Sunday, July 05, 2015

Current Beauty Favourites

It feels like it's about time to share some recent beauty favourites with you guys. They're almost all new discoveries except for one old favourite that's made a comeback - so I'll start with the makeup first. While I was still overseas Australis released limited edition metallic cream eyeshadows that are dupes for the Stila Magnificent Metal shadows, but unfortunately by the time I got back to Australia I couldn't find them anywhere. I desperately hoped they'd bring them back because I'm obsessed with intense glittery eyeshadows but haven't been able to justify spending $47 on one of the Stila ones (and probably never will tbh.) My prayers were answered when they not only made them permanent but introduced new shades as well. As soon as I heard the news I actually went to the effort of phoning a few Pricelines around me to check that they had them in stock and went straight out to buy them that weekend. There are 6 shades in the line and I have four of them (there's also a plum and a dark silvery grey that aren't really my thing) and apart from them being absolutely gorgeous they also have hilarious names like Plum Diddy and Jay-Zed. They're under $10 each and I can't recommend them enough! And I believe the Australis website offers international shipping too. Speaking of intense glitter, I bought a small MAC Glitter in Antique Gold and neither words nor photos can do justice to how beautiful this is. My glitter obsession is never stronger than when it comes to blackened gold shades like this, so buying it and wearing it and just gazing lovingly at it scratches the itch - and I know I'm not alone when I say weird things like that!

My favourite new lipsticks lately have been the Giorgio Armani Rouge D'Armani Lipstick in 400 and Urban Decay's Revolution Lipstick in Shame. Of all the red lipsticks I have in all the varying shades, I think my favourites are the blood-of-your-enemies intense dark reds like these two. I think they really flatter my colouring (pale af skin with dark brown hair) and they make me feel like a badass, which is exactly what a good lipstick should do. Both of these lipsticks have excellent formulas, in fact I could put either of these on in the morning and not worry about touching them up until after I've eaten lunch around 1-2pm. The Armani lipstick looks like it would be matte in the bullet but it glides on like butter and has this sheen that gives it a beautiful depth of colour. As much as I'd love to come up with a different word to describe the way this looks on the lips, there is no more appropriate word than juicy. It makes your lips look juicy and amazing and I LOVE IT. As for the Urban Decay, I adore the formula of their Revolution Lipsticks and Shame is this incredible dark, dark red-berry. It's really difficult to find ultra-dark reds that don't lean too purple or too brown, but this lipstick with a red liner underneath or a red gloss on top will make you feel the same kind of flawless as Beyonce.

For complexion I've been all over the Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer which has a beautiful formula, excellent shade range and a great applicator to boot. Lightweight, very pigmented and easy to blend, it works great under the eyes as well as around the face so it seriously rivals the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. I have oily skin and recently I decided to test out all of my primers to see which ones actually help my makeup last longer and I was pretty surprised to find that the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm was one of the best performers. I'd used it for years but a while back I decided it was aimed at dry/dehydrated skin and couldn't possibly do what I need it to do. But when I tried it out again I really did notice a difference in the staying power of my makeup, a lot more so than with many of the silicone based primers I have. It's funny because you hear that it can make your foundation break up if you use a water-based primer and a silicone based foundation or vice versa and that you should stick to one type at a time. I looked into this a bit more and literally every foundation I own is silicone based, as is almost every primer, and yet this works better than most of them. So I'd take that advice with a pinch of salt because there aren't many water-based products out there anyway, but in this case I am well & truly back on the Beauty Flash Balm bandwagon.

When it comes to skincare, I am head over heels for the Antipodes Joyous Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum. My first experience with facial oils was about two years ago with rosehip oil which everyone talks about like it's the second coming of Christ but it took me a while to figure out that it was giving me cystic acne, so needless to say we are NOT friends. A while back Antipodes released two different sets of mini serum/oil + moisturiser duos so I picked up the set with this oil (as the other one contains the devil rosehip) and with a few weeks of clear skin behind me I decided to once again dip my toes in the pool of facial oils and it was love at first use. I remember waking up the following morning and looking at my face and something was different. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but then I realised - I wasn't shiny. As someone with oily skin it's not unusual for me to wake up with a shiny face as my skin keeps producing sebum overnight but using a facial oil has helped balance out my skin and I've found that I'm actually less oily than before. I certainly still have oily skin, but I really feel like this helps take it down a notch, and it makes sense when you think about your face producing sebum (oil) the same way your scalp does - the less you wash you hair (remove sebum) the less often you need to, and the more you remove it the more it will produce. Obviously I'm not going to stop washing my face, but if I add back the oil I'm taking away then my skin will need to produce less of it to replenish what it's lost. And of course water-based hydrating serums and moisturisers are going to affect dehydration (lack of water) and facial oils are going to address dryness (lack of oil) or balance having too much oil. Everyone's skin is different so I can't guarantee this will work for you but it certainly has worked for me!

I've also loved the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm. I'm not big on Clinique skincare but they really hit the nail on the head with this one - it's got a beautiful smooth texture that completely melts as soon as it hits the skin. It's also unscented and although my skin doesn't mind a bit of fragrance and I do find that adds to the experience, this is still a wonderful product and it'd be great for those of you with sensitive skin. For lip balm I've been really into the Episilk Lip Balm with hyaluronic acid. I bought this completely blind, having never heard about it before but I was intrigued by the fact that it has hyaluronic acid in it which is very common in skincare but not something I've seen in a lip balm. I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't have the most sexy packaging or name, but it's a great, effective lip balm with a simple ingredients list that has been really helping with my dry lips in this cold weather. I doubt anything will surpass the Nuxe Reve de Miel for me but sometimes you need something with a more lightweight texture and this has been my go-to lately.

I recently picked up the Real Techniques Sculpting Brush set, not for sculpting mind you as I've never contoured a day in my life, but because I'd heard the sculpting brush was good for foundation and the setting brush good for under the eyes and all the rumours are true. The sculpting brush is particularly great because you can use the point for getting in around the nose and then use the larger flat side for covering the rest of the face very quickly. And since we're on the topic of tools, I've got to mention the Muji Cotton Buds - I know, how sad can you get? But these tiny little cotton buds are great for fixing up your eyeliner or mascara when it gets all over your eyelid (i.e. all the time!) Yes they're completely unnecessary and regular cotton buds do the job just fine but here we are. They're smaller and nicer to use and they're just so little and cute.

A couple more things that aren't pictured - I recently got the Deep Steep Sugar Scrub and I really like it. It's what those in-shower body conditioners wish they were. Made with shea butter and coconut oil, the sugar particles dissolve on your skin as you scrub and you're left with slightly oily, hydrated skin even when you get out of the shower. If that sounds like a nightmare to you then this obviously won't be up your street, but if you're lazy like me and ceebs moisturising your body after you get out of the shower then this is excellent. I've also been absolutely L O V I N G doing my hair in twist braids before going to bed. I'm far too lazy to heat style my hair so this is perfect for me and I feel like I've found my thing that I'll be sticking with for years to come. Now, my hair will never have the super-human amount of volume that this girl's does, and furthermore a blunt fringe and excessive volume in the hair actually looks kind of crazy, but if you've got long hair give this a try because it might change your life like it did mine! I also feel like I need to link to Sally Hughes' In The Bathroom feature with Caroline Hirons in case anyone hasn't seen it that might like to. It's actually an hour long interview followed by an hour of digging through Caroline's skincare stash so it's basically skincare porn for weirdos like me (us.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

International Beauty: Best of the USA

Continuing on with my International Beauty series (check out my French Skincare post if you missed it) next stop is the States. With Sephora opening in Sydney at the end of last year and Mecca going from strength to strength, there are very few brands and products that we still can't get our hands on over here, but they do exist and when you can't have something you want we all know it only makes you want it more. I have mentioned some brands/products in this post that we can now get at Sephora, but since most of the country can't get their hands on them and there are lots of brands that are still unavailable in the UK/EU I thought I'd include them anyway. So if you're into beauty and you're planning a trip to the States, here are some things you can't miss!

First up, the Lorac Pro Palette - this bad boy has done the rounds and has been all over blogs and youtube since it was released, but it's for good reason. Available in ULTA stores, this palette contains 8 matte and 8 shimmer shades and they're all beautiful and very high quality. I don't think I need to say much about this palette because you've probably heard about it a million times and it may already be on your wishlist. Another brand that is, as far as I know, unavailable outside of the US is Fresh, who make lovely tinted & clear lip balms. These are pretty expensive for what they are but I can't deny that they're lovely and I actually use the tinted berry shade far more than I thought I would. I got the lip treatment as a sample with an online Sephora order while I was over there and the tinted balm came in a huge kit of minis. I think they often do mini sets which are a much more cost effective way to try the brand, in fact there's currently a 5 pack of minis that I desperately want to get my hands on next time I feel like it's reasonable to spend $36US on lip balm.

Onto the drugstore, Wet & Wild is one of the most affordable brands on the market and the have a serious cult following when it comes to their eyeshadow formula which is very comparable to high end products. Their Comfort Zone palette is a staple and considering it comes in at under $5 it's definitely worth picking up. I also really recommend checking out Milani who have a lot of great products in their line, most notably their baked blushes, their colour statement lipsticks and their shadow eyez pencil in almond cream which makes for a great neutral base.

Now, I have a lot of feelings about liquid eyeliner (lol) and I need to take a moment to express my profound level of love and appreciation for NYC's Liquid Liner which I absolutely insist you buy if you have the brand available to you. I wear liquid liner every day and I have very high expectations - it needs to be properly black and it needs to stay completely immaculate and in place until I decide it's time to take it off. No smudging, no flaking, no fading, no transferring to my upper lid. It's also very much a functional product for me (like cotton pads or bobby pins) - I know there are products that can perform the way I need them to and I know I can get them for a few dollars, so it's one of the few areas where I'm not interested in luxury because I don't want to have to spend $30 every few months re-stocking. I used to rely on Heng Fang (a Chinese brand I could buy for $1 a tube on eBay) for years until I couldn't find it anymore, but then this NYC liquid liner came into my life when I ran out of liner while on holidays. They have a pen in their range as well (don't bother, it sucks) but I prefer the bottle style liners anyway because you can get more product as you need it and I find pens tend to dry out quicker. I also have no time for gel liner because I haven't found one that really performs, and I'm not interested in setting my liner with black eyeshadow because I don't think I should have to. It took me a bit to get used to the thin, flexible brush tip (the Heng Fang one was a firm felt tip) but as long as you're careful it's actually a lot more precise and I can get a thinner line with it. I have been using the same tube for months and it's still going strong, and I have two backups that I bought before I came home so I'm set for a while, but in case I haven't been clear enough, this liner is $2.99US and if you can find it, you need to buy it.

Somewhere in the middle of drugstore and high end is Sonia Kashusk, whose line is only available at Target in North America but their Eye on Neutral Matte Palette is one of my favourite and most relied-upon palettes. It's got 12 neutral matte shades that apply and blend beautifully so you're covered when it comes to crease shades for every look you can think of. If you have either of the Naked Basics palettes by Urban Decay and you find them invaluable, this has double the shades so it's at least twice as good (yay maths!) and it's super versatile and great for travel. If you're in the states you can't really go past a look at Bath & Body Works for their candles and fun scented hand sanitisers. I love candles but they one of the least travel friendly items to buy so I only picked up a few and I'm trying to make them last. And I don't care one way or the other about hand sanitiser but when I'm faced with pumpkin spice and pecan waffle flavours I'm going to bite.

Now for products you may or may not be able to get your hands on depending on where you live, you really can't go past Tarte's Amazonian Clay Blushes which have a fantastic formula and a come in a tonne of beautiful shades. Their Tartelette palette (not pictured) is also unmissable if you are able to get your hands on it, and I'm a big fan of their Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Foundation. I haven't tried much from Make Up For Ever but I do love their Full Cover Concealer which has an awesome lightweight, high coverage formula that works just as well under the eyes as it does on the rest of the face. Bite Beauty have a huge range of lip products and they also have double ended minis at Sephora in the US, and although I haven't tried it myself I've heard amazing things about their Agave Lip Mask which is on my wishlist. Kat Von D is actually a really strong makeup line - her Tattoo Liner seems to be everyone's favourite and I did try out a mini of it and it meets all of my requirements except in terms of price, at $28AUD I can't justify buying a new one all the time but if you're happy to spend the cash it's a good one. I also really like her lipstick range and I'm really curious to try her Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks too. Speaking of liquid lipsticks, an absolute non-negotiable for anyone who wears red lipstick is the Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 01 Always Red. I heard they've expanded the line to include some more shades in the US so I'm praying they come to the Sydney store soon.

Josie Maran is widely available in Australia now through Mecca/Kit Cosmetics, but off the top of my head I don't think you can get her products in the UK/EU, so if you're heading across the pond from there her Coconut Watercolour Cheek Gelee blushes are gorgeous, and I've just recently picked up the light version of her Argan Oil too. And finally, just as a general recommendation, if you want to pick up anything from MAC or Clinique I've found them to be two of the most overpriced brands in Australia when you compare what they cost in the US. For example, a MAC Lipstick will set you back $16US, $36AUS, £15.50 or €19.00 - a little ridiculous, right? Also if you're looking at drugstore products they are generally way cheaper in the US and they often have a lot more shades available, particularly if you're looking for foundations. So if you're a bit makeup crazy like me and you're heading to the US anytime soon I hope this helps!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

International Beauty: Best of French

Having recently travelled around the world trying makeup and skincare products far and wide I thought I'd start a little series on my blog about products to check out when you're overseas, especially because some of them can be near-impossible to get your hands on back home. First up is of course France, my favourite country which is famous for their excellent yet affordable skincare. A lot of it is available either in Priceline or online these days, but it's definitely cheaper in France and there's a much wider range from every brand. Most of these products won't come as any surprise to those of you who are already fans of affordable French skincare, but it doesn't hurt to cover the basics. The best place to go in Paris for these brands is definitely City Pharma, located around the corner from Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain, I made a point of stopping by several times. It's the most ridiculously busy pharmacy (or pharmacie) I've ever been in but it's super well stocked, has the best range and surprisingly has the best prices too. If only I lived a few metro stops away and could visit any time I wanted.

La Roche Posay
Everyone is probably sick of hearing about it so I'll be quick, but you really can't go past LRP's incredibly popular Effaclar Duo+. You can use it either in place of your moisturiser or underneath it (depending on your skin) and with salycilic acid in the formula, it helps to gently keeps acne at bay while the niacinamide helps reduce the appears of acne scars. I think I'm onto my fourth tube now - the love is real. You will probably also have heard of the famous Serozinc which unfortunately isn't available in Australia and cannot be ordered online due to shipping restrictions. This is slighly different to your average water mist though, it contains zinc sulfate which is meant to be anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and sebum-regulating all in one. Whether or not this changes your life, it's got a lovely fine mist and a continual spray so it's a very convenient option for my hydrating toner step, and I will happily repurchase it if I get the chance. I also love their Toleriane moisturiser which is a lovely, no frills everyday moisturiser. There's nothing overly luxurious about this product but it's an excellent staple that's hydrating without being too rich, so it's perfect for mornings because it doesn't leave my face feeling greasy when I'm about to put on my makeup. It's also fragrance free (as most of their products are) so it's great if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Their Anthelios XL SPF 50 Extreme Fluide is also a wonderful product - I use SPF every day after my moisturiser, and just like the Toleriane this doesn't leave me feeling greasy and it's such a lovely thin consistency it doesn't interfere with your makeup or make you feel like you're just piling on more layers. Definitely a good one to check out if you haven't found a facial sunscreen you like because this might just change your mind.

Two classics from Caudalie are the Beauty Elixir and the SOS Thirst Quenching Serum. Although expensive for what it is and very easy to run though, the Beauty Elixir is a lovely hydrating toner option. Alcohol denat is the second ingredient (after water) but it's balanced out by hydrating glycerin and an array of gorgeous smelling plant oils including rosemary, grape and peppermint that help balance the skin and fight acne. As for the SOS serum, it's a lovely light milky texture that absorbs into the skin quickly and it contains glycerin, hyaluronic acid and anti-oxidant grape water. It may not be enough for those of you with dry skin, but for my oily skin it helps tackle dehydration (which basically everyone suffers from) perfectly well without being too rich or heavy for me and without making me any oilier.

Another standard, cannot-be-omitted French skincare product is Bioderma Sensibio H2O. This product is so iconic it's usually just referred to as Bioderma, which is the name of the brand itself and not the product, but everyone will know what you mean. It's the best micellar water/makeup remover around because it's unscented, feels just like water, leaves no residue and removes makeup in one quick swipe, need I go on? I've tried lots of other micellar waters and although there are some great alternatives on the market this is still number one. A Bioderma product you may not have heard of is the Purifying Concentrate Gentle Peel. A City Pharma salesperson explained this product to me as an every-other-night exfoliating treatment similar to the likes of Liquid Gold (my comparison, not theirs.) Formulated with 15% glycolic acid compared to Liquid Gold's 5%, this stuff does not mess around, though I haven't experienced any irritation or redness while using it which is a wonderful thing. Just in case you're not familiar, glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant that breaks down the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving you with a fresher, brighter complexion. It will help even out your skin tone and texture and can help shift acne scars and unclog pores, what's not to love?

I know I've just said Bioderma's micellar water is the best one around, and it is, but just in case you feel like trying something different, the Vichy version is almost as good, and it's well worth a try if you feel inclined to branch out. I have no complaints about it at all, it just comes down to personal preference and Bioderma is the winner for me, but I'd certainly recommend the Vichy version if you happen to come by it. I know this isn't a particularly sexy product, but I also love their 72 Hour Anti-Perspirant Deodorant. I don't know about 72 hours (???) but it's a very effective antiperspirant which is something I find reasonably difficult to come by and unfortunately I can't even seem to find it online to repurchase.

As far as I'm aware the only place to buy Melvita online that ships it to Australia is and the markup on their products is so exorbitant it had put me off buying anything. But at City Pharma I picked up their Rose Milky Cleansing Oil for €15.90 ($22.50) instead of $39.00 and their Damask Rose Floral Water for €7.90 ($11.20) instead of $32.00 and they're both lovely and well worth buying if you find yourself in the paradise that is City Pharma. They both have a sweet, lightly powdery rose scent, though the oil has more of a rosehip fragrance which is a bit love it or hate it, and I've had a bad experience with rosehip oil in the past so fingers crossed this doesn't break me out, but I really enjoy both products and would love to see the brand more widely available.

I've mentioned it several times before, but you can't beat perfection. The Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm is my favourite lip balm in the world, in fact I finally finished up my first pot (tbh maybe the first lip balm I have ever finished) and am now working away at my second. If you spot this on sale in Priceline you should absolutely pick it up, though it's worth paying full price for too. I also love their Huile Prodiguese dry oil for putting on the ends of my hair and moisturising my legs. It comes in a convenient spray bottle and it's really luxurious and effective - perfect for the cold winter months ahead (ugh.)

Since I'm a long way off trying everything, I thought I'd also include a few products/brands that I hear a lot about and that are on my mental list to check out next time I'm in Paris (wishful thinking here.) I can't actually recommend these products but I'm certainly curious about them - Lotion P50 from Biologique Recherche which is meant to be the mother of all acid toners, Bioderma Sensibio Eau Dermatologique which is their equivalent of LRP's Serozinc, Vichy's Aqualia Thermal Dynamic Hydration Serum and Kloraine's dry shampoo and their regular shampoos & conditioners - if you've tried any of their haircare do let me know what you thought of it!