Brightening Skincare

Aside from acne, my other main skincare concern is a dull and sallow complexion, so, it should come as no surprise that I've developed a rather robust fondness for products that promise to brighten my skin. These are three products that truly deliver.
This is a self-proclaimed "illuminating vitamin facial cleanser" that leaves my skin feeling fresh and supple. I massage the gel/oil into dry skin and remove it with a washcloth in circular motions. Not only does the mini facial massage increase blood flow to my face and awaken my skin, but the cleanser itself has pumpkin enzymes to ever so gently exfoliate off dead skin cells to reveal your brightest and most illuminated skin.

I was lucky enough to win this in a giveaway on NUDE Skincare's Instagram account recently, and oh my, this stuff is good. I envisioned a fizzy powder wash to be drying and likely even stripping, but this is far from it. Every other morning, after dampening my face, I pour out a penny-sized amount of powder into one hand and use the other to massage it into my skin, working in sections, avoiding the eye area. There is a subtle fizzy reaction upon initial contact with wet skin (I like to think it's getting deep in my pores), and as you continue working it in, the fine powder granules work as a physical exfoliant. The best part? My skin feels ridiculously smooth and hydrated(!!!) post-rinse. The overall exfoliating experience is on the more intensive end of the spectrum, which helps my skin to look extra awake and brightened, but admittedly, this may be a tad harsh on sensitive skin types.

With a combination of lactic and glycolic acids, these FAB pads work to exfoliate, tone and brighten in the gentlest way possible. I swipe one pad over freshly cleansed skin nightly, and I experienced a noticeably brighter complexion after just one week. Sensitive-skinned ladies will love these, as they are non-irritating and gentle.

* product won in giveaway


The Holiday Reds

With the holidays fast approaching, I decided it was time to take an editing eye to my red lip collection in order to deliver a pared down compilation of my favorite picks for the holiday season. My idea of the perfect holiday red is something cheery and classic (nothing too vampy) that can achieve and maintain a statement lip for holiday parties and gatherings. I found four options spanning a few different finishes and price ranges that will easily suit any and all holiday red lip needs.
Swatched L to R: Guerlain Garconne, NYX Perfect Red, NARS Cruella, Revlon Fire Opal
First up is Guerlain Rouge G in Garconne $51, a vibrant, true red. It's an ultra creamy and pigmented formula with a finish that manages to pack shine without appearing too wet or glossy. Aside from Garconne being the epitome of a "holiday red," the substantial, luxe Guerlain packaging makes it a treat to use any time of year, but especially on special occasions.
NYX Matte Lipstick in Perfect Red $6 is like the matte, slightly more subdued version of Garconne. The soft matte formula feels comfortable on my lips, unlike MAC matte lipsticks, for example, and although it's not very hydrating, it isn't drying either. It applies well, wears well, and the color is truly the perfect classic red. The best part? It comes in at just under $6. Why wouldn't you add this to your shopping list?
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella $25 is a rich, deeper red with a completely matte finish. The pencil makes it easy to line and fill in lips at the same time (a plus for darker shades that can often be more difficult to achieve clean edges with when applied straight from a lipstick bullet), and it wears seamlessly for hours on end. Just make sure lips are freshly exfoliated before application.
Revlon Ultra HD Lip Lacquer in Fire Opal $8 is a fiery, orange-red with a slick, glossy finish. It's an incredibly pigmented gloss with a brush applicator that, admittedly, can make clean application a bit more troublesome, but the end result is certainly worth the effort. Just look at it.
So, there you have it - my red lip picks for this holiday season. And in case I haven't mentioned it before, because I sometimes get questions about this, I don't often use lip liner (unless it's a nude one to enhance my lip shape), even with darker or brighter lip shades. If achieving clean edges is an issue, I typically prefer to just use a lip brush for the most precise application. 

What are some of your favorite reds for the holidays?


The Cream Blushes You Have to Try: Make Up For Ever HD Blush

I'm a big fan of cream blush, in general. I used to be a strong proponent of the "cream blush must be dewy" mentality, complete with a distaste for the varieties with cream to powder finishes (I'll just use a powder, thanks), that is, until I swooshed my finger into my first Make Up For Ever HD Blush. Since falling in love with 335 Fawn, I've added two more to my arsenal, and my adoration for the flattering shades and faultless formula only continues to grow.
335 // Fawn, 315 // Peach Beige, 220 // Pink Sand

I actually reviewed the formula back when I got Fawn (you can read that here), but basically, it's my favorite cream blush formula ever. It's pigmented and creamy but never tacky, it's so easy to blend, and it has an incredibly natural, satin, skin-like finish. Like I said in my original review, you'll never see the product sitting atop your skin; once blended, you're left with only the gorgeous flush created by the pigment. The best part is that it applies equally as seamlessly over liquid and powder base products. I love pairing it with my Real Techniques Expert Face Brush for application.

L to R: 335 Fawn, 315 Peach Beige, 220 Pink Sand
Although the three shades I own look embarrassingly similar in their pans, they're quite different once swatched and worn. 335 Fawn is a tawny pink-brown that manages to handle the jobs of both blush and bronzer/contour. 315 Peach Beige is a rich, warm peach that is complexion brightening, yet still muted enough for everyday wear. 220 Pink Sand is a dusky baby pink with a slightly mauve undertone. I hate to toot my own horn, but I think the three shades I currently own are pretty damn perfect....for me, anyway. I always manage to throw at least one of these into my travel makeup bag because they're practically foolproof, in terms of both application and colors. All 16 shades in the range are free of shimmer and incredibly wearable and flattering. There's definitely something for everyone.

Wearing 220 Pink Sand
If you take away one thing from this post, I hope it's what is already stated in the title: you have to try these. And there's your beauty PSA to kick off the weekend :)

Make Up For Ever HD Blushes are available from Sephora and retail for $26.


Faking the Bronzed Glow

Mary Kay recently sent me a few of their products to replicate a faux tan look their Global Makeup Artist, Luis Casco, created on Project Runway a few weeks ago, and since I was a complete virgin when it came to Mary Kay products, I thought it would also be a great opportunity to try out a few bits and document my foray into the brand.

I had the opportunity to try out Mary Kay's Translucent Powder, Bronzing Powders in Light-Medium and Medium-Dark, as well as their Mineral Cheek Color in Shy Blush.
L to R: Bronzing Powders in Light-Medium, Medium-Dark, Mineral Cheek Color in Shy Blush
After applying my usual base, I lightly dusted the Translucent Powder ($16) onto my t-zone to negate any shine that may tend to peek through throughout the day. It's light and finely-milled, and it blended in and looked completely invisible on the skin. It set my foundation well and provided a fair amount of oil-control, but definitely not enough for those with true oily skin, in my opinion. Unfortunately, I have yet to wear it while taking flash photography, so I cannot speak to whether or not it causes flashback, similarly to Make Up For Ever HD Powder.

I then took a large stippling brush and applied the Bronzing Powder in Medium-Dark ($18) in the classic 3 shape on both sides of my face (forehead, cheekbones, jawline) and used the Light-Medium shade to blur out the edges of the darker bronzer, as well as act as a golden highlight. Now, let me warn you, these bronzers are shimmery! Not a glitter-type of shimmer, but borderline frosty/metallic. Applying with a dense brush would likely bring out this finish even more, but I thought the stippling brush method diffused the product enough where it didn't seem too over the top. In terms of shades, Medium-Dark is best for skintones NC30 and darker, while Light-Medium would probably best suite NC20 and lighter; it's the awkward NC20-30 range that may find it more difficult choosing a shade. Light-Medium actually looks more like a dark highlighter to me than it does a bronzer.

Lastly, I applied the Mineral Cheek Color in Shy Blush ($12). It's a NARS Orgasm-type of shade (peachy-pink with golden shimmer), except Shy Blush is less red compared to Orgasm, the latter often leaving me looking like I might suffer from rosacea. Like the bronzers, Shy Blush's shimmer is borderline frosty, which may or may not be your cup of tea. The finish is almost wet looking, initially, which I actually didn't mind as I found it quite pretty, but as the day went on, I found the finish started emphasizing my pores a bit more than I'd like.

All of the powders feel silky smooth to the touch, blend easily with minimal effort, and have medium, buildable pigmentation.

Have you tried Mary Kay? Any must-have products I should try?

Disclosure: These products were sent to me for consideration for a review. I am not affiliated with the company, nor am I getting paid for this post. The opinions expressed in this post are based solely on my own experience with the products.


Budget Blushes

Blush is one of those products that I feel the drugstore hasn't quite nailed yet. In general, I find most high-end blushes to be superior to drugstore blushes, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few budget-friendly gems out there too - you just have to search more carefully for them. Luckily for you, I've done the dirty work for you. Here are four of the best blushes the drugstore has to offer.
L to R: Palladio Matte Blush in Toasted Apricot, Rimmel Lasting Finish Blush in Santa Rose, Physician Formula Happy Booster Blush in Warm, Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso

Palladio is a brand I don't believe I've tried before, but considering how small the selection of matte blush formulas is at the drugstore, I decided to give this one a go, hoping it would actually be worth my while, against all odds. It definitely was. Their Matte Blush in the shade Toasted Apricot is exactly that - a warm, rusty apricot shade. It's bold enough for summer, but also has a richness that's gorgeous in the fall, as well. It's surprisingly non-chalky, and although it does take a bit of effort to blend, the result is worth it. I love how it warms up my complexion. 

Rimmel Lasting Finish Blush in Santa Rose looks like a boring, paler than pale pink in the pan, but on the cheeks, it transforms into a gorgeous dusty pink that's neither too bright, nor too muted. It has a similar effect as Tarte Exposed one me, except lighter. It's a surprisingly flattering blush and one of those suits-any-look kind of shades.

Clockwise from top left: Toasted Apricot, Santa Rose, Luminoso, Warm

Physician Formula Happy Booster Blush in Warm is a light-medium coral-peach with a bit of shimmer. I like that you have the option of controlling how much color you want, simply by choosing whether or not to swirl your brush in the bright orange heart (I typically swirl through all of the colors). It's not scarily pigmented, yet, it can easily be built up as well.

Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso has been a long-time favorite of mine. It's a shimmery peach that would flatter just about anyone. I've used it on friends and family, and they've all looked radiant and glowing in it. It's ridiculously flattering. It has shimmer, but the perfect amount that would never settle into pores or look glittery or over the top. The quality of Luminoso is actually on par with (if not superior to) many of its high-end counterparts.

Swatches, L to R: Toasted Apricot, Santa Rose, Warm, Luminoso

Wearing Palladio Matte Blush in Toasted Apricot
If I could only recommend one? Without a doubt, Milani Luminoso.

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