Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chanel Rouge Allure 28 Romantic

Chanel Rouge Allure 28 Romantic ($32) is not a new color, but it is new to me. 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, usually a pale wash of base color. 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 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 if it is present, it is 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.

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 for base and contour. I spent more than a month testing various eyeshadow combinations for the best look, including Alima samples I had purchased.

Two of Alima's Satin Matte Eyeshadows ($14) stood out above the others: Dawn and Bramble.

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 slightly 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
The 2.5 grams of loose pigment sits beneath 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 from 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.

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. For a review on this lipstick brand's quality of packaging, formula, texture, and performance, see my post on Smoke Red.

If you have questions about Bruised Plum, 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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red Blush

After reading many 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 clean slate 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 non-stressful 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 sometimes 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 these colors often look too muddy, too muted, too warm, 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 sales associates 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 Mercier or Jane Iredale fan brush, which even more softly diffuses the pigment across my cheeks.

I have been wearing either the Chanel or MAC red blusher 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."

I occasionally contemplate how I feel about the high-end/low-end question. I find the almost undefinable "I'm worth it/I earned it," ideal alluring, but I'm not a snob and I love the best value for my money. I want a high-end look, not necessarily high-end prices.

In many cases, the primary difference is packaging. High end packaging is nice. I feel a little lift when I open the drawer to my dressing table in the dim morning light and seeing an ivory-gold halo from a Tom Ford lipstick tube shining in the shadows, like a lighthouse beckoning through the fog.

Ultimately, it's what's inside that counts. If any product doesn't deliver, I have no patience for it. I want good value, whatever the cost, and I am not convinced that a lipstick, which is so heavy it could be used as a paperweight, is worth an extra $30. I remember when I swore I would never spend more than $25 on a single lipstick.

Drugstore products have made leaps and bounds the last decade. In fact there are several that I prefer over their costlier countarparts. 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 rivaled old-school Stila (before the reformulation) and Dior singles. At just over $3, even the and packaging was unobjectionable.

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, I still get sucked in to the packaging, which probably says more about my own misguided sense of worth than a true position on the quality of the product. If I truly examined my motives, I'd likely realize that the worth in not frittering away my income on something that delivers nothing but artifice and trickery! All things being equal on the inside, of course.

Perhaps most telling 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. To be fair, some of us could tell by pan shape and any embossing, but really.

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 like 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 lovely against my skin tone, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't the packaging that initially attracted me.

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 who sits at my dressing table, or even enters my inner sanctum, is yours truly. So why is the package so important to me—especially if 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 costlier 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 looking at a drawer full of makeup I never wear.

In the meantime, wouldn't it be nice if, when shopping for drugstore makeup, we could bypass the overhead fluorescent lights and be transported back to a 1915-style chemist. Talk about a pampered experience. I should also remember that Revlon, Coty, and Max Factor were once sold in department stores before young upstart Estée Lauder entered the market. And how did she do it? She made her brand seem exclusive with limited distribution and higher price points! It's human nature to covet.


My product reviews do tend to highlight department store brands. However here's a list of pharmacy beauty I have repurchased many times:
  • St. Ives Apricot Scrub
  • Badger Cuticle Care and (lip) Balm
  • Buff Puff Gentle
  • Revlon Super Lustrous and Matte lipsticks
  • NYX Cosmetics Rouge Cream Blush
  • Maybelline Full 'N Soft Washable Mascara 
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser and Moisturizing Lotion
  • Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
  • Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap, Baby-Mild
  • Eucerin Smoothing Repair Dry Skin Lotion    
  • Dove Beauty Bar, Sensitive Skin
  • Johnson's Baby Powder, Original
  • Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte Lipstick
  • Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand cream
  • Trader Joe's Nourish All-In-One Facial Cleanser
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), 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 doesn't the below stock image look gorgeous?

Eyeshadows are 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, and they also cost about $10 more.

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

When I first discovered Jane Iredale, I used only the PurePressed Base and Circle/Delete 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, and since Dermstore has a 100% color guarantee, I decided to try the duo eyeshadow in Taupe/French Toast (now discontinued). Taupe was the first brown eyeshadow I tried after a disastrous too-warm Dior quint in 1987 (yes, that's right, 20 whole years). For decades, grey and dusty lavender was my "brown."

Nevertheless, I tried the Jane Iredale taupe, and was pleasantly surprised that it worked. Since then, I have purchased a few Jane Iredale brown-based singles (click images below to enlarge).

Cappuccino: a matte neutral milky brown, which turned out to be too warm.

Dawn: a neutral, shimmering bronze (warm).

Slate Brown: A cool-leaning brown and grey. Slate Brown can be used as brow filler.

Taupe: A mid-toned brown with mauvish plum undertones—interestingly, less taupe than Slate Brown. The single Taupe is the same shade previously sold in the Taupe/French Toast duo. French Toast has been discontinued.

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 for context. 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 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 or 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.
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: An eyeshadow line worth checking out.

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