Summer 2018 Favourites

Posted on July 30, 2018 under Favourites

I hardly ever do favourites posts, mostly because I don’t try nearly the volume of products necessary to make that tenable on a regular basis. I think occasional seasonal roundups work for my purposes, though the last one I did was back in the fall of 2016. Here is the warm-weather answer to that, then!

Like many others, in the summer months I opt for a lighter base. This is now my second summer regularly using The Ordinary Serum Foundation in 1.1N, which doesn’t work too well for my skin in winter but looks beautifully natural in summer. To pair with this lighter base, I’ve really been enjoying Bourjois Radiance Reveal Concealer in Ivory. True to its name, it has a natural, radiant finish, but its peachy undertone does wonders in brightening up my dark undereye area. To give it a bit more coverage and lasting-power (and to make it a tad lighter), I usually mix in a little bit of Makeup Revolution Conceal and Define Concealer in C1. Mixing concealers is a new and slightly finnicky trick in my repertoire, but I can’t fault the results.

Here’s the Bourjois concealer on its own (on the right, obviously) for comparison’s sake:

When mixed with the Makeup Revolution concealer, it’s not quite as dewy as it appears in this picture. I do prefer that look slightly, but I think the results of Radiance Reveal on its own are lovely: natural, luminous, and surprisingly effective for such a comfortable, emollient, lightweight formula.

Back in May I used some Optimum points to pick up the Clinique Blush Pop in Peach Pop, my first taste of this well-loved formula. Though I find the clear plastic packaging a bit cheap-looking, I can’t deny that this is a beautiful buildable, long-lasting blush. Like a basic bitch, I love peach in the summer, so I’ve used this very frequently over the past few months. When I want a more vibrant blush, I use my trusty Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat, a lovely red-coral. Between those two blushes (well, and the always-appropriate Hourglass Mood Exposure, of course), I’ve scarcely touched anything else.

My eyelids eat cream formulas after the six-hour mark, and I always have the best results with powder shadow over a good primer. So colour me surprised that the Stila Shimmer and Glow Liquid Eyeshadows truly stay put on my eyes all day. In the heat of a humid Toronto summer, these shadows are quick and easy to apply and completely bulletproof. I picked up the shades Kitten (Stila’s classic champagne) and Jezebel (a rose gold) in May, and I’ve been using them… basically all the time. I do really like the Glitter and Glow shadows, too, but they’re a bit prone to fallout, while the high-impact, metallic Shimmer and Glows are not.

Here’s how Kitten looks on my eye, with a matte brown powder shadow in the crease:

And Jezebel, with some similar crease shadow action (and mascara smudges):

And a swatch gif, so you can see how beautiful these guys really are:

In the summer I gravitate towards my impossibly bright lipsticks, all of which are in the same basic colour family. Marc Jacobs So Sofia, a purchase made almost exactly a year ago as summer wound to a close, has seen a lot of use. So has Revlon Fire and Ice, a truly classic shade which lives its best life in the summer months. New-to-me is NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl, a shade popularized by Taylor Swift several years ago. In the wake of 1989 (which was a damn catchy pop album, sue me), I coveted the colour but could never pull the trigger; when a family friend gifted it to me last month, I was predictably ecstatic. On Swift, Dragon Girl is a bright, fiery red; on me, it’s noticeably more pink, though still as delightfully vibrant. Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Romantic is a long, long, longtime favourite – it’s a beautiful sheer, warm red that’s never too much. (They still make this shade, too, though most of the Balm Stains are long gone.) After a long period of gravitating more towards neutral lipsticks, I’m back to my best self with my bold colours.

L-R: Marc Jacobs So Sofia, Revlon Fire and Ice, NARS Dragon Girl, Revlon Romantic

I arrived back in Canada at the end of May after eight months in the UK, and I found that my hands were suddenly very dry in this climate. Though I have a pretty dry face and very dry arms and legs, my hands have always self-regulated pretty well. But apparently the change in climate was too much, so I had to turn to The Chemistry Brand HA3 Hand Hydrator. This is a super effective, hyaluronic-based hand cream with a light whipped texture. The reason I like it enough to talk about on my blog is that it sinks in incredibly quickly without compromising its efficacy. I cannot stand feeling like there’s anything on my hands; I want to wash them immediately. A lot of hand creams are like nails on a chalkboard to me, but not this one. It also has a very peppy zesty scent which I enjoy.

I also really enjoy The Chemistry Brand Hyaluronic Body Mist for a hit of moisture between body lotion applications. It’s especially nice to have something so quick and easy to apply in the summer, when the heat can induce lethargy. Sometimes it seems altogether too much to rub cream all over my body, but a quick mist is within my capability. This product definitely isn’t a substitute for an actual body lotion (at least not for my dry skin!), but it’s a great interim product.

In the non-makeup realm, I would probably be dead without the Invisibobble knockoffs I got at Primark back in the winter. I’m growing out my blonde (as you have no doubt been able to surmise from my photos over the past year and a half), and I have a few months to go before I can chop it all off. My hair is longer than I like it, and since it’s very thick and abundant it’s just far too much to have on my neck in the summer. I’ve been putting it up in a high ponytail or topknot almost every day, and these little coiled hair ties do an amazing job at keeping my hair comfortably in place. I definitely don’t think you should pay for the brand name version, but if you can find cheap knockoffs they are great for keeping thick, unruly hair at bay.

And, before I go, one summery miss: Avène High Protection SPF50+ Emulsion. This sunscreen has a pleasant texture (if a bit thicker than other facial sunscreens by brands like La Roche-Posay and Vichy) and user-friendly packaging, and seems truly effective if my perpetually-fair face is anything to go by. Unfortunately, it leaves such a white cast. When I’m going to work this isn’t an issue as I put foundation on top anyway, but I often leave my house without makeup but still want to be protected from the sun. It’s a bummer, because I do like the product otherwise, and the pump/squeeze-tube hybrid packaging is always welcome in my home. When I’m out of this I’ll be looking to another brand for my face sunscreen needs.

And that’s what I’ve been putting on my face this summer! It’s a nice mixture of new discoveries and old favourites.

Review: Makeup Revolution Fast Base Stick Foundation in F1

Posted on July 10, 2018 under Reviews

Let me tell you something. Sometimes you meet someone on the internet in 2006 and 12 years later you are still friends with them. Sometimes that person keeps a box full of their old castoff makeup that they give to you whenever you visit. Maybe there are other people like that out there with other names, but I am talking about my friend Aisling, who I met online when people still used MSN to communicate and who I have now spent enough time with in real life to consider “a friend” instead of “an internet friend”. (I have been to all of the flats she’s lived in and neither one of us has revealed ourselves to be murderers, so I think it’s real.)

Aisling is a fellow Canadian, though she now lives in Brighton, which is the most adorable seaside city that I love visiting even though it’s literally always grey and rainy when I’m there. I’ve been there four times now and the weather is always TRASH! But that’s okay, because I always get a box full of Aisling’s old makeup to go through. Also, I get to hang out with her, and she introduces me to insane British reality shows. (I firmly maintain that British reality TV is balls to the wall, and since reality TV is my main academic interest I think I’m qualified to make that statement.)

The things Aisling gives me fall into three categories. We have nice stuff that she just didn’t want (and it is this category that allowed me to discover the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes, which I fell in love with and then in turn made my mom fall in love with). We have garbage that I also do not want but that she puts in the box on the off chance that I will liberate it from its fate at the bottom of the trash can. And we have things that she hates but that I want to try anyway. Many times I also end up hating these things. Like, she warned me about Urban Decay All Nighter. I can’t say she didn’t!

One of the things Aisling passed on to me on my last (grey, drizzling) trip to Brighton was the Makeup Revolution Fast Base Stick Foundation. Aisling hated this product and told me that it looked like “crusty garbage” on her face. She very adamantly told me that she wanted me to include that phrase in this blog post, so here I am, reporting this faithfully. I am no stranger to my face looking like crusty garbage because I have dry skin and that’s the way it goes sometimes. I will cut to chase here and say that this foundation does NOT look like crusty garbage on my face, so there is hope for you too.

Shade Range

Like the Conceal and Define Concealer, this foundation launched with eighteen shades, which is pretty good for a drugstore range. (I see that the concealer range is now up to twenty-five shades!) The foundations are labelled with F and a number, with no indication of undertone, although MUR does claim that cool, neutral, and warm undertones are represented in this range. You can see the darkest four shades swatched in this video. As I’ve now left the UK, I can’t comment on which shades are actually sold in-store, although I know for sure that only about half of the concealer shades are stocked in Glasgow Superdrugs.

In terms of the lighter end of the spectrum, the shade F1 is fair with a grey-pink undertone. I do best with neutral or cool yellow tones, so this isn’t a perfect match for me, though it’s passable. The pink doesn’t come across quite so strongly in photographs, and it looks more seamless in my pictures here than in real life.

You can see that The Ordinary and IT Cosmetics bases have more yellow in them compared to MUR F1, which is quite a bit cooler and greyer. I do find it interesting that the shade is so different from C1 in the Conceal and Define Concealer – you’d think there’d be some consistency across base products in the same line! On MUR’s website, they recommend F1 “for fair skin with neutral undertone”, but I think you’d need to be leaning significantly pinker for this to be a perfect match. F2 is apparently “for fair skin with yellow undertone”. Looking at the swatches on Superdrug’s blog, F2 does appear to be a hair darker than F1. I think it would probably match me pretty well, but if you’re very, very fair with neutral to warm undertones, it might be too dark.

Packaging

This is as far as it rolls up.

This packaging is not exactly my favoured aesthetic; I’m not a huge fan of the rose gold and nude combo, but then, I’m not a huge rose gold person in general. (Sacrilege, I know!) However, it’s certainly cute and seems to situate this foundation a step up from its £5 price point. The stick twists smoothly up and so far everything appears to be sturdy. At £5 I’m really only looking for functional packaging; the fact that it looks relatively cute (if not overly expensive or to my personal taste) is a bonus.

Both the matte plastic tube and the shiny rose gold accents will attract fingerprints, which real beauty bloggers would wipe off prior to photographing but which I leave because I’m a #normal #relatable #real person.

The Fast Base Stick Foundation contains 0.21oz or just under 6 grams of product. That’s comparable to Hourglass (0.25oz), Clinique, and NYX (both also 0.21oz), but considerably smaller than Lancôme (0.31oz), Anastasia/Tarte/Maybelline (0.32oz), and MUFE (0.44oz). However, at £5, the cost is so low that I think the slightly stingy amount of product is allowable.

Application and Finish

The Fast Base Stick Foundation can be applied with a brush on my normal-to-dry skin. I’ve been using the above pictured MUR Face Precision Oval Makeup Brush, also passed on from Aisling. (The brush is double the cost of the foundation, which seems a bit silly.) Dense, Artis-style brushes work the best with a cream formula, in my opinion – flimsy brushes are just not going to blend adequately. However, I get the best finish with a damp sponge. With a brush, I get slightly fuller coverage and a satin finish; with a sponge, I get reduced coverage and a much dewier finish, plus a more natural look overall. It’s nice that I can technically apply this foundation with a brush, but I’ll admit that I’m not likely to.

I generally associate stick foundations with thick, heavy coverage, but that’s not the case here. By my standards this is a nice medium coverage that feels surprisingly lightweight on my face. My only other foray into the world of stick foundations was last summer, with Hourglass, and that one was substantially thicker. (I ended up returning it because I just didn’t envision it as an everyday product for myself, though it did dutifully get me through my friends’ wedding.) I appreciate that this is a slightly less intense option for those of us who prefer a more natural base.

Here’s how much I apply to my face. Excuse the out-of-focus picture; I think you get the idea.

You can definitely get more coverage if you apply more (uh, duh), but I find that over time it will start to look particularly heavy in areas with multiple layers.

And here’s are some before and after shots. In the before shots, all I have on are moisturizer and sunscreen.

I think you can see that this foundation does not, in fact, look like crusty garbage on me. The water from the sponge meshes really well with the foundation to create a lovely dewy finish, though it does dry down a bit throughout the day. The coverage certainly isn’t full, but it substantially evens out the redness on my cheeks and does a decent job of covering my forehead zits.

Wear

I tend not to set this foundation with powder, and it wears pretty well over the course of a busy, active day. It looks marginally better at the end of the day if I do use a strategic dusting of loose powder, but I prefer not to use powder since I do have a dryer skin type. As I mentioned, when I’ve tried layering this foundation I don’t think it wears as nicely, but when I apply one layer it looks decent by the end of the day.

Here I am a little after six at night, after applying it around nine in the morning, working a full eight hours, and walking for forty minutes in the hot sun.

You can see that it’s worn off around my nose, which happens with basically every foundation. My nose does look, perhaps, like crusty garbage, but that is because that particular side of my nose has been dry and crusty for three months now. (The other side is unaffected. It’s very weird.) It’s a bit heavy around my chin, but it looks really nice across my cheeks.

My forehead looks incredibly shiny, but I literally took these pictures immediately after walking home from work in thirty degree weather, so that might have something to do with it. If I’d blotted before taking these pictures, my forehead would have looked similar to my cheeks. I guess I just really wanted to put a closeup of my sweaty forehead on the internet, you know?

Overall Thoughts

I still prefer a nice emollient liquid foundation for its versatility: I like something that I can blend out with my fingers if I’m in a rush. But stick foundations have their upsides too, primarily how travel-friendly they are. I certainly did not think that a £5 foundation that was described so harshly to me by my trusted friend would end up satisfying me, but it really did. I’m still a bit iffy on the stick foundation format as a whole, but I find this one to be a good example of its genre.

Books Read: May and June 2018

Posted on July 01, 2018 under Books

Happy Canada Day! We’re now halfway through 2018 (ahhh!) and I’m feeling very good about how this year is going books-wise.

May was a bit of a wash; I was travelling and then preparing for and executing a cross-continental move. But I got back in the swing of things in June, and I think I managed to read a respectable amount. In these two months, I read 6 books, bringing my yearly total up to 25 – which means I’m halfway to 50 halfway through the year. I set a goal of 30 for 2018, so I think it’s safe to say I’ll be meeting that. Since I’m doing so well, I’d be happy if I could stay on pace and meet (or exceed) last year’s total of 51.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

This book is based on the real-life case of Debra Lafave, who molested one of her fourteen-year-old students. (Generally the media describes Lafave’s in softer terms such as “seducing” her student, because that’s how we talk about female sexual predators, I guess.) It absolutely succeeded in getting me in the head of a pedophile, which ultimately is not a place that I care to be. Celeste’s monologues were very well-written, reminding me a lot of Amy Dunne’s self-righteous, angry narration in Gone Girl. Clearly, Nutting is truly talented, and that talent is what elevates this book above the simple category of “shock value smut”. That said, I don’t think it’s an especially complex novel, and since the subject matter is so stomach-turning it’s not one I’d ever revisit or even recommend to anyone. Needless to say, it has the potential to be incredibly upsetting if not triggering, so please proceed with caution.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I wrote a very scatching review of this book on Goodreads. Here are some of the salient points, though you are very welcome to read the whole thing (as well as some of the other one- and two-star reviews on there, because they’re amazing):

You know those people who use their extensive knowledge of pop culture as a substitute for a real personality? This is the literary equivalent of that. I’m not against a book whose primary function is spectacle over substance; sometimes you just want to be dazzled as a reader. It’s like the cinema of attractions in book form. That’s cool. It’s just that this wasn’t a spectacle that I particularly enjoyed.

[Lack] of incredible writing chops does not necessarily deter me from enjoying a book. A formulaic, predictable plot does, though. Watery social commentary that any half-sentient sixteen-year-old could come up with does. A novel that is packed full of pop culture references but completely lacking in any indication that the author has heard of a single woman in his life does. … Art3mis is afforded the wonderful plot of “Is she hot in real life and will she sleep with our protagonist?” She’s a blatant male fantasy: chock full of all the requisite masculine nerd culture references but a curvy, pretty woman instead of a basement-dwelling man. Wonderful! Emailing Art3mis to warn of imminent danger, Wade charmingly adds “PS – I think you look even more beautiful in real life,” because every intelligent, accomplished woman wants unsolicited, condescending affirmations about her appearance when she’s being hunted down by an evil corporation.

Ready Player One depicts a bleak future, but it doesn’t draw any attention to one of its most disturbing elements: the lack of female influence on the cultural, social, and political landscape. This book is a celebration of a male-dominated nerd canon disguised as an adventure novel slash social critique. If you’re into the male-dominated nerd canon, you might enjoy its spectacle. Clearly, I did not.

Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez

Scarborough is a suburb of Toronto, amalgamated into the city in 1998 by an evil premier who we will not speak of. (I’m not a fan of amalgamation, but that’s another story.) It’s one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Toronto, itself one of the world’s most multicultural cities. Scarborough compassionately and complexly tells the intersecting stories of various low-income people who live in Scarborough. They are all united by a morning literacy programme offered at a local school, with many of the children attending for the promise of free breakfast. Almost all of the characters in this novel are people of colour, and Hernandez’s care and research in representing their cultures and experiences living in Canada is evident. She writes children and adults equally convincingly, affording every character compassion and nuance. The standout character is the literacy programme coordinator Hina, who you just hope is really out there supporting low-income communities, standing up for herself, and just generally being lovely and strong. Though this novel certainly has its fair share of sad – and even heartbreaking – moments, it’s not tragedy porn. It’s simply the story of a community and its resilience. I absolutely love reading novels set in Toronto, and I’m so glad that Scarborough exists to such local acclaim – these are stories that are not often told but that are so important for us all to understand as neighbours. I don’t remember the last time I was so gripped by a book that I read it in one sitting!

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Some of the best modern fiction is being written by Nigerian and Nigerian-American women, and I’m so glad that books like this, Homegoing, and of course Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works are gaining international attention. Under the Udala Trees is about Ijeoma, who comes of age during the Biafran War in the late 1960s. Sent away to be a housegirl for a grammar school teacher and his wife, Ijeoma meets and falls love with a Muslim girl named Amina. While I found the prose a bit stiff at times, the story was beautiful, the character of Ijeoma so richly-drawn and believable. In general I never tire of LGBTQ narratives, but it is true that so many are white and Western. I’m endlessly glad that this book exists, and Okparanta has so much to say about homosexuality in Nigeria, both within the novel and outside it.

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Some of the best feminist-oriented coming-of-age stories have been produced by Canadian women. Alice Munro is best known for her short stories (she’s won a Nobel Prize!); Lives of Girls and Women is her only novel, though it could be argued that it’s a series of short stories centering on the precocious Del Jordan. Born in the 1930s, Del is raised by an enlightened, progressive mother in the small town of Jubilee, Ontario. The book follows her from age nine to young adulthood as she navigates the social and sexual expectations of a rapidly-changing world. The lives referenced in the title represent the different people Del is throughout the book as well as the different paths she could take. Her mother represents what she would have been reduced to had she been born a generation earlier; her friend Naomi represents the more conventional path taken by women. But Del is not a beacon of feminist consciousness like her mother. She is curious and sharp, but she pushes back against her mother’s progressive politics, looking for something greater than herself but also craving normalcy. She’s a fascinatingly complex character, a very convincing portrait of a young woman in the 1940s and 50s.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I got it into my head that I want to read all of the books on that fake BBC-endorsed “100 books to read before you die” list, mostly just to say I had but also because there’s probably some good stuff on it. I’m still trying to decide if I should do it or not, and the biggest deterrent is the 50,000 pages of Dickens I would have to read. I thought I’d dip my toes into it and read some of the books I’m actually interested in, and I started with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Obviously I knew the basic story, but hadn’t actually read it. I ended up really liking it – it’s full of drama, intrigue, murder, and hyperbole about how having to watch a bad play is a truly torturous experience… basically everything you need in a late 19th century novel. I thought the character of Lord Henry was the most interesting; though the novel centres around Dorian and all of his soulless indiscretions, Henry is just as terrible – and he hasn’t even sold his soul for eternal youth. Of course, the dramatic tension of the plot was enough to reel me in, but it’s also a fascinating character study.

Out of the six books I read in May and June, there was only one I really disliked – all the others were very enjoyable. Can’t complain too much about that!