I look back on the last twelve months and can’t believe an entire year has gone by. This has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding years I’ve had yet and I have lots to look forward to for 2016. I took a quick look at my blog posts for the past year along with an inventory of my favorite beauty products. I started with a massive list – there were so many good launches this past year, especially for lipsticks. Brands have really upped their beauty game with better formulas. I’ve edited my list as much as I could to what I considered game changers this year.
I have four categories of best in beauty this year. The first up is makeup favorites. I have 20 of my top makeup picks for lips, eyes and face – nails have their own category (up next).
If I were stuck on a desert island and could only have one makeup palette with me, it would be any of the Urban Decay Naked Palettes. I’ve been such a huge fan of Urban Decay for years and out of all the makeup I’ve bought, tried and tested, the Naked2 and Naked3 Eyeshadow Palettes are hands down my favorites – ever. I’ve done quite a few reviews on each palette in the past but I don’t think I’ve ever rounded them all up in one post. Today I’ve teamed up with Nordstrom to share my favorites from the line along with swatches and thoughts on their latest launch the UD x Gwen Stefani Eyeshadow Palette.
The Naked, Naked2, Naked3 and Naked Smoky Palettes all have a mix of beautiful neutrals. Each palette offers a diverse range of colors and textures ranging from matte, shimmer, frost, glitter and satin. The texture of the shadows are amazingly smooth, rich and super easy to blend. They last all day on my lids – although some of the glitter shades will have some fallout. I would say Naked has the most diverse range of neutrals from light, medium to dark. It has a split mix of warm and cool shades. Naked2 is the most neutral option with colors that will make any taupe lover go crazy. It has 2 of my favorite colors in YDK and Suspect (also available individually). Naked3 is the rosy pink neutral option, as one who rarely wears pink eye shadow, it was a huge surprise to me at how wearable the colors in this one are. The colors are absolutely perfect. The latest Naked palette is the Naked Smoky which I adore but is hit or miss for many. It’s the darkest and most dramatic mix of neutrals – the texture of the shadows is slightly harder than the other palettes, but I find pigment to still be excellent and easy to blend.
The best matte eyeshadow palettes on the market are the Urban Decay Naked Basics and Naked2 Basics. I passed on the Naked Basics one for the longest time because I thought the colors would be too light for my skintone. Thanks to the extra push from my readers, I bought it and have been really happy. I don’t usually like matte shadows because I find they are either too sheer or too intense. Sheer ones just don’t show up on my skin, intense ones are too powdery or creamy and make my lids look wrinkled. The ones from Urban Decay are the perfect texture to just melt into the skin but at the same time the pigment shows up really well. The colors are easy to blend with each other. I like using these alone or mixed with shimmer colors. If I had to pick one, I would say Naked2 Basics is my favorite for my medium olive-toned skin, but both are really good.
The 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencils come in a wide range of colors. I of course prefer the neutrals (there are tons of options in this range), but there are lots of bold brights and shimmers that are really fun. I always have Bourbon on hand, I have a few actually. One is a mini from a holiday set, and I also have the full size. It’s a shimmering dark chocolate brown. Rockstar is a classic deep plum. I like that it’s deep but not so dark that it looks black. The Naked Double-Ended Pencils are nice to have for travel because you get 2 shades in one stick.
If you’ve used Urban Decay for a long time, you are probably aware of the lipstick changes over the years. The formulas have changed numerous times (they used to have their glosses in a squeeze tube, anyone remember Midnight Cowboy?). Right now three current lip formulas I like include the Ultra Nourishing Lipgloss, Revolution Hi-Color Lipgloss and Revolution Lipstick.
The Ultra Nourishing Lipglosses are cushiony shiny glosses. They are on the sheer side, so many of them end up looking very similar once on the lips with slight variations. My favorite is Naked because it has the prettiest sheen and shimmer that makes the lips look full but not too full.
The Revolution High-Color Lipgloss is a rich pigment gloss that is almost like a liquid lipstick. The two neutrals in the line are Kinky and Liar, I almost bought both but they are really similar. Liar is deeper and more pink, while Kinky is more beige and peachy.
For the lipsticks, I’ve only bought one formula. There are three formulas of lipstick. The Revolution Lipstick is the classic version which offers creamy pigmented coverage with a bit of a sheen. Lasting power is really good. There is also the Revolution Sheer Lipstick and Revolution Matte Lipstick as well which I haven’t tested on my lips, but when swatching them in store, the sheers are just that – sheer. The mattes are full coverage velvets.
For the face, the Naked Skin products have often received high ratings and raves. I have tried two items and really like them. The Naked Skin Ultra Definition Powder Foundation is a smooth powder that gives natural medium to full coverage. I use the shade Medium Light Warm. I like to use it to set liquid foundation or for mid-day touch ups on the T-zone. As a foundation it lasts pretty long and looks very natural. I like that it doesn’t cake even if you use the sponge. The Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer is a great concealer for both under eye and spot coverage. It’s full coverage without looking cakey. My match is Medium Neutral and I like how it really covers but blends well into the skin so it looks like your skin.
Swatches of all the concealer shades:
Last but not least, the latest from Urban Decay is a celebrity collaboration. They just launched the UD x Gwen Stefani Eyeshadow Palette (limited-edition). Being a fan of both, I knew had to buy it even though at first glance there were 2 shades I thought might be questionable. Here’s a quick snapshot below to show you the size/scale of the packaging compared to the other palettes. It has 15 eyeshadows in a large mirrored compact (Naked palettes have 6 to 12 shades). I love the little detailing on the mirror.
The 15 shades are mostly neutral with 3 colors that offer a bit of pop. There is a good mix of matte, shimmer and satin with one glittery shade and two colors that are on the sparkly side. I’ve been playing with this for only a few days but initial thoughts are thumbs up.
Descriptions of the colors in the UD x Gwen Stefani Palette:
Blondie is a shimmering pale cool-toned cream
Bathwater is a frosted yellow champagne
Skimp is a satiny soft pale cream with pink tones
Steady is a shimmering beige pink
Punk is a matte warm brown
Baby is a shimmering neutral mauve pink taupe
Anaheim is a matte fawn beige
Stark is a matte warm beige
Zone is a matte tan
Serious is a satiny grey brown with shimmer, goes on more matte
Pop is a glitter champagne sparkle
Harajuku is a cool-toned blue based pink shimmer
Danger is a sparkling bright navy
1987 is a sparkling gold
Blackout is a matte black
Pigment on all the colors is really good. There is some fallout with a few of the shimmering sparkles like Harajuku, 1987 and Baby, but once on the lids they stay put. The only color I wasn’t thrilled with is Pop mainly because it has crazy fall out with the glittery chunks unless you pat on the lids with a finger (over cream shadow to help it stick). I thought Danger would be a mess but it actually stayed put and didn’t fall all over the face when I applied with a detail brush. I thought Harajuku would give me a pink-eye look but it’s actually a very wearable pink.
Quick eye look with six colors layered and blended. The camera flash washed out the colors but I included a snapshot of the colors lined up together I used to help show the mix:
That rounds up my favorites from Urban Decay. There are a lot of single shadows that fall in the shimmer neutral category that are staples in my weekly makeup routine but the palettes are so much more convenient to use. Many times I find palettes have a few shades that I don’t like but with the Naked ones, I like every color in every palette.
If you’re looking for a versatile palette, you can’t go wrong the Naked Palettes. My top 3 favorites are Naked2, Naked3 and Naked2 Basics – they are good for everyday, great for travel and have enough color to create a look for evening or special occasions. The colors are timeless and you can wear them any time of year.
Do you have any Urban Decay favorites? I’m curious about the Naked Skin Foundation, Loose Powder and Afterglow Blush – if you have any thoughts please let me know, I’d be interested to hear what you think.
Thanks to Nordstrom for teaming up to sponsor this post. As always, all opinions my own.
Today I have a roundup of concealers I’ve been putting to the test. It’s been a year since I last did a concealer rotation. Since my summer trip to Europe back in June I’ve gotten a few shades darker than normal so my go-to favorites Clé de Peau Beauté in Almond and NARS Ginger no longer matched my skin. Several months ago one of my friends asked me about my favorite concealers which include Clé de Peau Beauté, NARS and Edward Bess. Those three brands also happen to be her favorites but she wanted to try something new and so began my hunt for something new that would perform as well if not better than my tried and true. This post has been several months in the making. It took me weeks of testing and swatching with several trips to the counter to find matches. Finding a shade can be tricky depending on what you want to conceal. Also some oxidize in color so a swatch of color that is an exact match might turn out to be too dark after it sets.
I put five new-to-me concealers to the test from Charlotte Tilbury, Bare Minerals, Urban Decay, Make Up For Ever and Chanel. In addition I’ve added a feature on the Surratt Surreal Skin Concealer (I bought this last spring but never reviewed it) and I’ve included the Clé de Peau Beauté and YSL Touche Éclat for swatches in the roundup. Most brands have more than one type of concealer formula. I looked for ones with a creamy texture that blended easily on the skin without emphasizing lines. I prefer medium to full coverage with a smooth looking finish. Ideally I would like something with 100% full coverage but finding an exact match is tricky and I often find full coverage concealers too thick.
Below from left to right:
Surratt Beauty Surreal Skin Concealer ($50 for 0.06 oz) in #5 is the most expensive concealer I’ve tried in the per oz sense. It comes in a twist up stick form and has sheer to medium coverage. I found 5 to be a good match but the coverage is minimal and texture is on the dry side. If you have oily skin or find that you only need a tiny bit of brightening/coverage this one is good, but I wasn’t thrilled with it. I will use it to the end though.
Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer ($70 for 5 g/.17 oz) in Almond is one of my all time favorite concealers. It’s extremely pricey but well worth the splurge. It covers under the eye really well, doesn’t cake, lasts all day and blends really well. The trick is to warm it up with the fingers to apply. If you apply it cold and straight from the tube, it can look thick. A little goes a long way and my tube has lasted forever without going bad (one lasted 2 years).
Charlotte Tilbury The Retoucher Conceal and Treat Stick ($35 for 3.5 ml/0.12 fl oz) in #3 is a new concealer to me. It’s one that’s been on my radar for a long time but I’m usually not a fan of click-type brushes because they seem so unsanitary to me. This is my new favorite. It conceals and brightens dark circles like magic. It blends into a creamy smooth finish. It stays put although you do need to set with powder. It works wonders on spots as well. This has a skincare element to hydrate and plump the skin. I’m in love.
YSL Touche Éclat Radiant Touch Concealer ($42 for 0.1 oz) in 5.5 is a classic I’ve been using on and off. I found it worked under the eyes to brighten and conceal but in a very natural minimal way. Coverage is sheer to medium. If you don’t have a lot you need to cover under the eyes and need just a tad of brightening this is good. For me as I get older I find I need and prefer more coverage (I’m 34 right now). For spot coverage this doesn’t do much.
Bare Minerals bareSkin Concealer ($20 for 6 ml/0.20 fl oz) in Medium-Golden and Tan were both pleasant surprises. I say they surprised me because the color range look liked it skipped my match. Medium-Golden is my current match for under eyes. It covers smoothly and has a thinner texture making it feel truly weightless. Under the eyes it makes the skin look smooth. There’s no caking or emphasizing of lines. It is on the creamy side so if you have super oily skin it might be too dewy for you. It has a slight glow without looking too glowy that makes the face look younger with brightness. It held up well in the high 80 degree heat for me (I set it with Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Powder).
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer ($28 for 5 ml/0.16 fl oz) in Medium Neutral and Med-Dark Warm is something that is raved about by so many. I was matched in store to Med-Dark Warm. It’s one that is a perfect match on my skin but darkens after 5 minutes. In store I tried both the Medium Neutral and Med-Dark Warm, one on each side. The artist who matched me said she thought the darker one was better. I’m actually in between shades for under eyes. I prefer the lighter option for the eye area and the darker one for spot cover. Texture is thin but creamy. It lasts all day without caking, creasing, fading or drying out. I would say the color selection is pretty limited and the colors do oxidize. If you can test this in store – see how it wears throughout the day before picking a color.
Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer ($32 for 15 ml/0.5 fl oz) in 7 and 8 are two shades I picked up from Sephora. I also tested these, one on each side. The artist said she thought 8 was better. The product does darken slightly, but not as much as the Urban Decay. I bought 8 originally and asked my husband what he thought. He thought it looked like an exact match but I felt it made my face look sallow and tired (for under eyes). I ordered 7 which I found to be better for under the eyes and which will be a good match for other areas as I lose my tan. 8 works perfectly for spot coverage. If you want something that covers spots really well and looks seamless by blending into the skin this one is really quite amazing.
Chanel Correcteur Perfection Concealer ($42 for 7.5 g/0.26 oz) in 30 Beige is something I gave a try recently. Chanel concealers seem to have gone through several reformulations over the years. I’ve never really been a huge fan but it’s mainly because I’m always matched to colors that are way too pale for what I should be wearing. I know everyone has their own take on how to match concealer, but I really don’t like having my under eye area 2-3 shades lighter than the rest of my face. In this case I’m again, in between shades. I bought 30 although I really should have passed on this one. The consistency and coverage is really good. Right now 30 is just the slightest bit too dark for under eyes but 20 is definitely too light.
Swatched side by side:
I spent hours researching concealer shades and swatches before going to the counter. Even if a makeup artist offers to match me, I still like to test multiple shades to see how they compare. Half the time I’m mis-matched and researching swatches ahead of time helps me know what to look for. I was able to swatch most of the shades side by side for reference. The only line I skipped was Make Up For Ever because the 3 stores I went to each were missing testers of multiple shades.
Surratt Beauty concealers come in a small twist up tube, there are currently eight shades, each color has a number as the name:
Cle de Peau Beaute comes in a twist-up tube, there are currently 6 shades:
Charlotte Tilbury The Retoucher comes in a brush wand style, you twist the base to click up product (similar to Stila Lip Glazes), there are 10 shades available:
YSL Touche Eclat (unit was missing 1.5) comes with a brush tip that dispenses product when you push the base, there are 10 shades available at Sephora. Some other retailers also have shade #6. The colors swatched side by side seem odd because they don’t appear to go from lightest to darkest. Even after doing a lot of research, making sense of the options, colors and undertones can still be confusing. I took a photo of the display and double checked each pen to make sure they were in the correct slot before swatching in numerical order:
Bare Mienrals bareSkin Concealer comes in a wand with a sponge tip applicator, there are six colors currently available:
Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer comes with a sponge tip applicator in a tube, there are eight shades available, I like that they have neutral and warm options in some of the shades:
Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer comes in a squeeze tube, the formula is really concentrated so a little goes a long way, unfortunately none of the stores I visited had testers of all the colors so I wasn’t able to swatch all the shades. There are 12 shades available, but they some skip numbers, it goes from 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18 to 20.
Chanel Correcteur Perfection comes in a long tube with a sponge tip applicator. This one wins for the prettiest packaging, there are six shades available:
In testing a number of different brands of concealer I have indeed found a few new favorites. To sum up my thoughts:
My top two favorites for under eye are the Charlotte Tilbury Retoucher and Bare Minerals bareSkin concealers, they brighten the face, cover dark circles really well and both last all day on me
Best spot cover product is the Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer
Urban Decay Naked Skin wins for best multi-purpose concealer, but shades darken/oxidize and color selection is pretty limited
Surratt Beauty was the most disappointing for me, mainly because it didn’t have the coverage I was looking for and texture is on the dry side
Chanel would win if the color selection was more diverse (I’m in between shades, and based on my swatches I suspect many of you will fall in between shades or outside of the range completely)
If I had to recommend you check out only one, the Charlotte Tilbury wins for new ones that I’ve tested, but my heart still belongs to Cle de Peau Beaute. The NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer is still a formula that I really like for under the eye and spot treatment, but after looking at all the colors I found the next shades up from Ginger to be either too pink or too dark. (Café Makeup has an amazing post with swatches of all the NARS concealer shades swatched here.)
In case you’re new to any of these brands, I’ve listed some of the retailers where you can find the following brands:
What’s your go-to concealer right now? As always I would love to hear about your favorites or what you’ve been testing right now. Do you use the same for under eye and spots? Or do you have different colors/brands you use?
The Bare Minerals concealers were provided as press samples for review consideration.
It’s time for a foundation update now that we are transitioning to fall weather. I’ve been testing some new base formulas over the past few months. I have an assortment of foundations to share today by coverage type which I’ve found suitable for my normal combination skin. These days my skin is slightly oily in the T-zone with a few dry patches around the chin area as I’m working to clear up my skin. I still have super sensitive skin that reacts to a lot of foundations so if you’re like me, I this roundup helps you find something new to try.
In case you have completely different skin type and foundation preferences, I highly recommend you give Nordstrom’s online foundation search tool to help you find the right foundation for you. There is a quick and easy form for you to fill out where you select skin type, coverage and finish preference. This filters brands and formulas for you to check out. I highly recommend you give it a try.
I’ve split my fall foundation edit into three categories: Natural Coverage, Medium-to-Full Coverage and Powder Foundations. My personal foundation preference is for something that is natural looking and lightweight but also has decent coverage to even out the skin and create a flawless base. Many have asked me if it’s necessary for add-ons like primers and powder. I don’t think all foundations need a primer, but I’m a firm believer in setting with powder. Many times I set with a powder foundation by dusting the face with a brush. Some think it’s too much to layer powder foundation on top of liquid foundation but if you layer it right, it’s not too much. (More on primers and powders in a separate post.)
Up first are three new powder foundations I’ve been testing. If you’ve read The Beauty Look Book for a long time you will know that my holy grail powder foundation is the Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Matte Powder Foundation. My color is usually Warm 100 and has worked for me even though I’ve gotten darker over the summer. I decided to try a few new formulas.
Urban Decay Naked Skin Ultra Definition Powder Foundation is indeed a high-def kind of product. It’s a super pigmented and super velvety kind of powder foundation that has medium to full coverage. You can use this one wet or dry, I prefer dry with a sponge or dusted with a brush. For me trying powder foundation is tricky – as the skin warms up, powders often darken or oxidize in color. The Urban Decay Naked Skin Powder Foundation does warm up to the skin but doesn’t darken. It holds up really well with minor touch ups needed on the nose for me. I use Medium Light Warm. There are a number of shade options with different undertones.
The Tom Ford Flawless Powder Foundation launched a few months ago. This is extremely pricey at $80 but the formula is amazing. With a simple base of moisturizer the sponge applies this on the skin and makes all your pores disappear. Skin appears smooth and truly flawless. It’s easy to build – the texture in the compact looks and feels powdery but there is no fall out on the face and it doesn’t cake. The downside (aside from the steep price tag) is the limited color selection. I’m in between Fawn and Sable. It was suggested I opt for Fawn as the closest match. I’m about 1.5 shades darker now compared to what I am most of the year. For right now I can get by with Fawn but it’s a tad bit too pale. It will be perfect for winter. That being said I do hope they expand the color selection to match the liquids because this formula is incredible.
Giorgio Armani also launched a new foundation called the Luminous Silk Compact. Color selection jumps around in this one as well. I am normally anywhere from a 6, 6.5 to 7 in the Luminous Silk and Lasting Silk. The powders I saw seemed to run on the dark side. I was matched to 4 and I was super skeptical about the counter rep’s matching skills because I expected to be 5.5 or 6.5. She was right. It warms up on the skin. I would say this is one of the sheerer powder foundations I’ve tried. If you like a super natural look this is a good one. It is very smooth and finely milled. I prefer more coverage but it’s great as a setting powder or layered over a sheer foundation.
Next up are some natural medium coverage foundations. Some of these are more on the sheer side but each of these will offer enough coverage to even the skin and cover minor imperfections. I have a few tried and true mixed in with a new to me formula.
Amore Pacific Color Control Cushion Compact was featured a few weeks ago. This is the first cushion compact I’ve tried and my color match is Tan Gold 204. Several of you mentioned you hoped shade 102 would launch in the US and the good news is that I just noticed that it’s now online at Nordstrom! The Amore Pacific Cushion Compact is the most natural looking foundation I’ve tried that still gives medium coverage. It melts into your face to look like skin but as you press it into your face you will see it transform into what I call your skin but better. Color selection is limited so I’m thrilled that Tan Gold is my perfect match (it warms up and adjusts within the first 2-5 minutes but doesn’t darken further after it sets).
The NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer is one of my holy grail base products because it’s really not like a traditional tinted moisturizer. When my friends ask me for a recommendation on a foundation that’s natural this is the one I recommend first. It’s usually followed by a response along the lines of, “oh but I don’t like tinted moisturizers, they’re too sheer and greasy.” I agree that most are, but this one is very different. It’s more like a natural foundation with a super lightweight texture that makes the skin glow naturally. I’m usually Groenland year round but after getting a tan I’ve found the next shade up St. Moritz to be a better match. If you haven’t tried this formula I highly recommend you do. It has the perfect natural coverage and glows without feeling too glowy and doesn’t get greasy or too emollient throughout the day.
La Mer Reparative Skin Tint is something I featured over the summer. This is one of the few skincare + foundation in one kind of products that I actually like. The formula melds into the skin beautifully and offers natural medium coverage. Over time it improves the texture of the skin adding moisture without feeling heavy. The only downside is the color selection is limited and it’s also very expensive but if you can find a color match it’s well worth the splurge. It helps rebalance the skin and lasts all day long. If you have normal to dry skin this one is really good.
The Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream was a pleasant surprise for me. I received a few press sample recently and gave it a try. I have to say it far exceeded my expectations – the concept of a gel cream didn’t sound appealing to me since most gel-like foundations feel sticky and often look too dewy on my skin. This formula has thoroughly impressed me, I like it just as much as the NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer and the added bonus is the color selection seems better than most lines. This is a BB Cream, CC Cream and Tinted Moisturizer in one. I’m usually not a fan of BB or CC creams because I don’t like the way they feel on my face. The Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue feels weightless and blends into the skin beautifully.
The final category for my fall foundation roundup is medium to full coverage formulas. This is my formula of choice since I prefer bases that cover my skin more to create an even base. All of these have been featured before on the blog, they are my tried and true.
Tom Ford makes excellent foundation. The Traceless Foundation Stick is hands down the best foundation stick I’ve ever tried. It’s super creamy and easy to blend on the skin. It covers imperfections without looking cakey. Since it’s super pigmented I recommend layering this on areas you need extra coverage instead of applying it all over the face. I love the formula but the pigment is too rich for the entire face everyday (at least for me). The Traceless Perfecting Foundation is something I use regularly. I am normally a match to Bisque 4 but right now Natural 5 is my perfect summer match.
The NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation is another holy grail for full coverage foundations. This one gets mixed reviews – some love it, others hate it. It’s super concentrated and a little goes a long way. It lasts all day on my normal combination skin and covers the face really really well. If I were to compare this to a lipstick, I would say this is similar to Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution. Both are more matte in finish but have this luminous quality that makes it look natural and not flat. I do think you need to prep the skin properly with a good moisturizer and primer if you have any dryness or uneven texture on the skin (I like the Dolce & Gabbana Primer or any of the ones from NARS). My shades are Santa Fe and Punjab, both of which are too light for me now. Since a little goes a long way I still have a lot of both shades and didn’t want to purchase a third since I’ll be losing my tan soon.
Last but not least, Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet is a classic staple for me. I’ve repurchased it several times. I alternate between Beige 30 and Beige 40 depending on my skintone. It offers medium buildable coverage and feels lightweight. Even though the name “velvet” implies a matte finish, I find it’s a natural luminous matte. It doesn’t look or feel heavy. In terms of foundation recommendations this one usually is #2 on my list. Many often ask, “but what about the Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua? it sounds better and lighter.” Both are good formulas, the Perfection Lumiere Velvet is my favorite because it covers better and has a slightly matte finish. It also lasts all day and feels weightless. The Vitalumiere Aqua is also natural looking and I know many love it. On me it feels a bit too dewy, I would say it’s better suited for you if you like glowy makeup or have normal to dry skin.
If you’re looking for a new foundation to try, I hope you found this roundup helpful. Finding the right foundation can take time. There are so many factors to consider from color matching, formula, finish and lasting power. As usual, I’d love to hear about your foundation favorites or new discoveries. Do you have anything that’s a go-to for fall?
Many thanks to Nordstrom for sponsoring this post. As always all opinions my own. Press samples include the items from Bare Minerals and Amore Pacific. All others purchased by me.
I did a haul last week at Sephora and Nordstrom, both stores are dangerous for the wallet but oh so fun. I had four items on my shopping list and as usual, ended up with more than I intended. These days I prefer to shop online more than in store because it’s easier, more convenient and saves time, but every now and then it’s fun to go see things in person.
From Nordstrom at MAC I picked up the Viva Glam Miley Cyrus II Lipglass. The first one from last year really surprised me – I fell in love with it even though it’s packed with lots of sparkle. Last year’s (which is still available) was a sparkling hot sheer pink (swatched here). This year’s version is a bright sheer coral that’s also sparkly but super pretty. I don’t usually like high-sparkle glosses but I highly recommend checking out both. I also picked up a Cremesheen Pearl Lipstick in Koi Coral for a friend. It’s so pretty I think I need to pick up one for myself.
Sephora has the cutest new shopping bags, although I still see the older glossy bags around. After seeing the October Beauty Insider 250 Perk for Bite Beauty on Instagram, I went to the store to track it down since it hasn’t popped up online yet. This month’s color is Kir Royale which is a deep wine berry plum color. It’s available individually as the Luminous Creme Lipstick. It’s a brighter color than it looks in the tube – but I’m trying to be braver in wearing bolder lip colors for fall.
Here are quick swatches of the Bite Beauty Kir Royale and MAC Viva Glam Miley Cyrus II:
Sheet masks have been on my radar over the past few months. I’m still smitten with Tatcha and Kiehl’s but decided to try some others. Dr. Jart+ Brightening Infusion Hydrogel Mask has mixed reviews but there were single sheets available in store so I decided to pick one up to try it. If you’ve tried any of Dr. Jart+ masks let me know what you think!
If you have Beauty Insider Points to redeem I think the October Beauty Insider 250 Point Perk for Bite Beauty is worth trying to track down. I suspect it will launch online like the others did (I passed on the pink and coral ones). You can get the lipstick individually, but the gloss is super pretty. I highly recommend it – it’s such a pretty color for fall.
Have you hauled anything recently? Would love to hear about any new beauty picks!
My friends and I often chat about beauty and since I’m a beauty blogger that tests quite a few things, I’m often asked “what do you think is the best _________?” Foundation brushes were the topic of discussion last month. My top three favorite tools are the Beautyblender Sponges (the pink one, the white and black ones are not as good even though they’re supposed to be the same), Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush and the Tom Ford Foundation Brush. As soon as I said “Tom Ford” ooohs and aaahhs followed by the question, “ok, but how much do they cost?” At $72 each, neither of my friends were willing to splurge. They asked what made the brushes so good and I told them they were the only brushes I’ve tried that applies foundation streak-free and it requires no extra work to blend into the skin. Even though I had tried quite a few, I was tasked with a project to find a cheaper alternative that performed just as well. Suggested brands included Marc Jacobs Beauty, Urban Decay, Chanel and MAC. I have already tried and tested the Chanel #6 and MAC #190, both of which are good, but still give me streaks, luckily both brands have new ones out so I was able to test those. Given the fact that I am super picky about brushes that leave any kind of streaks, I was skeptical I would find anything as good as Tom Ford.
For quick reference, here are the brush tips/tops shown for size reference and shape, same order as what’s shown above:
Foundations I tested the foundation brushes with: Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick (review), NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation (review here), Marc Jacobs Genius Gel (review), Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting Foundation (review + swatches), Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet Foundation (review)
I went into my local Sephora store to look at the Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes. I have had a really good experience using the Shape and Contour Brush for pressed powders, contouring powders and also foundation. It’s super dense though so it’s better suited for contouring. One of the makeup artists at Sephora recommended the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 for flawless coverage. She said it’s the best brush she’s ever used – the shape allows you to get in the corners of the nose and blend easily and the wide flat shape allows for full coverage with just a few strokes. There’s also the Mini Size #53.5 and Large Size #53XL for the body/decollete. I liked the look and price of the mini, but the regular size comes with a flip open cap that comes in super handy for storage/travel. It keeps the bristles in tact without coming in contact with other tools so it won’t get kinked or smashed.
In the interest of wanting to see which one was better, I bought both. The artist was right. The regular size #53 is indeed better. It’s larger and fluffier and allows for easier application with a few strokes on the face. The mini is still good but the size requires more brushing back and forth to cover the entire face. I was worried the regular size would be too large or that it would soak up a lot of product, but it actually is the perfect size and doesn’t absorb too much foundation. These are made with Naturon fibers that are made from a synthetic PBT, it feature waves and pointed tips to emulate natural fibers.
I’m truly impressed with how good my foundation looked with these. These give flawless coverage that is completely streak free. I liked these best with liquid foundation (versus stick/creams). Huge huge thumbs up.
The Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush is something I’ve actually had sitting in my drawer for a while. It was gifted to me earlier this year. I’ve tried some other Urban Decay brushes before including the ones that come in the Naked Palettes. I’m usually not a huge fan of synthetic brushes although I’m slowly trying more and finding some really good ones these days. I put this one to the test. It has an ultra soft feel with a rounded tip. Urban Decay describes this as a vegan brush. The description of this one: “The brush’s handle is made of recycled aluminum, and its synthetic, cruelty-free brush hairs are more hygienic than real hair (but never get that stinky wet-hair smell).” I found it ultra soft and also does an amazing job at blending foundation flawlessly. For the price it’s a really good option, but I can’t call it a favorite for two reasons. The first is there was a bit of shedding before I washed it. The first washing resulted in a tiny bit more shedding but after that it was done. The second hesitation I have in giving this a glowing review is the brush head is a bit small. It’s not bad – it’s still easy to use, but after testing other brushes, I find others easier and better to get full coverage with less strokes and less blending. Still – if you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive and that will blend liquids without any streaks, this is a good option. It blends foundation sticks on the face really nicely too and is super gentle on the skin.
Two of the Marc Jacobs Beauty foundation brushes have been on my wishlist for a long time, but since I was already 100% happy with the Tom Ford Brushes, I decided to pass, but in the end caved to test them. If you’re like me you probably wonder if glowing reviews are often due to hype. In the case of Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes – the hype is real.
The newest brush The Face III Buffing Foundation Brush is on the expensive side but it’s worth every penny. It’s an ultra plush brush with a super dense head and rounded domed tip. It’s dense but still very soft so it allows for easy blending and buffing in a circular motion. It works well with sheer and full coverage foundation. The material helps the foundation meld into the skin in the most amazing way – you get flawless coverage and is 100% streak free and it applies foundation evenly on the skin.
The Face II Sculpting Foundation brush isn’t a new one but it’s new for me. It has a beveled/angled tip that is perfect for sculpting the face. It’s good for all over foundation – the angled tip glides along the sides of your face, temples and cheeks smoothly. Since the tip is slightly angled, it’s skinny along the top and allows for perfect blending along the sides and corners of the nose. It’s perfect for cream bronzer.
Between the two, I can’t pick a favorite – they are both really phenomenal. They both blend liquids and creams flawlessly. I tried them both with liquid and cream foundations. The Buffing Brush is better to blend out stick/solid cream foundations on the face. The Sculpting is also versatile for liquid products and blending out cream bronzers or contouring products.
Side views at different angles to show the tapered shape of the Sculpting Brush:
Last but not least include two of the newest slanted flat top brushes from MAC and Chanel. The MAC Slanted Flat Top Brush #196 was really hard for me to locate – it was sold out almost everywhere I looked but I did find one counter that had one left. I was told that it’s not limited-edition and will be permanent in stores but I’m not 100% sure. This was my ideal pick because it has a large brush head which I prefer for foundation – it allows for less blending. Unfortunately it did leave some streaks – it was easy to blend out but didn’t give a streak-free finish like the others I tested. That being said this brush was designed for the MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation which reminds me of the Armani Maestro Fusion Foundation – both of which are very fluid and thin in texture. I prefer thicker more traditional foundations that are still liquid but not super thin. Perhaps it works better on thin texture foundations.
Chanel just launched a 2-in-1 Fluid and Powder Foundation Brush #8. I’ve tested this for about a week now and think it’s amazing. It’s still on the pricey side but relative to Tom Ford, it’s pretty reasonable. This one glides on the skin perfectly and gives streak-free application. It has a smaller tip compared to the other brushes which means I had to dab and blend 3x as much to cover my entire face. It does seem to soak up a tiny bit more product compared to the other tools but I’m willing to deal with it since the application is so good. I haven’t tested it with powders but for liquids I’m impressed.
Below you can see the MAC has shorter bristles while the Chanel has longer ones:
Side view, you can see the difference in size. I prefer the size of the MAC, but the performance of the Chanel is better.
I’m really impressed with a number of these brushes I tested. I wonder what took me so long to try out the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 brush (it’s better than the mini version). It’s amazing and at $38 the price is right. Marc Jacobs Beauty of course never ceases to impress me. Both the Face II Sculpting and Face III Buffing Brushes are more expensive and quite a splurge – but they are really well made with sturdy handles and they have a well constructed design. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with either and I don’t think owning both is redundant.
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush or MAC Slanted Flat Top Brush #196. Both are good brushes for the price. The Urban Decay is a bit too small for my taste although it’s super soft and blends liquids beautifully. The MAC leaves visible streaks and although they are minimal and easy to blend out, I’d rather have something that gives me a flawless finish to save time. The short tip also makes it a bit hard to wash out – the liquids get up into the middle and it took extra work to get completely clean.
The new Chanel #8 Foundation Brush gives a flawless finish and I would say it’s definitely superior to the original #6 Foundation Brush. I don’t gravitate towards small angled brushes because I think they are better suited for detail application. For foundation I want something that will apply product in larger sweeping motions. The #8 is very good though – if you’re in the market for an angled brush this is a good one to look at that won’t break the bank.
In summary, I have found brushes that perform just as well as my beloved Tom Ford brushes at a cheaper price. My top two picks include the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 (found exclusively at Sephora) and the Marc Jacobs Face III Buffing Brush (found at Sephora and Marc Jacobs Beauty).
I hope you found this roundup helpful! Do you have a favorite foundation brush?
Ulta Beauty is turning 25 today and to celebrate their birthday they have 25 online beauty deals with free shipping on orders of $25 or more. Ulta Beauty is a regular stop for me for beauty staples, especially for nail care. My go-to products are the CND Stickey Base Coat,Super Shiny Top Coat, Butter London Nail Scrubbers and the Tweezerman Pushy Nail Cleaner. I’ve teamed up with them to share some beauty pick-me-ups from a recent store visit. If you haven’t been to an Ulta Beauty store recently you will be amazed at the selection they have today – the lineup of products has expanded so you will find a wide range of items with a mix of drugstore and mid-end brands all in one store. If you’re in need of something new in beauty but aren’t sure what to look for, Ulta is a nice place to shop at your own leisure and browse without feeling any pressure to buy. I always discover something new.
Up first is the Mario Badescu Skin Care Facial Spray. It has aloe, herbs and rosewater and with a super relaxing lightweight scent. It’s one of the most affordable facial sprays I’ve tried and I think it’s highly under-rated. It hydrates the skin with a superfine mist. I like that it’s truly refreshing without that heavy feel.
For eyes I picked up one of the Naked2 Double Ended 24/7 Glide On Pencils. They come in a variety of colors, I picked one with Pistol and Perversion. For eyeshadow palettes, the Naked Basics2 Palette is a no-fail option. I already own one but bought one as a birthday gift for a friend. I swatched it below next to Naked Basics. Both are staples as far as matte shadows go.
One of my friends swears by Lancome Définicils Mascara and she always has the perfect lush black lashes. I’ve only tried minis before. I’m giving this one in the full size a try. (If you have a favorite Lancome mascara let me know.)
I didn’t realize Ulta Beauty carried Becca Cosmetics, but now I do. I picked up the Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Rose Gold. I debated between the pressed and poured version. The pressed seemed to have more pink undertone so I opted for this one. It has the prettiest warm rosy champagne gold shimmer. The left side is a heavy swatch, right is blended out a little.
For nails, I like to shop for cheaper finds like OPI and Essie. I play around with both a lot but don’t buy many because of the lack of testers. Two staples include Peach Daiquiri and Topless and Barefoot. Both are relatively affordable options although they don’t last longer than 3 days on me, but for the price I think they are worth it. I just need to make sure I reapply top coat 2-3 times throughout the 5-7 day period I have the color on. Although I switch things up frequently to swatch so sometimes it doesn’t really matter.
Peach Daiquiri needed three coats for me.
Topless and Barefoot is the best neutral nude pink. It’s not too nude and not too pink. Two coats works ok, I find a third coat gives this one complete full coverage.
For lips the options are endless. There are so many different finishes, formulas, textures and packaging options. I think I got a bit lost with all the options but I wasn’t in a rush so I was able to take my time to browse. Stila was one of my very first beauty loves back when I was in high school and all the way through college. I’m glad through all the changes that they’ve kept some of the original line. The Lip Glazes are always fun. Apricot is a staple glow. Kitten is a fun frosted champagne beige shimmer.
Urban Decay has some really good new lip products out. I think many have been out for a while but my focus has always been on their shadows and Naked Palettes. The Revolution Lipstick in Naked is a neutral nude pink cream. It has medium to full coverage and has a slightly glossy sheen. There are a number of neutrals to pick from and they have different finishes from matte, sheer and regular. The High-Color Lip Glosses are full-coverage glosses. Almost like a liquid lipstick but still glossy in formula. Kinky is a really pretty light neutral pink beige. I’m completely obsessed with it.
Last but not least I tried something from Tarte. The twist up chubby stick lip products come in a number of different finishes and textures. After swatching up a number of colors all over my hand, I picked out the LipSurgence Lip Tint in Sweet. It’s a soft light pink with shimmer but goes on the lips a more rosy flushed soft pink. It has a soft minty scent and feels cool on the lips. I really like the way it looks and feels – I’m going to have to check out more of the colors soon.
Today on August 19th in celebration of their 25th birthday, they have 25 value sets available online. In addition they are running a sweepstakes through August 29th where 25 lucky Ultamate Rewards Members will win 25,000 points. Details here on ulta.com/25bday.
Do you have any recent discoveries from Ulta Beauty? What are your favorite beauty pick-me-ups?
This post was created in partnership with Ulta Beauty. Many thanks to Ulta Beauty for sponsoring this post. All opinions my own, more information on my disclosures.