Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stila Pomegranate Crush Lip & Cheek Stain

Years ago, I was in love with a product known as Benefit Benetint. It came in a little glass bottle, had a brush tipped wand, was very liquidy and if you weren't careful and splashed the liquid around while applying, could end up with splotches of pink around your bathroom sink. I used Benetint religiously for many years because I loved how it left a natural glow on my cheeks...but then, possibly out of boredom, I replaced it in favor of powder blushes.

Fast forward to this weekend when I was browsing around in Sephora and a product for spring caught my eye - Stila Pomegranate Crush Lip & Cheek Stain. The stain is the sister to Stila's Cherry Crush Lip & Cheek Stain which came out in spring/summer 2008.

The Pomegranate Stain is as amazing as Benetint without the downsides. Rather than a glass bottle, it comes in a little pen, making it infinitely easier to travel with. To let product out, one turns the dial at the end of the pen and to apply, just press the brush tip to the cheeks and lips.

The best part is the texture of the product - its a gel rather than a liquid so its easier to control and doesn't make a mess in the bathroom. Plus, whereas Benetint would sometimes streak if you didn't rub it into cheeks quickly, the gel texture is much more forgiving. The stain also has a nice pomegranate-y scent.

While this product is touted as a "spring" release, I'm ecstatic its out already because it adds a subtle glow to pallid, winter worn skin.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Battle of the Styling Gels: Nexxus Alluring Curls vs. Redken Crystal Curls vs. Sunsilk Captivating Curls

Much like my experiment with eye treatments that I mentioned recently, I've been playing around with a few styling gels recently and here are the ones that I loved and ones that I didn't:

Nexxus Alluring Curls

This styling gel was my favorite of the lot, with the Redken gel coming in at a close second. The reason I chose this gel above the others is because of its superb ability to add shine without too much crunchiness and without drying out my hair.

I love rubbing a little bit of this gel in my fingers and running it through my hair to separate sections after I've curled my hair. Even in rainy weather, my hair holds up very well with this gel. Above is a pic of my hair, having already used the gel for hold and shininess.

I love this styling gel for the hold and the intense shininess it provides. Plus, one tube has lasted me quite a while as you don't need much product to style your hair. Downsides of this product were the stickiness and the fact that it made my hair slightly crunchy, perhaps due to alcohol ingredients.
Sunsilk Captivating Curls Gel and Cream Twist
This was the product that I wanted to love so badly because of the pricepoint but didn't. For some reason, the twist of gel and cream ended up being ineffective in both holding a style and calming frizz. Any positives? I really can't think of any, which is why almost a full bottle of this continues to sit in my cabinet after about four months of purchase!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Steal the Look: Freida Pinto's Makeup at the 2009 SAG Awards

Well, looks like its Freida-mania at Hollywood lately...the lady and the rest of the cast of SM have been raking in the awards this season! The best part for me is seeing the makeup and fashion looks Freida models...I can't wait for the Oscars!

I absolutely love the beauty look she went for at the SAG Awards last night. The smoky blue eyes were definitely more bold than the look she had going for the Golden Globes. The blue shadow looks absolutely stunning on tan skin and dark peepers like Freida's.

To get the look, see below...and disclaimer: this look won't make you look like Freida (sorry), but you will look fabulous!!

Eyes: Line eyes on both top and bottom waterline with a dark blue liner such as MAC Eye Pencil in Indigo. Apply a medium blue-gray shade such as the blue shade in NARS Duo in Underworld all over the lids up until the crease. Drag the blue-gray color down and shade the lower lash area. Apply a matte bronze shadow in the crease (this adds dimension and lets the blue shade pop a bit). Apply a highlighter shadow on the browbones. Finish with tons of black mascara.
(Note: For even bolder color, lay down a blue cream shadow before applying the powder shadow.)

Cheeks: With the eyes taking centerstage, apply a soft bronze color such as Chanel Blush in Enchantresse to cheeks. If you need a bit more color, go for a pinky-bronze blush such as MAC Blush in Blushbaby.

Lips: Apply a mauve-pink gloss such as MAC Lip Glass in Little VI (one of my favorite lip glosses!) to the lips.
*Update:* I found that the lip gloss that makeup artist Jeffrey Paul actually used is Dior Addict Ultra-Gloss Reflect in #457 Pink Liberty on Freida at the SAG Awards. I'll try to find out more of the products actually used on Freida and update this post.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Only Makeup Brushes You Really Need

This post was a long time coming since we've been getting many requests to break down the essential makeup brushes needed to create flawless makeup looks. Many times when you visit a cosmetic counter, it can look rather overwhelming to see all those brushes lined up but trust us, unless you are a professional makeup artist, you don't need every single one to do your makeup and have a well-stocked brush kit.

I recently went on vacation and realized that on a daily basis, whether you need to do a day look or night look, you don't need more than about six brushes. Since MAC is a popular brand for both quality and accessibility for most of us (the MAC website offers FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $60) most of my brush recs here will be MAC. (Even though my personal stash of brushes includes some Bobbi Brown, Sephora, and even some Sonia Kashuk finds.)

So let's get right to it. What makeup brushes do you really need? It mostly depends on your personal style. If you like to do up your eyes in dramatic colors everyday, you may need a few more eye makeup brushes than your girlfriend who just likes a little blush, lipstick, and mascara for her daily look.

I personally believe there are about six basic brushes no girl should be without: a Blush Brush, Powder Brush, Eyeshadow Base Brush, Eyeshadow Crease Brush, Angled Eyeshadow Brush for lining and touching up eyebrows, and a Precision Shading Brush to define eyes and create the "smokey eye" look. Note that this list can be cut down to the bare bones of having just two brushes: a Blush Brush and an Eyeshadow Brush (a MAC 217) if you're not into wearing face powder and doing complicated eye looks, and prefer pencil liners to shadow liners. And...if you're like my mom, you can possibly get away with needing no brushes at all if all your products are cream based, like cream blush and cream eyeshadow, because all of these products work best when applied with your fingers. I personally don't have the dexterity to deal well with cream products. I still can't figure out how to apply cream blush without looking like a clown, so for me, it's powder products and brushes for nearly everything.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the brushes and my personal recommendations:

Blush Brush
I think if you're just starting out with makeup or don't care much for contouring cheekbones, stick with the MAC 129 for your blush needs. This brush is ideal for applying color to the apples of your cheeks, which is really the most natural place blush should be. The head is shaped in a way that it automatically diffuses and blends the color for you in the right place, so it's totally goof proof. Make sure you apply your blush in a well-lit room (bathroom mirrors are great for this) so you get the color on evenly on both sides. About two or three swipes on each cheek is usually enough to get the color on right, depending on what blush you're using. With daily use, this brush should last you about 8 years, after that it starts shedding like a squirrel and won't work well anymore. But hey, 8 years is a long time right? If you want to be able to do more dramatic blush looks, or just want a firmer blush brush, go with MAC 116 or Bobbi Brown's Blush Brush. Both of these brushes can be used not only for the apples of the cheeks but also for contouring and highlighting.

Powder Brush
Many face powders and powder foundations sometimes come with a cosmetic sponge, but I find the powder/foundation goes on too heavy with sponges. You get a more sheer look and have more control over how much powder gets applied if you use a Powder Brush. A good powder brush should not be too stiff, it has to be able to glide over your face to deposit powder evenly over your skin. I prefer Bobbi Brown's Powder brush, I've owned this for 10 years, and it's still in excellent condition. MAC also makes an excellent option, the MAC 138. I like the MAC 138, as opposed to the MAC 134 and MAC 150 because it's tapered and can be used for contouring and getting into all the hollow areas of your face, like around the nose and under eyes. In a pinch, it can also be used as a blush brush, making it very versatile.

Eyeshadow Brushes
Here's where most makeup enthusiasts pick only the brushes that suit their needs. Like I mentioned earlier, I prefer quite a few to do my eyes.
Base Brush - I use a MAC 239 if I want the color to go on opaque, or the MAC 252 if I want to put a sheer wash of color on the whole eye area from lash line to brow bone. The 252 gives you more control over the product if you want to build up the color, whereas the 239 just cuts to the chase and delivers opaque coverage, perfect if you just want color on the eyelids only.
Crease Brush - I use the MAC 224. It's simple and puts the right amount of color on every time.
Angled Lining Brush- MAC 266 is my brush of choice when I need to line the eyes with eyeshadow.
Precision/Pencil Shading Brush. - The MAC 219 is one of my favorites. I use it to apply color to the "outer V" area of my eye when I'm contouring, and apply shadow on and under the lash lines, an absolute must if you want to do the "smokey eye" look. It's also excellent for applying light shadow to the inner corners of the eyes to make you look more awake.

HOWEVER, if you just want a simple eyeshadow look and want to line your eyes with pencil, you could considerably cut down the cost and number of brushes you need to do your eye makeup to just ONE BRUSH: the MAC 217 Blending Brush. It's called a "blending brush", but it's actually a base brush, crease brush, and highlighter brush all rolled into one. You can even use it to apply cream products like cream eyeshadow and concealer. If you buy it at the counter, as the MA to show you a demo how to use it and then use it on yourself to see how easy it is to get a polished eye look with just one brush.

There are also optional brushes you can buy, like concealer brushes and lip brushes, etc...but in my experience, I don't think they are essential. The only reason I have them is because the MA selling them to me told me I needed them and I did use them for a while, but it's so much easier to pat concealer under the eyes with your ring finger as opposed to using a brush. And the lip brush, I can't even remember the last time I used this one.

Another thing to remember is no matter what brush you buy, give it a good tug and brush it along the back of your hand before purchasing it to make sure it doesn't shed easily. This is the best way to test the quality of a brush. Well-made brushes should give you at least 5-10 years of use and if it's already shedding on day one, it's a sign of cheap manufacturing and you should look elsewhere. The best manufacturers of brushes are of course, MAC and Bobbi Brown, but don't overlook Sephora, Smashbox, Stila, and even art supply stores like Michael's for quality brush finds.

Be sure to also take a peek at this video I found. This makeup maven has done an amazing job of describing all the brushes she uses and has given some great tips on low cost brushes she picked up at Michael's. I love how she also raves about the MAC 217. Retailing for only $22.50, it's that one makeup brush no brush kit should be without.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steal the Look: Deepika Padukone's Makeup at the Chandni Chowk to China Premiere

Has anyone seen the Chandni Chowk to China film yet? Its been super hyped up due to its female star, Deepika Padukone, but I have a feeling its going to be overshadowed by Slumdog.

I really like the ice princess look Deepika went for at the premiere for her new film. The pastel pink dress could have been better but I like how she switched her makeup to pastel shades rather than the usual peachy bronze look.

To get the look:

Eyes: Apply a light colored base all over the lids. Blend a shimmery white shadow such as NARS Shadow in Night Snow all over the lid (if you're skeptical of such a stark look, try using a very light silver shadow). Apply a candy pink shadow such as NARS Shadow in Baby Girl to the outer half of the upper eyelid and blend into the crease as well. Apply a touch of the shimmery white shadow on the browbone, blending well. Apply a thin line of black liner to the upper eyelids, thickening towards the outer edge. Apply black liner to the bottom waterline of the eyes.

Cheeks: Apply a creamy rose pink blush such as NARS Cream Blush in Lokum to the cheeks. Top with a shimmery highlighter like NARS Highlighting Blush Powder in Albatross.

Lips: Apply a muted mauve pink lipstick such as MAC Lipstick in Sweetie. Top with a clear gloss in the center.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Battle of the Eye Creams, Part II

Over the past 6 to 9 months, I tested a couple of eye creams, with varied textures and price points. Eye creams are probably one of the most elusive of all beauty and skincare products...women (and men!) are always searching for that holy grail eye cream that will make their puffy bags and undereye circles disappear. While I didn't find my holy grail of eye creams in this test batch, most of the eye treatments I tested were all good, basic treatments.

Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Cream with Biospheric Complex

This product is a true cream that comes in a little jar. A slightly cool sensation results after patting it on the eyes, which I personally found really soothing, especially after hours of staring at the computer. The product claims to minimize (not eliminate) undereye circles, wrinkles and puffiness. I can't speak for wrinkles because I don't have any yet but the cream did help puffiness - I think the cooling sensation helps. As for the undereye circles, I generally believe that my dark circles are caused by lack of sleep, stress and allergies, and am not convinced that creams can do anything to reduce circles.

All in all, I thought this was a pretty good eye cream. My only gripes were the non-effect on undereye circles and the fact that I wish the cream was slightly richer in texture, which would be wonderful for the winter. The product retails at $45.

Boscia Enlivening Amino-AG Eye Treatment

The next eye treatment I tried was quite different from the Skyn Iceland product. The Boscia eye treatment is more of a thick gel, rather than a true cream, and comes in a pump dispenser. It is slightly sticky but I found it to be more moisturizing than the Skyn product - it leaves a little sheen on the eyes once applied.

Again, the product didn't do much for dark circles but it rates high for its moisturizing properties and as a result, it would be great eye treatment for winter. The product retails for $38.

Ren Active 7 Radiant Eye Maintenance Gel

This eye treatment is not a cream at all but an eye gel. The consistency is slightly thick instead of runny which is a plus. It is not sticky at all and is cool to the touch. Because the Ren treatment is a straight out gel though, it is not as moisturizing as the Skyn Iceland or Boscia products.

This treatment would be perfect for the spring/summer rather than the fall/winter due to the texture and properties. I could see it being really soothing if I stuck the tube in the fridge and then applied. The product retails for $45.

Garner Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller

I had high hopes for this eye treatment because I read reviews raving about the roller ball application. However, I just wasn't sold on this product.

The product is used by rolling the roller ball under the eyes, which causes a gel product to be applied. In theory, its a great idea but I didn't like the product for two reasons. First, I found the gel treatment itself was too thin and not moisturizing enough for my undereyes. I found that it did not even depuff my undereyes well which was the main claim behind the roller ball application. Second, I found that the rollerball application did not deposit the treatment evenly under my eyes. It also felt like the rollerball application tugged too much on my skin which is not good for the sensitive skin around the eyes.

The product retails for $12.99.