Lipglosses I Suddenly Own (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gloss)

I have never liked lipgloss.

Even as a child in the height of lipgloss madness in the late 90s, I hated how sticky my strawberry kiwi Bonne Bell lip gloss was and how my hair would get stuck to it and would take a lip smacker over the gloss any day.

As a makeup enthusiast, I have heard the whispers for a while now. I knew that gloss was coming back, but I was pretending I couldn’t hear those whispers. I clutched my matte liquid lipsticks ever closer to my chest. Until a couple of months ago, I didn’t have a single lipgloss in my admittedly vast lip product collection.

Of course, you’ve seen the header photo for this post. I blame Rihanna. Gloss has been coming back for a long time, but something about the lipgloss that launched with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line lodged in my brain. At the same time, The Body Shop launched some glosses. Naturally, I started wearing glosses daily – Apple Taffy became my go-to, thanks to my retail job – and then glosses were my wholly my thing.

And so the quest for the perfect gloss began. Let’s follow it, in chronological order.

The Body Shop Shine Lip Liquid in Apple Taffy and Cherry Gum – These are cheap, and they look lovely – Apple Taffy in particular – but they don’t wear long enough to be the perfect gloss (though they’re better than some). Still, they leave colour deposited well and they give a great level of shine, and they’re very comfortable. I don’t worry so much about stickiness, because my hair is almost always up when I’m working.  The applicator is the best thing about these? More glosses with this applicator. Apple Taffy is a very nude neutral, but not ultra opaque, and Cherry Gum is a bright pinky red.

Winky Lux Glossy Boss in Truffle – Truffle is a deep nude colour, and colour wise it is perfect. It is also one of the highest shine glosses I’ve tried, which was what I was looking for initially – that editorial, high shine nude, and this won out of all the ones at Mecca Maxima. The problem with this gloss is that it is wicked sticky. I don’t mind a little sticky, but aside from the Too Faced Melted Latex, I have never put a stickier product to my lips.

NYX Lip Lustre Glossy Lip Tint in Ruby Couture – This isn’t super glossy, but I like the marriage of a little gloss with a lot of colour and a decent tint on the lips. I was satisfied by how nicely this sat on my lips. This will probably be my low effort lip colour this summer, because it’s a basic red with an easy finish.

Smith & Cult The Shining Lip Lacquer in Flesh Riot – I went to swatch and probably buy the Fenty gloss, having finally decided that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and of course it was sold out at all of the Sydney Sephora stores. The closest thing, it seemed, was this gloss by Smith & Cult, though it has a bit more pigment to it – it’s a nude gloss with a beautiful gold shimmer right through it. This one is beautiful on the lips, and perfect in consistency – not sticky, very shiny – but doesn’t wear very long.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Gloss in Kristen, Orchid and Vamp – I actually acquired one of these before any of the other glosses – Orchid was free at a Sephora opening a while back, but I was so grossed out by glosses that I hadn’t even opened it. These are the platonic ideal of a gloss, but I find myself shying away from them because they smell very strongly of fake vanilla. Like – very strongly. Kristen is a perfect pink-toned nude, Orchid is a bright violet, and Vamp is a very browned deep red.  I appreciate the range of colours and the shine of them, and the wear time is decent.

Fenty Beauty Cosmic Gloss Lip Glitter in Gal on The Moon – I adore this gloss. This is, not shockingly, my favourite gloss. It is so glittery and weird and I adore it. It’s basically a sheer violet base with a bunch of blue glitter in it and my god, you know I love weird glittery stuff. This was an absolute impulse purchase and I messed up. Layered over lipstick, though, or a nude liner – my god. Force of nature.

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb in Fenty Glow – And finally, I caved and ordered this online, based on the recommendation and swatches of a wonderful friend of mine. My god, it is stunning. It’s thick and ultra glossy and strangely plumping in aesthetics, but not in feeling, without having any dominant colour other than a sheer rosiness.

I regret…nothing? I regret some things. I regret the Winky Lux gloss; I probably didn’t need those colours of the Anastasia glosses. But apparently I’m into gloss now.

I’m still a matte girl. I like my lips as dry and unwelcoming as the rest of my persona. Searching for myself through glosses has been a journey, and I’ve learnt about what I like and what I don’t. I think I’m at current max gloss.

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Bite Sized Five – Thoughts on Things

I’ve been sick recently and it’s been hard to compile thoughts, but here are’s a quick grab bag of products that I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on. Sometimes I start using a product a lot and I develop stronger thoughts on it and no one cares about them so I need a venue for that. This is the venue.

It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye Illumination – I should really update my Basics of Bases post, but a few products in that remain solid, including how I feel about the original Bye Bye Undereye concealer in that I love it when I need some hardcore coverage. I got a deluxe sample size of the newer version – the “illumination” version – and it’s…okay. It still gives me the same coverage, which is great. There’s no evidence of any darkness under my eyes when I put this on. However, the illumination factor is downright silvery in some lights, and it means that unlike the original you cannot use this or any excess on blemishes and if it isn’t blended studiously, you will be able to tell. I can only wear this concealer with a full coverage foundation, lest I end up a glittery mess – perhaps it would be a better option on someone with more darkness under their eyes that they’re trying to counteract, but I would worry about this highlighting it rather than erasing it. In short: not for me.

The Body Shop Matte Clay Foundation – From that same blog post, another product I still love and have completely surprised myself with is the Body Shop Fresh Nude foundation. It’s a relief, considering I really ought to wear it to work every day. For easy makeup that looks like skin, it’s the best. It’s still hard to fight my makeup loving instincts for full coverage makeup that looks like makeup, and while the new Matte Clay foundation is not at all an easy foundation, I am at the point in the learning curve where I’m totally into it.  This is not a foundation that forgives poor preparation or skincare – you need to prep and prime within an inch of your life. I love this with the primer I’m going to talk about in this post, actually. But I cannot skip moisturising or weekly physical exfoliation if I’m planning on wearing this, because it will find dry patches I did not know I had. It’s similar to the Tarte Amazonian Clay foundation in coverage and feeling, but it’s less thick and mask-like, but also less forgiving. It does share the property of being extremely long wearing and it keeps me matte to the high heavens, which I honestly was not expecting. It looks like makeup, but sometimes I want that – with heavier eye makeup and full contour/highlight, sometimes I feel like I need a more present base. The shade range on this one, though, is dismal. When I can wear shades three through seven, it’s a bad sign.

I’m ridiculously high maintenance, and I’ve found that my perfect work foundation is a combination of this one and the Fresh Nude. More forgiving than this alone, more matte and with more coverage than just Fresh Nude.

Zoeva Matte Full Spectrum Palette – I’m so boring and I just love matte eyeshadows. I’ve just been picking a few and then slapping on some g old glitter shadow or a beige satin and I’m good to go. This is a great palette for allowing me to do looks with greens or reds or blues depending on however I’m feeling, and it doesn’t waste my time with lazy metallics that I can just rip from other palettes. The Zoeva mattes are definitely stiffer than something like a Kat Von D or Anastasia matte, but they blend nicely and are good for building – you have to start small and work up, and I appreciate that. It stops the tendency to just rush overboard with orange and purple. It’s expensive – priced fairly, but it’s huge – and at more than $70, it’s only worth it if you know you’re going to use a spectrum of matte colours.

The Ordinary High Adherence Silicone Primer – I wrote recently about my enjoyment of The Ordinary’s other primer, the High Spreadability Fluid Primer, in a recent post. My enjoyment of that one lead me to pick up this option, which I was worried was going to be overly thick and tacky a la the Deciem Matte 12. Thankfully, this has the slight type of tackiness that is beneficial in a primer and helps to keep foundation adhering. Since it’s silicone based, it has the same smoothing action as the other primer. It feels lighter on the skin than the High Spreadability primer. That’s nice, sometimes. I wouldn’t wear this by itself, and it’s not the most effective pore filler around, but it’s become my go-to primer over the past few weeks. Frequency of use is okay, because I can actually afford to replace it (it’s around $10AUD from Myer), unlike the battle that is replacing NYX Angel Veil or the price of replacing Hourglass Mineral Veil.

Tarte Lights Camera Lashes – Tarte, as a brand, are not my cup of tea. I used to swear by their Amazonian Clay Foundation when I was young and struggling with texture, but then I realised that the heavier foundations weren’t always the best solution. Whoever posted a racist meme on their instagram today and then blamed an intern? Yikes. That all said, this mini mascara came in the Christmas lash stash (I redeemed for the Make Up Forever Excessive Lash), and it’s a pretty popular one on the scene so it deserves comment. It’s nice. If you want very long, fluttery lashes that don’t clump together, this is a good mascara for that. Not too wet or too dry. On initial application, it’s one of the most false lash adjacent mascaras I’ve ever tried. However! My god, this mascara does not stay on. I don’t generally struggle with mascara running as a rule, which is why I find this notable. I seldom opt for waterproof mascaras but this mascara, after four hours, had flaked all over my under eye area and at six hours was smudge city. So all in all, that outweighs the initial prettiness for me. I’ve been using it up through layering – it’s lovely on the top lashes only, working with a far more durable and volumising mascara. I’ve enjoyed using this alongside the Buxom mascara, which I’ll probably write about soon, as it’s become one of my absolute workhorse products.

I tend to avoid writing about lip products here, but a special shout out rant about the Nars Power Matte Liquid Lipstick packaging. Beautiful, beautiful products on the lips – I have Starwoman and it’s an absolutely gorgeous red – but be it a faulty item or a fault of a lack of proper stopper and a very thin product, this thing leaks everywhere. I have red liquid lipstick all over my handbag. Caution advised.

That’s all my cut down rants and rambles for the moment, but I’m sure more are soon to come.

What’s New? Fenty Beauty Match Stix Skinsticks Review (and bonus foundation first impressions)

I wanted this to be a short review because I haven’t owned these for long enough to get too in depth, but I have a lot of things to say. Mostly, I have those things to say because everyone on the internet is in the throes of Fenty obsession. Like any good blogger, I’m always here to jump on a trend midway.

A few days ago, Rihanna’s makeup line launched worldwide. Everyone went a bit wild, and I’d say rightfully so. At launch, the foundation range had 40 shades, going far beyond the shade range of most well established foundations. There’s a heavy emphasis on wearability for darker skin tones, which is extremely rare in mainstream makeup. I know that this line is not made for me primarily, and that’s lovely. Not everything needs to be for me. So while I took a sample of the foundation – in 120,  for reference – I was surprised by the other things that caught my eye. I ended up making my own little trio of the Match Stix, a product I was expecting to walk past completely.

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I picked up one of the matte match stix for cream contouring, Amber, and two of the shimmer options, Trippin and Confetti. They magnetise together in honeycomb patterns, which is cute but ultimately just a little gimmick for fun. Individually they retail for $37AUD or $25USD. There are also premade sets of three for different skintones which are considerably better value at $79AUD or $54USD. The reason I opted out of that was that they contained a) a matte concealer/cream highlight, which is a product type I do not use, b) the shimmer highlight colours were all pretty conventional and easy to dupe. I wanted something a little more bespoke.

Here are swatches of the three I picked up.

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Top to bottom: Fenty Beauty Amber, Trippin, Confetti, and Milk Makeup Holographic Highlighter Stick for comparison

First up, Amber. All of the matte shades I swatched had smoother, less stiff consistencies than the shimmer match stix. This was no exception, and it was by far the coolest of the fair contour shades. On the odd occasion that I do go for a contour, I like it to be very easy and very natural looking, so I like these very shadow-esque cool shades on my skintone. On warmer skin, colours like these can look a little odd – it’s all an undertone thing – but you all know my feelings on makeup for correction vs. makeup for fun and messing around. Do your thing. Still, this is basically the platonic ideal of a cream highlight for me, a person who does not cream highlight. I swipe it on where the hollows of my cheeks would be if I were less round faced, perhaps a bit around the edge of my hairline, and blend it out with a sponge. It takes a couple of seconds and it doesn’t leave any harsh lines. I’m wearing it in almost every photo you’ll see later. In a surprise to myself, this is my favourite thing I picked up.

Trippin is far more subtle than I anticipated on swatching it. It’s very much a peach with gold shimmer, consistent with most of the shades in the collection, while a couple are like Confetti and err more on the side of glitter. My skintone twin sales assistant at Sephora recommended this one to me as a natural glow with a bit of a twist, and I went against my instincts to take her advice.

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You can barely even see it here, on my strangely angled face with my bare skin sans light contour and highlight, but this is the highlight swiped on once and then patted out. It’s stiff on application but disperses very easily with fingers or a sponge. I wouldn’t advocate for a brush, unless it is particularly dense. Lovely for everyday, so for me, not that often. I wish highlights were easier to photograph when they weren’t blue and purple.

 

Confetti is, thankfully, a lot easier to photograph. It is spectacular to behold. I swatched it next to the Milk Makeup Holographic Highlighter stick because I was immediately reminded of it. My irritation with that one is that it’s the very editorial high gloss look that I infrequently go for. Confetti is far more reliant on glitter for its purple/blue shift rather than glossy shimmery sheen, so it’s horrible for texture but I much prefer the look overall. It’s the stiffest formula of the three match stix I have, and the hardest to disperse with the most glitter fallout. That said, it’s also the highest impact. You do have to work harder to diffuse the initial purple streak on your face and the glitter atop it, but it’s not that much more work than other formulas I’m used to that are more pigmented at their bases. It is also very easy to use this one warmed up on the palm and then patted on, but I would still be very wary of glitter getting around the place.

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Better photo coming later – this is a more subtle application, but I have showed it built up in a full look below. Also, note how good Amber looks as a contour. I can see myself using this a lot on my days off. In fact, I’m using this today. Speaking of today…

 

 

Bit of a bonus look. I’m feeling surprisingly enthusiastic about these products – Trippin less so, but definitely Amber and the more I wear Confetti, the more I want to talk about it – so I based my whole look off of Confetti to the max today. I also tested out the foundation, so continue on for a first impression of that. On the off chance that you’re interested. Here’s Confetti built up, used as the inspiration for the rest of a look:

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My base is the Fenty Beauty foundation in 120 with Amber as a contour and Confetti as a highlight, topped with a bit of Mac Soft Frost for some extra intensity. I have a Moonshot Jelly Pot in Aubergine on my eyes, topped with a tiny bit of Confetti, and my lips are Kat Von D’s Ayesha topped with Black Moon Cosmetics’ incredible new matte glitter lip topper in Luna. I love how the highlight looks layered and built up, and I can’t get over Amber as a contour.

First impressions of the foundation? Someone on reddit commented in passing that it seems to have been designed for photography, and there is some kind of witchcraft going on in that respect. To my eyes, this foundation looks…average. I primed half of my face with my current favourite primer (The Ordinary’s High Adherence Silicone Primer), and neither side had any difference in application or appearance. Both look like they’ve settled into my pores very quickly and it looks very very dry, even on my distinctly normal/combination skin. And yet, in photographs – admittedly not that high quality photographs – this foundation disguises all of its flaws.

Here’s a before and after of my skin in this foundation:

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I mean, sure, it still looks pretty funky around my nose and the moustache I refuse to remove. But I assure you that in real life, this foundation looks pretty average for a foundation. The coverage is decent but not great. It doesn’t smell super strong, which it can hold over the foundation I would liken it to on the skin out of my experience in the foundation world – the Lancome Teint Idole Ultra. It’s also lighter than that, but feels similar and looks similar on the skin. In terms of making my skin look great in person, I’ve never quite topped the Giorgio Armani Lasting Silk. This is, notably, half the price. I also think that it’s no fault of the foundation: this is not a foundation for me. Or perhaps it is, but not right now. This foundation is for people with oily skin and limited textural issues. It covered my redness beautifully, but latched on to every bit of texture around and felt incredibly dry. Not every foundation needs to be for me. I’ll come back to it once more of those 30 degree days roll around and see how my thoughts evolve.

All in all, I appreciate the cohesiveness of Fenty Beauty’s branding and I don’t fault people for being unable to separate a brand face from their feelings regarding the brand in a world of fast capitalism and hyper consumerism. It’s the world we live in and we need to be conscious of it and evolve around it. I think greater diversity in shade range can only ever be a good thing, but that doesn’t mean anything is above criticism, nor is it deserving of backlash for backlash’s sake. Balance and critical consumerism at all times in an industry that profits, largely, off exploiting the insecurity of women. Let’s criticise that while we continue to enjoy the parts of it that we do, like the creative element and the opportunities – oft missed – for diversification and the copious amounts of glitter.

Battle of the Weird Holographic Highlight Palettes: Kat Von D Alchemist vs. Zoeva Spring Strobe Spectrum

[Curious about my absenteeism? Want to read about my thoughts on…everything that isn’t makeup? I’ve been prepping my pop culture blog, Sara Watches Stuff. Check it out for more lengthy rambling!]

Back in May, I wrote about the BH Cosmetics Backlight palette. At the time, highlight-mania was reaching an all-time peak, and I was dipping my toe into experimentation with fun colours. All of the points I made in that review still stand: it’s a decent palette but the differences of weird colours are always going to be minimal once they’re on your skin; the palette is good value but the colours wear away fairly quickly and vary vastly in quality. I mentioned the Kat Von D Alchemist palette as my high end lust object. Two months later: here’s two oddly coloured highlighter palettes, that one included. Let’s talk about them.

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Kat Von D Alchemist Palette; Zoeva Spring Strobe Spectrum Palette

The Kat Von D palette retails for $50AUD on the Australian Sephora website, which is a considerable sum. I received it at a Sephora opening, so thankfully I spared myself that pricetag. I bought the Zoeva palette for definitely less at the time (I seem to recall it being $39? Perhaps I used a voucher), but it’s now on Australian Sephora for $45.  If you’re after the prestige of a certain brand, the difference in price is minimal – either is still a lot of money for four very similarly coloured highlight powders. How similar?

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Pretty similar. If you’re pedantic about makeup – I know I am – you’ll appreciate that the similarities of the colours in the pans translate to the colours really only differing in their shifts. The Kat Von D palette has shade names and the Zoeva one has confusing codes, and while I’m sure they contain similar amounts of product, the pans in the Zoeva palette do look considerably larger. I will note that one shade in each palette has no directly similar shade, so the two palettes aren’t close enough to be called dupes, but they do have extremely close finishes on the skin. The things we need to look into are accessibility, quality and colour. Swatches, first and foremost. Confusingly, they are in reverse order to the above palette. I am nothing if not baffling at every turn.

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From top to bottom: Zoeva SP040, SP030, SP020, SP010 – Kat Von D Amethyst, Opal, Saphyre, Emerald

How nice would it be if I had a good camera and less hairy arms? The arm part is a joke. I shave my arms for no one.

With the KVD palette swatched on the lower portion of my forearm and the Zoeva palette on the upper, you can see the basic correspondence between certain shades. Emerald and SP010 are close, but I would say that SP010 has slightly more yellow/gold to it once applied. Likewise, Opal and SP030 are very alike in their soft duochromatic pink. The blue in the Zoeva palette, SP020, sits somewhere between Kat Von D’s blue and purple shades (Saphyre and Amethyst) – Saphyre, as a blue, is notably icier and leans more towards white, while SP020 brings some purple tones through. Amethyst is aggressively purple, but the base is not dark enough to warrant it not being more of a blush. SP040 has no direct dupe in the other palette, but it’s a pretty boring colour – it’s a white base with a yellow gold reflect. Nothing to get excited about there.

In formula, the two palettes are remarkably similar. Kat Von D’s powders are predictably smooth to swatch while Zoeva’s are always firmer, but they pick up the same with a fluffy brush. I use a Real Techniques Setting Brush for highlighting with these, because I get more of the interesting shift than I do with a fan brush, and I can build them up more easily. Kat Von D’s palette is explicitly marketed as multi-use, and it is beautiful layered over lipsticks or eyeshadows, but despite the lack of marketing there on Zoeva’s behalf, their powders work for that as well. Don’t take that as advice – I have no idea as to the, say, lip safety of the product – but I am saying that if you live somewhere that one brand is more accessible than another, I don’t see there being a real reason to pay extra or stress out over getting the other.  They both apply smoothly and have the same degree of translucency to pigment, and the only real difference in quality I can see is that the Zoeva palette requires a slightly firmer touch to build and wears for a slightly shorter amount of two.

That’s my main takeaway. Two palettes, both alike in concept, in fair Sephora where we lay our scene. If you’re a highlighting fiend, I would recommend either of the two over the BH Cosmetics palette, but that is definitely a more affordable and accessible option. Speaking of accessibility, I know Zoeva and Kat Von D are both brands with huge difficulties in access in different countries – Australia just happens to be one of the few where, excluding the markup, we can pretty easily get the two.

A lot of people opt not to buy Kat Von D, and I understand that – her past associations with Actual Neo Nazi Jesse James don’t sit well with me either, but for all of my struggles with the impossibility of ethical consumption under capitalism, I am at this stage not willing to judge women on gross men they once dated (I’ll cut her the same slack I cut Sandra Bullock). There is the problem with her being the face of and directly associated with her brand, so it’s the kind of situation I’m always monitoring because if anything comes out later, I could very easily become uncomfortable. It’s harder to disassociate a brand face being, say, anti-semitic than a distant CEO a la Revlon. Zoeva, on the other hand, is not a brand that would be appropriate for vegans and also just like…Europeans. The US-centrism of the online beauty world is consistently irritating to me.

So look: both palettes are really good, but you don’t need either of them. If I had to pick one? I’d probably pick the Kat Von D palette, because I prefer the purple shade to that yellow gold, and I like the softness of the formula. They’re lovely dusted over a complementary lipstick, or patted over darker shades of eyeshadow. Nice on the cupid’s bow or the cheekbones, under the brow or on the inner corner of your eye. It’s a fun change from your everyday boring highlighters in golds and rose golds and other kinds of gold. I wouldn’t buy them blindly, and if it was’t something I’d use a lot I would be perfectly content with the BH Cosmetics palette. Sadly, here I am with three highlight palettes, and I’m pretty happy. Live your life.

Bite Sized Five – Trying Things and Thinking Thoughts

I have five semi coherent thoughts about five new, new-to-me or just recently rotated products I’ve been wanting to talk about. No need to dither about, let’s dive right in.

Buxom Lash Mascara – I acquired this mascara as a part of a Sephora in JCP Favourites set as a part of my ridiculous USA haul. I didn’t open it straight away – I’ve never used anything from Buxom before, and it’s never really appealed to me. This mascara has a boring name and no extraordinary claims, but I kind of adore it? It’s a much larger plastic wand than I normally use (my other current mascara is the Makeup Forever Excessive Lash, which has a a really short brush) but I find it really grips my lashes and gives me the separation I want. I’m lucky in having quite long lashes, so I tend to go for volume and a fluttery look, and I get a really good level of drama with this mascara. Not much length, so I’d caution against it if that is your bag, but it works perfectly for me. I don’t know where I’d rebuy it in Australia, though.

Becca Ever Matte Poreless Priming Perfector – I was really happy when Sephora Australia added this as a point perk, because I’ve heard so much about it. My skin isn’t the oiliest, but this is touted as the be all and end all of oil control primers, so I’ve wanted to try it for nights out and long shifts. It’s a really good sized tube and you don’t need much, so it will last a long time (which is good, because a full size costs $55AUD). Everyone talks about the learning curve, and it’s harsh: you cannot rub it in. It needs to be pressed in. If you apply it wrong, your makeup will ball up or apply streaky; it’s no joke. Once you’ve worked out how to use it, it’s pretty great stuff. It’s not the primer to end all primers for my skin – I know some people swear by this – but it’s better at holding makeup on my face than, say, the Hourglass Mineral Veil, though it lacks the smoothing properties of the Hourglass primer. I enjoy this on intended occasions, but it’s not something I reach for on my days off or in my daily rotation. Perhaps in the summertime it might be more applicable.

Tarte Brighter Days Highlighting Moisturiser – We got this as a point perk before it launched at Australian Sephora, which was a rare event, so I picked it up on reflex with some of those points I’ve  accumulated. It was a ridiculous move on my part – I have pretty textured skin, and usually loathe products with glitter or shimmer particles through them. This fails for me both as a highlighting and as a moisturising product – instead, my face just feels a little gross and looks sparkly, which I hate. Why on earth am I still tempted by the new Australis Serum Primer? You tell me. A bit of a miss for me – Tarte’s whole “athleisure” collection is a bit confusing and gimmicky-seeming to me, really.

Sephora Collection Honey Lip Scrub – Look, it’s something I love! I’ve tried so many lip scrubs. I’m down to just the Lush couple in my collection, and I am far too lazy/not quite thrifty enough to ever make my own. I have always hated digging my fingers into a little pot, even the nice ones, so I appreciate the stick form of this. The Body Shop also has a stick scrub, but it’s double the price (the Sephora one is $9 in Australia). That said, this is an incredibly gentle scrub, and very soft. I’ll finish it pretty quickly, I can already tell. Half of the time I apply it and it’s hard to tell whether I’ve applied a scrub or just an ordinary balm. I’ve been using it before I go to bed, and then using a Lush one for a bit more intensity before I apply lipstick in the morning, and the combo is working pretty well for me.

Australis Jelly Bean Silicone Blending Sponge – I was never going to pay to order a silicone pad from the internet for my makeup when I so rarely use a beautyblender to apply my makeup as is. At the height of silisponge internet obsession, I was rolling my eyes every five minutes. I do hate getting foundation all over my fingers and then on my black work clothes in the morning, so that aspect of slapping makeup on with this and then blending out with something else really appealed. I’m glad Australis were the first cheap Aussie knockoff of the concept and I do actually really enjoy it for that and how easy it is to clean, but I also wonder why it has been so quickly pulled from their website and from the Priceline website. That makes me a bit nervous. I think you can still find it in some stores, and I know Sportsgirl also sell a two pack of them but I also can’t find that online. Weird stuff. Look – it’s not a revolutionary tool like all of the videos were attempting to prove or disprove when they first launched. The only reason it might be necessary is if you don’t like getting foundation on your fingers, and you’re happy to blend out with a sponge or a brush. And for that? It’s a good tool.

 

Bite Sized Five: Basics and Bases

Links are just for relevance and ease of access, particularly for things that can be harder to find in Australia. No one is giving me money for this, as much as I openly encourage being given money in any context.

I’ve had all of these products for quite a while. The fact is that I find first impressions reviews to be just as valid and a lot more useful when they’re a little more substantial and come as the culmination of several uses. Especially with skincare, which is one of my favourite things to write about, it’s very difficult to tell how you feel about things after one use. Instead, here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve been using a lot. Some of it is newly released in Australia (like the Zoeva Strobe Gel) or fairly new pickups for me (the It Cosmetics powder), others I just finally feel like talking about. Let’s dive in.

NYX Angel Veil Primer (30mL; $16USD in stores – I got mine from Ulta in Oregon during Black Friday sales or from the NYX website; in Australia, this is next to impossible to get a hold of. It’s $26 plus shipping from ASOS but currently sold out, or if you have $65 yearly unlimited international shipping from the Selfridges website, it’s $18.50) – I picked this primer up on a whim while wandering through Ulta, mostly because I vaguely remembered Kathleen Lights likening it to the Hourglass Mineral Veil primer, which I ran out of while I was abroad. I wouldn’t say that they are “dupes” – I think that makeup “dupe culture” has gone a little wild – because Angel Veil is definitely a tangibly thicker and has a far more prominent pore filling effect. I’d say I actually prefer this one, honestly. If it weren’t that it’s a nightmare to get a hold of in Australia, I’d be far more likely to come back to this one. Hopefully by the time I run out of it, the Australian NYX offerings have expanded to include this over their current lackluster primers. I find my foundations wear better and look nicer and I just really do quite like it.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% (30mL; Deciem themselves sell it for $12.70AUD from their website and in their standalone stores and it’s the same now it sells in Myer, but you can find it cheaper at other online retailers but then there’s shipping) – There was a period of time where everyone on the internet who was into skincare would not shut up about The Ordinary. All the big names were fascinated by it, not to mention the hype it garnered on places like reddit and youtube and all of the other skincare communities. I completely get it: most people who enjoy skincare will reach a point where they lose enthusiasm for the marketing and jargon of the skincare industry, and just want stripped back, simple things that work. Deciem really tapped into that niche with The Ordinary, offering actives at affordable prices – skincare enthusiasts can easily go “hey, I want a stable topical Vitamin C/a simple retinol/a non-glycolic AHA/niacinamide for hyperpigmentation” and get exactly that. It’s got a clean aesthetic and very little focus on branding and marketing, which in itself is a very effective strategy for word of mouth in a community so driven by recommendation. Everyone I know who has tried The Ordinary, prior to its availability in Myer, has done so on blogger/friend recommendation. I do know that now the hype is calming down, people are becoming a little more disillusioned with the bases that they use, and I think it comes down to the products being very much hit and miss for different people. I would definitely advocate doing your research with these and finding out what has worked for people with similar product profiles to you. Knowing that I personally can’t use glycolic acid in any kind of leave on capacity without it causing irritation to my skin, I was seeking out some kind of alternative to the overly expensive and paying-for-the-hype Sunday Riley Good Genes. This is more active and far more transparent in terms of what it actually contains, and you can definitely buffer it through combination with a cream, but my skin is now pretty seasoned to lactic acid so I risked it with the 10% after patch testing and I think the combination with the Hyaluronic Acid makes it nearly perfect for what I need. It does smell very strong, but not in a way I consider unpleasant. I think the combination of this and the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Liquid 2% BHA is what has my skin at peak smoothness right now.

Physician’s Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer Light (This is $29.95 at Priceline but almost never in stock in store; it is around $18.30 on iherb even with shipping, and they often have sales, but I’ve never bought from them) – Physician’s Formula has the most ostentatious packaging out there and every time I pick this bronzer up I  shudder a little. However, it is beautiful. It actually reminds me a lot of the Body Shop Honey Bronzer in 03, once the top layer is worn off – it’s really soft and blends beautifully, hard to go to over the top with. There’s a reason this is perpetually sold out and raved about online. BUT: oh god, there are so many things that I wish. I wish this didn’t smell so strongly of fake coconut. It’s strong. I can still smell it on the brush, not just in the compact. The weird sponge thing they provide is also absolutely useless, and I’m not even sure what you’re supposed to do with it. It is too thin to place product at the educe and too stiff to blend contour as you would if you were using a blending sponge for contour. If they nixed that and streamlined the packaging, eased up on the scent, this would be inseparable from higher end bronzers. It’s got a lovely tone to it, which is where the real praise comes from – it’s got warmth that allows it to be a nice all over bronze but because of the satin, lit-from-within finish and a lack of excessive orange, it can still be used for soft contouring in warmer toned looks or on more neutral people. Even though shadows run grey, if you use too taupe of a shade on someone with neutral-yellow colouring, you can end up with some interesting end results. The problem with that, then, is that this bronzer only comes in two shades, one of which is widely available in Australia (excluding iherb). I’m not 100% sold on this, as you can tell. I do really enjoy it. It’s great for easy makeup days, and when I’m not doing full on drama sometimes all I need is that bit of warmth on the temples and around the edges of my face. Sadly there are just too many hurdles for me to be fully into it, and I do wish I could build it up a little more if I wanted to.

Zoeva Strobe Gel in Aureole ($24 at Sephora Australia with free shipping over $55 online; Selfridges has it for $15.50AUD with that same year round $65 shipping option that I’ll never spring for; really anywhere you can get Zoeva so I got mine in store at Sephora) – I’ve many times admitting to often having the approach to makeup of a collector, which is admittedly not the healthiest attitude. I’m absolutely the product of the capitalist machine. I did not buy this gel/mousse texture highlighter because the name reminded me of areola, because that would be absurd. I did, however, get reeled in by the texture of this. I have long had difficulty working with liquid highlighters – I absolutely loathed the much raved about Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops, and passed my Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecting Liquid on to a friend – but I love the intensity of shimmer, and after relative success with the Milk Makeup Holographic Highlighter (which is cream to powder), I thought I might have better luck. Plus there’s the novelty – if you look to the clips of this on instagram, you’ll see this returning to its form after being tampered with by a brush or a finger. It is a ridiculous reason to buy a product and I would absolutely not advocate it, but considering I liked the colour and I wanted to try the product, I will note that it is intensely satisfying. It’s got a lovely peachiness to it but it does read on the warm side on the skin, so if you’re stocked on gold highlights, you absolutely do not need this. It’s a lot easier to work with than the aforementioned Cover FX liquid highlighters, because it sheers out more easier, and I do love it with a bronzed base and golden lips and minimal eyes – it’s quite instinctively editorial, but I appreciate the capacity to turn it down. I have not reached for it that often, though, because the medium becomes a little difficult to work with, and if I’m not going for a bronze toned look, the colour can be a little dark to use as a plain old highlighter on my skin. I suspect it will also be worse value in the long run, because it’s the kind of product far more prone to drying out than an easily sealed bottle of liquid or (obviously) a powder.

IT Cosmetics. Bye Bye Pores Silk HD Micro-Powder ($39 from Sephora Australia but like all other things at Sephora, usually sold out) – I just needed a new pressed powder. That’s it. I fully intended on buying the pressed version of this to set my makeup with and then Sephora had no stock and I could not deal with another broken Rimmel Stay Matte lid and the Australis Fresh and Flawless powder didn’t have my shade and…here we are. I like this powder enough – it does the job at actually setting makeup – and I especially appreciate how finely milled it is, with its really nice smoothing effect on my pores on initial application and for a little while. I do find, however, that this powder does not do particularly well in terms of wearing well. Compared to my standard Body Shop Face Base, or even the Australis Fresh and Flawless, I found I got oily noticeably faster on days I was wearing this powder. I also, generally, dislike loose powders because I am a messy and uncoordinated person (I cannot blame it all on the early onset arthritis). I prefered the By Terry powder to this one – my deluxe sample is nearly done, so it’ll be in an empties post soon – because I could at least see a noticeable difference to my skin with that one, even though it left a bit of discernible shimmer and costs an ungodly amount of money that I will never invest. This one? It’s okay, but for $39 for some silica powder, I want it to at least keep me looking nice for a longer than my day to day stuff.

More to come! I didn’t stop there with The Ordinary, and I’m formulating some thoughts on some new Australis products.

 

Bite-Sized Five for February – Absences, Apologies and Photos of My Face

You know when your mental health takes a dive, you revert to less-than-healthy coping mechanisms and then you find yourself crying on a bathroom floor for three days straight and you realise you need to get your meds fixed up and stop doing what you’re doing? And then you leave the state for a while to go hang out at sea and write poetry? And then you’re back but you’re focusing on burying yourself in work and pouring energy into relationships that make you feel happy and supported? No? Not much else I can say then. Mental health is a constant stream of ups and downs and the downs have been pretty prominent recently. Rough.

Let’s not focus on that, and instead focus on some products I have thoughts about!

L’oreal Pure Clay Detox + Brighten Mask – This mask is…wicked intense. I finished my old detoxifying mask, for the rare occasion when I need something deep cleansing, so I picked this up in the Priceline 40% off skincare sale. It’s also good for if I want to use a combination of masks – this on the chin, with something softer everywhere else. It’s way too intense for me for weekly use. It dries incredibly quickly and goes very stiff, and if I leave it on for a full ten minutes I start to feel a burn. But: like the classic, intensely overhyped glamglow, it does the very satisfying action of showing up darker on the pores, and it leaves your skin looking fresh and cleansed and definitely smooth. I do feel like I have to use a lot of product to get a very thin layer, because it dries so quickly, so I imagine this will be finished quickly.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eyeshadow Palette – I held off on buying this palette for so long. I was so good. But just look at it.

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It is absolutely stunning. If you don’t do a lot of warm toned looks, then it is definitely not worth it, but those are my bread and butter. The shadows are incredibly soft, and do kick up quite a bit of powder – I can see how people are panning shades – but they blend beautifully and don’t feel powdery or chalky on my eyelids, even without a primer. The brush is great quality, and I can do a pretty solid quick look using just that brush if I’m on the go, which is a great post-work quality to have for me (likewise, the mirror is top notch). The only shadow I have not really played with is Golden Ochre, because that yellow tone of neutral tends to look a bit sickly on me if not paired with very specific shades, but I don’t mind that as a trade off. My favourites are definitely the red shades, which are so hard to do well – Love Letter, Venetian Red and Red Ochre – Venetian red has some pink tones and some shimmer while Love Letter is truer red, as to Red Ochre which is browned and deep and good for adding depth. I also love the oranges, Burnt Orange and Realgar, and the neutrals-with-a-twist like Buon Fresco. Vermeer is one of the most gorgeous inner corner highlight shades I’ve ever used. Everything is capable of being really powerful, or playing subtle and toned down.

Will it be as much of a workhorse as my Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye palette? Probably not. That palette renders the most out there of shades usable for me. Where this does win out is by being one of the most forgiving palettes I’ve ever worked with, and by being one that I can open up and get excited by. If only the packaging wasn’t damn suede textured. This is going to get so grotty, I can already tell.

I’m wearing some shadows from this palette today along with the mascara and concealer in this Bite Sized Five, so I’ll put a photo at the bottom with a note on which shades I used.

Benefit They’re Real Mascara – This mascara has lost some of its steam in the beauty community over the past couple of years, but it was once the mascara to end all mascaras if you asked around. I mentioned this in my USA Haul, and I have already finished the tube of Roller Lash which will be in my empties (January and February have see many long standing minis of mascara meet their ends – a little spoiler is that I actually really enjoyed Benefit’s Roller Lash and while it didn’t blow me away, it was one of the nicer mascaras I’ve used for definition and curl). Common complaints with this mascara are that the brush is HUGE and SPIKY and VERY DANGEROUS, which I can absolutely confirm; can make lashes look spidery and prone to clumping, also very true; is atrocious to take off. Case in point:

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Post lashings of Bioderma and my usual makeup removing cleanser, usually a fine combo on mascara – thanks They’re Real, I guess.

Still, as you’ll see where I’ve used it below, when it’s used sparingly and with great caution to avoid eye-stabbing, it’s quite lovely. It’s way too much work for everyday, but I understand why it garnered so much affection. I have since tried it with the designated They’re Real Remover, but I think I’ll stick to oil.

Tarte Shape Tape Concealer in Light – Now admittedly, I picked this shade based on…almost entirely guesswork, and it is well and truly too light for me to use on blemishes while I’m at my darkest. I definitely recommend looking up swatches for this. Swatches are even more important if you do what I did and impulse buy this off the tarte website when they have a free international shipping promotion. It is still perfect for under my eyes, and workable for blemishes blended under a concealer. And let me say – this concealer is getting some ridiculous levels of hype. People are putting it at holy grail status. I’m not so quick to make final judgements, but I will say that it is extremely concentrated and creamy with coverage out of its ears. Really, other than the colour range, my main faults with this are the applicator and the scent. The applicator is overly huge and I always just end up dabbing it on with my fingers, and the scent is intense. It’s fake and floral and it lingers for a good few seconds after application.  But this, unlike the mascara, is something I’m willing to work with daily. It’s easy to blend and although creasing isn’t a major problem for me, I don’t have any problems with it. I’m almost tempted to get it in another colour next time tarte have free shipping.

Sunday Riley Luna Night Oil – Another much raved about item, I got this half-sized bottle in a set with the Good Genes treatment. I loved Good Genes, and it will be in my Jan/Feb empties. Luna? Not so much my thing. Admittedly, it’s not targeted at people with my skin type. I am very much combination, and while I get dry in the winter, in summer I can be a sweaty, oily mess. I’m prone to breakouts regardless of oiliness to dryness, and I’m not really that worried about aging yet (at the ripe old age of 21). I do really enjoy oils, though, and this is well reviewed, so I’m glad I got to give this a go. That said, it hasn’t wowed me too much. I’ll keep using it, and I’ll probably prefer it in winter when I go back to dry, itchy Sara skin. It doesn’t break me out, but it is pretty heavily scented and full of extracts that I’m not fussed on. If I had to choose, though, I would have just invested in Good Genes and skipped this guy. In Australia, I can’t bring myself to drop the money on either of them.That’s the honest opinion. In the US, it felt manageable – waiting for a Sephora sale, using a voucher, being a smart shopper. Here, Good Genes is about $150. I don’t think it’s $150 worth of results.

As for the makeup I did with some subtle Modern Renaissance, a frustrating coating of They’re Real and Tarte Shape Tape:

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I’m also wearing Sugarpill’s Trinket on my lips – I’m planning on writing about it at length in my next Recent Lipstick Wrap Up – over Urban Decay Deep lipliner, which gives the liquid lipstick a much more nude look. I love how the gold comes out over the course of wear. I’ve also got the It Cosmetics Brow pencil on, and the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer for some warmth. I only used neutral shades from the ABH palette to stay basic for my day off, laid down some Warm Taupe with Cyprus Umber for depth and then Primavera for lightness on the bulk of the lid. I need a better camera. My skin is great at the moment (hallelujah), so I didn’t have a lot to conceal, but the few things that were bothering me are pretty well covered.

And that’s that!