Onwards with the inventory series! Today I’m doing highlighter, bronzer, and contour products all in one, since I don’t have enough of the latter two categories to warrant their own posts. As always, I’ve linked to full reviews where they exist.
Whoever led me to believe that the ELF Illuminating Palettes were good should be JAILED, because they are TERRIBLE. I am so heated about this that I am in caps lock mode. You’ll be able to see better in the swatches below, but they have basically no payoff at all and are powdery and dry-looking. I’m on board with a subtle highlight, but these are just bad.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Moonstone was my first highlighter purchase, and it’s one of my favourites. It’s the perfect light champagne shade for my fair skin, and though it packs a punch it’s not glittery or chunky. I don’t always want a highlight this in-your-face, but it’s beautiful for those moments. The SSP in Opal is most talked-about, but if you’re on the fairer side check out Moonstone – it gives pretty much the same effect but is more suited for fair to light skintones.
I really enjoy the peachy-pink glow of my Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder in Iridescent. However, all in all I think this is a pretty standard highlighter, and I was expecting more of Hourglass. As the world’s biggest Ambient Lighting Blush fan, I yearned for them to do a proper highlighter for ages, so of course I was first in line to buy one when they launched. I do think this is a nice powder – finely-milled, soft, and glowy without being glittery – but I was kind of expecting them to revolutionize the highlighting game. I enjoy the one I have but I won’t buy another.
The first four swatches are the ELF highlighters, but you can’t even see the first three because THEY ARE SO BAD. After those we have Becca Moonstone and Hourglass Iridescent.
I much prefer powder over cream when it comes to blush, but with highlighter it’s the opposite. It’s partially the ease of swiping on a cream product and partially the finish creams tend to give. Powder highlighters are usually more intense, whereas creams are slightly toned-down and melt into the skin better.
The Topshop Glow Highlighter in Polished is probably my favourite highlighter ever: it gives an intense, pearly glow that is downright otherworldly. It’s a statement highlight, but I love it. I own nothing else remotely like this.
Glossier Haloscope in Quartz was my first exposure to stick highlighter, and it could not have been a better one. This is an incredibly emollient formula which looks almost glazed on the skin. It can be applied directly from the stick and blended in with the fingers with minimal effort. It’s super pretty and just how I like my highlight to look: present but not over-the-top.
I wasn’t expecting much from the new-ish Revlon PhotoReady InstaFix Highlighter Stick in Pink Light, but I do like it. It has a dryer texture than the Glossier Haloscope by far, so I like to apply it by rubbing my finger in the product and then tapping it onto my face. It also doesn’t blend as easily, but it doesn’t require excessive elbow grease by any means. It gives a very nice, borderline metallic pink highlight. They do make one in a champagne shade as well, but champagne highlighters are a dime a dozen and I do find something more pink-based quite flattering on my skintone. My only major complaint about this product is that it costs $23 in Canadian drugstores. Like… what? DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THE DRUGSTORE IS, REVLON????
Finally, the newest addition to my highlighter collection, Vichy Teint Idéal Highlighter. This is a liquid product which is applied via rollerball. It’s a very thin, sheer, almost white-based formula which doesn’t add much colour to the face but which gives a glorious wet look. I got this at a Vichy brand training and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favourites. It’s easy to apply straight from the tube, blends in easily with the fingers, and looks stunning on the skin. I’d definitely recommend this one if you want a wet-look highlighter!
L-R: Topshop Polished, Glossier Quartz, Revlon Pink Light, Vichy Teint Idéal.
Bronzer & Contour
I only ever have one bronzer at a time because it’s not a product type which I use heavily. Currently I have the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer in Light Bronzer, which is a good option for fair skin. I find this slightly warmer than the lightest shade of The Body Shop Honey Bronzer, for reference, but it still works fine on my skin. I’m not a bronzer connoisseur so I don’t have much to compare it to, but it’s nice. I don’t know that it’s necessarily worthy of the raves it got on YouTube when it first launched, because it doesn’t seem like anything special to me, but what do I know about bronzer? Not much! Oh, I also really dislike the strong artificial coconut scent, but that seems to be one of its drawing points for many people.
I love love love my Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder in Light for contour. It’s not too ashy but not warm by any means, and the depth and shade work very well on my colouring. This is a pricey little guy, but so far I have no regrets about this purchase.
L-R: Physician’s Formula, Kevyn Aucoin
Obviously, I’m very happy with the state of my bronzer and contour stash – I have one product to fulfill each of those functions, which is exactly what I need. I think my highlighter collection is a tiny bit excessive for someone who isn’t a highlighter fanatic, but it’s under control. I don’t see myself acquiring more products in any of these categories, at least not for quite some time.
I wonder if any of you can relate to the consumerist cycle I often find myself in. Once upon a time, my big makeup vice was lipstick. I’d still consider myself first and foremost a lipstick lover, but I hit a certain point where I had so much lipstick that my acquisition really tapered off. Then, my attention naturally shifted towards blush, and I began to accumulate a lot of that. I’ve cycled through a few product categories that get all my attention (and dollars). It’s like I need something to be interested in makeup-wise, and when I max out one category I naturally meander on over to another. I’ve gone through all the interesting categories and I’ve wound up at foundation, currently. But let’s talk about blush today instead, because I love blush a lot more than foundation.
Clearly, when it comes to blush I am a brand snob. At this point I only own two drugstore blush products, and both are from Sleek. I do really enjoy blush, but at this point I don’t feel the need to bring more into my life. The last time I purchased a new blush was 11 months ago and I haven’t felt any urge to expand my collection since then. A gal can only go through so many blushes in her lifetime, and let’s be honest – once they’re on our faces, a lot of the apparent differences all but disappear.
I’ve arranged these by colour family, and I did this by using the very scientific process of “sort according to the colour in the pan”. You’ll see that some of these straddle multiple categories or might fit better in a different one than I’ve put it in, but I think we will survive my shortcomings.
By the way, I’ve slightly underexposed the swatch photos because I think the colour accuracy is a bit better when I do that.
First up, some of my peachy blushes!
Sleek Blush by 3 Palette in Lace
Sleek blushes are very, very nice, and if you live in a place where you can saunter on down to the drugstore and buy one then you should consider yourself very lucky. Some of us have to have to order them online like savages.
The Blush by 3 palette was a Christmas 2013 present from Aisling. I requested it because I was in a phase where I only watched British YouTubers and everyone talked about Sleek all the time. (Uh, does that really obviously date that phase in my life to 2013?) I use the middle shade in the palette, Guipure, the most. Actually, it’s the only shade I really use at all. I don’t normally go for shimmery blush, but this one gives a beautiful glow: just check out the swatch below! The two matte shades are so pigmented that they easily verge on clownish on my skintone, and I definitely would not normally wear straight up orange blush anyway. I take a pretty firm anti-orange stance on most things, generally.
Chanel Sunkiss Ribbon Harmonie de Blush
This late 2015/early 2016 LE blush was one of my absurd Optimum points luxury purchases. You know how it is, or maybe you don’t because you’re a better person than me. I’m not really sure what compelled me to buy it, because I’ve never been interested in Chanel makeup and prefer cool-toned makeup most of the time. As with most multi-tone products, I apply this by swirling my brush around the entire pan, which generally gives me a peachy glow. Sometimes it leans pinker and sometimes it leans more orange depending on what exactly my brush picks up. It’s quite sheer, which I find delightfully user-friendly, and the end result is always pretty. But is it worth $70 CAD? Absolutely not!
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Luminous Flush
It’s funny, swatched next to all of these blushes Luminous Flush appears quite pink, but on my cheeks it definitely reads as peach. This is easily my second favourite of my Hourglass blushes, which, as you may know, are my all-time favourite blush formula. In the summer I probably use this blush 2-3 times a week, which is pretty high proportionally.
L-R: Sleek Crochet, Sleek Guipure, Sleek Chantilly, Chanel Sunkiss Ribbon, Hourglass Luminous Flush
These are my two neutral, go-to blushes appropriate for pretty much any occasion.
Benefit Boxed Powder in Hervana
Benefit seems to be a rather polarizing brand: I know people who swear by the line as a whole and who love the kitschy aesthetic, but I’ve read a lot of backlash against the brand for having subpar products masked by cute packaging. Personally I’m not wowed by Benefit overall, but other than my arch-nemesis They’re Real! mascara (which I’ve mentioned so many times that I’m sure you are all aware of how much I despise it) I’ve never had a dud product from the brand. I’ve had several Benefit blushes in the past, but destashed most due to the bulky packaging. I kept Hervana only because it’s the perfect natural blush for me. Swirled together, on me it reads as a soft, slightly warm brownish pink. It’s truly one of those products that goes with everything. Sometimes I forget I have it because it’s not very exciting, but I’m currently going through a phase with it. It’s hard to mess it up, really! I just wish it were more travel-friendly, because I could easily get through a month-long trip with this as my one and only blush.
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure
You may remember that Mood Exposure is my favourite of the ALBs, and probably my favourite blush of all time. If you were to simply look at it in the pan, you’d probably wonder how something so dull could possibly be somebody’s favourite. But on the skin it transforms: it’s an incredibly brightening, flattering mixture of plum and brown with the healthiest luminosity. If I lost all my blushes this is the one I would repurchase immediately. Because Hervana is so bulky, Mood Exposure is the blush I always take travelling with me. For a weekend trip I need a minimum of five lip colour options, but I can get through ten days with just Mood Exposure, easy.
L-R: Benefit Hervana, Hourglass Mood Exposure
Bright blushes! Yay!
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat
This was my very first ALB, a hand-me-down from Aisling because she found the hot red-coral too intense for her tastes. I’m so glad she passed it on to me, because I don’t know that I would have discovered this formula otherwise – it’s surprisingly unhyped on ye olde internette. Generally I like to apply this with a stipple brush, and it’s more of a summer shade for me, but it’s stunning. It’d look great on darker skin too.
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Radiant Magenta
I think Radiant Magenta was a bit of a mistake of a purchase on my part. There’s nothing wrong with it: it’s just as finely-milled, glowy, and long-wearing as my other three ALBs. But it’s pretty similar to Diffused Heat (although Diffused Heat ironically appears more magenta on the skin – the tan swirls in Radiant Magenta tone it down significantly), and I don’t think I really need both. As I’ve said, that’s my sole gripe with the ALB line. It’s not extensive, and many of the shades are quite similar. I don’t know if I can bear to part with Radiant Magenta, even so, because I paid a pretty penny for it and I just love the ALBs in general.
Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Natural Beauty
I first laughed when I saw that the name of this bright pink-red blush was Natural Beauty, but applied lightly it actually does make me look how I naturally do when I’ve just come out of the cold. This formula isn’t my favourite; it’s rather stiff, and I prefer something softer and more finely-milled. However, I like that it’s not too pigmented (with a colour like this that would be a real killer), and the colour is one of my favourites.
L-R: Hourglass Diffused Heat, Hourglass Radiant Magenta, Tarte Natural Beauty
Finally, plums and purples and berries, a category which I love maybe a little too much…
ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Rain
You know, I bought this to see if I would actually wear lavender/lilac blush, and the answer is no, not often. (Don’t be fooled by the pan you see. This is the result of perhaps five applications.) However, I have on several occasions been very happy to have this on hand, as when I go out with my friends I usually do pretty funky makeup and enjoy applying this with a very heavy hand all the way up to my temples. It’s a fun product! But I’m not going to upgrade it for a more expensive lavender blush, probably.
Sleek Blush in Flushed
This was another Aisling hand-me-down, and it’s one of my favourites for fall and winter. It’s a warm berry shade with a satin finish and very subtle gold flecks running through it. It looks absolutely beautiful and glowing. I think this would look even better on deeper skintones that can take more colour. You’ll see in the swatch that it does come off warmer than it looks in the pan, but that’s also because it really doesn’t photograph true-to-colour. That’s been one of my ongoing struggles with this product! If you’re in the market for an affordable, warm-toned plummy blush… this may be the one!
Guerlain Rose Aux Joes Blush in Wonder Violette
Another absolutely wild Optimum points purchase! This is a soft, warm pinky plum. It’s another one which appears warmer on my skin than it does in the pan. I do not think it’s worth $60 and will not buy another Guerlain blush, with Optimum points or otherwise. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it: the formula is nice and I like the colour, but there’s better stuff out there for cheaper. Speaking of which…
NARS Blush in Sin
Personally, I think NARS blushes are a little overrated formula-wise, but some of the colours are to die for. Sin is the colour of a bruise, which sounds very unappealing but which I adore. I have nothing else like this and I rarely see anything similar on the market. This blush doesn’t go with every makeup look, but I love having it on hand. I doubt I’ll become a NARS blush collector, but if any of the colours call my name I’d be willing to buy another one. (And yes, I felt like I truly belonged in the makeup community when I bought this. I mean, are you a real beauty blogger if you don’t own a NARS blush?!)
L-R: ColourPop Rain, Sleek Flushed, Guerlain Wonder Violettes, NARS Sin
And that, my friends, is the extent of my blush collection. Fourteen total if I count the shades in the Sleek palette separately, twelve actual products. I think that’s pretty manageable, and I don’t think I could realistically trim it down much. I genuinely use and like everything I have here. I can also easily list every product in my blush collection off the top of my head, which I think is a pretty good benchmark.
Next time shall I do a more boring category? I don’t want to exhaust all the interesting ones too early on…
It’s that time of year again, folks! As always, my 2016 favourites post is made up of products that I personally discovered in 2016, though to my knowledge few of these actually launched this year. I’m behind the times like that. I also didn’t necessarily mention all of these on my blog, because I’m a bad beauty blogger, but I will link to relevant posts when possible. Finally, I didn’t choose one product per category or anything like that; I simply chose my sixteen favourite products from this year, period, so you may see overrepresentation in some areas.
I made no mention of this product on my blog, but I’ve been loving the Marcelle Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel for several months now. This stuff works as both a cleanser and makeup remover and is really effective without drying out the skin. It’s also super cost effective at $12.95 for 350mL. It’s also paraben-, perfume-, soap-, and oil-free. It’s one of those products that is basic and boring (hence why I haven’t written about it) but that works. A Canadian gem to be sure!
This year I was loving about a million different La Roche-Posay products. Chief among them was the Toleriane Riche Soothing Protective Cream, a thick but not greasy moisturizer that’s great for my dry skin. It sinks in quickly despite its thickness and sits well under makeup. Plus, it’s formulated for the most sensitive skin. Also from La Roche-Posay, I was very happy to discover their Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover, which I found just as effective as my beloved Lancôme Bi-Facil at half the cost. Again, it’s great for sensitive eyes, too. If you want a gentle but effective remover for waterproof makeup, this stuff is the bomb, and it doesn’t break the bank.
Unsurprisingly, my haircare picks this year both have to do with maintaining that perfect platinum blonde. I’ve been using Manic Panic Ultra-Violet to DIY my own toner and I love that it’s effective, gentle, and super cheap. (I still have 95% of the $15 tub left, whereas my Wella T18 toner was running me $10 every 6-8 weeks.)
I’ve tried a lot of purple shampoos in my time, so colour me surprised when I discovered that the best one costs $8.99 for half a litre at the drugstore. Yes, I’m fully willing to say it: Light Blue Shade Original Shampoo is the best purple shampoo I’ve tried. It keeps my hair light and cool far longer than anything else has; I now only use toner when I do my roots, and the purple shampoo keeps everything looking good until the next time I tone, about 2 months later. And for that prize and amount, it’s damn good value.
I really went back and forth when choosing a foundation to feature in this post; I do love the ease of MUFE Ultra HD, but ultimately the finish and wear of NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation brought it to the forefront. I actually don’t think this foundation is perfect, as I detail in my full review of it. But I love it despite its fussiness, and in my heart of hearts I know it’s one of my favourite products from 2016.
I had two highlighter loves this year: Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder in Iridescent and Glossier Haloscope in Quartz. I’m actually not a “highlighter everyday” kind of gal, but these both work for me in different ways. The Hourglass highlighter is quite subtle and has a beautiful peachy-pink sheen which I found I’ve been enjoying lately as an alternative to the usual champagne highlighter suspects. It’s not that I don’t love my Becca SSP in Moonstone, because I do, but I like that the Hourglass gives me a different colour option and something a bit more subtle. It’s candlelit instead of blinding, which I’m moving towards now that I’m feeling a bit of highlighter overload from the YouTube/Instagram stars who seem to go through a Becca highlighter every other week.
The Glossier Halsocope is a product that I didn’t know I needed until I won it in Renee‘s giveaway, and now I don’t know what I’d do without it! It looks gorgeous on the skin – like a glaze, in the most appealing way possible – and is a dream to work with as it can be applied straight from the stick and blended out in seconds with fingertips. Because it’s so easy and quick to use, I find myself drawn to it. I’m just not willing to put in a lot of effort when it comes to highlighter, because it’s not a must-have for me.
On the other hand, I do always love a good blush, and this year NARS Blush in Sin stole the show. I don’t necessarily think the NARS blushes are the best on the market (we all know which ones are my favourites), but the formula is certainly solid and the colour of Sin is stunning: a cool plum with flecks of gold. It’s unlike anything I have and I find myself reaching for it constantly.
Swatches of Glossier Haloscope in Quartz, Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder in Iridescent, and NARS Blush in Sin.
The Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye Contour Palette is the matte shadow palette of my dreams. The colours are varied and versatile; the palette can be used as a standalone to create a whole host of looks, or it can be used to complement palettes that are missing good mattes. The quality is also undeniably there. Say what you will about the face of the brand – you can’t argue with quality. (… Although I do have plenty I could say about KVD herself!)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the NARS Dual Intensity Eyeshadows are iridescent, shimmery beauties. The silver-pink Callisto is definitely my favourite of the whole range, but I also have a purple-leaning burgundy called Desdemona which is stunning as well. (And layered they’re beautiful, too.) These are a great option for lovers of high-impact shimmery eyeshadow.
Finally, I can’t not mention my Clarins Truly Waterproof Mascara. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but I absolutely loved the definition and length this mascara gave me. I’ve adjusted to the one I’m currently using, but Truly Waterproof is the winner of 2016 for sure.
First thing’s first: a good base is necessary for lip products to go on top of. Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm is an incredible, thick overnight lip balm that truly works. Now that we’re decidedly into winter, I need it more than ever, but it was an everyday product for me year-round.
The NARS Audacious Lipsticks were a momentous discovery for me in 2016. The formula just works so well for me: they make my lips look good, are comfortable, and wear well. And the colour range is phenomenal. The two I have, Brigitte and Audrey, get a lot of wear. Far in a way the best traditional bullet lipstick formula I tried in 2016!
Mentioning Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Chianti may be cheating, as I’ve been a fan of the Stay All Day formula since 2014. But it’s the colour of Chianti that is so stunning: it’s an incredibly dark, almost black purple. It’s dramatic and dreamy. It’s absolutely one of my favourite purchases of this year.
Another dark liquid lipstick love is the ColourPop Ultra Satin Lips in Prim. I was really impressed with the comfort, smoothness, and wear of the Ultra Satins, and I’m particularly into Prim, which is a hybrid between a brown and a berry. I find liquid lipsticks that don’t fully dry down to be pretty hit and miss, but this is a good one.
Swatches of NARS Audacious Lipsticks in Brigitte and Audrey, ColourPop Ultra Satin Lips in Prim, and Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Chianti.
Whew! Sixteen products to end out 2016. Did you spot any of your favourites on this list?