Friday, September 30, 2011

Dior Mitzah Quint Winner!

The winner of the Dior Mitzah quint is mlle épatant!  Congratulations!

Please contact me using one of the forms on the right (blue e-mail button or link), and I will send your goodie out as soon as possible.

Big bewbie-crushing hugs of gratitude to everyone who has been reading my blog for the last few months and to all new readers. Without you, I'd just be talking to myself, and since I always agree, where's the fun in that?

**As per the "rules," the winner has 48 hours to contact me. If I don't hear from you by this time Sunday night, I'll let the Random Number Generator pick another.

Besame Cosmetics: Classic Beauty -- the History of Makeup

Gabriela Hernandez, the founder and CEO of Besame Cosmetics, has just published her first book. Called Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup ($49.99), I knew she had been working on a book, but I had no idea what it would be about, and I still know only what the PR writeup says because the "look inside" feature on is disabled, and there are no reviews yet.

That didn't stop me. I ordered a copy straight away after I read this little blurb on the page:
This colorful reference book chronicles historic trends for the eyes, lips, and face, and offers in-depth aesthetic reviews of each decade from the 1920s to today. Follow the rich history of facial trends through fascinating and bizarre vintage ads; detailed makeup application guides; and profiles of famous makeup innovators, connoisseurs, and iconic faces. Over 430 images, timelines, and detailed vintage color palettes show the changing definitions of beauty and document makeup innovations (the first mascara, lipstick, eye shadow, etc.) that have evolved throughout the history of cosmetics.
So excited! This first edition is bound in hardcover, so it will be the perfect book to have laying around for inspiration.

I love every bit of makeup I have tried from her brand (though some colors did not work for me), and I admire her aesthetic.  I hope this means more exposure for her brand and that she will be expanding her range of products and colors.

There are not many blog reviews on this indie brand, which is rather unfortunate. The lipsticks are outstanding, and if you like red lipstick, you must check out hers--you can even buy a sample set of six (mentioned here).

If you're interested, you can click my BESAME label and read what I've had to say. In particular, Red Velvet and Dusty Rose are my very favorites (reviewed here), but I have the full line of red lipsticks and really should get around to reviewing them all.

I am not affiliated with this brand, and I have purchased all Besame products with my own money. I am just excited because I think it is an extremely high-quality line.

Have you tried Besame Cosmetics? 

Image source: B&N and Besame

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chanel Rouge Allure 28 Romantic

Chanel Rouge Allure 28 Romantic ($32) is not a new color, but it is one I reach for often. It falls into that deep rose/bordering-on-red category that I love so much.

Nothing but a cool, deep, creamy rose and a wee bit of brown undertone. No orange or yellow and no shimmer.

The mauve undertones in my lips intensify the color, so Romantic is a somewhat vibrant look on me. I just play down my eyes when I wear it; I usually just even out my lids with Jane Iredale PurePressed base and contour with a light plummy taupe or dusty lavender, like Chantecaille Agate. In fact, Romantic is one of those lipsticks I can put on during the weekend, with no other makeup, and instantly look ten times better. That is always the true sign that I have found a "keeper," when wearing just the one product makes the rest of my face look like it has some makeup on.

I used to be unable to wear Chanel lipsticks, at least in the previous Hydrabase formulation. The smell/taste made me gag, and they were quite drying. Rouge Allure formulation is nothing like that; it is silky, smooth, and moisturizing, and though it is reported to have a slight rose scent, I haven't noticed one, so it it is there, it is very subtle. One thin layer is enough for even, semi-opaque coverage, and the color wears up to four hours on me, fading evenly all over, not from the center out and no crumbly bits at the corners of my mouth.

Natural light

Even though I must have at least eight (or more!) similar rose lipsticks, I picked only two to compare because I was in a race with fading light: Laura Mercier Healthy Lips, which has warmer red leanings, and Edward Bess Night Romance, another cool rose deepened by brown.

Laura Mercier Healthy Lips, Chanel Romantic, Edward Bess Night Romance

Bottom line: Romantic is a beautiful color for fall and winter, especially because it is so moisturizing, which is a lot different from the way Chanel lipsticks used to be.

All photos mine.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Alima Pure Minerals Eyeshadows in Bramble and Dawn

In a previous post, titled The Nude Eye, I began a search for the perfect naked-but-better eyeshadow pair: the base shade and the contour. Many colors were tested beyond those listed in the post, and most were rejected.

The winners came as an almost reluctant surprise because I do not care for loose powder in any form; I use it, and I own the odd translucent face powder or MAC pigment, but I almost never reach for them. Too messy. That is, until I discovered and fell in love with Alima Pure mineral products (reviewed here).

I was unable to resist the fact that every single item Alima sells is available in a sample, which they sell for $1 in a screw-top pot that contins at least 1/4 tsp of pigment, which is more than enough to test an eyeshadow or blush. (Note: Their foundation samples come in slightly larger test pots.)

I spent more than a month testing various eyeshadow combinations for the nude eye look, including all of the Alima samples. Two of Alima's Satin Matte Eyeshadows ($14) stood out above the others.

Alima calls their Satin Matte formulas the "little black dress," and they are, indeed, versatile and appropriate for any occasion. Here's what they say:
A style essential, Alima's Satin Matte Eyeshadow sets off your grey flannel suit by day and enhances that slinky black number at night. Simply put, "you look fabulous."

Dawn is a light, heathered pink.

"Heathered" means it contains beige and grey so it is both natural and cool (slightly ashy) on my NW15 skin. In fact, it is very close the Jane Iredale PurePressed base in that I wear in Light Beige (reviewed here), but it is more brightening. Worn alone, Dawn looks gorgeous. It is THE perfect nude to even out the skin on my eyelids, which have both red and blue and even some darkish beige.

Bramble is light taupe with a hint of plum, which the Alima writeup says "comes straight from the palette of a period movie set in Edwardian England."

While most film and TV makeup artists seem to use a red-based brown for eyeshadow on just about everyone, Bramble would be the one I would wear. It provides an almost no-makeup contour to my creases that is neither overtly beige not grey nor purple. It matches my natural shadows.

Here are Bramble and Dawn together in sunlight:

Alima Satin Matte Eyeshadow in Bramble and Dawn
I included the photo from Alima's web site at the top of this post to assure you that this is not how the eyeshadows arrive. The 2.5 grams of pigment is protected by a plastic sifter top, which requires some effort to dispense (e.g., I thump the closed lid 3-4 times upside down on my palm) to get enough product out. This extra effort is worth it. I don't want a bunch of loose eyeshadow in the lid. Just like with any mineral skin foundation, it is so much better to start light and layer, to avoid looking dry and dusty.

Because so little pigment comes out, it was surprisingly easy to use, not much different than swiping a brush across a pressed eyeshadow pan, really. I do press the color into my lids before sweeping, and I still put a hand towel in my lap if I am already dressed for work, but I haven't had any messy accidents. If eyeshadow pigment lands where it should not, it is too easy to sweep it away with a fan brush.

Here are some skin swatches in indirect sunlight and natural light. I swatched them heavily, or they would have barely shown up for the pictures

Indirect sunlight
Natural light
Once these eyeshadows are on, they stay on all day. They do not flake, crease, collect in fine lines, make my lids look dry, chalky, or crepey, or get into my eyes and irritate them. If I want the colors to stand out more, I apply over Paula Dorf Eye Prime in Light, but I like the fact that I can sweep Alima eyeshadows over bare skin and have them stay put.

The finish is a beautiful satin. Matte enough for conservative jobs and natural-looking crease work, but there is a very subtle sheen to the finish that keeps it from looking dusty.

I suspect Dawn and Bramble would most flatter fair to medium skins, though Dawn might make a pretty highlighter on darker skins, maybe even on cheeks.

Bottom line: The perfect pair to grab when I want to look great but don't want to think about "color."

(1) The rest mine.

Five Days Left to Win Dior Mitzah Quint!

If you have not entered already, you still have until 5:00 PM EST this Friday.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tom Ford Private Blend Lip Color in Bruised Plum

Tom Ford's Private Blend Lip Color in Bruised Plum ($45), a semi-matte black cherry with a whisper of shimmer, hardly needs me to tell you how gorgeous it is. In fact, I am going to let the pictures do the talking while I go about my day. If you want to know my opinion about quality of packaging, lipstick texture, and performance, see my post on Smoke Red.

Enjoy! And if you have any questions, please post a comment.

Bruised Plum won Allure's Best of Beauty Award for 2010.

For other reviews on this color, see The Non-blonde and London Makeup Girl.

All photos mine

The Beauty Spotlight Team: What's in Lisa Marie's Bag?

This week we take a peek into the twisted mind of Lisamarie from Beauty Crazed via her makeup bag. What crazy-ass stuff will we find in there? Click on the link and read on, if you dare...!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red Blush

After reading lots of blog posts and online reviews about Chanel's limited edition Joues Contraste Rouge blush, I started to wonder why more blushes are not red. Red makes sense, at least for me. I don't blush peach or coral or brown or beige.

I know that those of you with different undertones blush different colors, and maybe you are the majority because I continually struggle to find a realistic color when I shop for blush. Most are too pigmented or too warm for my pink-porcelain (NW15) skin. Part of the challenge is I am naturally rosy, so adding pink or red on top might seem redundant unless I create a tabula rasa with foundation, concealer, or powder. Still, there are times when I want a hint of color on my pale face, and I have often wished it were an easier task to find the right color, short of slapping myself silly to bring out the heat.

Rather than consider blush colors that appeal to me (I am drawn to pinks and roses), I have been thinking about what I actually look like after I have been outside in the cold winter air, or after I have exercised, or when I am steaming mad. I flush red. Rosy red with fuchsia undertones, but red red red.

On any given, non-cold or unstressful day (e.g, cool, calm, and collected), I can see hints of pink under my skin, so historically, I have purchased bright, clear pink with red undertones, like Bobbi Brown Pale Pink or Chanel Pink Explosion.

And yet when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror wearing these hot pinks, I am occasionally reminded of a blowsy, trying-too-hard dame, a la Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. I think I look artificial, Kewpie-doll like, a floozie.

So then I turn to the muted roses (which is what counter people usually recommend), hoping for something that won't compete with my high coloring, something like Bobbi Brown Desert Rose or Chanel Rose Dust.

But sometimes these colors look too muddy, too muted, and I appear washed out or tired or--worse--dirty. My coloring is fair and soft with muted eyes, but the coloring in my cheeks and lips is clear, which is why so many SAs make mistakes with me, often pronouncing me an "Autumn" in the 4-season color categories (so wrong).

It was perfect timing, really, when Chanel introduced a red blush and the reviews started pouring in. I was a little taken aback by its intensity, but I was also inexplicably drawn to it, and I began to seriously consider it for myself as being, perhaps, the most realistic color.

I have made plenty of expensive Chanel mistakes in the past, most of which ended up being too warm for my skin tone. Not wanting to buy another flop, I dipped my toe into the Red Sea by ordering what seemed to be an almost identical color: MAC Mineralize Blush in Love Thing, which is also a deeply-pigmented red blush with fine gold shimmer.

I nearly fainted when I pulled the compact out of its box, but I gave it a try. I used a duo fiber (skunk) brush and barely touched the synthetic tips to the blush surface. I then swirled the tips around the inside of the lid (to get the excess off) and then barely brushed the ends against my skin. Instant flush, and it looked good. Really good.

I was so encouraged, I read some more online reviews on Chanel Rouge and then ordered it for myself. Who could look at the images on Front Row Beauty and not want this blush?

For Rouge application, I alternate between using the Laura Merier or Jane Iredale fan brush, which even more softly diffuses the pigment across my cheeks.

I have been wearing either the Chanel or MAC every day for the last few weeks, and they continue to grow on me. Quite honestly, I need never look at another color. I have found the perfect match(es) for my own blush color.

Here's a picture of the Chanel blush next to the MAC. They are both very red and pigmented, and although they look similar at first glance, the MAC is slightly cooler, with plum undertones--which is actually a more perfect match for me.

Here are some skin swatches, first in natural light and then in direct sunlight. The shimmer is very subtle in both products and is slightly more apparent in sun.

Natural light
Direct sun
Bottom line: Instant love. The most natural blush I have ever owned, both of them.

What do you think of red blush? Is it for you?

(2, 4)
(5) mine
(7-10) mine

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

High-end Versus Other-end Makeup

I'm sure most of us know that beautiful makeup need not be expensive. A friend recently summed it up perfectly when she gave me the inspiration for this post: "If you are willing to forgo that feeling of being pampered by lovely packaging and the flattering light at makeup counters, sales associates fawning over you, and that "I am so worth it" sensibility, you don't ever have to shop department store counters again."

Blogger blaspheme? Or good common sense?

I have often asked myself where I weigh in on the high-end/low-end question. I find the almost undefinable "I'm worth it/I earned it," ideal alluring, but what I'm really after is a high-end, refined look, not necessarily high-end prices. Then again, I love gorgeous packaging. Nothing makes my heart sing like opening a drawer in the dim morning light and seeing an ivory-gold halo from a Tom Ford lipstick tube shining in the shadows, like a lighthouse beaming through the fog.

It's what's inside that counts, and these product usually deliver—if they did not, I'd have no patience for them. But I also want good value, and I am not completely convinced that a lipstick, which is so heavy it could be used as a doorstop, is worth the extra $30 over my preferred price point for a lipstick. And yet I once swore I would never spend more than $25 on a single lipstick.

Throw into the mix the fact that drugstore products have improved, at least in texture, some of which make excellent substitutions for higher-end products. As my friend says, she could "walk into a metro drugstore anywhere ... and buy a whole 'face', including cleanser/moisturizer, and feel well turned out."

I know what she means. A few months ago, I watched an online video that used Rimmel Glam'Eyes Mono Eye Shadow in Spicy Bronze ($3.22), so I decided to try it, and I was completely unprepared for the outstanding quality. The buttery, silken texture reminded me of old-school Stila (before the reformulation, and a product I no longer buy). All this at just over $3, and the packaging wasn't even  unattractive.

Greatly encouraged, I next experimented with the similarly-priced Wet n Wild Color Icon Eye Shadow Trio in Silent Treatment ($2.99). The base shade was chalky, but the lid and crease colors were excellent, and the interesting mauve-tinted shimmering taupe was unlike anything I had seen, even from my higher-end brands.

The next item I tried was L'Oreal Infallible Le Rouge lipstick in Eternal Rose ($8.99). The color in the tube looked flat and extremely matte, but one swipe and I could not believe it. Silky, soft, and non-drying, and a little less than half the price of a MAC lipstick. Is the packaging pretty? Not really, but it's no worse than Shu Uemura packaging, whose lipsticks cost nearly three times as much.

One product I rarely spend more than $10 on (and often much less than that) is mascara. I was lured in by the excellent Lancome Defincils, but I had been perfectly happy with Maybelline Great Lash mascara for years/decades. And since I go through a tube in three months, I don't see the point of spending $25+. Enter CoverGirl LashBlast Length Mascara ($7.79). This is a fantastic mascara for coating lashes and adding length. If you like volume, move along. If you aren't looking for length, move along.

Despite finding such excellent bargains, a lingering snobbery is still active in my shallow soul, which probably says more about my own misguided sense of worth than a true position on the quality of the product. If I truly felt worthy, I'd see past the pretty packaging and realize the worth in not frittering away my hard-earned money on something that delivers nothing but artifice and trickery! All things being equal on the inside, it would be smarter to put up to 75% of the money I spend on packaging to better use. Like my dream retirement cottage on a sea cliff, where no one but the seagulls and mollusks will care about me or my makeup.

Perhaps most pitiful of all is I depot almost everything I can. So inside my Unii palette, you'll find Equal Opportunity Makeup! No one knows where those pans used to live. OK, most of you would probably know just by the shape ofthe pan or the imprint on the surface, but still.

I have read that almost all cosmetics brands are owned by a single giant (Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Proctor Gamble, etc.) who manufactures both high and lower ends, and that these monoliths use the same patent across all of their lines. MAC = Tom Ford? Maybe. Why not? I love the Tom Ford lipstick I bought recently, but I didn't find its performance or texture better than anything else I own—in fact, it felt rather drying. The color Red Smoke (reviewed here) is really lovely against my skin tone, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't the packaging that drew me in. I intentionally bought a color on its way to being phased out so I could purchase the lipstick in the ivory and gold tube before they are pulled from the shelves.

I do like pretty packaging, but when it comes down to it, no one sees this stuff but me. With the exception of the rare and furtive dash of lipstick, I don't apply my makeup in public, and the only person that sits at my dressing table, or even enters my inner sanctum, is yours truly. So why is the package so important to me—especially when I gut the thing? I want to say it's because it's, well, just nicer, that I have a reasonable disposable income and that I have earned the right for nice things. And I could have far, far worse hobbies.

I cannot come down decidedly in favor of either of the high-end/low-end side, but one thing I know is that when I am retired, I'd rather be sitting on my front porch looking at the ocean waves breaking on the shore instead of sitting in my dim high-rise apartment bedroom looking at a drawer full of makeup I never wear.

In the meantime, when shopping for drugstore makeup, it would feel so much more luxurious if we could bypass the overhead fluorescent lights and be transported back to a 1915-style chemist. Talk about a pampered experience. And I should remind myself that Revlon, Coty, and Max Factor were once sold in department stores before newcomer Estée Lauder started scooping up the market share. And how did she do it? She made her brand seem exclusive with limited distribution and higher price points! Because—say it with me—it may be a sin, but it's human nature to covet.

Where do you stand on the high-end versus low-end issue? Do you shop only in department stores or do you love a good bargain? Do you think you can get good value from CVS, Walgreens, Target, and the like?

All photos from stock or Google images
Special thanks to Ten Bells and Pansy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jane Iredale PurePressed Eyeshadow — Review and Swatches

As promised, I am reviewing Jane Iredale PurePressed Eyeshadow ($19), which is a mineral formula in pressed form. There are not  many blog reviews about this line, which I think is sadly overlooked. You can do a full face using all  Jane Iredale products, and you'd look very polished, indeed. Some of us may have preconceived notions about mineral makeup being inferior, but does the below photo look like a hot mess? I didn't think so.

Single eyeshadows come in compacts similar to Chantecaille eyeshadow singles: a thin, faux-metal pan with a frosted, semi-opaque plastic lid. Whereas Chantecaille compacts are shiny silver, Jane Iredale compacts are brushed gold. Both have the same lightweight feel and the compacts are the same size. Chantecaille eyeshadow pans are larger, but they also cost about $10 more.

While the Jane Iredale color range is not vast, I imagine most of us coukd find something suitable. The majority of colors is made of neutrals, which is nice for those of us who gravitate toward a more natural, "no makeup" look. You'll also find deeperbrighter colors, especially in the eyeshadow palettes (duos and trios) and the new Steppes.

When I first discovered Jane Iredale, I used only the PurePressed Base and concealer. Back then (early 00s), Jane Iredale products were hard to find. They weren't yet sold online, and you could only get them at specialty boutiques, generally spas or high-end hair salons.  About three years ago, I discovered Jane Iredale was sold at one of my favorite e-tailers (, and since Dermstore has a 100% color guarantee, I decided to try the duo eyeshadow in Taupe/French Toast (sadly discontinued). Taupe was the first brown eyeshadow I allowed anywhere near my eyes after a disastrous experience with a too-warm Dior quint in 1987 (yes, that's right, 20 whole years). I wore only greys and dusty lavenders, but something in me still felt like I needed to keep searching for the right brown.

No one was more surprised than I when the Taupe/French Toast duo changed my fear of brown eyeshadow. Since then I have collected a few of the Jane Iredale brown-based singles (click images below to enlarge).

Cappuccino: a matte neutral milky brown.

Dawn: a neutral, shimmering bronze.

Slate Brown: THE perfect taupe, a cool-leaning brown and grey in equal measures. I often use Slate Brown as brow filler and as a very soft eyeliner, smudged into the lash line.

Taupe: A mid-toned, cool-neutral brown with mauvish plum undertones—interestingly, not as traditionally taupe as Slate Brown. This Taupe is the same shade that was previously sold in the Taupe/French Toast duo.

Cappuccino and Dawn are sold as warm colors, and Slate Brown and Taupe are neutrals, though I find both Slate  and Taupe to be cool enough for me. Each would be suitable for fair to medium skin tones, but the colors might be too subtle on darker skins, unless used as a base shade.

Here are all four browns swatched together on top of the PurePressed Ivory base, with Brett PureMoist LipColour color (reviewed here) on top for good measure.

Swatched together, I can see the differences much more than by looking at the colors in the pan. Cappuccino is a milk-chocolate, Dawn appears as a bronzed topaz bronze, and Slate Brown contains the most grey, while Taupe really shows its rosy undertones. Taupe seems like a matte version of Dawn, but it is more cool.

The texture of Jane Iredale eyeshadows is silky but somewhat powdery, so I find it easiest to pat the color on with a shader brush, especially if I first mist the brush head with distilled water Jane Iredale Pommist spray. Color lasts several hours, but I can make it last all day (and get the purest color) when I apply it over an eye primer, my favorite being Paula Dorf Eye Primer, Light.

Ingredients: Mica, Boron Nitride, Dimethicone, Pinus Strobus (Pine) Bark Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Carmine, Manganese Violet, Ultramarines, Chromium Oxide Greens.
When I was looking at the official Jane Iredale web site, I was interested to see that she has come out with an eyeshadow layering system, packaged in a way that reminds me of Le Metier de Beaute Kaleidoscopes. Jane's version is called Steppes. Below are stock images from the new Fall 2011 collection, in individual cool and warm palettes. Both look gorgeous, and the packaging is vastly improved over the slightly more lurid goGreen, goBlue, and goBrown Steppes. Though two out of three levels contain two eyeshadows per level, the top level offers a full pan of the base color. Smart.

Jane Iredale Eye Steppe in goCool
Jane Iredale Eye Steppe in goWarm
Below is a video of Jane Iredale day-into-night look using the Steppes goWarm eyeshadow set.

And as I mentioned earlier, it's easy to use Jane Iredale products exclusively to achieve a gorgeous, full-face look, from subtle to sultry.

Bottom line: Several items in the Jane Iredale line have been repeat buys for me in the last 10-plus years, so I'd call them essential. In fact, if I were forced to buy from one line only, this is the one that would beat out Chanel, Laura Mercier, Chantecaille, Ellis Faas, Bobbi Brown, and so on. I don't know what I would do if this line went kaput, but such a fate seems unlikely.

See The Unknown Beauty Blog for an excellent review on Jane Iredale eyeshadow in Taupe and Witoxicity's blog for reviews on other Jane Iredale products. If you have written Jane Iredale reviews, please comment and let me know so I can read them!

Photo credits:,, and items from my own collection