are fun on their own, I highly suggest playing around and coming up with more fun combos! 

While mixing the colors might not give you exact dupes of some in the collection, you can certainly get close since there are primary-esque shades offered. Here's my tip on the colors you can mix so you don't have to buy certain colors in the collection:

Rose + Citron = Orange Blossom
Blue Velvet + Rose = Lavender
Blue Velvet + Citron = Key Lime
Blue Velvet + Citron + Coconut = Pistachio
Blue Velvet + Coconut = Earl Grey  
Chambord + Coconut = Black Sesame

What this is demonstrating is that basically, if you don't want to buy all of the colors available, but want to be able to mix any of the colors, you'll want Rose, Citron, Blue Velvet, Coconut, and Chambord (pink, yellow, blue, white, and black). And if you have a magenta-red lipstick in your collection, you can mix with that instead of Rose in order to get more-traditional, secondary colors (orange, green, violet). In addition to any of these colors that you might mix, you can make them darker or lighter by adding a little Chambord or Coconut, respectively. Happy mixing!  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Battle of the Eyeshadow Primers

If you're like me and suffer from oily lids, you'll know how essential an eyeshadow primer is. And not just a base to enhance the color--serious de-creasing properties need to be a part of any product that touches my lids before shadow. I'm actually a little jealous of the girls who can just swipe on any old base (or even go straight for the shadow...that's a thing??) and be set for the day. And so I bring you a competition of sorts. I've tested many an eyeshadow primer, and to start off this little battles royal, I bring you a drugstore primer, a high-end primer, and a high-end primer with a cult following. 
Elf: $1, Lorac: $21, Nars: $25
Left to Right: No primer, Elf Eyelid Primer, Lorac Behind the Scenes Eye Primer, NARS Pro Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base

Before testing the lasting power of each, I wanted to first see how well each base intensified shadows. For each of the above swatches and for the actual applications, I used MAC eyeshadow in Woodwinked. As you can see, all of the primers definitely made a difference in the color payoff of the shadow. However, it seems as though the Elf and Lorac primers did almost the same job. While the Lorac seems to be ever-so-slightly better, I wouldn't say it did $20 better (since that's the price difference between the two). NARS is easily the standout performer here though. I think it really made Woodwinked appear its finest with bold, metallic color. 

Now let's talk wear-time. I tested each of these on a different day right after washing my face, but before getting to the primers, I wanted to see just how long eyeshadow could cling on to my bare lids. Without any primer, after one hour, I noticed some color-fading on my inner crease, and after 2.5 hours, Woodwinked had noticeably creased. 

With the Elf primer, I noticed color-fading both in my crease and generally over my whole lid after only 1.5 hours. While I would consider this effect to render my eye-makeup in need of a change, since I was testing for actual creasing, I continued to wear this combo, and found that noticeable creasing happened after 3.5 hours. 

With the Lorac primer, I noticed some color-fading in the crease after 2 hours, but after this initial fading, the color stayed the same until it finally noticeably creased 8 hours after application. 

And finally, the well-known Nars primer: With this, my shadow stayed basically perfect until the 6-hour mark when I noticed some slight creasing and fading on the inner half of my lids. This noticeably creased after about 8.5 hours. 
I know that some people have found success with Elf primer, but boy was it a disappointment for me. It only kept the creasing at bay for an extra hour but somehow managed to make my shadow fade faster. For oily lids, I think this primer is a fail. Lorac and NARS on the other hand, are fair options. Although they both held on to shadows for about the same amount of time, it seems as though NARS is the winner of this round as it outperforms in its ability to intensify the look of shadows in addition to helping them stay put. However, controlling this test with the same eyeshadow was interesting for me, because I had always thought Lorac kept shadows in their place longer than NARS did. So if the intensity difference isn't that noticeable to you, Lorac would still be a good primer option for oily lids, especially if you want to save a few bucks. 

While I'm satisfied with both the Lorac and NARS primers, I want to be truly impressed by a primer. I've used Tarte's primer in the past, and I remember that holding on to my shadows for quite some time, so I'll be looking to get that one back for round two of this battle. If you have any suggestions of primers that I should try, please let me know in the comments below!