Products that deserve more hype

Posted on December 16, 2014 under Lists

We’ve talked about products that are worth their hype, but what about products that you think the whole world should know about but that nobody really talks about?

The world just isn’t fair, is it? Because if it was, you all would know (and love) these products just as much as I love them. (You can tell I love them because they are all really dirty in the photo. Hashtag authentic.)

Stila In The Light Palette

I have (and love) the Naked 3 palette, but my favourite neutral palette is In The Light. When I worked in cosmetics I sold so many of these babies because I would talk so passionately about my love for this palette to my customers. I’ve had it for a year now and I’ve probably used it at least 50% of the days I wear makeup. The eyeshadows are a gorgeous formula and there’s a really great variety of colours (from dark to light, matte to glitter). I like that there are some of the more classic neutrals such as off-white and dark brown, but also some colours that are a bit more fun, such a slate blue-grey, a copper, and a shimmery dark grey. This palette is so versatile, and I love it dearly.

If you’re in the market for a neutral palette that’s less outrageously expensive than the Naked palettes (and with less fallout, too – that’s my big complaint about Urban Decay shadows) and that comes with a full-sized eyeliner, this is the one for you.

Here is a collage of some looks I’ve done with this palette, in case you need convincing.

in the light

Revlon Nearly Naked foundation

This is my ride-or-die, holy grail foundation. It’s lightweight and sheer but buildable, with a pretty liquidy texture. I always apply it with a damp sponge, and it looks just like skin – so natural, yet flawless. It’s on the dewier side, so it works with my dry skin, but it’s not super shiny – just very natural and glow-y. Plus, it comes in approximately a bazillion shades, ranging from very pale (Ivory – my colour!) to quite dark (Cappuccino). This was one of my go-to products when colour matching someone since there was such a variety of shades.

I hear a lot of people talking about Revlon’s ColorStay, which is a full coverage foundation, but nobody ever talks about Nearly Naked! If you want something a bit lighter that looks like skin but still evens and smooths and generally looks beautiful, I would definitely check Nearly Naked out.

(My one complaint is that there’s NO PUMP. This would truly be the perfect foundation if it had one!)

I know before and after shots are really handy to judge a foundation’s efficacy, so hopefully this shows how flawless but natural it looks:


L’Oréal True Match La Touche Magique Highlighting Concealer

I have very noticeable purple undereye circles that just don’t quit. Nothing will make them go away – not sleep, not lots of water (I already drink 3L a day, what more do you want?!), not eye cream. All I can hope to do is conceal them. And I’ve tried a lot of concealer. I’ve caked things on thickly hoping that would help, I’ve used brightening concealers, I’ve done everything. And this is the answer.

I don’t know how, because the formula is very lightweight and not particularly high coverage, but this manages to cover up my undereye circles so well and lift that area. The lightest shade is absurdly pale (and I myself am absurdly pale) – for once in my life I’m using the second lightest, Rose Beige. I think its beige undertones help cancel out the purple of my dark circles, but who knows. I don’t give a shit how it works, to be honest. I just like that it works. I’m not going to question it!

Once again, before and after:

loreal concealer

The Body Shop Honey Bronze Bronzing Powder

Bronzer for pale people, am I right, ladies? Yes – it’s a tricky game! Pale people arguably need bronzer the most, since sometimes we can look a bit ill (especially in the middle of summer when everyone else has gorgeous tans and we’re slathering on the SPF60 to keep from burning the second we step outside), but it is so hard to find a product that works! Thankfully, the search is over – the Honey Bronzer is a light, matte brown that doesn’t pull orange at all. It’s not too pigmented, which means that it warms up the face and adds a bit of colour and dimension without making it look like you went a bit overboard. It can even be used as a contour in a pinch, although of course I prefer Illamasqua’s Hollow. This is hands down the best natural-looking bronzer for pale people I’ve found! I’m sure the darker shades are lovely for the non-ghost-like among us, as well.

NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base

Everyone is so caught up in the frenzy of the Urban Decay Primer Potion, but what if I told you that you could do SO MUCH BETTER? The NARS primer is truly my holy grail eyeshadow primer, and I do not award that status lightly. A little bit goes a long way so a tube of it lasts forever (I’ve had mine for a year and a half, and that’s with nearly daily use) and it will seriously keep your eyeshadow on all day. I’ve gone 15+ hours with a full face of makeup, and the one thing I can count on to look exactly the same as when I put it on is my eyeshadow. You will never have to worry about fading, creasing, or smudging with this base, and that is a promise.

Those are my top five underhyped products. I hope you’ll consider some (or all) of these, because I promise they are freakin’ awesome.

Things to know when you’re shopping for cosmetics

Posted on December 04, 2014 under Thoughts

I worked in cosmetics before moving to Scotland. It was an amazing job which I loved 95% of the time; I was doing something I was passionate about, making people happy, and learning a lot. Here are some things I would like to pass on to you, the customer, to know when you’re shopping for cosmetics. In many ways, you get what you give to the experience of buying cosmetics, so keep these things in mind!

We are not judging you.

Seriously. You do not have to have a full face of beautifully-applied makeup to set foot in a cosmetics department. You do not have to be conventionally attractive or know anything about makeup. A lot of people come in without any makeup on because they want to try it on, or because they didn’t have time to put it on, or for a million other reasons! Honestly, most of the time I didn’t even notice if someone was wearing makeup or not, because my job was to help them find the product they wanted, not to scrutinize what was or wasn’t on their face! It’s okay if you’re not wearing makeup, it’s okay if you have a huge zit on your cheek, it’s okay if you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s okay if you’re a man wanting to buy mascara. (Seriously, it’s pretty common. We wouldn’t bat an eyelid when men came in.) Sales Associates are there to help you, not judge you.

And in my experience, that’s what we want to do. Most of us love cosmetics and have a lot of knowledge that we are eager to impart. We want to help you find a moisturizer that makes your skin glow, or your perfect red lipstick. I had several occasions where I spent nearly an hour swatching every lipstick in the store to help a customer match an old discontinued favourite or an image they found on Pinterest. That’s what we want to do! So please don’t walk in and apologize for your face, or for not knowing enough.

A lot of us are not formally trained in makeup application.

Personally I was always totally willing to apply makeup on customers, but I preferred when it was in a low-stress situation: just showing a customer how a foundation worked on their skin, testing out different shades of pink lipstick, or a trial for a big event. I did not like to do someone’s makeup for their prom, or for a wedding they were attending, because I am not formally trained and applying makeup on someone else is very different from applying it on yourself!

So if you go in for a makeover, please keep this in mind. If you have somewhere to be, you’re better off hiring a trained makeup artist, better yet if you can have a trial with them before your event. Where I worked, no makeup application qualifications were necessary, and most of us were not formally trained. The majority of my job was sales, but I did have to apply makeup sometimes. Please know that the person doing your makeup may not have formal training! It’s best to come in beforehand and set up and appointment for a makeover – and ask if the person doing it has any training. It’s for your own good!

You get a makeover, you buy.

I feel very strongly about this. It’s simply a matter of common courtesy. Most cosmetics SAs are on minimum wage and make commission. A makeover takes at least half an hour, which is time that could be spent with other customers, cleaning, doing the tasks besides selling that people forget need to be done, etc. This is a simple exchange of goods and services: do not insult your SA’s time and skill by walking away without purchasing anything. This is a transaction. Uphold your end of the bargain.

Low sales can put an SA’s job in jeopardy and damage their entire team. Don’t hurt the person who just spent half an hour doing your makeup, okay?

Be as specific as possible.

If you come in looking for, say, a good sunscreen or your perfect nude lipstick, it helps if you know what you’re looking for. Tell me everything you can think of that applies: your skin type, the finish you prefer, any ingredients you’re allergic to, any specific concerns you’d like the product to address, etc. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Basically, any way you can make your needs, desires, and limitations clear, the better for you!

On the same note, don’t just take the first product the SA recommends.

I always liked to give my customer a few options, and explain the differences between them. This way, they wouldn’t feel pressured to take the first thing I gave them because they didn’t know how to say “No, this isn’t what I’m looking for.” That said, if you feel like your SA is overwhelming you with choice, you can totally ask them to narrow it down to the best two or three options and then go from there. SAs want to make sales, but they also want to build up a satisfied customer base. That doesn’t happen by pushing the first product they think of onto the customer. It happens by asking questions, answering the customer’s questions, and working together to find the perfect product. So don’t be afraid to be a part of this process: it’s so much better for everyone involved if you take the time to talk it through and find the right product!

Not everything works for everyone.

Again, most SAs are not just trying to sell the most expensive product or the first thing we think of. We want to make customers happy. So our recommendations are based on our own experiences, feedback we’ve received from other customers (because we can’t try every product!), and product knowledge that we receive in training. Even if you go through the whole Q&A process and spend a long time selecting something, it simply may not work for you. Obviously some SAs suck and just thrust products on their customers, but please try to realize that what most likely happened is that you got unlucky and were recommended a product that just doesn’t work for you specifically. Look into the return policy of the store you bought it from, because usually stores want their customers to be satisfied, not stuck with a product they hate!

Ask when something will be back in stock.

Thursdays at my store were crazy because that’s when we got all the new stuff in. Sometimes I’d be working up until midnight (when we closed) putting all the new stuff on the shelves where it belonged! Most stores have a set day (or days) when the distribution comes in, so if a product you want is out of stock ask when the store gets new items in and come back the day after. (So – you wouldn’t come to my store on Thursday, because that’s when we were unloading everything. But on Friday, the shelves would be full!) The SA can also check in drawers or in the back for you, just in case something is there. It’s rare, but worth a peek, and they should be happy to check.

Ask for samples.

Depending on the store or counter, you may not be able to request specific samples of items – but it’s worth a try. So, if you really want to try a specific foundation, see if you can get a sample size of it! My store couldn’t make samples from testers, but we did have a big stockpile of fragrance and skincare samples and I was totally willing to give it away like candy to customers who engaged with me and were making a purchase. (Obviously, if you’re not buying something it’s a bit of a dick move to ask for samples.) Normally I would remember to give samples to people who were spending a decent amount anyway, but if your SA forgets and even if you’re not dropping a tonne of cash, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Also, if you wanted a sample of a foundation but the store can’t make samples up for you, you can ask them to apply it to your face so you can wear it around for the day and test it out that way.

And that is all I have for now, which is good since this post is already pretty long!

Basically, what this comes to down to is that SAs usually really like their jobs and want to help. If you come in prepared, open-minded, and willing to ask questions, you are way more likely to walk out of the store feeling happy and in possession of a product that you will love!

Products that are worth the hype #1

Posted on November 27, 2014 under Lists

I won’t even bother writing an introduction about how it sucks when a product is super hyped up and then you hate it, because we’ve all been there and it’s pretty obvious that that’s a shitty experience. Instead, I’ll just say that these five are staples in my makeup routine and in my opinion totally live up to the hype!

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

I know that everyone and their mom talks about this eyeliner, and if you don’t use it you’re probably like, “UGH, SHUT UP, I GET IT,” but the thing is that you don’t get it because it is that good. I have tried a lot of black liquid liners in my life, and I have found exactly two that don’t transfer on my eyelids.

To illustrate how well this one stays put, I will tell you a story of how I put it to The Drunk Test, which is the best possible test. Once, I did perfect winged eyeliner (which this liner makes it really easy to do, by the way), went out, drank several sidecars, rubbed my eyes halfway through the night and vaguely, drunkenly realized I probably shouldn’t do that, came home hours later, decided to wash off all my makeup but my eyeliner so that I didn’t have to do my wings again the next morning, and woke up to perfectly intact eyeliner.

The lesson? Drunk me is an innovative genius, and this eyeliner is the shit.

Illamasqua Cream Pigment in Hollow

We’ve all heard that this is the best contour for pale, cool-toned skin. While I certainly have not tried every contour in the world and so cannot definitively say if this is true, I don’t feel the need to try every contour in the world because I have found The One.

My wonderful friend Jelena let me borrow Hollow for a not insignificant amount of time this summer, and I got so used to using it that when I had to return it to her I was lost. None of the products I was using to contour prior to Hollow came close to reaching its godliness. One of the first things I did when I got the UK, land of many Illamasqua counters, was run to Debenhams and buy Hollow. NOT SORRY AT ALL.

Hollow is, indeed, the perfect colour to give my complexion realistic-looking cheekbone definition. It also has just the right amount of pigment: it’s visible without needing to build up a million layers on your brush, but not so pigmented that it’s like, WOW, YOU PUT A LOT OF MAKEUP ON YOUR FACE. It’s easy to blend out, stays put all day, and after months of use I have not seen a dent in it at all.


This is a bad quality picture because I actually took it to document whatever the eff my hair is doing after being dyed lavender last month, but you can also see Hollow in action.

Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer

Concealer isn’t a very glamourous or fun product, but after hearing so many UK beauty gurus rave about it, it was #1 on my list of things to buy as soon as I got here. It took a bit of hunting to find a store that wasn’t out of the lightest shade (shoutout to the Boots on Princes Street in Edinburgh!), but it was so worth it. It’s creamy and extremely high coverage, which is good because I have this one zit on my chin that pretty much never goes away so I need ALL THE HELP I CAN GET! I also love using this one on my brow bone for when I want ***flawless, high-def brows.

The only downside to this product is that the colour range is very limited, with only four shades. If you’re not fair to tan, you’re out of luck. This is worth mentioning because it’s symptomatic of a wider culture of exclusion in the beauty industry. I really wish Collection would expand this line, because there are so many people needlessly missing out on an excellent product.

Maybelline Colour Tattoos

I believe I have 14 or 15 Colour Tattoos, which really tells you everything you need to know. Some are better than others (the coloured ones tend to be a bit gritty/patchy/hard to blend), but the majority of them are fantastic. Gorgeous colours, easy to apply (I always apply them with my finger!), great staying power. I do tend to have creasing problems (a result of having hooded, oily eyelids – SO unfair when the rest of my skin is dry as a bone), but these always stay really well. I never use a primer underneath them and I have no issues. They’re a great base to add pigment or dimension to powder shadows, but they’re also gorgeous on their own.

By now probably everybody knows how great these are since they’re so affordable, but they deserve a shoutout since they’re definitely in my top 5 favourite products of all time.

Rimmel Lasting Perfection by Kate Moss Lipsticks

Again, most people are probably aware of Rimmel’s Kate Moss line of lipstick since they’re very inexpensive and so talked about. The regular and matte lines are both excellent – great formula that stays put and feels comfortable on the lips, and a really nice variety of colours, from nudes to bright corals to deep berry reds. I have five from the regular line and one of the mattes, and I usually pick up a new one when they go on sale.

My only complaint is that they could definitely expand the range of colours. While there are a lot of nice ones, I’m at the point where I pretty much have all the colours that suit me and that I like – and I want more! (I’m a lipstick hoarder, by the way.)

What do you guys think of these products? And what products are totally worth the hype to you?