Thursday, January 26, 2012

Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Beg

Hi Everyone,

Ok, back to our regular programming after the last (fairly heavy) post. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read and respond to it; as I said in the comments there, I really appreciate getting some different opinions to consider, since these are all issues I'm actively mulling over.

In the meantime, I'd like to show you Beg, one of my absolute favorite blushes. You may have noticed me mention it in a couple of recent looks, like my Bette Davis inspired LOTD, and my party look. I think it's such a flattering shade; on Sephora's website, it's described as "muted warm rose", which, after their description of Growl as eggplant, leads me to believe that whoever is doing the color descriptions for Illamasqua on Sephora's site is partially color-blind. That being said, they're not *totally* off; I'd describe Beg as terracotta,  leaning strongly towards orange, but it's got enough red/rosey pink in it to not look completely out of place with cooler red lipsticks or cooler brown eyeshadows. It's a really versatile peach/orange shade, which is surprising, since it looks rather bold in the pan. Like all of the Illamasqua blushes I've had the pleasure to work with, it is very pigmented but easily worn sheer if used with a light hand. It blends beautifully, and stays put as long as any other powder blush does on me; I tend to wear powder blushes over cream blushes if I want a longer-lasting flush. This shade also works really well as a subtle contour, which is kind of how I wore it in the looks I linked to above; I had a lighter shade over the entire cheek, with Beg used on the lower part of the cheekbone to intensify the color without looking like a clown. The shade is matte, but definitely not chalky; the finish is really versatile, and customizable. I can add a pop of shimmer with a highlighter if I want, or leave my cheeks matte for a natural glow. These will set you back $24 USD, and contain .14 ounces of product. I can't imagine going through one of these blushes very quickly, considering how little is really required to get a noticeable flush.

Here's the compact; black plastic with a clear window, no mirror. The color looks pinker in this picture than in real life.

Forgive the black smudge of the Illamasqua symbol, I could not get it off... 

The bottom of the compact; I hate that the shade names rub off of all their products! 

This is a much truer representation of the color:

Illamasqua Blush in "Beg" 

Swatches: Darker on top, blended out on the bottom:

Swatch of Illamasqua Blush in Beg

And here I am wearing it, heavier on the bottom of the cheek, blended out more on the top:

Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Beg

So there you have it! This is one of my favorite blushes; it's easy to wear, and always makes my makeup look more polished and pulled together; perfect for days when I'm in a hurry or not really feeling whatever it is I've done with my eye makeup. Have you guys tried Illamasqua blushes? They're definitely a favorite of mine... A few more in my collection, and (dare I say it?)  they might pass NARS as my favorite blush formula!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Makeup and Ethics

Hi Everyone! As you may have guessed from the titles, this is a brainier post than usual; no swatches today.

Robyn of Stay Beautiful recently blogged about the Lime Crime controversy, and raised what I consider to be a few important questions about our role as bloggers and consumers. I wrote such a long comment on her blog, it got my Theory Student juices flowing, and I felt a bit of a moral imperative to continue the conversation over here. I urge you to go check out her post, and see what other readers have been saying in the comments, if you feel like you need to get caught up on the dialogue. I'm not going to talk about Lime Crime specifically here; I have no experience with the company whatsoever, negative or positive, and the hour of research I did on the situation a month ago made me feel even more confused about what has actually happened. All I know is that many people in the beauty blogging community feel very strongly about the company, and most of what I've read seems to be negative feedback.

Before going any further with this post, I want to make some things clear. I really want to hear what you guys think about these issues. Please disagree with me or question my logic if you hold a different opinion. I firmly believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I would never want to make anyone feel like I'm trying to deprive them of their perspective. My goal is to provide a safe community to express opinions in, where we can expect and deserve respectful, thoughtful responses. I would never want to make anyone feel bad for what they think, and I ask my readers and those choosing to comment to do the same. I have misgivings about using my power to publish or not publish comments as censorship, but I will file especially offensive comments as spam. Luckily, I've never had to do this in the past, and I honestly don't expect to have to do this now.

 Just because we're blogging about largely frivolous things doesn't mean that there aren't deeper issues related to what we do. I know many of my readers are not blogging about beauty, but these issues are relevant to you guys, as well. As bloggers, we act as representatives of a larger makeup consuming community. We are choosing to put out thoughts and opinions that, whether we like it or not, influence other people's opinions. How many times have you felt your heart drop while reading the third or fourth negative review of a product you were initially excited about and planning to buy? And how many times do you choose to spend your money on something else instead, based on what you've read on blogs? Even if we don't individually influence the market enough to make a dent in a company's sales, as a collective force, we have a lot of power, and as individuals, we still bear a lot of responsibility-- responsibility for what we buy as well as what we choose not to buy, for what we blog about, and for what we don't blog about.

I'm not suggesting that before each blog post we sit and do some soul-searching, but I think it's important to just be aware of these things, and keep an open dialogue about these issues.  If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you'll notice that I review products across a range or prices, and that I do not purchase exclusively natural, sustainable, organic products. Nor do I boycott companies that practice animal testing. And believe me, it's not because I don't think about these issues. If there's a product that I need, and I could choose between a natural or synthetic version and they perform identically, I'll choose the natural version. Likewise, if I'm in the same situation choosing between a product that has potentially been tested on animals and one that has not, I'll choose the one that hasn't. However, we cannot know the history of every product that we use, and the simple truth is that companies lie. Many "organic", "natural" products are neither.  Lauren of Green Beauty Blog strives to use natural and green products, and gives a really great explanation of what it really means when a product claims to be organic or natural here.  Similarly, many cruelty-free brands are owned by companies that are not cruelty free, have been owned by these companies in the past, or have been acquired by these companies after developing their cruelty-free products. A lot of technologies employed by cruelty-free companies were developed using techniques that are not cruelty free, and are now being widely employed across the beauty industry. I am not a vegetarian; I am not living a vegan lifestyle. I will take prescription drugs when they are prescribed to me, and I know most of these drugs are developed using animal testing. I'm not saying that there's not a difference between testing a beauty product on an animal and testing a life-saving drug on an animal. There is a huge difference, and it's significant. What I am saying is that it's very difficult to know where to draw the line, and to know just how cruelty free any given product is. I would feel like a hypocrite if I urged you all to stop using brands that are not cruelty free when I go to In-n-Out and have a burger later in the day. What's more, I don't know how these products are manufactured; I don't know beyond a doubt that all the products I buy are being made by adults who are being paid a living wage in healthy working conditions. Who are the major stockholders of the companies that are publicly traded? Who are the individuals benefiting from these companies' success, and do we agree with their actions?

I know it sounds like a cop-out to say that it is too confusing to know when a product is ethical and when it is not, so I'm not going to bother. And that's not exactly what I'm getting at; my point is that these things are very complicated, and it is a very personal decision as to where to draw the line and decide that a company is ethical or unethical, and what that means to how you do business with them. Honestly, I don't think there is a way to declare a company to be ethical or unethical. I think most people think about these issues, even if we don't all go out and do the extensive research to know beyond a doubt if a product meets certain standards or not.

Another issue that isn't raised very often on blogs is how ethical it is to spend money on unnecessary cosmetics when some people cannot afford the basics of life. I think I've told you about the conversation I had with a customer who complimented me on my nail polish; it was a combination of two relatively inexpensive products that I was trying to get to look like a Chanel polish. She felt very strongly that it was unethical to spend the money on a Chanel nail polish and pay for the name. I don't; I just didn't have the money to do that. If someone does, who am I to tell them not to spend it the way they want? Sometimes I feel guilty about my more expensive beauty purchases, but I value quality, whether the product is inexpensive or extravagant. Makeup, for me, is a hobby that I take part in almost every day, and when I treat myself, it's not with expensive shoes or a night out on the town; it's with a lipstick I've been wanting, or a new eyeshadow. How and if we spend our money is a very personal choice.

What do you guys think? Are any of these issues things you've put any thought into? I'm not about to claim that I've reached some sort of decision about how I spend my beauty budget and what types of products I buy, but it's something I am trying to develop a stronger opinion on. I value ethics in beauty companies, but I also value quality, which is an aspect of ethics; I think that, in a way, it's unethical for a company to put out a really clearly, across the board, sub-par product that does not live up to clearly stated claims, and charge money for it. Do you guys even think that any of this is relevant to our interactions with the beauty and cosmetics industries? Or am I over thinking it? (I'm probably over thinking it.)

Living ethically can be defined in a ton of different ways. I don't claim to know which field of thought is best. At the end of the day, I think we can agree that a good ethical foundation involves knowing yourself, being good to yourself, and being kind to others. It's deciding what that means and how to do it that is the challenge. How do we involve our role as consumers and public bloggers in this? I think a good start is to just keep this conversation open and be aware of these issues, even if we haven't quite decided what to do about it. I'm looking forward to hearing some of your opinions!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Illamasqua Lipstick in Growl

I just saw Vulcan Butterfly's review of an Illamasqua lipstick in Pristine, and I thought for sure that I'd taken pictures of Growl... Turns out I had, I just never wrote the post! So here it is, pictures courtesy of last July. I see now why these didn't get posted right away; I didn't get a ton of great shots, but it's a beautiful color and a great product, so I'd hate to see these languish in a folder on my computer.

A word about Illamasqua lipsticks in general; the formula is intensely opaque, not moisturizing, but not drying, either. It hugs lips, meaning it almost has a tight feeling once it's on, although I don't find these uncomfortable to wear. They last a little longer than usual on me, and they do not smear or smudge the way some creamier formulas can; the lipstick stays where you put it. These lipsticks are available through Sephora, and are $22; they contain .14 ounces of product.

Growl is a deep wine-red shade; vampy and dramatic, in the best possible way! On the Sephora website, it's described as matte eggplant; I think it's a bit redder than what I picture when I hear "eggplant", and it might be more of a semi-matte straight out of the tube, though if blotted it gets closer to resembling a true matte.

Illamasqua Lipstick case


Illamasqua Growl

Swatch of Illamasqua's Growl

Illamasqua Lipstick in Growl

Illamasqua Growl

These are great, high quality lipsticks with an expansive shade range; they pair very nicely when layered with gloss if you prefer a shinier finish, but they wear well on their own as well. I know that some people have had mixed results with some of the shades in the range, leading me to believe that the quality may vary, and they certainly aren't cushiony and moisturizing, if that's the type of lip color texture you prefer. That being said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. This is one of three shades I own, and I have had great luck with all three.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Party Look!

Back in the post featuring my "Bette Davis" inspired look, I told you guys that I would definitely do the look again, but perhaps with a couple of tweaks to make it look a little less literal, and a little bit more modern. Well, I went to a holiday party a couple of weeks ago and ended up doing just that! I literally opened up that post, and used the exact same products and instructions featured here. I'm not going to copy and paste all of that; if you've been following the blog, it will be redundant; if not, you'll be able to find all of that by clicking on the links I've provided above. Instead, I'll just highlight the differences. But first, pictures, so you'll have something to refer back to! ;)

So, what's different this time? First off, I blended everything on the eyes a lot more! The shading in the crease isn't nearly as dramatic. Also, I added more shimmer; I used a bit of luminizer on the cheekbones, and I used an Ulta eyeshadow in Sandstone in the crease on top of the other colors to add some shimmer. I also used Urban Decay's 24/7 liner in Midnight Cowboy to highlight the inner corner of my eyes. Finally, I didn't wear as much blush, and I only used NARS' Joyous Red  Lipstick(find a review of the product here!) instead of that unholy concoction of lip products I used in the original. Actually, I may have added a bit of Bite's lipstick in Apricot on top to make it a little oranger, but I can't remember exactly. Bad blogger, bad!  Oh, and (maybe obviously, from the pictures!), I didn't overdraw my lip line or re-draw my freckle as a beauty mark.

As for the outfit, I wore a green knit dress, crocheted black tights (they had a kind of art-deco diamond pattern!) and patent leather t-strap heels; you can kind of see my jewelry in the pictures, sparkly gunmetal beads and faux pearl studs. The outfit had a little bit of a retro feel that I thought the makeup complimented nicely. I tried to take pictures of my outfit as I was running out the door, but they came out terribly, otherwise I would show you guys! Suffice it to say that I was delightfully overdressed, and thrilled with the opportunity to wear this dress again; I've had it for a couple of years and probably only worn it 3 times, even though it's the handy kind you can dress up or dress down, and this gorgeous green to boot.

Monday, January 16, 2012

NARS Lipstick in Joyous Red

You know I had to have Joyous Red, released with NARS Holiday 2011 collection. I am such a sucker for NARS' lipstick formula, especially their red shades! Joyous Red is a semi-matte finish with fine gold shimmer throughout the orange-red base. It really does look warm and festive, which is very fitting for its name. On the NARS website, this is described as Amber Red, which is accurate, if ambiguous. Their lipsticks are $24 and come with .12 ounces of product. I find this to be a very comfortable formula; it isn't drying, but the product is firm enough that it doesn't slip around or smear once it's on my lip; it stays where I put it! It's also opaque enough that a thin coat is plenty, and will stay put for a few hours (which for me is average), and I can't feel it on; my lips feel like my lips, not like they're coated with anything, which is one of the reasons this is probably my favorite lipstick formula. It's just really comfortable to wear!

Basic NARS lipstick case

Joyous Red! 

Joyous Red: the lipstick bullet

Swatch of Joyous Red on the skin; enlarge to see the shimmer!

Wearing NARS Joyous Red lipstick

NARS Joyous Red Lipstick

I love this color, it's a great addition to my collection of red lip colors! It's not a vampy, in-your-face red, and I think it leans coral enough that it will be great for summer as well, even though it was released as part of a holiday collection. And I love the subtle shimmer in the semi-matte base; it adds a really nice bit of texture to an otherwise basic finish.  What do you guys think of it? Did any of you succumb to holiday collections?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

NARS Velvet Matte: Train Bleu

Hi guys,

I realized I've had these photos on my computer since August and I never got around to writing up this post! You may remember that I picked up NARS' Velvet Matte lip pencil in Train Bleu when I was in Las Vegas; it was released as part of their Fall 2011 collection, but is now part of the permanent collection. It is available through NARS' website, and is $24; they come with .086 ounces of product. For a more detailed explanation of the texture and packaging of this formula, you can go back and see my review of Damned; however, I'll give you a rundown of the basics. The formula is creamy and non-drying, despite being a truly velvety looking matte lip color. This is, hands down, one of my favorite matte formulas (another stand-out being Revlon's matte lipsticks...). However, the packaging could use some work; the two major drawbacks are that you lose product when you sharpen the pencil, and that the cap has a penchant for popping off (especially in my purse...) when it's jammed on too quickly. You kind of have to ease it back on and then watch to see if it settles up higher than where you pushed it too. If not, you're safe! I wish that NARS would re-release these as a twist-up automatic pencil, but the formula is so creamy, I wonder if a stick of this would even hold its shape without the support of the pencil.

Moving on, Train Bleu is a very dark eggplant purple, much cooler than a lot of these deep blackberries that we regularly see. It's a bit of a tricky color since it's so dark; I find that this shade emphasizes any imperfections on the lip or in application. Worn as intended, it is a completely opaque shade; however, it's just as lovely (and more wearable) blotted to a sheer stain.

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Train Bleu

Train Bleu

Swatch of Train Bleu; blended out on the right

Train Bleu worn three ways:

Blotted and worn sheer:

Train Bleu blotted

Close up of blotted Train Bleu 

Worn sheer with clear gloss over it!

Train Blue + clear gloss

Closeup of Train Bleu with clear gloss

And worn opaque:

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Train Bleu

NARS Train Bleu
What do you guys think of this? I love having this shade, I wore it constantly for about a month, and now I haven't touched it in probably two months. Doesn't it always happen that way? It's so much fun to wear, I'm sure it'll wind up back in the rotation sooner or later. It's definitely not a perfect product, but I'm very fond of it and would recommend it to anyone who wants a lip product in this shade, as long as they're willing to give their lips some tlc before wearing it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

NOTD: Wet n Wild Megalast in Haze of Love

Hi everyone! I'm just typing up a quick post to show you a nail of the day. I wanted a quick manicure last week and remembered about Haze of Love, a Wet n Wild Megalast color that I picked up for 50% off during CVS' clearance sale. I'd never used this formula before, but it was pretty basic. I didn't have any issues with it, but there was nothing about it that was outstanding, either. The brush was a bit wider than I expected, especially given the fact that this was such a small bottle of nail polish! These are regularly priced at $1.99 and have .3 ounces of polish in each bottle.

Haze of Love is a cream finish reddened berry color with some definite purple tones in it, and it wore about average on me; I got a couple of days of nice chip-free color, and then chips started appearing before all hell broke loose. This is normal for me and my weak nails that find a way to peel or snag on anything they can, especially since I use my nails as tools to peel labels off of things, scrape off price stickers, etc...

Wet n Wild Haze of Love

Haze of Love

The brush!

Haze of Love in direct, bright light

I really like this shade, I'm happy I was able to get it on sale! It's a nice, less-vampy version of my go-to burgundies, but isn't a traditional "bright" berry color, either. My only real complaint is the short, wide cap; it makes it a bit awkward to paint nails with the brush, but it's not a huge deal.

And, because I am a dork, here is a kitty picture! LJ has been getting a lot of attention here; I felt like Finnegan (the pale orange tabby) and Miranda (the fluffy black-haired cat) were long overdue for their 15 minutes of fame. They like to snuggle, and it is so cute! I adopted them together as kittens, so they are very comfortable with one another. LJ was my boyfriend's lone cat, and so there has been some tension as we try to integrate our cat-family.

Finnegan and Miranda, snuggle-buddies
Haha, thank you for humoring me and putting up with the occasional cat picture!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

LOTD: Bette Davis Eyes

So, if you have been following this blog for awhile and paying very close attention, you probably know of my reverence for (read: idolization of) Bette Davis. I think the woman is possibly the best actress we've ever seen on the silver screen, and I love her unique beauty. I even cited her as one of my fashion icons in this post.  So, it's only natural that I would want to do a look inspired by her. I've been having a bit of a relaxing break this week, so I've been playing around with makeup when I don't have to go out; I thought it was high time to have a go at this! Now, this is only my first try, and I can totally see this being a look that I'd like to perfect. But overall I'm pleased with the way this turned out!

I've gathered a few pictures of Ms. Davis throughout her career for reference. Shall we have an ooh and aaahhh over them? She started making films in the late twenties and continued working up through the eighties. Most of the films (and fashions) that are my favorites of hers are from the late thirties and the forties. She's known ignoring her cupid's bow and painting her lipstick straight across her upper lip, and her big, dramatic eyes.

Late 1920's? Early 1930's? 
Using my handy-dandy costumer skills, I'm dating this one to the early to mid 30's. But don't take my word for that! 
Bette Davis in 1935
I'm guessing this is All About Eve era, so ~1950-ish
Bette Davis in 1942
Aaaaand me, circa 2012! 
Ok, that last one was a joke!

With all of this black and white, I had to decide which colors I wanted to go with in my interpretation of her makeup; I decided to go with orange tones and warm browns, as a nod to her fiery personality! However, having made this decision, I immediately want to go back and do a version with a cooler red lipstick and smokey greys and cool browns. Because my favorite films of hers are from the late thirties and the forties, this look is meant to evoke that era more than the harsh 1920's or pinup 50's. I drew inspiration from the film noir atmosphere, too! I focused on creating a heavy, uniform canvas on my skin to emulate the heavier foundations of the era, and I concentrated eye color narrowly in the crease and in eyeliner. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, here's the look!

First off, the goods:
They don't look particularly retro, but they'll do for now!

Face: Covergirl Natureluxe Silk Foundation applied fairly heavily, with Hard Candy Glamoflage used to provide extra coverage on cheeks (to hide my natural blush!), around the jawline, across the nose, on the eyelids, and under the eyes. This gave me a pretty uniform pastiness! Then Physician's Formula Color Correcting Powder in Translucent was dusted lightly all over the face with my EcoTools finishing kabuki brush. I used the same brush to dust Benefit Georgia on my cheeks and up to my hairline, and then with the same brush, I put Benefit Hoola on the sides of my face to deepen the shadows. I used my fluffy Sonia Kashuk blush brush to lightly dust Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in Explosed on the cheeks, and then I used the tiny blush brush by Sonia Kashuk to put Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Beg on the apples of my cheeks, pulling the color back toward the hairline.

Eyes: I used Urban Decay Primer Potion on my eyelid, then with the MAC 226 I dusted WnW eyeshadow single in Brulee over the entire eyelid. From the UD Naked Palette, I put Naked on the lid, and Buck into the crease with the same 226 brush. I followed that by adding some e.l.f eyeshadow in Pebble in the crease. L'Oreal Infallible Eyeshadow in Continuous Cocoa was focused on the very deepest part of my crease with the MAC 219, and then I used Revlon's Vintage Lace as a highlight under the brow bone and dusted lightly around the edges of the eyes. NYX Jumbo Eyeshadow Pencil in Yogurt went on the inner corner. I used the 226 again to put just a little bit of NARS Lola Lola on the corner of my eyes. I lined my top and bottom lashes with UD's 24/7 liner in Corrupt and smudged it with the 226 brush, avoiding the inner eye. I finished it off with Prestige My Biggest Lashes mascara in Very Black on top and bottom lashes. Obviously I don't have the thin, curved brows that were in vogue during this period, but I filled them in with Prestige Brow Perfection pencil and shaped them with the spoolie on the back of the pencil and Anastasia Brow Gel in Caramel, trying to de-emphasize the arch.

Lips: I used a Sephora lip pencil in Real Red to line and fill in my lips, overdrawing the lip a bit and de-emphasizing the cupid's bow. And here's where the crazy sets in... I couldn't find the perfect deep orangey-red lip color in my collection so I decided to layer colors until I got the shade I wanted. I can't tell you how much of any one color went into the end result, but I used a lip brush and applied some unholy combination of Bite lipstick in Apricot, NARS lipstick in Joyous Red and Viridiana, and Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Chocolate Cherry. And I re-drew a freckle by my lip that had been covered up by the heavy foundation and concealer with the UD 24/7 liner in Corrupt. I felt like I needed to play that up as a beauty mark, given the look I was trying to evoke!

The look! 

From a different angle! 

Eye close-up! 

Open eye close-up!

The lips 
So there you have it! Would I do it again? Yes! I actually really like this look! I think I'd update it a little bit to wear it out, though; I'd probably use fewer lipsticks, not overdraw the lip line (or add the beauty mark, hah!), soften the foundation, and blend the crease color a little more. I might also add a bit of shimmer, either as a cheek highlight or somewhere on the eyes, to make it look a little more modern, a little less like stage makeup. But I had a lot of fun with this, and hope to do more vintage and retro-inspired looks in the future! (that sounds like the beginning of a time paradox...) I am thinking about doing a similar look for a party on Saturday, I'll let you guys know what I end up doing!