Thursday, 23 December 2010

Makeup must-haves for a Christmas break

Although my plan to jet off to some far away clime has been dashed by Heathrow's weather woes, I will be going away (ahem to North of UK) and as always the thought of packing is besieged by the panic of - what makeup to take?!

This year has been easier than ever though, I have my instant faves. Trish McEvoy has always been my fail-safe route, the compact and neat design system is a natural choice for travel. I recently reviewed the new Classic Brush set, and it is adorable and wonderful - an absolute pleasure to use. The brush set takes the decision making out of my hands, all I need is that and my trusty MAC 187 and I'm ready for Stage 2.

The gorgeous Trish McEvoy tiny eyeshadow "Emergency Card" was bought precisely for me to be able to think "Panic over, I've got my Emergency Card!" - I love the way it does justice to the feeling of being overwhelmed when considering what eyeshadows are needed aargh?!

I also absolutely adore my new Louise Young eyeshadow compact, which is all mattes. It seems I will take both. The Louise Young compact has only just gone live on the website and I snapped one up, I knew that it would be impeccable, and it seems it has not disappointed.

Foundation obviously Estee Lauder Double Wear. Blusher will be Bare Escentuals but I cannot decide which shade, they are all so pretty. Probably a pink though, I have been loving the Limited edition Pink Ribbon blusher from the Beyond Gorgeous Set. Side-note, I read (alas too late) that this set was on sale from a website for £18?! I have never bought from the site but it looks good, and right now they currently have a huge £111 set for £34 if that is any consolation.

I am also going to take my magic powder, MAC Perfect Topping (sadly L.E, we await its return one day.)

Lipsticks will be one frosty nude for night (MAC Front Lit, also sadly L.E) and one basic flesh nude, probably MAC Kinda Sexy. I have also just picked up MAC Stone lip liner, which Pixiwoo Nicola suggests makes lips look plumper, so will try that out and report back. I am debating the merits of a bold red lip but right now thinking against the idea.

I will probably take a liner, the Jordana liners are great (sadly not available in UK) but in truth both my eyeshadow palettes have fantastic definer shades in which I can use with my Trish angle brush and get brilliant results. I will probably take my Clarins eyebrow pencil, even though, again, I could use my Louise Young brown shade and the angle brush.
For mascara, although I really quite like the new Collection 2000 Fake Lashes, I will stay true to my Lancome Hypnose. Oh and have you tried the new Accessorize range? I love the Diamond lipglosses, so sparkly and yummy butter smell. I might pop one of those in.

Skincare wise I have just picked up Eucerin Q10, the so-called miracle cream, but although I adore its butter smell (yummy again), I fear it may be the culprit for my current breakout. Very annoying and means I will lean heavily on my reliable Origins Spot Remover to sort it. Also of course I will surreptitiously apply Lancome Effacernes to conceal all, it never lets me down. I set it with MAC Blot powder, or my fast fave, NYC Smooth Skin pressed powder in Translucent.

With my two palettes and my fairly neutral face and lip supplies, I believe I will be able to create a wild variety of looks, from deep purple smoky eye to neutral eye to brown smoky eye or russet smoky eye. And of course nothing less would suffice.

Oh and PS. My makeup bag, immortalised in this video, has been stolen! I left it out for a moment and it was gone. Inside it, aside from what was in the video, I had added in a Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge. However although I really miss the actual bag, and brush, and my Kryolan lipstick will need replacing ASAP, and of course I do feel the irritation of having to collect up a new makeup inventory to cart around, I cant help but feel proud that I deliberately packed it mainly full of samples and nubs.

That is my one fear, losing all these travel goodies - shudder - perish the thought. What are YOUR travel makeup essentials for crimbo??

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Becca Fallen Angel palette: Review

I recently attended a Becca event with my friend Moodeve. It wasn't a PR event but it was invite only, and with its guestlist and its dark interior and champagne and mince pies, plus a DJ at hand, we literally did forget we weren't simply enjoying a drink at a swanky bar! That is greatly to Becca's credit. From what I can tell, Becca's wistful and romantic consistently perfect promo images, combined with a soft selling approach, marks it out from the rest. It's SO refreshing to not be pressurised to buy. There was no pointed "Can I help you!" attack.

In addition there was a manicurist, and some eyelash treatment I believe, though sadly I arrived too late for either (weather was snow and ice so the journey was extra daunting.) We ambled over to the neatly arranged Becca counter where a very friendly makeup artist gently offered a makeover. Moodeve was given a beautiful smoky eye using the eye palette, minky brown and grey with a touch of purple. I caught sight of the Fallen Angel palette and was instantly struck by the apricot shades. Wearing peach blusher is relatively new to me, I'd spent years sticking to pinks. I just find peach is more natural and better with a bold eye. I bought it for the special evening discounted price of £29.50. It is usually £35.

It was only at home that I realised the amount you get it rather paltry - a Becca cream blusher is 3g for £22, and these circles are 1.3g each. So in effect you are getting £28.60 worth of product for £35. You do get a lovely compact and a little brush, but I'd have preferred no brush and more product. I have already made a dent in my palette so I doubt it will last more than a few months at best. Still, cream products are best finished quickly.

Nectar is a pure tawny coral, lasts about 3-4 hours and fades (however this is usual with cream blush on my skin so not a surprise. Lasts an hour at best on lips. Very flattering shade though when freshly applied.)

Sunrise is a more orange coral but very sheer and high shine. Appealing vanilla scent and not too sticky. However must be packed on to get brilliant gloss. Lasts longer on lips than Nectar does, and feels very moisturising.

Narcissus is the trump card for me. This tawny gold has the exact same excellent consistency of NARS Copocabana multiple, it feels creamy but dries almost to a powder, yet looks uber glossy. This looks just like real, gleaming skin. Lasts fairly well (5-6 hours) and can be extended by a light dusting of powder. I have been using a goody bag present, the Becca Loose Shimmer Powder, in Princess, which is almost a blusher shade on me but works ideally with Narcissus.

Please watch my video review here for a closer look.

Overall grade 7/10
-- Because I love the shades and on its own cream product terms, they work great. Best for: a quick pick-me-up.

Becca Fallen Angel palette, limited edition, £35

[picture above taken from Becca website]

Monday, 13 December 2010

Generic Geriatric

Getting old is now out of style. Wrinkles are shunned more than ever, and procedures which mimic (yet never quite convince) continue to feign plump dewy skin. More worrying still, perhaps the most distressing aspect of plastic surgery: the trend to efface individuality, ethnicity, and in short, personality.

I have nothing against plastic surgery per se; I knew a friend who grew up so tormented by her (how can I put this delicately) huge banana nose, that she would pretend to have a perpetual cold - a handkerchief functioning as a permanent shield. At 16 she had a nose job, and now is confident and walks with her head held high. Who could condemn such an outcome?

Recently I was watching an interview on TV with Bette Midler and I saw elements of Kylie Minogue. The two look nothing alike naturally, but evidently some generalsing ingredient is at work. Spot the difference:

Clearly as a laudable result of the triumph of feminism combined with general modern ideology, women are no longer expected to hang their boots at 30. Instead, wearing tight leather and indeed thigh high boots is probably now becoming the domain of the over 30s proving they still are desirable - if anything more desirable, they try to insist. Marketing campaigns to appeal to women with cash to spare (professional women or bored housewives - no matter) are encouraged by visions of Sex and the City, or Sharon Stone and Andie McDowell fronting skincare adverts; Kate Moss, Charlize Theron fronting perfume adverts. Gone is the option to resign yourself to fate and nature's cruel finality. If attractiveness has been intrinsically linked to fertility and youth, then fake that and carry on as you were. Of course nature is still a powerful Titan, but science conquers all.

Hacking and stretching and plumping their way towards perfection, we are deluged with celebrities who all blend into each other, particularly as they age. And character-full noses or features which betray too much ethnicity, are ebbed away to present an apparition of Beauty.

In modern times where ostensibly there is an acceptance for global beauty, it appears that the reality is that what we really have come to accept is the perfect mix - caramel skin, westernised features. Too much divergence risks their universal appraisal.

Of course there is a timeless and borderless appreciation for beauty, which has been broadly summarised as long limbs, even features: in short, the mathematical inherent nature of beauty as a calming vision. But ageing has historically been a time for beauty to mellow and be replaced by sober dignity, untempered by the pressures of being attractive. Yet now women expect themselves to remould their beauty and re-instate their youth by force.

- This is a good thing! Our lifespans are longer, therefore by default the stretch of time we feel inclined to be fertile/attractive is accordingly extended. Of course only a bigot would return to the days in which a 40 year old single lady could only be described as a hopeless spinster, and dictate that women should know their place, etc. Nevertheless, the trend for plastic surgery which gives women a mask, is horrifying too. Men in the public eye also succumb to plastic surgery, but women have makeup tricks to easily soften and enhance their surgeon's work, which arguably gives them a dangerous carte blanche.

Unfortunately, big noses and big lips seem to go hand in hand if left to nature...

Noses must be straight, denying its atavistic qualities, and of course hair smooth and preferably lightened....

Skin must be taut, put cheekbones or lip enhancements in for any softness though... And (optional but advised) at this stage, best get a toy-boy to complete the effect.

And if your features are not the ideal man's woman, just shape them until they are...

I actually really miss Jordan's old nose, it was much more elegant. She was so much better before. Oh dear at what she has become...

(Couldn't do a piece on plastic surgery without this one, ouch it hurts to look at that wince. Poor thing.)

And those who believe surgery enables them to distil the best parts of their beauty...

Kim Kardashian used to look like her sister, now she looks like her mum (mystery... ahem)

*Disclaimer: I have no medical training and all opinion is subjective.

All photos from Google.

...What are your thoughts?

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Brand: new make up identity

I want to briefly talk about the importance of branding, again. A product is a faceless void until it is named, defined and marketed. On the other hand, if a product is under-defined yet still dazzling, it won't take long before word gets out and it is defined and marketed for them, in effect, by make-up artists and consumers who leak it via the network of blogs and forums.

The first "Brand film" Illamasqua commissioned supposedly shed light on their roots. In truth, it left me more confused than before - I always knew there was some manufacturing link between the wonderful Kryolan, and Illamasqua - yet this film implied they were one and the same... hmm, Kryolan lipstick £6; Illamasqua £15? And although I appreciated the film's potted history, I didn't like the way it glamorised smoking, which I think in this day and age should never be allowed. However I have just seen their new film titled "Vicky & Vic" which is a rather more light-hearted way of explaining what they mean by an 'alter ego'. Vicky McClure looks equally fantastic as a blonde or with jet black hair, and is a very charismatic actress for the company to have. Illamasqua have steadily crafted a real brand image and know their target.

On the other hand, Sleek makeUP was apparently initially devised for dark skinned makeup fiends to have a high street specialised option. Indeed, there was a huge gap in the market. Soon enough though, the blog world learned about these cheap and highly pigmented options, and Sleek was seized upon by all. To commemorate their newly acquired 20,000 "likes" on Facebook, Sleek tantalised their fans with promises of a huge "50% off Bonanza". They had a daily countdown, then proceeded to admit they had forgotten their offer, and got the day wrong, and generally gave a very, ahem, shall we say "human" face to the brand.
Riddled with errors, and inundated with angry and confused comments on their Facebook wall, the whole offer culminated in the code not even working. Knowing (since such was the cause of the offer, afterall) that they had so many eager fans, it seemed ludicrous that the website crashed and was unresponsive - and then, when it finally did 'work', as soon as the code went in, the basket was emptied. Only the most dogged customers stood a chance of getting their order by sheer force of luck and determination. As for myself, after 2 hours of filling and re-filling my cart, I gave up and simply emailed the company my list and asked them to process it from there. My email was ignored and today after a couple of weeks grace, I phoned. It seems my order will not be honoured, and Sleek are blaming SagePay for the fiasco. I have been told that there will be another sale soon, however when I asked them if it would only benefit those who could persevere all day long with a dodgy website, I was given no guarantee that anything had changed. All this means is that their fantastic and kind gesture to reward their staunchest fans, has simply antagonised many.

What is the best way to invest in your fan base? Offers that are not manifested are surely best avoided altogether. It seems that Illamasqua's level headed way of ploughing their prizes into creative contests is a far more effective approach. However for people who love makeup but make no pretence at being a makeup artist, this is not a universal reward. I think when a brand recognises a loyal customer, it should be like going to a coffee shop or hairdresser, you amass tokens which can ultimately be traded in for a freebie. MAC has realised this and has its 6 empties "recycling" programme. Whether this is mainly for recycling or for customer retention is a moot point but the result is the same: people like to be valued, and people love freebies and discounts. If you are going to create a following for a new makeup range, it must be managed well and appeal to all. Concentrating too hard on creative flamboyance risks alienating neutral makeup fans, and promising too much to all merely risks disappointing many.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Best Blowdry of my Life!

Yes folks, I have had plenty of blowdrys in my time, yet never has a hairdresser given me instant 1940s movie star glamour. It is almost always dried to poker-straight, glossy perfection, or occasionally flicked outwards, but always very polished and tame. This time, thanks to Esther from Tommy's (salons in Wales, unluckily for me!) I have been treated to a bouncy, voluminous head of hair and have felt like a 1940s starlet, and it took a hairdresser to make me realise that poker straight salon hair "doesn't suit your personality" - How did she know? I didn't even realise it myself until now! Judging from their website pictures, the same eye for detail and expert knowledge has enriched their salons. Esther and her husband Tommy are so friendly, and most definitely have a passion for hair: instantly knowing exactly what it needs. Perhaps this explains why the eponymous Tommy Van der Veken has been chosen to partner with Schwarzkopf and help represent the new release, Essensity.

Essensity is gorgeously packaged, it looks expensive and refreshing, in fact it reminds me of an aloe vera leaf or a cucumber. As the colour suggests, this is a natural, yet unremittingly professional, range. Although a multitude of products were used on my hair, it looked shiny yet very light. And even now, a couple of days later, it looks pumped up and brilliant. Usually despite my most valiant efforts to cling on to a blowdry for days on end, by the very next day the serums and texture creams have wrecked havoc, and what was once glossy and tousled transmutes into a greasy gunky lank horror.

The fact that my hair still feels light and has retained its shape must be testament to the range used, "Volume". I have been given Volume Shampoo, Volume Conditioner, Volumising Cream, Texturising Mud, and Natural Shine Serum. All are priced reasonably for a professional range, around the £10 mark. I shall report back on my findings, once the dreaded day comes when I must wash out this beautiful blow dry and attempt to recreate it for myself.....

P.S. If you live in the Wales area, Tommy's salon have a Blow Dry Lounge where a blow dry costs from as little as £10!
Call Chester 01244 315 515 or Ruthin 01824 709 977 to find out more.