Monday, January 28, 2013

End of All Makeup Bans

On September 25, 2011 -- about a year and four months ago -- I imposed a very specific makeup ban on myself in an attempt to exercise much-needed self-control. See the original post and requirements of the ban here.

While the eye shadow ban was never really upheld, I did manage to keep my eyeliner ban in place and only got a few pencil liners after the majority of my liner stash was given away or sold. Early on in the game, I broke the lippie ban when the Revlon Lip Butter craze swept the world and purchased Candy Apple and Tutti Frutti. Since then, however, I haven't purchased a single lip product. I no longer wish to own every colour and texture and variance of glosses, sticks and lacquers. What I want is a manageable stash that is well-loved while managing to tend to varying moods and whims. Never again do I want to pick up a lipstick or gloss in the morning and say, "I hate you - DIE!" or be caught off guard by the strange smell of an expired gloss that spent its days hidden under a pile of excess.

You might have noticed the Lippie Ban Countdown on the sidebar of this blog for the past year.

On this 28th day of January, 2013: I hereby announce this ban COMPLETE.

Behold, the last finished lippie on the list:

The other finished lippies were documented in various empties posts throughout the past year and a half. It takes me forever to finish a lip product because I don't reapply frequently throughout the day, nor do I layer multiple products together. I slap something on in the morning, reapply after lunch or coffees/teas, and rarely wear lip products at home unless I'm trying to trick myself into not picking dry skin off the top of lips. I managed to finish these because they were some of the oldest products in my stash and were about halfway down the tube when I decided they were great candidates for the lippies completion project. I devoted myself to each of these five for months until they disappeared, one by one.

Being now in the thrall of brighter and bolder colours, it does feel like sheer glosses are a waste of money and owning more than a few seems excessive and unnecessary. (This is all just regarding myself, not as a judgment call on anyone else!) But at the same time, I'm well aware of the fact that my tastes and preferences are "evolving", as Tracy says, and that I do still need a variety of items to fulfill those whims and changes. A quick count of my lippie stash tells me that I have about 20 glosses, 15 lipsticks, 5 balms, 3 liners and 3 tinted balms. I might dare to say that it's an average stash, both number and colour wise. Truth be told, there are about 10 items that I don't care to use up, so they'll soon be finding new homes and freeing up space for things that I would like to love on a daily basis.

I guess we can look at the makeup collecting habits as a constant rotation of things being brought in and out -- and when viewed like that, it's totally okay, no matter your budget and lifestyle so long as we are able to maintain and curate these collections without risking lives and health. Due to various reasons and circumstances, I struggled a long time with feelings of guilt for amassing things even as I loved those things. I was brought up by simple, no-nonsense people and always felt like a frivolous anomaly in a community of practical types who were always shocked at my collections of material goods. But I'm happy to announce that after two years of publicly displaying this inner struggle, I finally feel a better sense of balance. These truths helped:

1.  I love makeup and always will. Their beauty adds joy and value to my life, as do works of art and literature and silly owl toys.

2.  But my lifestyle can't support endless flows of high-end brands and rooms/closets devoted to makeup collections. I must shop within reason.

3.  My tastes will change over time, and experimenting is fun. It's okay to no longer love items I used to love. But it's not a reason to go out and buy the first thing I feel an inclination to own.

4.  I endeavour to reduce waste and excess by finishing products, or donating and recycling as much as possible.

I haven't figured everything out, but I suspect that day may never arrive. For the moment, I'm content to feel at peace and enjoy the ride. If budget allows, I'd like to pick up one or two items from a Spring 2013 collection. If not, I'll be just fine. Obviously, I have enough makeup as it is.

"Hello! I am but merely 5% of Liz's beauty stash."

The point of all this? I'm done with makeup bans for time being. It doesn't mean I'm going to start hauling like a mad woman. I'll probably pick up a few items each month as I have been for the past little while, and I am very confident that I won't spin out of control or wallow in buyer's remorse months after the deeds. Dabbling with makeup and beauty products is one of my many joys in life, and I want to enjoy 2013 in all possible ways. Life is too short to be too cheap, too frivolous, too uptight, too wussy, too this and too that. I just need to be me at my happiest. It involves makeup. But it involves other things, too, which is why I started the "Things I Like A Lot" series, to talk about other things that I enjoy, and what their inclusion means to me. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pink Blush Swatches (Tarina Tarantino, Tarte, MUFE)

Despite my attempts to avoid pink makeup, I ended up with a rather nicely balanced stash of pink blushers.

Pictured below are Tarina Tarantino Carved Rose (top left), Tarina Tarantino Candy Cameo (top right), Physicians Formula Happy Booster Glow & Mood Boosting Blush in Rose (bottom left), MAKE UP FOR EVER Blush in #75 (bottom middle) and Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Fantastic (bottom right).

Why have I avoided pink? Well, don't hate me but I'm nearly 35 years old and still get mistaken for a 22 year-old. Don't say I'm lucky. I find it really insulting when people at the office assume that I'm inexperienced and treat me based on appearance rather than knowledge. Pink is not only associated with youth but actually adds a youthful glow to one's look. As a result, I don't wear it much. But how can a makeup collection be complete without some pink?

I suppose this isn't really a review of the products so much as a documentation of my attempts to weed out dupes. Due to the various shades of tones and shimmers within the single PF hearts blush, I took it out of the equation to simplify matters. We're now left with four.

And obviously, MUFE #75 is way too bright and POW! Out it goes. We now have three. 

It's basically a battle between TT Carved Rose and Tarte Fantastic. Both are soft pale pinks, and I only ended up with them because they came in a palette and a set. I've never purchased a makeup colour like this on its own intentionally.

They seem almost identical in the pan, but what do you know? Tarte Fantastic is a more pale Barbie pink while Carved Rose appears rather... rosy. I knew there was a reason I like Carved Rose as much as I do.

Left: Tarte Fantastic / Right: TT Carved Rose

And here we find my heart tormented in conflict again. While I don't really like Tarte Fantastic, it serves as a nice reference point for other pinks. And maybe there will come a time when I'll embrace pinks with a passion. Hang on to it in case I enjoy it in my 50s? What say you?

Friday, January 25, 2013


Well, maybe a great blush. I'm not actually sure about its quality since I have yet to lay eyes on it in person. But after seeing glimpses of this Essence Cherry Blossom Girl Collection on Emma Bovary Beauty, I knew that I had to chase down the blush after the success of the Twilight Renesmee Red Blush. I stand by my mantra that a pretty blush is a pretty blush, no matter the price and perceived brand reflection.

After a rather emotional morning (LONG STORY, but the gist of it is: I took the day off work to go into this long-awaited appointment, went there with unwashed hair, looking like total crap, and the referred professional was someone I knew from the past, and I got the matter dealt with but cried like a child throughout, and the whole thing was awkward and horrible and wonderful all at once - ah no, I was not dying or getting an abortion) -- damn, are you guys still with me? -- I caved and decided that a small treat was in order after all this fuss. Like, a lollypop after going to the dentist. So when I spotted the Cherry Blossom Girl promotional stand at the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart, I raced to grab a blush and found to my dismay that each stand only carries TWO of each item. The SA I spoke to suggested that I run down the street to the next nearest Shoppers, which I promptly did, and it turned out that I was too late again. But down the next block was another Shoppers, so on and on I went, until I checked EIGHT different Shoppers location from noon to 5pm as I ran errands all over town. Two of each item on every single display, with only the blushes completely sold out at every location. What the bloody fuck is the point of that? Clearly, Essence is not out to make any money. And they are stirring up lemmings that cannot be had, which is infuriating. I am emotional and needy and the inner blush whore needs to be appeased STAT.

Check out some great shots and swatches of the blush here at And just for today, pretend that I'm no reductionista and suggest some alternatives. MAC Peaches?

(By the way, there's a fashion blog out there with the name Cherry Blossom Girl and it's great.)

EDIT: Reader and fellow makeup fiend Chloe picked one up for me! Happiness! :-)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dupey Palettes: Wet n Wild and theBalm

Some time ago, beautiful Monika sent me a lovely care package, and within the box was the famous Wet n Wild Comfort Zone Palette. WnW shadows are legendary in the blogosphere, boasting great pigmentation and buttery soft textures at bargain prices on both sides of the US/Canadian border. Personally I hadn't tried the brand before and was obviously thrilled to be able to test it out at last.

The colours are safe neutrals, inspiring zero fears for those of us who favour natural looks on a regular basis. But the longer I stared at it, the more something tugged at the back of my mind. The palette seemed familiar somehow. But why?

I found the answer in my train case while rummaging one day: Shady Lady Vol. 2 by theBalm!

They don't seem all that similar at first...

...but aha!

Swatch tests were in order. Shade from theBalm are on top, shades from WnW are on the bottom.

Top: Mischievous Marissa / Bottom: Eyelid

Top: Devilish Danielle / Bottom: Browbone

Top: Makeout Mary / Bottom: Eyelid

Top: Caught In The Act Courtney / Bottom: Definer

I was amazed to discover that the WnW shadows are indeed everything that everyone had ever said and more. Until now, I hadn't come across powder shadows that were as soft as the ones from theBalm, but WnW shadows are even softer and even more pigmented. The last comparison between theBalm Caught In The Act Courtney vs. WnW Definer Shade almost threw me for a loop. Granted, some of the shades in theBalm Shady Lady are meant to be used alternately wet as eyeliners, but still. Caught In The Act Courtney was quite stiff and patchy by comparison to the WnW.

And yet, softer doesn't always necessarily mean better, and I need to play with WnW Comfort Zone Palette a bit longer to determine its status within my makeup stash hierarchy. But as you can see, many of the shades in the two palettes are rather similar. Both are very affordable, though WnW is obviously easier to obtain due to its drugstore status while theBalm can be more difficult to locate after it pulled out of Sephora a couple of years ago. (In Canada, they're available at select Rexall/Pharma Plus locations.)

Anyway, there are differences within the palettes that have me hemming and hawing about keeping them both. As you know, I've entered a blue shadow madness phase, and theBalm Shady Lady Vol. 2 contains a gorgeous shimmery blue called Bossy Bobbi.

And in return, WnW Comfort Zone contains a chameleon-ish duochrome Definer Shade, in a similar manner as MAC Club.

And while the similar shades do resemble each other a lot, they're not exactly the same.

What do you guys think? Different enough to keep both or should I let one go?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Shampoo Post

Out of the multitude of things that are a part of our daily routine, I hate dealing with hair the most. I have long, frizzy, unruly, wavy hair. Normally, I'd rub some curl-enhancing product through the hair, air-dry it and call it a day, but in winter, I also suffer through the agony of dry scalp and hatred of wet hair. What's a lazy girl with too much hair to do?

Luckily, I was given the opportunity to test out a few brands of shampoos and conditioners that I had not tried before. The first is CLEAR Scalp & Hair Therapy.

Some general info from their fact sheet:

New Clear™ Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy beauty shampoos and conditioners not only give women stronger, more beautiful hair in seven days, but also feed the scalp with hydrating nourishment. They are clinically proven to help restore the scalp’s natural moisture balance.

The line is infused with Nutrium 10™ technology, a rich blend of vitamins and nutrients that deeply nourish* the scalp. Nutrium 10™ is an advanced moisture complex of vitamins and nutrients including vitamins B5, C & E, sunflower, almond, soybean and coconut oils and aloe vera.

Clear™ Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy arrives in Canada with a range of six shampoos and five conditioners to meet different scalp and hair needs.

As you can see, I was sent the Damage & Colour Repair set to test. I don't have damaged or coloured hair, but I always choose the most nurturing/hydrating option in shampoo series because my hair is textured and coarse and requires extra attention. Though these categories are set to guide us to better hair care, there's no need to rigidly follow the guide in every case. With this brand, I was more interested in the claim about scalp care more than hair, anyway.

My experience with CLEAR Scalp & Hair:

While I did not notice a change in the look or feel of my hair, there was definitely an improvement in the dry scalp situation. It was visibly less scaly, which I was really really happy about in mornings when I crawled reluctantly out of bed at last minute and tended to this hair business just as reluctantly. I had had to stop using the Fructis shampoo that I rely on in warmer seasons because it caused my scalp to flake, and those flakes show so prominently against my dark brown/black hair that it was starting to get a little embarrassing. Even after two uses of CLEAR, my scalp looked better and was less flaky. And at the friendly retail price range of CAD$5.68–$8.49 for 381 mL/375 mL bottles, I highly recommend that you give it a try if you also suffer from the dry scalp issue like I do. (I have to stress however that my scalp does not itch or feel tight or stressed in any way. For me, it's a pure vanity issue, because of the visibility of the dryness.) The hydration level of both the shampoo and conditioner felt average (I would not actually recommend this for very damaged hair) and the scent resembles a less intense version of Herbal Essences' fruity concoction, which I appreciate. The shampoo lathers well and rinses off clean, and the conditioner does not leave heavy residue behind.

Shampoo Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance (Parfum), Dimethiconol, Sodium Chloride, Carbomer, Dimethicone, Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Zinc Pyrithione, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, DMDM Hydantoin, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Stearic Acid, Citric Acid, Tallow Acid or Palmitic Acid, Zinc Sulfate, Glycerin, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Sodium Isethionate, Poloxamer 407, Laureth-23, Laureth-4, Tocopheryl Acetate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, PPG-9, PEG-9M, Panthenol, Lysine HCl, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Niacinamide, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Mica (CI 77019), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Red 33 (CI 17200)

Conditioner Ingredients: Ingredients Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Dimethiconol, Fragrance (Parfum), Behentrimonium Chloride, Dipropylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Zinc Pyrithione, DMDM Hydantoin, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, PEG-150 Distearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Panthenol, Lysine HCl, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Glycerin, Methylisothiazolinone, Niacinamide, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Red 33 (CI 17200)

The other brand I tested out is MATRIX Biolage ExquisiteOil.

Some info from their fact sheet:

Biolage’s New ExquisiteOil Collection featuring Moringa Oil in its purest and most refined state, penetrates deeply to replenish hair and protect it from dulling impurities. Now, leave nothing behind but pure, clean shine. The Moringa Oil Blend enhances all hair types by promoting long-lasting radiance and protection against environmental aggressors, while deeply replenishing hair without the build-up.

What is Moringa Oil? 
Moringa Oil is obtained by cold pressing the seeds of the Moringa Oilefera Tree, also known as the “Tree that never dies.” Native to the foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India, Moringa Oil is the most pure, stable oil available in nature with abundant antioxidant properties.

What is in the Moringa Oil Blend?
Moringa Oil blend is an exclusive blend of natural micro-oils that penetrate directly into the hair cuticle without weighing hair down. Dull, lackluster hair is replenished and brought back to life with multi-dimensional shine. The potent antioxidants in this blend protect hair from environmental aggressors and free radicals to maintain the integrity of the hair.

As you know, anything with "oil" gets me rather excited. I had high hopes for this set!

My experience with MATRIX Biolage ExquisiteOil Micro-Oil Shampoo and Oil Crème Conditioner:

The first thing I noticed and was impressed with is the scent. It's a sophisticated floral that I don't often experience with hair products. Think of a more flowery and less tropical MoroccanOil. The second thing I noticed was the silky glide of the shampoo against the hair as I lathered. Both the shampoo and conditioner are incredibly smooth to the touch and against the hair, during and after the shower. While both products rinse out well, they leave behind a glide in the hair that I haven't experienced in a long time. It aids in the sense that the hair is being nourished and hydrated. I recommend this for anyone with unruly textured hair or those who rely on frequent heat-styling. My hair was calmer and better-behaved after blowdrying. However, the nourishing feeling did not extend to the scalp as visible flakes emerged again.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the ingredient list for these products, but it is important to note that both the shampoo and conditioner are paraben-free according to the MATRIX website. At CAD$16.95-$18.95 for 500mL shampoo and 300mL conditioner, the price is more than what I'm used to paying. But for the scent and feel of the hair alone, I would gladly indulge in the MATRIX Biolage ExquisiteOil set in the summer when my finicky dry scalp is no longer an issue.

CLEAR products can be found in drugstores in Canada and MATRIX Biolage products are carried exclusively at MATRIX salons. Both products were sent free of charge for review purposes only.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Things I Like A Lot #3: Tea

And now for something more pleasant. :-) Back in fall, Monika at Rocaille Writes wrote a beautiful tea post and oddly inspired a desire to write about my favourite tea as well.

Tea! Who doesn't like tea? Well, I didn't. I was solidly Team Coffee all the way, ever since my first sip at 16 and becoming a manic coffee drinker to the point that at my craziest, I was inhaling 6-7 grande Starbucks mild brews every single day for months. (Starbucks mild brews contain the highest amount of caffeine, followed by the dark roast and various amounts of espresso shots.) Anyway, all those Starbucks trips were bankrupting me and I didn't like getting the shakes whenever I was in withdrawal. So I quit coffee cold turkey for one whole year and never allowed myself to have more than 4 cups per day max when I got back on it, although I tried to keep it to 2-3 at most.

In winter, when caffeine becomes even more important due to hibernation syndrome, I substitute every other cup with black tea in an attempt to keep things (my head) balanced. With the explosion of DAVIDsTEA in the city, I started to dabble in loose leaf tea and found that not all teas play stupid mind games. The reason I didn't like tea was the same reason some people hate coffee: they don't taste the way they smell! I love the idea of hot water steeped in flowers and herbs and unicorn magic, but tea always tasted like water and I didn't understand the ritual, feeling mildly disappointed whenever I was out having a cuppa with tea drinkers. But 2012 was the year of seeking comfort wherever I could, and sometimes piping hot water does that, be it in your cup or in a bath. Also, testing the nose with teas has something to do with testing the nose against perfume bottles. I'm determined to learn to smell better. So now I have one foot in Team Coffee and the other solidly planted in Team Tea.

As a coffee drinker, it makes sense that I should like black tea most. I can be low maintenance and drink Tetley Orange Pekoe daily, but my favourite is Earl Grey. Cream of Earl Grey is even better, with a touch of vanilla to round out any bitterness, and it smells divine. (Confession: I drink black teas with a drop of milk and honey. Don't judge.) I'm now on the hunt for perfumes or candles that smell just like the bestest of earl grey teas. Say "bergamot" and I'm listening.

As a departure from black teas, I decided to try a small bag of Forever Nuts and was immediately smitten with its toasty and aromatic almond scent. It's pretty and visually pleasing as well if you drink tea in a clear glass, as the tiny amount of beetroot turns the water a cheerful pink. I love this especially when I light the French Baguette candle as the scents feel complementary and make me feel like I'm wrapped up in a cocoon of ultimate comfort.

I swear this post isn't sponsored by DAVIDsTEA. There are a few locations near me and it's easy to pop by for a sniff test and ask for $3-4 bags worth of various flavours to test out. To be tested: Toasted Marshmallow. Previously loved: Simply The Zest. Lukewarm about Oh Canada. (Love maple, hate the texture of rooibos.)

Going back to my love of Earl Grey, oddly enough, my favourite bagged version comes from a Canadian coffee chain called Second Cup. They make the best London Fog, and while I rarely pay the extra money for foamy milk, it's a nice, indulgent drink on a cold, rainy day.

I know that they don't use real bergamot oil, but they do however use real rose petals, which makes the fragrance of the tea amazing. I buy a pack of 12 teas and keep it at my office for tea breaks when sometimes what I really want is a Starbucks run.

And on super low-key nights, I fall back on an old family staple: Korean rice green tea. Giant packs can be found at the Korean grocer for as low as $5 and it's the next best thing to drinking hot water but not wanting it to be just water. It's toasty with just the barest hint of flavour. It helps me go to sleep faster, which is a huge bonus.

And my favourite recent discovery: Tea Forte Cucumber Mint. It's green tea with cucumber fruit, spearmint leaves, blueberries, marigold flowers and basil leaves. YUM YUM. Reminds me of the infused spa waters which makes me nostalgic for the days when I used to go to spas for facials like it was nothing. I never go to spas now and it's a rare indulgence. This brand isn't the most economical, but at 75% off with a further employee discount, I managed to snag 3 boxes before the customers got to them. ;-)

What are your favourite teas?

Note to Bloggers

Potentially controversial but absolutely necessary and unavoidable at this point.

If you're inspired by a blog or a blog post and wish to write something similar, please give credit to the originator of the idea, preferably by linking to the source somewhere on your blog or post. It's basically plagiarism when you pass off an idea as your original creation when it isn't.

I realize that there's a huge grey zone where ideas become collaborative, sources can be untraceable, etc, etc. But as you sit down to write and post it for the entire world to see on the internet, if the thought or words aren't yours and you know it, do the right thing and credit the originator in some form.

Before I created this blog, I searched for weeks for similar blogs to make sure that I wasn't doing something that was already being done. I clicked literally 100 pages of Google search results using at least a dozen different search terms. I didn't just stop at the theme of the blog, which is reducing makeup, but also for the specific term "inventory" in conjunction with makeup collections, as I planned to use it very specifically for my own purposes. I didn't come across any, so Beauty Reductionista was born.

As I say on the header of the blog, do join me. I don't mind if you set up your own reductionista-esque themed blogs. In fact, I'd be the first one to applaud if you put an interesting twist on it to make it different. But I don't appreciate straight-up copy attempts of my blog, which I have poured my heart and soul into for two years. Give credit where it's due. Quote and cite your sources. That's all I ask.

For example: I did not come up with the "empties" idea. I fully credit Claire at Eyelining Obsessions for inspiring me to start empties posts, which I stated here and in various other empties posts. I call her my "empties hero", which was a term riffed from Ashley of Makeup Kismet during a Twitter chat or mutual commenting. I don't know where the empties originated from, but it's as common as "What's In My Makeup Bag?" posts, which go long ways back in magazine and blog history. But I do know exactly where I got the inspiration to do it from.

I'm sure that we all steer into the grey zone now and then and I don't mean to police these things on the regular. This will be the only post on the subject and I'd like comments to remain respectful and tactful. If anyone needs to discuss more in further detail, please feel free to email me and we can work out any differences.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Red Blush Swatches (MUFE, Chanel, Essence)

It's a rare day when you have a free moment and discover that the sun is shining. It can mean only one thing to beauty bloggers: swatching time!

I've been wanting to swatch themed colour series for months but prime conditions were elusive. It's hilarious how I struggle to even open my eyes in the morning when it means having to go to work. But I literally jump out of bed when I see sunlight, running for the train case and the camera all before even the mandatory first run to the washroom.

Anyway, I've been blabbing on about loving red blushes for a while. How do the ones I acquired compare?

MUFE #99 (left) / Chanel Rouge (right)

MUFE #99 (top left) / Chanel Rouge (top right) / Essence Renesmee Red (bottome)

I'm insanely happy to report that all three undeniable reds are very different from one another. I'm also very pleased that we have representation from all three major strata of the makeup brand hierarchy: drugstore cheapie (Essence), mid-range pro brand (Make Up For Ever), and the covetable luxury brand (Chanel).

To the swatches!

Essence Renesmee Red (left) / MUFE #99 (middle) / Chanel Rouge (right)

Chanel Rouge (top) / MUFE #99 (middle) / Essence Renesmee Red (bottom)

As you can see, all three are quite pigmented and require only the lightest tap of your blush brush before moving to apply to the face. As I dipped into stores to swatch various reds all throughout winter, I knew that it was difficult finding a "true red" (not too pink, not too orange, not too brown, not too blue). All three I have tend to be on the warm side of red, with Chanel Rouge looking almost brick red, MUFE #99 looking very tomato red with a lean to cherry red, and Essence Renesmee Red looking almost orange.

All three are powder, and Chanel Rouge is the only baked formula while the other two are traditional pressed powders.

Of the three, Chanel Rouge is the most pigmented and dangerous to over-apply, though its softer formula makes it easy to blend and diffuse. It also has noticeable shimmer while the other two do not.

MUFE #99 is a close second and requires more thorough blending due to the chalkier quality of its texture. As most of you may know, MUFE solo powders can double as eye shadows and as blush, so they tend to be highly pigmented and tricky to use as blush if the colour is as bold as #99 is. (This can be done with any shadow. Check out Mimi of Makeupwithdrawal wearing Illamasqua Daemon as a blush!)

And finally, Renesmee Red, which I already "reviewed" here. I thought it was so bold when studied alone, but it's down right soft and tame when compared to the other two. It is nowhere near as pigmented as the Chanel and the MUFE and required double layers of swatching in order to display the colour more intensely on unprimed skin.

And there. I am almost satisfied with the red blushes I own. Currently my greatest lemming is D&G Sole, which appears to be one of the most ravishing shades of makeup ever in the history of makeup. The other is the Shiseido Camellia Compact (nicely reviewed by Paris B of My Woman Stuff), which I ordered on discount through a friendly elf. As for NARS Exhibit A, which kickstarted all this, I feel neutral about. If I can get it for a good deal, I might. If not, no one's crying over it. My clown cheeks are quite content, thank you very much.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things I Like A Lot #2: Les Miserables

As mentioned, Les Miserables is one of my all-time favourite books. For a good decade of my life, I would tell people that it was my favourite novel. The journey began with the abridged edition which I picked up on a whim from the public library as a teen. It sounds ridiculous and strange now, but I didn't know anyone else my age during that time who read classic literature for fun.

Because it had been a personal solo project, for a long while I didn't realize that I hadn't read the full novel. When I came across the book again at triple its abridged length, I remember pausing for a moment before picking up. It was a long read, full of Hugo's musings and personal philosophy on religion and politics for chapters at a time, but I felt better informed about why the book was written and felt proud of having read it in its entirety. When I started to work and purchase books instead of borrowing them, one of the first I bought was Les Miserables. I read it once or twice more after that, guiltily skipping over some of the long tangents those times.

While looking for images of the book cover to write this post, I came across the picture below from the original 1862 edition, which has now been immortalized as the emblem for the musical. I think that's just amazing.

Portrait of "Cosette" by Emile Bayard, from the original edition of Les Misérables (1862)
Source: Wikipedia

I missed out on some concert opportunities and was gifted with a video of the 10th Anniversary Concert instead one birthday. I put that video on repeat so often that my family would beg me to stop watching it. Lately I've been playing certain songs from it on YouTube and again my siblings are begging me to stop. The best concert will always be the 10th Anniversary held at Royal Albert Hall with THE DREAM CAST. Years later, I was finally able to see one of the last concerts held in Toronto with Colm Wilkinson making a last run as Jean Valjean.

10th Anniversary Concert - Full Concert

10th Anniversary Concert "Do You Hear The People Sing"

Side note: I am all about Enjolras. :-)

10th Anniversary Concert Finale


Despite the mixed reviews, I knew that I had to watch the new Hollywood version of Les Miserables. Foolish me, I thought it was going to be a mix of music and dialogue along the lines of The Sound of Music. It turned out to be a near replica of the musical with a lot of bad singing. Say what you will about Hugh Jackman being a broadway man, but the best singer in the cast turned out to be Eddie Redmayne and -- yes, Anne Hathaway.

I think it's still worth watching the movie because a good story can never be told enough. My personal opinion is that the movie could have taken advantage of its medium and told a much better story, using the book as the source material rather than staging an elaborate copycat version of the musical. It feels to me like a wasted effort on replicating something that could not be bested when they had a fantastic opportunity to create something new and fresh. The musical did something amazing with an old book and created lyrics that delivered the sentiments of a thousand page novel succinctly with just as much, if not more, impact. I read a review somewhere that pointed out that all the close panning of the cameras to the actors' faces was providing an intimacy that the musical could not, but in my unabashed opinion, it's a wasted effort when most of the actors had trouble singing, enunciating and emoting at the same time. And I am in no way blaming the actors for the movie's failures. They are not trained singers. If anyone, I blame the writers, editors and the people at the helm.

Nonetheless... THE DREAM LIVES ON.

2012 Movie Trailer

And now, for my favourite part: following the evolution of a piece of culture to its present effect. It doesn't remain dormant and wither with the pages of old tomes. It doesn't go stale in a movie reel and die with rotten tomatoes. It becomes a part of us as something alive and at large and at work. If I had been in this Graham Norton audience, it would have been embarrassing how loudly I would have sung my heart out. You just can't listen to this and not shout it:

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Hugh Jackman leading the audience into song on The Graham Norton Show (12:46). I recommend watching the entire episode because all three of the male guests are hilarious together.

What does this have to do with beauty and this blog? Not much. All I can offer you on that front is that Fantine's hair looked so shiny and long and pretty in the movie that it inspired me to not chop off my hair, which is about the same length pre-shearing. Dammit, how do I get it to look so shiny and bouncy?

Edited to add: The orchestra conductor of the 10th anniversary concert has KILLER cheekbones! 

Long story short: Going on lengthy rants about being let down is also another thing I Like A Lot.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Suddenly... COLOURS!

After a lifetime of staying true to neutrals and "barely there" shades, I've fallen head over heels for bold colours. Most are vibrant, juicy, primary shades like red and blue. I know not from whence this sudden longing sprang, but it most definitely started with a desire for the truest reddest blush in the planet. As you can see, I've been on the hunt.

Blush Madness

It's a longing that has been simmering for a while. I believe that the pick-up of Essence Renesmee Red Blush was a tiny step toward it. After resisting the siren call of NARS Exhibit A for months, I decided to resort to a possible dupe: MAKE UP FOR EVER #99 (left). And as stated in my post from the summer here, I followed through with the intent of securing #75 as well (right).

After conquering my fear of red lips and embracing my love of red cheeks, the next hurdle was my terror of blue eye shadows. Blue is a colour I adore, as you might guess from the number of blue nail polish posts showcased in the past, but the thought of wearing it on my tiny, mismatched East Asian eyes with yellowish skin tone was a challenge I could not fathom until now. Often, I admired looks such as these and did wish I was more brave and adventurous.

Okay, that's almost grey, I know...

But this is blue.

And this is BLUE.

I'm in the middle of swatching all of my blue eye shadows (there aren't many) and wanted a matte navy blue to keep things real. Because I'm still not willing to do something like this, YET.

But then, the upcoming NARS Spring 2013 collection contains a vibrant blue/green shadow duo that has me really looking forward seeing it in person, so who knows what the next few months will bring? The last few months added this...

Guerlain Terre Indigo

and this...

NARS Mandchourie my growing stash of blues.

And to my horror, the desire to accrue more blues hasn't stopped. Recently, MM of Makeup Morsels put Guerlain Place Vendome on my radar. See her post here and admire the stunning blue shade in the middle of the palette. Isn't it gorgeous?

As I reflect on this perpetual wavering back and forth between attempting to reduce the number of makeup in my possession while accumulating simultaneously, I came to the realization that makeup-wise, I'm quite the late bloomer. It wasn't until my mid to late 20s that I started to take makeup seriously, and most of the time spent since was focused on looking natural, polished and professional. When I'm in experimentation mode, all bets tend to be off. I will spend all possible waking moments devoted to the preoccupation at hand until I am stopped by the lack of time/money/space or gradual tapering off of interest. It's not that I want to own every blue shadow in the world, but there is a very strong desire to close all the gaps between the shades of blue I own. However, I'm very specific about what I want. For now, that's all I have to stop myself from becoming a crazy blue shadow hoarder.

Anyway, it's my intention to start wearing the blue shadows instead of just collecting them. I'm working on a blue shadow post to gather my thoughts on what's really needed and what's not. In the mean time, do enjoy this sneak peek at NARS Spring 2013.

It's the most exciting spring collection so far, since I actively dislike pastels and refuse to wear them. But based on this post, it could be that by next year at this time I'll have a post up called "Suddenly... PASTELS!!!"