Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Beauty Revolution - Drugstore Revisited

I took a 5-year break from drugstore cosmetics. The cheap quality, poor pigmentation, short wearing and unflattering colors of the products drove me away. I tried and tried and ended up with loads of makeup that I literally hated. If only I had the source of information I do today, I would have saved a fortune. And those makeup weren't inexpensive once my collection grew out of the 3-drawer desk. That was when it clicked: enough junk, time for (much) less quantity but great quality.

So, I gifted away or tossed out (most) things and rebuilt my collection. Started with Smashbox, Stila, Laura Mercier, then Dior 5-color quints really got me hooked with the higher-ends. As soon as I experienced the high quality (i.e. pigmented, long-wearing, soft, smooth, wearable colors), I wasn't able to come back to any drugstore makeup. Over the time, I developed a prejudice that gradually turned into indifference with drugstore brands. I never browse through the beauty section at my local Target. That seemed to settle it, a big no-no to drugstore. Until recently....

Lisa Eldridge, a talented (and elegant) makeup artist, who is also the creative director of Boots No. 7 uses quite a few of drugstore brands in her tutorials. I got inspired to try out Physicians Formula organic foundations and Boots No. 7 lip pencils. Then I overcame my skepticism with these brands and went on a little journey. So far it's been a great return to beauty counters of Target, CVS, RiteAid, Walmart, Walgreens. The products that I've tested exceeded my expectation although there's been flinch here and there.

The project has been fun and rewarding. I've found quite a few items that come incredibly close to my favorites. And to be fair, quite a few high-end makeup deliver mediocre quality and ridiculously overpriced. However, I don't have to work my way as hard through high-end market to find a favorite as I do with drugstore.

Now that I know how almost any beauty products on the market function on real customers (thanks to thousands of beauty blogs nowadays), I envision my ideal beauty collection that include a little bit of everything from both worlds but none would ever be disappointing as the past.

Do you have a preference between drugstore and high-end brands? How have your favorites developed over time? Any recommendations for great drugstore makeup?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Miss list

You've probably seen way more raves on this blog than complains. Yes, I'm usually happy with my procurement. When I'm not, the items go back to the store. The number of unhappy purchases in the past 5 years have always been low enough for me to remember every single one. And they're less and less every year, especially since I started to read beauty blogs. Still, sadly still, some products are stuck in my makeup stash, due to either "no return once opened" or "I'll make it work".

I've been able to take advantage at least one or two aspects of the products. However, had I have a second chance, they wouldn't have had a place on my vanity counter.

1. Bobbi Brown Python Palette. Nothing is good about quality: poor pigmentation, muddy, uneven, dry, hard. The only bright feature is the packaging. Worse, it's seriously over-priced.

2. MAC Cherry lip pencil reminds me why MAC and I never gets along, especially in the lip department. Dry, uneven and just plain wrong color.

3. Lise Watier color concealer was a typical impulsive online shopping after an overdose of youtube's Michelle Phan. While I love her, my skin types and hers ain't the same and this product doesn't work on me. It's dry, chalky no matter how I tried to soften it (using heat). I particularly dislike the green which makes me look white.

4. Chanel Rouge Coco Chintz is absolutely cute but it dries out my lips like crazy. Chalky and uneven. Lip balm doesn't help :(

5. Lancome Posh Pink lipstick has decent moisturizing impact despite its matte finish. The color just doesn't do any good for me.

6. Laura Mercier Mineral Blush in Amberstone currently holds the title for the shortest wearing blush on my cheeks. It disappears after 30 minutes. Reapply and re-disappear in another 30 minutes. I do like the color though. If you know how to fix this, kindly let me know.

7. Dior 5-color quint in Pearl Glow has luxurious texture and stays put as good as just the best of Dior eyeshadows. What puts me off are overly frosted finish of all shades, none of which is deep enough for defining my eyes. I think when I pay $58 for 5 eyeshadows, they'd better work as one palette. Pearl Glow simply doesn't. The limited edition factor definitely got the best of me. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Compare: Edward Bess Quad Royales 01 South of France, 02 Monte Carlo, 03 Summer in Capri

Edward Bess has recently added Quad Royales to his superb beauty line. They are South of France 01, Monte Carlo 02, and Summer in Capri 03. Retailed at $45 for 0.25 oz, they are on sale at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Zuneta and thankfully Sephora (online only for now). Although I do think they are truly different in color and finish, I can see some of you might want to justify for one quad only.

Let's take a few moments to cherish them again. 

South of France is a beautiful soft beige pink with golden and lavender shimmer. 

Monte Carlo is a shimmery peachy bronze with peachy and coppery shimmer. 

Summer in Capri is a pink peach with pink shimmer and beige undertone. 

On my arm, they don't look a million miles away from each other but you can still see different shades.

Under direct sunlight, Monte Carlo gives a more metallic sheen while Summer in Capri has cool pink shimmer and South of France creates a soft warm sheen. 

I really love this particular picture as it shows how these quads behave based on their types of shimmer. Monte Carlo has the most shimmer and slightly frosty. Summer in Capri has the least shimmer yet produces a cool sheen. South of France simply brightens up my skin. 

What is my absolute favorite? Tough call, I tell you. They all have excellent texture, soft yet not too powdery. I personally prefer South of France to the other two quads by the thinness of a razor. I just love its uniqueness that stands out from all the highlighters in my possession. I don't have a dupe for neither Summer in Capri and Monte Carlo in my stash, but the latter is not too different from my Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick in Nectar. Summer in Capri is more unique than Monte Carlo. They both are more subtle and sophisticated than Bobbi Brown Shimmer Bricks, hence more wearable and fool-proof. 

Does it mean that I can settle with only one of the three Quad Royales? Nope :d. High quality, elegant color and long wearing completely grab my heart. So yeah, I collected them all and I won't stop looking forward to a (few more) Quad Royale in the future. 

Review: Edward Bess Quad Royale in Summer in Capri No. 3

When I spotted Edward Bess Quad Royale in Summer in Capri 03 ($45 for 0.25 oz) on The Beauty Look Book, I thought it would warm up my cheeks with the peach soft pink undertone. It turns out to add a cool pink sheen on top of that color base, leaning toward cooler spectrum on my warm skin tone. Interestingly enough, it's even cooler than South of France on me.

Here is a closed up for you
You have a satin coral, a satin soft beige, a shimmery soft beige pink and a satin cool beige with a hue of mauve. When mixed together, all the shades create a peachy pink that also has neutral undertone. This quad would flatter all skin tones. But I think warm-skinned ladies might want to go easy on the shimmery soft pink as it can look ashy if over applied.

Summer in Capri has the most subtle shimmer among Quad Royales. Like its other sisters, Summer in Capri has luxuriously soft and smooth texture, blendable and buidable without caking up. It also lasts all day, which scores high on my appraisal system. Most blushes last 4 to 5 hours on me. Any that beats this record is outstanding for me.

My camera fails to distinguish the shades of Summer in Capri. Swatches below are the best I can do. A more professional camera is being seriously considered now, no worries :)

Under direct sunlight
Bottom line. A great versatile highlighter/blush for any occasions. The depth of color is just right to produce a fresh and youthful blushing. This combined with the subtle shimmer creates a very healthy glow that you can hardly overdo it.

Edward Bess Quad Royales are very different in terms of color and finish but share the outstanding quality. I think they're distinctive enough for me to own all of them. If, however, you must to pick one, stay tune for the comparison post. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Edward Bess Quad Royale in Monte Carlo No. 2

Edward Bess Quad Royale Monte Carlo 02 ($45 for  0.25 oz) is the latest addition to Edward's Quad Royales. It in fact gives you a choice to use individual shades or combination of different shades thanks to the pigmentation. I wouldn't use single shades from the other two Quad Royales as they're noticeably sheerer.
From left to right clock-wise are a warm champagne, a peach, a peachy coral and a coppery bronze. All are infused with shimmer. Monte Carlo is the most shimmery of the Quad Royales. Again, don't worried about the shimmer as it's subtle yet obvious in a positive way.

Monte Carlo is a warm peachy copper when all shades are swirled together.  It's as pigmented as Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick in Nectar. I only need one application (using my MAC 109 brush, round-toped and dense) to warm up my complexion. If you are fair to light, you might want to use a stippling brush to mix the shades in stead of MAC 109 type of brush. 

Like the other two Quad Royales, Monte Carlo has finely milled texture, soft and really smooth. It's easy to layer and blend without making me look powdery. It also last for a good 8 hours, staying as fresh as when I put it on in the morning. 

And below are swatches under different lighting. For my thoughts on packaging and price range, please refer to my post on South of France

Outdoors in the shade

Under direct sunlight
Comparison post of the three Quad Royales are coming.

Bottom line. Monte Carlo gives you a healthy warmth that looks natural and believable. It's neutral enough for all skin tones but I think it looks best on warm skin. If it were one notch down on shimmery, it'd be my go-to everyday blush/bronzer. Is it a must-have? It depends on whether you like warm peach and high shimmer. If you do it's for you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cover Look Week 02.13.2012

Laura Mercier's Lingerie Collection immediately caught my attention among all spring collections this year. The promo picture of this year wonders quite far from the soft feminine that dominated Laura Mercier seasonal makeup in a few years past. It's just different from Laura Mercier I got so used to with, in a good way. Sultry dreamy eye coupled with glossy peach lips screams summer rather than spring to me. Still, the peach and pink bring the springy feelings to the look.
Focus. Violet tinted chocolate brown eye shadow. Glossy peach lips.

My take

Base. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation 5.75 and Giorgio Armani Micro-Fil Setting Powder No. 2 (both are not pictured here).


Option 1
Plum and peal white in Dior Stylish Move and the rich chocolate brown in Dior Rosy Tan.

Option 2
Edward Bess Berry Chic.

Option 3
A more shimmery/chrome version of the look can be achieved using Chanel Vanites.

Comparing the three options

Cheek. Paul and Joe Cheek color 12


Option 1
Bobbi Brown Rich Lipcolor Sweet Nectar SPF 12
Guerlain Rouge G Orange Euphorique (LE)

Option 2
Paul and Joe Moon Shadow Lipstick topped by Paul and Joe Sailor's Delight.

Did you get Laura Mercier Lingerie Collection? What will be your take on the promo look?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Edward Bess Quad Royale South of France 01

Edward Bess Quad Royale South of France 01 ($45 for 0.25 oz) is a beautiful subtle highlighter that can also be worn as blush.

The below picture is my best effort to capture the color base of South of France. In clock-wise order is champagne (top left), cool pink (top right), pinky beige (bottom right), and pinky mauve (bottom left). All shades contain delicate golden and lavender shimmer all the through, which was muted out by the overcast lighting in this picture. 
The top two shades are very sheer, no matter how heavy I swatched. They cast a veil of soft shimmer over my skin. The bottom two shades have more color but still lie in the sheer side. They are, however, buildable without caking me up. I love to wear South of France alone as a blush with 4-5 layers. It creates a healthy glow, just enough to warm up my complexion. 

South of France looks cool in the pan, not on my skin (medium, warm undertone). When swirled together, it creates a beautiful soft pinky beige. The golden shimmer warms up my skin while the lavender shimmer brightens it up. Don't let the shimmer concerns you. It's obvious in a good way, soft and elegant, making South of France a very wearable highlighter.

South of France as well as the other Quad Royales have superb finely milled texture. It stays fresh for a typical working day. 

Quad Royale comes with a nice square blush and large mirror. The brush works perfectly to sculpt your face but if you want use all four shades together, I would recommend a MAC 109 type of brush. My only complain is the loosely closed case. Powder spills out of the palette, which isn't a deal breaker but a small improvement will complete the luxe for the product. 

Swatched all together

Closed up
Now, Edward Bess is a luxurious brand. Quad Royale is no exception, yet they're priced at the same level as Dior Shimmer Star (here and here) ($44 for 0.35 oz) . The two products are designed differently. Dior Shimmer Star is a highligher. Edward makes Quad Royales multi-tasking or highlighting-contouring palette. I think the price point is reasonable.

Bottom line. South of France would flatter all skin tone (warm, neural, cool) by creating a healthy looking skin. Lighter skin tone may double it as blush while deeper skin tone can use it as highlighter. Easy-to-use, conveniently packed, high quality and chic color, this particular quad is perfect for a dynamic woman whose sense of fashion can be described as exquisite.

Stay tuned for reviews on Monte Carlo and Summer in Capri. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Edward Bess Ultra Slick lipstick in Tender Love

Edward Bess Ultra Slick Lipstick Tender Love ($30 for 0.14 oz) is a lovely rosy brown that suits pretty much any occasions.

Compared to my other rosy staples, Tender Love is browner than both Chanel Rouge Coco Mademoiselle and Laura Mercier Audrey. The three share the same color depth and that wearable rosy undertone. Laura Mercier Audrey has more pink while Chanel Mademoiselle is more coral-tinted than Tender Love. This kind of coloring is the most frequently-reached in my makeup stash. It's my lips but better type of lipstick. I don't have to think. Whenever in doubt, I just grab a rosy brown like Tender Love. It matches lots of color theme. Since it leans neither too cool nor too warm, Tender Love would suit many skin undertones.

Tender Love goes on opaque with one layer. You can build it up quite a bit but I prefer a thin application. I think it can look a bit heavy with more than one layer if you're on lighter skin tone.

The texture of Edward Bess Lipsticks is phenomenal (I know I sounds like a broken record by using this work repetitively). They feel completely weightless like second skin or naked. Better yet, they are very creamy without being overly creamy and easy-to-crack, moisturizing, non-sticky and stay put. Edward Bess Lipsticks wears good 5 hours on me, and can proceed to hour 6 with deeper shade like Tender Love.

Edward Bess Lipsticks have fig scent, which may or may not be your thing. It works fine for my sensitive nose (I'm not a fan of scented makeup) since it's light and fades away through out the day.

Swatched indoors
Swatched outdoors

Bottom line. Lovely color, impressive texture. If you haven't found a universal lippie for frequent wearing, Tender Love is a great choice. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cover Look Week 02.06.2012

My most recent moving from California to Texas alarmed me (again) about two things: one, I need to keep my makeup stash under control; and two, I do have almost every type of makeup of my every favorite color. Although I've never accidentally purchased anything twice, I only finished one lipstick in my entire life. Mascaras don't count since we need to replace them regularly no matter what.

So, to get myself disciplined, I decided (unsurprisingly) to use more and buy less. Particularly challenging is the latter *sign*. And I really got many inspirational pictures as a result of endless hours collecting celeb pictures. So, starting this week, I will challenge myself to recreate one favorite look weekly, focusing on my personal take of the look to suit my personality and facial features. I hope to improve my makeup techniques and knowledge of the products used through this series. So here you go. 

My first week's inspiration is Chanel Spring 2012 promo picture. 
Focus. Soft peachy pink cheeks and lips. Soft eye makeup. 

My take

We are still in the transition between the winter and spring, I love a natural foundation. Sheer application of Dior Skin Nude foundation then set with Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder. 

It seems to me that the model had a pink/peachy eyeshadows on. However, I feel the peachy pink on eyes, cheeks and lips is a bit overwhelming. So I toned it down by neutral eyeshadows using the eyeshadows of Edward Bess Back to Basics palette. Then I lined my eyes with Chanel Espresso and finished off with Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill mascara

I'm obsessed with the lovely peachy pink cheeks in the ad. Blush de Horizon is a soft peachy pink that is quite easy to replicate. While browsing through Chanel Spring 2012 collection, I got many compliments about my blush color. The sale associates actually thought that I was wearing the star item of the collection, Blush de Horizon.  The actual products I used were 

Make Up Forever HD Blush No 6, an apricot pink that dries matte. 
Physicians Formula Shimmer Strip in Miami to add a touch of golden shimmer and pink base. 

If you have Guerlain Serie Noir Blush G, I think you can safely skip Chanel Blush de Hoizon. Use every shade except the orange strip. 


Chanel Rouge Coco Mademoiselle was mixed with Chanel Rouge Coco Chintz. To achieve that glossy look, I added a touch of Paul and Joe Lip Lacquer 05

Have you played with this look? What did you use? 
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