Thursday, 10 September 2015

Liberty Beauty Bag 2015

Yes-yes, it's back, and it's out today. Liberty's annual beauty bag promotion has now launched online and in the shop.

Some handy facts about this year's bag:
  • You need to spend £150 and have a Liberty Loyalty Card account set up. Here's how to get a card
  • Online, use the promo voucher code BEAUTY150
  • The offer includes Beauty, Margaret Dabbs Sole Spa, Perfume, Liberty Beauty and treatments. Candle fans be warned - not all high-end candles are included, so if you're having trouble at the checkout, make sure your candles all come from the 'Beauty' section of the website. 

  • Quite a few brands are excluded this year. They are brands from Bath House, which includes: Ada Rose, Balineum, Bamford, Baxter of CA, Bed of Nails, Binchotan, Bloom and Blossom, Branche D’Olive, Brora, Caron, Carter & Bond, Cowshed, Dr. Vranjes, Ecoya, F. Hammann, Falconware, Gianna Rose, Green & Spring, Izola, Jovoy Candles, Kai, Korres, Laboratory Perfumes, Lily and Lionel, L’Occitane, Marvis, Moore Moore, Natural Treasures, Nesti Dante, Noble Isle, Nomess, Otis Batterbee, Ortiga, Prima, Primal Elements, Quay Traders, Refinery, REN, Row Pinto, Sibona, Spitalfields Candle Co., Steam Cream, Take Away Porto, Timothy Dunn, Tom Dixon, Tube Wringer, Umbra, Urban Spa, Widerbergs, Wireworks (I have highlighted the ones that make me sad.)

  • At the time of writing, the Liberty website is very slow and there's a delay in sending password reminders, so be patient. (I phoned my order through due to limited-offer-consumerist fever.)
  • There is only one print available and it's Felix & Isabella, which is a William Morris type print in orange and blue.
What's in the bag?
I can't find an official list online. The products are likely to vary a bit. From a squint at the promo picture, I can see Diptyque's Roses candle, Malin & Goetz Vitamin E facewash or moisturiser, a Nars lip gloss, an Escentric Molecules shower gel (maybe?), Chantecaille skincare in a tiny tub, some fragrance rollerballs, Dermalogica (probably) daily microfoliant, Ormorovicza cleansing foam, a Liberty shower gel, Decleor something, Hourglass eyeliner, Nancy's Nails scented topcoat, Ren cleanser (odd since this brand is excluded from the promo), Aromatherapy Associations lotion, Eve Lom, Aesop and other interesting things.

What I ordered:

Today's blogging soundtrack is: Attack on Titan (TV series)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Stash nostalgia: MAC Fluidline collection and swatches

I've been reviewing my makeup storage today, going through the enormous quantity of products I've collected over the years. I've been throwing a few things away, but mostly just reminding myself what I have and enjoying a few re-discoveries.

In one of my red metal storage drawers, marked 'gel eyeliner', I found my old MAC Fluidline collection. I'll probably never use these again - these days I much prefer waterproof eyeliners like UD 24/7 pencils and the like, or gel liners that set to a waterproof finish. These aren't waterproof, they're just regular creamy gel liners. And besides, most of these examples have become dried out and lumpy, and in some cases cracked. Given that some of them are several years old though, the packaging has protected them really well and they're in better nick than some of my more recently-bought gel eyeliners.

There was a time when these were my HG eyeliners, and I carefully collected them one by one, setting aside cash from my meagre wages or student budget to add each one to my library. You can see how treasured they were from the way I've painted each one's initial on the lid for easy reference.

A couple of them (Penned, Ostentatious, Lithograph, Jadeye) were limited edition, and the result of an adrenaline-fuelled dash to the nearest MAC counter on collection release day. Some were swapped for via MakeupAlley after their release. Others like Macroviolet, Blue Peep and Royal Wink were permanent in their day.

I've swatched them all here for your enjoyment (and mine). Then I put them back in their tomb so I can re-discover them on future archaeological missions into my collection. Goodnight Fluidlines, you chunky little wonders.

L-R Iris Eyes, Nonconformist, Macroviolet
L-R Jadeye, Blue Peep, Royal Wink, Penned

L-R Lithograph, Blacktrack, Ostentatious
Today's blogging soundtrack is: The Sentinel (1977)

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Review: Bare Minerals 5 in 1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eyeshadow in Soft Shell

For the last couple of years I've been liberally plastering my skin in high-factor sunscreen each day, come rain or shine. I'm now firmly convinced that sun damage is the primary cause of wrinkles, freckles and general age-related skin-gnarliness as the SPF-fest has done wonders for my skin. But there's been one little bit of my face that hasn't reaped the benefits - my eyelids. Oily-lidded people will appreciate why I haven't wanted to put rich, creamy sunscreen products on my eyelids. And then there's the potential for stinging when the ingredients inevitably get in your eye.
Speaking of ingredients: the ever-handy ingredients list
Last payday I went to Beauty Bay for a sniff around and to investigate some Zoeva stuff, and I  noticed this product, which is an eyeshadow primer, skin conditioner and colour in one. Its primary attraction for me was that it has SPF 15. It also evens out the skintone on your eyelids, which I thought could be handy. My eyelids are dark, which the beauty industry would no doubt call an impefection, but I prefer to think of as 'ready-made eyeshadow'. I don't mind it, but thought it would be handy to be able to cover it and create a clean canvas for different coloured eyeshadow. More versatile.

The price is fairly steep - £17 for 3ml. But having had good experiences with Bare Minerals in the past, I decided to take a gamble on it. I opted for Soft Shell, a light, cool toned colour. It's not a dead-on match for my skin but is close enough to look fairly natural when blended.

The packaging is a hard plastic tube with a screw top lid and rounded flock applicator. It's good quality and very sturdy, but will limit the amount of product that can be winkled out of there before you have to throw the tube away (or attack it with a junior hacksaw a la old-style UDPP bottles)

The payoff is excellent. It's a thick, smooth and creamy formula that spreads evenly on the lid and doesn't smear, streak or cake. Powder shadows and eyeliner sit well on top of it.

Likewise performance. I have no complaints about the longevity of the product and haven't noticed any creasing or oiliness coming through within the 12 hours they claim it will last. Boxed ticked. 

A quick swipe to apply
Fingertip blending, easy peasy
Left - before. Right - after
But... argh. I have one complaint, and it's kind of a big one. Despite this product sitting within the much-abused 'BB' category, which I'd take to mean it will create a natural-looking finish, Bare Minerals have packed the damn stuff full of microglitter. I really struggle to understand the thought process there. Maybe it's meant to be brightening or illuminating? A subtle sheen would have been a nice idea. But instead there are lots of discrete, blingy microglitter particles that come to the surface when the product is blended over the lids and are highly visible. My camera doesn't pick them up too well, but the picture below, taken in direct sunlight, gives you an idea how prominent it actually is.

It doesn't necessarily look bad, but wow does it cut down the versatility of the product. You can't get a true, natural my-lids-but-better effect with this, because it gives you sparkly eyelids. Everyone knows you're wearing makeup on your eyes.

Direct sunlight allows camera to pick up the full extent of the glitteriness
I have only tried this shade, and it's possible that the others may not have the same glittery effect, but given that this one is the closest to my natural skin tone I don't know how well I'd get on with other shades, or if they'd create a good blank canvas effect.

It's a shame, as there's so much this product gets right, particularly the inclusion of SPF 15. I'll use up the tube, but due to the glitter I can't see this being the long-term everyday staple I hoped it would become.

P.S. here's what I did after applying the primer for these photos - it's a quick coloured liner shebang with couple of UD 24/7 pencils in Honey and Mildew. Blended with my new Zoeva brush.

Today's blogging soundtrack is: Wolf Hall (BBC iPlayer)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The fastest manicure in the West (or North, for that matter)

Lately, all I seem to do is go to work and then sleep at ridiculously early times. My new (and hopefully temporary) bedtime is 9.30pm. As a result I've not had a lot of time for letting my nails dry. This week, I found myself with a very short window in which to do something about my chipped and cracking manicure. Not wanting to revert to a boring single coat of clear polish, I came up with the following solution.

This entire manicure was dry - properly, do-the-washing-up dry - within 15 minutes. Looks OK though, doesn't it?

1. Start with a single, generous coat of metallic polish on bare nails. (Make sure nails have been wiped with a cotton pad soaked in remover to get rid of dirt and skin oils.) Metallic polishes like Models Own's Colour Chrome collection apply very smoothly on bare nails. They also dry extremely fast. I suspect it's because of the high proportion of metallic powder vs. actual polish goop involved in the formula, because I've noticed a similar phenomenon with fine glitter polishes.


2. Wait 3 minutes for the metallic polish to dry. Then go over it with a single coat of chunky glitter polish. I chose Deborah Lippmann's Today Was a Fairytale* because it matched the cool frosty/wintery feel of the Models Own Chrome Indigo. (With all chunky glitters, no matter how posh or generously endowed with particles, it's best not use sweeping cuticle-to-tip strokes like with a regular polish. This will just pull the glittery bits off again. Instead use a dabbing, pressing motion all over the nail with the flat of the brush.)

3. Wait another 3 minutes, then go over everything with a coat of Mavadry top coat. This is my preferred alternative to Seche Vite. It speeds up drying, for one thing. It also creates a thick, glazed layer over the top of the manicure, which will help counteract the tendency of metallic polishes to fade and chip quickly.

4. And done. Now give it 15 minutes and you can go to bed. In the morning, there will be no tell-tale waffle-prints on your nails from the sheets.

L-R Deborah Lippmann Today Was a Fairytale, Models Own Chrome Indigo, Mavala Mavadry

Today's blogging soundtrack is: Anais Mitchell, Young Man in America

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

RIP Makeupalley swaps

Earlier this week I received this email.

I'm in a glass case of emotion here.  Makeupalley closing? Surely not. That's like Boots closing. Or MAC having an end-of-season sale. MUA is one of the constants. It's one of the few things that have stayed the same during my long years of involvement with the online makeup community.

Of course it's not completely closing down - the excellent product reviews are still online and functioning as normal. And the message boards are still up, too.

But those days of carefully swaddling your lightly-used makeup products in bubble wrap and sending them off round the world to other MUAers (in return for a package from them) have gone forever. (What's Swapidu? I don't know. But it won't be the same, damnit.)

I have some great memories of MUA swapping from the early 00's

Once I received a RAOK (Random Act of Kindness) package from someone in the States that was basically a ton weight of American chocolate, including multiple bags of Reese's Pieces, which you could rarely find over here. 

Another time I went and carried out a CP (Custom Purchase) of a bubblegum pink Barry M lipstick for a swapper in the US, trawling multiple branches of Superdrug looking for the right shade. Sounds like a chore but it was in fact a brilliant excuse to go on a cosmetic shopping mission. 

And I had some great fragrance swaps with a woman in Denmark who sent me decants of some niche stuff, each in a lovely brushed-metal travel spray. 

There were all the Milani eyeshadows and depotted MAC pans, the rich secondary economy of MAC pigment samples, each poured into those little screw-top jars and labelled in friendly strangers' handwriting, and the dreaded SWAPLIFTERS (those who agreed a swap but never sent their half of the trade). Most swappers were generous, though, and it was rare to receive a package without a few extras or throw-ins in the form of sample sachets or unexpected drugstore products. 

In those days we didn't have any social media to speak of, so we didn't always know who we were swapping with, what they looked like or how old they were. Your swap tokens told the story of your other swaps and upheld your community reputation. And we just trusted each other - with street addresses, and with our carefully-chosen products, too. Looking back, it feels like a gentler age. Funny how quickly time passes. 
Today's blogging soundtrack is: Aircon noise and the tapping of keys

Monday, 13 October 2014

NOTD: Boots Seventeen Fury

Normally I like a duochrome to be wham-bam-in-your-face colour-shifting mayhem. This one's subtle, though. It's basically a warm gold, but persuaded by just the right quality of light, it assumes an ever-so-slightly-different warm green cast. I don't think anyone but me really noticed this during the week I wore it for, but that was OK. It was a duochrome experience between me myself and I. 

It's a well-behaved three-coater. Not metallic enough to present brush-mark issues, and not sheer enough to be thin or globby, either, it's pleasant if unremarkable to apply. This polish carries a claim of single-coat application that's dry in 50 seconds. That's tosh. But it's certainly not a bad polish.

As you can see from these pictures of the 4-day-old manicure, it's moderately vulnerable to tip-wear and has also developed a few hair-line cracks. It didn't want to chip or flake though, and given its £2.99 price-point, well out-performs reasonable expectations.

You can buy this badger at Boots, where it's currently part of a 3 for 2 offer

Today's blogging soundtrack is: The Unborn (terrible horror film)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Review: & Other Stories Madapollam sugar scrub

This is the sugar scrub from & Other Stories' Cotton Care range (previously noted here), a comprehensive set of cotton-themed bath and body goodies.

Presentation and packaging
Clean matte white plastic tub with fabric label and screw top. Sturdy and pleasant to handle and use.

The product scent is similar to the rest of the Cotton Care line. It's a very light, clean floral that reminds me a bit of Philosophy's Pure Grace. (100x thumbs up for this, particularly since it's so affordable by comparison.) Interestingly, the brand describe the scent as more fruity: "an exquisite touch of succulent peach surrounded by a rich floral soul with a hint of plum."

Payoff and performance

The scrub has a dense, slightly viscous consistency when scooped up out of the tub. The sugar particles are maybe a tad too large, but they're plentiful and not too rough. Once rubbed into the skin, the scrub starts to emulsify into a milky lotion-esque texture. It rinses away leaving the skin lightly moisturised, but in no way oily or greasy.

Price and value
At £9 for 300ml, this is priced in line with many a drugstore scrub, but it sets itself apart thanks to its sleek  fashiony creds, its lovely scent and its impressive performance.

Any dupes?

Scent-wise, it has something in common with Pure Grace, but it's more dupe than dupe-able. In terms of function, there are many sugar scrubs out there. This is a fine example of the genre and you'd be pushed to find something equivalent at a much lower price.

Triffic sugar scrub; light, pretty fragrance; stylish packaging.

Today's blogging soundtrack is: BoJack Horseman