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.