Friday, 14 August 2009

The Ultimate 5 Tag (tagged by MizzWorthy)

MizzWorthy was my second ever follower and has given me tons of encouragement. Her blog has gone from strength to strength and has firmly established itself as regular reading for most of us. The official poster child for Illamasqua, she is also Kylie Minogue's long lost sister. Check her out if you haven't already! Many thanks for the tag and for the continued support.

So seeing as I mentioned my second follower, it provokes the question of who was my first? Well it was none other than Aestheticcoo who somehow found me and certainly spurred me on. I have become addicted to her blog, with its perfect mix of hauls, reviews, swatches and money saving hints as to various deals and dupes. I always enjoy her writing and her photos, always perfectly clear and to the point.

I also regularly enjoy Hele's blog. I imagine she would have been one of the first to be tagged as she has a hugely popular blog, but that won't stop me adding her in! Hele posts very regularly and has beautiful pictures too. With a balance of hauls, reviews, outfits and home decor posts, it's the ultimate girly blog.

I must mention a blog called Afrobella. Written eloquently and always engaging, this blog may focus on black issues and beauty but I find it regularly gives me a powerful read, whether it be on cultural or makeup related topics. I think everyone should check it out!

Of course no blog roundup would be complete without mentioning BritishBeautyBlogger, who is aptly enough the go-to blog for any upcoming collections in this part of the world. Always ahead of the game, with predictions and leaks galore. An acerbic sense of humour marks this blog as vastly ahead of the pack. And might I add that I am not a little proud to say that I was one of the first followers, I vividly recall there were 7 at the time!!! But I knew that wouldn't be the case for long! Get in the loop and check it out, it's hard to find an unbiased blog which showcases small and large beauty companies alike. All in all, an indispensable read.

And finally no.5 already?! It has to be Gossmakeupartist. I know I'm hardly breaking new ground, but in case anyone doesn't follow him already... make sure you do! To be able to be privy to a true makeup artist is a massive privilege. Just like his excellent YouTube channel, the blog offers information in a concentrated, uncluttered way. With reviews, overviews, techniques and most importantly things to avoid and why, this is an absolute makeup shrine.

There are so many more blogs that I follow and enjoy but they will have to be put on ice for now....!!

OK and now for 5 Things I Love...

1. Marzipan. Not just any marzipan, Niederegger. I could very happily live on the stuff!!

2. Gustav Klimt. Yes I know his work has become somewhat hackneyed... who can look at The Kiss without thinking of grubby student digs. But did you know they are enveloped in a phallic shape?? Well I did him as my artist study for A Level, so I learnt all about it! How intriguing. I love the way he paints people and crowds them with swirling gold.

3. Giving presents, oh and OK getting them!! I love picking stuff out for people - well, as long as it's makeup or clothes or accessories! And I love getting them, well as long as it's makeup or clothes or accessories (or marzipan!)

4. YouTube. I love YouTube. Mainly I watch makeup channels it must be said. I love the socialist angle that anyone can be famous and popular - previously you had to go on reality TV to work out if you were an annoying bore to society. Now you can just upload yourself and find out, without fearing National vilification.

5. Creativity. I love writing fiction; originally I planned to have a short story blog, i.e a short story as every entry... But my makeup "hobby" dictated that a makeup blog it is. I also love painting and drawing, though I'm not much good at crafts like sewing or pottery and that kind of thing.

And now finally it's 5 Facts about me...

1. I don't belong in this century, I should have been born in the 19th Century. I'd love to go around in frilly blouses and parasols.

2. I love thunder, I find it relaxing and intoxicating in equal measure.

3. I am trying to gain muscle in the gym as I am naturally very narrow. It's very difficult. Any tips always highly appreciated...

4. I can't cook, even a hard boiled egg is a challenge. (possibly this affects fact no.3)

5. My favourite drink is a Cosmopolitan. I know, it's so passé.

Spotlight on Illamasqua

Although I have extensively analysed several products over on my YouTube channel, I thought perhaps a more quick-fire round up via a blog post could prove useful.

My thoughts overall on the line are positive, although I do wish the foundation and powder didn't have that sweet vanilla smell - it does get a little sickly! However I know some will adore that vanilla, and indeed reviews on Makeupalley attest to that.

So, the Loose Powders.... (£17.13)

I have the loose powders in White (010) and Pink (005). The white is translucent but be sure to blend it right in or it can leave a white cast. The pink can also leave a light pink shadow but this works on pale pinkish skintones to look remarkably natural, or can effectively used to spot highlight desired areas. The powders are extremely finely milled, so will finish makeup beautifully. However do not expect lasting oil control - these do mattify the skin, but not for long. Also beware the ingredients which contain talc and zea mays (corn starch) which can occassionally lead to breakouts (but not in me I must add, so seems fine!)

These powders are excellent for the ultimate poreless face and a great addition to your makeup routine. Probably best used with an oil controlling base. Illamasqua do have one in their lineup but I have not tried it.

The foundation: Rich Liquid Foundation... (£19.57)

This foundation will astound you: when Illamasqua call this maximum coverage, they are not kidding. This gives a thick opaque coverage that will perfectly conceal any flaws imaginable. Has a gentle vanilla scent (not as strong as the powders) and comes in a 30ml squeeze bottle with a hygenic and practical nozzel and a tight fitting cap. The shade range is incredible - from literally white to darkest black, you are certain to find your match with ease. Different undertones are provided for and Illamasqua are certainly leading the way on that front. Probably the best ever foundation container, top marks for that too.

If you do not need full coverage, this will be too much as an everyday foundation. It is long lasting and water resistant. An excellent foundation but understandably feels somewhat heavy on.

The Eyeshadows... (£14) - 2G size

I have Drama, a dupe of MAC's Plummage (a beautiful dark teal). This shade is striking, heavily pigmented, blends with ease, works with a multitude of shades and is a great find. I will be having this one on heavy rotation!

I also have Fatal, a matte version of MAC Violet pigment. This one is marginally less pigmented than Drama but still very pigmented and blends wonderfully. A wonderful pure lavender shade that no purple lover can pass up!

I have one of Illamasqua's cream eyeshadows (£13.70), a base shade called Touch - an ecru warm skintone shade. I find cream eyeshadows usually disappoint and this one fared little better; even over UDPP it still creased. I will persevere but so far not much luck with this one...

The Pencils... (£12)

I have Spell, a vibrant practically neon red; a very fun red that will wake up any face. Goes on smoothly and lasts and lasts. Perfect as a base shade or as a lipliner.

I also bought Vow, a matte pale beige, which works as an effective and natural looking accent to the cupids bow, or inner eyes, or even waterlining. A brilliant pencil that I am certain will become an absolute staple! Already I cannot do my eyes without using this, and red lipsticks will never again make lips look smaller, with the aid of this on your cupids bow! Highly recommended to all. For darker skintones, go for Hex to get the same effect.

The Intense Lipgloss... (£12.50)

I have Femme, an exact dupe of the striking Popster Hello Kitty tinted lip conditioner from the sold-out MAC collection. This smells of refreshing berries and is never sticky. It imparts a strong colour, not as strong as Guerlain lipgloss (they do the most pigmented glosses I have ever tried) but almost. A vibrant coral pink that is hugely flattering and will work on many different skintones. Probably my favourite Illamasqua item so far!

I also got false eyelashes, £11, which come beautifully packaged in a presentation box. I got no.17, a thick yet still just about natural, pair.

I also tried the eyeliner brush (£14.68). All Illamasqua brushes are synthetic and the brand is vehemently cruelty-free. For a felt tip like thick line, this brush is very effective but slightly on the pricey side.

The Illamasqua range has many gems to be uncovered, and certainly has opened up a niche for itself. Check out the entertaining Illamasqua blog for more details.

A far as going in in person, I have found some of the artists slightly overbearing and sadly it is not a counter where you can browse undisturbed. However it seems the age when a makeup customer could do that has all but died.

The staff are all very knowledgable though, so one can take advantage of that. Illamasqua even offers a one hour transformation service, which sounds good and I am sure I'll do that soon enough!

It is refreshing to have a range which eschews limited collections in favour of a strong permanent lineup of strange and exotic shades, with a mix of textures and an emphasis on matte colours, which are notoriously difficult to find.

If you have not checked them out, you can't call yourself a makeup addict!

Pictures all taken from Illamasqua website,

Have YOU tried Illamasqua???

& If you can brave it, check out my huge video series (!) here...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Eyeko Products Review

Ever wanted to shove aside those hysterical schoolgirls at the Eyeko stand in Superdrug and get the chance to try it for yourself? Well here's my overview of a few products from the line-up.

The Eyeko 3 in 1 cream kick-started the range. Designed "for girls to perk up their skin, counteracting the draining effects of staring at their computer screens" (oh dear, that's certainly me!) this shimmery cream contains vitamins A, C and E and is intended to be a one-step solution and a superstar sheen. It comes in a very retro 80s pink pot that will look trendy in your beauty cabinet. Here it is swatched:

As someone with a tendency towards greasy skin, the cream was somewhat on the heavier side than I am used to, however it did certainly deliver on its promise: my skin took on a definite sheen and the skin tone was ever so slightly evened out. This will probably make a wonderful base under heavier foundations, and be a godsend to dry or aging skin in desperate need of a pick-me-up. £6 For 36ml.

The newly launched Fat Balms come in three versions: Strawberry, Raspberry and Mint. I tried Raspberry. These are designed to be worn as a tint for cheeks and lips. The scent smelt like a flavoured chapstick, which I liked as I felt instantly transported to my blissful childhood. The colour is a deep berry red and aptly named. It tinted lips and cheeks as promised, though does benefit from the addition of a lipliner. As a blusher it feels a little heavy but as someone used to powder blusher, this is natural enough and says more about me than the product! It certainly didn't need much to do the job and contains a generous 6g for £5. Here it is swatched:

I also tried the highlighter pen, Touch Up and Glow. This takes its cue from YSL Touche Eclat and I did desperately want it to be a dupe. Sadly it does not literally melt into the skin the way my beloved Touche Eclat manages, however for £5 versus over £20 I think that can be forgiven. It imparts a shimmery cool toned silver highlight, perfect for pale skins in particular. Takes some blending, but once blended this is an impressive little product. This can be worn more intensely for the evening, or softened up under a blusher for a more demure glow. Here it is swatched:

And finally I tried the nail polishes. This was the only product from the range I'd heard about - namely, via Lollipop26's blog praising the Pastel blue one. I by contrast found that although the colour was particularly pretty - a soft blue that had enough white in to not look corpse fingered - it just would not apply evenly. Using a nail varnish base coat and Seche Vite top coat didn't help, unfortunately I found the application rather streaky. However the Red Nail Polish went on literally as flawlessly as a high end varnish, so that's confusing. I shall be trying out the other colours as the little milk bottle design and colour names are so adorable! I hope that the rest go on the way the red one does: one coat was all it took for a smooth and vivid orange red. This was my favourite item, as it's very difficult to find a 'young' red - i.e not a blue red but a vibrant red. Try it and see! Here it is on my hands:

And yours truly has found a loophole - although these products are available from Superdug and, get it from ASOS website and everything is significantly cheaper. (I'm not sure if they know about this) The highlight stick is £3.50 there as opposed to £5, what a steal!!!!

Please see my You Tube review if you'd like to see it all in action!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Beauty Blag

Since my recent fame and fortune (well one of those... OK, ok then, a smidge of one of those) I have caught a fleeting glimpse of the mechanics which underpin the 'Beauty Industry'. For anyone wondering, here is the proof of Glory: lil ol me sandwiched between the great and the good! Has to be seen to be believed! P.S This Metro edition came out on my birthday!!

Anyway as I was saying... After the piece, which incidentally was written by the masterful British Beauty Blogger, I was contacted by several PR people, congratulating me and offering to send a few samples for me to review. Although constant blog sales and constant blog reviews - blatantly featuring free gifts - get on my nerves, I am not above getting free stuff myself. Hypocrisy is such an ugly word though.

PR people are as new to this development as we independent bedroom bloggers are; previously there may have been a set list of magazine or possibly TV contacts etc to get in touch with, to organise brand exposure. Yet now, with the proliferation of beauty blogs, particulary those which become required reading for any self-respecting beauty junkie, PR have been swift to re-evaluate their agenda. With YouTube burning up millions of dollars in bandwidth every day by allowing anyone the opportunity to "broadcast" themselves, the potential to gain viewers and subscribers at an electrifying speed is a reality. Do the maths and it's not hard to understand why Google (owners of YouTube), who pioneered AdSense, would develop a similar strategy for their most popular "Channels": the Partnership programme. Introduced in 2007, early Partners such as Pogobat cut great deals which famously meant he earned $2,500 a month. And once the Partnership programme hit UK, Lauren Luke's Panacea81 channel was amongst the first to be rewarded. Finding out how much money Partners make is shrouded in secrecy: contracts with clauses forbidding one to divulge their YouTube earnings mean guesswork is futile. To compound this, different Partners get different adverts with different rates and not all Partners are equal, according to YouTube.

Regardless of the specifics, the very nature of being paid or seduced by companies can surely play havoc with the independent stance of a makeup enthusiast turned 'reporter' or at the very least change the tone of their blog or videos. I will however refrain from debating such a moot point. The YouTube partnership programme, which aside from any financial advantages, carries perks such as a personalised logo banner and the ability to make longer videos, and similarly the popularity measured by "Followers" on one's blog, which is naturally enough how a PR would determine your value, means I am reminded of the recent UK media story of The Archbishop of Westminster who decried the trend for online social networking:

"It's an all or nothing syndrome that you have to have in an attempt to shore up an
identity; a collection of friends about whom you can talk and even boast. But friendship is not a commodity..."1

Is the makeup community on YouTube and within Blogs guilty of this, being as it is reliant on popularity? Or is the unique nature of the beauty community, which has proven itself to be beautiful in a metaphorical as well as a literal way, enough to make it exempt from this scathing attack on the "dehumanising" of community life? And is the immediacy of 'tutorials' and the discursive nature of blogging emblematic of the very skills which he applauds: the "ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community". Indeed I would go further and say that far from leading to suicide in young people (for that was the extreme prediction) belonging and following, in a hobby as integral as your makeup routine (which incidentally takes on a religious symbolism if you ask me! - not to be sacriligious!) actually can be very strengthening.

Anyway to put aside these somewhat woolly issues, one of YouTube's biggest success stories has been Lauren Luke. Her journey has involved meeting the Queen at Google HQ, regularly being featured, having the homepage devoted to her makeup launch and indeed the makeup launch itself - nothing short of a modern day fairytale. Lauren's genuine warmth and humility endeared her to countless fans. Her appeal proves irresistable for YouTube to promote. Yet when one considers YouTube was bought for $1.65 billion by Google in October 2006 it is clear that popular users, who after all make the site what it is, have earned about .06 percent of the purchase price. Nevertheless it would be misleading to imply their video making is exploitation, being as it is, a hobby.

Google is currently defying the recession and making profit, though YouTube itself is burning hundreds of millions of dollars each year. However it is poised to eventually become a "strong revenue business". The company also said that it was continuing to build up its substantial cash pile, which now stands at $19.3bn. The strategy is evidenced by the progressively more invasive pop-up adverts that clutter the site, particularly visible on YouTube Partners. This is complicated by the trend for false clicking - either to support your favourite YouTube channels; or, more menacingly, by competitors who click rival business adverts and cause unjustified expense, and of course makes small emerging companies especially vulnerable to such tactics. Companies like Mally Beauty and Coastal Scents would be wholly unfamiliar to me were it not for YouTube so clearly small companies can use the Beauty community to their advantage. Yet the commercialisation of YouTube has meant that many of the adverts are by huge companies, for whom YouTube costing is more economical than TV, yet can significantly rival its impressive viewing figures. Trying to figure out how the huge cost of bandwidth compares to ad revenue is very difficult, with analysts speculating YouTube loses between $174 million to $470 million though the company denies this and insists on the bigger picture. Plausibly videos on demand and tailored to specific categories and communities is the future, moreover everyone enjoys the tale of the little person who conquers the stage, and what better example is there than YouTube?

Now to address blogging, which has a more analytical advantage. Companies have perhaps realised that some beauty addicts surreptitiously access blogs from work, when they can't risk YouTube, and quickly develop an allegiance to specific blogs. Much like a hybrid between a magazine and a chat, blogs can certainly affect spending habits. It affects an emergent company's image to secure niche advertising. Drugstore makeup may be most suited to TV advertising, but more high end like Lancome and YSL usually aim for glossy mags. MAC's strategy by contrast is to put their ad funding into new designer's backstage shows and propel the image of MAC as the industry favourite. Yet their presence in every department store alongside Lancome makes this distinction rather unconvincing. Illamasqua have exploded on to the scene and are still fairly exclusive, though they have proliferated.

Probably most similar to MAC in terms of colour range and price point, Illamasqua have taken a similar approach to the MAC of ye olde days, before it became spat on by purists for 'selling out' to Lauder. I.e, Illamasqua are befriending the true fanatical experts and expecting a drip-down effect from the top down. I think this is a very shrewd move, and what's more, the Illamasqua blog is a surprisingly good read! Full of tips and interviews, the tone is far less self-serving than equivalent branded blogs and eases you in to the Illamsqua product range in a subtle yet very enticing way. All in all Illamasqua have it seems succeeded in creating not only a stunning and distinctive promo image, but also a respect for the true makeup conoisseur. (It is a shame that some of their Selfridges makeup artists are not quite as welcoming, but they are placed right next to MAC so they have a bad example.)

That Illamasqua, Barry M and Coastal Scents, to take these examples, have shown themselves receptive to blogs and YouTube at a grassroots level is impressive. I believe that individual amateur makeup reviewers will ultimately prove to be at the heart of future customer research. With less people buying magazines (print media is notoriously the first to be hit in times of recession) and more people checking comparison websites and forums, YouTube and blog reviews present a natural resource. And besides, representing the niche market of the makeup consumer who will absently buy 3 blushers and still come back the next week for another - surely those are the customers any makeup business is keenest to attract!

What beauty bloggers and YouTube Gurus must remember is the uncorrupted guilelessness which made them so vital in the first place, which is conceivably difficult if they gain unbridled popularity. Nonetheless many manage just that, and Lauren Luke is a blueprint for how it's done best. So this is my spin on Archbishop Vincent Nichols' dire warning.