Thursday, February 25, 2016

Make-up Bag Essential: Surratt Beauty Surreal Skin Concealer in 02

If I were to take one make-up product to a desert island with me, it would be concealer. For me, it's always been an essential, ever since I first started breaking out in middle school - and I continue to use at least one on an everyday basis, even when I choose to forgo the rest of my make-up. It simply gives my face the biggest impact: conceals tired under eyes, stubborn freckles, redness around my nose, dark marks from old zits as well as those angry red bumps that decided to put in an appearance at the last moment. Ugh. Which is why I'm always on the lookout for the best concealer out there, and I love trying new ones, like this Surratt Beauty Surreal Skin Concealer in the shade 02 ($50 for 0.6 oz).
This is without a doubt the most expensive concealer I've ever had (especially considering the small volume of the stick) - to be honest, I would have never opted for it if it weren't a generous gift with purchase from the Surratt counter at Barney's. So far, I have really enjoyed everything I've tried from Surratt, so I was curious to see how their complexion product would perform on me.
There are 8 shades in the range, spanning very, very fair skin to deeper skintones. I'm saying 'very, very fair skin' because I own the second lightest shade, which you'll see in the moment is quite comparable to NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly (especially once blended out on the skin - Chantilly oxidizes on me just a touch darker than in my arm swatch), which I consider to be really rather pale. I'd think that shade 01 would probably suit those who are in the N5 range (Bobbi Brown Alabaster, Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer in Fair Neutral and so on).
Surratt Surreal Skin Concealer in 02, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, Laneige Cushion Concealer in Light*
I quite enjoy the minimalist black packaging with a sparkling ombre detail, and the entire product is small, sleek and lightweight - perfect for touch-ups on the go. But again, you are paying quite a hefty price tag for such a small product. The bullet itself is also quite slim, and cut at an angle; nice size for applying directly under the eyes or on areas of redness, but obviously too large for precise spot concealing.
I've tested the Surreal Skin Concealer both under my eyes as well as on marks, redness and blemishes. The product promises to 'erase dark circles and offer surreal coverage', and right off the bat, I have to disagree. If you're looking high coverage, the Surratt concealer doesn't have it. I would say that blended out, it offers a light coverage, built up in layers or really concentrated (on blemishes, for example), it's medium. On most days, I don't have very dark under eye circles and currently no monster zits to cover, so it's alright for me, but I think if you need some serious concealing action, you'd be very dissapointed.
I was however quite pleasantly surprised with the texture of this product. Stick concealers tend to be quite dry and heavy, and accentuate any dryness on the skin. The Surratt concealer doesn't do that - it's quite creamy (but obviously less so than a liquid concealer) and sits lightweight on the skin. As you'll see in my face shot, it doesn't exacerbate dry flakes around my nostrils, and it doesn't make my under eye area look too crepey (I prepped with a hydrating eye cream beforehand). It also wears well throughout the day on me and doesn't slide off bumps or blemishes.
Left side: no concealer under the eyes, right side: Surratt Surreal Skin. I've also used it around my nose and on any blemishes. Foundation is Koh Gen Do Aqua in PK-1. Feel free to click on the photo to enlarge.
All in all, I think it's a decent multipurpose concealer - like I said in the beginning, it would make a great make-up bag essential if you like touching up your concealer throughout the day, or perhaps to take on a trip in lieu of two separate products, one for under the eyes and one for spots. I like either picking up some product from the stick on my brush and then buffing it into the skin, or applying with my fingers - I find that using the stick directly on the skin doesn't work as well, probably because like most stick products, this benefits from being warmed up first. However, I will not be repurchasing once mine runs out - I do prefer to have something with a higher coverage so that I don't have to spend as much time layering the concealer on blemishes.

What was the most expensive concealer you've ever tried? Do you use a separate concealer for your under eyes and for spot concealing, or do you prefer to have one multitasker?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Current Masking Duo: Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Gel Mask & Clarins Pure and Radiant

Today I'd like to share with you two short reviews of the facial masks I've been using currently. I was sorting through my stash of skincare minis a few weeks ago and came across these two beauties: Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Gel Mask ($52 for 5 oz, mine is a GWP size) and Clarins Truly Matte Pure and Radiant Mask with Pink Clay ($33 for 1.7 fl oz, again I have a GWP deluxe sample).
Let's start with the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell. This mask claims to 'help counteract visible signs of aging, including the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, dehydration, dullness, and sagging'. It contains 'cell extracts' of four different types of roses, as well as castor oil, rose oils, rose water, glycerin, allantoin and aloe. Mind you, I don't believe in stem cell technology for topical cosmetic use - research doesn't support the claim that those 'isolated stem cells' have any miraculous anti-aging effects. I think it's just a marketing gimmick - but I can disregard that if the product performs well anyway.
Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Mask strongly reminds me of rose-scented hair gel. It's quite thick and spreads easily, but it doesn't melt into the skin the same way as my beloved Laneige Water Sleeping Mask (reviewed here). Once applied, the gel feels cooling and soothing on the skin, and after a couple minutes, sinks in but still leaves a discernible layer on the face. After rinsing my face after the recommended 10 minutes (which actually isn't all that easy - the residue sticks to the skin and refuses to leave without some elbow grease), my skin feels soft and soothed but only a little hydrated. Sure, this mask isn't drying, but it's definitely not as hydrating as just about any sheet mask I've tried, or the above mentioned Laneige, or even the much less expensive Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Rosewater Mask, reviewed here. I don't know, you guys; it's nice, it's quite pleasant to use, but I've had better results with other masks. For me, the performance doesn't warrant the high price tag.
On the other hand, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the Clarins Pure and Radiant Mask. It claims to 'clean, tighten and refine pores with a fresh matte result' as well as 'soften, smooth and comfort skin with Linden Extract'. I think it does exactly that. Annoingly, Clarins doesn't provide full ingredients lists for their products - I've only found an INCI list on Beautypedia (which gives this mask a 2 out 5 rating, by the way), according to which this contains kaolin, titanium dioxide as well as a whole host of emollients such as caprylic/ capric triglycerides, glycerin and isoparaffin.

Yeah, so maybe this mask doesn't have the best ingredients and contains signature Clarins fragrance (which I actuallt enjoy) - but it still works rather well. It has a smooth creamy consistency that's not too thick and thus easy to apply evenly on the face. While on the skin, it seems to sink in a little, without making your face incredibly tight and 'frozen', like a lot of clay masks tend to. It's also very easy to remove without scrubbing - it just rinses right off. After a 10-minute session with Clarins Pure and Radiant Mask, I'm left with a face that's soft and smooth, even in tone, and velvety matte. My pores appear somewhat smaller and there are no dry, irritated patches in sight.
If you've been considering this mask, I think it's a great little pick me up for normal to combination skin types that are prone to dehydration - because even though it's a clay mask, it doesn't dry the skin out. However, if your skin is combination to oily and you need some serious pore-purifying power - the Clarins mask isn't going to do much for you and I would probably steer you in the direction of something like the Aztec Healing Clay, reviewed here. Because my skin's been a lot drier and more sensitive lately, the Clarins is the perfect gentle clay mask for me - and I'll be sad once my sample runs out, but probably won't purchase the full size right away as I still want to compare it to the Caudalie Instant Detox Mask with pink clay.

There you have it - two short and sweet mask reviews. I'm curious, which masks are you reaching for in the winter? Do you still use clarifying masks or shelve them away until the warmer season? What is your favorite hydrating mask?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Earning My Blush Stripes: Kiko Shade Fusion Trio Blush in No. 1 Natural Rose

I used to be a major blush fiend (as evidenced in the Addicted to Blush Tag) and was obsessed with the idea of finding the perfect pinky peach, the most effortless baby pink, the ultimate universal nude blush. Recently though, I've sorta given up on that quest. Not that I don't love blush - my face looks uncannily zombie/ vampire like without it - but a lot of the different blushes I had would end up looking roughly the same on the face. So I did a bit of culling of the less-than-ideal formulas... and as a result of seeing all that empty drawer space, I purchased another blush. Sigh.
But you guys, it was just too pretty to resist - look at it! It's the Kiko Shade Fusion Trio Blush in shade no. 1 Natural Rose ($15 for 6g/ 0.21 oz, available online at and at Kiko stores). When I visited a Kiko boutique in Warsaw, I was a bit surprised by the price difference between this new Shade Fusion formula and their regular Soft Touch blush, which was also on sale. But as soon as I compared the texture of the two blushes and taken into consideration the design of the packaging, I wasn't at all interested in the more affordable Soft Touch line. I had to get the Shade Fusion.
The compact of the Shade Fusion blushes is just beautiful - small but weighty, with a simple, clean, luxurious feel. There's a nice mirror inside, and no wasting of precious space to include a crappy brush. Since the metal is so reflective, it is of course a fingerprint magnet, but I can live with that - and all make-up fans should now heave an orgasmic sigh because the closing mechanism is magnetic. Aaaaah.
But the tactile feel of this powder blush is what really made me pull out my credit card. It's so smooth and fine, with a silky texture and no powder kick-up. Yet, the product isn't hard-pressed into the pan - it's very easy to pick up with both my swatchy fingers or a blush brush. Not sure how Kiko pulled that off, but it's just so, so pleasant to use.
L-R: Kiko Shade Fusion in Natural Rose, NARS Douceur, Hourglass Mood Exposure, Catrice Rose Royce
I obviously gravitated towards the most neutral shade in the range, no. 1 Natural Rose. However, similarly to the Catrice Defining Blush in Rose Royce, the Kiko blush doesn't really look rosey on my skintone at all. Instead, it's quite warm and very slightly peachy. Compared to my other 'nude' blushes, you can see that both NARS Douceur and Hourglass Mood Exposure are a lot more brown. The pigmentation of the Kiko Shade Fusion blush is medium but buildable, and the finish is quite matte. You could of course play with the shade depth of this blush by concentrating your brush on different stripes - sometimes I like dipping my brush into the two darker shades on the bottom and applying that to the back of my cheeks, and then using the middle and top stripe for the apples to give myself a more dimensional look.
All in all, I really like this new Shade Fushion Trio Blush in Natural Rose - it's pretty, it's easy, it suits a variety of eye looks or lipstick shades. If you've been skeptical about Kiko products so far, I'd say to give them a shot, even if the range seems a bit overwhelming at first. I think that for the price, the quality is quite outstanding, and the brands follows current make-up trends very closely - so if you wanted to try something a bit outside of your comfort zone, you could do so with their products without breaking the bank. Have you tried any Kiko products? What are your favorite things in their line?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pan That Palette 2016: 5 Eye Looks with The Balm Nude'Tude

One of the main post ideas I had after writing my rambling rant on how I'm currently not so much into make-up products (here) was to do different eyeshadow placements all focusing on a single palette. That palette is obviously The Balm's Nude'Tude, which I'm trying to pan this year.
From my understanding, there's some sort of general consensus online that Nude'Tude is not a great neutral eyeshadow palette - the undertones are weird, it lacks a matte highlight shade but has too many dark mattes, and so on. And yeah, I can see that - for my fair complexion with cool undertones, a lot of the shades in this palette are not ideal, even though the shadows themselves are pigmented and easy to apply. But while these shades may not be ideal, they're still absolutely workable and wearable. Let me show you how :)
1. Gradient Gunmetal Smokey Eye:
Use a dark eyeliner at the lashline as base; I'm using the Stila Bluefin Smudgestick from my current Project Pan - that's where the teal microglitter is coming from. Set the liner and blend it upwards and inwards from the wing with a matte black (Serious). Apply a shimmery taupe (Selfish) to the center of the lid and the lower lashline and blend out. Continue building the matte black at the lashline to the desired depth, smudge a very small amount on the outer part of the lower lashline. Highlight the inner corner with a white pearl (Sassy), blend out the outer corner and crease with a warm matte medium brown (Sultry). Finish with lots of mascara and black eyeliner on the upper waterline.

2. Daytime Cat Eye:
Apply a mix of yellow and pink pearl shades (Snobby + Stubborn) all over the lid and highlight the inner corners with Sassy. Define the crease with a matte brown (Sultry) and the lower lashline with a shimmery bronze (Schitzo). Line the upper lashline with Silly mixed with a drop of Inglot Duraline; it's a liquid silicone product that turns powders into long-wearing cream formulas. I just poured a drop directly into the corner of my eyeshadow pan so that I can still use the rest as a regular powder eyeshadow with my brushes. I have to admit that I was disappointed with how Silly performed as a liquid liner; I was hoping for a subtly glittery wing but the result was that of a dark matte brown, very similar to the shade Sleek from the palette. So far, no matter what I do, I cannot make the beautiful shimmer in Silly show up on my eyes :(

3. Sophisticated Khaki Smokey Eye:
Apply a darker taupe/ grey/ khaki cream eyeshadow all over the lid, blending it out into the crease - I've used Benefit Creaseless Cream in Skinny Jeans. Blend out and warm up the crease with a matte brown; I decided to use my face contour shade (NYX Taupe), but you could use Sultry from the palette. Define the outer corner with a dark khaki brown (Sophisticated) and dab a little yellow pearl (Snobby) on the centre of the mobile lid with your finger. Brighten the inner corner with a mix of Sassy and Snobby; I decided that Sassy alone would be too cool-toned. Line the lower lashline with Sophisticated, pop a little Snobby in the center of the lower lashline to mirror the lid placement. Black mascara on the lashes, black eyeliner on the upper waterline, green eyeliner on the lower waterline (optional - I had TIGI Perfect Eyeliner in Green lying around, so I thought why not).

4. Aegyo Sal-inspired:
This is one of the looks I liked from the Korean Beauty Secrets book I've recently reviewed. For those not in the know, aegyo sal is that little roll of fat on the lower lashline that babies often have (some adults too), and of the trendier looks in Korea is to either highlight or mimick that by applying a shimmery eyeshadow to the under eye area.
I'm saying this is aegyo sal-inspired because I do not have that 'baby eye fat' and what's more, I actually have some fine lines in that area that look more pronounced when covered in shimmery eyeshadow. So I've only applied a mixture of white pearl (Sassy) and shimmery champagne (Stand-offish) to the inner half of my lower lashline and around the inner corner, and a medium matte brown on the outer half of lower lashline. For my lid and crease, I applied a light layer of satin pink (Stubborn) all over as a base, and topped with another fine layer of warm matte brown (Sultry), buffed out into the crease. I also applied a smidgen of dark matte brown (Sleek) along the outer portion of my upper lashline, but otherwise skipped eyeliner.

5. Typical Monika Daytime Definition:
I realize that in my photos, this looks exactly like the second look (Daytime Cat Eye), but it's a little different: a typical Monika look has a more defined/ darker outer corner, and the upper lash liner is thinner and less winged out. For this look, I used the shimmery champagne (Stand-offish) on the lid, a matte medium brown lightly through the crease (Sultry), and a matte aubergine (Sexy) in the outer corner. A mix of the champagne (Stand-offish) and pearl white (Sassy) on the inner corner, medium matte brown (Sultry) along the lower lashline. The upper lash line is accentuated with a darker eyeliner (Stila Bluefin), lightly set with a matte black (Serious). A black eyeliner to tightline and lots of mascara.

I was the happiest with my Aegyo-sal inspired look - it was quick and easy and yet quite a bit different from my comfort zone (look 5). For a bit more drama, I also liked the first look - I quite like the smoked out lashline as opposed to lots of darker shades in the outer corner of the eye. But all in all, I've been leaning towards less eyeshadow lately, and I'm particularly not that fond of eyeliner at the moment. I think that daily eyeliner wear (due to having various pencil liners in my Project Pans/ Projects Make A Dent) has started to feel a little boring to me, and I appreciate the cleaner/ more effortless look of having only mascara-ed lashes against the lighter background of the eyelid.

All in all, it was a good experiment. I've been using The Balm's Nude'Tude for over a month now, and I can't really say that it has felt like a challenge so far. Every time I reach for the palette, I'm able to come up with little tweaks or slightly different placements. I've also been mixing and layering all the shades quite a lot, and it's fun. There's a whole LOT you can do with 12 different eyeshadows - and I actually feel like the variety of looks I've been able to achieve comes more from trying various approaches and styles as well as combining shades as opposed to having a variety of actual eyeshadows to choose from. What I'm saying is - I don't need 10 neutral eyeshadow palettes. For me, there's going to be more variety in looks in the scope of a single palette versus across those ten different selections. Almost every single neutral eyeshadow palette has a light shimmer, a medium brown, a cool and/or medium shimmer, a dark brown. Sure, the undertones may be different - but the basic placements remain the same. Once blended together, a lot of eyeshadows from palletes that may at first seem very different in the pan will actually look nearly identical on the eyes.

Which look was your favorite? Do you tend to do the same eyeshadow look every time you do your make-up, or do you like to experiment?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Blog Sale Is Now Live!

Yeah yeah, I know I said that I wasn't really interested in decluttering my make-up stash anymore. But! But recently I found a whole bunch of stuff I was just holding onto for the sake of having it. I don't want my pretties to sit unloved - so here's another blog sale.

Here's the entire list of products for your browsing pleasure; I have products from Rouge Bunny Rouge, Urban Decay, Guerlain, Chanel, Benefit and Tarte, as well as some very inexpensive drugstore gems. There's a lot of eyeshadows, lipsticks, eyeliners as well as some face and cheek products.

Please help me find new homes for these awesome products, and thank you for browsing!