Monday, February 27, 2012

Estée Lauder Pure Color Illuminating Powder Gelée: Topaz Chameleon and Shimmering Sands

It feels as though I blinked and an entire week flew by without me realizing it. It's almost the same with spring and summer collections these days. I could have sworn I just looked at the Spring Topaz collection from Estée Lauder and I was completely surprised to see the Summer Bronze Goddess collection at Macy's during my lunch break on Friday. (Summer in February?!) Continuing the trend with the Pure Color Illuminating Powder Gelée, Estée Lauder has released another gorgeous embossed face highlighter this season called Shimmering Sands ($42 for .15 oz/4.5 g) which is a metallic bronzey pink. Topaz Chameleon ($40 for .17 oz/5 g) was from their Spring Topaz collection and I was lucky to find one in store this late after the collection launched. (It took me a while to decide to buy this one if you're interested, I suggest you act fast).

Both highlighters are highly metallic but easily layerable for a more subtle glow. Illuminating Powder Gelées have a very unique gel-powder-cream formula. It's not quite a cream like NARS Multiples but not quite a powder. Still, I wouldn't describe it as a cream to powder since the finish is slightly dewy (only very slightly). Shimmering Sands and Chameleon Topaz both come with a beautiful embossed texture. I found both extremely pigmented with multidimensional shimmers. The formula seems to adhere to the skin quite well but blends in without looking like it sits on top like some metallic highlighters do. Although these are called "highlighters" there is so much color I can't imagine wearing these over any other product (aside from powder and foundation). The tiny applicators pick up quite a bit of pigment but I prefer to use a full sized powder brush for a sheerer application over the cheeks. I love that the shimmers are not oversprays. Here are a few more photos side by side at different angles.

In direct sunlight with flash, here you can see the metallic flashes:

Topaz Chameleon is a warm golden copper. At first swipe I was intimidated by how warm and pigmented the color was and walked away. It wasn't until after seeing it on Karla Sugar, Temptalia and Makeup and Beauty Blog that I decided to revisit and try on the face. I thought it would look too orange/copper/yellow but it surprised me. It warms up the face to give a summery bronzed copper glow. I do recommend using with caution. One extra swipe could easily overdo it. Make sure your face is well prepped with a good base and foundation. Without it this can emphasize pores (at least in my experience, I like to use Koh Gen Do's Royal Massage Milk and NARS Tinted Moisturizer these days). This one is very limited in stores but can still be found online at a few places.

Shimmering Sands looks like a soft champagne bronze in the compact but goes on quite a bit darker than I expected - like a bronzed pink. On my skin the pink/brownish tones pull more strongly and gives me an almost brown-burnt look if applied too heavily. Finding the right balance might take a bit of work but this one is still lovely. The shimmer effect is more subdued compared to Modern Mercury (from fall 2011) and Topaz Chameleon. I find this to be more of a true bronzer rather than a highlight. Does this one pull brown/reddish on your skin or is it just me? Perhaps tan skinned or darker skin girls will find this less of a bronze and more of a highlight.

Here are all three Illuminating Powder Gelées from Estée Lauder: Modern Mercury (Fall 2011), Chameleon Topaz (Spring 2012), Shimmering Sands (Summer 2012).

Swatches, heavily on the skin. I recommend you check out the other blogs I linked above to see the sheer vs. heavy swatches. There is no way I would ever wear these this heavy on the face but sheered out it was hard to get photos of the arm-swatches. I think Temptalia's photos demonstrate how well these blend on the face. Also re-visit the reviews from Cafe Makeup on Modern Mercury to see the effect on Liz (see how it blends out on the cheeks versus swatched on the arm).

Modern Mercury is still my favorite. I wish it was a permanent product as I do think it is something I would like to repurchase when I hit pan (not that it will happen soon, but still). Topaz Chameleon is close second. I feel the latest Shimmering Sands is too dark for me right now, but when real summer arrives and I get my tan back I think this will work better for me. I'm all about dramatic bronzers but even this one is a bit too much for me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chanel Tentation 541 Le Vernis

Chanel Tentation 541 Le Vernis is a striking deep fuschia-red shimmer. It's the pinker sister to last holiday's Rouge Carat 587 (reviewed here). I thought I would have something similar but I don't. It has enough dark red shimmer to prevent it from looking too neon or cheap. I think it's appropriate for year round. The texture is smooth and pigment rich with just 2 thin coats. If Chanel had made Attraction in the same finish I would have loved it as well. In the sunlight it glows. I love that the shimmer is visible on the nail, not just in the bottle.

In looking through my collection I found that I don't have very many dark pink shimmers. This one is a nice addition to fill in the gap. Comparisons below to a few other Chanel shades like Rouge Carat, Pulsion and Rose Exhuberant.

Swatches of a few more, including Laura Mercier's Luscious and Flamingo:

Overall: love.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chanel Distraction 549 Le Vernis

This season seems to be the season of beautiful corals and Chanel Distraction 549 is no exception. Distraction is a stunning coral infused with a subtle hint of fuschia shimmer that makes it glow in direct sunlight. On the nails it's a vibrant coral with a slight hint of pink to prevent it from looking like a straight orange. The finish is slightly jelly-like with a semi-transparent texture but it has rich and smooth coverage with 2 coats. Depending on the angle you hold the bottle or the nails, sometimes it looks more orange, others more coral.

Swatched, here you can see it glow:

It's very similar to other oranges and corals but I love it. I know many of you wonder how it compares to Laura Mercier's Cabana - almost identical. LM's is a bit softer, while Chanel's is a tad bit more vibrant. Here are a few comparisons swatched.

How do I feel about Chanel Distraction even though it's practically identical to other corals?

I *heart* it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chanel Frisson 543 Le Vernis

Chanel Frisson 543 Le Vernis is soft super-sheer baby pink infused with gold flecks and tiny multi-colored micro sparkles. From the promotional photos this one looked the most stunning out of the four newest shades, primarily because I found the gold shimmers to be breathtakingly gorgeous. I ordered mine online sight unseen but once the reviews started to surface, my heart sank when I saw how sheer it was. These sources were extremely helpful:, The Purse Forum and Best Things in Beauty's blog. While all have posted great accurate photos, I was let down when I saw that it didn't appear to be all that special. Frisson is indeed gorgeous in the bottle and although I know it was designed to be a sheer jelly-like color, I am disappointed. It requires 3 thick coats to show up on my fingers which I feel is too much for this particular shade (it ends up looking goopy). Those who love to layer might like this one. For me, I prefer 2 coats max (of the actual nail color) so I feel this as a topper won't be good for me. Here are a few more photos.

Here it is swatched, your standard soft pale pink shimmer:

In direct sunlight you can see the gold shimmer:

It's very similar to previously released soft pink shimmers from Chanel. I understand that repeats are bound to happen. After all there are only so many colors that one can create that are new, fresh and unique. Frisson is definitely among the most complex out of all the paler pinks that I own from Chanel. Not quite as epic as Pink Satin (which I adore for the silver glitter and opalescent sheen), but pretty close.

The good news is that if you missed out on Pink Satin, Mica Rose or Flamingo, the newest Frisson will fill the gap in your collection if you want something similar. Also, good news, if you own any of those shades, you can safely skip Frisson and save for something else. To me I could barely tell the difference.
  • Pink Satin has more of an opalescent sheen and has silver glitter.
  • Frisson is the most complex with bigger more visible gold shimmers.
  • Mica Rose flashes green/blue in the shimmers slightly.
  • Flamingo has the most smooth shimmer (rather than sparkle) with more white/silver veining.

I should be in love with this shade. It's soft, natural, pink, shimmery, complex and Chanel. Right now I feel lukewarm. Perhaps it is all the other knock-out killer brights that have my attention right now? It is a stunning shade in the bottle and lovely on the fingers. I know this is something that will grow on me. Part of it is that I was expecting something as epic and unique as prior seasons like Steel, Black Pearl, Quartz, Graphite etc. As of late I feel that Chanel has been repeating themes that are a bit too similar (how many bright pink creams and reds can one possibly want?). This might just be me. When will I learn to wait before jumping to order?

Did you check out the new shades yet? What did you come home with? Or has something else caught your eye for this spring season?

Chanel Attraction 545 Le Vernis

Chanel Attraction 545 Le Vernis ($26 for 13 ml/0.4 fl oz) is a limited-edition cool-toned pearly white frost that has been released as part of the Roses Ultimes de Chanel collection. We saw the first sneak peek of this color on the Spring 2012 Runway Show last October on Café Makeup and La Chanelphile. Pearly whites can be challenging to wear and this one is no exception. The pigment is rich and color striking against my skintone, however the metallic formula is extremely streaky and difficult to wear. Even with very slow and careful application, streaks cannot be avoided. I am not a fan but am undecided whether to keep and try to make it work or regift/return. For the price I would prefer a non-high-maintenance nail color. Nevertheless here are swatches, comparisons and close ups.

Pearly whites aren't new to Chanel's Le Vernis releases. I wish they would bring back their classic Le Perle (currently I'm hoarding this using very sparingly so it has not been swatched/photographed). Here are some prior releases, I believe all of these were Limited Edition and no longer available (maybe Intermezzo or Pearl Drop can be found at some counters).

Blanc Petale, Attraction, Intermezzo and Pearl Drop

I've added one more shot with a different angle so you can see the hint of shimmers/undertone of each shade, while they are all pearly whites, there is a subtle difference with the pigments.

I ordered my Chanel Le Vernis shades from this collection online at but all counters should have it in store now. Did you buy or try Attraction? What were your thoughts?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nail Basics: Favorite Base and Top Coats

It's been on and off rainy here so the Chanel swatches will be delayed until the sun comes back. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of my nail care tips. Many of you have asked what are my favorite base and top coats. I'm by no means a nail expert (even if I am addicted to Chanel and Dior nail polishes) but here are my top picks.

A brief intro: I think the right base coat or top coat will depend on what kind of nail color you are using. Formula matters. Some top coats are not compatible with all brands of nail colors due to ingredients. For the most part, I've found top coats and nail colors within the same brand work well together. However, I rarely stick to 1 brand of nail polish so I've looked for base coats and top coats that are versatile among the brands I use the most. These include Chanel, Dior, Rescue Beauty Lounge, Dolce & Gabbana and OPI.

What else I look for: The things I'm most picky with include bubbling and shrinkage. For actual nail colors A number of drugstore brands caused bubbling (I can't recall which ones, but Poshe is one that did). I found OPI's top coats just ok, they lacked long-lasting shine for me. The highly acclaimed Seche Vite only worked on Essie and OPI, but for all other brands I've tried caused extreme shrinkage. Nail shrinkage is when you see the top coat shrink from the tips and cuticles after application so it looks like it just wasn't applied over the entire nail. There is debate about what exactly causes shrinkage, I found threads on The Purse Forum and an article on extremely helpful. I've concluded that since SV isn't 3-free it's what causes messy-unfinished-looking nails. I even tried adding their thinner (which many have recommended) but it did not work for me.

My picks: I've by no means tried every single base or top coat on the market. I can't say whether these are the best or better than other brands, I just know they work for me for the brands I like to wear.
  • Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat ($18 for 0.50 oz at Nordstrom) - This one I have Amy from Café Makeup to thank. We were chatting about swatching one day and I mentioned that changing colors frequently to do comparisons was harsh on my nails and that my fingers were starting to hurt. She suggested Deborah Lippmann's base coat which is a wonderful hydrating base coat. It contains aloe and while it won't solve dry cuticle issues, I've noticed a visible improvement in my nail texture after using this. It helps nail color apply smoothly as well. I don't use a base coat all the time but when I do this one is among my favorites. (Chanel's is also nice but pricey.) You can read Amy's review here.

  • Rescue Beauty Lounge Top Coat ($18 but sold out on Rescue Beauty online) - I purchased this in their Treatment System Trio and fell in love with this thin but super shiny hard-finished top coat. I really hope Ji Baek decides to bring it back. I agree with other reviewers this one takes a bit longer to dry (just a few minutes more) but the finish is shiny and protects the nail polishes pretty well. The thin texture makes it easy to apply smoothly and quickly in a few strokes.

  • Chanel Laque Brilliant Extrème ($25, I purchased mine at Nordstrom but I'm not sure if they still carry this instore) - A few years back Chanel released a new reformulated base and top coat in the US. I never tried the originals although they were raved about my a number of Chanel fans as the best in the market. I gave the new ones a try. At first I was not impressed, mainly due to the price (versus the $6 OPI options at Ulta). I kept trying this one and really love how shiny and lacquered they make the nails look. They add a shiny smoothness that has a slight cushy look. The texture is slightly thicker but not too thick. Drying time is a bit longer but the result are freshly polished nails. I found that it helped with lasting power as well.

  • Creative Nail Design Super Shiney Top Coat ($8.50 at Ulta) - This is hands down my favorite top coat for the price that I've ever tried. I discovered it at one of my local nail salons. Out of all the different kinds of top coats they've used this one provides the longest lasting manicures that are shiny and glossy. The shine is just as good as Chanel's although not quite as cushy-glassy looking. For the price and quality it can't be beat. It's one of the few that I've found doesn't bubble or shrink. It's 3-free with a slight tint which is supposed to be a UV absorber that guards against fading and discoloration. (I've stopped using the nail dryers at the salons and prefer the fans or air drying even though it takes longer. I've found that sometimes the light dryers change the color of reds or purples and darkens them.)
My personal top 2 picks: Deborah Lippmann and CND. What are your favorites?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chanel Attraction, Frisson, Distraction & Tentation Le Vernis

Happy Valentine's Day! A quick peek at the latest from Chanel: four new Le Vernis shades in Attraction, Frisson, Distraction & Tentation.

I didn't have enough time to take photographs of them swatched on the fingers before the sun went down yesterday. I did play a bit though, more swatches to come later. Initial thoughts:

  • Attraction is a nightmare with streaking. Looks horrid.
  • Frisson is sheer and requires 3+ coats to show up, but it's a nice sheer shimmer.
  • Distraction is a gorgeous coral with a fuschia sheen in the bottle, on the nails it's more coral.
  • Tentation is a fuschia/pink version of Rouge Carat.

These close ups were taken with my iPhone, sorry about the craptastic quality. I'll get better shots later.

The one thing I wanted to post first was the comparisons for those wondering how similar/different the new shades are from prior releases. I hope this helps!


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