Cream and liquid highlighters for every occasion

Posted on April 27, 2018 under Reviews

I only have powder blushes in my collection; after dabbling in various cream and liquid formulas, I have finally come to the conclusion that they just aren’t for me. But I’m the complete opposite when it comes to highlighter – I vastly prefer cream and liquid formulas, as a general rule. I tend to enjoy a more subtle highlight, and creams reign supreme at creating a natural effect on the skin. But even when I’m looking for something a little more out-of-this-world, I find creams and liquids just sit on my skin more seamlessly. Today I’m going to share with you a variety of cream and liquid highlighters that cover the spectrum from “barely-there” to “very blingy”.

For once the dreary Scottish weather (and endless winter!) came in handy as I find underexposed pictures better show off how highlighter looks on the skin. That said, it’s true that when blended out the similarities between highlighters tend to flatten, even moreso when photographed (at least by the amateur known as Clementine). The comparison swatches at the end of the post will hopefully elucidate the differences between these products, but at the end of the day they are all shiny things you rub on your face. You really only need so many.

Glossier Haloscope in Quartz

$22 USD/$27 CAD for 0.19oz ($115.79 USD/$142.11 CAD per oz)

This is the highlighter for the person who wants a little glow without looking like they’re wearing anything. It gives the most beautiful radiance without appearing to actually be there at all. It has a very emollient, slightly sticky texture which never totally goes away, so if you have combination to oily skin this may not be the product for you. However, on my dry skin it blends in beautifully with my fingers and looks so fresh. It gives an almost glazed appearance to the skin, which sounds weird but is really excellent. I pretty much always roll my eyes at Glossier products – their marketing doesn’t resonate with me at all and most of what they do can be easily duped – but I can’t deny that this is my most-used highlighter. You win this round, Glossier.

Revlon PhotoReady InstaFix Highlighter Stick in Pink Light

$13.99 USD/$21.99 CAD for 0.31oz ($45.13 USD/$70.94 CAD per oz)

First I would like to point out that if you stroll into a Canadian drugstore, this Revlon highlighter will cost a mere $5 less than a similar product from Glossier. I mean… drugstore prices are absurd. $22 for a highlighter from Revlon? Seriously? Begrudgingly I must admit that this is a very beautiful highlighter. If you want, you can get this product in a standard champagne-y highlighter tone and I’m sure it would be lovely. Personally, I live for Pink Light – I find this tone of highlighter really flattering on me! This is one that you definitely want to apply with your fingers rather than swiping it directly onto your face, since the texture is a bit dry. However, that means it’ll last a lot longer than something as dewy as the Haloscope, and won’t leave you with that lingering stickiness on your cheekbones. You can blend out a thin layer of this product for a more subtle look or build it up if you want an intense highlight – just keep in mind that it is unmistakably on the metallic side.

Vichy Teint Idéal Highlighter

$27 CAD for 0.24 fl oz ($112.50 per fl oz)

This is the most glorious wet look highlighter that has ever existed. It has a very thin and sheer formula, though it can be built up. It has a distinctly white base, so it’s probably not suitable for all skintones – though it’s sheer enough that I think it’d be decently forgiving on light to medium skin. What do I know, though, I’m very white. Anyway, one layer of this highlighter is pretty subtle, but two layers gives you that super intense pearly wet look. This is a very reflective highlighter, so it’s not like it’s exactly a natural look, but it’s not blingy, either. There’s no visible glitter chunks and it melts into the skin really nicely. Basically, it’s beautiful, and I love it.

Topshop Glow Highlighter in Polished

£10/$17.91 CAD for 0.14oz (£71.43/$127.93 CAD per oz)

Have you ever wanted to look like you rubbed the visual essence of opals all over your cheekbones? Well, Topshop can hook you up with this insane highlighter that shifts between white and pearlescent pink. It is so beautiful. It’s also pretty intense, but I don’t find it emphasizes texture. It just blends into my skin and makes me look like I’m from another world. I cannot say enough good things about this highlighter, because it is so special and impactful and brilliant. I fell in love with it when I bought it over three years ago and that love remains at a fever pitch to this day.

Makeup Revolution Liquid Highlighter in Starlight

£6/$10.75CAD for .4 fl oz (£15/$26.88 CAD per fl oz)

This is not a highlighter for the faint of heart. No, this is a super metallic highlighter that you could probably see from outer space. So if you don’t want aliens to see you then you should definitely not buy this. But if you do want to make friendly contact with them, well, I’m not saying that highlighter is a substitute for, like, NASA, I’m just saying that this highlighter is visible from anywhere in the universe. It’s not often a look that I go for, but sometimes you go out with friends or just really feel like a pick-me-up in the form of really intense highlighter. This one probably wouldn’t be the best if you have a lot of texture on your cheekbones, though. I also find that it by far blends best with the fingertips; you’d think a liquid highlighter would do well with a damp sponge, but no, that is not the case here. If you want to blend out the harsh edges, you are going to need to use your fingers. That’s not a problem for me because I am a huge advocate of using my fingers for as many makeup application steps as possible. Maybe you’re different. I’m just letting you know.

Here are some comparison swatches:

L-R: Glossier Haloscope in Quartz, Revlon PhotoReady InstaFix Highlighter Stick in Pink Light, Vichy Teint Idéal Highlighter, Topshop Glow Highlighter in Polished, Makeup Revolution Liquid Highlighter in Starlight

And an underexposed shot so you can really see how these babies shine:

I’m telling you Polished and Starlight are high-impact.

And a gif, because movement really helps show a highlighter’s potential:

And I think three swatch photos probably suffice…

I’m still not the biggest highlighter person; it’s a step that I can easily sacrifice if I’m in a rush. But this cream and liquid highlighter wardrobe gives me every option I need, from “I don’t want you to know I’m actually wearing highlighter” to “I’m going to be in the presence of drag queens and my cheekbones need to catch their attention”.

Things you should or should not buy for your brows and lashes

Posted on April 22, 2018 under Reviews

Here, have three reviews of things that are not exciting enough to warrant their own posts. We have two mascaras and a brow pencil, and those things are kind of related, right? I mean, they both pertain to hair on your face. That’s a good enough parallel for me to justify shoving them into the same post.

Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner in Universal Taupe

I’ve been doing my brows the same exact way for four years. I use Maybelline Colour Tattoo in Tough As Taupe on an angled brush, and it works marvellously. The colour match is perfect and I get the exact angles I want. However, some time ago I decided that I wanted a brow pencil for travelling, since the heavy pot of cream eyeshadow plus an angled brush can get a bit unwieldy. I’ve read really good reviews of this Annabelle pencil, and it’s always been a high seller in my experience working cosmetics retail, so I picked one up back in the summer.

This is a very fine twist-up brow pencil à la the almighty Anastasia Brow Wiz and its army of dupes. It comes in five colours – Universal Light, Universal Medium, Universal Dark, Universal Ebony, Universal Taupe, and Universal Auburn. I’m not really sure what the hell Annabelle thinks “universal” means, but whatever. I selected Universal Taupe because it seemed to be the closest to the colour of my brow hairs. Unfortunately this colour is a hair warm for my brows. I find that brow pencils are either too dark or too warm. Where is the nice light, ashy taupe I need?! See, this is why I can’t stray from cream eyeshadow.

Here’s how my bare brows look:

Clearly, I already have pretty full, well-shaped brows. I mostly like to fill in the tail and add a tiny bit of structure.

Here’s the same brow filled in using the Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner:

I’m not crazy in thinking that colour just isn’t right, am I? This is how I usually do them:

I just think that tone is a lot better for me!

Colour aside, this pencil has a pretty dry formula, which I definitely prefer for a brow pencil – I don’t want to accidentally overdo it with an emollient pencil. It’s also not super pigmented, which is a plus for the same reason. The teeny-tiny tip is absolutely great for making small, precise strokes.

Unfortunately, as it turns out I’m just not a huge fan of brow pencils. I seem to prefer the application and final look of pomade. Maybe this is just bias because the last time I regularly used a brow pencil my eyebrows look like this:

(However, I also had healthy hair, so that’s a tradeoff, I guess. Although as you may have noticed in recent pictures I’m making good progress growing out my blonde hair!)

I don’t know. There’s no particular fault in this product I can point towards. It’s actually really good for what it is. I just don’t like using an eyebrow pencil, apparently. And I want my brow products to be ashier than Pompeii, which this pencil just isn’t. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy pencils and can find a good colour match!

L’Oréal Paradise Extatic Mascara

I am 99% sure that this bizarrely-named mascara is the exact same thing as the Lash Paradise mascara that the entire world went crazy for over the summer. (Seriously, we could not keep it on the shelves at work. We’d get a shipment of like thirty tubes twice a week and within a day THEY WOULD ALL BE GONE. Except for the brown. Those usually stayed put.) I don’t know why the UK had to give it this name, but whatever. It’s the same thing.

As usual, I am unfashionably late to this bandwagon, probably because this is the first time I have spent real currency on mascara in five years. (I always got it free from work, but now I no longer work in cosmetics, and I ran out.) Really I was looking for something that would hold a curl because I’ve noticed that some of my old mascara faves have failed to do that lately. (Lancôme Hypnôse, I’m looking at you.) This formula is more volumizing than lengthening, which is fine. My preference is for extreme length and solid definition, but I’ll take volume as long as it doesn’t clump. This definitely is not a super-clumpy formula, but it takes about a week to get to the sweet spot, I think, whereas something like Lancôme Hypnôse (for all its curl-killing faults) is impossible to make clumpy. That’s okay, though; my favourite mascara of all time, Clarins Truly Waterproof, also need a few weeks to bloom into its full potential, and I can be patient. (You can see how that mascara looks on me in this post, because it is truly everything I need.)

I like this brush. I prefer natural to plastic bristles so this delivers on that front. I don’t really care about the hourglass shape; it works just fine, but I wouldn’t say it’s especially noteworthy. The brush doesn’t hold onto too much product, so that’s fine by me.

I have pretty thick and long lashes that are tragically straight. Like, if a mascara isn’t going to hold a curl then I might as well not have eyelashes, let alone good eyelashes. I would say this mascara is medium at holding a curl. I’ve certainly experienced the letdown of a mascara that immediately kills a curl and makes applying mascara pointless, but I’ve also seen the magic of Clarins Truly Waterproof and this ain’t that. It’s serviceable in the curl department, though. I also don’t notice flaking or extreme amounts of smudging if I use it on my bottom lashes. It’s not waterproof, but it’s slightly harder to remove than your average washable mascara. I personally don’t mind that; like I said, my favourite mascara is waterproof, and I use a biphase eye makeup remover anyway. It takes a bit more work to remove this with a simple micellar solution.

Here’s how the Paradise Extatic mascara looks on my top and bottom lashes:

And a comparison of my lashes with and without the mascara:

All in all, I think this is a nice mascara. It does everything I want it to do even if it takes some time to truly hit its stride. That said, it costs $15.99 in Canadian drugstores and that is just absurd. I can spend $11 more and get a tube of my beloved Clarins. Next time I’m looking to the drugstore, I’ll probably grab a tube of CoverGirl, which is $6.99 on sale. (Seriously, I know Maybelline and L’Oréal are the darlings of the drugstore mascara world, but in my experience CoverGirl knocks it out of the park every time at a cheaper price.)

Urban Decay Troublemaker Mascara

Ugh, this mascara is bullshit. First of all, the marketing sucks and is stupid. Second of all, the mascara sucks and is stupid. It basically did nothing for my eyelashes and rubbed off underneath my eyes within eleven seconds. I used it all of three times before I threw it violently into my declutter box.

As I’ve said a million times, it doesn’t take a miraculous mascara to content me, because my baseline is already pretty good. So when I actively dislike a mascara, you know it’s bad news.

Here’s what UD Troublemaker looks like after being built up pretty much to the greatest extent possible:

If you want something subtle, this may be the mascara for you! But when UD boasts that they “loaded up this mascara with insane benefits—for thicker, longer and fanned-out looking lashes”… well, no. That is a lie. Also, if you DO like subtle eyelashes, you can go to Walmart and get Wet N Wild for three bucks.

Here, let’s compare L’Oréal and UD:

The Paradise Extatic on the left gives noticeably more volume and length and holds a curl a lot better. I know which one I’m choosing!

And in case you were wondering, here’s the brush on the UD:

I tend not to get along with rubber bristles too well, so maybe this was doomed from the start.

And there are some reviews of some things. In conclusion, do not waste your coin on UD Troublemaker. Buy L’Oréal Lash Paradise maybe if you don’t mind that it’s very expensive for the drugstore. Buy the Annabelle brow pencil if they have a colour that works for you and you like micro brow pencils. The end.

Review: Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in 35mm

Posted on April 11, 2018 under Reviews

Though Pat McGrath’s early makeup launches were appealing on some levels, ultimately I found them easy to resist. I don’t care enough about highlighter to spend a billion dollars on one packaged in sequins, and though the lip kits were beautiful, they were so far out of my budget that they didn’t even enter the realm of consideration. It was when the brand released their MatteTrance and LuxeTrance lipsticks that my interest was truly piqued. We all know I’m someone who can get behind a single luxurious lipstick, even if it is overpriced. And when I started hearing over-the-top praise from people in Facebook groups, I knew I would have to bite the bullet one day. Originally I was thinking to use it as a reward for a substantial accomplishment… but then I got a Sephora gift card for Christmas and decided that I didn’t want to wait until I had accomplished something substantial. (Let’s be honest – my next substantial accomplishment will be finishing my degree, and that’s in September. I don’t have that much willpower.)

Canadian Sephoras unfortunately don’t carry Pat McGrath products in store (or didn’t when I bought this back in early January), and there is a shocking lack of swatches of the lipsticks online. I mean, as makeup lovers the internet is our most precious resource! I never buy things without consulting an appropriate amount of online sources for reviews and swatches. After rounding up the few scraps I could find, I narrowed down my list to a variety of berry and burgundy shades. Ultimately I decided that the berries were too close to my beloved MAC Rebel to justify buying… and the name of the burgundy 35mm won me over. I’m a film and TV grad student, you know? When it’s right it’s right.

Sephora calls this a “burgundy pink”, which is a phrase that makes no sense and is most certainly not in any way factual. In the tube, 35mm looks like a medium brown with a hint of red, but on my lips the brown all but disappears. I’d call it a deep wine red with virtually none of the brown or purple necessary to be burgundy. (Clearly it’s also not in any way pink.) I actually wish it did have more brown, because I think this colour is fairly standard:

I mean, it’s really pretty, don’t get me wrong. There’s something uniquely powerful about dark red lipstick. But I guess I wanted my $52 lipstick to be a bit more singular. I think NARS does this beautifully: their lipsticks are a cool $40 in Canada (which seems eminently reasonable compared to Pat McGrath), but so many of the colours have a complexity that I don’t see at a drugstore price point. (See Audrey, which is in a similar colour family but which has notes of wine, plum, and brown.) Also, although I know this type of colour is perfectly flattering on me, it’s just not my favourite colour to wear. I mean, it’s still beautiful, but I just wanted something different. And that’s why you shouldn’t buy things that you haven’t seen in person, especially when nobody on the internet has swatched them. I am the person on the internet swatching them!

Comparison swatches:

L-R: Pat McGrath 35mm, Bite Beetroot, NARS Audrey, Lancôme Kiss Me Chérie*, NARS Cruella, Maybelline Burgundy Blush

Here I think you can see what I mean about Audrey’s comparative complexity. 35mm is a standard wine when you take into account the hints of plum and brown in Audrey. You can see that it’s very similar to Bite Beetroot, and, I’m sure, many other wine lipsticks that I don’t own. It’s definitely not a simple dark red when compared to Kiss Me Chérie and Cruella, but it lacks the same strong brown pull of Burgundy Blush.

Packaging-wise, you just can’t deny this. It’s a little bit gaudy and a lot amazing. It’s heavy, it’s extravagant, it’s too much and it knows it. I will admit I’m a little bit confused on Pat McGrath’s brand identity, since the original launches were packaged quite generically (some might say cheaply), and this is… well, this. It’s a black tube with big gold lips on it. I’m a fan of luxury packaging that is just a tad extra; I also love the YSL Rouge Volupté Shine lipsticks for the same reason. Look, if I’m going to buy an overpriced lipstick then I want to feel like my money went somewhere, and when I pull out a tube and it screams HI I AM EXPENSIVE AND I WILL TACKILY LET YOU KNOW THAT, I’m into it. Maybe that’s tacky of me. That’s fine.

Now, as I said, I have read nothing but glowing reviews for this formula. Like, over-the-top fawning. So, I don’t want to be the one, but… I’ll be the one. Maybe it’s this colour in particular (and I do know that deeper shades are trickier), but… meh. I mean, look, it’s not that it’s bad. It’s not. But this is a $52 lipstick. I could have a Tim Horton’s donut every week for a year with that money and still have some left over. I think I would prefer the 52 donuts! If I’m paying $10 or even $25 for a lipstick and the formula is perfectly adequate, I will be happy. If I’m paying FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS for one SINGLE SOLITARY TUBE, I want it to be the most incredible, transformative thing I have ever put on my face. People don’t pay $52 for “Yeah, it’s okay”, right?

Okay, let’s get into specifics. This lipstick glides on smoothly and comfortably. It feels a lot like the Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème formula in that regard: there’s absolutely no resistance during application. However, it does have a tendency to ever so slightly exaggerate dry patches, of which my lips have plenty during the winter. And, you know, this is a cold-weather shade. I really try to break free of prescribed seasonal colours because I know it’s all fake and I should do what I want, but I never want to wear dark red in the summer when I could be wearing a bright coral instead. So, basically, I only want to wear this lipstick when my lips are at their crustiest, and it does not do amazingly with crusty lips. Like, it’s not a disaster, and it’s perfectly wearable. But look closely and I think you’ll see that it’s darker in certain areas:

I think you can especially see this on the centre-left of my bottom lip. If you scroll back up to the swatch pictures, you can also see it there, and that is on my smooth, non-crusty arm. Again, I know this is nitpicky, and this is something I could overlook if Maybelline were selling it for $10.99. But I demand perfection from something this expensive.

Wear-time is… you know. Fine. I mean, for a traditional bullet lipstick (and one that isn’t even matte), it’s… fine. Bold colours usually don’t fade super gracefully, and I know that, and yet I want more than this:

This was after six hours of wear, one meal (noodles – medium amount of contact with my lips, I’d say – I’d hate to see how it would look after a burger), and quite a lot of water. So, not only has a lot of it faded, the fading isn’t very even, and my lips look pretty dry. Obviously, I’m not expecting a miracle here. I have worn a lot of lipstick in the past five years and I’m very aware of what you can expect out of a cream formula. But I have lipsticks with similar feeling formulas that last longer, that fade more evenly, and that don’t make my lips appear crusty. (Once again, Marc Jacobs and NARS edge out Pat, at $14 and $12 cheaper, respectively.)

So, I don’t know. This isn’t a bad lipstick by any means and I will certainly keep using it. I just feel like I’m living in the Berenstein world all of a sudden because I’ve literally never heard a single bad word about this formula and I found it to be “meh” for the price. I just can’t divorce that exorbitant price tag from the lipstick itself, which I think is pretty reasonable. Of course I’m well aware that all makeup is marked up to the extreme (I worked in cosmetics for years, I know how much it really costs to make), and I know that when you buy luxury you’re paying for the prestige. But, come on. I also want a good product, and if you’re going to tell me that your product is worth $52 – and I really just want to emphasize that again, because that is SO MUCH MONEY – I want to actually feel like it is. The packaging is glorious and I could wax poetic about it for days, but that’s not enough for me to think, “Yep, this has the same value as half a year of Netflix, or three books, or a nice shirt.” NOPE. IT DOES NOT.

If you’ve been eyeing Pat McGrath Labs lipstick, I don’t think you should let my review dissuade you completely. There are lots of good ones out there, from small, independent bloggers and random people in Facebook groups who I don’t think are being swayed by the machinations of the beauty guru industry. Those people can’t all be wrong. I had a different experience, and I think it might be that 35mm is not the best colour, or maybe my lips just repel this formula in a bizarre way. But this is my honest opinion, and it’s different from everyone else’s. Maybe it will help you.

Pat McGrath LuxeTrance Lipsticks retail for $52 CAD (did you get that?!) for 0.14 oz, or $371.43 per oz.