Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 2014 in Perfume: Roses, Orientals & Rose Orientals

I don't review perfumes all that often, mostly because I don't consider myself a connaisseur in any way, shape or form, and I'm always a bit worried about 'getting things right'. But talking about scent shouldn't be prescriptive - so I thought I'd give it a shot this month as I'm going through some of my perfume sample stash. And since I'm clearly a control freak, you get five mini reviews all based around the theme of roses, orientals and rose orientals. Hope you find something that peaks your interest!
Lubin Black Jade, 2011 (top: galbanum, bergamot, cardamom; middle: rose, jasmine, incense and cinnamon; base: sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean, amber)

This is the first niche perfume I've ever tried; the story of how it came to be is that my dad participated in some conference for Polish enterpreneurs, and one of the speakers was a lady who founded a chain of perfumeries specializing in independent and niche fragrances. He was given two little sample vials to take home and he kept them for a couple months until Christmas to pass on to me, knowing that I was interested in perfume. It always touches me how thoughtful he was to give it to me.

Since I've tried it for the first time around the Holidays, I now associate Black Jade with cold, snowy nights outside and a glowing fire on the hearth. It's described as a modern floral chypre but to me it's more of a floriental, with a big, tart, almost cherry-like rose, some powerful jasmine akin to Thierry Mugler Alien, and lots of sweetness on the drydown. I like how the rose is magnified with spices, especially cardamom (and doesn't rose and cardamom remind you of the creamy Indian dessert?) and a touch of incense somewhat reminiscent of Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois. I mostly get gentle vanilla with sandalwood towards the end (about 6 hours in), and I love that. Quite a beautiful, enveloping and sophisticated fragrance.

Jo Malone Red Roses, 2001 (mint, red rose, violet leaf, lemon)

Yes, it literally smells like a bouquet of roses straight from the florist. I initially quite disliked this perfume thinking it rather old school, but after revisiting it almost a year later I came to appreciate it for the simple soliflore it is. I don't get much citrus in this rose but I do get the green: crushed leaves and some of that geranium tomato scent, quite close to rose otto actually. I wouldn't buy a full bottle as I ultimately prefer the rose note as a part of a bigger composition, but I enjoyed it: it brought back the memory of my mother's lacque jewelry box, where among strands of necklaces and mismatched ear clips she kept a single vial of genuine rose oil, the scent of which emanated every time she would lift the lid. Exceptional staying power.

Missala Qessence, 2011 (top:  saffron, coriander, cinnamon, chamomile, tagetes and orange; middle: damask rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, iris and elemi; base: olibanum, patchouli, oakmoss, musk, agarwood, vetiver, sandalwood, virginia cedar, vanilla, cashmeran, labdanum and cyperus esculentus)

While Red Roses can be described as a bit too simplistic, for me Qessence is definitely a case of 'too much of a good thing'. I feel sorry that I don't like this fragrance more, because the staff of Mrs Missala's perfumery, whom I mentioned in the review of Black Jade, was nothing short of amazing when I visited the boutique in Warsaw's Marriott hotel back in 2011. But Qessence does not agree with me. I've seen it described on Polish frag blogs as a symphony of the most precious notes in perfumery, but it's more like a cacophony to me. On my skin, it's quite linear, and the base notes of patchouli, cedar and frankincense eclipse the floral heart of the fragrance. Individual accords keep fighting each other for a prime spot, giving me a massive headache. Qessence is also incredibly tenacious, lasting beyond an evening bath and well into the next day (sic!). More reviews in English can be found on Fragrantica here.


Menard L'eau de Kasaneka, 2004 (top: ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, basil, bergamot and orange; middle: carnation, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang ylang and Japanese rose (Hamanasu, Rosa rugosa); base: ambrette seed, cedar, sandalwood, vetiver and vanilla)

Quite a delightfully refreshing rose oriental, with an invigorating spicy kick from ginger and orange at the opening. While I have no idea what Hamanasu smells like in real life (or maybe I do - looks suspiciously alike Rosa canina, so maybe I've smelt it and just assumed it was dog rose?), I can tell you that this rose is more heady and sweeter, not as green nor earthy. There's almost a fruity quality to this fragrance that reminds me of lychee, with an undercurrent of the overripe banana notes of ylang ylang, but the fruit is balanced out with something mysterious, hypnotic, night-blooming. I also get a lot a lot a LOT of vanilla from L'Eau de Kasaneka, with a woody background from the sandalwood. The base reads as warm and glowy, which I deduce is probably the ambrette seed working its magic, but I've never smelt that note separately so it's more of a guess that there's something more in there. Overall, it's maybe a touch too sweet for me, but I think it'd be a good perfume to try for someone just getting into florientals.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant, 2004 (passion flower, sandalwood, red rose, vanilla, saffron, sugar and ginger)

Me and saffron, we just don't mesh well together, so I'm not sure what on Earth made me seek out this sample (no, I know what did: a glowing review in my Perfumes: The A-Z Guide). To me, saffron tastes like paraffin, and smells like the numbing gel they use at the dentist. And since there's a lot of saffron in this, I literally feel my gums go numb when I spray it on; but I tried and tried for the sake of this review and also discerned a fresh white floral note, the sweetness of vanilla and quite a bit of ginger, which makes Safran Troublant smell quite festive and gingerbread-y. For an oriental, I feel that this one has an unexpected lightness while still satisfying the spice craving.

What are your favorite orientals and rose perfumes? What fragrance have you been wearing lately?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Perfect Inner Corner Brightener: Surratt Eyeshadow in Scintillante

The Surratt Artistique Brush Collection launch I attented a couple weeks back was in fact my first time seeing (and swatching!) the range in person. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful shimmery eyeshadows and lipglosses, twinkling at me from the display. But, having admitted to myself that I rarely wear lipgloss, I decided to pick out one eyeshadow - and it just turned out to be the lightest shade in the line-up, Scintillante ($20 for the individual pan 0.06 oz/1.7 g, compact sold separately).


I took a couple photos of the entire counter display but they didn't turn out very well due to the quality of lighting. I was told that the vertical rows of eyeshadows are arranged to suit different skintones from the fairest on the left to the deepest on the right. Another note about the lighting at the Surratt counter in Barneys is the fact that it makes these eyeshadows appear a lot more shimmery (or should I say, sparkly?) than they are in natural light. Can we also look at these lipglosses? Belly said the shimmery blurple one was like magic on your lips. Surratt also has a black gloss in the range, which is meant to deepen the shade of any lipstick you layer underneath it. Very cool!

Some notes on the packaging: all of the powder products in the Surratt range are sold as individual refills (pans only) to reduce excess waste, with compacts available separately. Practically, it means that the price of a single item is higher if you want to have a compact for it (that would probably be the case of an average consumer) but quite reasonable if you don't need the case (I'm assuming that would be most beauty addicts). I didn't purchase the compact, because I intend to store my single eyeshadow in a Z-Palette. While it won't magnetize to the palette, because these pans are resin and not metal, you can either stick the eyeshadow in using the double-sided label provided on the back of your singles, or you could stick a magnet to the back - unfortunately, thus obscuring the label with your shade name.
 
 
You could also just keep your singles as they come, because conversely to most brands who sell individual refills, Surratt eyeshadows have a nifty sliding lid that protects the top of the shadow - I really like this design for how simple and compact it is, and the lid is transparent so you can easily see which shade you're grabbing for.
Enough blabbling about the packaging, let's talk about the product inside. Scintillante is a slightly greyish off-white with an icy gold shimmer. I understand that I may have lost you there, because having grey undertones in what is basically a highlighting shade does not sound good. But IT WORKS. See, on my fair skin, a lot of shimmery/pearly shades that are traditionally used to brighten the inner corners of the eyes are just too dark and/or too warm. On the other hand, pearly white shadows appear too fake and stark. What to do?! I think Troy hit it out of the park with this more muted, very pale white gold shade.






At the counter, Scintillante appeared to be more of a light warm beige with rainbow shimmer. In reality, there aren't many rainbows and unicorn farts going on in this shade; in diffused daylight, it has more of a glowy satin finish, similar to my beloved Shiseido Luminizing Satin eyeshadows. I've tried to capture the counter sparkle by taking an out of focus shot in direct sunlight - you can see some lime green, pale pink, orange and gold shimmers there, but these do not translate onto the eye. Probably better for everyday looks, just less fun :/ I find the texture of Scintillante to be similar to Shiseido as well, very soft and a touch loose on the brush but with supreme blendability and a finish that melds into the skin beautifully. Surratt's eyeshadows are made in Japan using the proprietory 'slurry' technology, where the liquid pigments are poured into the pans like cake batter and their surface is levelled out (not pressed) to ensure even distribution in the pan. Scintillante may not be the most pigmented shadow I've ever worked with, but it layers well and stays put for the entire day.
Here's a shade comparison for you, using some of my favorite brightening shades. Hopefully you can see that NYX White Pearl is paler and cooler, while Rouge Bunny Rouge Unforgettable Oriole, Fyrinnae Nijiro and MAC Soft Force are all darker, warmer and more golden. I feel that they're also more reflective than Surratt Scintillante, which has a finer, softer glow. I also took a photo of the first three in full sunlight so you could judge the level of shimmer for yourselves.
L-R: Surratt Scintillante, NYX White Pearl, Rouge Bunny Rouge Unforgettable Oriole, Fyrinnae Nijiro, MAC Soft Force


Here's a close-up of my eye look: I used Scintillante in the inner corners and on the mobile lid, with Rouge Bunny Rouge Champagne Pewter Highlight from the Chronos Eye Shadow Palette on the outer third and along the lower lashline, and Clinique Stone Violet in the crease for subtle definition. I think in this photo you can really see the difference in the larger shimmer of the RBR shadow and the soft brightening effect of Surratt Scintillante.
You could say that Scintillante isn't very exciting, and that's true - but for the purpose of effortlessly highlighting the inner corners of my eyes, it's a fantastic shade to have. I also wore it on my 'no make-up make-up' day with just a touch of brown liner to tightline and no mascara, and my eyes looked fresher and more wide awake. Here I'm wearing the eye look described above with Hourglass Incandescent Electra on the cheeks and a touch of fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Passion on the lips.
All in all, I'm happy with my purchase, even though Scintillante isn't exactly what I was hoping for when swatched at the counter. I'd especially recommend you check out Surratt's range of eyeshadows if you're a fan of the Shiseido shadow formula. What is your favorite shade for brightening the inner corners of the eyes?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Share The Love: Recent Favorite YouTubers

After posting my huge rant about gurus and YouTube beauty community, I've decided to take a page from my own book and start looking for new, more genuine channels to watch in my spare time. In the process, I have in fact unsubscribed from a number of 'big' YouTubers, who were beginning to bring me nothing but poorly veiled commercials and lots of frustration, and in their place discovered some amazing, less popular content creators who put up immensely enjoyable high-quality videos that definitely surpass what I'd been watching thus far. In the spirit of sharing the love, here are my recent favorite channels:

(Oh, I've included screenshots of these ladies' channel pages. Not sure if that's cool with them and legal and all that, but I needed cute graphics :)
Ashley at MakeupTIA (blog: www.that-is-all.com)
You guise, I've finally found a fellow beauty blogger with the same coloring as me! Not that easy to find a fair natural redhead with dark brown eyes out there; apparently it's not the most common genetic mix of features. She even has the same skin type as me (combination, acne-prone and sensitive)! While my hair may not be as fabulously coppery as Ashley's, I can definitely appreciate her recommendations: she's amazingly well-spoken, has a calm, soothing voice and makes beautifully edited, interesting and all around enjoyable videos. Check out her channel if you're a fellow redhead, like natural & green beauty, or are tired of the high-pitched overenthusing from other gurus.
Kristin Gehm
It's often difficult to find a more mature standpoint among all the beauty gurus catering to teenage audiences. Kristin is a beautiful, warm, kind, funny YouTuber whose product recommendations can really be trusted. I enjoy her eyeshadow combination experiments in the '4 Looks 1 Palette' series and swoon over her collection shown via 'Palette Paloozas' (isn't she crafty with her video titles?), but what I love the most are her Stash Status and Products I Am Using Up updates, which are essentialy a video form of the Project Make A Dent. Along the same lines of making good use of your stash and enjoying what you already have, Kristin's Throwback Thursdays and Total Re-Hauls are also some of my most favorite videos on her channel.
Kirsten at ItsKeerstin
Am I the only one confused between Kristin and Kirsten or what? (And that coming from a girl who insists on having her name spelt with a 'k' not 'c' in the middle ;). It's difficult not to love Kirsten's hilarious, high-energy, scatterbrained personality, or her silly catch phrases, inlcuding but not limited to the famous 'eff me in the b-hole'. Since I'm trying to edit down my own make-up collection, I'm the biggest fan of Kirsten's Declutter series. But then, having successfully purged her stash, Kirsten goes shopping, and I love seeing her picks in her long Haul videos. Make-up excitement all around!


Karima McKimmie (blog: Shameless Fripperies, also known as House of Karima)
Absolutely some of the best, most creative and informative make-up tutorials on YouTube; my favorites include the Dramatic Drugstore Makeup Tutorial for a Night Out and the Easiest Winged Eyeliner Tutorial. Karima is full of great tips and products recommendations, especially from less well known brands, like Rouge Bunny Rouge, Kevyn Aucoin or The Make Up Store - which are way more exciting to me than seeing another review of the latest Urban Decay release. I would love to raid her stash one day! Oh well, a girl can dream :)
Marianna at Marianna's Beauty Room (blog: Impression Blend)
I've only discovered Marianna's blog and channel fairly recently but I really enjoy everything she puts up, and I love chatting with her on Twitter. Her videos are the source of many a Lush lemming (even though I've sworn off bubble bars for now) and I also like listening to her answers to the popular tags making rounds on YouTube. Another thing worth mentioning for any bookworm is that Marianna also posts book reviews on her blog, and I'm always down for a good book recommendation.
Sandra at ttsandra (blog: www.ttsandra.com, formerly known as 15 steps then a beauty blog)
I will admit that I mostly watch Sandra for her product picks. I feel that she's quite eclectic in her choices and likes to discover products from new, smaller brands, which I always appreciate. Sandra also has similar skin and hair type to my own (by hair type I mean fine, easily weighted down strands) so I find her recommendations especially useful. Check her channel out if you like good monthly favorites with some unique picks, combined empties & haul videos (what a genius concept!) and natural everyday make-up tutorials.
Maggie at MaggiesMakeupTV (blog: Maggie's Makeup)
Yes, Maggie of the EPIC Makeup Room Tour and Makeup Collection video - seriously, you have not lived as a beauty fanatic until you see that. Maggie has been my blogging friend for a really long time and she's also Polish (living in Canada), so I've always felt a greater affinity between us. I've been really enjoying Maggie's newest Makeup Declutter series, which she had to temporarily put on hold due to some health problems (wishing you a swift recovery, my dear!). Moreover, Maggie puts up lots of wishlist-lengthening haul videos; so in a word, the best of both worlds.
Lauren at Redheadphd
Ha, another redhead! Well, I do what I can to support a vanishing species. Again, lots and lots of fantastic product reviews and recommendations, especially for the curly-haired, lipstick lovers, make-up brush geeks and fragonerds (uhm, perfume enthusiasts, that is). Lauren is another example that you CAN be well-spoken, non-repetitive, informative, clear and precise in a casual YouTube video about beauty products. I just wish she posted more often!

I'm hoping you'll find some new beauty channels to watch among my favorites and if you decide to subscribe to these ladies, do tell them I've sent you - although I'm pretty sure they have no idea who I am, well except for my pals Marianna and Maggie. I have also recently attempted to merge and reorganize some of my social media accounts and platforms, so you can now add me to your Google+ circles as a person, which will enable you to see my newest posts in your feed, or you can follow me on Google+ as a page, which is linked to my YouTube account, where you can find all of my channel subscriptions. No, I have no idea why this Google+ duality is even remotely necessary, but there you go. Now tell me, what are your recent favorite YouTube channels?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Matte Impact: NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Monte Carlo

I realize this blog has been gradually creeping into the high-end territory for the past couple years; you guys may not remember but things were pretty low key on here in the beginning. I think the primary reason for featuring more expensive products recently has been my shift from quantity to quality, which came with the 2 products a month allowance I enforced on myself in January 2013. Not to say that you can't find good quality products in the drugstore - I guess they're just a bit less covetable for me these days. But one of the first affordable brands I've ever written about on Rocaille Writes was NYX, and now I have another product of theirs to show you: the NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Monte Carlo ($5.99 for 0.27 fl. oz/ 8 ml) - so we've come full circle.
I'd been wanting a vampy matte lipstick to add to my collection for fall and while browsing at Ulta (you guys, last week was the first time I've ever set foot in a physical Ulta store - oh, the thrill of it!), I remembered that NYX had a variety of matte lip products in some pretty intense shades. I picked out Monte Carlo (SMLC 10), a deep cool red, although I also had my eye on Copenhagen, which was unfortunately sold out. With some smart usage of store coupons, I scored my new pretty for $2! I think taking advantage of deals and coupons is at least half of the fun of shopping at the drugstore.
I've been reading rave reviews about these Soft Matte Lip Creams for years, but you know that I sometimes tend to shun overly hyped up products. The Soft Matte Lip Creams are in fact liquid lipsticks with a standard doe foot applicator. The consistency is rather dense although the product spreads easily on the lips: in fact, the formula quite reminds me a bit of Fyrinnae Lip Lusters. The NYX Lip Creams smell a bit artificially of a vanilla-flavored pastry, but the scent doesn't linger.

I find that the doe foot applicator comes especially handy in applying the intense shade evenly and precisely along the lip lines. While at first, the Soft Matte Lip Cream formula has a nice slip and creaminess to it, once applied to the lips it sets to a matte finish and doesn't budge. I'd just make sure you're not applying too much product, because it then takes a longer while to set and in the meantime, I managed to get some product on my teeth. To me, since the product actually sets on the lips, I'd call it a stain rather than a cream - or a creamy lip stain maybe? :)
L-R: NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Monte Carlo, Avon Make Out Red, Revlon Superlustrous in Cherries in the Snow (very close dupe), Wet n' Wild Deep Wine
Unfortunately, as with most stains and longwearing lip products, I find the NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream to be very drying on me. I wore it on bare lips for about 4 hours and removed it as soon as I got home, but my lips were already in tatters. I will experiment a bit more with layering it over and/or under a lip balm, but I definitely have to reserve it for special occasions only. The upside is that the product really stays put and doesn't migrate, feather or transfer easily - so much so that I couldn't fully get rid of it with a micellar make-up remover.
Wearing NYX Monte Carlo with the Rouge Bunny Rouge Chronos palette on the eyes and Hourglass Luminous Flush on the cheeks.
If you're looking for a bold, unusual shade in a longwearing matte formula to wear once in a while, the NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams are a decent choice, especially if you can get them on sale. I'm thinking that I'll definitely be reaching for Monte Carlo to wear to the upcoming Holiday dinner parties, when I need my lipstick to last through a meal. Have you tried any matte lip products from NYX? What is your favorite matte lipstick formula from the drugstore?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Eczema on Hands and Fingers: Triggers, Tips & Treatments

Eczema - if you know what this word entails, and I mean really know on a deep personal level, I feel you. Eczema is a bitch, there's no other way around it. You may remember that in my Fall Nail Polish post I complained about the state of my fingers and cuticles, which is how this post came about. Now, I don't claim to be an eczema expert or even that I have it particularly bad; I'm aware that for some people it's a lifelong condition that covers most of their body, and mine is only limited to my hands, and oftentimes, I'm even able to completely get rid of any flare-ups. But when I do have it (like now), it's a veritable pain in the ass, and I thought it may be helpful to share how I deal with it, especially if you've just started getting the symptoms.
While it's very common for eczema to first strike in the early childhood, I only started getting sporadic flare-ups as a teenager, and then I got a very bad flare-up a couple winters ago, and since then I've been struggling on and off. My mom also suffers from eczema on her hands, and her flare-ups and their pattern are extremely similar to mine, so I do think there must be a genetic link.

I've considered including photos of my typical eczema patch but honestly, it's pretty gross - even writing about it isn't pretty. Mine takes the form of a reddened, rough area of skin that develops small blisters, which burst after a day or so (sorry!), and then that area starts drying up to the point of cracking and flaking. Other symptoms include ichting, burning, occasionally bleeding from deeper cracks. Told you it wasn't pretty!

Some of the flare-up triggers, established through personal experience, my mom's experience and talking to my dermatologist, include frequent hand washing and soaking in water, low temperatures but also humid climates, as sweat also seems to make things worse, contact with harsh chemicals (for example, in home cleaning products or nail polish remover), contact with established allergens (I'm allergic to cats and petting one makes things more itchy in mere minutes), lack of UV exposure, moisture trapped under rings or other jewelry. My mom believes eczema is at least partly a form of skin allergy and pinpointing your specific allergens should help in recovery, but my dermatologist was skeptical - essentially, it's an autoimmune condition and anything can become a trigger.

Consequently, avoiding the triggers I've listed above generally helps in keeping things under control. What this means in practice is that I always do the dishes and other house chores in rubber gloves (my mom, who worked in a chemical lab all of her career, especially recommends talc-free single-use nitrile gloves), try to keep my hands above water when taking a bath, often don't put on my engagement ring and wedding band, re-apply handcream multiple times a day and always always after washing my hands, always wear gloves in the fall and winter.
As for the treatments, I use a combination of different products, both prescription and over the counter. If you've observed your symptoms gradually getting worse, I would strongly recommend making an appointment with a dermatologist, because unfortunately, the single ointment that always stops blisters and itching in its tracks is a topical corticosteroid, which is prescription only. Steroid creams can have different strength but they're generally very effective - the downside being that they have some serious side effects. On top of being very drying, they thin out your skin over time and can even disrupt internal organs' function in large quantities; so they're kind of 'the last resort' type of treatment, and should be used sporadically to help manage the worst flare-ups.

Here's my typical course of treatment: as soon as I notice a new eczema patch, I apply my usual hand creams and then apply a thin layer of the steroid ointment over the patch and leave it overnight. If I really want to make sure I don't rub it off on the sheets, I'll also put on some cotton gloves; as a bonus, they help to trap moisture in the skin as well. My mom recommends to repeat this process every day until the flare-up completely goes away, but I try not to do more than 2 or 3 consecutive nights. The steroid medication helps to dry out the blisters but leaves behind very dry, flaky skin, so I really load up on hand cream the next week or so. Unfortunately, my flare-ups tend to reoccur in the exact same spots, but using the steroid cream seems to prolong the eczema-free stretches of time.

In the photos, you can see some of the creams and potions I'm using on my hands. The L'Occitane Shea Butter Dry Skin Hand Cream ($28 for 5.2 oz) works nicely and absorbs fast, but most of the time I prefer to stick to less expensive options, like the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fragrance-Free Hand Cream ($3.50-$4.50 for 2 oz) or CeraVe Moisturizing Cream or Lotion ($10.99 for 12 fl oz). I find that occlusive creams, or the ones that leave a layer on your skin to trap the moisture inside, generally work best, which is why I really like using Neosalus Cream, a $$$ prescription moisturizer than leaves a layer on the skin even through hand washing. A fun thing to try are these nourishing sheet Hand Masks (the ones in the photo are from The Face Shop), although I've found that a thick layer of a hydrating face mask (like the Avene Soothing Moisture Mask) under a pair of cotton gloves works just as well for less.

I think that's all I can think of for now - let me know if you have any more questions, and of course please share your experiences with eczema and your favorite treatments in the comments! Oh, and a little update on my steroid-mangled fingernail: it doesn't look too hot right now but continues to grow out. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Surratt Artistique Brush Launch and Medium Smokey Eye Brush Review

Fellow beauty bloggers, do you know these posts where you want to publish just the photos and let them speak for themselves? Yeah, it's one of those - but on the other hand, it's make-up brushes, and I have a lot to say. Last week I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Surratt Beauty Artistique Brush Collection, sold exclusively at Barneys New York in the US. Belly from Wondegondigo invited me to tag along (check out her photos and first impressions here) and I couldn't be happier, both to spend time in her company and to stroke some ridiculously luxurious brushes.
Currently, the Artistique Brush Collection includes 12 brushes: 4 face brushes in grey/blue squirrel hair, 3 smokey eye brushes made with the same hair type, 3 flat shader eye brushes in Canadian squirrel, and two concealer brushes in Kolinsky (displayed from the bottom to the top in the photo). All brushes are handmade in Kumano, Japan from the finest, carefully selected materials and take about 60 different steps and a week to create - the Surratt brushes had been in development for five years, right from the brand's conception. In the display case, you can see that the matte, all black handles and ferrules are the exact same length on each brush and feature a beautiful green and purple duochrome ombre design. Troy Surratt also told us about his plans to expand the range to include more brushes: there's a foundation duo fiber buffing brush, a thicker badger hair brow brush, and a retractable spoolie brush in the works.
Troy's assistant, Nathaniel, presenting the Surratt Face Brush, $230.

Surratt make-up brushes are definitely an investment: the jewel of the collection, the Face Brush, retails for $230, and the brand is also working on an even larger soft powder brush that will retail for about $380. The price range is definitely comparable to that of Suqqu, and when Belly asked Troy how he would explain the uncommonly high cost of these brushes to an American consumer, he replied it's all down to the incredibly high quality of his collection: with proper care the brushes should last a lifetime, and he even described his Face Brush as an 'heirloom'.
L-R: Face Brush $230, Sculpting Brush, a mix of blue squirrel and goat hair $90, Highlight Brush $115, Cheek Brush $115
If you ask me about my thoughts on the price of the Surrat brush line, I definitely think you don't absolutely need very expensive brushes to apply make-up beautifully. However, if you perceive your beauty routine as a relaxing, sensual ritual and are completely beauty obsessed like I am, these brushes are certainly a fantastic addition to your collection - I'm already planning more purchases in the future. Another point to note is that if you have access to the Barneys beauty floor, this is the single Japanese-made brush range on the US market that you can physically touch and play with, bar some Hakuhodo appearances at IMATS or other make-up trade shows.
The pom-pom shaped cheek brush in my hand for size reference; it's quite small and dense to allow for a precise blush application and blending
After much oohing and aahing, I've decided to purchase one of the most unique brushes in the Artistique Collection, the Medium Smokey Eye Brush, $65. Each brush comes in a beautiful French-made cardboard box with a sliding top and velvet padding inside - I made a comment that the box is seriously too beautiful to part with and Nathaniel suggested reusing it as a pencil case, which I thought was a fantastic idea.
As you can see, the Medium Smokey Eye Brush has a long tapered brush head, quite a bit larger than my standard crease/ blending brushes, shown below for comparison. I've only ever tried one other tapered blending brush, the LE MAC 226, but the two are nothing alike: the MAC was much smaller, with shorter, denser and firmer bristles, and the only thing it worked reasonably well for was cut crease looks - however, the bristles were so scratchy that I decided to purge it. The three Smokey Eye brush sizes in the Surratt line ensure that everyone can find a good brush to work in their different lid spaces.
L-R: bdellium Tools no. 776, Hakuhodo J 5533, Wayne Goss no. 06, Surratt Medium Smokey Eye
The soft, floppy bristles of the Medium Smokey Eye take some getting used to, especially if you normally use shorter and more resistant blending brushes. However, I'm happy to report that the brush works beautifully to bring subtle definition to the eye. Troy recommended to use the brush by swirling its tapered tip in the eyeshadow and then applying the powder in the crease with a back and forth motion, letting the longest bristles deposit the color, while the shorter bristles on the sides do all the blending for you. He also suggested the brush can be used flat on its side to blend the eyeshadow from the outer corner in. I've been using a combination of both of these techniques and I find they work very well for quickly diffusing pigments in the socket.

There is however a downside to such a large and soft brush head; the Surratt Medium Smokey Eye does not allow for a lot of control, so if you like applying very dark shades in the outer V, I'd suggest using a separate brush for the placement and then maybe finishing the blend with the Medium Smokey. That's true however of most of my standard blending brushes as well.
Overall, I'm quite ecstatic with my new brush acquisiton: I'll try to spare you my exclamations of the 'Oh, but it's so, so soft!' variety, but yes, they're there every time I reach for the Medium Smokey Eye Brush. The attention to detail on these brushes is unmatched, and on top of being very useful tools (or extensions of the artist's hands, as Troy prefers to put it), they're also beautiful objects.
If you have a Surratt counter near you, I urge you to check out the Artistique Brush Collection, if only for the sensory experience (but if you don't have a counter nearby, the brushes are also now available online). I had a lot of fun at the launch and it was a great pleasure to be able to talk freely about make-up brushes, shopping for Japanese cosmetics and the product development process with both Troy himself (a fellow beauty geek by all means) and Nathaniel. Thank you for spending so much of your time explaining everything to us! It's rare these days to find such a down to earth, knowledgeable, passionate face behind the brand.

Have you tried anything from Surratt Beauty? What's currently at the top of your make-up brush wishlist (because I just assume everyone needs to have one)?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Checked Off My Wishlist: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette

There's been a profusion of palette posts on here lately; what can I say, one thing I love about the Holiday Limited Edition make-up are the fantastic value for money sets and palettes. Now, I usually test products for quite a while before putting them on here for the whole world to see, but I couldn't resist showing off my new Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette ($58 for 3 x 0.116 oz/ 3.3g), and given the upcoming beauty sales, I wanted to post this review with swatches as soon as possible to help anyone who may still be on the fence.
Isn't it gorgeous? It's hard to beat the visual impact of three marbleized blushes all in one compact. While the antique gold mirrored packaging is a finger print magnet, I like how sturdy it feels, and the palette shuts with a very satisfying click; in fact I need to wrestle it a bit to get it open. The compact also comes with a large mirror. The size of the blushes within is obviously smaller than the individually sold Ambient Lighting Blushes, but definitely large enough to swirl in a number of different blush brushes with ease.
The three blush shades within are Luminous Flush (a warm rosy pink, permanent), Incandescent Electra (a light peach, Limited Edition & exclusive to this palette) and Mood Exposure (a rusty neutral, permanent). Overall, I would say this palette leans warm but all three shades suit my cool-toned complexion, and I'd describe the finish of these blushes as glowy satin/ low-shimmer (meaning, my favorite). Mood Exposure is the least shimmery of the three and has a satin matte finish on the skin, while Incandescent Electra is the most shimmery but still on the lit-from-within rather than reflective end of the shimmer spectrum.
L-R: Luminous Flush swatched heavily and blended out, Incandescent Electra, Mood Exposure
While Limited Edition palettes from some brands often suffer from lower quality than permanent products, it is definitely NOT the case for the Ambient Lighting Blush Palette. All three shades are smooth, very pigmented (I recommend applying with a stippling/ duo-fiber blush brush) and last well on the skin. The formula of these kicks up a bit of powder due to its softness but it's nothing I can't deal with.
Luminous Flush, Incadescent Electra and Mood Exposure in full sunlight to show the level of shimmer.
One thing to remember, however, is that due to the Ambient Blushes' marbleized nature, the ratio of Ambient Lighting Powder to the blush pigment is going to vary slightly from palette to palette, so you may get less pigmented/ lighter in depth blushes in yours (case in point: my Incandescent Electra is quite deep and opaque, but Gaia's pan turned out to be more of a highlighter shade for her skintone).
L-R: Luminous Flush, Inglot blush no.86, Accessorize Merged Blusher in Diva, bareMinerals READY blush in The One
Now for individual shades comparisons and swatches. As you can see, Luminous Flush is the most similar to my bareMinerals READY Blush in The One, and swatched next to cooler pink blushes, leans quite warm and rosy. While for my personal tastes, I wouldn't mind a blue pink shade in the Hourglass palette, Luminous Flush is definitely a more universally flattering choice.
L-R: Incandescent Electra, Laura Mercier Second Skin Blush in Lush Nectarine, The Face Shop Pastel Cushion in Coral Cushion, NYX Powder Blush in Peach

If you already own both Luminous Flush and Mood Exposure, Incandescent Electra is definitely not unique enough to buy the whole palette just to get that Limited Edition shade. While it's beautifully smooth and a true peach, neither too warm or too cool, it seems pretty straighforward to me - but I'm still very happy to see it included in this palette because I love peach blushes. Laura Mercier Lush Nectarine is warmer, mostly due to the gold shimmer, and a lot less pigmented.
L-R: Mood Exposure, NARS Douceur, NYX Raisin, NYX Mauve
Mood Exposure is the chameleon shade of this palette: while in the pan it looks like a cool plum, as soon as you touch the powder it turns into a rusty red neutral, the warmest shade in the palette (you can see that warmer ring in the photo above after I have swatched the blush with my finger). It's the most similar to NARS Douceur but more orange than brown, and a lot warmer than both NYX Raisin and NYX Mauve.
Here's a little Face Of The Day using Hourglass Mood Exposure, just to show you than even this very warm shade works well on a fair, cool complexion. Hopefully you can see that on the cheeks, the blush does not have any visible shimmer, and blends beautifully without sitting on top of the skin. I'm also wearing theBalm Nude' Tude on my eyes and Lancome's Color Design lipstick in Wine Party on the lips.
So, do I recommend the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette? Yes, yes I do. I find the quality to be stellar, the shade selection suits a variety of looks and skintones, and the value of the palette is great as well. I now know which blushes are going to accompany me on my Holiday travels. Have you tried the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes before? What are your favorite shades? Are you tempted to snag this palette?