Posted on February 13, 2018 under Reviews
Since the last time I lived in the UK, everyone’s favourite ultra-cheap fast fashion retailer Primark has brought out a full makeup range. Previously they carried only tertiary beauty products such as nail files and makeup wipes, but now they have everything from heat tools to nail polish to makeup proper. I know from experience that some Primarks are considerably better than others, so I’m not sure if all of them have the full range – but the one on Argyle Street here in Glasgow has substantial floor space devoted to this section.
At some point I wasn’t going to be able to resist testing out dirt cheap makeup, but I tried really hard not to just buy for the sake of buying. I avoided lipstick entirely, for instance, because I already have too many lipsticks as it is. I’m not saying that I needed everything I bought, but did buy things that I thought I would actually use.
PS… Pro Blending Brush (£2)
This is another one of those knockoff Artis brushes that every brand is bringing out. I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but it was marked down from £5.50 to £2, which I thought was a reasonable price. I really enjoy the other Artis knockoff I have, so this seemed like a pretty sure bet. This one is a lot bigger than my Magic Collection Oval XL brush, which itself has more surface area that your standard foundation brush:
It’s also softer, but less dense. I prefer a pretty dense brush for foundation because I find otherwise the bristles are too floppy to blend efficiently, but this one does a great job. As you would imagine, the size is both an asset and a liability: it blends foundation incredibly quickly, but it’s not great for reaching the nooks and crannies of my face. It works well with more watery foundations as well as thicker formulations. Since I got it in early December, I’ve used it almost every time I put foundation on, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m cool with where my £2 went.
I find that incredibly dense brushes of this nature are hard to clean thoroughly – no matter how many times I go over them and how thoroughly I work shampoo into the bristles, it’s hard to get out all the foundation that’s wormed its way in. That’s the major downside to this entire genre of brushes – but maybe I’m just doing it wrong.
PS… CustomEyes Eyeshadow in Cranberry (£0.60)
Say hi to that random hair that I didn’t notice until I was editing these pictures.
I liked the idea of cheap, no frills shadow pans that you can pop into an empty palette, and this wine shade was very pretty and seasonally appropriate. For some reason there is no indication of the shade name on the outer packaging of this eyeshadow – it’s only there on the back of the pan itself. This eyeshadow is 0.05oz, which at the current conversion rate makes it $21 CAD per oz, as compared to ColourPop ($4 USD for 0.053oz – $95.09 CAD per oz), MAC ($8 CAD for 0.05oz – $160 CAD per oz), and Makeup Geek ($10 USD for 0.064oz – $156.25 per oz).
When I first applied this shadow with a flat brush, I was pretty disappointed – it appeared almost matte, and the colour was quite dull. However, applied with a finger it came to life. I
often pretty much always apply shimmery shades with my fingers anyway, so I don’t mind this at all. I find this shade smooth and blendable as well. I can’t speak for the other colours, but this one is definitely worth £0.60.
These swatches will show you how much better this shadow performs when applied with a finger:
L-R: One pass with a brush, built up with a brush, finger swatch
And here’s how it looks on my eyes, using ColourPop Stay Golden in the crease and lower lashline:
PS… Lip Scrub (£3)
When the weather started cooling down in late November, I began to really wish I had a lip scrub, so I was glad to happen upon this. My lips have been especially crusty this winter! I’ve been sporadically mixing my own scrubs out of olive oil and brown sugar, but it’s just more convenient to have a premade one. As lip scrubs go, this one does the job just fine. I feel like loose lip scrubs are pretty much all the same, so I got exactly what I expected out of this. I have to say I do prefer the convenience of the ELF lip scrub, which is packed firm in a lipstick tube. This one tastes really good, though.
Golden Rose Ice Chic Nail Colour in 44 (£2)
I wasn’t actually going to buy any nail polish, but then I saw this muted magenta and decided to take a chance on it. In the bottle, it looked how I wanted Essie Bahama Mama to be on my nails. It requires two coats for opacity (it’s super streaky with just one coat) and ends up a deep purple, definitely not a magenta.
With my Sally Hansen Miracle Gel tip coat, I got well over a week with minimal chipping. Here’s how it looked on day ten:
It appears truer to colour here thanks to the sunlight – but in most lighting it was much darker.
One of the brush hairs wasn’t trimmed properly, which causes it to deposit colour where I don’t want any. This is the type of bizarre defect I would expect from Primark nail polish. Otherwise I think this is a fine product. I’d buy more if they had any colours that interested me.
A bit out of focus, but hopefully you can see that annoying little brush hair.
PS… My Perfect Colour Liquid Concealer in Nude Beige (£2)
I actually needed a new undereye concealer, so when I saw this I thought it was a worthy risk. My Primark doesn’t provide testers for this particular product, but luckily a herd of bipedal mammals had helpfully created their own. Unluckily, I had to dig pretty hard to find an unspoiled one. I have never been Nude Beige in anything in my life, but it turns out this works really well colour-wise under my eyes. It’s a hair darker than my actual skin, but the tone helps conceal undereye circles. I wouldn’t buy this exact shade again, but I can make it work.
This is a light-medium coverage with a creamy, blendable texture and a natural finish. It does crease a bit under the eyes if not set with powder, but most concealers do. I’m shocked that I like this as much as I do, to be honest, but it works better under my eyes than NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer and Maybelline Age Rewind. (To be fair, I really never got on with RCC – I’m sure most people would feel differently.)
No concealer on the left, concealer on the right
PS… Get Lippy Glitter Collection in Heaven Sent (£3)
Yes. I bought a glitter lip kit. This is ridiculous and arguably skirts the line of “things I will actually use”. But for £3… come on. How could I not? The kit comes with a lip liner, a “lip vinyl” (a very sticky, opaque gloss), and a pot of chunky glitter. I want to say they had a gold kit as well, but I went for this light, cool pink for some unknown reason.
Spoiler alert: I hate this! First of all, it’s a bad colour on me, but that doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. I mean, it’s a glitter lip kit, I’m obviously wearing it to make a statement, and the statement doesn’t have to be “looking pretty”. I bought it basically thinking I could wear it to drag shows and the random nights out I have with my friends where we put on wild makeup for the purposes of sitting in a private karaoke room and screaming “Not Ready To Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks until we’re hoarse. However, the other problem is that this glitter is so large that it actually hurts to wear. I’ve never worn regular-sized cosmetic glitter on my lips, but I imagine that it feels like sand. Which is probably not comfortable but also probably not painful. This stuff though… it was like having five hundred tiny pieces of glass digging into my lips. So after I documented it, I promptly removed it (which was a hassle, because that shit really does stick) and put on a sensible pink Matte Shaker* instead.
I also promptly removed the lashes and replaced them with a half strip.
There’s really not much glitter in the pot so if you were to buy this and use it semi-regularly you could conceivably use it up and be left with a lip liner and lip gloss. However, I don’t see that actually happening because it is so damn uncomfortable to wear. Also, the lip vinyl feels very thick and uncomfortable. The lip liner’s pretty nice, but it’s not a colour I’ll ever wear. So, 0/3 here. Oh well. It was £3, you know?
And that is that! We had one obvious dud in the bunch, but I actually use all of the other stuff. Not bad for a haul costing a monumental £10.60. If you’re in the UK (or visiting!) I would definitely recommend popping into your local Primark to check out the makeup section – it’s surprisingly good!
Posted on February 06, 2018 under Lists
It’s been quite some time since I shared what skincare I’m using, so I thought I’d do a bit of a skincare update. I’m still working my way through the backlog of gratis from my days working in cosmetics; as a result, there are some items in this post that aren’t utter favourites. But I think lukewarm to negative reviews are very useful, so why not include them?
As always, my skin is normal to dry, leaning dryer at this time of year. (Actually, most of my face has settled down from the transition in seasons – it’s only my nose that is still parched.) I usually only break out hormonally, and I do have fairly persistent hyperpigmentation which follows blemishes long after they die. I focus on hydration and acid toning in my skincare. I probably do my full skincare routine about 95% of the time. I never go to bed without washing my face and slapping on some night cream or an oil, but I can’t think of the last time I skipped a step – maybe in somewhere in the Christmas madness.
Here’s what my skin looks like without makeup. These pictures were taken at the end of January, when I was recovering from a stress breakout. (80% healed now, I’d say.)
I sometimes have closed comedones on my forehead and I get the occasionally random zit there, but it’s usually clear. It’s hard to tell in this picture but at this time a rare blemish was in the final stages of healing.
It can be hard to tell the difference between freckles and hyperpigmentation, but there are a few healing blemishes around the centre of my face here, which is rare for me. The ones on the left side of my chin are more standard – I always have either an active breakout or hyperpigmentation there. Despite the fact that my most recent breakout was larger than normal, this is pretty much the best my skin will be: by the time the hyperpigmentation starts to fade, a new zit will find a home on my face. Skincare really helps mitigate the length and scope of my breakouts, but, like 99% of people on this planet, my skin will never be totally blemish-free.
By the way, usually my zits aren’t too bad, but I do have the really bad habit of picking them, and sometimes they’re monsters to begin with, and the combination sometimes results in disasters.
I also occasionally have a bit of blotchy redness at the bottom of my cheeks. This tends to be more pronounced in hotter weather, so it’s not very noticeable right now at all. I don’t generally have very sensitive skin, but some skincare also exacerbates this redness.
Finally, I think it’s essential to note that, while skincare is a really great tool to address various concerns, a lot of “good skin” is genetic. I’ve never had particularly problematic skin; even at the peak of my teenage breakouts (age 14-15) I was doing okay. I hope it’s obvious that I’m not saying this to brag, just to be realistic about the results my skincare routine can actually achieve.
Gratis received through work will be marked with an asterisk, as always.
In the morning, I like to keep things pretty simple – I prefer not to rush through my morning routine but also like to maximize on my sleep, so there’s a delicate balancing act! If my face feels quite dry I don’t bother washing it; if not, I use a light cream or gel cleanser. Currently I’m using the Avène 3-in-1 makeup remover*, which does an okay job at gentle cleansing but which I do find leaves a sticky residue if I don’t wash it off vigilantly. My favourite cleanser for this purpose is the Marcelle Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel. It’s gentle but efficient and doesn’t strip the skin or leave a residue. And it’s only $12.95! I’ll go back to it when I finish the Avène.
Unlike every other surface of my body, my undereyes are not horribly dry, so in the morning I’ve been really enjoying the Biotherm Homme Aquapower Eye Depuffer*. It’s a light, cooling gel that is perfect first thing in the morning when I’m trying to do my makeup despite the fact that it’s pitch black.
Lately I’ve been starting my skincare with The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%, which is an antioxidant with an oily texture. I love using antioxidants if I’m going outside – living in a city I’m exposed to lots of free radicals in the forms of pollution, car exhaust, etc. For this time of year the oily texture of the EUK has been working quite well for me, but I’m not sure if I’ll love it so much in the summer. I find it layers well under other products but I’ll have to see if it’s too heavy in the warmer months, when my skin is pretty much normal.
For moisturizer I’ve been using La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra*. I’m a longtime fan of LRP’s Toleriane Riche, which is a thicker cream great for dry, sensitive skin. However, Toleriane Ultra is thinner and layers better with other skincare and makeup. It isn’t as fluid as some moisturizers and does deliver enough hydration for my day-to-day needs – it helps that I pack on a lot of hydration in my nighttime routine so that I can use lighter products under my makeup.
Sunscreen is Vichy Ideal Soleil SPF50* – I find this one and the LRP Anthelios fluid basically interchangeable. Both are lightweight, non-greasy facial sunscreens that layer well. When I run out, I’m interested in trying some Japanese sunscreens since I hear great things about them and they seem to be a bit more cost-effective than Vichy or LRP.
And that’s it for my morning routine – I don’t use actives or do too much product layering.
My nighttime skincare routine is one of my favourite rituals, and washing my face is the best part. There’s something so satisfying about taking off broken down, hours-old makeup. I always really like the way my skin looks when I’m freshly-cleansed, too. My cleansing routine could be described as “extra”, but I like to be really thorough and make sure my face is spotless. I’ve been a devoted user of oil cleansers for about five years now; I find they’re great at breaking down makeup, and they do my dry skin a big favour. Currently I’m using the Biotherm Total Renew Oil Cleanser*. It has a very pleasant texture – not greasy, and without any residue. Though it’s effective and nice to use, I think it’s too expensive for what it is. The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil is half the price (and as we all know The Body Shop constantly has deals) and I like that it emulsifies more.
I find that no cleanser ever gets all my makeup off, even if my skin looks bare to the naked eye. I always do a second pass with a gentle gel cleanser, so the Avène cleanser comes into play here. On no-makeup days (which are pretty frequent, actually; I’m only on campus three days a week and don’t normally put on makeup to run errands) I just use the Avène cleanser.
I will always love the La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover, which gets absolutely everything off without any tugging or rubbing. It’s as good as Lancôme Bi-Facil and half the price.
I follow all of that up with some micellar water; these days I’m using La Roche-Posay Ultra Micellar Water*. This one and Bioderma Sensibio are tied for my favourite. I know most people use micellar water as a first step to remove makeup, but I prefer to use it at the very end. When using an oil-based eye makeup remover it’s essential to remove the residue to avoid milia, and a micellar solution helps balance the pH of the skin prior to acid steps.
Which, of course, brings me to the second-best part of my skincare routine. I use a chemical exfoliant every day; I know that’s too much for a lot of people, but my skin tolerates it well. Generally, I get on best with AHAs. Right now I’m using the Vichy Idealia Peeling*, which is glycolic acid. It’s great, but now that we have The Ordinary there’s no reason to spend $40 on an AHA. I’ve gone through an entire bottle of The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, which my skin really liked. I’ve also tried The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is cheap as chips and just as effective as the expensive stuff. Occasionally I use The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (now discontinued) instead of an acid. I always leave my acids on my face for 20-30 minutes before moving on to other steps, because acids require a specific pH to work properly and layering other products negates the effects.
For my eyes, I’ve been layering The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + ECGC and Bioderma Sensibio Eye*. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not convinced that the Caffeine Solution actually does anything for dark circles, but I’ll use it up since it’s not like it hurts. The Bioderma eye cream is a very thin gel-cream hybrid that adds a little moisture and not much else. It’s nothing special, really.
To give my skin the moisture it needs, I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 as a serum step. This is my fourth bottle; it’s so inexpensive and it really does make a huge difference in my skin. My night cream these days is Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask, which is an incredibly rich cream that I swear by in the winter. This is my second winter using it and I haven’t had any nose flakes since before I discovered it. About once a week, if my skin is especially dry, I use The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. Of all the oils I’ve tried I like squalane the best – it delivers moisture but isn’t too greasy. It’s also nice on my arms and legs and on the fried, burnt ends of my hair. (Just kidding, I haven’t bleached my hair in 11 months and it’s so much healthier!)
My final step is always Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm, which truly is the most nourishing, effective lip treatment I’ve found. It does have a pretty thick, waxy texture, so it’s a nighttime-exclusive kind of product for me.
And… that is it! I would guess that this is a pretty extensive routine compared to the average, but it doesn’t take me all that long and it addresses all my skin concerns. I hate being away from all my skincare products – that’s the worst part about travelling for me. Anyway – there’s a (far too detailed) breakdown of what I’m currently using.
Posted on January 30, 2018 under Empties
My last empties post was at the end of the summer, before I moved to Glasgow – it’s been awhile! But after months of diligently using stuff, I have finally collected enough garbage to share with you.
Anything marked with an asterisk was received as gratis through work. There are no press samples featured in this post.
Biotherm Blue Therapy Serum-In-Oil*: I’m very sad to see this go, because it was an absolutely lovely, nourishing serum step. However, at $78, I will not be replenishing my supply. I will say, though, this truly is a “serum-in-oil” – it feels oily and is incredibly rich and hydrating, but it sinks into the skin easily and doesn’t feel heavy like some oils tend to do even on my dry skin. I would buy this with Optimum points if I were in a particularly indulgent mood.
Biotherm Life Plankton Sensitive Emulsion*: This is an overpriced moisturizer. It was absolutely fine as a pre-makeup step, but for $55 I don’t want “absolutely fine”.
Jouviance Glyco Laser 5% Soft Peel Night Cream*: My skin loves glycolic acid, and a 5% concentration worked really well for nightly use. This cream was great over the spring and summer months – it wasn’t too heavy but gave me enough hydration. It was fortuitous that I ran out of it as the cooler weather started to settle in, because it wouldn’t have been enough for winter.
Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet: This moisturizer layers nicely under makeup but isn’t as hydrating as I would have wanted. It also smelled really weird, and not in a good way. It was convenient to have on hand for travelling, but hahaha $48 for a 40mL tube of an okay moisturizer.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane: I like having an oil on hand for my hair, body, and face, and this one didn’t disappoint. It worked well for all three purposes and I liked it a bit more than The Ordinary’s Argan Oil, which was a tiny bit heavy on my face. I have repurchased this and use it whenever my face needs some serious help in the hydration department!
Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm: I have sung this lip balm’s praises enough times, I think. This is the second pot I’ve finished; of course, I’m already enthusiastically working my way through a third. I got my mom hooked on this stuff, too. It’s on the pricier side ($17 CAD), but a pot lasts me upwards of a year and it’s legit the best thing for my dry lips.
Nivea Hydro Care Lip Balm: I’m pretty sure I got this in my stocking when I was, like, 15, and recently started using it on a regular basis. Anyway, this is actually a really nice stick lip balm. I switched to Vaseline in a stick after I used this one up, and this one gives longer-lasting and generally richer hydration. When I finish the disappointing Vaseline I’ll probably go back to good ol’ Nivea.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: Photographed separately and on a different background because I finished it while in Toronto for Christmas and don’t understand the meaning of the word “consistency”. I use this as a hydrating serum step and I love it; this is the third bottle I’ve finished.
John Frieda Sheer Blonde Tone-Correcting Shampoo x3: I have been around the block when it comes to purple shampoos, and my favourite is Light Blue Shade. Since I can’t get that here in the UK, I have come back to a longtime favourite. The obvious downside is that I go through a 250mL tube quickly, as you may have surmised from the fact that there are three empty tubes featured in this post. But my hair has been suitably ashy, and the price is right. John Frieda is one of the rare brands that is much cheaper here in the UK; normal price is £6.95, but I always buy my shampoo when it’s on sale for £3.95. That’s about $6 CAD, down from the ~$14 it goes for in Canada. (By the way, the bottle in the second picture is the old packaging, because I still had a tube of it kicking around back in Toronto.)
Batiste Dry Shampoo – Blush: I don’t love this particular floral scent, but my friends and I have come to the conclusion that for some reason the Blush Batiste works better than the regular one. Batiste will always be a go-to dry shampoo staple for me because it works and you can find it nice and cheap at Winners. (I mean, not that the $10 price tag at the drugstore is terrible, either.)
Remind me not to photograph black tubes on a dark background again…
Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer in Fair: This is my second shot at this concealer. The first time I used the pink illuminating shade and found it made my undereyes look ashy. This time I went for Fair, which was a great shade for me. It’s a pretty good undereye concealer, but it doesn’t blow my mind.
Clarins Truly Waterproof Mascara: My favourite mascara – it makes my lashes look super long and defined without any clumps. I don’t mind that it’s waterproof; biphase remover takes it off easily. I despise spending money on mascara and bought this with Optimum points so I could wear it to my friends’ wedding. (Good thing; I cried!) I’ll need another good excuse to buy another tube, as much as I love it – $27 ain’t cheap.
L’Oreal Brow Artist Plumper in Transparent: This truly is my favourite brow gel. The hold is great, and it never looks wet or crispy on my brows. However, I think $14 for a drugstore brow gel is pushing it, so I only buy it when it’s on sale for $8.99. Right now I’m using Essence because I ran out of this stuff and it wasn’t on sale and I was feeling very cheap. I miss it, though. God, don’t you hate getting hooked on a product that’s unnecessarily expensive? I mean… it’s clear brow gel, the most boring product on Earth. I don’t want to spend more than $5 on it!
Witchcraft Be Strong Protein Hardener: I’ve had peely nails for about three years now, and this base coat really helps keep them in good shape. Since I used this up I discontinued use since I can’t find it in the UK, and I find my nails are actually in really good shape. I speculate that it’s because I’m no longer working with my hands so much, but it could be coincidental. Either way, I strongly recommend this if you struggle with peeling nails!
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat: I fell in love with this top coat back in the summer of 2014, and after trying a few others I have ultimately come back to this one. I like it better than the ever-popular Seche Vite! Now that I’m not working retail my nail polish lasts a lot longer, and I can get through an entire week with no chips when I use this top coat.
Beauty UK Nail Polish in Black: I bought this nail polish when I studied abroad in Glasgow, and now that I am back in Glasgow it has become a gloopy mess. Full circle! There’s nothing special about this nail polish either way. Knowing myself I assume this was cheap and that’s why I bought it over all the other black nail polishes out there, and if that’s the case then I think it’s a good budget buy.
Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Barracuda: This baby blue is one of my favourite nail polish colours ever, but the last time I used it it was so gloopy that I had to remove it immediately. I’m not sure if I’ll replace it because Barry M Sugar Apple is so similar that it’s hard to justify.
Lancôme glitter polish: I stole this from my mom’s nail polish stash in high school. (I would apologize, but she hardly ever wears nail polish, let alone glitter, and she probably got it for free because I can’t see her spending $30 on nail glitter.) It’s a really pretty fine white gold glitter that applies evenly, and it has been a staple of my Christmas manicures for many years now. But it’s pretty much completely dry, and the bottle has been caught in the crossfires of a few mishaps, so it’s time to say goodbye.
I don’t normally have so many nail empties, but I’m happy to thin out the herd even more. I’ve been getting increasingly stressed with the concept of owning a lot of things, so the more I use up the better. I’m not sure when my next empties post will be or how many products it will contain, but stay tuned, I guess.