Showing posts with label Makeup Brushes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Makeup Brushes. Show all posts

Monday, July 28, 2014

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Killer Cheekbones Set | Nordstrom Anniversary Beauty Exclusive


I ordered the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Killer Cheekbones Set ($110) last week online. It's a duo that includes the Filmstar Bronze and Glow along with the Powder and Sculpt Brush. It's currently a Nordstrom Beauty Exclusive in the US and has been released as an early preview for the Charlotte Tilbury Beauty line. According to a Nordstrom Beauty Livechat I had earlier this morning, the entire line will launch online at Nordstrom.com around August 10th. Update on August 4th, per Charlotte Tilbury PR, the line will be available in the US around September 3rd.

On the nails - Aventure


The Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow (16 g/0.56 oz, made in Italy) comes in a luxurious rose gold colored compact. It has a warm bronze with a soft satiny shimmer glow. On my skin it acts like the perfect contouring powder. When it comes to contouring the face, I am a super minimalist. I have a roundish face without high cheekbones so any kind of contouring is me brushing on product in areas to create a fake one. I do like a good bronzer to sculpt the face and add warmth in a 3 shape motion around the edges of my face, but that's typically the most I'll do for contouring.

I find traditional matte/taupe contouring looks good in photos but in real life can look fake and too sharp on me (this is when artists do it on me or when I attempt it). The Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow however makes contouring goof-proof and super easy. The Sculpt/Bronzer side has enough warmth and color that it doesn't make the skin look ashy and also isn't too warm that it turns orangey. It has a soft satiny sheen that gives depth.


The Highlight/Glow side is a yellowish/gold pale champagne highlighter. Based on what it looks like in the pan and how it swatches on the arm, I was worried it would be overly frosty and sharp on my skin. On the face it glows. There is visible shimmer but on me it doesn't look frosted and it doesn't emphasize pores. Huge plus! If you have dewy skin, you may need to apply with a light hand. It's very pigmented and adheres well to the skin. I like to dip the brush into the highlighter and then tap it to dust off excess. On the skin it's a light golden color but not too yellow for my olive skin.


The Powder and Sculpt Brush is the full size version made of goat hair. It's a smaller brush than what I'm typically used to for the face but it's tapered for perfect contouring on the face. It's well-made and the bristles pick up the product and blend well, but I don't think it's a must-have since I have so many other brushes and find that a regular blush brush can do the same. I do like the way it's shaped for easy application. It places the product right along the cheeks in the right shape for a perfect contour.


Swatches, don't let the frost/shimmer deter you, they apply much softer on the face:



I pulled a few comparisons:


Edward Bess Daydream Bronzer (original version shown, newer version here)


Chanel Les Beiges Multi-Colour 02 (summer stripe version)


Overall a huge thumbs up. I had high expectations for this because of raves about Charlotte Tilbury's line but was worried it might be just another standard bronzer/highlighter/contour duo. After playing with this for several days I can say that I have found my perfect contouring duo. On my medium/tan skin it's not quite bronzer level, but I suspect on fair to medium skins it will be suitable as a contour or bronzer depending how you apply and how much you layer on.

I love the soft silky texture of the powder. Brushes pick up just the right amount of product so you don't have to swirl the brush in the pan a lot. It's powdery but not too powdery. It blends very smoothly on the face and layers nicely. It's on par with Edward Bess Daydream Bronzer (my holy grail) in the sense that it's impossible to mess up because it's super easy to apply and it's very flattering on the skin.


I am really pleased with the set even though it seemed a bit pricey. However you do get a full sized bronzer-highlighter duo and the brush is the full size version that is well made. It's a very high quality set that makes the price tag worth it for me. If you have a lot of brushes you may want to wait for the entire line to launch in August and just get the Filmstar Bronze and Glow. That being said the brush does make contouring easy for those who aren't good at contouring (like myself). Even though this is designed for the face, I've found it wears well on the eyes as well.

Many have asked whether I think the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Killer Cheekbones Set or Chanel Dentelle Precieuse powder is the better buy. I can't choose between them, they are both phenomenal products, my thoughts:
  • The Chanel powder is limited-edition and gives a more glowy finish with a pinkish, peach and bronze champagne glow on me. For my skintone it's definitely a highlighter while fair skinned readers have commented it appears darker and more bronzey on their skins.
  • The items in the Charlotte Tilbury will both be available for purchase in the US at a later date when the line officially launches. It's also more of a contouring duo rather than a highlighter. The bronze/sculpt powder is beautifully warm and satiny with a natural glow, but you can probably skip the brush if you already own a good detail brush.
If you can get both eventually but only want to purchase one now, I would recommend getting the Chanel since it's limited-edition and I've found there's nothing really like it. If you don't need a contouring brush then I'd say wait for the line to launch later this fall, skip the brush and just opt for the Bronzer/Highlighter duo.
The Filmstar Killer Cheekbones Set is currently a Nordstrom Anniversary Beauty Exclusive and retails for $110. Online it looks like it's on backorder. I can't wait until the entire Charlotte Tilbury line launches in the US later this fall.

Have you tried this Filmstar Killer Cheekbones set or anything else from Charlotte Tilbury? What were your thoughts?

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?



Saturday, April 5, 2014

NARS Paloma Contour Blush, Altai and Vientiane Matte Multiples and Contour Brush #21


NARS has been killing it with some amazing new releases this year. New items on my radar focus on contouring: Matte Multiples in Altai and Vientiane ($39 each for 7.5 g), Paloma Contour Blush ($42 for 8.2 g) and the new Contour Brush #21 ($42).


The new Contour Blushes are powder duos with shades that create dimension for the face while giving a luminous finish. Each compact has a deeper shade to create definition and contour and a lighter shade to highlight and blend. There are three color options and I picked the middle option Paloma. The powders are very similar in concept to the MAC Sculpt and Shape powders. I find the NARS slightly more velvety in texture. Paloma has a neutral cream powder with a neutral tan. It's described as having a rose undertone which is nice because it prevents the colors from turning too brown or orange on the skin. I found Paloma to be dark enough to show up on the skin but it is still very natural looking. I'm not a contour pro, but I like to apply contouring/bronzer powders in a 3 shape on each side of the face starting at the temples and down to the jawline. You could use this as a nude blush, however adding a swipe of a brighter blush on top like NARS Torrid really brightens the face after using the Contour Blush first.


Matte Multiples have been all the rage lately. I purchased a handful and have been really impressed with the velvety pigmented texture that is really easy to blend. The Matte Multiples have more pigment than the regular Multiples. The only downside is the new matte multiples are smaller in size than the regular versions and priced the same. Altai is the lightest bronze option which I find perfect for contouring. For those familiar with the older flesh-colored multiples from several years ago, Altai is a close duplicate for Tuomota. Vientiane is a darker warmer bronze. The NARS artist at the Melrose Boutique used this to contour my face in the temples, nose, cheek bone and jaw. The velvety texture of these adheres well to the skin and the formula allows for precise control of pigment. I found these to last on the cheeks quite well (much longer than the regular multiples).


I have swatches and also comparisons, first up swatches of the three new items  I purchased from NARS - Paloma Contour Blush, Altai Matte Multiple and Vientiane Matte Multiple:


Paloma Contour Blush comparisons to MAC Accentuate Shaping Powder, NARS Zen Blush, NARS Douceur Blush, MAC Sculpt Powder, Chanel Les Beiges in 30 and MAC Strada Blush.


Altai and Vientiane Matte Multiple comparisons to other cream contouring products (unfortunately I think all have been discontinued) St Barts Multiple, MAC Naturally Defined Pro Sculpting Cream, MAC Pure Sculpture Pro Sculpting Cream, NARS Tuomota Multiple and NARS Laguna Multiple:


Last item I wanted to feature includes one of the newly re-designed brushes: Contour Brush #21. This is a sturdy basic black angled blush. The bristles are very soft yet dense. It has a medium-sized handle that fits my hand well. It's not too short but not too long. It picks up powder really well and helps to apply it evenly on the face.

Dior Tra La La on the nails

Views of the Contour blush from different angles:

Overall really pleased with these new discoveries from NARS. You can find the items at NARS counters and boutiques now. Online now at Nordstrom (gift with purchase now), Bloomingdales (also has a gift with purchase now), Barneys and Narscosmetics.com.


What's your perfect contouring product or tool? Have you checked out the new Contouring Blushes or Matte Multiples? What did you pick up?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Beauty Look Book Essentials | Eye Brushes


I'm launching a series of my favorites and essentials. I've been asked by many of you to share what are my holy grails for hand/nail care, tools, foundations and skincare. My favorites change as I discover new products, brands and tips so for this series, so I'm taking extra care to pick out my tried and true. First set includes what my essential eye makeup brushes are.

I built my brush collection bit by bit over many years. My first brushes (MAC, Stila and Trish McEvoy) were purchased during my college years and with careful storage and care, most have lasted quite well since then. Over the years, I've added more one by one. I prefer to purchase brushes individually because I usually find the quality to be much better than brush sets from the same brands. I've compiled a list of my top picks for eye brushes. When it comes to eye makeup, I'm usually a minimalist and I like to blend a lot.

There are literally hundreds of options out there. If you are new to eye makeup or feel like you're a novice with application, I'd recommend attending one of your local events at your Nordstrom or Bloomingdales. I've learned so much from artists, in particular NARS, Chanel and Le Metier de Beaute. Many of the artists have worked with multiple brands are are free-lance artists. They can help show you different techniques and often can help compare a few different brushes from mainstream brands. If you're just starting out or have a smaller budget for tools, I'll share my top 3 picks to get started below.


Brush storage idea:


My Eye Brush Essentials:

What I look for in brushes:

Long handled brushes are easier for me to pick up so I prefer brands that have longer handles (rather than all short). I also look for a brush that will not shed or fall apart after washing. I usually won't pay more than $50ish for an eyeshadow brush, although I have made the exception for Tom Ford. I prefer brands I can access in person since for me it's very important to try the brush in person before buying. The brand with the best brush selection and price is MAC, although they don't have every kind of shape or material (if they did, all my brushes would probably be from them).

My picks:
  • Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush ($40) is hands down the best fluffy all over eye shadow brush. There are dozens of other brushes with a similar shape, but most are not dense enough (the less dense the sheerer the application of color is). The Edward Bess brush is well designed and has enough bristles packed in to really pick up and layer color.
  • Chanel Brush Large Eye Shadow Brush #25 ($38) is my favorite large/flat eyeshadow brush for a sheerer all over application. It's a good brush to give your lids a wash of color and applies it evenly.
  • Trish McEvoy Medium Laydown #40 ($43) is a good brush for cream shadows or blending bases all over the lid. I like that it's a bit thicker than most cream shadow brushes which makes the blending process easier for me.
  • MAC #217 ($24) is one of the best multi-purpose brushes. You can use this to apply shadow all over the lids, blend colors together or use this for your crease area. It's super soft but still well packed to pick up color.
  • MAC #239 ($25) is another staple. I wish MAC made more brushes this size with different materials because this is the perfect shape for your basic eye shadow application. It's soft and dense and blends well. It picks up more color than the #217, but I usually use both together.
  • MAC #226 (discontinued) has been released and re-released a couple times. It's now discontinued, but it makes the perfect detail brush and for those with creases, is the ultimate crease brush.
  • Chanel Large Tapered Blending Brush #19 ($38) is the closest I've found to MAC #226. It's a bit shorter and more domed-shaped though. This one is good for a smokey eye or blending darker shades.
  • Tom Ford Eye Contour #12 ($55) is one of my favorite multi purpose brushes. It never fails me. You can read more about it in my review here.
  • MAC #219 ($25) is another great detail brush for smokey colors or to highlight inner corners. It's pointy at the end for good detail but soft enough for those with sensitive eyes.
  • Laura Mercier Smudge Brush ($24) is my favorite smudge brush. There are a number of smudge brushes from other brands but this one picks up color the best out of any I've tried.
  • Bobbi Brown Angle ($30) this one was from a set but is the same quality as the individual ones. For liner or brows I usually prefer brushes like the smudge brushes, but this one is great for a thin liner with shadows or creams.
  • Tom Ford Definer #15 ($50) is another smudge-like brush. The end is really thin but dense which makes for a good cream or gel liner application. I have a weak spot for white haired brushes because they are generally softer than others.
  • Bobbi Brown Gel Liner ($27) is my favorite gel liner brush, it's a classic.


If I could only pick five brushes for the most basic level, my top picks would be the Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush, MAC #217, MAC #239, Tom Ford Eye Contour #12 and the Laura Mercier Smudge Brush.

I hope this helps you find some new favorites!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser


My usual go-to for brush cleanser is usually Neutrogena Rainbath Shower and Bath Gel in the Original version or occasionally MAC Brush Cleaner. Although baby shampoo is often a popular recommendation from many, I tend to avoid it as I find it sometimes leaves a slight residue on the brushes. At my latest Chanel event, I asked the artist what she thought was the best brush cleanser for foundation and concealer brushes. Although I find soapy warm water can clean these, I usually have to wash in at least 3-4 rounds to get them fully cleaned. She said hands down Bobbi Brown's Brush Cleanser ($16.50 for 3.4 oz)  and Brush Cleaning Spray ($22 for 3 oz). I decided to try the cleanser and give it a thorough test (the reviews online seemed very favorable).

Bobbi Brown's Brush Cleanser is a clear liquid that comes in a black squeeze tube. It's not quite as fluid as toners, but not thick like a gel. The cap flips open.




I tested the Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser with about a dozen brushes this weekend. I'll show the before and after results below with three different sets of brushes. Although I'm sure most know how to wash their own brushes, I'll do a quick tutorial of the steps I used to test the Bobbi Brown. The instructions on the box were fairly simple and easy to follow. Basically wet the brushes, squeeze a small amount into the palm of your hand (I found a dime size worked for 3 brushes at a time), massage the cleaner into brushes, rinse completely, squeeze water out, reshape and lay flat to dry.


I found the brush cleanser to work extremely well with all of my brushes. There was a slight minty scent to the product, but it disappears after washing the brushes. You only need a small amount and it foams up just slightly as you work it into your brushes. I was really impressed at how well the brush cleaner cleaned my foundation brushes. My used foundation brushes usually needed 3-5 rounds of cleaning with strong dish soap before the creams budge. With the Bobbi Brown Brush Cleanser, I only needed 2 rounds to get them completely clean. Huge thumbs up! The only brush that didn't come completely clean was the MAC Duo Fibre 130 (probably because I had remnants of a darker Armani Fluid Sheer sitting on it for a few days).

Three sets of testing with before and after photos. Below, the dirty brushes, scroll to the bottom to see the after look:


Brushes after cleaning and drying (I let them dry through the afternoon):




Overall extremely impressed. I found Bobbi Brown's Brush Cleanser to be extremely effective but not too harsh. The brushes dried nicely without any residue left on them. I'm ecstatic my foundation brushes were cleaned very quickly and effectively. The cleanser seemed to be versatile for all different types of bristles and hairs. Most of the white brushes returned to their original white cream color. The only one that did not was the MAC Duo Fibre (which probably needs a few more rounds of cleaning). The price of $16.50 is reasonable since a little goes a long way. Still, given the frequency which I wash my brushes, I would probably want to reserve this for the brushes that need an extra effective cleanser. Neutrogena is a cheaper option (Costco size bottles that is) and just as effective for most of the brushes (except the ones I use for cream products). Bottom line: huge thumbs up. I think I need to try the brush spray next.

I bought my Bobbi Brown Brush Cleaner at Nordstrom. It's also available at all Bobbi Brown counters and retailers.

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