Showing posts with label Tools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tools. Show all posts

Friday, October 24, 2014

beautyblender sponges - my new favorite beauty tool


Beautyblenders are one of the most raved-about makeup tools I've read about. I've looked at them in Sephora stores numerous times but couldn't bring myself to spend nearly $20 on a sponge that I would have to end up throwing away within a couple of months. I finally caved and decided to give beautyblenders a try during the Sephora VIB Summer Surge event back in August. I purchased the Original Beautyblender version ($19.95) and have been really impressed. If you're late to the game with these (like me), Beautyblenders are an egg-shaped sponge with what they call "an open cell structure." It's a porous sponge that fills with small amounts of water and expands to about 1.5x in size when damp. The sponge provides amazingly flawless foundation application that I've found to be streak-free. You can use it with primers, foundations, powders, cream blushes, concealers and any other complexion product. I can't believe it took me so long to try these.


The sponge comes in a small plastic case with easy to use instructions. It works best when slightly damp. I run it through water entirely and then squeeze out the excess. The texture of the sponge is very cushy with a bouncy feel. I usually pour foundation onto the back of my hand first and then tap the sponge into the product before applying onto the face. Just tap and bounce and it blends in foundation perfectly. It also works wonders to blend out concealer.




dry Beautyblender Pro vs. damp Beautyblender Original

After featuring some of the sponges on the blog, several of my readers have asked what I use to clean the sponges. I can usually get 2-3 uses before I need to clean by using different areas of the sponge. I read reviews online at numerous message boards and customer reviews on retailer websites and decided to try the Beautycleanser Solid and Beautycleanser Liquid. I expected to like the liquid version better but the Solid does a much better job at cleaning the sponge all the way through. I'll use the liquid one up, it works ok, but won't be repurchasing. The solid is something I'll keep repurchasing though. It's like a solid soap - just get the beauty blender wet and rub it into the soap to lather up the cleanser. Rinse and repeat.


There are a number of different beautyblender options. I also checked out the Pure and Pro versions. Bottom line is the Original one performs the best for me. A quick rundown of the differences and my thoughts:
  • Original beautyblender (pink) is the smallest in size when dry although they are all pretty similar in size once damp and expanded. This one gives the best even coverage with liquids and has the most cushiony bounce, the first time you wash it, you will see pink dye run through the water. I've never had pink transfer from the sponge onto my skin though and it doesn't seem to stain white countertops.
  • Pure beautyblender (white) is designed for super sensitive skins. It's dye-free and colorless so those who might have a reaction to the pink dye in the original might want to opt for this one. I didn't have any reaction to the pink one and the white sponge performs almost as well, it has a very similar texture but not quite as much bounce, it blends foundation smoothly, but for some reason the original still does a blending job the best.
  • Pro beautyblender (black) is designed for darker products that might stain the pink or white sponges. I noticed a visible difference in texture and the first couple times I used it, tiny bits of sponge went all over my face and countertop. It's more porous compared to the others and the while the material is still soft, it seems a bit rougher in texture. It made about 1/2 of the foundations I've tried with it go on streaky although it did work nicely for powder foundation. I probably won't be repurchasing this one.



I've used the MAC Blending Sponge for years (even back when their older version was a pale beige color). I also really like smaller ones from my local Japanese supermarket. None of the ones I've tested compare to the beautyblenders in way they blend liquid foundations or concealers on the skin. Since August I've used up and thrown away 1 beautyblender. You do have to be somewhat delicate when washing them or else you might see parts of the sponge tear in areas.


I give these a huge thumbs up. I will definitely keep repurchasing the original version. It applies foundation really well without soaking up too much product. I love how it helps blend concealer too (especially on the under eye area). If you are new to beautyblenders or need to replace one, you might want to consider their sets like this Sponge + Solid Cleanser duo (you get a slight price break). 

I've purchased my beautyblenders at Sephora and Nordstrom. Have you tried these sponges? If so what did you think? Do you have any other favorite foundation/concealer tools?





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?



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tom Ford Eye Shadow Contour Brush #12


Tom Ford's Eye Shadow Contour Brush #12 has been my beauty BFF for the past few weeks ($55 individually or part of the 5-piece brush set at $365). When Tom Ford released his beauty line back in September of 2011, I was drawn to his lipsticks, blushes and glosses. I was told that the brushes were best in class, but the high price points prevented me from even daring to touch one at the counter. Since then I've been scouting the web for reviews and features on his brushes. More and more raves from loved and trusted sources kept popping up.
  • The Non-Blonde raved about the blush brush
  • Café Makeup gushed about the amazing softness and lusciousness of the bronzer brush
  • Product Doctor found the cream foundation brush gave a flawless streak-free application
  • Sweet Makeup Temptations did a thorough feature on 7 of the brushes (excellent resource and feature)
  • Karla Sugar photographed the entire brush lineup on her blog (good for sizing reference)
My curiosity got the best of me and I'm glad it did. I've tested a few of the brushes now - all have been amazing. Tom Ford's Eye Shadow Contour Brush #12 measures about 6.4 inches and comes with a mahogany-colored handle with white natural hairs (made in Japan). It has a slight angle with densely packed hairs, but it's soft enough that it doesn't feel like a normal smudge or liner brush. Others have reported that it's great for contouring the crease or making an outer v for the eyes. I have crease-less lids, but this is the perfect tool for making a killer smokey eye. I've found it to be extremely versatile. It applies color to the lashline like a normal smudge brush. Since it's thicker it creates a smokier look (rather than a more precise line). Turn the brush flattened against the skin and it blends out any harsh edges perfectly.


On the nails: Chanel Riva with YSL Premiere Neige


The price of $55 is quite high. Because of this, I can't say this is a must-have. There are a number of other brushes which are more affordable that will achieve the same result of either a well-contoured or perfect smokey eye. For me though, having no crease, getting that smokey eye look often requires tons and tons of blending with multiple tools and layering of 2-3 shadows. This is where I feel Tom Ford's #12 is worth the price in terms of time saving and performance. It's the all-in-one smokey eye brush. Rather than having to use 3 different brushes for lining, smudging and/or blending, I now have the perfect tool that can do all three steps for me. (Of course for a precise defined line I do still need a finer-tipped brush.)

Here are a few comparisons: My MAC eye brushes are among my favorites for price, shape and quality. The white-haired brushes by MAC were the softest in my collection and best for blending. The Tom Ford beats it by far in terms of softness while still managing to be dense enough to be a good smudge/contour tool.



Bottom line: performance is amazing and love that it's also a time saver. Have you tried Tom Ford brushes yet? Which ones?

As a side note, many have been emailing me reports of my photos showing up on places (such as ebay), some with watermarks, some with removed/edited watermarks. As a reminder, I currently do not sell on ebay so any listings with my watermarked photos are not from me. I've been doing what I can to get certain listings removed, but since it will be a time consuming and never-ending process (content is continually being lifted without permission), I felt the best thing to do was just put a warning/reminder/disclaimer that I currently do not sell on ebay or any other sites.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chanel Foundation Brush #6


Chanel is currently revamping their US brushes and the first new one to be released is the #6 Foundation Brush ($45). Many thanks to Cafe Makeup who let me know this was released with the new foundation (the brush was not on the Nordstrom display and without her, I would not have realized this was out). The brush has a sleek and sophisticated look with a matte black handle and silver embossed lettering. I've tested the new one for about a week with different liquid foundations and find it performs very well to evenly blend the foundation on the face. With all foundation brushes, I find a bit of streaking because of the bristles. I typically prefer a sponge, but when I do use a brush, I always end up smoothing out my face with fingers or a sponge. This one seems to work better for me than most others because the bristles are more naturally tapered.

Here are a few closeups of the new Foundation Brush #6, the handle has a beautiful black matte finish which contrasts nicely to the silver lettering:



Compared to the original one #16, the new #6 is made of different bristles, is slightly shorter in overall length, has shorter bristles and is slightly chubbier in depth. Both the original and new versions are made in China. To me the performance is very similar but I prefer the look of the new one. It just looks cleaner and more professional. Here is the original compared to the new:





Here is the new Chanel compared to a few other brands including Armani, Prescriptives and MAC:


The other brands have worked well for me in past years. The oldest one I own is the Prescriptives Foundation brush which has held up for me since my high school days. All the ones I've tried have worked well, I have no complaints, but the new Chanel #6 definitely has the best design and at $45 seems  very reasonably priced (unlike their eyelash curler). Definitely worth checking out if you're near a Chanel counter. I'm testing out the new Perfection Lumiere and so far love it but need a few more days of use to provide a thorough review.

Have you checked out the new Chanel foundation brush? Do you own the original? What are your thoughts comparing the two?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eyelash Curlers: Trish McEvoy, Chanel and Le Métier de Beauté


The first eyelash curler I ever tried was from Revlon back when I was in high school and unfortunately it didn't do much for my straight lashes. I was scared that I would accidentally pull out all my lashes so I didn't try using one again until my college days when I had a Trish McEvoy makeup lesson at Saks. My first high-end eyelash curler purchase was was from Trish McEvoy and I've loved it ever since. I've since tried curlers from Armani, Chanel, Le Métier de Beauté, Shiseido and Shu Uemura (original and the individual). I would say all are good, but my top three favorites include Trish McEvoy, Chanel and Le Métier de Beauté.

What I look for in an eyelash curler: I focus on the curve (how it fits my eye) and the density of the pads (I prefer something on the softer side but not too soft). I'm Asian without a crease in my lids. There is a curve to my lids but my eyes are not deepset. My lashes are very straight which makes them appear shorter than they are. I found Armani's pad too stiff (making it difficult to get a good curl), Shiseido's shape didn't work with my eyeshape and pinched in the corners, Shu Uemura's was good, I have no complaints yet I think there are better options. The individual eyelash curler was good in concept but impossible for me to hold in my fingers.

It can be a challenge to see how these all compare unless you find a retailer that carries all the brands. Right now, there are various Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom stores that should carry most of the above brands. For the three that I do love, here's the breakdown and photos first, then detailed thoughts below:
  • Trish McEvoy wins for all around function, price and design (for me)
  • Le Métier de Beauté wins for having the most lightweight easy to use design with the softest pad
  • Chanel wins for aesthetics and has the thickest pad





Trish McEvoy's Eyelash Curler ($18) is a silver colored curler that comes with 1 replaceable pad and is made in Japan. If this came with refills available for purchase separately this would be holy grail material. The Trish Curler has the best feel in my hands. I have small fingers and while most eyelash curlers are virtually identical in shape and size, I sometimes find it difficult to hold some because of the angles or size of the handles. The pad has a medium density which I find ideal for getting a consistently even curl on both eyes by applying slight pressure. The pads last quite a long time and clean easily. I've repurchased numerous times. I find the Trish method of application to be helpful (although it might seem like common sense to most): "Position the Eyelash Curler as close to the base of the lashes as possible. Gently squeeze for 10 seconds, then 'walk' the curler out along the length of the lashes, squeezing as you go." I typically only squeeze for 4 seconds before releasing and moving the curler. I find curling the lashes in 3 sections helps get an even natural curl.

Chanel's Eyelash Curler ($34) is one of the newest on the market for the US. It was released in Asia a year ago, is made in Japan, and comes with 2 replacement pads. The Chanel curler comes in all black and out of all the curlers I've seen, the Chanel has the sleekest most sophisticated look. It has a very similar feel to the Trish McEvoy with an almost identical curve. The Chanel pad is thicker and stiffer but not too stiff. The curler gives a very good curl. For me, there is just one problem. Having black lashes with a black eyelash curler makes it very difficult to see exactly what I'm curling. The dark color of my lashes blends with the curler no matter what lighting I use. This requires a magnified mirror for me to see what I'm curling. This isn't too big of a problem though - if I start at the base of my lashes, I can see where to place the first curl and then work my way to the tips in three evenly spaced squeezes. Still I wouldn't use this if I were in a rush, the Trish and Le Métier work just as well and I don't have to look super closely to know what I'm curling.

Le Métier de Beauté's Eyelash Curler ($18) is finally available for sale at Neiman Marcus stores. For a while it was only available as a gift with purchase at various locations. This curler has the most curve out of all three that I'm reviewing in this post. It also has the softest most cushy pad I've ever tried. This was something I was not used to when I first tried it. Being softer I found that my first attempts gave me an uneven curl on both eyes as I was not able to apply consistent pressure. I was able to achieve a nice curl easier than ones with stiffer pads, but the result was uneven. After a bit of practice I was able to get used to the softer pad and have fallen in love since. A softer pad means that this curler doesn't last quite as long. I believe a replacement pad is included.

My general eyelash curler thoughts: I've been told that one needs to replace pads every 3-4 months and the actual curler every 9 months. I find the pads do wear down but am not always good about replacing consistently. I do clean after every 2-3 uses with makeup remover. For the actual curler, I'm equally bad about replacing. I've been told that the alignment of the hinges goes out after use which is why replacement pads are not sold for a number of brands. I always thought this seemed like a marketing scheme, but have noticed that replacing the curlers about once a year does make a difference when you compare a used one to a brand new one.

For more resources, tips and insights, I recommend these:
  • The Non-Blonde's review on Le Métier de Beauté's Eyelash Curler
  • Café Makeup's beautiful review and comparisons on Chanel and Le Metier (these are a must-read!)
  • Thoughts on replacement frequency, cleaning tips, brand comparisons see the Q&A at Sephora.com

What's your favorite eyelash curler?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Burberry Eye Brushes No. 09 Socket Line Brush & No. 10 Definition Liner Brush

I've been eagerly waiting for Burberry to release their full line of eye brushes. If you've been to a Burberry counter at one of the few select Nordstrom locations, you will notice they have a full range of face and eye makeup brushes for use, but to date, there are only four available for sale: the mini face brush ($52), No. 09 Socket Line Brush ($38), No. 10 Definition Liner Brush ($32) and No. 11 Eye Shaper Brush ($38). Visit  Nordstrom.com - Burberry Beauty for more details.

Top is No. 09, Bottom is No. 10

I picked No. 09 a fluffy black-bristled brush and No. 10 a pointed smudge brush during Nordstrom's Trend Show at South Coast Plaza last month. The brushes are beautifully crafted with sleek long handles in black and dark silver. Both of the brushes I picked up are made in France. The bristles are very soft and feel gentle when brushed on the skin. The size of the handles are perfect - not too long and not too chubby. They feel very nice in the hands and are easy to hold.



Burberry Eye Brush No. 09 is very similar to a number of other fluffy brushes. Compared to MAC, Stila and Edward Bess, the Burberry is the least dense, but most similar to Stila's #9. It still has enough bristles in it to allow control, but this is best suited for blending colors on the lid or for a very soft wash of color. I personally prefer something a bit denser to apply color better, but the Burberry is still lovely, although not a must-have for me since there are other similar options from other brands.



Burberry Eye Brush No. 10 is a soft pointed detail brush good for the corners of the eyes or for smudging darker colors. It's very soft making this ideal for those with sensitive eyes. This works beautifully with the darker Burberry eyeshadows to create a soft smokey eye by blending out darker shades to soften harsh edges.



Have these made it into my favorites list? (My must-haves were featured here last February.) They are well-made and very high quality, but since I have a sizeable collection of brushes, I didn't find these to be must-haves. I personally believe there are brushes out there that are less expensive that will achieve the same result. However, if you are looking to expand your brush collection the brushes by Burberry are still worth looking at if you have a Burberry counter near you. I personally won't buy brushes without being able to touch/test in person first, had I not been able to see these in person I would have not purchased them. Still, if you are able to go to a counter, you will see that the brushes are aesthetically pleasing and have a functional design with well crafted bristles for flawless makeup application.

A few other great resources to check out in case you've missed them. Café Makeup has photographed the entire brush line here and reviewed two of the eye brushes here. The Non-Blonde has reviewed No. 11 here.

Overall, I like, but don't love. I simply have too many brushes as it is. I have used both for a few weeks now, both have gone through one brush-washing. Still, Burberry Beauty's brush line shows promise, especially if they release the other brushes for sale. I have my eye on a few already and am eagerly waiting for their release. The brushes by Burberry are soft, well designed, delicate and gentle but not flimsy. I think many will find them great staple tools.
 

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