ELF Brush Collection and Review

Posted on July 18, 2016 under Reviews


Back when I first got into makeup, ELF was one of the first brands I purchased from. I made a few large but shockingly inexpensive orders during the spring and summer of 2013. Since then I have purged all but a very few of the products. The things I have reached for most often over the past three years are a handful of brushes. A few weeks ago, my mom and I decided to make our first ELF order in years. I picked up their brush cleanser and some more of their dirt cheap brushes.

I decided that rather than just review the new brushes I’d give an overview of my ELF brush collection as a whole. I certainly have not tried even close to the whole brush range, but hopefully this slightly more comprehensive post will be helpful to someone out there!

Blush Brush


This is a fairly flat, tapered blush brush. It’s smaller, flatter, and more tapered than the bdellium tools 964 and the Real Techniques Duo-Fiber Face Brush. I don’t find that it picks up product super well, and I tend to prefer a larger and more rounded brush for blush application anyway. But I love this brush for blending out heavy-handed blush application. Everyone knows that eyeshadow blending brushes are must-haves, but a blush blending brush has saved the day for me many times. This particular brush is certainly not an essential, but I have found a use for it!

Highlight Brush


This is a new purchase for me. It’s a pretty standard tapered highlight brush with synthetic bristles. It’s fairly similar in shape to the bdellium tools 944, but a bit wider and fluffier. I really like how it applies highlighter: it lays down a good amount of product but not too much, and it blends it out as it goes.

Crease Brush



This is a very fluffy blending brush that tapers considerably at the ferule. It is a lot fluffier and less flat than both the Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush and MAC 217 (and bdellium tools 766, which is so similar to the 217 that I didn’t bother to include it in the picture). A lot of people have hyped this brush up as one of the best crease brushes out there. Personally I think it’s okay for applying a crease colour if you’re going for a diffused look, as it’s quite fluffy. I find that it’s a bit too floppy for my tastes, though: I prefer a slightly stiffer and flatter brush because I find it’s easier to get the pressure necessary to blend effectively. I do like this for when I just want to fluff a neutral colour into my crease, put a coat of mascara on, and call it a day. I would not use it for more detailed crease work. I was excited for this one to arrive, but it was a bit of a letdown. I will certainly manage to use it, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything to write home about.

Contour Brush



I’m not sure why this isn’t called the Eye Contour Brush since clearly it’s a short stubby pencil brush. It’s wider and less tapered than the Lise Watier Eye Contour Brush and Quo Crease Blending Brush. I really like this one for packing eyeshadow more densely into the crease. It has a slightly larger surface area than I was expecting so it’s not for extremely precise crease work, but I find it fits into my socket very well and applies colour evenly. It has no fluff to it so some blending work with a separate brush is required, but that’s cool. I don’t generally expect my brushes to blend unless they’re blending brushes, you know?

Small Smudge Brush


This is one of my OG ELF brushes and I love it. It’s very small and flat, more so than the Real Techniques Detailer Brush and Accent Brush. (Both of those are fairly flat, but they’re nothing compared to the Small Smudge Brush!) I envy those girls on YouTube who can bring eyeshadow very far under their lashlines, but I’m not one of them. I have dark circles and too much eyeshadow under my eyes just brings them out. I do generally like a medium colour along the outer half of the bottom lashline for definition, and this is without fail the brush I use for that. It’s tiny and the perfect size for those of us who just want a little bit of shadow close to the lashline. It gets right in underneath the bottom lashes and doesn’t drag the colour down too far. I’d be lost without it!

Eyeshadow “C” Brush



This is a large, rounded all over eyeshadow brush. It’s flatter than the Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush and larger and slightly more rounded than the Real Techniques Smudge Brush. I don’t have a lot of eyelid space so this one covers a lot of area on me. Unfortunately, I don’t find it delivers great pigmentation, so I don’t reach for it very often. I find it most useful when I’m applying a light colour all over my eyelid and a medium colour in the crease for a very quick and easy eye look.

Concealer Brush



Again, this is a fairly standard concealer brush: flat and a bit tapered. The Real Techniques Shading Brush is less flat; the Real Techniques Detailer Brush is smaller and relative to its size longer and thinner. I was very underwhelmed when I used this for concealer (I prefer something a bit fluffier), but when I discovered how well it packs on eyeshadow I was sold. I actually ordered two more this time around, because I use this brush all the time and the less often I have to clean it the better. It’s my go-to when I have an eyeshadow with lacklustre pigmentation. I’m sure most brushes with this shape would do a fine job packing on eyeshadow, but this one is three bucks, SO.

Angled Eyeliner Brush


I’ve had this forever and I never really use it. I find the bristles a bit too floppy to apply gel eyeliner very well. It probably won’t survive my next purge. I rarely wear gel eyeliner, anyway, and when I do this is not my go-to brush.

Brow and Lash Brush


This is a spoolie which I bought because it was $1 and I’ve been using a cleaned off mascara wand for the last three years instead of an actual spoolie. To be honest, the mascara wand was fine. But I wanted to feel a little more legit, and $1 seemed like a fair price. I like this, but I don’t feel that I would be overly critical of many spoolies regardless.

Retractable Lip Brush


This is a lip brush. It’s slightly thinner than the Real Techniques Retractable Lip Brush, but, you know, they’re pretty much the same thing. It does the job just fine. I like that it’s retractable because it’s good for travel – I don’t want a used lip brush getting gunky and gross.

I think ELF brushes can be a bit hit or miss: I don’t always find that they deliver the best pigmentation, but some of them are surprisingly good. There are quite a few that are staples in my brush collection and that I use every day. Like anything ELF, I think it’s best to do a bit of research before committing to any brushes – but there are some really great ones out there for 3 bucks a pop!

(Also, as an end note, I hope you will forgive me for my dirty brushes. I did not have the time to wash them before I took these pictures.)

Empties: May to July 2016

Posted on July 12, 2016 under Empties

Wow, time flies when you decide to rewatch the entire 202-episode series of The X-Files, eh? (A side effect of this is being very into matte brown eyeshadow and mauve lipstick. Dana Scully is an inspiration in so many ways…) I was getting so caught up in government conspiracies that I almost forgot I even had a blog! Today I have for you another randomly spaced-out installment of empties.

There are no press samples included in this batch, so anything marked with an asterisk was received for free through work.



Jouviance Micellar Solution*: This was okay: it was pretty effective but maybe a bit more drying than the La Roche-Posay one, which so far is my favourite. Would not pay actual money for this, but if I got it through work again I’d use it up.

Lancôme Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover: This is the best eye makeup remover I’ve ever used, including in comparison to other biphase products. Lately I’ve been using Clarins Truly Waterproof mascara, which lives up to its name, and Bi-Facil can handle that. I’m very sad that this is gone because $36 for an eye makeup remover is unjustifiable. Normally I just live off the sample/GWP sizes, which I do have two of. When they’re gone I will have to have a serious conversation with myself about whether dropping 3 hours worth of wages on eye makeup remover is an option.

La Roche Posay Toleriane Riche Soothing Protecting Cream*: This is a great thick moisturizer for dry skin. I was mostly using it throughout the winter, but even in April and May it wasn’t too bad – it sinks in quite quickly, though it certainly wouldn’t be suited to oily skin. My line of work means I haven’t purchased moisturizer in two years, but theoretically I would buy this.

Reversa Eye Care Anti-Puff and Dark Circles*: This kept my undereyes moisturized but did nothing for my hereditary dark circles. I didn’t expect anything else, so I wasn’t disappointed.



Standard for me: John Frieda Colour Renew Tone-Correcting Shampoo and L’Oreal Color Radiance Protecting Mask. The John Frieda blonde shampoos are continual repurchases for me because I find them effective for the price point. I do like the L’Oreal mask, still (I’m just finishing up my fifth or sixth tub of it), but I probably won’t be repurchasing now because I’ve found things that work even better.



Rimmel Stay Matte Powder: This isn’t technically empty, but at some point it becomes a quality of life thing, you know? Scraping powder from the edges of the pan is just not worth it. I have repurchased this one, because it worked well for me and I see no point in spending more than $8 on a powder.

Rimmel Lasting Finish 25 Hour Foundation: Technically I didn’t quite finish this one either – there are maybe three or four more uses in the bottle. But I left it out in the sun and now it smells like cat pee, so it must go. I did like this product, but I’m more into a lighter coverage and thinner consistency for the summer (and maybe in general). Definitely a great budget option for the four skin tones Rimmel makes products for.

Rimmel Brow This Way Eyebrow Gel in Clear: I liked this slightly better than the Essence one because it wasn’t quite so wet and sloppy, but I also felt like I used it up really quickly. Plus, it’s considerably pricier than the Essence one, and I’m just not willing to pay $7 more for less wet brow gel. So back to the Essence it is!

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner: Standard. I have completely lost track of what number I’m on now. At least my fifth, maybe more. Since I discovered it about three years ago I have not looked back!



3 year old $3 eyelash curler from Walmart: I thought this was doing the trick until I got Tweezerman curlers. Now I see what I have been missing out on!

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish in Pacific Blue: My original bottle of Pacific Blue! I could probably add some thinner to get more wear out of this, and I just might, because I only have two backup bottles and then I will be forever without my favourite nail polish in the world. Still not ready to forgive Sally for this cruelty.

… And that is it! Hopefully you will hear something from me in fewer than 12 days, but I can’t promise anything when I still have 182 episodes left to watch.

Books read, April-June 2016

Posted on June 30, 2016 under Books


I am pretty embarrassed to say that I fell down on the job of reading this quarter. I blame it on two things. First, most of April was eaten up by the end of my undergraduate career, when I barely had free time to breathe, let alone to read entire books. Then, no sooner had I finished my degree than I started back at work. I find it hard to get into a routine with shift work, and often I feel so tired by the end of eight hours on my feet that I want to do less intellectually-stimulating things than read. But June brought a renewed interest in reading, and I’m hoping that going forward I’ll be able to build in more time for it. Here’s what I’ve read over the past three months:

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

I had very high hopes for this book, but I just didn’t love it. It’s a quick read (I read it in one sitting on the Megabus back to Toronto), and the writing is nice, but the stories themselves were very forgettable to me. None of the characters were at all likeable, a fact which doesn’t always prevent me from enjoying a book, but which really got in the way this time. The main character is just so terrible. The female characters are all extremely shallow. Some parts of the book were very moving, and some stories were better than others, but overall I felt disappointed and strangely unmoved.

(I donated this book to Valu Village awhile ago, so it’s not pictured above.)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I bought The Goldfinch in August and finally read it in mid-June. It’s certainly a long one, but I was never bored by it unlike a lot of people I know. I loved the writing, the story, the characters. It is a bit slow, but I enjoy a meandering story when it’s done right. I’m glad I saved this book until I had the time to read it slowly and appreciate it.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects is, to me, the most disturbing of Flynn’s three novels, and it is not for the faint of heart. I enjoyed her writing (as always) and the trademark Gillian Flynn twist at the end. This is my least favourite of her novels, but I still really liked it. This is an example to me of a novel where unlikeable, bizarre characters actually enhanced my enjoyment. The ending wasn’t too great, but I always find Flynn’s conclusions a bit anti-climactic.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

I probably haven’t mentioned this on my blog before, but I’m a big Vonnegut fan. I read Slaughterhouse-Five my senior year of high school and since then have been picking up his books whenever I can. (That’s not that often, because bookstores always seem to stock the most popular titles, all of which I already own!) The Sirens of Titan is definitely one of my favourites – I loved the usual dry, satirical exploration of truth, luck, religion, and the meaning of life, and the revelation at the end is hilarious and comes together so well. Definitely up there with Bluebeard and Slaughterhouse-Five in my own personal Vonnegut ranking!

I currently have four unread books sitting on my shelf (Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins; Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton; Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; The Little Friend by Donna Tartt), so I’ll be working through those next. Plus I have a huge list of books I’m interested in, so, you know, I should be able to scrape together a slightly larger selection at the end of next quarter. I’ve read 12 books this year so far, so I’m pretty much on pace for my 25 book goal in 2016. Now that I’m back in the swing of things I’m hoping to do a bit better than that, even.