Showing posts with label MAC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MAC. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Beauty Look Book's Guide to Building a Makeup Wardrobe


This year I've received quite a few e-mails from new readers who just started getting into higher-end cosmetic brands. Being a beauty junkie and beauty blogger, I put dozens of products to the test each mont. This allows me to offer comparisons in order to help others determine differences or similarities across brands, formulas and product families.

For the makeup newbie it can be a bit overwhelming to sort through all the options. Finding good makeup that works for you often has to be done through trial and error. I think we've all been at that place where we bought something that ended up not working so well for our skin tone or skin type. Finding a store with a wide range of brands to choose from with a good return/exchange policy is one of the main reasons I really love to shop at Nordstrom. Today I've teamed up with them to create a personal beauty guide on how to start building a makeup wardrobe.

Most of my makeup preferences are for natural colors that will enhance features. New readers frequently e-mail me requesting a customized shopping list of my top beauty picks for them to take to the counter. Picking favorites is almost impossible for me since I really do love a lot of brands, but I've compiled an edited list that I think will be good for the makeup newbie. I've split my guide into three categories: Lips, Eyes and Cheeks.


For lips, if you're just starting to get into makeup, my recommendations would depend on what kind of look you want. Even if you want a natural color, texture and finish plays a major part in picking out the right lip product. Do you prefer sheer, glossy, velvety, full-coverage? Are you a lipstick or lipgloss kind of person? Do you like shimmer or prefer creams?
Chanel Rouge Allure Glosses offer rich pigment with high shine and flawless coverage. My favorite soft pink is Sensible 15. If you want a no-fuss medium to full coverage lip gloss that stays put, these will give a really pretty shine while adding a good amount of color. There are naturals and brights in this formula to suit a wide range of skin tones. Another really good full coverage lip gloss is the Dior Addict Fluid Stick. These are a hybrid lipstick + lipgloss and it packs in a ton of color with high shine. Whisper Beige 219 is a good natural beige nude that won't wash out the complexion.

If you prefer to ease into color and want just a tint of color and shine, Chanel Glossimers are among my favorite out of all the lip glosses in the market. Shades range from sparkling light pinks, bright corals, soft rose, beiges to plums. The holiday Chanel Give It Shine Glossimer Lip Trio has the perfect collection of shades to start your lip wardrobe. It has Amour (soft peach), Sweet Beige (nude beige shimmer) and Wild Rose (the perfect rose pink shine). These have a smooth texture with a naturally glossy sheen.

If you want a more budget-friendly lip gloss, MAC Lipglasses are hard to pass up. These are a bit sticky and tacky, but there are a lot of colors and finishes to choose from. Lovechild Lipglass is one of the most universally flattering colors I've seen. It's a soft plum with pink tones and gold shimmer. On me it pulls very natural, on fair skin it's the perfect plum, on darker or deeper skin tones it also looks good. Laura Mercier Lip Glacés also offer a wide range of colors with a natural finish. Pink Pop is a bright but sheer pink which brings the complexion to life with a sheer wash of bright color.

If you are more of a lipstick kind of person but want something natural, Chanel Rouge Coco Shines are my favorite no fuss swipe-and-go kind of lipstick. Boy 54 is the best classic rose pink shade that adds the prettiest hint of color and shine. The sheer formula won't be as long lasting as a regular lipstick but the color is flawless and formula is hydrating. These are really good if you're timid with bold colors and want something to ease into for lips. The sheer glossy formula is slightly transparent and lets you natural lip shine through.

If you want a full coverage lipstick but still want something that looks natural, the NARS Audacious Lipstick formula is hands down the best that has been released this year. The formula is full coverage with an amazing coverage that melds with the lip. If you have dry lips or peeling flakes you will need to moisturize or prep with a lip balm first, but if your lip is smooth, these are the best I have tried. It has a semi-matte and semi-velvety finish but there is a slight sheen to these which prevents it from looking flat. Raquel is my perfect nude pink. Brigitte is a nude pink beige that has more color but is still very natural.




For the eyes, there are a lot of different eyeshadows and liners that I adore. If I were pressed to pick my current top three favorites for eyeshadow, they would be Urban Decay Naked3, Chanel Tisse Rivoli and Dolce & Gabbana Smoky.


The Urban Decay Naked3 Palette is my most reached-for palette. It has 12 shades of neutral rosy-toned neutrals that can create a wide range of looks. There are shimmers, sparkles and mattes all of which have really incredible pigment. The texture of Urban Decay eyeshadows is buttery smooth and this particular palette doesn't have any glitter shades which is a huge plus for me (and any neutral makeup lover). This is the one palette that goes with me on almost every trip. It's a palette I find can go with everything. Pink shadow can be hard for me to wear (it often gives me a pink-eye look) but Naked3 is neutral enough to be very wearable. If you don't feel comfortable wearing rose-colored shadow the next best option is Naked2 which is more neutral and taupe-based.

If having 12 shadows to play with in one palette is too overwhelming and you need something more edited, Chanel Tisse Rivoli is my favorite neutral quad. The texture adheres well to the eyes and layers well. The colors are smooth and pigmented. For something with more dramatic color, Dolce & Gabbana Smoky (swatched here) is my holy grail smoky eyeshadow quad.

For a cream shadow that is a good over wash shadow the Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Color in Rosegold is a good pick. It's a soft shimmery champagne with rose and gold tones. It is creamy and blends easily on the eyes. You do need to let it sit for a minute or so to dry and then afterwards they last pretty well. It also works as an eye base for powder shadows and helps bring out the pigment.

For liners and mascara, a simple classic black is a good place to start. Not all black eyeliners are good though. Some pull grey in undertone or can smudge easily. Finding good eye makeup that you don't have to worry about throughout the day is essential. My favorite mascara is the Armani Eyes to Kill Stretch because it grabs every little lash and volumizes, holds the curl, doesn't smudge, doesn't clump and defines the lashes really well. For me this one lasts all day without budging.

For liners, the Tom Ford Liquid Eyeliner is hands down the best liquid liner I've tried. It's extremely pricey but it is worth every penny and will last you a very long time. There are two ends with different sizes of tips which allows for precise application and complete control. If you're new to liquid liners, this hands down is the best one I've tested. It makes applying liquid liner super easy. If you prefer a pencil liner, Burberry's Effortless Kohl Eyeliners were just released this year. Jet Black is one of the deepest and richest black liners I've tried and it stays put all day from morning to night. It comes in a twist up pencil format with a built in sharpener at the end which I find very convenient (especially if you carry it on the go or when you travel).




Out of all the beauty products I own, I would say blush, bronzer and highlighters dominate my makeup collection by far. Picking out a few favorites was a difficult task. For the face I've narrowed down my recommendations to a few items that will multi-task.


If I could only wear one blush palette for the rest of my life I would pick out the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette. It has three shades in a mirrored compact that cover all the shades you could need to go with any look. Luminous Flush is a coral pink, Incandescent Electra is a soft peach, Mood Exposure is a plum rose. The colors are very pigmented with easy to control buildable color. There is a bit of highlighter mixed into each blush which gives these a luminous glow. Those who don't like shimmer need not fear with this one. The shimmer is finely milled and very natural on the face. It's impossible to overdo but the pigment is rich enough to add visible color.

For a bronzer and highlighter, Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow offers both in one  convenient mirrored compact. The bronzey shade can be used as a contouring powder, although I like it as a bronzer on me. The highlighter is a pale warm gold champagne which has a high frost but looks very natural on the skin. The two combined can be used on the cheeks, temples and eyes.

Liquid illuminators are also something I consider in a makeup wardrobe. They can be used as highlighters on top of powder/foundation to add a glow or they can be used under blush to help color adhere better. I like to use these on the eyes occasionally to highlight. If you need a bit of shimmer in your foundation these can be mixed in. My favorite liquid highlighter is the Soleil Tan de Chanel in Sunkissed. It's a pale golden champagne that dries to a semi-matte finish which means it stays put all day long. If you want more color options or want something more dewy, Armani Fluid Sheers are classic staples that will give you that glow from within look.



I hope you found this introductory guide useful! Whether you are new to higher-end makeup or want to know what my current favorites are, I hope this provides an edited list of recommendations for you to start exploring. If you could recommend your top 5 beauty picks to a makeup newbie, what would they be? I would really love to hear what your favorites are!





This post was sponsored by Nordstrom. All opinions are my own.
For more information please refer to my Disclosures

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: Travel and Trial-Sized Beauty


Here is my first gift guide for the holiday season. This time of year always brings about tempting value sets and travel-sized beauty gifts. I think these travel-friendly sets are a great way to try new skincare without committing to the full-sized options. For color, if you're one of the types that takes forever to use up an eyeliner or lipstick, minis are the way to go and get more options for the same price. Here are some gifts this year that I think look like great samplers.

2 Sephora Favorites Glitz and Glam Party Essentials Sampler
6 Diptyque 5 Piece Mini Candle Set
8 Fresh Sugar Cravings Kissing Trio 
12 Marc Jacobs Beauty The Sky-liner 7 Piece Mini Set
13 NARS Virtual Domination Cheek Palette

Have you bought any good sets this year yet? I'd love to hear what you've been eyeing and any loves so far. I'm always up for recommendations on what is the latest and greatest on the market for the holiday sets and gifts.

Some more gift set ideas below:



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lip Primer and Lip Balms In Rotation


This post is inspired by and dedicated to my reader Gabby who sent me an e-mail last month asking if I could recommend a good lip primer for underneath lipstick. She liked the Jo Malone Vitamin E Treatment I featured a while ago, but found it didn't do much for priming the lips for lipstick. It occurred to me that there are different kinds of "lip prep." One kind of lip prep is to prime the lips for lipstick, the other kind is more of a skincare/moisture treatment.

Above shown:


I have sensitive lips that are prone to drying and peeling with many brands of lipstick (like MAC and some Chanel formulas). I use lip balm liberally on the low key makeup days, when I'm running errands, or in the evening after I've taken my makeup off. In the mornings if my lips feel dry I will prepare the lips with lip balm after washing the face and let it sit a few minutes while I do the rest of my makeup (for me lips are always last).

I like to use lip balm for lip prep in the morning, but Gabby is right, not all lip treatments are necessarily good for priming the lips for lipstick wear. A long time ago, MAC used to make a clear lipstick product called Lipmix (now they have the squeeze tube versions) that I used for a lip primer. They discontinued it but released their MAC Prep + Prime Lip ($16) which is a clear primer in a twist up tube. I like that this is color-free and really helps to smooth out the surface of the lip. It has a moisturizing feel but dries to a slightly tacky-matte feel to help lipstick and lipliner glide on easily. It also helps lip products stay put. Some lipsticks and glosses have a high shine finish or a glossy sheer formula which have a lot of slip. Those won't hold up much longer than usual with the MAC Prep + Prime, but for your regular lipstick formula and gloss, the Prep + Prime Lip helps extend the wear of my lip products and also helps it glide on better.


For lip balms, I have a lot in rotation. In this post I'll focus mainly on the clear treatments I've been loving. I prefer lip balms in stick or squeeze tube format because I find them easier to apply, but the only stick lip treatment I use these days is the Caudalie Lip Conditioner ($12). One tube lasted me quite a long time, even with regular use. It's smooth and lightweight without having that waxy feel. It has a soft lightweight citrus scent which is really nice. It soothes dry lips instantly. (Also in this Hand + Lip Duo Set.) Right now I'm on my second tube.

I've been a long-time Chanel fan, but haven't always been a fan of their lip balms. The Hydra Beauty Nourishing Lip Balm ($50) is a newer one that they released (to replace their Hydramax). It has a really smooth and slightly hard texture. It's smooth, lightweight and moisturizing. It has a soft hint of the fragrance used in the Hydra Beauty line. I like that it comes in a sleek-looking pot. It feels nice and smooth on the lips, but for me others are more hydrating. This is something I will use this to the end, but I probably will not repurchase. It's a good one if you have normal lips. If you have lips prone to drying with lipstick use, you may need something richer.


By Terry Baume de Rose ($60) is a classic. It's the most expensive lip balm I own, but it's at the top of my list of favorites. It's soothing, hydrating and feels super luxurious. It has a soft rose scent with a slightly pink tint, but it goes on the lips clear. One pot is very large and will last you a very long time. (You can see reviews of the tinted versions here and here.)


Malin + Goetz Mojito Lip Balm ($12) is #2 on my favorites list. It comes in a little squeeze tube and has a clear gel-like formula. It glides on easily, doesn't slip, moisturizes and feels amazing. There is a regular version as well which I also like. I prefer the Mojito one because it has a fun soft sweet lime scent without being too citrusy.


Last but not least is the Tatcha Camellia Moisturizing Lip Balm ($36, also in some holiday gift sets). It's a clear jelly-like solid with a thin layer of crushed 24K gold leaf on top. If you've ordered anything from Tatcha you know how beautiful the packaging and presentation of all their products are (even their shipping boxes are packaged and sealed beautifully). I've been using the Tatcha Lip Balm regularly. It has a lightweight refreshing scent unlike any other lip balm. The gold flakes break off the surface and add a hint of gold shimmer to the lips, but it's only on the surface. Some of mine transferred to the lid and I haven't removed it. This one feels very nice on the lips and provides instant moisture and relief to dry lips. It's a huge thumbs up from me. (Original review here.)


If I were to narrow down my top picks, the MAC Prep + Prime Lip is a definite must for me to prepare the lips for lipstick. For lip treatments, it's a three-way tie between By Terry, Malin + Goetz and Tatcha.





I hope you found this roundup helpful! I would love to hear about your favorite lip treatments, especially with the winter season approaching with dry weather, I think most of us will be in need of an extra moisture boost.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Concealers In Rotation


For years I've stuck to concealers from two lines: Clé de Peau Beauté and By Terry. I've never had much need for concealer but my skin changed this year. These slightly dark circles under the eyes started to appear and I've needed a lot more coverage in certain areas of the face with scars and blemishes. Both of my go-to concealers still work really well for me, but I've been experimenting more with other brands and products. I thought I'd share a round up of the ones I have in rotation right now plus what tools I use.


My personal preference for blending concealer is for rounded brushes made of synthetic materials. My most reached-for tools include the MAC 252, Chanel Concealer Brush #10 and Trish McEvoy Medium Laydown #40. All of them are about the same medium size which works best for me. I've tried smaller detail brushes during makeovers and while they are good for precise application, I usually find larger brushes for cream products work better for me. They blend concealers well and also double as cream shadow brushes. Some days I will use fingers or a sponge, but my preference these days is for the brush.

Concealers I use right now:

  • Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer in Almond is my current skin tone match. The Cle de Peau Beaute concealer is the best stick formula I've tried. It covers the skin very well but looks natural. It works well under the eye area when dabbed on with fingers to warm up the product and doesn't look cakey. The color selection is limited but they recently added two shades (all shades swatched here). This is one of the best I've tried, it's pricey but performs well and a tube will last you a very long time.
  • NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard and Ginger are new discoveries for me. I've had several of the older formulas in gift with purchase compacts in the past but wasn't impressed with the formula so I never thought to try the new formulas. A NARS artist recommended I try this during a makeover when I asked for a foundation with full coverage. She suggested the Radiant Creamy Concealer and it really does cover incredibly well and blends out to have a soft velvety looking finish. It comes with a sponge wand tip. I use both Custard and Ginger and mix them depending on what area of the face I am trying to cover. I've found this to live up to all the hype.
  • Edward Bess Extreme Cover Cream is a full coverage creamy concealer in a pot. This one is definitely the most creamy that I've tried. It's also the most pigmented but blends nicely to cover areas completely. Since the pigment is really intense, I recommend using only a tiny bit, otherwise it will be too heavy. The container is tiny but the formula packs a punch so it will last a very long time. All the shades swatched and review here. The color selection is a bit limited, but Medium is a good match for me. This one has a slightly dewy finish but does not get oily as the day wears on.
  • By Terry Touche Veloutée in Beige #3 is a highlighting concealer in a click pen type of packaging. This one gives a brightening effect even though the color Beige matches my skin tone exactly. I like it best under the eyes to cover dark circles and brighten the skin. It's also good on days you have a bit of redness around the nose. This one has a smooth medium coverage and dries to a semi-matte but natural finish.


Swatches of the shades below (with Clé de Peau Beige for reference):


If you ask me to recommend just one concealer, I would say that I think picking a good one depends on where you want to use it and what you want it to do: eyes, spots, cover completely or brighten? For me, a concealer for under the eye won't necessarily be suitable for spot coverage along the jawline or cheeks.

For under the under eye area, I look for colors that either brighten or have a bit of warmth. Many artists want to go lighter than my skintone to "brighten" the area, but it really just ends up looking ashy if it's too pale. If they insist on using one that is 1-2x lighter than I think they should I usually ask them to try 2 shades on me just to make sure I can see it for myself. I think all the concealers I listed above will work for under the eyes because they have a good blendable formula, but my favorite for under the eye area is the By Terry Touche Veloutee. It has a slightly sheerer coverage compared to the others which prevents the area from looking flat.

For cover up on spots or acne scars, the Edward Bess will give the most opaque coverage followed by the NARS and then Clé de Peau Beauté.

My top two picks include the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer and Clé de Peau Beauté, but there are a few downsides. If you test the NARS concealers at the counter or store, you may find it difficult to find an exact match and might be in between colors (like myself). When it comes to foundations, powders and concealers I want to find an exact match, but it's not always possible. There are times I have to buy two shades to mix which can get pricey. If I can't find a almost exact match for concealer, I will skip it all together, but I've made an exception for the NARS. I found the price of the NARS reasonable and the formula is really amazing so I did not mind splurging on 2 tubes to mix colors. The downside for the Clé de Peau Beauté is also a limited color selection and price of $70 is very steep. That being said, I do think if you can find a good match I do think formula is well worth the price. A tube should last well over a year even if you use it on a regular basis as a spot cover. 





I hope you found this round up helpful! Do you have a favorite concealer?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inside My Bag: MAC Clear Bag Set



I've received lots of requests about clear makeup bags ever since I featured a clear Bobbi Brown cosmetic bag in a few of my inside my bag posts. Unfortunately it was a gift with purchase a few years ago and was never released for purchase which is too bad because it was well made and compact enough to fit into most of my smaller purses. I've been on the hunt for something similar but haven't found anything quite like it. The Truffle Clarity Clutches are a favorite for their sleek look, high quality material and functional design but some have asked for other recommendations. I spotted these new MAC Clear Bag Sets ($25) and immediately went to my MAC counter to investigate. Size dimensions weren't disclosed online so I wasn't sure how small or large these were.

The MAC Clear Bag Set ($25) is a set of two sealable rectangular pouches. One side of each pouch is clear with a black back. They are sleek and compact and the set comes with two different sizes. The zipper glides nicely in a plastic format. Below shows what I was able to fit into each:


The Large Pouch measures approximately 9.4 inches by 5.75 inches. It fits quite a bit inside. I like my flat makeup bags to remain relatively flat so I didn't pack it full. I was able to get the following inside the pouch:


The Small Pouch measures approximately 9.4 inches by 3.1 inches, this one is ideal for smaller sized items like small brushes, pencils, skinny objects or minis. What I was able to fit into the smaller clear front pouch:

Revlon Tweezers


They are both fairly compact in size. The flat design makes them fit easily into your purse and keep everything compact. The material is just ok. It's nicely made but not the best quality. It's not as good as the material used on my Bobbi Brown case or Truffle Pouch. The design of the MAC Clear Bag Set is basic and simple with a no-fuss look, but it lacks a hard backing and the trim is very minimal around the edges which makes it easy to bend. I had one corner folded (accidentally) after putting it inside my purse. It didn't crease completely, but it did get mashed up a bit. The bag isn't ruined and it will probably go back to its original shape if I lay it flat for a short while. I find these functional but in the past I have had issues with other brands of pouches and bags that have the plastic zipper seal - I've found they aren't always the sturdiest and often become misaligned and the pouches stop sealing all together. Only time will tell with these, but so far they do seem to be pretty well made.


I've used these for a couple of weeks and they have held up pretty well although they aren't the sturdiest makeup bags I've tried so I don't know how long they will hold up. I like that the design is simple and sleek. They keep everything compact and having one clear side is nice so you don't have to go digging through your makeup bag to find things. The simplicity in the design has a slight downside in the sense the trim is almost non-exisiting so it is very easy to bend. With thinner plastic material I do sometimes worry about it stretching if things don't stay flat inside making the shape distorted.

Overall I think they are nice. I wouldn't call them must-haves simply because I would have preferred something with a sturdier design. Still, they are functional and I find the price is reasonable for a set of two pouches. These would certainly be a good storage option for brushes if you are looking for something to store them on-the-go.

I purchased the MAC Clear Bag Set for $25 from Nordstrom. It's also available at Macy's and Maccosmetics.com. Do you have a favorite clear makeup bag?



Monday, September 22, 2014

Trending Now: Plum Lips


Plum lips are always something I look forward to when we transition into fall each year. I find plum shades to be classic colors and look forward to each year's new take on the shade. There are so many beautiful variations of plum ranging from soft neutrals to reddish plums to deep dramatic vamps. I'm a neutral lip lover so I feel like I can't pull off dramatic colors easily. Also since I have a lot of pigment in my lips, plum colored lipsticks and lip glosses can often pull really red or extremely blue. Nordstrom Beauty has curated a selection of 30 shades on their Trending Now Section featuring dramatic colors for a Velvet Berry Lip. I've partnered with Nordstrom to share my favorite plum lip picks for neutral lip lovers (like myself).


When it comes to plums or dark dramatic lip colors in general I prefer sheerer lipsticks or lipgloss formulas. They are more forgiving on the lips when it comes to fading. The contrast between your natural lip and the lipstick can become obvious when the color starts to wear off. You can extend the wear with a lipliner blended over the lip to help the fading look less obvious. My favorites for plums include Chanel Nude (which isn't really a true nude) and MAC Beurre Creamstick Liner.

My top picks for lip glosses include:


  • MAC Lovechild Lipglass is the prettiest mix of purple, gold and rose, on me it goes on purple, on others I've seen it pull more pink, it's universally flattering in my mind and has been a long-time staple in my lip wardrobe
  • NARS Sixties Fan Lipgloss is a dark wine in the tube but goes on a sheer reddish plum, if you're a no-shimmer kind of lip person this is a good option for you, it layers well over lipliners and matte lipsticks
  • Chantecaille Mulberry Luminous Lipgloss is new for fall, it is a deep wine infused with gold and red and plum shimmers, the coverage is medium to full, you can layer it for more pigment
  • Tom Ford Love Bruise Ultra Shine Lipgloss is a soft blue-toned plum, it has a semi-transparent finish but still shows a decent amount of color, there is shimmer in this but it's subtle
  • Chanel Pagoda Glossimer has been a long time favorite, I'm so happy they didn't discontinue this shade (many of my favorites have been discontinued), if want my recommendation on just one high-end plum lipgloss, this is my favorite
  • MAC Viva Glam VI Lipglass is another classic plum, this one has quite a bit of sparkle in the tube, it has a mix of rose and silver sparkles, but on the lips it's not too sparkly, I've seen this on a number of different skin tones and it looks good on everyone




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My top picks for lipsticks include:



  • Burberry Blueberry Lip Mist is about as dark as I will go for lips, it's a blue-based plum, but on my lips it pulls more red, your mileage may vary on the color, but I love how it looks so different on everyone I've seen it on, the Lip Mists have this unique lipstick/gel texture that glides on the lips and hugs them so the color really adheres well
  • Chantecaille Lotus Lipstick was featured in the fall collection and sold out in all the stores near me, I had to have the store locate it online to ship to me, if you can find it, I highly recommend it, the color has a glossy finish that looks very natural and has quite a bit of color
  • MAC Plumful Lustre Lipstick is a sheer blue-toned plum, it's almost identical to Chantecaille Lotus on my lips in terms of color and coverage
  • Chanel Confident Rouge Coco Shine is a soft lighter plum, it's one of the few light plums I've been able to find in a lipstick form, if you have darker skin tones or lips you might find this pulls more pinkish rather than plum
  • Guerlain Fabulous Rose is new from the Kiss Kiss Shaping Cream formula, there are a number of stunning plums and wines, this one has a lot of shimmer but it melds into the lips naturally so it doesn't look frosty, for a plum I was torn between Fabulous Rose, Cherry Pink and Air Kiss and the artist recommended Fabulous Rose for a warmer plum that would still be natural



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For coordinating the rest of your beauty look, I recommend keeping the cheeks and eyes understated. Too much color can be overwhelming if you have a darker plum lip. My absolute favorite go-to blush is NARS Madly. It's a soft beige peach pink color that adds warmth and color to the face that coordinates well with almost any lip color (not just plum, but also nudes, pinks and peaches). For the eyes to keep it simple I like NARS All About Eve and Kalahari Eyeshadow Duos which go well with plum lips and add subtle definition to the eyes. I like that you can layer the shades of Kalahari over the Himalia Dual Intensity Eye Shadows for more intensity. If I need more color I like adding a deep plum or brown along the upper lash lines for definition. I'm still on the hunt for a good plum eyeliner (one that has some shimmer and is really dark) but for now I like darker plum shadows applied with a small smudge brush like MAC Beauty Marked or NARS Subra.

If you're one who prefers neutral lips but want to try something plum with more color, I hope my picks and swatches help give you some ideas on how to wear a more subdued plum. If you're all about color, I highly recommend you check out Nordstrom's Velvet Berry Lip selections.

Do you have a favorite berry or plum-colored lipstick or lipgloss?
I would love to hear what your beauty go-to's are!




Many thanks to Nordstrom for sponsoring this post.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On My Radar / New in Beauty


A few new items on my radar this week:
  1. Truffle Privacy Clutches have just launched in 4 colors Dove Grey, Blush, White and Seaglass
  2. Edward Bess has designed a new Ultra Slick Lipstick in Betty named for personal shopper Betty Halbreich, an emblem of style at Bergdorf Goodman since 1976
  3. Urban Decay Naked Basics2 just launched today on Urbandecay.com (it will be available at other retailers later this fall)
  4. Make Up For Ever launched their new Artist Shadows (over 200 shades), I quickly swatched a few in-store a couple days ago but didn't have time to look in detail, the texture seems super soft and pigmented
  5. Guerlain Les Sables Four Pan Palette is one of three Guerlain eye palettes to launch early fall
  6. Guerlain KissKiss Lipstick is a new formula that comes in over 20 shades, there are a number of stunning soft rose pinks, I have my eye on Fall in Rose, Baby Rose, and Golden Girl
  7. MAC Prep + Prime Finishing Mist is supposed to be the regular Fix+ in upgraded packaging, I've been a huge fan of the regular Fix+, I hope the formula didn't change too much (or at all really), if you've seen this, do you think it's the same?
  8. Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate is Shiseido's latest for anti-aging and skin smoothing, it claims to give your skin the ultimate glow in just one week, I'll have to investigate and see if I can find a small sample
  9. Bobbi Brown has a new limited-edition Smoky Nudes Eye Shadow Palette, I've found these to be hit or miss in the past with formulas, the colors look stunning from stock photos
  10. Bobbi Brown Sandstone Shimmerbrick is a repromote with the Smoky Nudes collection, it is one of my favorites of all the Shimmerbricks, if you missed out before I highly recommend you check this one out
  11. Bobbi Brown has four new Creamy Matte Lip Colors in Nude, Warm Nude, Soft Nude and Pink Nude, all of these colors look like they are right up my alley, although I'm not a fan of matte lips, I might make an exception if the colors are naturally flattering
What's on your fall beauty radar?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Monthly Favorites | Skincare, Haircare, Body and Fragrance


Several have requested a monthly favorites round up - welcome to The Beauty Look Book's first monthly favorites feature! I wanted to feature some midsummer beauty favorites for the skin, body and hair. Many of these items are things I've been using all summer long.
  • Caudalie Make-up Removing Cleansing Water is a gentle lightweight cleansing water that refreshes the skin. It won't remove waterproof eye makeup or mascara all the way, but I like this for the face. I have this in the full size as well but like to keep the small travel sizes.
  • Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse has been a favorite this summer for dry body oils. (Three I tested here.) I alternate between this and the Caudalie Divine Oil, but lately I've been reaching more for the Nuxe, the fresh floral beach-like scent is perfect for summer. It layers nicely with most perfumes as it's very gentle and not overpowering. I love that the skin absorbs it quickly.
  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray is an alternative to dry shampoo. I've tried several and don't like the powdery crunchy look they give to the hair. The Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray is the only one I've tried that doesn't leave any residue. It's more of a texturizing spray that I like to use on days where my hair looks a bit flat. I love all things Oribe that I've tried it's a brand I keep exploring and looking into. The signature Oribe scent is incredible.
  • St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse is a new discovery this year and it is hands down my favorite self tan product. I purchased the mini size to compare it to the Gradual an Everyday Body Lotion from Sephora. I tested each one simultaneously with the mousse on one leg and the lotion on the other. The mousse gives a better tan without being orange. The lotion has a more gradual darkening effect. The tint to the mousse also helps you see where you applied product and helps as a guide for even application. It didn't stain or transfer to white sheets and after letting it set for 10 minutes I found it didn't transfer to a white denim skirt. I applied it for two consecutive days and my tan will last about 5 days. I have super sensitive skin and I've gotten allergic reactions to spray tans and other self tan products (like Clarins).
  • First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser was sent for review and it is an amazing cleanser. It has red clay which is suppose to draw out toxins, remove oil and unclog pores. It's designed for combination or oily skin. My skin is slightly combination, dry on the cheeks area and slightly oily in the T zone. I found this to be amazing at unclogging pores. It comes with a slightly gel-like texture that is a reddish pink with a pearly shimmer. It works well with the hands, a washcloth and my Clarisonic Aria. It's gentle enough for my sensitive skin but very effective. I'm on my second tube.
  • Tom Ford Mandarino di Amalfi is one of Tom Ford's latest, it's one of two new scents that are an extension of the Neroli Portofino line. I can't wear a lot of orange citrus scents but Tom Ford is the only one I can pull off. It's the perfect summertime scent with citrus, florals and musk.
  • Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream is something I bought from the Flower Power Kit (has the Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream in 1 oz, Rose Face Mask in 1 oz, Sugar Tulip and Rose Floral Toner 0.5 oz). I love this lightweight face cream for hydration. It's too heavy for me right now for daily use but I like to use it 2x per week during the day and alternate this as a night cream. It has a refreshing cucumber scent and feels amazing on the skin. It makes the skin look refreshed and improves the overall skin tone by smoothing over time and is great for calming the skin.
  • MAC Cleanse Off Oil has been my favorite go-to for removing makeup at the end of the day. I did a roundup of several oils I tested and the MAC is one I keep reaching for because it has the best emulsifying quality and gets everything off without leaving a residue or drying out the skin.
  • Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask is something I tried with the mini pods first. I liked it so much I bought the full size. It's a mask that really works and clears pores. It has a slight tingly effect the first few minutes but it goes away. The charcoal and white clay both work to draw out pore-cloggers. I've used it up to 3x per week when my skin was messed up. I don't recommend using it if you have broken skin or areas with irritation, but it is a gentle enough mask that won't sting your skin. 
  • Malin+Goetz Lip Moisturizer is my summer favorite for a relative inexpensive lip balm with a nice lightweight gel formula. It's super effective without being too rich or heavy for summer.
  • L'Occitane Extra Gentle Lotion for Hands and Body has been a staple for me for years. It's the only body lotion I've repurchased. It has a super lightweight feel that absorbs into the skin. It's part of the Shea Butter line and is moisturizing and soothing.
  • Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil Primer was a Sephora freebie. It's a pre-styler product that I apply to the hair before blow drying and it helps smooth the hair, decreases frizz and protects it from heat styling. It smells absolutely amazing like coconut and vanilla. It adds softness and shine without weighing down the hair.
  • L'Occitane Frisson de Verveine Hand Cream Gel is a great alternative to regular hand creams for the summer. It's a unique hand moisturizer that absorbs into the skin really quickly. It has an interesting dry down that's smooth and soothing with a slight velvety feel. It comes in the new Frisson Verbena scent which is a lightweight summery lime. One tube was sent for review and I've already purchased a second one.
  • Tatcha Aburatorigami Beauty Papers are the perfect blotting papers for me. They are compact and easy to carry in the purse. I love how they are super absorbent without having any powdery residue. I use about one sheet with every use and it's so much better than touching up with powder mid-day or late afternoon. Sometimes with the summer heat and humidity I've found adding powder to oily skin can get cakey (at least on me).
  • Chanel UV Essential Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is the only face sunscreen I like to use. It's lightweight and absorbs into the skin quickly. I like to layer serum with moisturizer under my foundation but I don't like anything that feels heavy. This sunscreen is light enough to wear with both a serum and moisturizer and foundation. It's suitable for my sensitive skin. It also comes with an SPF 20 and SPF 30 versions as well.



What have been your summer favorites this past month?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cleansing Oil Testing | Tatcha, MAC, Shu Uemura, Josie Maran, Chanel and Dior


I've used cleansing oils for years but just recently started using them on a regular basis. I have been really impressed with the long-wear formulas brands have been releasing in foundation, powder, blush and concealer. Who doesn't want their makeup to last all day without touching up or fading? For me, the long-wear factor has had one downside: it doesn't come all the way off with a regular cleanser and leads to clogged pores and breakouts. Using stronger cleansers tend to irritate my skin.

I have my local Chanel artists to thank for recommending that I add a cleansing oil to my daily skincare routine. I did quite a bit of research, pulled out some samples, looked for online promo codes for minis with purchases and bought a few small trial/travel sized oils to do some extensive testing.

This year I've explored more in skincare than I have previous years and have found it's all a slow learning process for me. I am not an expert with skincare ingredients - I know many of you are passionate about skincare and know much more than I do about specific ingredients, formulas and what to avoid. I rely on the product specialists I talk to with various brands, online reviews and personal testing to determine what works for me. As always, I share what I've experienced personally - due to different skin types, your mileage may vary.


You might be wondering if you really need a cleansing oil. If you wear long-wear makeup like me and find yourself with small areas of clogged pores, I will say yes. To see how effective your current cleanser is, take a cotton pad soaked with cleansing water or a wipe and swipe your face after your normal process. You might be shocked to see remnants of product transfer to the cotton after you wipe your face down which means you didn't clean it enough. I've found Cleansing Oils and Cleansing Waters help break down long-wearing makeup for cleaner skin. I've found the best way to use these is to apply them to a dry face with dry hands and massage all over. Rinse with warm water to activate the foaming quality and emulsify to cleanse the skin. Some are designed to cleanse the skin fully and claim to have no film leftover so you don't need to double cleanse. I still prefer to use the two step method of a Cleansing Oil + Foaming Cleanser.

I've put 9 different cleansing oils to the test with various minis, samples and travel-sized options. I wish more brands would offer sampler/trial sets for skincare. I would be more likely to try new products and brands if sampler sizes were offered.

I've tested each oil for a minimum of 6 uses each over the past few months. With all of these, the best way to use them is to apply to a dry face with dry hands right on top of the makeup and massage it in circular motions all over the face.
  • Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil ($12 for 1.9 oz) I purchased the small travel size online based on the 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Sephora. I found this one to be my least favorite of all the oils even though I had high hopes. It has a very thick texture that feels goopy on the skin. It does a very effective job at cleaning and removing makeup, but I couldn't get past the texture. The scent is also too sweet for my taste and the flip open cap of the mini leaked product all over the place. It also made my skin feel a bit too tight after application.
  • Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($12 for .08 fl oz or $48 for 5.1 fl oz) I was really pleased to find out large the trial size was after ordering it online from the Travel Sized beauty category. I was also happy to see the small version come with a good pump and also with good packaging. Sometimes minis are cased in cheap containers but the Tatcha is very well designed. This turned out to be one of my favorites. It has a medium-thin texture which applies well to the face. Massaging the product emulsifies on the skin. It cleanses well with water and gave the skin a moisturizing feel without any residue feeling. It has the signature Tatcha Camellia scent which is soothing and gentle.
  • MAC Cleanse Off Oil ($10 for 1 fl oz) has been a long-time favorite of mine. I like to keep the mini bottle and refill it for travel although it comes in the mini size. The $10 price seemed very affordable for a trial (when I first tried it many years ago). This is the best one for removing all trace of waterproof eye makeup without stinging the eyes.
  • MAC Tranquil Cleanse Off Oil ($10 for 1 fl oz) was a purchase I made after reading so many rave reviews, I liked the texture and soft scent, but found it less effective compared to the regular version. If you have super sensitive skin or want something more gentle this is a good option for you.
  • Chanel Le Blanc Immediate Brightening Oil-Gel Makeup Remover (mini sample shown, $60 for 5 oz) is something that has been used on my at several Chanel events. It's a clear gel that turns into an oil as you work it into the skin. It's lightly scented which might bother some of you, but it is extremely effective. It's the only one that will remove all traces of mascara and eyeliner. The upside of the gel texture is that it's slightly thick so it doesn't run into the eyes if you work it on the eye area. Even though it's thicker, it's not goopy and is very emollient once massaged but not greasy. This is the most unique formula I've tried.
  • Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi Skin Refining Oil (green sample gwp shown, $37-$77 for full size) has had so many raves online. It cleansed well and I found it emulsified nicely too. I couldn't get over the scent. It smells like green tea with an emphasis on the herbal side. I liked that it left no residue on the skin but it left my skin feeling a bit tight.
  • Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Cleansing Oil (brown sample gwp shown, $42-$90 for full size) is most like a traditional cleansing oil. It reminds me of the older versions Shu Uemura used to have. It's gentle yet very efficient leaving skin feeling clean.
  • Shu Uemura Whitefficient Clear Brightening Cleansing Oil (blue sample gwp shown, $38-$81 for full size) is a brightening oil, this one has the best scent out of all the ones I've tried, it's a refreshing clean scent, kinda like dryer sheets, but not quite as sharp. This one emulsified really well and is more gentle compared to the Ultime8.
  • Dior Instant Gentle Cleansing Oil (mini gwp shown, $36 for 6.7 fl oz) is one I had high hopes for. So many have raved about this one too. I did not like this one. It has a slightly sticky feel making it a bit hard to massage over the face. It didn't tug or pull, but didn't emulsify quite as well as the other more fluid options. After cleansing with water the skin felt sticky.
Here are how the minis size up next to each other and compare in packaging design, some of these were samples, some purchased. The packaging of the full size versions are usually better in quality and typically come with a pump.

Samples I purchased below: Tatcha, Josie Maran, MAC. Online samples with codes: Shu Uemura. Samples at the counter: Dior and Chanel.


To summarize my thoughts:
Best at removing all traces of makeup 
Tatcha One-Step, Chanel Le Blanc Oil Gel and MAC Cleanse Off Oil

Most gentle 
 Shu Uemura Whitefficient and MAC Tranquil Cleanse Off
Most moisturizing 
Tatcha and Ultime8
Best scent 
Tatcha and Shu Uemura Whitefficient

Top picks
1) MAC Cleanse-Off Oil
2) Tatcha One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
3) Shu Uemura Whitefficient

I hope you found this roundup helpful. I've found that adding a cleansing oil to my routine has helped clean my skin better and has significantly decreased the amount of clogged pores and tiny bumps on the face. Do note that your mileage may vary depending on your skin type. I have normal but sensitive skin. If you are oily or dry you might find different oils work better for you.

What are your experiences with cleansing oils? Do you have any favorites or stories you'd like to share on what worked for you or what didn't work out so well? 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

MAC Look in a Box All About Coral | Nordstrom Anniversary 2014


MAC has several limited-edition boxed sets and palettes available for this year's Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. I bought the Look in a Box - All About Coral ($39.50) which includes 2 lip items and 2 eye products:

  • Passion Charge Lustre Lipstick is a glossy medium-bright coral peachy shade
  • Stoke the Flame Lipglass is a frosted peach with visible sparkles
  • Collective Chic Veluxe Pearlfusion Eyeshadow has a glitzy champagne, olive shimmer and plum-brown frost shade
  • Brownborder Technakohl Liner is a warm brown eyeliner, it's the only item you can purchase separately



I bought this mainly because I fell in love with the lip items. The Passion Charge lipstick and Stoke the Flame lipglass combination creates a pretty peachy coral lip that's perfect for summer. The lipstick is a lustre formula but has impressive pigment for a glossy lipstick. The lip glass looks good layered over lipsticks but has enough color to wear alone.



If you're like me and only like the lip colors, here are some swatches that I did in attempts to dupe Stoke the Flame Lipglass. I couldn't find anything identical but here are some swatches:

MAC Mimmy (Hello Kitty collection, discontinued)
MAC Eurobeat Dazzleglass (discontinued)
MAC Meteoric Cremesheen Glass (discontinued)



Some more dupe attempts with other corals and peaches. I was really surprised how close it is to Tom Ford Sweet Spot:

Tom Ford Sweet Spot (discontinued)
Edward Bess Forbidden Flower (discontinued)
MAC Fresh & Frisky Huggable (discontinued)


I swatched the eye palette in store and was really impressed with the pigment. On the eyes it proved to be a bit tricky to apply. The champagne color is quite glittery and when I applied with a brush I experienced a lot of fall out. I found it best either applied with fingers by patting all over the lids with a creamy base or on top of the other two shades to set. Once on the eyes it didn't budge, but the initial application had some fall out over the face. The khaki olive and brown plum applied smoothly with a brush and layered nicely for a smokey eye. I tested this in warm hot weather outdoors at an event that lasted from 1 pm to 7 pm. I spritzed the Urban Decay All Nighter Spray (also featured here) over the eyes and face and it made the look last all afternoon and kept it looking fresh - nothing budged.

The eyeliner is pretty basic. I like the smooth creamy texture and find it lasts long, but if you have a lot of brown eyeliners it's not a must-have. I did some comparisons for the eyeliner.




The MAC Look in a Box sets are limited-edition. It appears the All About Coral Set has sold out online along with a few other sets but I've linked it so you can find the Product/Item Number. I suspect it's still available in stores and you may want to have Nordstrom Customer service locate one for you if you're interested. They might restock online. I found the set to be a good deal for the price. If you only like a few items in the set I hope the comparison swatches above help find something similar.

 

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