Friday, April 18, 2014

Caudalie Favorites Set - Travel/Trial Sized Beauty


I discovered the Caudalie Favorites Set ($32 for five items in a travel bag) when I attended the Venice Boutique Opening last month. One thing I love about Caudalie is they carry smaller sized items that are perfect for travel or those who want to try something out before committing to a full size product. The travel-sized beauty items are all decently priced, this 2014 Favorites Set is a $57 value, but priced at $32. This year's favorites set comes with the following:
  • Lip Conditioner - 4.5 ml
  • Hand and Nail Cream - 30 ml
  • Vinosource Sorbet - 10 ml
  • Cleansing Water - 50 ml
  • Beauty Elixir - 30 ml 


I have already been using the Cleansing Water for quite some time now but never tried the other items. I've been testing for about a month now and have been pleasantly surprised and impressed with Caudalie's skincare line. My thoughts on each item below (you can refer to Caudalie website for the ingredient list).

  • Cleansing Water is a gentle but effective cleansing water. It's good for removing face makeup but isn't strong enough for long-wear eye makeup like mascara or eyeliner. My cleansing process usually involves multiple steps. To make sure I remove all my makeup at the end of the day, I usually remove makeup with cotton pad (I like Shiseido and Chanel) soaked with a cleansing water. Caudalie is among my favorites because it's soothing, calming and refreshing. It is lightly fragranced with orange and lemon blossom, watermelon, and mint leaves - but it's not overpowering. What I like about this one is it hydrates the skin while cleaning it, but it doesn't leave a film on the skin after application. (Ingredients here.)

  • Beauty Elixir is one of those products that has reached cult-status. It's a mix of toner/serum mist with essential oils and plant active ingredients. I spritz this on the face when I want added hydration or a refresher. It's a bit dewy for me but in a good way. I do think those sensitive to fragrance or those with oily skin will want to pass on this one. It's not overpowering but the scent is on the stronger side with mint and herbal scents. I recommend testing in store if you're unsure about face sprays in general. (I'm testing a few other face sprays right now and will do another post on them in a few weeks.) I personally like this one for a quick pick-me-up and even though I'm sensitive to fragranced skincare items this one is subtle enough for me to use without irritation or breakouts. (Ingredients here.)
  • Hand and Nail Cream has had mixed reviews. Many have commented that it has been reformulated recently (check the reviews on Sephora). It's described as a concentrated hand cream with antioxidant grape polyphenols and reparative organic fair trade shea butter, this Hand and Nail Cream leaves skin soft and nourished. I never tried the older version so I can't compare the two, but this version absorbs quickly into the hands. I tend to prefer hand creams that dry down so they don't leave everything feeling too moisturized/greasy. While I was a the Venice boutique one of the reps mixed in their Divine Oil with the hand and nail cream to add more moisture. I know many of you have been asking me for a post on my hand and nail care, I've been working on a post and hope to have it published soon. I've added the Caudalie Hand and Nail cream to my favorites list. It smells like grapes and gives the hands a smoother look. If you have super dry hands you might find this not moisturizing enough. (Ingredients here.)

  • Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet is yet another cult-status product. I'm always really hesitant to try new skincare items because I have sensitive skin. Many have described this is as a light airy fluffy cream which I find to be the best description. It's a very lightweight moisturizer that helped calm down my skin. It's designed for sensitive skin and after testing this for a month I'm almost finished with the small trial size. I can't say it has improved my skin, but then it hasn't made it worse and I have had no reactions to this. I'm undecided whether or not to purchase the full size. I like that it's lightweight and fragrance is light (for me). (Ingredients here.)

  • Lip Conditioner has a similar feel and scent to that of Fresh Sugar Lip balms but the Caudalie feels better on my lips and it's not quite as heavily fragranced. Reviews have also indicated this has been reformulated but this is my first time trying it so I can't compare. I'm not a huge fan of the plastic packaging but it's proven to be more sturdy than it looks. The formula is very nice. It moisturizes my sensitive lips and fixes any peeling problems that I get with some lipsticks (ie MAC). It has a smooth emollient feel that isn't quite as thick as my other favorites (Jo Malone, Hourglass, By Terry). Huge thumbs up for this one. (Ingredients here.)

I purchased my Favorites Set from the Venice Boutique. It's also available online at Sephora and online at Caudalie (free shipping on their site with $50+ orders, also a gift with code C15gift through April 21st or while supplies last). Most items are also available in travel sizes individually.

Have you tried Caudalie's Favorites Set? Or anything else from the line? Please share what your experiences have been. One of my goals this year is to learn more about skincare items. Have you noticed any changes with the formulas?
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Topshop Makeup


It's been years that many of my readers have been e-mailing me about Topshop Makeup with raves about their blushes and lipsticks and numerous requests to try the brand and review it. Topshop is one of those brands I don't have easy access to, but it's been on my list to try for quite some time. Topshop recently reached out to me to try a few items from their makeup line and I was thrilled to get my first look. There are so many gorgeous posts about their lipsticks from many UK bloggers. The items they sent for review included their 3D Curve Mascara, Brighten in Moonlight, Kohl Pencil in Coal and Saint Lipstick.



3D Curve Mascara ($20 for 9.5 ml/0.30 fl oz, made in China) comes in Black with a large brush. I found it did give a multi-dimensional look for my super thin and straight lashes. The color is a pure black and stayed black after it dried (some mascaras tend to look grayish on my lashes once dried). I found it lasted quite well without any smudging but I did get a bit of flaking by the end of the day. If it didn't flake I would give it an A+ rating. My first attempt at taking before/after photos of my lashes below (along top lashes only):




Brighten in Moonlight ($14 for 1.5 ml/0.05 fl oz, made in Italy) is a one-shade fits all under-eye concealer. It comes in a twist up tube with a brush applicator. I was worried this would be too pale or pink for my skin, when swatched it looks very light and very pink against my olive skin. However it has a sheer slightly luminous (but without any shimmer) quality to it that blends well with my medium/tan skin. I was really surprised how this brightened the under-eye area. I tend to avoid concealers under the eyes in general since they end up looking too heavy or cakey. This one has enough sheerness to it to even the skin without looking heavy. To apply this, I've been dabbing it under the eye over foundation and set it with powder. It lasts well all day. I'm not sure if this would work on anything darker than a Chanel B40 or MAC NC40 - if you've tried this I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Kohl Eye Pencil in Coal ($8, made in Czech Republic) is a dark black pencil. I found it to be a pure rich black with a smooth texture that doesn't tug. The lasting power is quite good and I didn't get any smudging or pulling with the pencil. It's not available online at Topshop at the moment (they still have Sable/Dark Brown). I usually do not like black pencils because they end up looking too harsh, too grey or just not really dark enough. Coal is a good true black that applies well. I couldn't ask for a better pencil for the price.


Saint Lipstick ($16 for 3.5g/0.12 oz, made in Italy) is a pale peach pink cream. This one is difficult for me to evaluate simply because the color is so light I think it will be hard for anyone to pull off this color. Since it's drastically paler than my natural lip it tends to enhance any crease or imperfection even with smooth lips. Given the raves and beautiful reviews I've seen of Topshop lipsticks on other blogs I suspect it's only the color that makes this one not work. For me to be able to wear this one I had to cover the entire lip with a darker nude lipliner, apply a light layer of Saint Lipstick and blend like crazy. If you've tried any of the lipsticks I'd love to hear about the colors and formulas you've tried.




I like the look of the Topshop makeup line although it's completely different from what I normally go for in beauty brands. I have their shop in Los Angeles on my list to check out - I'm hoping all the stores carry the full makeup line. Have you tried Topshop Makeup? I'd love to hear your recommendations. I already have a list going from readers to check out their blushes - but I'd love to hear your thoughts. (This Glow Highlighter looks seriously amazing, tell me do I need to check this one out?)

This post contains press samples sent for review and affiliate links. All opinions are my own. For more information refer to my disclosures.

SpaceNK Offer for Beauty Look Book Readers

Space NK is offering The Beauty Look Book readers an exclusive online promotion for their US site! They have extended their $20 off $75+ order deal starting today effective through April 25th at 11:59 PM EST with Promotion Code LOOKBOOK20. Terms and Conditions apply. See below for details. 

http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=MeQoh28EORo&subid=&offerid=211083.1&type=10&tmpid=6985&RD_PARM1=http%253A%252F%252Fus.spacenk.com

Some new and classic items on my radar - if you have any recommendations I would really love to hear what you picked out for the promotion:


If you've already shopped their site for the promotion I'd love to hear what you picked out. Space NK always has so many incredible brands and things I want to try, I usually rely on my friends to tell me what's good. If you have any staples or loves, please share! Tell me what I need to try out.

Lookbook20 is good for $20 off $75+ purchases, online only. Please refer to the terms below. Happy shopping!

SpaceNK Terms and Conditions

The Discover offer is $20 to spend on any product on the website as we would like you to try some of our other carefully selected products. Your order must total $75 or more on full price/non-sale products before delivery has been added and the promotional code LOOKBOOK20 must also be entered in the promo code box on the shopping bag page, before checkout. One use per customer. The $20 discount will be applied at checkout where the order total equals $75 or more. This offer can be used in conjunction with our free shipping over $50. This offer applies online only on the us.spacenk.com site, not the UK site and is not available in-store. This offer is only available online between Thursday April 17, 2014 and 11:59 PM EST, Friday April 25, 2014 and we reserve the right to end it early or extend it without notice. Please note that all items from the sale and all gift card purchases are excluded from this promotion. The offer is not refundable and there is no cash value/alternative. The offer cannot be exchanged in stores or online for another product.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Beauty Look Book Essentials | Face and Cheek Brushes


By popular request, I've gone through all my face and cheek brushes and picked out my favorites. I've been testing a number of brushes over many years (over a decade from my college days) and built my collection slowly over time. My experience with face brushes has been similar to that of my eye brushes. I started with a small handful of tools from Stila, Trish McEvoy and MAC. For many years I only had 4 face brushes and to this day I still think most can accomplish most of what you need for face makeup with a powder, blush, foundation and bronzing brush.

I've learned through makeovers, artist tips and a number of other blogs that there are a number of brushes with different materials, shapes, lengths and densities to help you apply your makeup better. I see face brushes like art tools - you probably need a few, but there are so many different kinds out there, they are fun to play with and experiment with.


The brushes I've picked are from more mainstream brands that are easily accessible. There are a number of makeup artist brushes that look and sound amazing from other blogs but I haven't ventured into the artist brands. I've broken down my favorites into three categories. Face powder, blush and contour, and creams.
For all over face powders, whether it's loose, pressed or powder foundation, I look for dense but soft brushes that will pick up product well and apply it evenly over the face. A more fluffy brush will give a sheerer application. I like larger ones that will cover your entire face with a few brush strokes.


  • MAC #134 ($53) is a brush that is currently only available at MAC stores/online but it has been released and re-released at other MAC counters numerous times, this is my favorite large flat powder brush, it's dense, soft and perfectly rounded tip for easy powder application.
  • MAC #129 ($35) is the ultimate multi-taskers, it can be used for powder, blush or contour, for those who prefer a smaller brush for more precise control or someone who wants one brush that can do multiple things, this is your best option.
  • Chanel Powder Brush #1 ($65) is a well-designed brush with a domed tip, the bristles are slightly stiffer than MAC but the Chanel is still very soft and picks up powder well, I like this also with pressed powders such as Les Beiges and Dolce & Gabbana's powder foundation because it applies powder evenly on the face.
  • Tom Ford Bronzer 05 ($115) is one that will break the bank but Tom Ford brushes are extremely well made, designed and deliver flawless makeup application. I purchased this as part of a brush set a couple holidays ago when they had a gift card event. This is the largest densest bronzer brush I've ever seen it feels like a soft kitten. If you look up reviews on this brush you will see it is well loved by many others (ie Café Makeup, RaeViewer, Temptalia)
  • Burberry Beauty Brush ($52) is my favorite short kabuki brush although a number of other brands are very similar in shape, size, material and feel. I purchased mine from Nordstrom although they don't stock it online at the moment. You can still find it at Burberry. I like this for powder or bronzer. The reason I prefer this one is the handle is square while most other brands are round. This fits perfectly in my hand and I find it easier to hold. (MAC and Chanel are very similar in how they perform.)
Many cheek brushes are multi-purpose and can be used for both cream or powder. I don't tend to use these for creams but I've had artists use these on me before for cream. I'm listing a number of brushes here that I love.


  • Tom Ford Cheek Brush 06 ($78) is a luxuriously soft blush brush, it picks up just the right amount of powder to apply color to the cheeks. As The Non-Blonde noted, this one is as plush as it gets. I find it perfect for Tom Ford blushes but works well with other brands. I personally don't like it with super pigmented matte blushes because it will pick up too much color (like some NARS or MAC mattes/brights). For most everything else this one is perfect.
  • Chanel Blush Brush #4 ($54) is one my smallest blush brushes. It's shaped and tapered in a way to layer blush easily. It's a softer less dense brush so it works for a lighter application. If you're one who likes to go easy on the blush but still wants to be able to control how much color goes on the face this is the best option.
  • MAC Duo Fibre Brush #187 ($42) is a classic must-have for highlighters. It's the perfect brush for those Mineralized Skinfinishes to swipe a light blend of shimmer over the cheeks. I've had artists use this with foundation and cream products as well. It's versatile and works well with any kind of highlighter whether it's pressed, loose, or cream.
  • MAC Brush #168 ($35) is a classic contouring brush. It's a good sturdy white hair brush with an angled tip. I find it medium-sized which makes it good for being able to control where you place the powder. It's also a good brush for blending around the face.
  • NARS Contour Brush #21 ($42) is a new brush from NARS, you can read my detailed review here, I usually don't like angled brushes because I am more comfortable with more traditional brushes, this one makes contouring easy especially for those who aren't pros at contouring (like myself).
  • MAC Brush Tapered Face Brush #138 ($53) is another harder-to-find brush, it's made a re-appearance on limited-edition collections at counters, you can still find directly from MAC. For me this is the ultimate contouring brush because it's shaped to place product right along the sides of the face where you want contour. It's specially designed to streamline and enhance the makeup technique of sculpting and shaping. Per MAC, "use the chiselled side for contour shaping of facial planes; the pointed tip for applying and blending powder blush, highlighter or face powder." It's another multi-functional brush that works well as a powder brush.

  • Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush 06 ($72) is the ultimate blending brush for creams. If you ever try this at the Tom Ford counter they will demonstrate how it works with their foundation stick and blends the product on the face to perfection. With most brushes you will see some kind of streaks and still need blending with fingers or a sponge, the Tom Ford applies cream product (foundation or highlighter) streak-free.
  • Tom Ford Foundation Brush 01 ($72) is another cream brush designed to apply makeup streak-free. In my mind you don't need both 01 and 06 (although the Tom Ford counter convinced me otherwise). They both perform the same for either liquid or cream foundations. If you're trying to decide between one or the other, I would recommend 06 because it's more unique in shape. If you want a standard foundation brush you can find many cheaper options. I find it a staple in my weekly makeup routine. It cleans easily - I use Bobbi Brown's Brush spray cleaner after each use to lightly wipe it down but do a thorough washing after 2-3 uses.
  • Chanel Foundation Brush #6 ($45) is a classic foundation brush that is soft and applies foundation quite well. In my mind most foundation brushes are almost identical (i.e. MAC, Chanel, Prescriptives etc) in the bristles. The main difference is in the handle size. I like Chanel because it's shorter and easier to travel with. I still get streaks no matter what brush I use (with the exception of Tom Ford) but this one works very well.
  • MAC Duo Fibre Brush #187 ($42) is repeated from above, I like this for cream highlighters because it will cover a large area with fewer swipes. It also works well for blending harsh lines or edges.
For face brush storage, I love Muji Acrylic Holders but they aren't easy accessible for me and are often sold out online. I've used recycled candles from Jo Malone, Diptyque and Henri Bendel as alternatives. I also found clear jars from Crate and Barrel to be good for shorter brushes, tools or pencils. Stila and NARS Paint cans are also good for storing brushes if you are able to find them. Click on the Diptyque tag below for more storage ideas.


I usually use Neutrogena Body Wash to clean my brushes as the most economical method. I buy the large size at Costco which I use as a regular body wash anyways. I know many recommend baby shampoo but I always find it leaves a film on my brushes from the conditioning properties (might just be me). For those brushes that need extra work, I have three go-to's for cleaning brushes which include MAC Brush Cleanser, Bobbi Brown Brush Cleaning Spray and Brush Cleanser (review here). These tend to be on the pricey side so frequent usage of these cleansers isn't an option for me.

I realize this is a rather large and extensive list of brushes. You definitely do not need as many as I have collected over the years. I've been testing brushes for over a decade now (not to date/age myself) and have acquired them over time. Brush sets can be your most economical way to buy many at one time at a good price but those deal sets tend to be of lesser quality than individual brushes.

If I had to narrow my list down to my top picks these are what I'd narrow down my absolute essentials to: Chanel Blush #4, MAC Duo Fibre #187, MAC #134 or MAC #129, Tom Ford Cream Foundation 06, NARS Contour Powder #21.


I hope you found this brush guide helpful. The options can be overwhelming with all the shapes, sizes, materials and brands. To simplify your choices try thinking about what makeup products you gravitate towards in categories and whether it's a powder, cream or liquid. Pick one for each main category to start.

While tools can be used for multiple areas, having more than one brush helps keep your makeup application cleaner and easier. For example while a powder brush can also double as a bronzer brush, having one brush for each product will prevent you from mixing products and accidentally brushing bronzer all over the face from left over product if you dip it into powder and bronzer (I've done it before and my entire face was several shades darker than the rest of my body).


What are your must-have face brushes? I would really love to hear what your tried and true are, new discoveries or staples. Also if you want to share how you store your face brushes I'm all ears. Do you store them upright in containers or put them in a brush roll?



Fresh and Light


Right now I'm loving fresh, light and uplifting scents for the home. I always find it interesting how my scent preferences change with the seasons. I usually think I lean towards all-occasion types of fragrances but these days I'm gravitating towards lighter fresher scents. A few favorites right now I find to be unique with good throw:
  • Malin + Goetz Mojito ($52 for 9 oz for 60 hour burn) is a fresh mix of lime, mint, basil and rum. This is my first Malin+Goetz candle and I love how this burns really cleanly, the scent is so unique, I've never smelled anything like it before. Mojito has a fresh unique uplifting scent including top notes of lime, rum, mint leaves, peppery basil, middle notes of spearmint and Chinese mint, base notes of white musk. I highly recommend this one for a clean fresh scent.

  • Diptyque Geranium Rosa ($60 for 6.5 oz, 60 hour burn) is one of the Diptyque scents that is harder to find (for me at least), you can find it all Diptyque stores and more retailers are starting to carry it now. This one is a fresh light green floral with a hint of mint (however I think I'm the only one who detects any mint). Geranium Rosa is one of those scents that is extremely green and very floral, if you prefer scents that aren't quite as green, opt for Roses or Baies which are not quite as sharp. I like this one for the fresh green feel it creates.

  • Byredo Fleur Fantôme ($80 for 10.5 oz, 60 hour burn) is one of the splurgiest candles I've ever purchased, it has a highly complex mix of florals. Top notes: Rhubarb, Lemon Petitgrain Leaves, Middle notes: Violet Leaves, Tulip Extract, Base notes: Galbanum, Heliotrope, Suede. It has a refreshing floral mix and for something so complex, it actually has a simple fresh feel. Fleur Fantome has to be one of the most beautiful smelling candle I've ever burned, it smells like a beautiful garden.

  • Henri Bendel Beach ($15 for 4 oz travel size or $30 for 9.4 oz size) is another unique fresh scent (it's one of my most repurchased candles). Beach is like the ultimate vacation scent and the mix is pure genius. There is nothing like it and it smells exactly like a beach vacation. If you're new to Henri Bendel's line and are looking for a recommendation to try something new, Beach would be my top pick. Notes include warm white sand and earthly driftwood blend with the summery smells of jasmine, white lotus, creamy coconut milk and sweet rosewater. I find Henri Bendel to be among the best candles at a decent price range. They have a diverse range of amazing scents that aren't too overpowering but still have really good throw.

What home fragrances are you loving right now as we transition into warmer spring weather?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dior Front Row #769 Vernis Gel Shine Lacquer


Dior Front Row #769 ($25 for 10 ml/0.33 fl oz, made in France) is a hot fuchsia pink shimmer. It's a vibrant color that flashes hints of neon pink, violet and blue pearls. I found it almost identical to Chanel Tentation (reviewed here). Dior's flashes more blue and violet while Chanel's is warmer and more red. The difference from an arm's length view is virtually non-existent. The color is so vibrant and bright it was hard to capture the real color with a camera. The neon quality makes it hard to capture accurately. I'll add comparisons below to help show the real color.




Swatches with two coats, applied by myself along with Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat and Dior's Gel Top Coat. I found application to be flawless - these gel shine nail colors from Dior are super easy to apply.




Comparisons to Rescue Beauty Lounge Lotus Elise, Chanel Tentation, Tom Ford Indiscretion (review here) and Tom Ford Trophy Wife (discontinued, review here):




I'm really impressed with the formula of Front Row #769. Some of you may have fallen in love with the older Dior brush but these new ones are really easy to work with and apply on small fingers (my ring finger is a Size 4) but the brush is flexible and will fan out with pressure if you need a wider area covered with one-two swipes.


If you have Chanel Tentation I think you can skip Front Row. The difference is not really noticeable from arm's length. The formula of the Dior has a more opaque pigmented finish while the Chanel is slightly more jelly-like. I had to look really close at my nail wheel to tell the difference which is really slight (Chanel is warmer, Dior flashes more violet).


Have you picked up any of the new Dior nail polishes? What's your favorite so far?


Monday, April 14, 2014

Dior Tra-La-La #155 Vernis Gel Shine and Long Wear Nail Lacquer


Dior Vernis Gel Shine and Long Wear Nail Lacquer ($25 each) is a new formula of nail polish that is a regular nail lacquer with a gel-effect. It has a high-shine formula that is designed to "provide you with glass-like shine and extended wear." I've been playing with a few of the shades and am in love with the formula. I have never had a traditional gel manicure so I can't compare the effect of these new Dior lacquers to the real thing. However the Dior Vernis Gel Shines do have rich intense pigment with a very smooth application. The brushes are slightly different than the last variation - the brushes are thinner and a bit more fanned out/rounded at the end to match the curve of the nail beds better. This makes it easier to apply with two to three swipes. The polishes have a lush cushy look to them even before you apply any top coat.
 
First up is Tra-La-La #155 a soft clean pink (see all shades swatched here). I tested this with my go-to Deborah Lipmann Rehydrating Base Coat and Dior Gel Top Coat. I tend to keep my nails on the short end so they don't hit the computer or laptop keyboard. Lasting power was quite good at 5 days without tip wear. Tra-La-La is a soft semi-sheer pink. It's not too sheer that you have to layer on 4-5 coats. I had it applied professionally below with two coats. I swatched comparisons below with two coats as well and it covered the nail well with a slight see-through quality.


The brushes are more rounded this time:


Dior Gel Top Coat and Tra-La-La #155 Gel Shine:


Swatched with two coats:



Featured in the NARS Contouring post:


I really like how Tra-La-La actually shows up on my skin and that it's not too pale. It's a good baby pink that isn't too sheer. Comparisons to some other pinks below shows it has enough pink pigment in the color to prevent it from looking white against my olive skin. It has a soft clean polished look.

On the nails: OPI Heart Throb (with 4 coats), Dior Tra-La-La, Laura Mercier Oh La La (discontinued, with three coats), OPI Pink of Hearts (2009 version), Chanel Frisson:


More pinks on nail wheels, same set with two views: Tom Ford Sugar Dune, OPI You Callin' Me a Lyre, OPI Heart Throb, Dior Tra-La-La, Laura Mercier Oh La La (discontinued), Chanel Morning Rose (discontinued), OPI Pink of Hearts (discontinued), Chanel Frisson, NARS Trouville



I'm overall really impressed with these new colors and formulas from Dior. I've been a huge fan of Dior's formula and didn't think it could get better. Somehow it has. They've kept some of the classic colors but introduced some new ones. I wish I had the older Tutu to compare but I don't. Based on what I've seen on other blogs Tra-La-La seems sheerer and easier to work with.


Dior Gel Shine nail lacquers should be available at all Dior Beauty Counters and Boutiques now. Online at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bloomingdales and Dior.com.


 

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