Blushes So Good I Needed Another…part 2

This is an update to my post from September 2020 where I’ll be showing my newest shades of blushes I’ve already reviewed before and loved so much that I wasn’t content with having just one shade. I needed more!

KVD Everlasting Blush in Peony and Foxglove

I already talked about how much I liked the shades Poppy and Snapdragon in Part 1 to this post, so I surprised myself that I actually bought two more. I always suspected Foxglove could work for me and Peony looked borderline like I might be able to pull it off during winter or early spring when I’m usually at my lightest. I was shocked that they ended up looking as nice as they do! Those two shades were clearly not intended for someone with dark skin but they have enough pigmentation to make it show and not look ashy!

Peony is cool toned, but this kind of pink still somehow looks nice on me. After about 3-4 layers, it doesn’t show any stronger on my skin tone, but I like how it looks with even just 2-3 layers. Foxglove doesn’t show as strongly in the photo above, but that’s because it’s a more toned down dusty rose type of pink and I prefer not to build it up beyond two layers. While I would say I consider a very pigmented blush to show on me in 1-2 layers, the fact that these are so pale in the pans and swatches, but still show this much on me speaks volumes.

Of the four blushes, I think Foxglove is my new favorite.

Pat Mcgrath Labs Skin Fetish: Divine Powder Blush in Electric Bloom

I purchased this perhaps a month after the initial blush launch. I wanted so many shades from the collection that I told myself I was only allowed to have one more, so I went ahead and made it this vibrant coral shade. It’s the kind of color that is debatable whether I can pull it off or not, but always calls to me. If I had just waited a little longer, I would have seen that it was listed as a dupe for Colourpop’s Aloha Honey blush shade on Temptalia’s blog and therefore I didn’t need the almost identical blush color. To be fair, I haven’t used the Colourpop blush enough to say how it compares in terms of quality because I always reach for Electric Bloom over Aloha Honey.

Paradise Venus is still my favorite shade of the three I have from Pat Mcgrath.

LYS Beauty High Standard Clean Cream Blush in Inspire

I hope anyone who reads my blog regularly isn’t tired of me going on about how much I love this cream blush formula, but I feel it deserves to be gushed over. I always had plans to eventually get this beautiful coral-orange shade, but I wanted to wait until I made more progress in my overall cream blush collection. However, I had some store credit built up via the Ambassador program with the brand, so I decided to go ahead and cross that off my wish list! Half of this blush was paid for via credit and the other half was paid for out of my own pocket. For full details about my affiliation with LYS, please see my About Me page and scroll to the near bottom.

Inspire performs just as well as the others. I cannot decide which of the three is my favorite because I keep changing my mind every time I use a different shade!

Wayne Goss The Weightless Veil Blush Palette in Bright Poppy (Sunny and Golden Glow)

Unlike the other blushes I’ve listed, which are among my top favorites, I decided to try Bright Poppy because the colors are better suited for me than Vivid Azalea and I wanted an answer as to whether the blush shade would be insanely pigmented in this duo too. Sunny is not quite at the unbelievable pigment level of Shocking, but if I tap once into the blush with my Smashbox Buildable Cheek Brush, it’s enough to thoroughly cover my cheek. An additional half layer is the maximum amount I would want to use. Otherwise, my option would be to tone it back down using a finishing powder on top.

Sunny is pretty on the cheeks. Golden Glow is a nice highlighter formula that is very complimentary to my skin tone. I prefer to apply my blush and highlighter separately, but Wayne suggests that anyone who likes shimmery blush formulas could apply the highlighter to the entire cheek and then blend the blush on top of it. This technique worked for me with Vivid Azalea because the combination of the two shades turned the blush into a lighter color. I tried this with Bright Poppy and did not like it at all because the shimmer color and blush color don’t match. This means the particles in the highlighter stand out a lot more and I don’t like how contrasting it is. Whether I applied the highlighter to the bottom or the highlighter on top, the end result was the same.

Colourpop Super Shock Cheek in Matte, Satin, and Pearlized finishes.

Colourpop’s Super Shock Cheek line includes both blushes and highlighters, so I decided as a bonus to review all the ones I own here since I’m a huge fan of them. They have the benefit of looking and applying to the skin like creams, but without feeling heavy, sticky, or greasy on the skin like some cream blushes on the market can do.

In the Matte finish we have Over Dramatic, a “mid-tone pinky nude,” and Swift, a “rich deep warm brown” shade. Both are very close in color and practically look the same on my cheeks. Calling Swift a deep and rich shade is quite the exaggeration on Colourpop’s part. I have to build them up a lot in order for them to show in photos, but I bought these specific colors so I could have some brown leaning blushes, which aren’t as prevalent in my collection. Swift is from the Make It Black Collection when the brand partnered with Pull Up For Change. It’s a bit stiffer in consistency than Over Dramatic and because Swift is more of an orange-brown than pink-brown, it blends in with my skin a lot more. It’s on the borderline of blending in too much, considering it’s such a nude shade for me already. For that reason, I do prefer Over Dramatic because of my personal preferences.

I just have one Satin finish Super Shock Cheek and it’s in the shade Georgette which is described as a “bright apricot with a warm sheen.”

Georgette has the right amount of brightness that isn’t obnoxious. Also, I’ve always struggled to find orange tones of blush that look flattering on my skin tone. I tend to like the ones that lean more red or pink. This apricot shade is more on the yellow side, but I like it. So now, I think it’s just true oranges at the 50/50 split between yellow and red that I don’t enjoy as much. My quest to figure it out continues!

I have five shades in the Pearlized finish, starting with the two that came in the 2020 Lunar New Year set called the Lucky You Super Shock Cheek Duo.

I kept these unused for so long because of the pretty pattern in the Super Shocks. When I finally used them, I was a little disappointed that Drop of a Hat was too sheer to work as a blush for me. It’s better if I consider it a pink highlighter or blush topper. Goody Two Shu is pretty but a little sparkly, so I decided it wasn’t worth continuing to ruin the embossing. I just keep these as collector items now.

Voile is another Super Shock I stopped using. I kept trying to use it because the shade reminded me of Benefit’s Kiss of Rose and Charlotte Tilbury’s Walk of No Shame, which are both shimmery blushes I find to be beautiful. However, the shimmer level of Voile in person and the way the “copper sheen” sparkles on my cheeks is too much for me. It’s far more sparkly in person than it appears in the photo. I’ve realized that I prefer Colourpop’s matte and satin finishes for the blush shades. The only pearlized blush I enjoy is Cheerio and that’s because it seems to be a pearl-satin hybrid! Cheerio is a repromoted shade, which I bought from the Wine & Only Collection. The back label on my blush has “Pearlized” printed on it, but on Colourpop’s website it’s listed as a satin and it doesn’t have as many sparkles as the others in that formula. Or, perhaps I can’t see them if most of the sparkles match the color of the blush. What I see are some silver flecks.

I have to use a very small amount of Cheerio because it’s a deep shade. It’s easy to overapply and my specific blush arrived partly shriveled (which I pressed back into the pan). So, it’s a little drier than it should be and not as easy to spread evenly on my cheeks, but I can still make it work. Colourpop did send me a replacement, but I realized I preferred the cream blush from Natasha Denona’s Bloom Cheek palette a lot more, and that color is similar to this one, so I gave the replacement to my sister.

Lastly, we have my absolute favorite Colourpop Super Shock Cheek. It’s a “peachy gold” shade that I use for highlighting called Parasol.

It looks extra sparkly in the photo above because I used it over the Georgette blush which also has a sheen, but this highlighter is very smooth and wet looking. It blends into my skin very well and is the kind of tone I like for highlighting. I’ve used it quite a bit, even though it doesn’t look like it in the photo from the top down angle, but it actually has a dip in the center.

This concludes the post! I tried to keep it short since all of these (minus Colourpop) have been reviewed on this blog before.

Are there any blushes you have been loving at the moment? The blush and highlighter categories are the reason I haven’t been able to post Best of 2020 and Best of 2021 posts. I was constantly trying new products, loving the majority of them, and not able to use what I consider my favorites consistently enough to rank some over others. This year, I’m committed to getting a lot more use out of my older products. There are still plenty I haven’t even reviewed yet! I hope you’ll return to see the progress on that! Thank you for reading!

-Lili

Makeup Geek Review

In under a month it will be two years since Marlena Stell rebranded Makeup Geek and two years since I started purchasing their products. I have some experience with the original shimmer eyeshadow formula, thanks to a sale they were having of their older products, but I cannot compare the original mattes to the ones now. For some reason, I use these shadows once and then go 3-4 months before I use them again. The cycle of use and disuse continued until September 2021 when I committed to thoroughly testing them once and for all.

About half of the square pan eyeshadows were purchased within a few months of the rebrand. The remainder were purchased during new launches like the Soft Focus Colors Collection and Fall Scenes Collection. The face products were purchased at different points in 2021, but I consider them fairly new, especially the bronzer since the shade I purchased was just released in September.

Makeup Geek Individual Shadows (old and new)

All swatches above Caitlyn Rose are from the older collection. The shades with an asterisk in front means it came from the All The Glitters Palette, which I depotted. The “Blue My Mind” color is stated as the name on the palette, but the actual name printed on the bottom of the pan (which I saw when depotting) is “Surf’s You Right.” I don’t know if this was a simple name change at the last minute or if it’s an example of quality control issues Makeup Geek may have had in the past.

I haven’t worn all the older shadows, but I’m very impressed with the ones from the All That Glitters Palette. The exceptions are Venom and Hype which are satin shades and they don’t feel as nice as they did when I first bought them, so I think it’s actually time to toss them. Same goes for Plot Twist and Caitlyn Rose which are beautiful but crumbly now.

I have to also mention the pigment in Blue My Mind is insane! The formula feels wet like a cream to powder shadow, but I have no idea if it’s supposed to be like that. It’s so opaque, sparkly, and intense, but the texture makes me a little concerned as to whether it’s time to throw that out as well. I purchased all the older circle pan shadows in March 2020, so it’s not unrealistic for them to be going bad by now.

I don’t have many of Makeup Geek’s current foils, but I actually prefer the sparkle and shine level of the original foils over the new ones. I even like the older formula better because I have creasing issues with Mystical and especially Medieval. Medieval isn’t as smooth as Mystical either. Illuminaughty, Grandstand, and Epic don’t crease as much. I really like those shades. The foils are described on the website as being a cream and powder hybrid. Perhaps the cream element is what gives it the tendency to crease. While I’ve always had some deep lines around my eyes which is natural to crease a little, Mystical and Medieval move so much to the point of leaving blank spots. It’s quite disappointing since they were the two shades in the rebrand I was most excited to buy. One issue all the new foils have though is that the shimmer dulls after a few hours. This isn’t completely unusual for me, but when they aren’t super sparkly to begin with, they basically look like satins by the end of the day.

Regarding the mattes, the only eye base I’ve tried that works well with them is the MAC Paint Pot. In the photo below, the top half shows where the mattes patch off the lid after being worn for less than an hour. The bottom half shows how the shadows looks after the same length of time when redone over MAC Paint Pot. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better. I don’t remember which shades I used here because the eye photos were taken at least six months ago.

Most of the mattes don’t have pigmentation issues. A few that I own are a thinner more powdery formula than others (like Chickadee and Peach For the Stars), which do fade me on quickly. Even those that fade will still leave a hint of color all day if I use the Paint Pot as a base. I learned though that the absolute best results are just like the face powders and look better if the eye has been set with a powder layer first. These are definitely not creamy mattes, so my eyes can look extra dry and ashy with some of these lighter shades. I think the dryness is what I initially couldn’t pinpoint as to why I was underwhelmed by MUG shadows.

These are some of the looks I’ve done prior to reviewing. I don’t remember which ones I used. I had a few additional shadows that didn’t make this review because I didn’t like them or they were too similar to other shades I purchased. I sold Daydreamer, Wine and Dine, Creme Brulee, Current Obsession, and Latte as Usual.

The best of the Makeup Geek mattes blend nicely and easily and show up opaque the way I like. The downside is that whatever shade it looks initially will turn into a darker variant of brown after a few hours. Had Me At Yellow turns into a mustard yellow-brown. Back To The Fuchsia turns purple-brown. Curfew turns dark brown almost black. I don’t mind these changes as much considering the brown-blends still look pretty and they mostly last all day.

Courageous, Unleashed, and Invincible are part of the Power Pigments formula which are supposed to be the most saturated and most pigmented mattes Makeup Geek have. They give more opaque results right away compared to the other mattes, they are more vibrantly colored, and they have a drier rougher texture. The last one is to be expected when using actual pigments over micas and dyes. The Power Pigments used to be more expensive than the regular mattes at $7.99, but were lowered to $5.50. I think this was a good decision because I don’t believe they are that much more special than the regular mattes considering most of them can be built up to the same level of opacity.

Contour in Scandal (discontinued)

Makeup Geek does not currently have contour products available for purchase, but I got it during a sale shortly after the rebrand. This is a great contour color for me, however, this product doesn’t blend very well. Wherever the powder first touches my skin is where it will stay. Every time I use it, I have to apply a finishing powder to blend out the edges or foundation to sharpen where it got too spread out from me trying to blend it. It still looks heavy even when applied with my softest most loosely packed brushes. This product was probably created at the height of contouring when it was popular to be ultra pigmented, sharp, and intense. If Makeup Geek brings the contours back, I hope there’s a formula change to produce a more natural or airbrushed look. I can make it work, but I likely won’t use it again. The sale price was under $2, so I can’t complain too much.

Bronzer in Chestnut

The color in the pan looks great for me. Unfortunately, this shade looks almost identical to the contour when I actually apply it to my skin. It has a golden sheen with fine gold specks throughout, which gives it the appearance of warmth, but the actual base color is deeper and neutral toned at best. When I apply this, most of the gold is brushed off the skin and what I’m left with creates a shadow and very little warmth. The swatch photo in the blush section shows how similar Chestnut and Scandal look when blended.

The bronzer blends easier than the contour, but the only way it looks nice is if I’ve set my face with a layer of powder first before I blend the bronzer on top. Powdering first gives a softer nicely blended look that I want. However, since 2020, I pretty much stopped using setting powders except under my eyes. If I use a powder at all, it’s a finishing powder which is the last step in my makeup routine. Because it’s not my usual style to set my foundation before I apply the rest of my face products, I don’t see myself reaching for this over the other bronzers I own. However, if I was willing to switch up my style, I know I could get a really beautiful end result. I did end up purchasing the shade Burnished during Black Friday, which is much more cool toned of a shade and just barely deep enough to show on my bare face. I have not yet had the chance to try Burnished over foundation.

Blush in Chivalry

Chivalry is a pretty terracotta brown shade. It performs better than the bronzer on unpowdered skin, but I’m still not completely impressed with the finished look unless it has that powder layer underneath it. Then it looks quite beautiful and almost airbrushed. This technique reduces the amount of pigment I get on the cheeks at once, but it also prevents me from getting darker patches where my brush first touches my skin. In the photo below, the left set of swatches were done with my finger and the right set were blended with a brush to demonstrate the blend without powder (though the sticking issue would have been more prominent if the swatches were applied on top of foundation).

Because powdering isn’t an absolute necessity with the blush and I can still get it to look nice if I take my time blending and use fluffy airy brushes, I could see myself continuing to use this beyond testing purposes. It has good staying power and can be applied lightly for a subtle flush (if powdered first), medium intensity on unset foundation, or built up to a fairly deep shade.

I purchased Covet during the Black Friday sale and I like it even more than Chivalry because medium pinks tend to be my favorite.

Also, unlike the bronzer and contour, the blush leaves a bit of kickup in the pan.

Highlighter in Midnight Sun (discontinued)

This highlighter color is discontinued, but I very happy I could get it because I think it’s a flattering shade on me. It’s quite funny that I like it so much considering this is listed as being best suited for fair skin tones. It does look pale in swatches, but as the cheek photo shows, a highlighter for someone lighter than me should look way more bright and stark. Then again, this isn’t a blinding type of formula. A shade actually geared toward my skin tone would probably not stand out on my cheekbone as much as this color does, which is just the right amount for my taste. Of all the face products, I like the highlighter formula the most.

Full Spectrum Eye Liner Pencil in Plumeria

This is another last minute Black Friday addition to this post. It did not arrive early enough before my trip for me to thoroughly test it. I watched how Marlena used this pencil and was drawn not only to the color, but the fact that it could be smudged out as a shadow color or base and is supposed to be almost water resistant. That element worked well on my arm. After giving it some time to dry, it couldn’t be moved by rubbing it with my finger. Even after wetting it, it didn’t smudge, smear, or run. However, for some reason this pencil did not last on my eyes for even an hour. I do have oily lids, so perhaps this is the reason. I tried it one time on bare eyelids with no primer or other eyeshadows. I put it all over the lid, blended out on my eye like a cream shadow. In an hour, about a third was gone. When I checked a few hours later, there wasn’t any of it left. Since it worked on my arm, I’m guessing this is a “me” problem and anyone who does not have oily eyelids will be able to use this pencil. In the future, after testing it thoroughly, I will update this post if I found a way to keep it on my eyes.

Customizable Compacts

I couldn’t end this review without discussing some of the things I noticed about the compacts offered by Makeup Geek. Whether you get the clear or gunmetal lid of the mini palettes, they both have a magnet of standard thickness and rounded edges. The square pan face powder singles fit perfectly inside them. On the other hand, the “Travel Vault Palette” with the gunmetal lid that anyone who makes a custom 9-pan palette will get, has the kind of magnet I get from the craft store in thin sheets with the peel off sticker on the back. As can be seen in the photo above, mine was not cut properly to the size of my palette. It arrived with the edges lifted up and when I press to stick them back down, they still don’t lay perfectly flat and are curved. When I watched reviews during the rebrand, I saw plenty of other people had warped magnetic bottoms like mine. The actual palette packaging is well constructed, sturdy, and beautiful. The mirror in the lid is a nice quality and a great size. However, I believe Makeup Geek cut corners (literally and figuratively) with the magnets. At one point I had four of these palettes and three out of four were not cut, laid, and stuck properly. When you have expensive eyeshadows, the last thing you want is to have to worry about the whole sheet lifting off and your shadows breaking. I have two of the travel palettes left and I took the better glued one on a trip with me and had no issues. However, I cannot say what would happen if someone keeps their shadows in there at all times.

The main reason I don’t keep my Makeup Geek pans in there is because of all the wasted space. I can understand the older circle pans not fitting better into the palettes considering their shape, but I expected the rebranded new shadows in their mostly square shape should be made to fit the palettes. They still only fit 9 shadows. I understand wanting enough space to be able to easily take the shadows in and out, but it doesn’t look good in my eyes. It looks like I took another brand’s shadows and tried to put them in Makeup Geek’s palette because they’re so ill-fitting. It bothers me when a pre-made palette is larger than it needs to be, but having dividers between the shades indicates it was intended to be that way. Custom palettes without those dividers look untidy on the part of the one who made the palette. Me.

In addition to the eyeshadows not fitting well, there is only room for one face product; if you put one face product, you can only add a maximum of 5 eyeshadows that are still widely spread out. One of the things I love about making custom palettes is having things line up and looking orderly. If it can’t be orderly, I enjoy at least filling up as much space as possible, so it’s a pet peeve of mine that they are this way. The only brand’s shadows that fit nicely in the Makeup Geek palettes are the mini circle shadow pans from Colourpop such as the pans from the Blue Moon, Lilac You A Lot, Star Wars The Mandalorian The Child palette, etc.

There is one other palette type for sale called the Mega Vault Palette. It’s the Matrix Shadow Palette that holds 28 shadows, and those at least fit nicely on all sides with a reasonable amount of extra space. When comparing the 9 pan palettes (whether old version or travel vault version) to the Mega Vault, it’s clear to see a palette of that size should have been made to hold 16, not 9. Marlena has expressed her struggles keeping her brand afloat, so I can see the desire to reuse packaging or try to drum up buzz by announcing a rebrand. I just wish the shadows-to-palette aspect was better planned out for the 9 pan palettes. Then again, perhaps this is why the custom palettes are so deeply discounted.
In case anyone is wondering, I kept my Makeup Geek shadows in a custom magnetic Juvia’s Place palette, which I don’t believe is available for sale anymore. I kept them there until I bought the Mega Vault.

Whenever I review a brand from an Influencer, I disclose whether there are any personal feelings involved. I started following Marlena on YouTube shortly before her rebrand and although I only watch a quarter of her videos, I do like her as a person and I’ve improved my eyeshadow skills because of her live demonstration videos. At the same time, I was also very unhappy with the situation between her and Tina (The Fancy Face) which played out after I already made my initial purchase from the brand. Because of that incident, I did not want to review the products on my blog. However, this was two years ago and my opinion of Marlena returned to a neutral state. I wish her and her brand success. Even though the products aren’t a perfect match for my skin type or my application style, I’m still interested in seeing what else they create in the future and am likely to continue purchasing from them.

That’s all for today! I’m grateful you’ve taken the time to read my review and I hope the information was useful.

-Lili

Natasha Denona Glam Face & Eye Palette – Dark

The annual Sephora VIB sale ended last week and this was one of only three items I purchased. The Glam Face Palette appealed to the resurgence of my interest in neutral eyeshadows, my strong love of blush, and my attraction to highlighters. I did not enjoy Natasha Denona’s original blush duos that were part of her brand launch, but I’m a big fan of the Bloom Blush & Glow Palette, so I had high hopes.

I could see from videos that the back of the face palette did not have designated holes the brand sometimes includes for ease of popping shades in and out, but I hoped that with a magnet I could still pull the shadows out and be able to interchange them with any ND mid-size pans I wanted, since they’re the same size. Unfortunately for me, these pans are glued down to the palette, and since it’s metal glued to plastic as opposed to metal glued to cardboard, the pans would not pry loose no matter how much pressure I applied with my box cutter (which I use to depot shadows sometimes). I own a Z Potter, which theoretically is supposed to allow me to depot eyeshadows without destroying the palette, but the settings needed to melt glue in thick packaging has caused me, in the past, to accidentally melt and warp the packaging of things I wanted to reuse. So, I don’t want to take the chance of using it on this palette. In my eyes, this is the prettiest Natasha Denona packaging she’s ever made with such a sleek smooth mirrored bronze surface and those rounded edges. It looks and feels luxurious. Even though being able to customize the eyeshadow shades would be a game-changer, the price of the palette prohibits me from wanting to make further depotting attempts.

The plastic flap covers the blush and highlighter, so it’s natural to assume both are cream products, but it’s just the blush that has a creamy texture. The highlighter is a pressed powder in a formula that’s new to Natasha Denona’s brand, “that uses Japanese technology to deliver an extreme glow.” The way it looks in the pan with that texture instantly reminded me of the highlighter from Beauty Bakerie’s Brownie Bar.

The Glam Face Palette comes in a Light and Dark version, but choosing between them isn’t as straightforward as using only the Light palette if you have light skin and the Dark palette if you have dark skin. Those with light to medium skin could easily pull off wearing either palette because the face products in both are essentially in the medium zone. Ignoring what the shades look like in the palette, the Light version contains a light champagne highlighter with a blush that spans from light pink up to medium pink. The Dark version contains a medium champagne highlighter with a medium pink blush that can be realistically built up to medium-dark pink. I would describe the color itself as dark coral, which is akin to medium red in terms of depth, but just with a slightly different undertone. In fact, neither cheek shade in the Dark palette is actually in the dark range, which is why choosing which palette works best for those with light to medium skin could come down to the eyeshadows and whether someone prefers lighter or deeper toned eye looks. The highlighter doesn’t have a strong base color and the shimmer particles are so bright and reflective that it looks even lighter on the skin than it does in the pan. It may still leave a cast, but not as much as it would if it had a more opaque base. The blush is a buildable formula that blends out quite sheer depending on the application tool used, but even if I get the most concentrated amount of blush onto my cheek, it doesn’t look as dark as it does in the pan. That’s what also adds to the wiggle room as to which palette works best for someone. In Natasha’s own words, the Light palette is best for those with “light to medium” skin tones and the Dark palette is best for those with “medium or tan to deep skin…but both palettes wear beautifully on all skin tones.” However, I think someone with deep to rich skin tone might want to check what the palettes look like in-store because even the Dark palette doesn’t run all that dark in my opinion. The blush swatch in the photo above was done with two swipes with my finger, which kind of says it all. I also compared it to the blush from the Bloom Cheek palette further down and that took just one swipe of the blush from that palette. That one is what I consider to be an actual dark blush.

The Bloom Cheek Palette and Hourglass Ambient Edit Universe Unlocked Palette compared to the Face Glam Palette.

While I’m comparing palettes, I should add that the cream blush from the Bloom Cheek palette is a traditional cream formula, though it sets quickly and I definitely need to use it with the cream base to tone down the color. The cream blush from the Glam Face palette is cream to powder and doesn’t feel like anything on the skin until about the third layer, which is the minimum I need to get it to show as pigmented as I want. Using the Sonia G Classic Base, I’m not satisfied with the look of the blush until I’ve applied at least three layers, but it doesn’t get much deeper than that with even a fourth or fifth attempt using that brush. If I use my fingers, I get a lot more color payoff, but because the surface of my finger is so much smaller, I still need to apply three times to cover one cheek. So, I may as well use my brush which gives the smoother blend. When I try this with a denser flat top brush like the rephr 17, I’m able to build up the color to my satisfaction in 2 dips instead, but it’s definitely still not dark. With that brush I can achieve medium-dark level with about 4 layers. A sheer layer of this blush will set to the skin and be dry to the touch, but the more layers are added, the creamier it remains. In the amount I wear, it is not sticky but it’s also not transfer-proof.

With a sponge, I’m able to get the brightest color and most color payoff with the least amount of product, but as I continued to blend, it always moves the foundation and concealer I have in my cheek area on the left side of my face that’s covering up hyperpigmentation. So, my preferred method is using a dense brush. Another nice thing about the blush is that it lasts all day.

This buildable blush takes some effort to use, but I don’t mind because the result is so pretty! It’s the kind of shade I love where I get a natural flush without it being too bright, too dark, too light, too warm, or too cool. The color is perfection. The formula is almost perfect. There are random specks of shimmer in the blush, which I’m guessing is there intentionally to aid in the shine. I think I would have preferred if this had a sheen without the flecks, but at least the particles are on the smaller side and the area looks no more shimmery than I usually have on my cheeks anyway from shimmer eyeshadow fallout.

That ties in with another major thing to know about this palette. The top of the blush has a textured film over it which will make it a struggle to get any product onto the brush bristles. I recommend wiping off the top layer first before use. I think this is something that could affect many customers’ first impressions if this isn’t done.

There’s no kickup when using the highlighter, which is nice. I can get Star Glow to look quite subtle using the Wayne Goss #15 Fan Brush and Smashbox Precise Highlighting Brush. With those brushes, I can dip into the pan multiple times to control how much I put on. However, when I use the Koyudo La Fuga del Gato highlighting brush, I gently tap my brush into the highlighter one time, yet that amount always lays an intense amount on my cheeks. Brushes make a big difference in look and performance with this highlighter! Star Glow is high shine. Even though the particles are very fine, it’s so reflective that it still gives me a sparkle effect. Sometimes I like it and sometimes it’s too much for me.

The amount of blush in the photo above is the most I can get if I’m not using a very dense brush. I would have to really go out of my way to successfully overapply the blush. The amount of highlighter in the rightmost photo was created with two passes from an brush that doesn’t pick up much product and one pass with a brush that picks up a lot. I would not want to build it up any further or it would start to look ill-suited for me.

As for the eyeshadows, I first tried following the guide based on their names. Because Transition and Crease are so close in depth with Transition being orange-brown and Crease being the slightest bit darker but red-brown, it was hard to see the distinction between them on my eyes, especially after adding Smoke. They just blended together without much of a gradient effect. I’m used to using transition and crease shades that are a little further apart in depth, so it took several tries to get used to having to be so careful where I place the shadows and how I blend where my eyes are partially hooded.

So far, I’ve used the shadows with the Gerard Cosmetics Clean Canvas, MAC Paint Pot, and Urban Decay Primer Potion. Although Cocoa and Layin’ Low aren’t darker than my natural eyelid color, I found that Transition shows the best when I use the clear-ish primer from Urban Decay. The shade Crease blends well on all of them. Smoke is a great deepening up shade, but I have to be careful to remember to give Paint Pot some time to dry down before applying the eyeshadows, or else the shades I lay down will darken up and be more difficult to blend. I don’t have to set Paint Pot with powder before using it with the eyeshadows in this palette, but it allows me to get started quicker. Another thing I observed is that I need to be careful in which direction I blow away the powder kickup. Sometimes the leftover matte eyeshadow dust goes into the pans of other shades and then when I dip my brush in there, I get a mix of another matte color.

The shimmers aren’t very intense unless they’re applied with a damp brush. Using my finger somewhat works for Inner Corner, but the shimmer from Outer Corner doesn’t stand out much without being foiled. Even if applied wet, I was still expecting something more sparkly like the shadows in the Lorac Noir palette. In order to create that effect, I have to pop Inner Corner on the center of the eyelid.

For my eye shape and considering the eyeshadow colors available, I will probably end up using Transition or Crease, but not both of them in the same look. I foresee myself using the mattes to create structure and then pulling a lid shade from another palette to complete the look, so some of the blend work will probably be covered up by my lid shade and the hooded skin anyway.

The eyeshadows are beautiful. From the lens of a neutral wearer or someone who loves wearing the same go-to eye look on a daily basis, I can see how this palette would be a beloved staple in their collection. I am absolutely crazy about the blush. The highlighter is nice, though not my favorite formula. Overall, this palette was completely worth the price at 20% off. It’s aesthetically pleasing on the outside and inside, and every single pan of product in this palette is usable for me. Even if it’s not my favorite, I can still use it all. I love it and I have no regrets purchasing it, but it doesn’t top the Hindash Beautopsy Palette in terms of the color variety I can get, the multiple types of uses, and being travel friendly. I can do my brows, eyeliner, blush, bronzer, contouring, setting powder, and eyeshadow with that one. Even though the Glam Face Palette has shimmers, I know I would still get bored of just having those two shades and would need a supplemental eyeshadow palette to use with it, just like I need with Beautopsy. The only thing Natasha’s palette has Hindash’s palette beat on is that it includes a highlighter, but since that doesn’t crack my top favorites list, I would want to bring a different highlighter if I took it traveling anyway. This wasn’t the most practical purchase for me, but I wanted it regardless. It brings me joy! In any case, this is going to be a more all-encompassing palette for a lot of other people, so if you were thinking about getting this one, I do recommend it.

That’s all for today! My next post will be after Thanksgiving, so for those who celebrate it, I wish you a happy time and I appreciate you stopping by my blog!

-Lili

MAC x Rosalia Aute Cuture and MAC Collection Update

After the slightly disappointing Tempting Fate release, I wasn’t sure if I should get anything from the MAC x Rosalia Aute Cuture Collection. However, the gorgeous face palette just named “EXTRA DIMENSION SKINFINISH X 4: R PICKS” was calling to me. I love the Extra Dimension formulas and MAC tends to nail their staple products and long standing formulas, so it was a little lower of a risk to purchase it.
Today, I’m reviewing the quad from the collection, showing how the shades look on me, and giving some comparison swatches. I’m also going to review other MAC products I’ve purchased but haven’t featured here until now.

I should also mention that three products I’m reviewing today are collaborations, but I have very limited knowledge of the artists and designer MAC chose to work with, so I’m focused on the products and not the celebrities.

MAC x Rosalia Extra Dimension Skinfinish x 4: R Picks (Limited Edition)

My very first thought when I saw this palette was how much it reminded me of the Dior Backstage face palettes that also come in four shades and have a very similar embossing in the pans. Dior’s is $45 for 10 grams ($4.50 per gram) and MAC’s is $60 for 16 grams ($3.75 per gram). A higher than usual price is to be expected with collaborations, and MAC’s palette still has a better price per gram, but I wasn’t planning to get it without a discount. Ulta released a $15 off a $50 purchase coupon, so that’s how I ended up with this product and I’m so happy I did!

For those interested in details about the packaging, this palette is made of cardboard but there is a thin plastic layer around the edges of the pans and mirror. This makes it look more sleek, glossy, and gives the illusion of being made out of a solid sturdy plastic on the inside, even though it is not. I don’t mind the cardboard, so I think adding the thin plastic covering was a clever move to elevate the packaging in a cost effective way. I also like the texture of the raised “R” pattern I can feel on the outer print of the palette.

I was thrilled to see the peachy pink blush tone shade, Guindilla, is wearable on my skin despite being such a light color. I have to build it up in order to get it to show, but it still works without becoming too glowy because this shade has less shimmer in it than the other three and it has more of a satin texture to the powder than the others. It’s also less shimmery than the line of Extra Dimension Blushes. I’m very glad it doesn’t have a harsh metallic reflect that some blush-highlighter hybrids possess, such as the Coloured Raine Glowlighters. I can wear this as a blush, but it also makes a nice blush topper. I’ve only tried it once as a standalone highlighter. It works but the shine is subtle and has to be built up.

The one I thought I would get the least use out of is Rosa Peach, the “tan gold” shade. It’s a bit light for my skin tone, but it doesn’t look as off if I apply it closer to where my blush starts on my cheekbone. I really don’t like Rosa Peach on my bare skin or non-blush areas because the blush is what keeps it somewhat matching in tone. I use a small amount and try to really blend it in to make it work.

The shade I figured would best suit me, and it does, is Miel de Azhar. It’s not as dark as it appears in the pan. A small amount of Maca or Rosa Peach will pop on my face, but with this bronze color, I can keep it looking subtle with a light layer or build it up to medium intensity. I can only guess that perhaps a shade like this could be used to bronze someone with a lighter skin tone, but the shimmer level might be too much for some people for bronzing purposes.

The yellow coloring of Maca works better with my undertone, but it’s still a bit light for me. So, I use it sparingly and blend it in. My preference though is to apply Miel de Azhar to my face and then use Maca for strategic highlighting where I want even more brightness.

My shirt color (in conjunction with lighting) can sometimes throw off what my skin tone appears like on camera, so I made sure to post additional photos wearing the shades from this palette. Black clothing tends to have the best results, but I don’t like wearing the same thing all the time. Between the face photos and swatches, I hope these are still helpful.

MAC x Teyana Taylor Mineralize Skinfinish in House of Petunia (Limited Edition/Discontinued)

I missed this when it initially launched, so I was surprised when MAC restocked it earlier this year and it coincided with either a big sale or it was in the “goodbyes” sale section. I can’t remember. It’s a light warm gold in the Mineralize Skinfinish formula with a pearly sheen and larger visible shimmer particles randomly throughout. Sometimes it looks nice on me but sometimes my brush picks up too much pearl and/or glitter particles and then I don’t like the effect. So with each use I never know if I will like how it looks on me or not. For that reason, I don’t wear it as much as I originally hoped. I try to use a little and keep it sheer but it can be intensified with a heavier application and especially if applied on a damp face (like with MAC Fix + sprayed first).

MAC x Harris Reed Embrace Your Duality Palette (Limited Edition)

It really looks like it says “Harry” on the cover of the compact, but it is indeed “Harris.” One of my best friends purchased the eyeshadow palette and wasn’t thrilled with the quality, so I didn’t get anything from this collection at first, even though I really wanted the packaging. When this was in the “Goodbyes” section (where MAC has products discounted before being discontinued) for $10, I thought I might as well get it and see if I had better luck with the colour bases than my friend had with the shadows.

These bases can be used on the eyelids, cheeks, and body. On the eyes, these crease on me within minutes, so it’s a no-go. With the Tempting Fate collection, I found that adding a layer of powder over the creamy Leather Lustre shades helped with creasing, so I’ve tried that with these bases as well. It helps for about an hour, so that’s not long enough for me to want to use it again unless it’s strictly on the lid and away from the crease of my eyes and where it’s partially hooded.

The pink shade, Over Ambitious, feels like a cream blush and applies beautifully to the skin. It’s not completely transfer proof, but once it sets it will mostly stay in place and hair won’t stick to the face. I attempted to do a blush-draping look with it and really liked how it turned out! The glittery yellow gold shade, called Be Your Own Light, is greasier in consistency with a gritty texture. It looks pretty from afar but it’s way too sparkly for my liking up close.

I’m not interested in putting makeup on my body, so I haven’t tried these anywhere other than my face. This product is no longer on the US website, but the last time I checked, I saw it was still available on MAC’s Canadian website. Perhaps it’s also still for sale in other parts of the world. Although I don’t like these on the eyes or the yellow shade as highlighter, I love the pink shade as blush, so I do recommend it at the discounted price for anyone who may come across it.

MAC Glow Play Blush in Heat Index

This was one of two blushes in the Glow Play line that I debated getting, but ultimately, the blog post from Nikki is what helped me decide to go with the Heat Index shade instead. When I became interested in MAC products again, her blog was especially helpful, so I recommend any MAC lovers to check it out!
I am such a fan of this Glow Play formula and wish MAC would extend the shade range. They do have quite a few already, but most are on the light side or are tones I don’t wear. The texture of this blush is most similar to the Stila Heaven’s Hue highlighters. It’s a buildable formula that works well with my Sonia G Mini Base brush. I’ve also successfully used it with my fingers, but I have not tried it with a sponge. MAC frequently has deals going on and the most recent one of 30% off just ended a week ago. With so many brands now with so many good cream formulas at affordable prices, I can’t say I recommend getting this at full price, but it’s absolutely worth it for 30% or more.

MAC Mineralize Blush in Flirting with Danger

The last time I reviewed the Mineralize Blush line, I wasn’t a fan of how dry the shades looked on my skin. I decluttered all of them except Love Thing and was determined to keep away from this formula of blush. However, when I saw Flirting With Danger in person at the MAC store, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and ended up purchasing it during one of the sales. I love this blush so much! It’s the perfect mix of red and orange but in a wearable natural tone, as opposed to something hot and poppy like Electric Bloom from Pat Mcgrath. I like vibrant blushes sometimes, but I also appreciate a version that’s a bit more toned down like this one. I will probably still avoid getting anymore Mineralize Blushes in the future, but I’m happy to have this one and Love Thing.

Also, this shade is quite pigmented, so I use a small amount and love the sheered out look on my cheeks. I’m not restricted to using a light fluffy brush. I can use a dense one with it as well, as long as I just use one tap and really work it into my skin.

MAC Extra Dimension Blush in Under My Plum (Limited Edition from the Black Cherry Collection/Discontinued)

For some reason I thought I already reviewed this on my blog! I posted about it on Instagram ages ago and I took all the product photos and even had comparison photos ready, but I don’t know what happened. In any case, Under My Plum performs just like all the other Extra Dimension blushes, but I think it’s a little less shimmery (or at least the shimmer in it is darker and less noticeable). It’s distinctly different in color to the other shades I own, but on the cheek it really isn’t that much different than Faux Sure or Sweets For My Sweet. It’s even listed as a dupe on Temptalia’s blog for the shade Wrapped Candy in this same formula.

This isn’t available for purchase anymore. If you skipped it, but you own any of the other shades I mentioned, I don’t think you’re missing out. I used it a few times and then went right back to wearing Faux Sure, my favorite in that line.
If it’s the packaging you feel you missed out on, MAC will apparently be bringing a similar shiny pink compact back in 2022. I’ll link my source. Petallic Metallic is not a new shade, but I don’t believe they’ve done this exact packaging before. I’m also not sure if they’re only doing Extra Dimension Skinfinishes for Spring or if they will have blushes in the collection as well.

Photo credit: to Angelnaked_1 on Instagram. That user’s original account (Angelnaked1) was reported so many times by brands that Instagram removed it. The person returned now as Angelnaked_1.

MAC Pro Refill Blush in Dollymix and Swiss Chocolate (Discontinued)

Earlier this year, MAC really whittled down their permanent blush collection. Before that happened, I was able to get Swiss Chocolate, which I realized I could possibly use it as either a bronzer or contour. In person, I saw it was too warm for contouring, but it’s dark enough that it still sculpts a little. So, I use that shade sometimes as a brontour, but not a blush. It was part of the Powder formula and is unfortunately discontinued.

I also bought Dollymix, in the Sheertone Shimmer blush formula, which is still available at MAC. It’s like a less pigmented and shimmer version of the shade Fleur Power. It’s pretty, but I’m not likely to reach for it over my go-to MAC favorites.

That concludes the review! For anyone wondering what my total MAC blush collection is looking like now, I’ve sold or given away 7 but I still have 29! I have to admit, it’s pretty insane, but that’s how much I love their blushes!

I know there are a few more collections that will release this year from MAC (like the upcoming MAC x Lisa in early December), but I don’t think I’ll purchase anything else from them until 2022.

Thank you for reading! This is actually my 100th post! Even though I’ve had this blog since 2015, the bulk of my posts have been from 2020 and onward. That’s why it took so long to reach this milestone, but we’re here!
Have a great week and I hope you’ll come back again next Monday!

-Lili

Reviewing New (to me) Products at Sephora

With the annual VIB sale starting soon for Rouge members, I wanted to post a quick review of the newest items I bought from Sephora that were mostly purchased during the Friends and Family sale last month. To anyone who doesn’t have Rouge status, and therefore wouldn’t get 20% off, I recommend waiting for sales directly from brand websites which tend to be discounted by at least 20%. I personally don’t think 10-15% is that much of a savings unless it’s from one of those rare brands that never put their products for sale or their shipping fees make purchasing from Sephora a better deal.

Danessa Myricks Beauty Power Cream Bronzer in Deep

I officially have a new favorite cream bronzer! Granted, I don’t have that many of them, but this takes the top spot. Formula-wise, I loved the ones from Colourpop/Sol Body but the tones didn’t look as nice when the products were sheered out on my face. This bronzer from Danessa Myricks is such a highly pigmented and smooth cream that melts into the skin. It reminds me of that Sol Body formula but in a tone that works for me and doesn’t have fragrance. Deep looks deceptively lighter in the pan. The true shade is the darker spot where my brush picked up the product in the photo above. If this bronzer wasn’t so blendable, this shade would be too dark for me. However, I just do a single tap into the product with my Sonia G Mini Base brush and I can cover most of my face with it because it spreads easily and I have some time to work with it before it sets. The spreadability is due to having a lot of emollient ingredients in this bronzer. When I first got it, I could even see liquid seeping around the edges of the compact, likely due to the heat while being shipped, but it doesn’t feel oily or greasy on the skin.

It sets to the point of being dry to the touch, even without being set with powder. It doesn’t come off on my finger if I just touch the spot where the bronzer is, but a tiny bit will show on my finger if I rub across it. Also, this is so pigmented that it has a bit of a staining effect on the skin, which definitely aids in longevity but requires more effort to remove from the face.

I didn’t fully blend the bronzer above so it would be more visible in the photo, but in actuality, this cream bronzer looks so natural on my skin! I’m wearing it in every photo in today’s post. I like it much more than the Danessa Myricks Balm Contour, which I have in the shade Deep 1. The Balm Contour is even warmer of a shade and looks like a bronzer rather than a contour, but it’s not as smooth in texture as the actual bronzer formula. I want to keep my cream bronzer and contours to a minimum, so that’s the reason I haven’t tried the Anastasia Beverly Hills Cream Bronzer, Saie Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer, or the Glossier Solar Paint Luminous Bronzer that I’ve heard are fantastic quality (well, the last one I just want out of curiosity). However, this one from Danessa has quelled the desire to get anymore…for now at least! I bought this during the Friends and Family sale, but it’s definitely worth full price.

Huda Beauty GloWish Cheeky Vegan Blush Powder in 02 Caring Coral and 03 Berry Juicy

There are four shades total in the new blush line from GloWish. Caring Coral is a “mid tone rosy coral” best suited for up to tan skin, but since mid tone pinks are my preference, I wanted to try it anyway. Caring Coral is interesting because the darker pink swirl in the compact is definitely deep enough for my skin tone but the lighter swirl made my cheeks look visibly ashy when I tried it on my bare skin no matter how much I blended it. However, when applied over foundation, the swirls of colors mix better to create a more even shade that works for me. I was instantly reminded of Coral Flush from Hourglass and those two look quite similar in swatches.
As much as I tend to avoid berry toned blushes, I saw several reviews where Berry Juicy actually had more of a brown-pink look to the skin if applied with a light hand. I can confirm that it looks very natural and more muted pink than berry-pink if I don’t build it up too much, so I’m shocked to say I prefer Berry Juicy on me! I also like the look of using Berry Juicy all over my cheek, but keeping Caring Coral contained to just the apple of my cheeks, as demonstrated in the highlighter portion of this post.

I’m wearing the same bronzer, foundation, and concealer in every face photo.

This formula is supposed to impart a “soft focus glow,” feel buttery on the skin, and last up to twelve hours. I haven’t worn these blushes for that long, but they do seem to be long-lasting. They didn’t fade when I tested them for up to nine hours. I don’t notice that much glow or radiance to these powders; they look satin-matte on my cheeks, or mostly matte. They feel similar in texture to the GloWish bronzers, though slightly less buttery or creamy. I also have to add that the GloWish bronzers impressed me so much and became part of my top three favorites in the powder bronzer category, whereas these blushes are nice but not particularly special. They’re alright for the price. Some customers may be unhappy with their tiny size compared to the bronzers, but I don’t mind because I doubt I would ever hit pan in them anyway. It also helps that I got this for 20% off, but the full price of $21 isn’t too bad in my opinion.

And speaking of the bronzers, if you haven’t tried those, I definitely recommend them! Sephora has a few of the bronzers available in mini sizes, which I assume will be the same sizes as the blushes since they are close to the same price at $19.

LYS Aim High Pressed Highlighter Powder in Fearless

I bought this with my own money from the LYS Beauty website before becoming an ambassador for the brand. I have more details about that in the “Full Disclosure and Affiliations” section of my About Me page if you’d like to know more, along with my link to the brand website (which I’m not sure if it still works in terms of generating a commission) and affiliate code (LYSUNBOXLILI which is no longer active).

I normally go for a lighter shade of highlighter, like a champagne color, but I wanted something less common in my collection. That’s why I bought Fearless, a gorgeous bronze gold pressed powder highlighter. It’s close to my skin tone, so it looks more subtle despite how reflective and sparkly it actually is. I recommend this for someone who likes a strong highlighter, as the other two shades available are quite beautiful. However, it’s commonly known to those who frequently read my blog that I don’t like large glitter particles in highlighters. The smaller the better for me. The particles in this one aren’t so large that I wouldn’t use it, but I admittedly don’t wear it often and the visible shimmer keeps it from being among my favorites. I’ve been tempted to purchase the shade Brave to see if I would like it more, but the particle size keeps me away. It doesn’t look that way on camera but it’s something I see in person.

In addition to the pressed powder highlighters, LYS also released liquid highlighters and a highlighting serum, but I haven’t tried them. In my Glowing Skin post, I mentioned that I don’t use those kind of products enough to justify purchasing anymore in the future, which is why I’m sticking to powder highlighters from now on.

I decided to put my review of the highlighter here because it’s a new release from Sephora, but my actual recommendation for the Sephora sale are the cream blushes. LYS is pretty affordable already for a Sephora brand, but I’m always a proponent of consumers getting the best deals wherever they can. So, the sale is a great time to try the brand’s formula if you haven’t already. The cream blushes have not been surpassed yet in my eyes. I’ve been raving about them ever since I got them, and that was long before I had any connections to the brand.

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Eyeshadow and Concealer Primer

This primer is so tricky to use, but when I do it right, it’s such a game changer! I’ll just say right off the bat though that I hate it for eyeshadows. In order to get the best results, applying a thin even layer and smoothing it out with the finger is crucial. If it’s too thick, it won’t “dry.” I’m using quotes for the word dry because it’s not supposed to actually feel dry to the touch. When it “dries” it changes from an almost greasy feeling (which is strange for a gel looking texture) to a slightly tacky feeling. With a thin layer, this takes about five minutes to get to this point. If I’m impatient and try to apply shadows before it gets tacky it will just smear and move the eyeshadow around and look extremely patchy. If I didn’t blend out the primer with my finger to create an even layer, it will still smear and move because it would be too thick to dry down at all.

If I follow the instructions and do those steps above, in the best case scenario the shadows will grip to the primer and appear very intensely on the eyes. However, it grips so well that I cannot blend them out! So, if I’m going to use this on my eyes, I keep it concentrated to just the eyelid where I want my shimmer to stick. I haven’t tried this primer with that many different eyeshadow formulas, but in this demonstration using the Urban Decay Born to Run Palette, the primer did intensify the shimmers and mattes, but the matte shade darkened up a lot. The primer itself is clear, so the wet consistency caused this to happen, which some people will not like. I’m not sure if I like that aspect myself. Perhaps this doesn’t happen if I use even less product, but either way, I don’t like that I can’t blend the shadows, so I didn’t continue to try testing it.

What I absolutely love this primer for is to use with my concealers. I have intensely dark brown under eye circles and hyperpigmentation that require the fullest of full coverage concealers to camouflage the darkness. The best results I’ve ever had are from the original Tarte Shape Tape and/or mixing it with the Pat Mcgrath Concealer. Those two are full coverage and last the longest on my skin because I have a second issue of concealers usually getting absorbed into my skin so easily. With the MILK primer, I’ve been able to get full days of wear out of my concealers even though it’s only advertised to last for eight hours! Granted, by the end of the day it certainly doesn’t look fresh, but at least it’s still there! This product even makes concealers that didn’t work for me before to last longer! In order to achieve this, I once again have to apply a thin layer, smooth it out with my finger, wait at least five minutes for it to dry, and then dab/stamp/stipple the concealer over it with my Sonia G Jumbo Concealer brush. Swiping motions will disturb the primer. It needs to be patted on in order to last. I can actually feel the grip as I stamp it into place. I do not set my eye with powder, as that will eventually lead to the lines under my eyes looking even more dried out and emphasized as it wears throughout the day.

This primer touts ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Hemp-Derived Cannabis Seed Extract, Niacinamide, and Aloe Water for added moisturization and hydration. I don’t find this to be very hydrating to my under eyes. If anything, it looks just as dry or drier if I don’t prep my skin. I have found that doing my usual steps with the primer but then smoothing the tiniest bit of Laneige Cream Skin Refiner (Moisturizer/Toner) on top of it and letting it dry again before applying one of my concealers, other than Tarte Shape Tape, does make my under eyes look less dry. In my case, this need for an occlusive layer prevents moisture from being taken out of the lower layers of my skin and gives the Hyaluronic Acid something to draw on instead. That’s my best guess. Since the primer is supposed to be applied to clean skin, it’s implied that prepping the undereyes with a cream or something else may not allow the primer to work as effectively. The Laneige Refiner is the most lightweight moisturizing product I have, so it works well. I have not tried to use this primer though with eye creams.

I have seen quite a few negative reviews for this and I understand why. I had to play around with this for weeks to figure out how to get the amazing results that I have with this product. I think whether this product works for someone or not will depend on their skin type, the condition of their skin, if they’re using their regular skin care routine with it, if they’re allowing it to dry first for long enough, the application technique, etc. Now that I have the routine down, this product is absolutely worth it to me for the extra longevity benefits to my concealer. However, I can see how this wouldn’t be for everyone, especially if they want it exclusively as an eyeshadow primer. So, this may be a polarizing primer. This is another one of those products I’d happily pay full price for, but I did get it for 20% off during the Friends and Family sale.

Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear All Over Full Coverage Concealer in 460 and 495

I purchased each of these shades during sales on Lancome’s website ($17 and $20) thanks to Nikki here on the beauty blogosphere and BeautyDealsBFF on Instagram. 495 is darker than my usual concealer shades, but it’s still lighter than the darkness under my eyes. In addiction, it’s very orange toned which works as a sort of corrector color. I prefer concealers to match my skin tone, which is why I bought 460, the next shade down, but not a perfect match. I can wear 460 alone for a brightening effect, but the combination of the two shades is my favorite way to use them.

What I like about this formula is that it’s full coverage, but I’ve used it for weeks now and at best it lasts six hours or at worst my skin just absorbs it shortly after I complete my eyeshadow look unless I really pack it on. Some powders help with longevity but other powders don’t. I was on the verge of giving up and switching back to just using the Tarte and Pat Mcgrath concealers, but I tested it with the MILK Hydro Grip Eye Primer and it works wonders! With that primer, it lasts me all day and it’s less drying than Tarte Shape Tape. Once again though, I do not set it with powder when using it over the MILK primer as that can make it look dried out and emphasize the lines under my eyes. The combination of these two shades, plus the primer, is such an exciting discovery! As a standalone product, I’m not sure if I would recommend it to everyone across the board. There are too many variables when it comes to concealer to be able to say any is universally lovable.

Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation SPF 45 in 5N2 Amber Honey

I used to be shade 6W in Double Wear, but when I had a sample card for this particular foundation, the 6W shade was way too dark for me. 5W was also way too light, so I thought my best hope would be 5N2. It’s the only shade between the two in depth. When I first pump out the foundation, it looks fairly warm, but it does dry to a more neutral color on my skin. It’s not a perfect shade match but it’s close enough that I don’t feel uncomfortable wearing it in public.

The directions say to shake well, and that’s actually important considering it contains SPF. If I forget to shake and squeeze the tube, sometimes the color will look a bit off, either darker or lighter than it should. So, I make sure to give it a good mix before using it.

For a “moisturizing” foundation with a finish that’s supposed to be radiant, I don’t think it’s that radiant. I’d call it a natural finish, at least on my dry skin. This is more evident in the first photo in the bronzer section before I have any blushes or highlighters on my face. It would look a little more dewy if I built it up, but then it would feel heavier on my skin, so I prefer to use a light to medium amount.
A sheer layer of this foundation provides medium coverage, which impresses me for something that feels so lightweight on the skin. When I wear it, I think my skin looks smooth and even, especially paired with some of my newer finishing powders. I’ve actually been using it more than the Nars Soft Matte Foundation, when I just named that one my new holy grail earlier this year. If this did give full coverage with a sheer amount and was a closer shade match to me, then it would be my absolute favorite. As it stands though, it’s in my top two in terms of formula! The only other negative is that it doesn’t like to stick in my problematic smile line and tends move away from that spot, even if I powder it down. I have to rely on concealer to maintain some coverage there.

I always try to mention if a product has fragrance. I do notice a pleasant skincare type of scent that reminds me of the Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask when I first apply it. I actually like this smell because it’s not overpowering and is nostalgic for me. I checked the ingredients and fragrance is there, though almost at the bottom of the list.

I bought this during Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty when it was 50% off at both Ulta and Sephora. I was always curious about this foundation because of how highly Mel Thompson spoke about it. My goodness, I miss Mel. May she rest in peace.

I think that’s where I’m going to end this post.

For anyone curious about what items I don’t need and am trying to talk myself out of getting during this sale…they would be the Patrick Ta Major Headlines Blush Palette, Smashbox x Becca Under Eye Brightening Corrector in Dark, Guerlain Meteorites in Gold Pearls, Beautyblender Bounce Radiant Skin Tint and Beautyblender Bounce Liquid Cream Blush in Flirty Rose. The fact that I don’t use my current Patrick Ta Blush Duo is why I’m talking myself out of the blush palette. The Estee Lauder Futurist Foundation is why I know I don’t need the Beautyblender Skin Tint (plus I already have two bottles of the regular Beautyblender Foundation). The Lancome 495 concealer shade is why I don’t need the Becca corrector. The new Hourglass powders are why I don’t need the Guerlain Meteorites and the Beautyblender blush is a cream, which I have too many of open currently in my collection. Plus, some of these items I foresee going on sale for more than 20% off in the future.

What products are you thinking of getting during the sale? Is there anything I’m talking myself out of buying that you actually hope I will review in the future? I’d love to know in the comment section. Thank you for reading!

-Lili

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Volume III and Universe Unlocked Palettes Plus More

For today’s post, I swatched and demonstrated how two of the three newest products from Hourglass performed for me. I also included plenty of comparisons between all the Hourglass products in my collection to spot any similarities and show nuances of differences.
After finishing the review portion, I ask you to please take a trip with me through my history with the brand because it will give more insight as to why I’ve been attached to them, how Hourglass lost some of its luster in my eyes, and what I hope for them going forward.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette Volume 3

The swatches are a bit difficult to see, but the left set were taken with flash off and the right set shows the tones of the powders with flash on.

Eternal Light is a golden brown finishing powder that matches my face perfectly! It’s a stunning beautiful color. It gives a luminous sheen but also has a few flecks of gold glitter throughout. I wish those larger gold particles were not there, but I’m willing to overlook it because of how nice the sheen is and the overall effect on my face. If I want to avoid having glitter specks in random places, sometimes I don’t set my entire face with this powder and just apply it in the areas of my face I would normally highlight. I have especially enjoyed using this powder with the Wayne Goss 00 Powder brush.

Transcendent Light is a warm dark brown finishing powder that leans a bit red. The tone isn’t suitable as a finishing powder for me. However, it works as a very subtle bronzer that sculpts a little if I build it up with a dense packing type of brush like the Rephr 17. Unlike Eternal Light, I do not see any visible glitter in this powder.

Prismatic Strobe Light is a dark golden-copper highlighter. I typically prefer using medium-golden and warm champagne highlighters, but I can still pull this one off. It’s quite beautiful on the skin with fine shimmer that isn’t too glittery and goes on the skin smoothly. For my usual preferences though, I would likely mix this with a lighter highlighter to add extra brightness.
*This highlighter contains Zea Mays (cornstarch). Just noting for those who may be allergic.

These are the deepest highlighters I own (excluding Solar Strobe Light) out of the most popular brands I have.

Overall, the formula of these powders is the high quality Hourglass is known to have. They’re smooth and blurring even on my dry skin. They look great in person and on camera. According to Hourglass, this particular palette is “ideal for medium-deep to deep skin tones.” I agree that those with medium deep skin will benefit the most from these shades because they have a choice of using either the golden or red finishing powder as a bronzer. They won’t work as bronzers for someone with a deep skin tone and the undertones of the finishing powders are so different that I’m not certain that someone with a deep skin tone would equally enjoy using both of them to finish the face. The highlighter is a little more geared toward the deeper side, but it can work for medium-deep to deep.

This palette is only available through Hourglass directly and has sold out, been restocked, and sold out again. It’s my belief that limited quantities were made, which is supported by this comment on their Instagram page. It’s nice to know this will eventually come to retailers in 2022, and since it’s in the permanent packaging, I assume this will be a permanent item and not just an extension of a holiday release.

Even though I used a “10% off your first purchase” code on the Hourglass website a year and a half ago, I was somehow able to use another one to get this palette. I would have happily paid full price for this anyway.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit Universe Unlocked Palette

To my knowledge, the Universe and Universe Unlocked palettes this year mark the return of Hourglass’ five powder face palettes since 2016. That one also had a marble print on the packaging, but it was made out of hard plastic whereas Hourglass switched to tin this year.

Radiant Light is a light golden-beige finishing powder from their permanent line. I always assumed it was too light for me, but this shade isn’t visible on my skin. It doesn’t lighten my foundation or anything, which is great, but I don’t notice any difference at all when I wear this besides mattifying the skin. I can’t see a sheen either. It does nothing for me besides depositing the occasional visible glitter particles like Eternal Light. I’m glad it at least doesn’t make anything worse, but I prefer to use other finishing powders that accomplish something I need like blurring, smoothing, or adding a healthy glow.

Rose Heat is the deepest powder blush Hourglass has ever created thus far. It’s a dark pink berry shade that is a vibrant color that keeps it from looking too dark on someone with a tan to medium and possibly light skin tone, but also not too light for someone with dark, deep, and possibly rich skin tone to be unable to wear. It is extremely pigmented and I’m able to use it gently with my usual blush brushes, but I have been loving to pair it with the Smashbox Buildable Cheek Brush I purchased recently. I’ve made it no secret that berry tones are not a preference of mine, but having a shade like this adds to how usable this palette is for me, and I like it more if I mix or pair it with Coral Flush.

Radiant Bronze Light is a medium warm-toned bronzer that is the current darkest shade in the permanent bronzer line. While this “miscelare technique” can cause some people to get more or less of the darker marbled color, overall there seems to be a consensus that the bronzer in Universe Unlocked is lighter than the bronzer in Universe. This is an odd choice considering all the other shades in Universe Unlocked are darker than the powders in Universe, so logically shouldn’t the darker bronzer be in Universe Unlocked too? At the end of the day, this choice doesn’t matter for anyone darker than tan because neither will be usable as bronzers. As I mentioned before, Radiant Bronze Light is the darkest shade in the permanent line, so the only hope people of color had for a product to bronze the skin was if Hourglass released a brand new shade. Golden Bronze Light from the Mini Sculpture Unlocked and Ghost Palette is the tiniest bit darker than Radiant Bronze Light and I use Golden Bronze Light as a subtle highlighter on my skin tone, so that says it all in terms of depth. I’ve tried using this on top of cream bronzers and contours to see if I could somehow utilize that warmth and sheen, but that didn’t work. I also find it interesting that although the Radiant Light finishing powder is a lighter shade than Radiant Bronze Light, Radiant Light blends into my skin with no cast, but Radiant Bronze Light leaves a grey cast over areas that I have hyperpigmentation showing. So, I can’t use it as a glowy face powder and it only works as a subtle highlighter on me that provides a little glow but low reflectivity. I figured this would be the case ahead of time before I made my purchase, so it wasn’t a factor as to why I wanted this palette.

Coral Flush is described as a bright peony and although pigmented, I need several layers with at least a medium-dense packed brush to build it up to the point I like. I can wear Coral Flush on its own, but I prefer to add a little of Rose Heat to give it a tad more depth and turn it from being, “Kind of cute,” to “Nice! I like it!” This shade is more geared for light to medium-deep skin tones. I think someone a few shades darker than me could still pull it off, but not that much darker if using Coral Flush on its own.

Solar Strobe Light is a golden leaning metallic champagne. Somewhere between this shade and Prismatic Strobe Light is where my perfect shade exists, but I’m certainly happier with those two than any other Hourglass Strobe Light product that’s been released by them. In addition to liking the color, I’m happy this isn’t the Metallic Strobe formula because the type of ingredients used to make those so bright are not flattering on deep skin. This shade is best suited for perhaps medium up to my skin tone, but I still don’t think it’ll be as flattering past my shade.
*Unlike the Metallic Strobe formula, the Non-metallic Strobe highlighters contain Zea Mays.

Overall, those with medium to tan (but not dark tan) skin will get the most out of this palette, followed by those with light and dark tan to medium-dark skin. Anyone else could still use perhaps 1-2 shades, but I’m not certain it would be worth getting at that point.
Universe Unlocked mostly works for me, but “working” doesn’t mean it’s as flattering as it could be. I don’t feel that it enhances my makeup the way the Volume III trio did. Even the best blush look I can create with a mix of Coral Flush and Rose Heat doesn’t surpass the way the At Night blush looks on me. So, while this palette is technically still worth the 20% discounted price I paid with a coupon via Ulta, I’m conflicted as to whether it was worth getting for the actual results and how much I will realistically continue using it.

With the exception of the Surreal Light palette, all the powder products I purchased from Hourglass are basically the ones supposed to be usable by me from 2016 until now. I’ll let the swatches speak for themselves as to whether that’s the case or not. And since I believe the finishing powders from Volume III can still work as bronzers, I included them in the bronzer swatch section even though they technically should not be included there.

Hourglass, A History

I first became intrigued by the brand in 2015. Everything was out of my price range, but I purchased a mini of the Veil Mineral primer that was considered one of the best on the market at that time. It really lived up to the claims of being incredibly smoothing and minimizing the appearance of fine lines, but it left a visible white cast so strong that it made my foundation look lighter too. So, I ended up using it as an eyeshadow primer instead.
I believe 2015 was also the year Hourglass started to make the larger holiday face palettes. Their previous holiday releases were in trios, but from 2015 and onward, customers began to expect and look forward to those 5-6 powder palettes. Because it was the best bang for the buck, I hoped with each year that a palette suitable for me would become available and was willing to save up for it. By 2017, when Sephora put limited quantities of the previous year’s palette in the Rewards Bazaar, I snapped it up immediately despite knowing I probably couldn’t use any of them.

Ironically, that 2016 release Surreal Light Ambient Lighting Edit was possibly the lightest palette Hourglass made, so it definitely did not work for me. I got some use out of the powders through “Franken-Makeup” creations. For those who are not familiar with the term coined by Safiya Nygaard, it’s when someone plays Dr. Frankenstein and combines multiple products together in the hopes of making something better by capturing the best qualities of all of them, though one could end up with worse results. I scraped out some of the powders to use as fillers or to sheer out an over pigmented mixture in custom Franken blush, highlighter, and eyeshadow mixtures.
Despite everything in that palette looking like chalk on my skin and rendering it unusable for the intended purpose, I still cherished having it! In the earliest years of my makeup journey, I became obsessed with having a holy grail product in every category and I viewed Hourglass powders as the absolute best in existence (such was the level of hype it got). So even one that didn’t suit me was treasured because it brought me closer to being able to experience what everyone else could.

2015 – Ambient Lighting Edit Palette, 2016 – Surreal Light Ambient Lighting Edit Palette, 2017 – Ambient Lighting Edit Volume 3 Palette, 2018 Ambient Lighting Edit Volume 4 Palette and Unlocked Ambient Lighting Edit Palette, 2019 – Ghost Ambient Lighting Edit and Ghost Ambient Lighting Blush Quad, 2020 – Sculpture Ambient Lighting Edit Palette and Sculpture Ambient Lighting Edit Quad, 2021 – Ambient Lighting Edit Universe and Ambient Lighting Edit Universe Unlocked.

Year after year, I waited for Hourglass to release something where I could use more than just 1 or 2 powders out of the bunch. By 2019, I began to view the brand differently when they continued to re-release shades without even having covered the full color spectrum. That’s like if a brand started releasing monochromatic palettes for the holidays and came out with a purple one, a blue one, and then a green palette. The following year, rather than release an orange, yellow, or red they shift instead to making a purple-blue palette, and then a blue-green palette, and so on. Many customers began to wonder why a particular range of skin tones were being catered to while everyone else was ignored.
Fun facts: Dim Light and Diffused Light were repeated 5 times. Luminous Bronze Light, Iridescent Strobe Light, and Mood Exposure were repeated 2 times. All of the shades in the Sculpture Ambient Lighting Edit Quad were repeated shades from the previous year’s Ghost Ambient Lighting Edit Palette. There are also several shades in the full face palettes that were from the permanent line already. In addition, so many of the powders that are labelled as “new” look similar to what Hourglass has already produced.

In early 2020, I began to research and take a closer look at all the current and discontinued products that were available from Hourglass. I thought to myself, “Their liquid and cream range is inclusive, so surely there has to be something I think won’t work for my skintone but is actually darker than it looks.” After countless videos and swatch comparisons, the only one I could see was the Diffused Heat blush, provided I was very lucky and could get one that had a lot more of the pink shade than the lighter marbled shade. I was fortunate to find one like that, but it is still ashy if I’m not careful about which area of the blush I dip my brush.

Mid-June people really started to draw attention to Hourglass hardly featuring models of color, but this is because they didn’t have many products to showcase that would suit them. Instead of admitting they lacked a good range, Hourglass tried to show things that were supposedly used, but they could not have matched the models without “adjusting” the photos. This was the start of what led to Hourglass coming under fire later in the year.

In late 2020, Hourglass released the At Night shade of blush and I was ecstatic! I still need to focus on the darker marbled section for it to work, but I don’t have to struggle with it as much as other products. I was so optimistic that I took a chance on the 2020 re-release of the 2017 Ambient Metallic Strobe Lighting Palette, but the pearl powder made it looking quite icy on my face if I used too much. Because of At Night, I was still hopeful the actual holiday release for 2020 would finally work for me, but the larger palette did not. The Mini Sculpture Unlocked quad “worked” if I used the bronzer as a subtle highlighter, the blush if I built it up heavily, and if I was willing to have another icy highlighter. I always had to find ways to get my money’s worth out of the Hourglass products I bought and I ended that year sick of it. I’ve already discussed the scandal of the misleading advertising of the Ambient Lighting Volume 2 Palette in the Jasmine Tooks campaign in past posts. I do not appreciate their photos always being more saturated and deeper than the products actually are and using tricks to make products seem to work for more skin tones than they really do. For instance, with their recent line of Vanish Blush Sticks when demonstrating how the shades look on multiple skin tones, for the model with dark skin they put a very light concealer from the under eyes all the way down to her lips. The large triangle concealer technique is still popular with some people, but it’s not supposed to be applied all the way across the entire cheek to the ears. It’s quite apparent that the best way to get Sacred to show on Sydney Harper’s skin was on top of a very light base several shades too light for her. I nearly fell for it! Trickery like this is why my view on the brand took a deeply negative turn in 2020.

Sydney Harper wearing the shade Sacred on Hourglass’ Youtube page.

I personally think having two deep shades out of the six blushes is inclusive enough, so I don’t understand why this decision was made. I like medium toned blushes, but it’s always a hassle to figure out if a medium blush is on that cusp of being too light or actually working for me. How they showed Sacred in the video makes it look like it would work for skin even deeper than mine, which I’m not convinced is actually the case. If the shade doesn’t show up on the model or looks ashy, then I’d rather they just show that so I know not to spend my money on them rather than buy it, find out for myself it doesn’t work, and either absorb the cost or return it knowing it’s just going to be thrown away.

Since I never did review the Blush Stick, I’ll go ahead and say I think it’s nice but nothing special. The majority of the cream blushes I use from other brands are just as good (or better) for at least half the price. I use a light layer of Revel, but it can be built up more intensely and it’s the kind of shade that will work on a lot of skin tones. The other deep shade Hourglass makes is called Adore.

Regarding Hourglass’ tendency to misrepresent shades in their advertising, I think they did a better job of showing Volume III but it definitely needs improvement. I still caution against relying on Hourglass’ images alone for an idea of what the products look like.

The left side is a more accurate photo of Volume III, but both images are from the brand’s Instagram.

Now, in my seventh year of waiting for a dark powder palette, I can finally say I have Hourglass products that I can use (mostly) for their intended purposes! If I’m looking for an all-in-one palette, the most important thing to me is to have a usable blush, highlighter, and bronzer. I don’t believe I am alone in thinking that way. While Universe Unlocked offers the biggest variety to date of who can use the palette, only a limited group can use all three. It’s the bronzer specifically that limits things. Rather than Hourglass making a palette with 2-3 shades for some people and 2-3 shades that will work for someone else, I would have liked to see full palettes dedicated to the skin tone groups who still haven’t gotten a full face palette that will work. I am happy to have Volume III and am glad at the possibility that it’s permanent, but so many of us have been specifically wanting a full size Deep face palette. If they took all the shades from Volume III, Rose Heat from Universe Unlocked, and threw in At Night as the second blush (since they like doing repeat shades anyway) that could have been an amazing third holiday Ambient Lighting Edit palette. Indie brands like Sydney Grace and Adept Cosmetics release dark and light versions of the same eyeshadow palette and I think this would be fantastic for other companies to adopt regarding face palettes. Below are some examples of swaps that could have been made. Creating two versions of Universe Unlocked with even just a bronzer change would have made all the difference in the world.

The third concept palette that I nicknamed “Universe Aligned” is what I proposed above if Hourglass took the three Volume III shades and At Night blush and put it in the Universe Unlocked packaging with Rose Heat.

I’ve heard endlessly, “If a brand doesn’t cater to you, go buy from those who do.” I’ll explain why this doesn’t work so easily for Hourglass: No one else makes powders like Hourglass. If I had an alternative, I would have given up on them ages ago. The silkiness of the powders, the blend, the effect on the skin, etc has not been successfully replicated by anyone else. This is why we “target,” as Hourglass apologists say, the brand specifically more than other non-inclusive ones, because they are the only ones who can do this task. When the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer was considered top notch, we wanted an extension to those. When Benefit only had Hoola available, we wanted that as well. I have no problem taking my money elsewhere as long as there isn’t something considered the best of the best that they make. In which case, then there isn’t an alternative. If we want the best, that brand is the only one who can create it for us. This is why so many of us keep hoping to have something that we can use too. We want to have that same experience everyone else that Hourglass caters to gets to experience. Hourglass is inclusive except when it comes to the powder products, but powder is all I really want from them. I like makeup from Asian brands, but I accept that I’m not likely to get a base product deep enough for me because the demand isn’t high enough. When it comes to Hourglass, there is a market and a demand, so it would be financially beneficial to meet those demands. This makes it so obvious they were content in leaving a vacancy in their line while their pockets were still being filled. It was not until enough of us joined in a united front (those who could and could not wear what was available) to make our voices heard, especially those who boycotted them and the Influencers who publicly denounced and cut ties with Hourglass, and news outlets who got us to the point where Hourglass has started to give deeper options. I believe the creation of Volume III was to repair their image after the deceitful misleading advertising of Volume II. This is why I question whether Hourglass is going to continue giving deeper options in the future, or if they feel they’ve done enough now and that this is where inclusiveness ends for them. In 2022, if there is no extension of the permanent bronzers or there’s no Ambient Lighting Edit Face Palette suited for at least tan to deep skin tones, if not deeper, then it will be a clear indication once and for all that they won’t begrudgingly create anything like the Volume III again. Essentially what they do in 2022 will determine whether I continue buying from them or not. Eight years will be plenty of time and they’ve had plenty of chances to prove they aren’t focused on a particular demographic. Hourglass prioritizes being cruelty free, sustainable (with their new overpriced custom eyeshadow system), and finding vegan alternatives (with their patent-pending replacement for carmine). They dedicated so much time and research to these projects in order to be a brand that goes above and beyond others by showing their concern for the planet. It boggles my mind that they don’t care about their reputation when it comes to being exclusionary regarding their customers.

I think I’ve finally said everything I’ve wanted to say about Hourglass in this post. I really do hope they become a brand I can be proud of to say I purchase from in the future. As it stands, I’m almost embarrassed to share how long I’ve been pining for their products and how many of them I bought despite feeling as though they really don’t want to make products for those with dark skin.
That’s all for this week. If you’re still here after reading that full post and you understand my perspective, you’re at MVP status! Thank you for your time and if you’re considering getting these products now or in the future, I hope this has been helpful.

-Lili

Amazon Makeup: Haus Labs and Zeesea Cosmetics

The Amazon Prime deals that started on June 21st included 60% off Haus Laboratory Products and 20% off Zeesea Cosmetics. These deals were enough for me to take the plunge into both brands for the first time!

Also, before we get started, I’m going to address the Oompa Loompa in the room. I took these photos just after I returned from my trip. Because I had gotten darker, I needed to resort to mixing foundations and I did not realize I looked so orange until I finished everything. Sorry about that! I don’t always publish a post in the order that I work on them, so this is why my skin tone looks “warmer” than usual!

Haus Labs

Haus Laboratories Heat Spell Bronzer Highlighter Duo in Volcanic & Lava

This bronzer is the darkest in the Haus Labs line, but it will only show up on someone of my skin tone or lighter. The range could definitely use a darker option, but it’s the perfect shade and depth for me. I was impressed by how smoothly it looked on my skin despite how dry it felt to the touch and how patchy it looked when I first tried it on my bare face. This is one of those formulas that work best over a foundation. It doesn’t take much building to show on my skin, it blends very quickly, and it lasts on my face through a full day.

When using the bronzer, it looks perfect with so few swipes that I get the impulse to continue blending it in (because I’m not used to a product blending so quickly), and that’s when I run into problems. If I keep trying to blend or build up more product, it turns an unflattering darker color and starts to get patchy. The best way to use this is to apply it to the skin and when I blend to the point of, “Wow, this looks nice,” is where I have to stop or things will only go downhill after that.

The highlighter in this duo is the right depth for me too. However, it is very lightly pressed in the pan. It is extremely powdery with so much kickup. It doesn’t make a difference if I use a natural or synthetic brush, the result of the absolute barest touch in the pan leads to my brush being coated in an excess of product. I have to wipe some off my brush every time I use this product or else I will look way too sparkly for my liking. Also, it mostly sticks wherever you first place it, so blending away the edges to avoid a highlighter stripe is not easy to do. My remedy to this is to switch my usual application order and apply the highlighter before my blush, that way the excess of highlighter can be blended out while I’m blending the blush. The blush edge also partially covers it.

This highlighter is a mix of small particle shimmer with some larger shimmer particles spread throughout the pan. Because the larger sparkles are sparse enough to not draw too much attention, I don’t mind as much. I still have to be careful to use the smallest amount on my face though, and an example of a light application is in the photo on the right.

Although I can get really nice results with this duo, I’m not sure if the quality is consistent across the entire Heat Spell line. I can get stellar results if used in the specific manner I mentioned, but the fact that it can easily go wrong is why I would say these powders are similar to what Makeup Revolution and BH Cosmetics produce, but better. They’re both inexpensive brands with face products that aren’t exactly the highest quality, but they will get the job done. This duo at full price is $26, but from the view of these as two separate items at $13 each, it would be in the ballpark of those brands. While I think this is good for the price, the Kaja Bento Trio formula is an upgrade for $1 less for slightly less product spread across three pans. I also think the Beauty Bakerie Bars (Neapolitan, Brownie, and now Lemon) have the better blush and bronzer as well, though there’s way less product at $18.

All that being said, I could see myself reaching for the bronzer again, particularly for a matte look. However, my top favorites tend to have a satin or shimmer sheen which won’t be replaced by this. The highlighter in the duo is also a bit troublesome having to be used so delicately, so I won’t get use out of Lava.

Haus Laboratories Head Rush Blush/Highlighter Duo in Rock ‘N’ Rose & All Night

There is one other blush duo deeper than this one, but I’m not interested in berry tones, so I got this instead. The blush looks pigmented, but the thin powder still requires building up. In addition, it gets muddy when blended too much, especially in the spots where it overlaps with a bronzer regardless of the brand used. For the photo below, I had to wipe some of the Heat Spell bronzer away to get the pink color to show instead of the murky brownish-pink it turns. The blush is pretty, but I think the quality is lacking.

The highlighter shade is pretty interesting. I thought for certain it would look terrible on me, but it’s not too bad! It’s actually a somewhat duochromatic pink and light gold that reminds me of the Kaleidos Space Age highlighters. The Head Rush highlighter did not have the powdery kickup issue like the Heat Spell highlighter, but it’s not as soft either. It’s a decent highlighter/blush topper, but it shows a lot more of the larger shimmer particles, which deters me from wanting to use it.

I had some reservations about recommending the Heat Spell duo, but I can easily say I don’t recommend the Head Rush ones. The market is filled with so many incredible blushes and highlighters that are superior in quality. They might not be part of a duo, but a better blush and highlighter separately can be found at any price point. Nyx, Milani, and Colourpop all make better and cheaper blushes and highlighters. The Maybelline Master Chrome is another highly rated highlighter option. At the very least, the Colourpop Cheek Palette Quads come with three blushes of comparable quality and a better highlighter for $12. For that reason, even at the $15.60 price I paid for this duo, I don’t think it was worth it.

I have no feelings positively or negatively about Lady Gaga, but considering Haus Labs is owned by someone as well known as her, I had an expectation that the products would be on the higher end of drugstore prices but have even better quality. I’m not certain they lived up to even that, so my interest in trying more from the brand has dropped to zero.

Zeesea Cosmetics

The Zeesea palettes I purchased are possibly the most beautifully packaged products I own. The lining around it is a gold color, the top is slightly rounded and shiny enough to see myself in it, the design is partially raised in texture, the background design is an ombre of colors, and the designs are just beautiful. I love ancient history, particularly ancient mythology, so it was an absolute given that I needed something from the Egyptian collection. The Kitty quad I purchased as an inside joke, but I thought the color story was very cute too.

Right off the bat though, I need to give the warning that these palettes contain PET (polyethylene terephthalate) glitter. Although it is “cosmetic grade,” it is still made of plastic which is dangerous around the eye area. I hate pressed glitters because of the sticky formula and the difficulty with removing them. Only one shade in these three palettes have that clumpy pressed glitter formula, but my stance on PET glitter is that I try to avoid all shadows that contain it, regardless of the consistency and formula. When I saw how reflective and sparkly and large the particles were in person, that’s when I suspected these had shadows that were not eye safe. I did a few looks with these palettes, but I will not be using them anymore because I so easily get makeup in my eyes. Even when I’ve used the tape trick to remove the glitter, there’s still always some left behind and one of my eyes was irritated for a few days. So, these are being kept purely as collector pieces. However, I have still played with them enough (especially before I looked up the ingredients to confirm my suspicion about the shimmers) to be able to give a full review.

ZEESEA The British Museum Egypt Collection Eyeshadow Palette in #05 CRUX ANSATA

The Crux Ansata, or Ankh, is one of my favorite Egyptian symbols. This was also the palette with the color story that suited my tastes the most out of all the Zeesea x British Museum collaboration palettes (at least before the release of #09 Crystal Skull).

Shades 1, 2, 3, and 13 are all very soft, smooth, and pigmented. Shade 1 has a lovely ankh imprint in it, Shade 4 has a sphinx imprint, and 13 has a scarab beetle. Shades 4 and 15 are a little drier but still smooth and pigmented. Shade 6 is a thin powder but smooths out nicely. Shades 9 and 16 are a little drier and rougher and tend to stick to the skin where you put them, but they still blend out in a reasonable amount of time and don’t stay patchy. Shade 16 also has an eye of horus imprint in the eyeshadow.

Shade 5 is a stunningly beautiful and softly packed highly reflective glitter shade with the largest glitter particles in the palette. Shade 7 is a creamy satin with a little sparkle and Shade 8 is a reddish orange creamy duochrome with a little gold sparkle. Both 7 and 8 had a sparsely glittery top layer that seems to be mostly gone after using them a few times, so I’m not certain if it was just the top layer only or if the glitter still runs throughout.
Shade 10 is another creamy feeling shimmer with a strange mottled combination of green, blue, pink, white, and yellow which turns into a pale icy green. Shade 11 is mainly a green and aqua blue sparkly duochrome with a slight pink shift. Shade 12 is a beautiful rusty orange-red satin, and Shade 14 is a copper metallic shimmer.

ZEESEA The British Museum Egypt Collection Eyeshadow Palette in #06 EYE OF HORUS

I also chose this palette because of the iconic Eye of Horus symbol and the color story was unexciting but still wearable. I can’t pretend I didn’t want to know what Shades 9, 10, and 12 were like in person.

Shades 1, 4, 11, and 16 were that smooth and pigmented formula I noticed in most of the mattes in the Crux Ansata palette. Shade 1 has the eye of horus imprint. Shade 3 is very powdery and had to be smoothed out. Yellow shades don’t stand out easily on my eyes and this is another example of that. Shades 2 and 5 are creamy shimmers. Shades 6 and 14 are subdued satin shades. Shade 7 is a badly formulated pressed glitter which stuck to itself in the pan and I had to scrape it to get enough product to swatch on my arm. The texture was so unlike other pressed glitters I’ve felt in the past that I didn’t realize it was one at first until it swatched terribly. Shade 8 is not an opaque shimmer and takes some building up, which surprised me considering how pigmented the other shimmers are.

Shade 9 is what I can only think to call a demi-matte white because it looks matte but there’s still a sheen to it, and not strong enough of one to be considered a satin but it looks like the kind you get from mica powder. It’s also the strangest mix of cream, blue, gold/brown spots blanked out in white. I’m not sure what the purpose was in making this shade. I have no idea if they were trying to accomplish something with the pattern or if it’s just to have a different look. Shade 10 is a somewhat putty-like shimmer in lines of silver, bronze, and gold that pulls mostly gold. Shade 12 is another duochrome like in the Ankh palette as an iridescent white to blue but with a light purple shift.

Shade 13 is a super wet (not creamy) thick chunky shimmer. I really did not like the texture of this one. Shade 15 is smooth but not quite as soft as the other mattes. It still performs well though.

ZEESEA Tipsy Kitty Eyeshadow Quad in #03 Fruit Punch

This quad was my newest purchase, which did not come from the Amazon Prime Day sale, yet it was the first one of the three I started using. Shades 1 and 3 take some building up, as these mattes are thinner than some of the ones from the Egyptian palettes, but the end result is pretty and worth the extra effort to have a nice soft look. I had an easier time using Shade 4. These tones are also very nice and complimentary to each other. Shade 2 is a bit wet and a little chunky, but using MAC Fix+ helps it to spread and increases the color saturation.

Because Zeesea is a Chinese brand which creates products for the style that is popular in China, as well as catering to lighter skin tones, I am limited in the types of products from them that I can use. The quality is better than what I expected from the brand, but I can’t in good conscience recommend them beyond purchasing purely for the packaging. The British Museum palettes are pretty enough that if I had a stand to put them on, I would display them in the house, not just with my makeup. However, for those wanting to use the actual eyeshadows, I really caution against those plastic based glitters used. I wish Zeesea would exclusively use the safer alternatives like synthetic fluorphlogopite and sodium or aluminum calcium borosilicate. Even some versions of bismuth oxychloride can be quite reflective and sparkly. When I briefly perused Zeesea’s ingredient list on the website, I could see that they contained some of those alternatives but still had them in addition to the plastic glitters, which is quite a shame.

That’s all for my exploration of makeup brands on Amazon! I don’t think there will be a part 2 to this. I hope you have a fantastic day! Thank you for reading!

-Lili

Armani Beauty Neo Nude Melting Color Balms

This product also goes by the name of the Armani Beauty Neo Nude Color Melting Cream Blush. “Balm” is a less accurate description because it implies there’s a glossy or sticky texture, which this blush does not possess. It’s creamy to the touch and reminds me of a putty texture (but softer) or a Colourpop Supershock Blush (but with less slip). Tara Lynn on YouTube was the first to accurately described the consistency as being similar to Natasha Denona’s cream-to-powder eyeshadow formula. I began working on this post in July and overall, this has been one of the strangest product launches I’ve seen.

Wacky Availability

Other than the initial sneak peek from Trendmood1’s Instagram page, I saw barely any mention of this blush around social media or on Youtube. Two weeks after it released, there were still only four videos I could find. There was very little promotion for it across other platforms as well, including from Armani themselves. It released first to Sephora and Armani’s US site in only five of the nine blushes. Then Neiman Marcus got seven of the nine. Then it disappeared off Neiman’s website and appeared at Saks Fifth Avenue in the full range, but as a pre-order for July 17th. By July 19th there was no trace of the blushes on the Saks website. Then on July 22nd, all the blushes returned to Saks’ website as yet another pre-order, but with a note on the page that they were, “not shipping until August 17th at the latest.” They also returned to Neiman’s at some point. On July 24th, Sephora joined the other retailers (including Macy’s and Dillard’s) in having seven shades available and by July 29th, Sephora had the complete range listed but with the last Shades 51 Peach Pink and 60 Warm Plum still unavailable. By September 13th, the only retailer I found that had those last two shades actively in stock was Selfridges.

Production and Formula Issues?

When the Melting Color Balms kept going back and forth between being available and then wiped off websites entirely, I wondered if they were merely behind on production and could not supply everything to all retail partners at once. That explanation would at least account for the severe lack of promotion for the launch on Armani’s part. The fact that my 30 Warm Coral shade arrived with the blush pan separate from the compact and 60 Warm Plum was partly dried out and hard led me to suspect the delays might be due to flaws in the manufacturing process and a quality control problem with the elusive missing 51 Peach Pink and 60 Warm Plum shades. I can’t think of other reasons it was unavailable from the rest of the line, including Armani’s own website, for nearly three months. I even tried searching for it online while I was in Germany in case it was available in Europe.

Regarding the detached pan, when my order arrived, I instantly took it out of the box to begin taking photos. I noticed it felt very warm to the touch. It was a hot Florida day and it was likely even hotter in the delivery truck. When I turned the compact over to take a photo of the back, I heard a clink sound and opened the compact to see the pan plop out onto my hand. Glued products when left in a hot vehicle can melt enough for pans to detach. Then when it cools down, if the pan isn’t touching the glue anymore (as the ring of blush on the mirror of my compact suggested) the glue can dry back up and leave you with an unstuck product.

I noticed a hole at the bottom of the compact (the sticker on the bottom is peeking through from the other side), which usually indicates the product is recyclable and/or refillable. So, I thought if it’s refillable then the pans should attach to something on their own. I cleaned off the bottom of the blush pan and put it in a custom magnetic palette to see if it would stick, but it did not. Then I wanted to see if the compact would hold the pan without glue, so I cleaned off the glue bottom as well as I could, but it wouldn’t stay in. Because this isn’t a powder product and I don’t have to worry about it breaking, I figured I could keep using the blush while loose in the compact as long as I was careful with it. I’m not sure if the pan suddenly adhered to the remnants of the glue again or if the pressure from my brush hitting the pan into the compact got it to attach, but it somehow stayed within the compact again, even when I held it upside down!

As for Shade 60 Warm Plum, my experience with it was completely different to Shade 30, but I’m willing to bet Shade 30’s consistency and performance is the way the line is actually intended to be. Unfortunately, what I got with this one was a blush that took quite a lot of effort to get product onto my brush and even on my fingers. The blush was so hard that I could barely scratch the surface with my nail and what I was able to scratch away broke off in a hardened chunk. I contacted Selfridges inquiring about a possible batch issue and they informed me they were unaware of one but would look into it. Then they refunded me, which is nice considering the level of dryness and difficulty to work with it will only get worse with time. So with the refund, perhaps I’ll buy it again in the future and hopefully it’ll be in the beautiful creamy formula that 30 Warm Coral has.

This photo demonstrates the amount of product that gets picked up with one swipe of the Plum shade versus a single swipe of Coral.

30 Warm Coral Review

This product is so pretty on the skin! It’s described as, “a lightweight oil-in-powder formula that seamlessly adds color to cheeks and eyes for a natural matte makeup look.” The shade range is quite unique, seeing as how there aren’t any true pinks. The blushes are on the warmer or cooler sides of brown, with the most colorful pops leaning orange and plum. Specific shades in the line are intended to be contour shades. Because these tones are so natural, there’s a limit to how much you can build them. I can make Shade 30 fully opaque on my cheeks, but the color is somewhat camouflaged against my skin tone, so it still appears a bit subtle in person and on camera. I do like that it’s impossible for me to go overboard with this shade, but I only enjoy it on days I’m specifically in the mood for a warm-neutral look.

I love how this melts into my other products. It embodies the best that a cream product can offer in terms of the finish and application process. This doesn’t leave a wet or heavy feeling on this skin, but it transfers heavily and easily since it does not dry down. Powder helps to minimize the transfer, but this is the type of product I only suggest to those who don’t touch their faces a lot.

This product looks great when blended with a brush or a sponge. When I apply with my fingers, it looks alright, but it’s not as perfectly smooth on my skin as it would be if I used tools. The formula is likely the reason because it’s prone to transfer, so the fingers simultaneously smooth the product with each tap and also picks some of it back up.
Multiple layers with a brush is easily eclipsed by 1-2 dips into the product with a sponge, so the sponge will give the most color payoff in the quickest amount of time. My guess is that it has something to do with the water in the sponge and the oil in the blush repelling each other and preventing the blush from getting too soaked into the sponge, therefore applying more product onto the skin.

The Melting Balm is long-lasting and wonderful when applied on top of foundation, but on bare skin, the product got absorbed within hours! I reapplied during the first non-foundation wear test to see if I just didn’t apply enough at the start of the day, but the same thing happened! On day two of testing, I skipped foundation again, but applied setting powder all over my face to see how the blush would perform on top of it. Once again, my skin soaked up the product within hours! Realistically, I wouldn’t want to wear these kind of shades on a minimal makeup day anyway. If I’m going to wear nothing but blush, I prefer for it to be a color that stands out a bit more. But it’s important to note that those with dry skin should wear this over a cream or liquid foundation. Then there should not be longevity issues.

Besides the cheeks, this can also be used on the eyes. It looked fine when I tried it in the crease, and lasted all day as well, but when I tried to use it all over the eye without any other eyeshadows, I could see that it settled into the lines of my eyes. This happens regardless of whether I apply the product onto my bare eyelids, on top of set or unset concealer, or over a MAC Paint Pot. This also happens even if I try to set with power after applying. If I were to continue using this on my eyes, I would keep it in the crease only.

Shade 30 is around the entire eye in the top half of the photo. In the bottom half of the photo, it’s applied only in the crease with Natasha Denona Metropolis shadows.

60 Warm Plum Review

Whatever happened with the formula of this particular shade caused it to feel significantly less creamy, which also gave it a drier feeling on the skin. When I finally get the intensity of the blush that I want, which is still relatively subtle, I would say that it dries down. It still transfers like the Coral blush did, but the transfer is minimal and it is just as long lasting on my skin when applied on top of my usual liquid foundations.

Because of how long it takes to build up the color, using my fingers to apply the blush is impractical. The formula issue makes it prone to patchiness. With a brush, I have to use hard pressure in order to get the product onto my cheek and the force needed to blend it can disrupt my concealer and also where I put bronzer if I’m not careful. Just like with Coral, a damp sponge will give the most pigmentation with the least effort. I actually like how this looks when it isn’t applied intensely, so I put on the blush with a sponge and then use what’s left of my foundation brush to sheer the edges and get a deep pink on my cheek since it only looks plum-purple when heavily applied.

When used on the eyes, I have the same creasing issue. Technically this is worse because of how many layers I have to apply to get it to show up. No matter what I do, the creasing happens within five to ten minutes. Then within an hour it moves, breaks down, and fades in places. With Shade 30, it will last longer in the crease of the eye but not the lid. With Shade 60, it doesn’t last anywhere.

Regardless of all the complications associated with these blushes, I don’t regret buying them. They aren’t my favorite cream formula, but something about the particular tones stand out in my collection. The packaging is also aesthetically pleasing and makes me so happy to see them on my dresser. Judging based on Shade 30 alone, I’m still not certain they’d be worth the price to everyone, but somehow I still really like them. The benefits are so special to me that they outweigh the negatives I normally wouldn’t want, especially for such pricey blushes.

One extra bit of information left to note is that according to the packaging, these should last 24 months after opening, which is quite a big claim for a cream product. We will see if that holds up with Shade 60 if I continue to use it with a sponge.

That’s all for today! I’ve certainly tried my hardest to give the full picture of the best these blushes can offer, along with potential issues. I hope this has helped!

-Lili

Products I Changed My Mind About (for better or worse)!

If I have a strong negative or positive opinion about something, you can expect that to stay the same. This post will mainly center around the items I had mixed or indifferent feelings about in my reviews, but I’m now definitively on one side.

Dior Backstage Face and Body Powder No Powder

I remember saying that for my personal needs, I wasn’t certain if this powder was worth $40. I initially didn’t notice that much of a blurring effect because if I take my time blending and concealing all my problem areas, the powder doesn’t make much of a difference except adding a flattering sheen. However, it’s when I’ve been in a rush to put on makeup that I have noticed a dramatic difference! The blurring effect is so much more noticeable from blending out harsher lines of bronzer or contour, toning down a blush, adding some life to a look that’s too flat or dry looking. This has saved me so many times from having to restart a makeup look. I’ve grown to love this powder so much and wholeheartedly recommend it now because I think everyone has those moments when we just don’t have time to make things as smooth as possible, which this powder helps with, assuming it works with your skin type.

All foundations eventually settle into the smile line on the right side of my mouth. This powder fills and smooths it over so that you can’t even see it! After several hours it starts to be visible again, but the fact that it can make this dramatic of a difference at all is amazing to me!

The left side of the photo shows my mouth area after six hours of wearing the Becca Dewing Skin Tint as foundation. It had not been set with powder all day. The right half of the photo shows what the area looked like after I applied the Dior Powder-No-Powder to that spot. It completely freshened up the area.

Rituel de Fille

I was already at a disadvantage with this brand because of my sensitivity to lanolin (which so many of their products contain). When I discovered mold growing around the outer rim of one of the Nectar Balms, I decided that I am no longer interested in any products from this brand that are not powder based. That eliminates practically everything they sell. That Nectar Balm was only 8 months old and I only used it a few times. Then 6 of those 8 months it remained clasped shut and inside a resealable pouch. So, I do not trust how the brand preserves ingredients (it’s supposed to last 12 months after opening), on top of the lanolin issue and the waxiness of other products and certain items being overpriced.

Kaleidos Space Age Highlighters

These were on the cusp of me liking them, as having visible glitter particles is not my preference, but they weren’t so sparse for me to stop using them altogether. However, I’ve embraced my highlighter preference as there are so many reflective illuminating smooth products that suit me, so I decluttered all three of them. If the glitter/shimmer in a highlighter isn’t fine enough, I will just not continue to use them. I have decluttered other highlighters that don’t fit my style such as Fenty’s Trophy Wife Killawatt Highlighter and the Oden’s Eye Solmane Palette.

Tarte Shape Tape Ultra Creamy Concealer

Other than this Instagram post, I haven’t shared my finalized thoughts about this concealer until now. Unfortunately, I really do not like it. I decluttered both from my collection. My love of the original Shape Tape runs pretty deep because I practically need Spackle to cover my dark under eye circles. The main downside to Shape Tape is that it can look dry, so the Ultra Creamy version seemed like the perfect remedy. The finish is nice, but it provides way less coverage than the original, creases significantly, and is not long-lasting. The only thing I find similar about them is the packaging. Even the original 53N Deep and Ultra Creamy 53N Deep have different undertones despite them both being labeled neutral. The original leans golden, which I like, but the ultra creamy leans pink.

Mixing the new and original concealers together improves the performance, but the combo is still worse than if I used the original on its own. Even in reviews I watched where people said they liked it, to me, their under eyes did not look as nice as usual. So, I definitely don’t recommend it.

Final Thoughts

It would have been nice to end this post with a list of five products in total, as five is a nice number, but I could only think of these four. There still a few things I haven’t made up my mind about, such as Makeup Geek eyeshadows (which I will officially review at some point this year), and Viseart shadows after being unimpressed by the Dark Mattes Edit Palette in my last Viseart purchase, but I need a bit more time with them in order to decide.

As a sort of honorable mention, I can say that the ELF Instant Lift Brow Pencil has reclaimed the top spot as my favorite brow product over the ELF Ultra Precise Brow Pencil. I liked how thin and easy it was to draw those realistic brow hairs, but I still missed the Instant Lift after I used it up. Then one day, when I went to use the Ultra Precise, I don’t know if it dried out but the whole product just slid right out. It was unusable at that point. I don’t know if it was just a fluke or if that tends to happen with the Ultra precise, but since I loved the Instant Lift anyway (and it’s cheaper and I know I can use up the entire pencil without issue), I decided the Instant Lift deserves the crown and I’m now on brow pencil #2.

That is all for today!

I have one review scheduled for next week, but my consistent return to Monday postings will not begin until September 13th. I hope you all are doing well!

Thank you for reading!

-Lili

Makeup by Mario Soft Sculpt Collection Blushes Review

Sometimes I really am a curious cat. I’ve made it no secret that most of what Makeup by Mario releases aren’t exciting enough to compel me to make a purchase. However, this third collection launch revolves around highlighters, blushes, and bronzers, the latter two categories of makeup which have become a Herculean task to resist. I managed to talk myself out of the bronzers (and highlighters), but the best I could do was limit myself to three blushes. If you sign up for emails and use the code WELCOME15, you can save 15% off your first purchase from the official website. In addition, ground shipping is free. Of course, I could have saved even more money if I waited for a sale but…that’s the price of impatience!

I have two Soft Pop Powder Blushes in the shades Creamy Peach and Poppy Pink. Both products are equally smoothing on the skin. They give good color payoff and are buildable. In saying that, I have to point out that most brands know how to make a decent quality blush. It’s more common to find a good one than a bad one. Between all the brands, the main differences come down preferences of the levels of pigmentation someone wants, the shade and tone, how finely the powder is milled, the finish, and excluded ingredients (if you subscribe to the “clean beauty” trend). What I consider a top tier blush is whichever of those qualities suit my particular preferences the most. Anything deemed above standard is technically subjective. The Makeup by Mario powder formula is faultless, which is what I expect of any blush. However, what makes these unique comes down to longevity. The majority of powder blushes last a full eight hours on me. With the Mario blushes, I noticed that by the end of the night they looked nearly fresh! I went as far as a twelve hour wear test with Creamy Peach, which is very subtle on me to begin with, and other than slight fading on the apples of my cheek where I applied the least amount of product, it looked like I had only worn it for a few hours instead of twelve! This test was done with no setting powder or setting spray, it was just applied on top of a face primer and foundation. Based on previous 8-9 hour wear tests in which I used a powder as well, I believe it would increase the longevity even more. The long lasting results occurred with Poppy Pink too. I have dry-normal skin, so I cannot say whether other skin types will have as much luck with these as I did, but I recommend anyone who has trouble with the staying power of blushes to look into these. They are by far the longest lasting blushes I own with the least amount of fading when applied on top of foundation.

On completely bare skin, the blush started to significantly fade after 6 hours and by 8 hours it was pretty much gone. I expect a makeup artist brand to create products intended for use on foundation, not bare skin, so this test was purely for those who sometimes put on a blush and go about their day. I do that occasionally, so I know to reserve these blushes for days that I’m wearing foundation.

On Sephora’s website, Creamy Peach is listed as a shimmer formula and Poppy Pink as a matte. When I turn the pan in the light, I still see tiny sparkles here and there in Poppy Pink, but that doesn’t translate to the face. It still looks matte (though not dry or flat). As for Creamy Peach, the shimmer particles are easier to see, but it gives the effect of a satin finish. In my previous review on the Pat Mcgrath “shimmer” blush formula, I mentioned that Nude Venus didn’t have as much of a shimmery look on the skin, and Creamy Peach is even less so. I’d consider it a demi-matte. Below are swatches of some shimmer blushes I have in my collection to compare the amount of particles that can be seen.

I don’t consider this to be a negative aspect, just a warning for anyone expecting Creamy Peach to be very shimmery, reflective, or glowy. Instead, it’s a subdued satin radiance.

I watched some of Mario’s demonstration videos, and his intent was to create a soft, everyday natural “makeup for real life” kind of look. Poppy Pink is quite a vibrant shade, so using a fluffy lightly packed brush helps to achieve the vision Mario had in mind. I only need one or two dips with my brush. It’s the perfect blush draping color which I’ve been loving to apply further back on my cheeks, leaving the apples bare. On the other hand, because the tones of Creamy Peach blend into my skin tone so much (and it’s a little less pigmented than Poppy Pink), I have to heavily pack on 5-6 layers to get it to show. The nice thing is that even after applying so much product, it doesn’t look at all powdery on my skin. And the lack of reflective shimmer actually works in my favor because any other shimmer blush would have me beaming like the sun if I put that much on. The shade darkens a tiny bit, when it has had time to settle into my skin, but it’s never going to give me more than a subtle flush of color. This goes hand in hand with MAC Melba and MAC Mocha, Pat Mcgrath’s Nude Venus, and Hourglass Diffused Heat as shades that are barely deep enough to work for me, but I love them anyway.

One thing that I found to be odd was that during the first week of the launch there were skin tones recommendations for each product on Sephora and Mario’s websites. Now they only have it for the highlighter, powder bronzer, and shaping sticks. The note that Creamy Peach could still work on medium-dark skintones and up to dark skin tones for Earthy Pink is the reason I felt comfortable taking a chance on those shades. Maybe they thought the advisory notes were too limiting and removed them, like Poppy Pink being listed for medium dark to deep dark skin tones even though it’s a pretty universal shade. Or perhaps there were some complaints for the blushes and that’s why they were removed, such as me being medium-dark and having Creamy Peach technically work for me, but only if I really pack it on. It’s still difficult to see on camera (clicking the image to enlarge it helps) but it’s visible in person.

For $24, these are an easy recommendation if you actually need a blush or just want something nice. As I mentioned before, the only aspect that really puts this above others on the market is how long lasting they are, so if that’s not an amazing feature to you, you may not find these blushes to be that impressive. I’m glad I have them, though.

I have no business continuing to purchase cream blushes, especially in the stick form which I don’t like as much, but my rationale was that I could use the special brush at the other end of the stick with my other cream products. That way, when the Soft Pop Blush Stick eventually goes bad, I’ll still have something usable out of it. I purchased the shade Earthy Pink, as I thought it would look the most natural on me.

I think this is a nice product. It’s like a slightly dewier version of the LYS Higher Standard Satin Matte Cream Blush. The LYS blush is only $16 for 6.5 grams. The Blush Stick has 10.5 grams, plus a brush, for $28. So, I do think the Mario Stick is fairly priced. It’s also only $2 more than the Fenty Match Stix Shimmers (which come in blush shades) which have 7.1 grams and, in my opinion, a lower quality formula.

Because I noticed the similarities of ingredients between the cream product in the Makeup by Mario Master Eye Prep and Set to MAC’s Foundation Stick, as well as the Master Metal Manipulator to the Mehron Mixing Liquid, I was curious to see if there were any products that came before which had similarities to the Stick Blush formula. The ingredients that follow the same order are highlighted in yellow. Underlined yellow means they all contain it but in different orders. Underlined red shows the ingredients unique to that formula and underlined blue shows an ingredient shared by two but not all three. The three products are the Glow Cream Base from the Natasha Denona Love Glow Cheek Palette, Makeup by Mario Blush Stick, and the Highlighter end from the Uoma Beauty Double Take Sculpt and Strobe stick. I own a Uoma Stick and can confirm they actually don’t feel the same. The one from Uoma has a bit more slide/glide to it. They have similar griping power on the skin but Mario’s has more of a tacky feel whereas Uoma’s has more slip. I own a different Natasha Denona Cheek Palette and the Cream Base formula for the version I have contains different ingredients, so I don’t know if they are similar or not.

The ways I recommend applying this product are as follows:

  • Swipe the blush onto the back of the hand and pick up the product with the brush end to stipple it onto the cheeks. This method gives the most control in terms of being able to build up the product and leave a slightly less shiny finish. A second option is to dab the blush directly onto the cheek and stipple with the brush. This leaves more shine on the skin and reduces the amount of cleanup. I do not recommend swiping the stick across the cheek as that can move the foundation underneath.
  • Use your fingers or a different (less dense) brush for a sheerer application. I personally do not like the look of the product when applied with the fingers. On bare skin it took me longer to blend and over foundation it kept getting splotchy.
  • Swipe a slightly damp sponge across the surface of the blush stick and bounce it onto the cheeks for the (surprisingly) most opaque non-foundation-disturbing application and for the dewiest finish. For a sheerer application, dab the product onto the cheeks first and then bounce with the sponge to blend it out.

As seen in the four photo collage further up, a setting or finishing powder will lighten the cream blush and instantly mattify it. Any powder, including powder blushes, will both set it and ensure it lasts on the face looking quite fresh for at least eight hours. I have not done longer wear tests on it. Putting a powder blush on top of the cream looks nice, but it also looks fantastic when the blush stick is applied on top of a powder blush (like the Patrick Ta method). I’ve tested this with a few other brands’ powder blushes, but using the Makeup by Mario blush stick and powder blushes together absolutely locks it onto my face and they work together so seamlessly and beautifully.
If you don’t use powder, the cream blush will set on its own after a few minutes. However, it won’t be fully dry which means it will mostly stay on the face if touched. Regardless of me applying it over foundation or on my bare face, it fades around 6 hours if not combined with a powder in some way. Perhaps a setting spray will work to avoid powder, but I have not tried that out. The finish isn’t very dewy on my skin anyway, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the luminosity by using a powder. It’s easier for me to just do that or apply a powder blush on top when using the Stick Blush.

I mentioned that I used other brushes with this product. With my Sonia G Keyaki Mini Base brush, it worked fine but was a bit sheer. I thought perhaps the natural and synthetic bristle mix caused this effect but I had the same result with my Smashbox Cream Cheek Brush which is fully synthetic. Between the three, I prefer to use the Mario brush with the Mario blush.

I also tried the Makeup by Mario brush with the Patrick Ta cream blush from the powder/cream blush duo, as well as an LYS cream blush. It works fine with them, though I still prefer the Sonia G Keyaki Mini Base with my other cream products because the bristles are softer.

Speaking of the Mini Base, did you know that the new Sonia G Fusion Series is launching at Beautylish tomorrow? The same fiber mix in that brush is used for all the bristles in this series. Photo credit goes to Mel Thompson who was the first person to put out a video.

I will be getting two or three brushes. Considering how much I rave about the Mini Base, I wanted anyone who may be interested to know it will be available June 22nd! Okay, back to the review!

The foundations I used in the wear tests were the Nars Soft Matte Foundation, Dermablend Cover Drops, and a mixture of the Uoma Beauty Say What Foundation with Beautyblender Bounce Liquid Whip Foundation. The primers used were the MILK Hydro Grip Primer, Good Molecules Silicone-Free Priming Moisturizer, and Tatcha Liquid Silk Canvas. The brushes I used with the Poppy Pink blush were the Chikuhodo KZ-4, rephr 05, and HS-2 Hana Sakura Blush Brush. The brushes I used with Creamy Peach were the Bisyodo B-C-01, rephr 24, and Chikuhodo FO-3. The rephr 24 was most helpful because it’s so dense (as long as you keep it in a brush guard after washing) which meant I could layer up Creamy Peach easier. To those who read my last Fude update, do you remember that the rephr 24 was the one other brush I wanted to try, but it was always out of stock? I finally got it! It happens to be my favorite of the rephr brushes I own now. No figure!

Additional notes about the detachable Makeup by Mario Blush Stick brush is that any residue is easily wiped away with a microfiber cloth. I fully washed the brush once so far and the bristles maintained their shape and did not fray or become looser packed.

Because I already have cream blushes I like and the Mario brush is only superior when used with the Mario cream blush, in hindsight, I should have only bought the powder blushes. My inner makeup goblin talked me into it, and while I don’t regret it, I could have gone without the blush stick.

That’s all for today! One final thing I wanted to mention is that every so often I feel it is necessary to put a disclaimer that all products reviewed in this post were purchased by me. I always disclose if I did not buy something, even as far as mentioning if the product was a birthday or holiday gift from a friend. Also, none of the links in my blog are affiliate links. If this changes in the future, I will state it each time.

Thank you for reading!

-Lili