Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the favorites | late autumn + early winter 2014

Hello, everyone!

It's been a while since I've updated. I've mostly gotten over my bronchitis now—thank God—and am home for Christmas. Finals are over and done with, so now it's time for fairy lights and chocolate. I hope that your holidays have been lovely; mine have been so far.

Who's ready for some autumn and winter favorites?


Like I mentioned in my autumn edit, I've rediscovered my first MAC purchase, the Satin lipstick in Rebel. It doesn't have the most lip-friendly formula, but the color is absolutely lovely, a pink-based plum. In order to save my lips from its drying effects, though, I've relied upon the Bite Beauty Line & Define lip primer. This prolongs the wear time of Rebel and other matte and satin lipsticks—although, curiously, not my NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil—by moisturizing and smoothing the surface of my lips. This option from Bite is pricey, but I recommend the brand heartily.

Thanks to my lovely exchange partner, I've been able to play around with Femme Fatale Cosmetics, an Australian indie company with breathtaking duochromes. My particular favorites thus far have been The Masquerade and Umberhowl. With a bit of primer and some Darling Girl Glitter Glue, the shadows pop and stick around all day.


I purchased the Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil just a little over a year ago, and it's still going strong. I use about four or five drops all over my face and neck at night. This oil blend moisturizes my face without making it overly greasy, and it hasn't caused me any clogged pores. It's a relatively pricey option, but it's a good one. I have read, though, that Camellia japonica seed oil, for which the Boscia blend is named, is available for roughly two-thirds of the price per ounce on Garden of Wisdom, a site that I have not tried myself but have heard of other skincare enthusiasts' enjoying.


I am extremely picky when it comes to fragrance, but I love my exchange partner's pick from Firebird Apothecary. Pomegranate Basil is fresh but intoxicating. The pomegranate and currant offer a richness that the greenness of the basil complements brilliantly. If you like green, fruity scents that aren't too sweet, definitely check this one out.


As I noted in my autumn edit, my two current favorite polishes represent opposite ends of the color spectrum: the first, Nails Inc. NailKale polish in Westbourne Park Road, is a pinky lavender-gray; the second, Clinique A Different Nail Enamel in Black Honey, is a deep burgundy red. Both polishes have very smooth formulas and reach opacity in two or three coats, respectively. In fact, these are the only two polishes I brought home for Christmas break.


Finally, throughout my bout of bronchitis, I consumed a lot of tea. Upon my return home, I was practically guzzling mugs of Lipton Pure green tea with three spoonfuls each of lemon juice and honey. I like to call this "Ellen's Magical Elixir." The Lipton option is a decent bog-standard green tea, but you can use just about any tea you like for the elixir. I find that it helps soothe my throat, and I just love the feeling that I get while drinking tea.

What have your favorites been this season?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

the editorial | giving thanks

Today marks the first Thanksgiving I have been confined to my bed since I was very little. I'm surrounded by pillows and cough drop wrappers and can hear the comforting buzz of football from the den. While I lie here in fleece pajamas in between puffs of albuterol and throat lozenges, I can only think how very fortunate I am to be where I am today.

You see, if I weren't ill, I'd be helping Mom in the kitchen with the turkey and sides or watching football with my grandpa or playing video games with my little sister. Later today, I'd be setting up the Christmas tree.

I have a good life, and I am thankful for that. I am thankful for my sweet dad who brought me a plate of food and for my dogs that know when I need some puppy love. I'm thankful for my university. I'm thankful for my experiences, even within the last year. I'm thankful for Nashville, my home away from home. I'm thankful for those committed to justice and peace, even in the face of oppression. I'm thankful to live in a society that can change for the better. I'm thankful for a God who hears the cries of the downtrodden and who cares for us.

And you who read this—I am thankful for you, too. Let's spread some beauty throughout the world today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

the edit | autumn 2014

The transitional months between winter and summer and summer and winter have always been my favorites. I love watching the earth burst forth with new life in the spring, and I adore the blazing leaves of autumn. Hence, you'll find me much more interested in beauty, fashion—in short, everything—to do with autumn and spring than in that of summer and winter. That's not to say that I despise any season: I simply like my crisp mornings and bundled-up evenings. This is, as Keats puts it, the "[s]eason of mists and mellow fruitfulness," of comfortingly itchy sweaters and burrow-worthy blankets.

In the beauty world, this typically means trading summery sheer reds and pastel polishes for berries and smoke. If the trees change colors, why wouldn't we? Now is the autumn of our richer shades, our plums and russets. I, for one, thoroughly enjoy the shifting of shades, although there are some areas of my routine that remain the same.


Not much of my eye makeup changes from season to season. My favorite look to this day is a cat eye, which I wear year-round. I do like a bit more smoke during colder months, though, so I break out the cotton buds and smudger brushes, like the one I got in a set from Tarte about two years ago. Tarte doesn't make any more of this particular model, but just about any pencil or smudging brush will suffice. I simply line my lashes somewhat messily with a pencil and go to town with the brush, sometimes adding a bit of eyeshadow to alter the shade of the liner.

I typically keep at least two lip colors with me in my little makeup bag—one "my lips but better" shade, one bold. My most conventionally autumnal colors for either option are Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte lipstick in Touch of Spice, that ubiquitous drugstore nude-plum, and MAC Satin lipstick in Rebel, a famously lovely hue with an unfortunately less-than-amazing formula. I normally shy away from shades with any hint of brown, but Touch of Spice has enough pink and plum to balance everything on me. Its scent isn't exactly pleasant—think very artificial fruit—but it fades quickly, and the comfortable matte formula more than makes up for it. Rebel, however, does not have a particularly lovely formula. It's very waxy and tends to cling to dry patches. With a lip primer and some patience, though, it's a beautiful pink-based plum. I probably will not repurchase it, but I will certainly finish it.


My skincare routine is constantly changing. I know what works for me in general, but I like to play around a bit. A good moisturizer, though, is key to any decent routine, and La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra fits the bill. It's an inoffensive, emollient last step in my routine that keeps my skin happily soft. If you have dry, sensitive skin, this is worth a test.


I'm not one to switch fragrances with the seasons. I love trying new things, but I'm prone to scent-related headaches, so I'm quite particular. I tend to favor citrusy green scents with jasmine and/or rose—no patchouli. I recently received Firebird perfume oil in Pomegranate Basil in a reddit exchange and have been thoroughly enjoying it! It features notes of tart pomegranates, juicy red currants, and heady basil, all of which I love. Its deeper fruity tones make it an excellent twist on autumnal perfume.


As you can see, I'm quite a fan of nail polish. It takes a bit of time each week, but I love the results. My favorite shades include pastels, reds, nudes, and berries, but the latter two categories feature prominently in the autumn. Granted, I wear nude or neutral polish at all times of the year, but it seems especially appropriate with the grayer weather. I recently purchased the Nails Inc. NailKale polish in Westbourne Park Road, a gorgeous lavender-gray with hints of pink. I could not care less for the supposed benefits of kale extract in nail polish, but I can confirm that the formula and brush of this polish are among the best I have ever tried. On the other end of the spectrum is the Clinique A Different Nail Enamel in Black Honey, a deep, blackened red that goes on nearly opaque in two coats. It's unlike any other color I own, and I'm glad to have it in my collection.

What are you adding to your routine this autumn?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

the exchange | /r/indiemakeupandmore autumn 2014

I am assuming that most if not all of you are familiar with reddit, that site of intrigue and lols. I have been a redditor for nearly two years and, thanks to the lovely users over at /r/Indiemakeupandmore, have discovered the world of indie cosmetics. /r/IMaM is a very friendly community of both makers and consumers. Shop owners, like Christine of Hello Waffle, interact with customers and share their own favorite products from other shops. Think of it as the social counterpart to Etsy.

This autumn, /r/IMaM held a global makeup exchange, and I signed right up! I've previously participated in an exchange on /r/MakeupAddicts and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was paired with a woman from Australia, and she sent me the loveliest assortment of things!


As you can see, I received a sample and a full-sized fragrance, both of which smell divine. Haus of Gloi's Olde Cider Haus is autumnal to the nth degree—tart apples and magic. Firebird's Pomegranate Basil, however, is a lush, herbal fruity concoction with a touch of currant. As I typically use parfum or cologne, I enjoyed a different vehicle for the scent. Both oils melt right into the skin without the harshness of alcohol.


I have wanted to try Femme Fatale Cosmetics for months now. The Australian-based brand carries beautifully complex eyesahdows, and The Masquerade in particular caught my attention. My exchange partner also sent me eyeshadows in Moonstone, Wildvine, and Umberhowl, all of which are multidimensional duochromes except for gorgeously shimmery Umberhowl. Love. She also included a blush sample in Radar Love and eyeshadow samples in Heroic and Crystalline Scale.


Candy is one of my favorite things to include in exchanges, so I was definitely excited to receive some. I haven't tried all the taffies, but I've liked the ones I've tried so far. The musk sticks to the far right are so bizarre! They taste like slightly fruity, perfumed marshmallow-taffy. Tim Tams are possibly my favorite sandwich biscuits. If you haven't tried them before and are a chocolate fan like myself, do yourself a favor and locate some Tim Tams.

bonus bunny

My lovely exchange partner also made me a bunny! It is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I've received. I know my partner put a lot of time and effort into the little guy, and I am so chuffed with it!

Thank you so much to my lovely exchange partner. Have you ever participated in a makeup exchange? What are your favorite online beauty communities?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

the editorial | why i'm not participating in no makeup november

Ah, November. A month full of playing in autumn leaves, celebrating Thanksgiving, and shaming young Christian women for wearing makeup.

Wait, what?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with No Makeup November, it's an outreach program of sorts offered by RAVE Ministries, which caters to young women, particularly in the United States. I personally know people who either currently work or have worked with them, and the overwhelming impression that I have from them is a good one. Let me be clear: I believe that RAVE has made a positive impact in the lives of many young women, but No Makeup November, while well-intentioned, makes a moral issue where there is none.

Obviously, we live in a very façade-centered culture. We are bombarded day in and day out by advertisements calling us to spend more, look more, be more, and we often succumb. We women are told that our worth comes from our appearance and that our "flaws" are shameful. The Apostle Peter addresses this in his call to the women of the Church:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
—1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV
True beauty comes from within, an adage that we have heard again and again—but it is indeed true. If our worth comes from "outward adornments," then there is a problem, just as there would be one if we based our worth solely on acceptance from others.

The biggest problem that No Makeup November, then, is not its focus on true beauty, but that "say[ing] YES to God-given beauty" is synonymous with abstaining from makeup. It reminds me of how smug I felt this time two years ago, sensing a sort of solidarity with the other girls who showed up to class barefaced. I convinced myself that I was somehow morally superior for not applying mascara or concealer, when in reality I had made a moral issue of something superficial at its core and was mentally congratulating myself for a nonexistent ethical victory. I had removed artificial enhancements to my physical beauty but, in doing so, had inhibited my inner beauty. By November 3, I was back to wearing makeup, stepping away from judging my peers and toward cultivating a gracious spirit.

If you are excited to participate in No Makeup November, then I encourage you to do so. For some young women, it can be a time of remembrance. For me, though, it reminds me how much further we have to go to stop shaming women not only for our "flaws" but also for concealing them.

Regardless of where you stand on No Makeup November—if you even have an opinion on the subject at all—I wish you a month of joy and peace and thanksgiving. Let us all be gracious to each other, loving each other beyond the façade, whether literal or figurative.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

the update | where i am

Hello, folks!

If you're wondering where I've been, let me reassure you that all is well: I've just been especially caught up in work and coursework.

I've never been fantastic at time management, but I am a perfectionist, so this semester has been quite the lesson in learning how to let it go.

I want to give this blog the dedication it deserves, so over the next couple of weeks I will attempt to get ahead in my writing. I have a LORAC and Urban Decay smackdown on board as well as some of my top picks for autumn, so stay tuned for those.

As always, feel free to let me know what you want to see on the blog. I want this to be a place of self-expression and conversation about beautiful things of all forms.

Friday, October 10, 2014

the forum | changing seasons + halloween

Welcome back to another monthly forum! I realize that I skipped last month, so this time, I'm asking you about two topics.

First of all, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing the fading of summer, while our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are gearing up for warmer temperatures. How are you planning to celebrate the changing seasons? I, for one, am brewing more tea than ever and relishing every chance to break out the slouchy sweaters and ankle boots!

Second, how are you planning to celebrate Halloween this year? Have you picked out a costume? I have both a Dead Authors Party and Halloween night in mind. For the former, I'm going as Joan Green as my beloved John Green frequently advocates the death of the author—it's a stretch, mind you, but I'm ecstatic for it! For Halloween itself, I'm going as Lorde, the queen of cool. Never will my eyeliner skills be so tested as October 31.

Let's get talking in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

the favorites | september 2014

Hello, beautiful people! Long time, no blog!

I'm a bit late this time for favorites, but I thought I'd kick off October with a collection of things that I've enjoyed using for the past month.


I made a rediscovery this month in the Naked Basics palette from Urban Decay. This is exactly what it sounds like, a perfectly neutral palette with five matte shades and one satin highlight. Walk of Shame and Naked2 are my personal favorites; I'd be perfectly happy if Urban Decay released a duo of just those shades.

Another rediscovery has been my Make Up For Ever Full Cover concealer in Pink Porcelain. I use it primarily as a spot concealer, and it works brilliantly for that. Plus, on days when I want the lightest base possible, it blends out beautifully.

I've played with brows more this month after a triumphant location of my Anastasia Brow Wiz in Taupe, which I thought I'd lost in May. I don't fill in my brows all that often as they're pretty full as is, but this helps me out when I do.

Finally, new in this month are the LORAC Pro palette and Darling Girl Glitter Glue. The former I got to treat myself after a particularly thorough destash when a 20% off code was available; the latter I got to help my indie shadows stay on my lids. Both have been quality investments so far: the LORAC shadows are richly pigmented and blend very nicely, and the Glitter Glue has actually convinced Mother of Dragons to stick around for longer than an hour. I'm very impressed with both of these items and expect to get plenty of use out of them.


I don't know the brand of my adorable bunny watch, but I wanted to share it anyway. My roommate got it for me over the summer as I love bunnies and am notorious for my tardiness. This little guy hops around on my wrist about every other day, and I love it!


My lovely roommate introduced me to Zhena's Red Lavender tisane at the beginning of the month, and I am so grateful for that. As the name suggests, it's a blend of rooibos and lavender, which when combined provide a cup of relaxing antioxidants. It's lightly sweet on its own, but it also goes well with a tiny bit of raw sugar. I can't recommend this enough and will buy my own canister when I see it in stores.

What were your favorites during September?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

the concert | lorde

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a historic show for one of our generation's most gifted voices, the perpetually mind-blowing Lorde.

She performed at the Grand Ole Opry, a world-famous venue as well as one she mentioned loving. She stood on the stage where she imagined the Man in Black performing decades ago and gave an understated but enchanting performance.

I have loved Lorde ever since last June, when one of my good friends introduced me to "Royals," so hearing that she was coming to Nashville was a dream come true. As you can see, I sat way up in the balcony, but it gave me a good vantage point. Everyone at the concert was polite for the most part, and the Grand Ole Opry really is one of the best venues I've attended.

I don't want to give too much away in case you're going to one of the later spots on the tour, but know that if you are going, you're going to have a great time!

Have you gone to any concerts recently?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the face | great scott

Today, I thought I'd try something a little different. Let me know how you like the change in image formatting!

This morning, my dear friend Scott did my makeup. I did my own base—my standard cocktail of Hourglass Veil mineral primer, NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer in Terre Neuve, NARS Radiant Creamy concealer in Chantilly, and Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light—with a light dusting of NARS blush in Mistinguette, and Scott contoured my cheekbones with Illamasqua Hollow. Scott has a fondness for bold hues and smokey eyes, so he dipped into the Urban Decay Naked and Naked3 palettes, using the shades Toasted, Creep, Mugshot, Blackheart, and Dust. Even over my favorite NARS Smudge Proof eyeshadow base, you can see that they have creased after roughly seven or eight hours of wear.

The lips, though, are where it gets even more fun: Scott used Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics's famous lip tar in Technopagan—what a name!—with some Butch dabbed in the middle. I haven't yet reapplied the now-discontinued Butch since eating as I wanted to show off Technopagan for the purposes of this post. I understand the appeal of the lip tar formula: it's not too drying, and it stays decently put throughout the day. I did need to reapply after failing to eat nachos neatly, but I actually enjoy the process of reapplying.

Metallic navy is a departure from the norm for me, and I'm loving it! I've received several compliments throughout the day, but, more importantly, I got to spend time with a friend and try something different.

What beauty experiments have you tried with your friends?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

the rediscovery | bourjois color boost lip crayon

For those of us who love beauty in the United States, we have it pretty good. Prices here are relatively low, and we have a truly overwhelming variety of products available to us.

There are a few brands, though, that are much harder to find in the States that our friends across the pond can find in every Boots and Superdrug around. Among these covetable brands is Bourjois, one of my favorite drugstore brands that I finally got to play with when I studied abroad last fall. While I was living in the United Kingdom, Bourjois's Color Boost lip crayons took the high street by storm: just about every beauty blogger was featuring them, and nary a negative review was to be found.

I ended up buying one of every shade except Orange Punch throughout my time in England, although I've given away or had to throw away all but one of them: Red Sunrise. A lovely sheer-medium red with pink undertones, it's a no-fuss balmy lipstick in the vein of your typical chubby stick. I have to be careful while eating with it on, but it fades beautifully, and it feels comfortable on the lips. It doesn't last for ten hours on me as the long-faded packaging would claim, but it does last well with only minor touchups needed if I eat or drink a lot of tea.

If you live in the States, these babies will cost you about the same as a lipstick (before shipping, that is), and I think they're worth it. I heartily recommend these if you're interested in a comfortable, balmy lip color that's fairly easy to maintain.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

the favorites | august 2014

It's time once again to talk about my favorite products from the past month!


I decided not to mention favorites from last month as you'd quickly tire of my waxing poetic for the NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer. This month has been a month of rediscoveries and new discoveries: I bought the Bobbi Brown Corrector in Extra Light Bisque last fall, but I didn't get the hang of it until recently. I just dab a bit of this on the inner corners of my eyes—wherever I am bluest—and follow it up with my beloved NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly

As far as new products go, I made a bit of a haul a couple of weeks ago to pick up the Kat Von D Tattoo liner and the Hourglass Veil mineral primer. Both of these have turned out to be holy grail products for me: the liner is brilliant to use, and the primer suits my base of choice perfectly. Additionally, I won a giveaway on /r/MakeupAddicts and received a box of goodies, including this exclusive blush from Hello Waffle in But At Least I'll Look Pretty. Although I received it for free, I'd happily pay for this. I'm unfamiliar with loose blush formulas, but this one is soft and gorgeous: imagine MAC Syrup in blush form.


As summer is starting to wind down—at least in theory here in the South—I'm beginning to get back into my more moisturizing products. The CeraVe Hydrating cleanser has thoroughly impressed me so far with its creamy, non-foaming, and non-irritating formula. I've only had this for about the last couple of weeks, but I am chuffed so far.


Ah, tea: the elixir of life! I drink tea regularly, but since I've moved back on campus, I've been guzzling the stuff. Barry's Tea Gold Blend is my favorite! I've been drinking it since I first picked it up in Dean & DeLuca three-and-a-half years ago. It brews beautifully with milk: it's robust but never bitter. It's becoming easier and easier to acquire, too, at least in the States, so snap some up the next time you see it.

What have your favorites been this month?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

the forum | youtube

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the forum!

This time, we're talking about YouTube.

As you may have seen, I posted my first beauty video on YouTube this past Sunday. This made me wonder if you watch beauty videos on YouTube and, if so, whom you watch.

For my part, I'm a huge fan of Anna from ViviannaDoesMakeup, Lily Pebbles, Alix from icovetthee, Karima McKimmie, and the illustrious Lisa Eldridge. YouTube has been a huge part of my love for makeup: it keeps me informed about upcoming releases and shows me new techniques for what I already have. Online video on the whole fascinates me: it's an up-and-coming industry with the truly unique advantage of allowing anyone to create content.

Which beauty channels do you follow?

What lifestyle-related content would you like to see from me on YouTube?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

the video | the lip product addict tag

Hello, everyone!

For today's post, I thought I'd share a video I filmed for the Lip Product Addict Tag. My apologies in advance for the lighting: I'm still figuring out a proper setup for the future.

I tag all of you to respond with your favorite lip products!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the update | an apology

Hello, again!

I'm so sorry. I thought I'd be back to my regular posting schedule this week, but I forgot how hectic it is to get settled back in at university.

Not to worry, though: I have a post planned for the weekend—possibly a video! Let me know if you'd be interested in, say, a Lip Product Addict tag. Y'know, for science.

Once again, I apologize for the craziness. Things will get back to normal.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

the weekend update | moving

Hello, lovely folks!

Things have been a little crazy this weekend. I've just moved back on campus and am getting settled in, so I hope you'll forgive the quietness on this end.

I'll be back to my regular posting schedule this week.

For those of you who have started or are about to start back to school this week, good luck!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

the haul | replacements

For the past couple of months, I've put myself on a replacement-only no-buy, and I've been successful thus far. I've used up a few things, though, so this past weekend I finally made the trek to Sephora.

I've heard lots of good things about the Kat Von D Tattoo liner, and so far it's lived up to the hype. Unlike most liquid liners I've used before, it has a brush tip rather than one of felt. Despite my reservations about potential messiness, it's actually easier and more precise to apply than, say, everyone's favorite Stila liner. I'm happily impressed.

The other thing I bought was a travel-sized Hourglass Veil mineral primer. It's undoubtedly the priciest primer I've ever used, but it's also by far the best. I've used it every day this week barring Sunday and have been floored by how well this pairs with my favorite NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer. It looks like another face of the day is in order.

Have you bought anything recently? If so, what?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the playlist | back to school 2014

If you live in the United States, chances are that you either have just started or are about to start back at school. What better way to celebrate than with some tunes?

Perennial favorites the Black Keys kick things off with a little "Fever" with the now-finished Civil Wars following with some insane harmonies. Lorde has to be featured in any sort of back-to-school playlist as the teenage queen of cool, and the Killers are already classic. Àsgeir appears here, too, with a riveting melody and heart-pounding beat. John Mark McMillan creates a new kind of worship song while the Neighbourhood anticipates the upcoming chill. Finally, Mary Lambert shines in her new joyous anthem, and Paramore, one of my favorites for the past seven or eight years, closes us out.

I've tried to find clean versions of all these songs, but there is still some language. If that bothers you, I apologize.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

the weekend forum | sunday evening pampering

Hello, everyone!

I just got back from a weekend with family and friends and am about to wash my face and apply a face mask or two.

What do you like to do to wind down the weekend?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

the favorites | july 2014

Hello, all!

I apologize for my lack of consistent posting this week. I've had family- and school-related obligations. Fortunately, I'm now back on track!

So, without any further ado, let's talk July favorites.


July in the South is fairly sweltering, so whenever I wear a full face, I can't go wrong with NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer. I currently own the shade Terre Neuve, which isn't quite pink enough for me, but it blends well enough that you can't really tell. The Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelée in Poppy Paradise has acted in much the same way, giving me a sheer, bright blush. To set everything in place, I've been reaching for the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light, as always. This also works well with the Wayne Goss method.

On my lips, I've been sporting this deluxe sample of the Laura Mercier lip glacé in Rose, which I received in a points perk from Sephora. Although I'm not the biggest fan of shimmer, the formula isn't sticky, and the color enhances the natural color of my lips just enough to look effortlessly pretty.

After a brief stint of believing I'd lost it, my friend Kyle found my Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Pumped Up! mascara hiding in my couch—I kid you not. I'm very glad he did: it's very volumizing very quickly. Don't buy into the "double shot" marketing nonsense, but do try this if you want long, full lashes. Finally, on my eyelids themselves, I've been sporting Mother of Dragons from Shiro's Seven Kingdoms collection. Although it's intimidating in the baggie, when applied, it transforms into a sultry, shimmery burgundy that brings out the green in my eyes. Its only real failing is its lack of lasting power, but I hope to remedy that with Darling Girl Glitter Glue in the near future.


My skin doesn't like summer very much. Between the heat, humidity, and constant switches in between, I don't blame it. Fortunately, the Stridex Maximum Strength pads have helped keep my skin in check. Soaked in beta hydroxy acids, these pads balance the pH of my skin in the morning and act as a chemical exfoliant, which makes them useful for the keratosis pilaris on my arms as well. Another product that my face has been enjoying this month is the elusive Antipodes Aura manuka honey mask. At once soothing, hydrating, and cleansing, this has pampered my skin.


Although I didn't document it, Essie's Watermelon graced my nails at the beginning of the month. Since I bought it while studying abroad, every time I use this polish, I wonder why the US doesn't have the wide brushes of Essie's UK diffusion line. With the wider brush, it applies smoothly and quickly for a nearly gel-like coat of hot pink-red. I'll have to paint my nails with it again this August: it's summer in a bottle!

What have been your favorite products this month?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

the collection | pencil eyeliner

Top to bottom: Cynthia Rowley Beauty Silver, Rimmel Nude, M.A.C. Coffee, Urban Decay Perversion, Urban Decay Ransom, Urban Decay Mushroom.

Left to right (once swiped, once smudged): M.A.C. Coffee, Rimmel Nude, Cynthia Rowley Beauty Silver, Urban Decay Ransom, Urban Decay Mushroom, Urban Decay Perversion.

Oddly enough, pencil eyeliner is one of the things that has taken me the longest time to master when it comes to makeup. I first learned gel eyeliner and was very content with it, but I felt the need to branch out a few years ago, and here we are now.

I have swatched all the pencil eyeliners I own in the above photo. Each swatch is one pass using the same pressure I would on my eyelid. In every second swatch, I have smudged the liner by stroking each swatch three times with my fingertip.

As you can see, half of my pencils are Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On pencils. I love the creaminess of their formulas, and they make some of the most unique shades. Sadly, Ransom has been discontinued, but there are plenty other options to satisfy your purple cravings. Mushroom is my favorite shade: I have a thing for unique taupes. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it adds just enough subtle definition to rock. Its only downside is that it smudges rather sheerly, so it needs a little more layering than, say, Perversion, which is blacker than the dark of ages past.

My two least used eyeliners of the bunch are the Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal in Nude and the Cynthia Rowley Beauty eyeliner in Silver. I bought the Rimmel liner for my waterline on sleepy days, but I can't stand tightlining, so it was a waste of $3. It is a nice formula, but the shade isn't even that great for me: it looks orange on me. If you like brightening up your waterline, though, this could be the product for you—you could even use it as concealer in a pinch if it's close to your skintone. As for Cynthia Rowley's lovely Silver, I simply don't have much need of that shade. I received it in a Birchbox a couple of months ago, but I haven't used it other than swatching it admiringly. It really is gorgeous, though: whenever I decide to use it, I'm sure that I'll love it.

Finally, the pencil that really started my foray into flick-less liner: M.A.C. Coffee pencil. I'm quite a fan of Tanya Burr, and I love the look that Jim gave her in one of her "My Boyfriend Does My Makeup" videos, which included this pencil. Tanya raves about it pretty consistently, so I decided to try it out. At first, I was taken aback by its stiffer texture, but it seems to have aged rather well in the year I've had it. As you can see, it smudges rather well. If I want to use eyeliner but I don't want a cat eye, I run this along my lashline and smudge it out with a pencil brush. It's a great standard liner, but I may try Demolition from Urban Decay once I'm out of this.

Which pencil formulations are your favorite? Do you prefer pencil, liquid, or gel?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the forum | indies

I'm considering starting a monthly forum. To kick things off, let's talk indies!

Have you ever ordered from an indie cosmetics company?

How was your experience?

What are your favorite little-known brands?

Have you found a holy grail from an indie brand?

Let me know your answers to these questions and any more you have in comments!

Monday, July 28, 2014

the (belated) weekend manicure | sugar dune

In a continuing theme of spring polishes in summer, this week I'm wearing the indescribable Tom Ford nail polish in Sugar Dune. Like Blue Orchid, this shade came out in this past spring collection, which is why its cap is white as opposed to Tom Ford's usual black.

As you might expect, this is by far the most expensive nail polish I currently and likely ever will own. For the price, I'd expect more from the formula: it takes three coats to reach opacity, and it doesn't always apply smoothly. The brush is decent but unremarkable—again, a pity in a $32 polish. OPI has better brushes for a quarter of the price.

Where this polish truly distinguishes itself, however, is in its shade. It's a pale, creamy pink-toned beige that has tied with Nails Inc. Gel Effect in Porchester Square as my favorite neutral nail polish. It goes with just about anything I wear—not that I'd let that stop me—and it lasts a respectable amount of time.

Will I ever purchase another polish this expensive? I think not.

Will I use this one up? Almost certainly.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

the skincare | clinique take the day off cleansing balm

Is there anything more satisfying than no-faff skincare that actually works?

When it comes to beauty, I think not.

Enter the Clinique Take the Day Off cleansing balm, a product that I found due to none other than the great Caroline Hirons herself. Mrs. H is an industry veteran: she knows her stuff, and she shares her no-nonsense approach to skincare at her treasure trove of a blog.

Pictured above is actually my second consecutive container of this balm. Using it looks like a pain at first glance, but it's really as simple as swiping the surface of the cleanser and treating yourself to a facial massage. I take the cleanser itself off with a hot washcloth, but I know some, like Tanya Burr, prefer to emulsify the balm into a milk before removing it.

Since using this to remove my makeup, I've found fewer lower-lashline smudges in the morning, and my skin seems to like this remarkably inoffensive cleanser. It's admittedly not too easy to pack, but I can see myself repurchasing this for years to come.

A true holy grail cleanser? Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

the manicure | blue orchid

When it comes to nail polish, I have a weakness: pastels.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Ellen, it's the middle of July. How can you possibly think of pastels now?

The only logical response to that question is on my nails right now.

This past spring, Deborah Lippmann released the Spring Reveries collection, full of delicate shades perfect for the emerging blooms. I'm not typically one to buy expensive nail polish—Nails, Inc. is usually my limit—but I couldn't resist the elegant Blue Orchid.

It's a creamy pale blue without a hint of glimmer, and it's opaque in two coats. For the price, I was expecting more from the brush: it's quite skinny but still manages to pick up more lacquer than I need per stroke. Nevertheless, I think it's gorgeous, and I'm sure I'll use it up.

If you're interested in a similar but less expensive option and don't mind a bit of shimmer, check out Essie's Bikini So Teeny.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

the playlist | summer 2014

Hello, everyone! Today's post is a bit late, but it's full of summertime songs!

This year has seen the release of some of the best music in recent history: Hozier has exploded in Music City; Coldplay's new tracks haven't disappointed; and Ásgeir has finally made it Stateside.

So, to celebrate this midsummer, I've compiled a list of some of the songs that I've been loving recently.

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

the collection | blush

Clockwise from top right: Tarte Cheek Stain in Flush, Bobbi Brown blush in Desert Pink, NARS blush in Deep Throat, Jouer Tint in Peony, Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in Amused, Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelée, Bourjois Blush Exclusif.

Mistinguette can be found in the middle of the top row. Deep Throat is directly underneath it.

Left to right: Bourjois Blush Exclusif, Tarte Cheek Stain in Flush, Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelée in Poppy Paradise, Jouer Tint in Peony, Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in Amused, Bobbi Brown blush in Desert Pink, NARS blushes in Deep Throat and Mistinguette.

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to makeup. When I finally learned to apply it, blush was among my first purchases. In fact, I still own that blush over six years later: the Bobbi Brown blush in Desert Pink. I've worn it off and on again since then, but my taste in blush has gravitated toward lighter, brighter pinks since then.

Cream blushes are my true loves when it comes to adding a bit of a flush. I'm naturally quite redness-prone, so a little goes a long way, and I find that creams look the most natural. The Jouer Tint in Peony is a classically creamy formula, intended for both lips and cheeks, although I tend to reserve it for the latter. My one cream-to-powder option—a formula that I don't like as well as a traditional cream—is the Bourjois Blush Exclusif. I got caught up in the hype surrounding the Bourjois cream blushes, but when I finally got to the UK, none of the shades seemed to suit me. Fortunately, this came out around that time. It supposedly adjusts to your unique skintone—hence its name—but I suspect it just responds to the skin's pH. Nevertheless, it is indeed a bright, pretty pink that travels well. You can see that I've hit pan both on it and the Jouer Tint.

The Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelée in Poppy Paradise has a formula unlike anything I've experienced before. It's a bright but sheer gel with a nearly balmy texture that feels cooling on the skin, a welcome sensation in this summer heat. Similarly, the Tarte Cheek Stain in Flush—which is a sample size, by the way—looks like an intense berry in the tube but sheers out to one of the lightest shades in my collection. It's not my favorite, but I like Tarte as a brand and was more than happy to exchange Sephora points to try another product of theirs.

Aside from the aforementioned long-lived Bobbi Brown option, the three other powder options that I use are the NARS blushes in Deep Throat and Mistinguette from this past Christmas's controversial One Night Stand palette and the Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in the apparently now-discontinued shade Amused. Deep Throat is the only shimmery blush I use, and Mistinguette is the only shade I've used from its palette as I simply haven't yet tried the other shades and resisted swatching them as they hadn't yet graced my face. Amused, as you can see is by far the most pigmented blush I use, but when used with a light hand, it lasts very well on me.

So, there you have it: you've got me blushing in pinks of varying shades and undertones.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the film | belle

This past Sunday, I went to see a film that my good friend Lacy recommended to me: Amma Asante's Belle.

This film has everything: justice, human rights, family, coming-of-age, and romance. Set in the 1700s when slavery still flourished, Belle tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race natural daughter of an English naval officer who was raised as a proper gentleman's daughter.

Dido's family doesn't treat her will full respect. She doesn't dine with her family; if guests arrive, she must wait to meet them afterwards. People gossip about her, usually either intrigued or disgusted. She occupies a lonely space: too high for servants, but too low for those of her rank. Society patronizes and even excludes her both for her sex and her skin.

It is this tension that drives the film: a young woman learning to accept herself in a society that doesn't. Dido is a compelling character, as we can see in her real-life counterpart's portrait. She forges her own path and, in doing so, pursues not only her own happiness but also the dawn of a new, better world.

Seeing this film reminded me of how much I love telling stories—human stories of courage and love and justice. Belle reminds me of how far we've come in the fight for equality and how far we still have to go to ensure it for all.

If you see one film this summer, make it Belle.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

the weekend face | mother of dragons

Hello, all!

Long time, no post. I'm still working out my post schedule, so things should be more consistent within the next couple of weeks.

Today, though, I wanted to share what's on my face.

I've been in love with the NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer and Radiant Creamy concealer for quite some time now. Together, they make quite the pair, leaving my skin appropriately radiant without looking greasy. The Bourjois Blush Exclusif adds a little pink flush to my cheeks, and the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder set it all in place.

On my lips, I'm wearing the Laura Mercier Lip Glacé in Rose, but that's not the most exciting part of this look.

No, the most exciting thing I'm wearing today is a sample I ordered from Shiro a while back: the eyeshadow in Mother of Dragons from the Seven Kingdoms Collection. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of loose eyeshadow: it's a faff to apply, and in my experience it doesn't last the longest.

This color, though…

I was inclined to like it due to its name and inspiration, but the color is unlike anything I would've anticipated. Silvery purple in a red base, it applies inexplicably and develops this extraordinary shade. Even over NARS primer, it doesn't last super long when applied dry, but I can deal with that for such a unique color. With a couple of coats of L'Oréal Miss Manga mascara, I now have a simple eye that packs a punch.

Friday, July 4, 2014

the travel bag | what i took to vidcon

Is there a better way to celebrate the official start of summer than by going to California?

I think not.

So, what did I pack?


Fortunately, California weather means my typical light base doesn't have to change. Unsurprisingly, I took my Laura Mercier mineral primer, which I have been enjoying since January. It pairs very well with my favorite light base, the NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer in Terre Neuve. My favorite under-eye concealer, the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, is the only concealer I currently own that matches my skin, so against my preference for a separate spot concealer, it now does double duty. In case I wanted to use the Wayne Goss method for the long days of queueing, I brought my Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light as I don't own a loose setting powder. Finally, I broke out my Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Gelée in Poppy Paradise, a gorgeous gel-cream blush that adds the perfect sheer summer flush to my cheeks.


No look can stay on my suddenly oily eyelids without the NARS Smudge Proof eyeshadow base, so that went into my makeup bag first. For a cream option, I packed the Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Emerveillé, and for powder, I packed my Urban Decay Naked3 palette since I hadn't packed it for a trip before. For eyeliner, I brought both a pencil and a liquid option: the M.A.C. eye pencil in Coffee and the L'Oréal Infallible The Super Slim liquid eyeliner in Black. Finally, for mascara, I brought my favorite drugstore option, Maybelline's The Falsies Volum'Express Black Drama.


When I travel, I usually limit myself to one natural option and one bold option. But, hey, it was VidCon, so I figured why not bring more? I started off with the Bite Beauty Line & Define lip primer and added the NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in my favorite red, Dragon Girl. Then, I added the Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet in Frambourjoise and the Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupté Shine in 19 Fuchsia in Rage. For my natural option, I brought the remainder of a sample size of the Buxom Full-On Lip Polish in Sophia.


Of course, I needed a way to apply all this, so I brought my very beat-up Sephora Collection Pro Brow Comb, my Sigma Mr. Bunny E30 pencil brush, my Zoeva 231 Petit Crease brush, two M.A.C. 217s, my Real Techniques domed eyeshadow brush, and my Real Techniques multitasking brush. I also brought two sharpeners: the Urban Decay Grind House for eye pencils and the Sephora Collection 3-in-1 sharpener for lip pencils.

Many thanks to the indomitable Hank Green for this year's VidCon. It was a truly unforgettable experience. If you're interested, I'll post my thoughts on VidCon itself later this weekend on my Tumblr.