Summer 2015 Favourites

Posted on August 25, 2015 under Favourites

My summer vacation is winding to a close; in a week I’ll head back to Montreal to complete my degree. (That was a very casual statement, but internally I am freaking out that I only have two semesters left of my undergrad!) As such, this seems like as good a time as any to share some things I loved this summer. Here are a bunch of beauty favourites and a few non-beauty things I enjoyed.

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On the skincare side of things, I first must mention La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 60, which has kept my pale, pale face free of burns all summer. A new discovery for me is Vichy’s Aqualia Thermal Serum, which I use a few times a week when my poor dry skin needs a little extra pep. Curiously, my face defied convention by being fine during the winter and a flaky, dry mess as soon as summer hit; this serum applied underneath my regular moisturizer gives my face a noticeable boost in moisture and eliminates the flaky patches around my nose and between my eyebrows.

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I forced myself to use up my bottle of ColorStay before moving back to Revlon Nearly Naked Liquid Makeup in 110 Ivory, and boy did I miss it! I love this foundation year-round, but it’s especially perfect for summer since it’s lightweight and dewy without looking greasy. (Yeah, like I need to look like I’m sweating more than I actually am!) It also doesn’t break the bank, which makes it perfect to go back to again and again.

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I was very into cheek products this summer, from Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Moonstone, which was the perfect intense yellow-toned highlight for my fair skin to my beloved Body Shop Honey Bronzer in Fair Matte, which is a beautiful natural bronzer for those of us who look like we don’t get much sun (but want to pretend we do).

Two blushes reigned victorious for me this summer: Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso and Hourlgass Ambient Lighting Blush in Luminous Flush, which I reached for a combined total of approximately seventy bazillion times throughout the warmer months. Luminoso actually took me a year to warm up to after I initially hauled it on a trip to upstate New York, mainly because I wasn’t sure about peaches on my complexion. I surprised myself by using it so often this summer, but it is the perfect easy, glowy, warm summer shade. As for Luminous Flush, I wore it for two weeks straight after I first got it, which is rare for me. I always switch up my makeup! The Hourglass blushes are so worth the money – they have the perfect amount of pigmentation, they’re a dream to apply and blend, and they last through 10+ hours (and lots of sweat). Luminous Flush in particular is a gorgeous warm pink that seems playful and carefree.

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Everyone loves swatches!

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Two of my eyeshadow palettes got a lot of love this summer. I found myself wanting to put minimal effort into the eyes quite often, which called for my (well-loved) Urban Decay Naked Basics palette. When I wanted something a bit more complex, I could not get enough of everyone’s favourite neutral palette, the LORAC Pro. It has basically every colour a neutral lover could wish for! I used my MAC 217 eyeshadow brush, a birthday gift from my friend Hayley, constantly to blend everything beautifully. I don’t know if it’s quite worth the constant hype it receives, but I do see why it’s a staple in many a makeup bag. Are there solid, less expensive alternatives? Yes. Am I glad I have it? Hell yes!

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Although I have a deep and abiding love for bold lipstick, this summer I loved quick, neutral looks. Rimmel’s Lasting Finish by Kate Moss in 08 was my go-to for this. The slightly brownish pink goes with everything, and I used it at least once a week – which is definitely saying something when you consider how many lip products I have!

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Red Carpet Red is easily my holy grail true red through every season of the year. This summer it was my most-used bold lipstick, probably because it’s such a classic colour and the formula is truly a dream.

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You guys probably know how obsessed I am with Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish in Pacific Blue (more on that soon!). I will wear this nail polish year round, whenever I feel like it, but I especially like it in the summer. That electric blue is perfect for the weather and takes me back to my warm January weekend in Marrakech when I got to see bleu Majorelle in person. I’m still on the hunt for a replacement, though, as I still cannot get behind the new Pacific Blue that looks nothing like the old one.

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I had a few non-beauty favourites as well. H&M did me a solid with a gorgeous pair of high-waisted, tie-front black shorts that went with everything and instantly made a simple black tank top or a band t-shirt seem that much more deliberate.

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I got my ears pierced in Edinburgh in March and got to take my starter studs out in May. This summer I was very into stud earrings! I love the triangular prisms from H&M because they’re simple but a bit different, and the flowers were a gift from my brother’s girlfriend. The jury is out on whether they’re roses or tulips, though I’m hoping for roses since they’re my birth flower. (I have two roses tattooed on my body, so I’m pretty serious about the whole thing.)

In terms of entertainment, I’ve recently been very into novels written by women. (This year one of my goals was for 75% of the books I read to be by women, and so far I’m batting 1000!) I loved Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places (possibly more than Gone Girl?) for its twisted, fast-paced plot that never dragged. I’m about 3/4 of the way through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and I can barely put it down. The writing is lush and provocative and the story has me hooked.

Finally, this summer I watched all 202 episodes of The X-Files (and both films) in a month and a day, which I personally consider quite an accomplishment. I also took about a month of from this blog back in June and July, which is no accident – I simply spent every spare moment getting sucked into Mulder and Scully’s world. They made me believe in love, okay?! I haven’t had the heart to dive into a new television series since I finished The X-Files over a month ago; it’s going to take me awhile to open my heart to something new.

And there we have it: everything I loved this summer. Here’s to a fantastic fall semester full of new discoveries, beauty-related and otherwise.

Bleu Majorelle, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue, and Barry M Damson

Posted on April 01, 2015 under Reviews

In January, my friend and I went on a quick jaunt to Marrakech, a bustling, vibrant city unlike any place I’ve ever been. When my mom saw my pictures from the trip, she described the city as “a riot of colour and pattern”, which is perfectly accurate.

My favourite place we visited in Marrakech was the iconic Jardin Majorelle, a secluded oasis in the heart of chaotic Marrakech. It was designed by Jacques Majorelle, who wanted to create the garden and onsite Berber Museum to display the rich culture and history of Morocco.

Throughout the gardens, there is an abundance of a vivid, electric blue, known as bleu Majorelle:

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In the mid-20th century, the garden fell into disrepair. It was then purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Saint-Laurent became so taken by bleu Majorelle that it became one of the most iconic YSL nail polish colours.

Although luxury beauty lines were created to be more accessible and affordable to the average human than, say, a YSL dress, upwards of $30 for a single bottle of nail polish is still rather steep.

Luckily for those of us who, like Saint-Laurent, have fallen in love with the unrivaled dynamism of bleu Majorelle, there are two drugstore options for this amazing colour. Good old Sally Hansen and Barry M always have our backs!

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My first flirtation with this glorious colour was this summer, when I picked up a bottle of Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish in Pacific Blue. Like Yves Saint-Laurent before me, I had never seen quite a colour before. (Yes, I did just compare myself to Yves Saint-Laurent. I know.) In the months that ensued, I probably wore Pacific Blue at least a third of the time – which is definitely not an even distribution when you consider how many nail polish colours I have!

However, tragedy of tragedies, Pacific Blue got reformulated – and this resulted in a drastic change in colour. It is now darker, sheerer, and slightly shimmery. It’s simply not the same dreamy, striking blue I fell in love with. I love a good cobalt as much as the next person, but what if I want a bleu Majorelle dupe?

Enter Barry M, a UK drugstore brand known mainly for their amazing, long-wearing, beautifully pigmented nail polishes. When I first arrived in Glasgow and went to Superdrug, I immediately noticed that Barry M had what appeared to be a dupe for Pacific Blue. However, it wasn’t until about a week ago that I broke down and finally bought the Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Damson. (Incidentally, the colour does not resemble that of damsons at all.) Normally I would never knowingly buy a nail polish shade that’s a dupe for one in my collection, but my bottle of Pacific Blue isn’t getting any more full, and at this point it’s irreplaceable.

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Barry M Damson on the left, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the right.

Are these exact dupes? To my extremely discerning eye, no. Damson is bluer and a tad deeper, whereas Pacific Blue has the slightest hint of purple and a lighter, creamy quality that makes it so magical. Damson is a beautiful colour, but when I look at them side by side, on my nails rather than in a photograph (where they look almost exactly the same), Pacific Blue still has some sort of special quality that I’m drawn to. Damson is a gorgeous colour, and very similar, but it seems to me to be a colour that’s more dupeable.

I know that this is just me being picky. To the untrained eye that has not had months to fall in love with Pacific Blue, the colours are indistinguishable; and, indeed, photographed they’re essentially the same. I’m not saying I don’t love Damson, because I do, and I think it may just be the closest dupe I’ll get with a formula that I enjoy. (Essie’s Butler Please is supposedly a Pacific Blue dupe, but I am not fond of the Essie formula. Blasphemous, I know!)

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Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the left, Barry M Damson on the right. In this picture I think you can see that Pacific Blue is just the tiniest bit lighter and creamier than Damson.

In terms of application, they’re very similar. They both go on beautifully, without any hint of streakiness or globs in the formula. Pacific Blue looks slightly more even and opaque after one coat, but I usually give it two just to be on the safe side.

They both dry relatively quickly, though Damson ends up being a bit shinier than Pacific Blue without a topcoat. (With a topcoat, the slight edge it may have in this imaginary competition vanishes.)

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Barry M Damson on the left and top; Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the right and bottom.

I’ve never had a problem with the Xtreme Wear brush, but I will say that I do prefer the Barry M brush. It’s just that much slimmer, making it easier to navigate around the edges of nails. However, the wider, flatter Xtreme Wear brush is still very compact and easy to use, and definitely one of my favourite nail polish brushes!

The two polishes wear very similarly: without a topcoat they’ll chip in about three days on my nails; with a topcoat they’re still pristine a week on. That’s firmly within the range of “acceptable wear” for me, and it doesn’t tip either one ahead of the other since they both perform admirably.

The major downside to Damson is, of course, its lack of availability outside of the UK. Nail polish can’t be shipped internationally, either, so once I use up both Pacific Blue and Damson I’ll need to move onto something else – or fly myself over to the UK to grab another bottle of Damson, which seems unlikely. (That would be one expensive bottle of nail polish!) However, if you’re in the UK and lusting after a colour like Pacific Blue, give Damson a shot. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close – and it’s beautiful.

I suppose Pacific Blue is singular. It’s a colour that I’ll need to let go of, however, and Damson will do a fine job at filling that electric blue void in my heart.

(And in case anyone was wondering, my bleu Majorelle-esque eyeliner is Annabelle’s Lapis.)

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish retails for $3.49 for 0.4 fl oz, or $8.73 per fl oz.

Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint retails for £2.99 ($5.59 CAD) for 0.35 fl oz, or £8.54/$15.97 per fl oz.

Review: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel nail polish and top coat

Posted on October 30, 2014 under Reviews

I was on vacation in upstate New York this July when I stumbled upon the newly-launched Sally Hansen Miracle Gel nail polish. Being the type of person whose nail polish seems to chip within an hour of drying, I was intrigued. Could there actually be a DIY manicure that doesn’t involve any type of UV lamp that lasts two weeks?

That would be a hearty no.

In fact, the Miracle Gel nail polish is essentially the product of good marketing. You see, according to Sally Hansen, this is a two-step process. Step One is a base coat and nail polish in one. Step Two is the top coat, which is activated by natural light. Sally Hansen insists that these two steps must be used in conjunction with one another. So, essentially, Sally Hansen is able to guarantee an initial purchase of two products, totalling at about $20 CAD.

This sucks for the consumer not only because, well, you have to drop twenty bucks to use this product, but because if you want OMG miracle nails you only have 45 shades to choose from. I mean, that’s probably an average-sized nail polish range, but what if I told you that you could get OMG miracle nails in an unlimited colour palette?

Yes. That is a thing. Because while the Miracle Gel top coat definitely doesn’t last the advertised 14 days, it is a really good top coat. It makes my nails very shiny (as promised), and it certainly does make my nail polish last longer than it would on its own or with any other top coat I’ve tried. Yes, including Seche Vite (which I actually don’t like that much).

With this top coat, my nails go an easy 6-8 days without any chipping, and then another 3-4 with very minimal chipping. This is a long time for me, and it’s very convenient since I am lazy about my nail polish and tend not to take it off more than once a week, meaning I can continue to be lazy but not have nails that broadcast this fact to the world. Revolutionary! Thank you, Sally Hansen, for making me look like a competent and well-groomed adult!

So, what am I saying here?

The Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat is a product that, in my opinion, is worth the ten bucks it costs.

It is also a product that can be used over any nail polish (that I’ve tried, at least) with excellent results.

Therefore, you definitely do not need to buy both the top coat and the colour. You do not need to limit yourself to the colours in Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel range, although there are some very nice colours so don’t feel like you shouldn’t buy them if you like them.

This product is a lot of marketing (read: hype) with a not insignificant dash of impressive performance. At this point, I would say the top coat is my HG. I do have to deduct points for the bullshit marketing, and will therefore conclude that the top coat is a holy grail surrounded by a layer of hype.

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Day 6 of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat over Sally Hansen Miracle Gel nail polish in Sugar Fix. (Ironically, I found the top coat performed the worst over the step one it was meant to be used with. It got quite dull after a few days, which I didn’t experience with other polishes.)

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Day 6 of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat over Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Kiwi. (This was the most chipping I experienced in all my trials!)

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Day 7 of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat over Wet N Wild Fastdry nail polish in Ebony Hates Chris.

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Day 7 of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat over Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear nail polish in White On.

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Day 6 of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat over Joe Fresh nail polish in Lavender.

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Day 6 of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat over Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear nail polish in Coin Flip.

… So, yeah, clearly the “miracle” thing isn’t an exaggeration.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat retails for $10.99 CAD for 0.5 fl oz, or $21.98 CAD per fl oz.