Friday, December 16, 2011

Everyday Beauty's 2011 Favorites

It has been many months since I wrote a "favorites" article, so I figured I'd wrap up the year early, rather than wait for January to weigh in with this epic post. Maybe something on my list will help you with your Christmas shopping, heh. Or maybe not, since I am not listing this year's hottest new products here, just items that were new and interesting to me.

I decided to put some structure around what I pulled out of my makeup pit; otherwise the table holding it all would splinter and collapse like Titanic hitting the iceberg. In order to qualify for my 2011 Best, an item had to either be new to me this year (not necessarily new in 2011 itself) or it had to be something I repurchased this year after completely using up the original. And in this time of year for miracles, my using anything up is a small miracle unto itself. Apologies to Jesus, Mary, et al.

The 2011 winners—big group hug
So here's the entirety of this year's favorites. I forgot to include a couple (they were out of sight, waiting to be washed, or suddenly turned up missing), but I give them a mention anyway. I've provided links for the products I have reviewed in case you want to read further (I mean this post is clearly not long enough) or see more pictures.

Ahh! Doesn't that make you feel all squishy inside?

Cleansing, treatment, and moisturizing
Let's start with the body and haircare products:

Front row
  • Luster Now toothpaste. Boy does this stuff whiten teeth! The bland taste took some getting used to, but I will continue buying this as long as they make it.
  • Clinique All About Eyes. This lightweight eye gel sinks in so quickly I can apply powder eyeshadow almost immediately after. Yes, I use it under eyeshadow.
  • Laura Geller Sugar Lip Scrub. Great lip exfoliant that tastes good.
    Middle row
    • Clarisonic. People seem to love or hate this device. I was skeptical about it--especially given the price, even though I've been happily using the Sonicare toothbrush for over 8 years--but the Clairsonic really works for me. It clean my skin so thoroughly I can use the most gentle cleanser, and the soft friction from the (delicate) brush head removes every last trace of makeup. I even use it to whirr off tubing mascara.
    • Basis soap. This year my body developed a sensitivity to almost everything, even Dove Sensitive, so I switched to Basis, which rinses cleaner than Dove.
    • Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum. I bought this after watching one of Lisa Eldridge's Best Of videos, and it's wonderful. I have mild rosacea that I keep at bay with diet (no drugs needed), but sometimes a flush is inevitable. This serum is so cooling and soothing, it's what I reach for when my face turns beet red.
    • Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA serum. A very thin layer of this gel a couple times a week keeps my congested pores clear and happy.
    • John Masters Organics Deep Scalp Follicle Treatment and Volumizer. This spray doesn't volumize my hair as well as some others, like Phyto or Bumble and Bumble, but it causes the frizz from new hair growth to lie smooth, so my hair looks more shiny. It doesn't weigh my hair down, and it contains few ingredients. I recently finished it, and the bottle is such good, solid glass, I rinsed it well, filled it with filtered water, and now use it to spritz my brushes. I will definitely reorder this product.
    Back row
    • Baltic Collagen Face & Neck Gel. My miracle product of the year. Truly. I have been using this serum daily since May,  and I will continue using it as long as it's being manufactured. 
    • Caudalie Foaming Face Wash. Just a good, basic, gentle cleanser that rinses clean and smells good. I am on my third bottle with at least one backup in storage, so that should indicate how much I like this cleanser. 
    • Clinique Clarifying Lotion II. This "lotion" was, perhaps, the biggest surprise this year in that it did not irritate my pink-prone skin. My skin will look a little red immediately after using it, but it calms down quickly and my skin has never felt smoother. I used  Clinique's 3-step program many years ago but drifted away to other brands. I don't know what made me try this again, but my skin has never felt better. I feel like it immediately clears away dead skin sells so my serums and treatments can penetrate better.
    • Nivea Essentially Enriched Body Lotion. I'd been using various other body lotions, but one day I noticed a bottle of this on the sink area in the ladies room at work. The soaps used in offices are so harsh, so I pumped some of this on my hands and was instantly hooked. 
    • WEN Cleansing Conditioner. Another big surprise. I was introduced to this by Jeanie of Makeup Merriment who sent me several huge samples to try out when I was complaining about my fine hair, which either looked like straw or turned limp. I could not believe this product didn't weigh it down, especially over time, but I have been using it since June, and I still love it. I even shave my legs with it.
    • Bioderma Crealine H20 Micellar Solution. Fantastic eye makeup remover and excellent pre-wash makeup remover in general. It is so gentle, if I need to remove and reapply makeup on the fly, I can do so multiple times and my skin does not turn red. 

      Among my favorite tools this year, I neglected to include my BeautyBlender sponge because it has been missing for several days. I fear it's under a piece of furniture somewhere in the house (or it bounced down into the basement), now completely unrecognizable, as it is without doubt, encrusted in dust bunnies (suspected cat toy). Time to ask Santa for a new one.

      • Shu Uemura eyelash curler. Not a new discovery this year, but I re-purchased the whole curler because my gaskets were spent, and they do not sell refills. It is still my favorite after more than 10 years. I love how it curls, not bends, my lashes.
      • Jane Iredale Flocked Sponge. Sometimes I like to apply my facial powder with a sponge instead of a brush. It allows for more targeted application, since I generally apply to the center of my face where I am most pink and blend out, not wanting to cover all of my skin. I also use the sponge to apply Jane Iredale Pommist finishing spray (included in a best of category below). I spray the sponge, dab on my face, and my mascara stays intact. The sponge is velvety soft and washes/dries beautifully. (Yes, that is a JI sponge—I just carry it in an Alima envelope, because the JI sponges do not come with a case).
      • Conair bamboo rollers. I have had these for a couple years, but I wanted more of the big rollers, so I purchased another box this year. I LOVE them. I roll my hair dry (or mostly dry), leave in for 15 minutes, remove, and I get instant, bouncy body that lasts all day. No gunky thickening goo or damaging heat implements required.
      • Mason Pearson brush. I repurchased when I lost my original, because nothing makes my short bob look shinier than the boar bristles of this brush.. I cannot blame my cats for the loss, but a few years ago, Ferret Bueller stole my original Mason brush and stowed it in a little hole he ripped in the mattress lining under my bed as his hiding place (I also found a TV remote with the buttons all nibbled off, a Timex watch, and an empty carton of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby). 
      • Becca Professional Brush Soap. I stand corrected on my initial opinion, and now this brush cleanser is a favorite. My original review was lukewarm, which garnered comments from people who loved the soap. So I stopped thinking of it as "any old soap in a tin" and more about a cleaner targeted specifically for my brushes, and I do admit it cleans beautifully—even my white goat hair brushes return to their natural color. My brushes seem to dry more quickly, so I suspect there's something in this soap that expedites the process. Hopefully not alcohol.
      • Sephora nail file. I was intrigued by a file made of glass, and I found this to be a very effective file at smoothing over rough edges after a real file. Just don't drop it!
      • Laura Mercier Velour Puff. After almost 15 years of using the now-discontinued Shiseido puff of the same style, which had been washed so many times it looked like that bit of fluff that erupts out of an overfilled vacuum cleaner bag, I needed a replacement. The Laura Mercier puff does what I want—lets me roll and press finishing powder into my skin and then flick off the excess with a soft, fluffy brush. The little strap on the back makes it easy to control, and it washes very easily inside a lingerie bag. I toss it in the dryer on the air setting (no heat) for a few minutes to make it fluffy again and then air dry it the rest of the way.
      Face brushes
      These are my favorite brushes in 2011. Trying to choose favorites from among all of my brushes would have been a much longer article, and I would have had to break it down by task. If you want to read excellent brush reviews, be sure to check out Gaia's articles at The Non-blonde and Dain's brush reviews at ARS Aromatica.

      Left to right:
      • Make Up For Ever Kabuki. Synthetic and so incredibly soft. Perfect for applying HD powder (which it's made for) or for flicking off powder excess. Its soft carrying case is a plus for me, as hard cases take up more room.
      • Becca Cream Blush. Has nice short bristles to keep the cream color from flopping all over my face and a relatively short handle for precise control.
      • Bobbi Brown Blush. I don't know how I got so lucky with this one because Bobbi Brown brush quality can vary wildly. But this is the softest blush brush I have ever owned. I treat it very gently, use only one color with it, and wash it infrequently so I can keep this in excellent shape for many years to come. I have returned countless Bobbi Brown Powder and Face Blender brushes for being prickly (in fact I won't leave the counter without testing now), but this one is divine.
      • Laura Mercier Fan. Ideal for super-pigmented blushes or when you want to add only a dusting of highlighter to cheekbones. Diffuses color like a dream.
      • Hakuhodo S114 Highlight. I use this every single day. It lays down the most subtle layer of highlighting powder (I use Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade in Perle on my cheekbones). It was my biggest Hakuhodo splurge, and although I do not own any Suqqu brushes, I am willing to bet the Hakuhodo rivals Suqqu in softness. It feels like my cheeks are being kissed by a million newborn kittens' eyelashes.
      • Jane Iredale Handi. Outstanding brush in every way, absolute holy grail. Lately I have wondered if her brushes are made by Hakuhodo because they are so incredibly silky and so well made. I have been using the brush you see above since the late 90s—almost every day. It has been washed countless times and it still looks as good as I did the day I bought it, though the end of the handle is fading a bit. The bristles have only become softer over time. It is my favorite brush to apply Jane Iredale PurePressed foundation. I don't use it for anything else. It's my Precious <3 

      Eye brushes

      I did not buy that many brushes this year, so I was very fortunate to love the ones I purchased. Here are my favorites for applying eyeshadow:

      • Hakuhodo S133. This brush is like a mini version of the S114 Highlight. The bristles are just as exquisitely soft, and they are long enough that I can use it as a lid-into-crease brush. It also works very well as a highlight brush for tighter spots.
      • Laura Mercier Smudge. Perfect brush for smudging out eyeliner on the top lashes or for applying eyeshadow (as liner) underneath the lashes and blending out. It is also great for cutting a crease.
      • Laura Mercier Finishing. This makes a great blender brush because it gently diffuses color without dusting it all away. What I use this brush for most often is to apply cream eyeshadow to my lids and blend into the crease. The synthetic tips are perfect for this. I also use it to apply and diffuse concealer, where it leaves an airbrushed finish. This brush is an excellent multitasker.
      • Bobbi Brown Eye Blender. Another lucky find, as this brush is so incredibly soft and great for blending gradations of eyeshadow color or for applying very sheer washes of color to the upper crease.
      • Edward Bess Luxury. I am cheating a little here because I bought the Luxury Eye Brush at the end of 2010, but I didn't actually start using it in earnest until January. I love this brush. The handle is metal, so it is heavier than most brushes, and it feels substantial in the hand. I love to apply color quite densely in the crease and then diffuse it down toward the lashes from the outer corner inward. I've seen slightly different shapes when this brush is reviewed online. My bristles come to a bit of a point, so I can direct it into the crease. Adore.
      • Hakuhodo G5533BkSl. Sort, firm bristles make this brush idea for applying color all over the lid. It's especially useful for patting down non-matte shadows so they don't look sparkly.
      • Becca Extra Fine #6. I'd been searching for a very long time for a brush with this fine a point. Bobbi Brown's "extra fine" is laughable, and MAC's were not much better. Too thick. The Becca bristles are as thin, maybe thinner, than the brushes that come in most liquid eyeliner bottles. I loved it so much I panicked that it would be discontinued and bought two backups--and I don't even wear eyeliner that often.
      • Paula Dorf Transformer. I first heard of this brush on The Non-blonde's blog. I had no idea there was a flat-topped eyeliner brush that was curved to follow the line of the eyelid. Brilliant! I immediately purchased one, and I agree that this is a great brush for tightlining either over or under the lash line.

      Left to right: Bobbi Brown Blender, Laura Mercier Finishing, Edward Bess Luxury, Hakuhodo G5533, Hakuhodo S133, Laura Mercier Smudge, Paula Dorf Transformer, Becca #6.
      Face stuff
      Believe it or not, I am not as fickle with my face stuff as I am with eyeshadow or lipstick. When I find something I like, I stick with it, though I am not immune to temptation. Thus, there were a few notable additions this year.

      My new and favorite products for face (foundation, primer, concealer, highlighter) this year are:
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Love Lights Highlighting Powder. Sweet to Touch (a pale shell pink) is a very pretty, subtle highlighting powder that can actually be worn all over the face, and not just on the high points. 
      • Cindy Joseph BOOMSTICK. Of the CJ trio I purchased, Glimmer was my favorite. It's a pearly champagne-pink highlighter that leaves a subtle metallic sheen, not obvious shimmer.
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Metamorphoses Mattifying Primer. This primer gives a suede finish instead of being completely matte, so a bit of natural-looking skin still emerges. I wear it on face and lids.
      • Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector and Luminous Skin Colour. Essential for lightweight coverage and pearly glow. The tinted moisturizer (Porcelain) is dewy on its own, so I don't actually wear these two products together, but they are just gorgeous items to have on hand for days when your skin already looks good.
      • Jane Iredale POMMIST Hydration spray. This spray instantly transforms mineral power from matte to a more satin finish. There is no need to wait a couple hours for the natural oils in my face to emerge, and why would I, when this spray delivers a goodly dose of antioxidants. And, as mentioned above in the flocked sponge bullet point, I spray the sponge and dab the mist onto my face, rather than spray my face directly ... unless it's a hot summer day or night and I want an instant cooling boost that smells of delicious botanicals. In summer, POMMIST is often all I need for moisturizer. Sometimes I spray my feet, too, and it is delicious to do so after refrigerating the spray for a couple hours.
      • MAC Fashionflower Beauty Powder. Another beautifully subtle highlighting powder, Light Sunshine is a very pale pastel pink with gold and pink microshimmer. If a genie touched his magic wand to the pan and zapped away the gold shimmer, this product would probably have a dip in it already.
      • Paula Dorf Eye Primer. I've been wearing this primer in 'Light' for about ten years, but I continue to repurchase. Since I bought one this year, it deserves an honorable mention. Perfect for my fair  skin, this stuff conceals all eyelid discoloration and makes eyeshadow colors look more true (instead of being muted by whatever colors are in my lids).  This primer is the best I have ever used.
      • Jane Iredale PurePressed Foundation. A product I have been using and re-purchasing for over 10 years. Currently I am wearing Ivory, though I also have Light Beige, Bisque, Warm Silk, Natural, and have worn Honey Bronze as bronzer. Unlike the other mineral powders I have tried (Bare Minerals, Urban Decay, Laura Mercier, Alima, and so on), Jane Iredale gives me the most natural, believable finish, which I can apply from sheer to medium to full coverage. I can also use the Jane Iredale concealer or foundation brush to spot "treat" red areas and get away with wearing very little on my face. I love that I can buy this mineral product in pressed form, as I actively dislike using loose powders.
      • YSL Touche Eclat. I can't believe I have not yet reviewed this item. I realize it is meant to be a highlighter, but I like using #1 Luminous Radiance under my eyes to lift the shadows. I occasionally apply it to other areas where I have shadows (alongside my nose, at the inner corners of my eyes, under my lower lip) and it works nicely as an overall highlighter on the brow, cheekbones, and down the bridge of my nose. The peach-pink color is perfect at minimizing blue shadows and pink undertones.
      • Cle de Peau Beaute Brilliant Enhancer. This is similar to Touche Eclat but lighter and slightly more shimmery. It seems the Brilliant Enhancer now comes only in a flesh-toned color, but mine is pearly white, like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Pearl. I guess I won't be buying this specific color again, since it appears to have been discontinued, but I carry it with me and love applying it midday to perk up my face.
      • Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Instant Perfector. Clinique makes outstanding pore minimizing products. They have done so since the ancient Pore Minimizing Foundation that I wore many many years ago in New Ivory. I can smooth a tiny bit of this in my T-zone, where my pores have enlarged over time due to oily skin, and call it a day. No foundation needed, and even though this mattifies the frankenpores, the Invisible Bright "color" also adds back a hint of luminosity. Great stuff, I am on my second tube already this year. I like that I can reapply over my makeup. It's like smoothing on liquid powder.
      • Cle de Peau Concealer. This dense, creamy formula stays put all day. This stuff is super duper pigmented, and because I apply it so sparingly, it doesn't crease on me. It will last a hundred billion years. 

      I didn't wear blush for more than a decade. My skin is naturally rosy, so blush feels redundant, but there are so many beautiful colors I just can't help myself, especially if I add a hint of glow along the cheekbones. Here are my favorites this year:
      • Edward Bess Blush Imperiale. A friend gave me this blush in Soft Orchid, and I could not have picked a better color myself. It appears almost lilac in the pan, but it turns into a soft rose warmed by the barest whisper of peachy coral. The texture is divine.
      • Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color. I have Dain of ARS Aromatica to thank for recommending Shiseido's blush formula when she learned that I was looking for a gleaming blush in order to skip highlighter. Based on her tip, I purchased Carnation, and although it is a very new addition to 2011, it has quickly become one of my favorite blushes of the year because it really is luminous. 
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Original Skin Blush. After reading several online reviews, I chose Gracilis, sight unseen, and I was not disappointed. Gracilis is a stunning mauve rose that glides on like silk. 
      • CARGO blu_ray. This is Cargo's original blu_ray blush in Pink (unlabeled), not the Peach one that came out later. I love the giant pan and how easy it is to swirl my brush in it, as opposed to so many blush packaging that forces the color into a thin strip. I give it high marks for the lovely glow it leaves behind without outright shimmer.
      • Bobbi Brown Blush. Both Nectar and Pale Pink are extremely pigmented blushes, but with the lightest of hand and a specific, non-blush brush (I use the Laura Mercier Fan brush or MAC 188), I get just the right amount of brightness on the apples. My own natural blush is quite bright, so the pretty  muted roses that are so popular do not look as natural on me because they make my skin look muddy.
      • MAC Blushcreme Ladyblush. This is my favorite cream blush, beating Becca, Rouge Bunny Rouge, and Laura Mercier.
      • MAC Mineralize Blush. Love Thing surpassed Chanel's limited edition Rouge in my affections. The texture is very soft and silky, but it's a bit powdery, so I have to be really careful when I apply this or it could end up splattered on the ceiling.
      Out of all, I'd have to say that Cargo, Shiseido, and BB Nectar are my favorite favorites, though Pale Pink has been in my top 3 for a few years and got an honorable mention this year because I repurchased it.

      Lip lube

      I am a total lip balm junkie, and if lipstick had not improved so much in the last 10 years (much less drying than it used to be), lip balm would be my desert island item, preferably tinted. In fact, dedicated a post to my favorite balms, and while I still love those mentioned in the article, I found some new ones this year.
      • Julie Hewett Camellia Lip Balm. It looks apricot colored, but it applies clear. And although this balm is not new to me this year, I repurchased it three times this year alone and used them all up. I just bought my final backup for 2011. This stuff is pricey at $16, but it feels so great on my lips, as well as rubbed into my cuticles or applied to the delicate skin under my nose if it gets irritated and dry from nose honking. You can probably tell how much I like it from the photo. Highly recommended.
      • Prescriptives Lip Specialist. Despite being a near 100%-loyal Prescriptives fan for almost a decade, I'd never noticed their lip balm. So when Phoenix rose from the ashes earlier this year and it became clear that Px would not go the way of the Dodo bird, I started ordering some of my favorites again. I was pleasantly surprised by how soft and silky their balm felt on my lips. The only thing that keeps it from rising to the top of my lip treatment favorites is that it comes in a pot.
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Kiss Elixir Lip Balm. This balm is excellent. It applies clear and smooth. It is not tacky/sticky, and it makes my lips feel like butter without slipping and sliding all over the place. I often wear it to bed, and the only time it gets nasty is when an over-excited cat slams his flank into my face and I end up with fur-coated lips.
      • Peter Thomas Roth Un-wrinkle Lip Balm. This little gem is a plumping, smoothing lip treatment with sunscreen (SPF 15) and the softest pink shimmer. For a while it looked like the Un-wrinkle balm had been discontinued, but it is back in stock at

      Ah, my favorite makeup. Ever. The above lineup represents my top 10 new lipsticks this year. Don't go scrolling down for a "best of lipgloss" category.  There isn't one. I am a die-hard lipstick person, have always felt that way. So without further ado:
      • Guerlain Rouge Automatique 164 Chamade. A mid-toned cool pink-red with coral undertones. It is bright but sheer and very face brightening. 
      • Edward Bess Ultra Luminous Lipstick Night Romance. A creamy-smooth blued raspberry softened by a hint of brown. The formula has plenty of slip and yet maintains good amount of traction for the amount of moisture it delivers. Bess lipstick formula is really wonderful if you can get past the fruity scent.
      • Rouge Bunny Rouge Hues of Enchantment Colorburst Lipstick Word of Mouth. When you finally tack on the color name, it should be called Word of Mouthful. This color is a silky mid-toned rose with a hint of something that pulls it in the coral direction but only very slightly. The formula is smooth, and it smells like Christmas.
      • Bobbi Brown Creamy Lip Color Rose Petal is as light as I can go. Rose Petal has enough brightness to be a MLLB shade. The very fine blue microshimmers in it are flattering, but this formula is quite goopy—so be forewarned.
      • Chanel Rouge Allure 28 Romanatic. Another cool, mid-toned rose that is similar to Edward Bess Night Romance but more clear and not quite as dark. I was previously not a fan of Chanel lipsticks. Either the formula was too drying or the rose fragrance made me gag. Either Chanel lip products have come a long way since they phased out the Hydrbase formula, or my chemical sensitivity went away. Rouge Allure has a wonderfully silky texture that moisturizes my lips and no discernible scent.
      • MAC Cremesheen On Hold. I have a hard time describing this color. MAC calls it yellowed raspberry, but on my mauve lips, it's watermelon kissed by coral. I don't buy many MAC lipsticks, because I find them drying, but I love this, and it takes a lot to get me excited. On Hold is pigmented and bright and it leaves behind a serious stain. As in, don't plan to wear a light lipstick at night if you wore this one all day. 
      • Prescriptives (via Three Custom Colors) Rosmarine. Discontinued for many years, Rosemarine was the only lipstick I wore for almost a decade. It's the most beautiful shade of blue rose with a whisper of brown, which takes on an entirely new dimension when worn over Prescriptives Aubergine lip pencil (also discontinued). No other lipstick in my entire life generated as many compliments as this one. I will always have Rosemarine on hand and am so grateful for companies like 3CC who can do a perfect reproduction in every way (outside the packaging). Sometimes it's good to let discontinued colors go so you can find something new to love, but then certain colors are worth holding onto for as long as you can.
      • Chantecaille Lip Chic Tea Rose. Lip Chics were a new discovery for me last year, and Tea Rose is a color I repuchased so I could have one at home and one at work. Both are now worn down do little rosy nubs. Smooth gel-like texture with the prettiest, sheer wash of muted rose.
      • Laura Mercier Gel Lip Color Sweet Cherry. I raved about this in my review, and this is still THE best red lipstick I have ever worn. Apologies to Ellis Faas, but this sheer, creamy red cannot be beat for my coloring and contrast levels.
      • L'Oreal Infallible Lipstick Eternal Rose. This is the first drugstore lipstick I have ever liked. The texture is surprisingly smooth and moisturizing. I had terrible luck with L'Oreal lipsticks drying my lips to cracks in the past (they used to be smelly, too).
      • (Not shown) Jane Iredale Lipstick Brett. This color is getting hard to find, and I am digging pigment out of the end of the bullet, so there is nothing to photograph here. Brett is a beautiful, silky berry shade.

        A closer view of the first five:

        And a closer view of the second five. I noticed after the fact that Eternal Rose was missing from the second shot of ten, but it's included below.

        Things in stick format

        I grouped my pens and pencils in one shot, even though some are lips and some are eyes.
        • Ellis Faas Glazed Lips L303. For a lipgloss hater, the formula of Glazed Lips is wonderful and L303, a cool berry, is an outstanding color. I don't mind the brush, which seems ideally suited for lip color delivery. I consider it less a lip gloss than a liquid lipstick.
        • Prescriptives Lip Pencil Dusty Rose. This color is not quite a perfect match for my lips, which are a bit deeper (and Dusty Rose goes on slightly grey), but it is, so far, the only pencil I have found that is a cross between my skin and lips, and it keeps pigment inside.
        • MAC Lip Pencil Soar. This is a MLLB shade, a mid-toned mauvish rose.
        • Paula Dorf Eye Enhancer Baby Eyes. Not new, but a repurchase, this flesh-toned pencil is excellent for rimming the lower waterline.
        • Chanel Style Yeux Eyeliner 84 Taupe. It reminds me of a crayon version of Laura Mercier Topaz. It's not really taupe as much as a taupe-bronze cooled by mauve-violet undertones.
        • Rouge Bunny Rouge Feline Gaze Long-lasting Eye Pencil Calypso. This color is a super-saturated jet black base aqua-blue and silver reflections. So pretty and practically bulletproof!
        • Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil Seal Brown 02. After reading about this pencil for years, I finally bought one and understand what the fuss was about. Whereas most brow pencils that claim to be taupe are too red or yellow or orange for me, Seal Brown is an almost-perfect cool brown that goes on so lightly and can be built up to the desired amount. 
        • Lancome Defincils Mascara. I've noticed this mascara since the 80s, but it took me two decades to finally try it. Smooth, not too wet, slightly volumizing without looking spiky. A perfect everyday mascara.


        These were the standouts for 2011, with most of them new and a couple repeaters:
        • Bobbi Brown Long-wear Cream Eyeshadow Heather. My don't-make-me-think muted purple shade. Great, simple bulletproof. The only thing I dislike is the shape of the pot. Too narrow and deep.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Perle. A workhorse. Perle is a gleaming ivory with pink/purple duochrome reflects that manages to look radiant instead of sparkly. You probably can't tell from the photo below, but I am about to hit pan. This is my absolute favorite highlighter shade of the year, and I use it nearly every single day on all parts of my face, as well as collarbones.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Quartz. The perfect fleshy pink nude with a satin finish.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Granite. A gorgeous, glimmery taupe that is a little too warm for me, but I love it anyway.
        • Chantecaille Shine Eye Shade Meteorite. A stunning dirty grey that is face brightening. It wins the prize as being one of my most flattering eyeshadows ever, and that's no small feat considering how sludgy it looks in the pan. 
        • Bobbi Brown Matte Eyeshadow Heather. The matte sister to the cream version. Highly pigmented, almost staining to the skin.
        • Bobbi Brown Long-wear Cream Shadow Sand Dollar. The first shimmer-based cream shadow I have been able to wear. Most are too warm (champagne, peach, etc), and this one is a pale silvery taupe. 
        • Stila Eyeshadow in Ecru. I have repurchased this eyeshadow 3-4 times already, and bought several backups this year when I learned Stila had discontinued this lovely satin base, which is cool cream with a trace of pink. I overbought, but I panicked.
        • Becca Demi-matte Eyeshadow Chantilly. This demi-matte is a new shade for me, a dusty lavender that looks gorgeous from lashes to brow with a deeper shade in the crease, like Chantecaille Meterorite.
        • Becca Shimmer Eyeshadow Lamé. A complex, muted licorice.
        • Laura Mercier Sateen Eye Color Sable. The Sateen formula is, by far, my favorite, and Laura Mercier eyeshadows are so underrated. I so rarely see them reviewed. Silky, easy to blend, Sable is a glowy greyed brown.
        • Rouge Bunny Rouge When Birds are Singing Long-last Eyeshadow Solstice Halcyon. This color might be about as universal a color as you can get, a semi-matte mauve beige. I don't see beige. I see a muted, dusty plum with brown undertones. The light taupe is there, but there's definitely something purple going on, as well. 
        • Alima Pure Semi-matte Eyeshadow in Bramble and Dawn. I hate loose powder, but this pairing is really gorgeous. I go through periods where I push these to the back of my drawer because of the powder-mess thing, but then I pull them out again because they provide such a gorgeous, cool-neutral, no-makeup look. 

        Nail Polish

        My favorites this year:
        • Rescue Beauty Lounge Teal. A really beautiful deep sea green-blue. 
        • Dior Bond Street 797. This is the perfect greyed blue, and I am so grateful I picked it up before it was gone forever. I paid through the nose (off retail) but it was worth it.
        • Dior Gris Montaigne 707. Since my skin is cool-toned, this grey worked really well. It's almost a neutral, in that it isn't an obviously GREY nail polish. I like to wear it on my toes in winter when no one knows but me.
        • Dior Lemon Balm 703. I was not smart enough to pick this up before it sold out, but I did find one later. The color defies description. Suffice it to say it is complex, and like its namesake, it calms me when I wear it. It would be nice if it smelled of mint.
        • Sephora by OPI Mermaid to Order. Mermaid is a great name for this color, a metallic green blue that looks completely different in different lights, even if you turn your hand back and forth in the same light. Like the ocean from which the mermaid comes, this color is changeable. When I wear this on my toes in the summer, I feel happy.
        • butter LONDON All Hail the Queen. A cool-neutral pink-bronzed taupe with gold shimmers that goes with everything; in other words, I can wear whatever footwear/sandals and my toes don't stand out—they just look neat.
        And now for my favorite roses.
        • butter LONDON Dahling. A gorgeous, creamy rose. New to me this year and I just bought a backup, even though I will probably never use it up.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 491 Rose Confidentiel. The perfect ladylike rose beige appropriate for any setting. Period.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 185  Rose Paradise. I think Rose Paradise was reintroduced this year after being briefly retired. It is a beautiful gently-shimmering rose that leans slightly warm without being too gold.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 457 Tulipe Noir. This is such a complex rose-red-bronze. I believe it is discontinued, but I still managed to pick one up this year.
        • Chanel Le Vernis 455 Lotus Rouge. The perfect red shade for me, a neutral-cool strawberry red, rich and , creamy.
        • essie Angora Cardigan. I believe this shade is about two years old, but I saw it a couple months ago at Target. It's a deep red-violet, perfect for fall and winter.
        • Revlon Teak Rose. I have repurchased this humble nail polish so many times—more than any beauty product I own. I often get compliments when I wear it, so I composed a goofy sonnet to honor it. : )


        I neglected to add this item to the body care group, but it was worth an honorable mention at the end. Among a few other fragrances, I wear both Chanel No.5 and No.19, but I have never been a fan of their body lotions. They are too thin and the scent fades quickly—they also smell a little synthetic. But the creams! I adore rich, fragrant body creams, and Chanel No.5, did not disappoint.

        Bottom line: So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my favorites. I can't believe I only started blogging nine months ago, and this year has been a fun one with many happy discoveries and many new friendships. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and peace.

        All photos mine except for Clinqique's Iced Lotus.


        1. Holy smokes, that is a monster of a post! I love "things in stick format" as a heading, it made me giggle. Love the brush reviews in particular, as I'm looking to pick up a few new ones. Perhaps that LM fan brush will be first!

        2. Larie, I originally intended to post just pictures and let the products speak for themselves! I swear! But then I realized some would not be recognizable (e.g., color), and then I thought, well what's so great about it--you have to say just a little something, which led to more writing ... I feel like I just gave birth without an epidural and should have started with the disclaimer: Pour yourself a good, stiff drink before sitting down with this one. ; )

        3. Fun post! Loved seeing your favorites!

        4. That was such an interesting read, thanks for sharing this, it must have taken you ages to do! x

        5. I expected more Ellis Faas. Did you fall out of love?

        6. Replica, it took a huge amount of time! It surprised me. I've been working on it for more than a week and would have gotten it out sooner had I not been working toward a deadline.

        7. Sarasotagirl, not at all! I purchased my first Ellis Faas product late in 2009, I think ... so it's not a new brand to me, and 2 out of three of the new colors I tried this year didn't work so well for me, except for L303, which I included.

          I love her makeup. The formulas, but I really need cooler, non metallic colors to tempt me to buy more. I'd love if she some dusty lavenders (which is the color of my eyelid skin) and some mid-toned blue greys for eyeshadows and I'd die if she offered clearer, brighter reds/roses for blush.

          E107 Eyeshadow would be HG for me if it was just a hint cooler. It looks fantastic on the back of my hand, but on my lids it can turn a little caramel, which makes me look dirty.

          In fact, Ellis Faas is in my top 3--has been for more than a year. In that lofty position is Ellis, Chantecaille, and third place has a tie between Laura Mercier and Rouge Bunny Rouge. Maybe I need to have a top 5 and come up with a fifth. ; )

        8. wowww.... ZP, that is an incredibly comprehensive and thoughtful list

        9. This is what I love about beauty blogs! The simple joy of our shared enjoyment of beautiful things. Thank you for sharing your collection with us. Cheers :-)

        10. HOLY MOLY BAJOLIE! I don't think I have ever seen so much makeup in one place. :) Nice faves! I'm sure this took you ages!

        11. Wow, I love this post! I am going to save it in my favorites and build my own shopping list from it! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!


        12. What a great and comprehensive review!

        13. Wow! This is an epic posts. It includes items I love, items I have been considering and things I suspect I will love just because we seem to like similar items. Thank you for taking the time to share! x

        14. I am so happy for all of the RBR selections! I bought the calypso and delicate based on your reviews and am brilliantly happy with each. Question about your Becca cream blush brush: I've been applying my cream blushes with a sigma paddle foundation brush F60. Do you think the Becca brush is different enough from a paddle brush to warrant purchase?

        15. Are you really REALLY loving the baltic collagen? I have been on the fence for a while since it seems like just another product full of marketing hype but not delivering any real results. I've spent boatloads on Perricone only to see no results at all. Is the Baltic Collagen really "all that and a bag of chips"??

        16. Vintage, I admit it's a ton of stuff! And it's not even all of it. I have done some ambitious culling down and have one last big weed-out planned for the end of the year. Sometimes too much choice can feel a bit like a burden.

        17. K, Dain, Anon, Ammie, thanks very much for your kind words. :)

        18. Jane, epic, indeed, lol. We do like similar items! Many of your posts and articles have guided my purchases, and I have been ticked pink with them all.

        19. TrainReck, I am not familiar with the Sigma paddle, though I have several of their eye brushes from when they used numbering similar to MAC's. Is it a foundation brush? If yes, I think the Becca brush is different enough in that it's short, dense, and firm, so it allows for precise application of cream, liquid, or gel blusher. If I were to use a foundation brush, I don't think I'd have as much control, and I don't think it would blend as well. You can often find the Becca brush discounted, such as at

        20. Karen, I really REALLY love Baltic Collagen. I gave me faster and longer lasting results than Perricone and the excellent, cheaper Perricone dupes by Reviva Labs.

          BC really does deliver, but it depends on the condition of your skin. I have no wrinkles, but my skin has started to lose that youthful elasticitym and it gave me some of that back. My face looks less crumpled in the morning. I also noticed benefits where I'd not been paying attention; for example, hadn't noticed the pillow creases on my face until they stopped hanging around after my face was washed and treated with BC, and I No longer wake up with creases in my decolletage.

          If your skin is still plump and juicy, you might not see much benefit, but if you're showing some signs of aging or sun damage, it might do the trick. I could not believe my eyes after just a week, and I have since stopped using all other serums (including Retin-A) except for the occasional use of BHA/AHA to keep my pores clear. Note that you can't use acids at the same time as BC because the acids degrade the collagen.

          I am sure you've done your research on the web, but if you're interested in reading about the opinions of a group of women using it between the ages of 40-65, you can check out a 36-page topic (and growing all the time) on the EDB forum,499.0.html

          Meanwhile, BC is a lot cheaper than Perricone, and once you reach peak benefits, you can taper back. I use once a day now, and go through a bottle once every 2-3 months, so $50 spread over that timeframe isn't too bad at all.

          I hope that helps!

        21. TrainReck, I just found the Becca Crema brush for $28, which is $12 off retail:

        22. {{smooches}} you've sold me on the Baltic Collagen. I'll be placing an order today/tmrw so it hopefully arrives this week. Merry Christmas to me!!! =)

        23. @Karen, excellent! If you find you like it, make sure you stock up before the weather gets warm. (I store it in the very back of my fridge, and I will keep my in-use bottle refrigerated if there's any chance the temp inside my house will rise above 80 degrees F. Although the GA office ships on dry ice in summer, they will not order from Poland to replenish supplies during the same time period for fear of collagen degradation in the heat, so they could sell out. But you have plenty of time to worry about it. I hope you like it!

        24. Absolutely fantastic post! I read every word.

        25. Wow...way to show us all how to do an end-of-the-year recap! I so agree with your comparison of Chanel's Taupe to LM's hit the nail on the head! I ran out and got Taupe when it first came out because everyone was so excited about it, then I decided it was too light to work for me...until I realized it's the PERFECT shade for under my eyes when I need a bit of definition without looking like I'm wearing liner down there.

          I've taken note of many of your favorites and plan to investigate them'll probably hear more from me on several of them soon (you enabler, you).

          Amazing review/recap...thanks so much!

        26. this is sucha massive (amazing) post that i had to set aside a set amount of time so i could get through it ^^ i can't even imagine how long it took you to post it xD just curious how does the bamboo rollers compare to the traditional velvet ones? i'm thinking of picking up a pair and am looking for recs ^^ and i'm pretty sure i own like nothing from this massive list altho there are def a few things i would love to pick up ^^

        27. Hi Isabella, thanks for having the patience to read through it. I started with the intention of making it crisp and concise, but the post took on a life of its own!

          I cannot say how the bamboo rollers compare to the traditional velvet ones, because I don't think I have ever used velvet rollers ... unless I harken way back to the days when I attempted to use hot rollers.

          What I like about the bamboo is that they are self gripping, so there's no pink or clam needed, which will only crimp my very fine hair. Unfortunately, the Conair rollers appear to have been discontinued, but I saw something very much like them at for only $6.99. They are called Denman Thermoceramic Self Grip Rollers, and they look very much like what I am using.

          I got the idea for using self-drip rollers on dry hair from Makeup by TiffanyD. (You can skip over her first four minutes of talk to get to the procedure.)

        28. I just wanted to clarify that I use no heat (like the recommendation at I apply the rollers to my hair dry and leave them in while I do my makeup. I wash my hair the night before, so any frizzies from new grown calm down and so my hair has a little more body and less flyaway fluff.

        29. I¡ve shared this post 'cause I've really, relaly like it!!!
          Here u've a new follower from Spain!

        30. ¡Thank you and gracias! ¡Besitos a usted!


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