Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: theBalm How Bout Them Apples? Lip and Cheek Palette

The Purchase

How Bout Them Apples? retails for $32. I first traded for a sample of Pie, and when I liked it, I went to Birchbox to purchase the full palette and have all the colors! I got this palette for free using Birchbox points. You can purchase it there and use the code welcomeoffer20 for 20% off (you might have to spend $35 to use it, but if you spend $35 you can also get a free mystery sample pack). Even if you're not a subscriber, you can still make an account and shop the Birchbox shop. You can also purchase it from theBalm's website, or from Kohl's (which offers 3% cash back on eBates [referral link]). TheBalm is also sometimes on Hautelook, with a lot of products being half off or better, so you can sign up here [referral link] and wait for it to show up there if you're patient!

The Packaging

The packaging is adorable! Just look at those designs! So cute, kitschy, and retro, just like everything from theBalm. I guess it's a love it or hate it kind of aesthetic, but personally, I'm in the love it camp. It's a cardboard palette (but a pretty sturdy-feeling one) with a magnetic closure. There are six shades of lip and cheek color included. There is a pretty good-size mirror in the lid. I appreciated that this is a palette with all cream products; a mixture of cream and powder products is not my favorite because fallout from the powders can mess up the creams. I'm also a big fan of blush palettes; I know they don't make sense the way that eyeshadow palettes do (I mean, I usually just use one color of blush each day), but I like to have options when I travel, and they're good for that. Plus, look at all the pretty colors! Anyway, packaging-wise, this is a win for me, even though I'd prefer sturdier plastic packaging instead of cardboard.

The Performance

All these shades are really pretty! Crisp is the only one with shimmer (although of course, being cream products, all of these have a rather dewy finish when applied), and Crisp and Cider are a bit sheerer than the other shades. All have good pigmentation, though. Crisp is the driest shade but still easy enough to work with. I think these are best when worn on the cheeks; I set them with a translucent powder and they last around the same amount of time as any other blush, no more no less. They blend out nicely (I use either my fingers or elf Small Stipple Brush from the Studio line).

I like the idea of coordinating lip and cheek products, and I think, overall, these do a decent job on the lips as well. Cobbler is my favorite when worn on the lips; it seems to have a decent amount of moisture, and doesn't settle into lip lines. From there, some shades do better than others, but I find them all to be wearable. Pie, Caramel, and Crisp all work well for me. Cider is not a good color for me on the lips; it makes me look kind of dead. Cider and Candy also emphasize dry patches more than I'd like, though. Mixing them with a little lip balm can help if they feel too dry to you. They don't last a super long time, but I don't find them to last a significantly shorter time than any similar products, either. My lips were pretty dry/chapped when I did the lip swatches, so please excuse their condition! And the sometimes inexact application...these were quick, on and off, and looking at the pictures, I haven't done a great job on some of them. Oops! Anyway. Now, on to the swatches:

First, the arm swatches. First is two swipes with a finger. Second is one swipe, blended. L-R these are Cider, Pie, and Candy.

...And these are Cobbler, Crisp, and Caramel.

Now, the lip swatches. Cider:






Phew! That was a lot of swatches. Now, on to....

The Verdict

Overall, I think this is totally worth $32. The performance, on average, is good (if not amazing, particularly on the lips), and you get six grade shades to choose from - plus, that packaging! These are some of my favorite cream blushes, and I think most of them work well if you want to coordinate lips and cheeks.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Review: Tarte Bow & Go Eyeshadow Palette

The Purchase 

I know, I'm all about eyeshadow palettes lately, but, they, they're exciting! This palette was originally a part of a 2013 holiday gift set that also included two mascaras, two eyeliners, and four Lipsurgence lip colors, but it seems to only be available individually now. I bought it as part of the set, but it is $38 for just the palette, and it is available on the Tarte website [referral link] (4% cash back on ebates [referral link] and you can get 20% off by signing up for their newsletter) and from Ulta's website (currently 10% cash back on ebates [referral link] and I think there's a double points event going on as well).

The Packaging

I really like how sleek and compact the packaging is, and it's purple! I love purple! The design is pretty, and it's a nice size. However, I'm not a huge fan of cardboard packaging in general (though this feels pretty sturdy as cardboard goes) and the lack of a mirror in this palette is a bit of a drawback - I still love it, but it's not one I'm going to take with me on the go. The pans seem pretty large, and I like that they're square because it makes it really easy to get a brush into the color you want, and only the color you want, which is more difficult with the way some palettes are set up.

The Performance

There are 16 colors in this palette, and they all perform really well! The swatches here are two swipes with a finger, dry, no primer, indoors with a flash. I do think primer improves these shadows (as it does most shadows), but you can still see that the pigmentation is decent without primer. These shadows are really smooth and easy to blend, and they stay put all day. I love Tarte's eyeshadow formula! The color selection is nice, too - On the neutral side, but with a pretty big variety of neutrals. There are purple-toned neutrals, green-toned neutrals, greys, browns, creams, taupes - whatever you want, it's here! There are matte shadows and some with shimmer, but nothing is out-and-out glittery. This is a great everyday palette, and you can create a lot of different looks with it. There are no sub-par shades in this palette; every color performs well.

The first two rows:

The last two rows:

The Verdict

This is definitely one of my go-to palettes! I love the colors, and they perform well alone (and even better over primer). For $38, this is definitely worth it, and it's even more worth when combined with coupons and/or points and/or eBates cash back! It's not one of the more commonly touted neutral palettes (especially as it's limited edition), but it is one of my favorites, and I really recommend grabbing this one while you still can.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Favorite Beauty Blogs #1

Since I'm new to this whole beauty blogging thing, I thought it would be a nice idea to mention some of the beauty blogs that I really enjoy, that set the standards I hope to try to live up to with this blog. These are by no means all the blogs I enjoy (that would take forever!), just a little sample. I hope you'll click over and read some of these ladies' fabulous blogs! (I don't know them personally so I feel a bit weird talking about them like this, but, hey, they're awesome and I wanted to promote these blogs. So go! Read!)

Beauty Reductionista - Liz's beauty blog is one of my favorites! When I recently discovered it, I loved it so much I read her *entire* archive. A little crazy, I know! She talks about wanting to use things up and reduce her stash, reviews products, shows her empties - a little bit of everything.

Beauty Broadcast - This is the blog of emilynoel83 on Youtube. I love both Emily's blog and her videos - she is great to watch, so bubbly and friendly and charismatic. Her reviews are solid, honest, and thorough, and she talks about both drugstore products and pricier options (mid-range, generally, like Too Faced or Tarte, not so much YSL or Dior), so there's something for everyone, at every budget.

Project Swatch - I really like the range of products that Emi features here, from Wet n Wild and Revlon to Dior and Guerlain. Something for everyone, again! Her reviews are really good, and I like her favorite brushes posts as I'm trying to build up my brush collection a bit.

Brightest Bulb In The Box - Robyn's tagline is "Beauty for Critical Minds," and it really is just that. Not only are their reviews and pictures of pretty things, she also breaks down the marketing bullshit and gives us the science behind some popular beauty products. Her blog is smart, funny, and original. Definitely add this one to your subscriptions if you haven't already!

There are tons more out there, of course, and you'll notice that the title of this post says "#1" after it - I definitely plan on pointing out some more awesome blogs at some point in the future!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: Sleek Cosmetics Blushes & Eyeshadows

The Purchase

I posted these swatches on Makeup Talk so I thought I'd go ahead and put them up here along with some brief thoughts. Sleek Cosmetics is a UK-based brand, but you can order online from the U.S. (either from their own website or on Amazon; Amazon is probably cheaper for a single item, but of course you can combine shipping to make it cheaper from Sleek). I bought some of my Sleek items in Barcelona and some in London. I own two of the Blush by 3 palettes and four of the i-Divine eyeshadow palettes. The blush palettes are generally around $15 and the eyeshadow palettes are around $10.

The Packaging

The packaging is sleek and black and high-quality, but unfortunately the matte black attracts dirt and makeup and fingerprints like crazy! However, all the palettes feel sturdy, and each has a good-quality full-size mirror inside, which I really like. The eyeshadow palettes come with a double-sided sponge tip applicator, which I've thrown out because I don't use those.

The Performance

These swatches almost speak for themselves! Most of the colors are really pigmented and beautiful, especially the shimmers. The lighter-colored mattes are not great, so if those are what you are really lusting after, don't buy the palettes for those. Everything is really soft and blends fairly well, although sometimes the shadows do have a tendency to become a little muddied together after awhile, especially without primer. The blushes are incredibly pigmented so you have to use a light hand, but you will never ever run out of these colors, and they are gorgeous! They wear well, too.

All swatch pictures are indoors with a flash, two swipes with a finger, dry, no primer.

First, the blush swatches. The first three are the Pink Sprint trio, and the second three are the Sweet Cheeks trio, of which the first shade is a cream blush.

Now, the eyeshadow palettes. Each palette has 12 colors. First, The Original:


Oh So Special:

Au Naturel:

The Verdict:

These are the best drugstore-priced eyeshadow palettes I've ever used, and the blushes are some of the best ever, hands down! Definitely well worth the price for any of these items, but most especially the brightly colored, shimmery eyeshadows, and the blushes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: LORAC afterGLO Eye Shadow Palette

Limited edition products are a weakness of mine, as you may have noticed. The Paula's Choice palette I reviewed on Wednesday is a limited edition, and two of the five highlighters I own are limited edition as well! It should come as no surprise, then, that LORAC's summer limited edition eye palette caught my eye.

The Purchase

This palette is only available from Ulta. It is $24- quite a bargain compared to most palettes of similar quality! When I purchased it, along with a few other things, I got a 16-piece GWP including tons of samples from Mally, Bare Minerals, Vichy, and more. The Ulta website almost always has some kind of GWP, be it brand-specific or just for reaching a certain purchase amount, and you can also get cash back (usually 4%, sometimes 8%, right now 10%!) using eBates (click here to sign up) (referral link).

The Packaging

I absolutely love the packaging on this palette! The color is gorgeous, and it's hard plastic that snaps shut and feels sturdy. It's sleek, durable, and functional. The inside of the lid is a full-size mirror with "LORAC" printed in small letters across the top (covered in the photo so the flash didn't reflect), and the pans are wide enough that they are easy to use. There are eight colors across the main part of the palette, with two larger highlight colors at the bottom. This palette manages to look fun and classy all at the same time!

The Performance

All swatches are two swipes with my finger, no primer, in the same arrangement as the palette itself. The photos were taken indoors with a flash. Overall, this is a really excellent palette. The two blue/teal shades at the left side of the palette are the real standouts here, and I love them! Only two shades disappointed me: the gold (third from the left) and the purple. However, they are both still useable, just not up to the quality of the other shadows. I imagine they'd be even better with a primer, but I didn't feel the need to swatch this palette over primer, because I'm perfectly happy with it as-is! Most of the shades are really smooth and apply well; only the gold feels a little rougher.

The Verdict

I am very happy with this palette! No thoughts at all of returning it :) There's a nice mix of bright colors and of very wearable neutrals that can be mixed and matched for all kinds of different looks. The overall quality of the shadows and the great packaging means it's definitely worth $24, and I highly recommend snapping one up before they're all gone!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Let's Talk About Highlighters!

Highlighting. Contouring. All the rage these days, right? I'm not much for the contouring - it looks good on camera but I think it can look a little silly in real life if you're not careful, especially with my pale skin. It's too easy to end up looking orange or dirty! I do love a good highlight, though. A little on the cheekbones and you can glow like an angel. It's a good look!

Since most of the face highlighters I have were purchased overseas (I recently came back from a couple years living in Germany so a lot of my makeup collection is not available in the U.S.) and thus many people won't be able to get their hands on these products, I didn't want to do in-depth reviews for each one. However, you know I enjoy sparkle, so I did want to talk a little about the highlighting products that I've accumulated. I'm just going to show you some photos and give some quick thoughts about each of these 5 products. Before I go into detail, I'll show you the swatches. These are done indoors, with a flash, unblended. The color you see when you wear one of these normally would be a lot more subtle--and I know that even in the photo, some of these are hard to see, particularly the first two. Highlighters are difficult to photograph!  Left to right, these are in the same order as the reviews: Essence, Catrice RR, Catrice P&F, R Young, and Benefit.

Essence Dark Radiance Collection Cream Highlighter

This product is limited edition from Essence. I picked it up in Germany a few months ago, so I doubt it's still on the shelves, but it's still interesting and I'm going to talk about it! It's a cream highlighter, and it's a really unique product - instead of being just shimmery, it's actually iridescent! It's a white product with an iridescent pinky/purply shine when the light hits it. Gorgeous! The packaging is nice enough, considering it's Essence and one of the cheapest brands at the drugstore, but nothing to write home about.

Catrice Rocking Royals Collection Scented Highlighting Powder

Isn't the whole idea of this just so luxurious? Scented highlighting powder? It's a little weird, but I love the idea. The Rocking Royals collection (I think it was sometime in the fall that this was released) had a lot of great products, though! I also have an eyeliner, two lipsticks, a blush, an eyeshadow, and a nail polish from that collection...I went a little bit crazy! It was pretty cheap, though - for those who don't know, Catrice is a German drugstore brand. It's made by the same company as Essence, but with a little better quality and slightly higher prices to match - still very cheap though. Anyway, this powder comes in a pretty gold tin, with a puff inside and a sweet scent. It's a pretty subtle highlight - there is shimmer in it, but it's not full on frosty or shiny like some highlighters. I like it quite a lot, and feel fancy when I use it even though it only cost about $6!

Catrice Prime And Fine Highlighting Powder

The packaging is a little banged up on this one, but that just shows it's well-loved! I'm a big fan of Catrice, and I hope some of their products make it over to the U.S. soon! This highlighter is from their Prime And Fine range, which is a part of the permanent collection. However, I did notice that my drugstore stopped stocking the highlighting powder at the beginning of 2014. I'm not sure if that's just my store (it was a Rossmann, if that matters) or if that's everywhere, so I'm not sure if this is still available or not. Anyway, it's in a sleek black compact that I like (it looked sleeker when it was new), although a mirror would have improved it. It's a nice, soft powder, and a gorgeous pink-gold shimmer that I think looks amazing on my fair skin. Love this one!

R Young Baked Highlighter

R Young is one of the house brands of Rossmann, a German drugstore. I know, I know, all of these products are German! But this is a nice product, considering I don't like many things from Rossmann's house brands. This highlighter comes in a cheap-looking clear plastic compact. Cheap-looking because it is cheap. Less than $5. The texture of this pink highlighter isn't nearly as smooth as the Catrice product mentioned above, but the color is a pretty pink shimmer. This is super pigmented, and when worn, it's one of the less-subtle highlighters I own (in a good way, it's still not over the top).

Benefit High Beam

This is the only product on the list available in the U.S., the only liquid highlighter mentioned here, and the only one not from the drugstore. I really like this, and it was my first highlighter! It comes in a bottle, and I only have the mini size (but a little goes a long way!). It's the more pinky shade of Benefit's two "beam" products - Sunbeam, which I don't have, is a golden highlight. Being liquid means you can even mix a little with your moisturizer or foundation if you want to look especially luminous! (I don't do that, though.) I quite like this one as well!

The Verdict

I love and use all of these highlighters, but the Catrice Prime And Fine and Benefit High Beam are my favorites. I think highlighting is a great part of my routine, adding a little sparkle into my life even when I'm wearing a matte eye, for example. It's important not to go overboard with the highlighter on a daily basis, or you'll look like Edward Cullen at the beach, but a little of one of these products can add something special to any look!