Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge

After what must be years of umming and ahhing over the Beauty Blender sponge, I finally came to the realization that I could never part with nearly $20 in exchange for a makeup sponge, no matter how cute and how pink it is. So, when Monika from Rocaille Writes gave the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge a rather rave review, I quickly added it to my mental wishlist.

The Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge is a cheery orange sponge with rounded sides, a pointed tip on one end and a flat edge on the other end. The pointed end is a particular favorite of mine, as I find it fits perfectly into all of the nooks and crannies and natural contours of the face. 

After dabbing mini blobs (???) of foundation all over my face, I hold the sponge under running water, then squeeze out all of the excess. Similarly to the Beauty Blender, the Miracle Complexion Sponge expands a considerable amount when dampened. Dampening the sponge softens it even further, creating a bouncy texture, and the moisture helps to flawlessly apply and blend foundation and concealer.

Below, the sponge is first shown dry, then dampened. It increases in size by about 50%.
With the dry and cold winter weather, I noticed recently that my skin looked dry, patchy and flakey with foundation on (I had been using the Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush to apply it). After Sandra suggested I try applying my foundation with the Beauty Blender as it had worked wonders for her, I picked up the Miracle Complexion Sponge a few days later, and the difference in the appearance of my foundation was like night and day. 

Not only does using the sponge to gently press in my foundation eradicate any traces of dry patches, it also blends it in more flawlessly and quickly than a brush. One point worth noting, however, is that I do find that some coverage is lost when foundation is applied with the sponge, as it tends to give a slightly sheerer application. For this reason, the sponge is probably best reserved for pairing with medium to full coverage foundations, as use with a sheer to light coverage foundation may yield nearly invisible results.

If you struggle with streaky foundation application, want the option of a sheerer foundation application, suffer from dry, patchy skin, or simply can't stop thinking about the Beauty Blender, yet you can't part with that $20 bill either, I'd highly recommend picking up the Miracle Complexion Sponge. Coming in at just under $6, this little orange wonder has completely dissolved any yearning I previously had for its cute and pink predecessor. 

The Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge is available at Ulta for $5.99.


Urban Decay Black Market

I have a love/hate relationship with Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-on Eye Pencils. With the exception of Perversion, they don't seem to want to last more than 15 minutes on my waterline, but at the same time, the abundance of shade options and the pigmented and creamy formula never fail to keep me coming back for more. When I saw the Black Market set at my local Ulta marked down from $36 to $24, I snatched it up without a second thought.

Black Market includes six mini-sized 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils, five of which are new and limited edition shades. Here's a quick rundown:

:: West :: A versatile, suits-everyone, warm bronzey-brown.
:: Desperation :: The lone perm (and lone matte) shade in the bunch, Desperation is smokey grey. 
:: Black Market :: The set's namesake is a moderately intense grey-black with a satin finish.
:: Riot :: A sparkley purple with average pigmentation.
:: Apathy :: A forest green that walks the line between shimmery and metallic. This one also had the weakest pigmentation and applied the least evenly.
:: Ink :: A beautiful, shimmery royal blue with purple undertones.

L to R: West, Desperation, Black Market, Riot, Apathy, Ink

For the most part, these six pencils were consistent with my past experiences with Urban Decay's liners, and they neither came up short nor exceeded my expectations. Despite Riot and Apathy's less than stellar pigmentation (swatches show both shades built up) and the pencil formula's overall poor waterline lasting ability, at just $4 a pop, I can't really fault them - I'll just have to reserve them for smudgey liner looks or those days when I'm craving a 'pop of color' on my lower lash line.

Urban Decay Black Market 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Set is available from Urban Decay for $24.

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Spill It.

Sarah Villafranco of Osmia Organics recently tagged me in the 'Spill It' tag, otherwise known as what's in my makeup bag right this moment.

I don't often carry around a makeup bag day to day, preferring instead to simply toss a few too many lip products into my handbag and call it a day. It's the only thing I really reapply throughout the day anyway. But, since I just got back from a short 3-day cruise, the contents of my Betsey Johnson makeup bag are a bit more well rounded than usual.

The spill:
NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Primer
Make Up For Ever Sharpener
Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
Burberry Tangerine Blush
L'Occitane Rose Hand Cream
Chanel Les Beiges Powder 
Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge
Bourjois Java Rice Powder
Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler
Shiseido Eyebrow Pencil
Shu Uemura Hard Formula Eyebrow Pencil
MAC Viva Glam I Lipstick
Revlon Tweezers
Urban Decay Perversion 24/7 Liner
Physicians Formula 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum
Smashbox Foundation Primer
C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Night Balm
Nivea Lip Butter
NYX Creme Brulee Butter Gloss
Sonia Kashuk Sheer Pink Lust Lip Colour
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Volumizing Mascara

Eeek! Kind of a ridiculous amount, no? Skincare was separate, of course (I'll save that for another day). And, in case you're curious, I also had my trusty LORAC PRO Palette on hand, but it didn't fit inside my bag :) 

I tag J. from Lil Lady's Life, Jessica from Getting Cheeky, Monika from Rocaille Writes, and Joyce from Bronzer Bunny.

Spill it, ladies.


MAC Viva Glam I

Aside from the occasional products I specifically ask for, my friends and family don't often gift me makeup anymore. It probably has a bit to do with not knowing much about makeup and a bit to do with believing I couldn't possibly need more makeup anyway that they'll just get me something else completely. With that said, you can imagine my elation when my friend, Rhea, gifted me a MAC lipstick, not only in a shade I didn't already own, but a shade I've been contemplating adding to my collection for eons.

MAC Viva Glam I is a deep red with cool undertones. Despite its matte formulation, it actually has a bit of sheen that I would equate more with a semi-matte finish. As a result of this faux matte formula of sorts, Viva Glam I isn't nearly as drying as some other matte lipsticks, and I found that my lips still felt quite comfortable hours later. And it lasts beautifully, only really budging after eating.

Viva Glam I strikes me as a sophisticated and chic red that screams confidence, and it truly is a one-red-suits-most kinda shade. Sure, when worn with the wrong look it carries the potential to be aging, but when paired with fresh skin and simple eyes, this deepened red will take you places, ladies.


Five Product Makeup.

The Five Product Makeup tag has to be one of my favorites ever. I love seeing which five product types people deem to be their "necessities," and I was excited to get to work after being tagged by Kelly from A Blog of Vain Pleasures. (By the way, Kelly's blog should really have more followers. It's AMAZING.)

When I first did this tag a few years ago, my main goal was to find a few multitasking products so that my chosen five products could function more as six or seven. This time around, I decided to challenge myself a bit more and steer clear of my Stila Covertible Colors and the like, and dip my toes outside my comfort zone by only using each product for one purpose. I wanted to see if I could put together a cohesive look that actually looked like it only required five products.

My absolute makeup necessities are brows, mascara and concealer, so Shu Uemura Hard Formula Eyebrow Pencil in Stone Gray, Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Volumizing Mascara and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard were immediately added to the pile. The last two products took a bit more umming and ahhing. I opted for Chanel Les Beiges in 30 over blush or traditional bronzer and used it to warm up my complexion, and in anticipation of a relatively simple and subdued face, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella was added to the mix as the focus of the look.

Although it felt a bit odd for me to avoid powdering my t-zone, I actually quite like how dewy my skin turned out. If I could add two more things to this look, it would definitely be winged liner and a touch of highlight on my cheeks and in the inner corner of my eyes, but alas, the Seven Product Makeup is not a tag.


Bedtime Essentials.

I'm simple when it comes to my bedtime ritual. The only two things I'm after are calm and intense hydration.

I like drinking an extra hot, non-caffeinated tea before bed, and lately, I've been favoring the Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Tea from Celestial Seasonings. It's warm, soothing, and helps prepare me for my slumber.

The hydration requirement is a bit more involved. I slather on a healthy dose of L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream, and about twice a week, I'll use the Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil for good measure. I'm liberal with my hand cream, possibly to a fault, but my skin just drinks it up. I blame it on the constant hand washing. If my elbows or knees are feeling particularly dry or flaky, I'll massage in a small amount of the African Botanics Marula Intense Skin Repair Body Balm. This stuff cures dry patches infinitely better than any ol' body butter. Trust.

My lips have been loving the Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair lately (can be purchased here), so I drown my lips in it while I'm lounging in bed, winding down from the day and watching Youtube videos on my iPad. It softens and moisturizes my kissers without feeling heavy or waxy. Immediately before bed, I apply a longtime favorite, C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Night Balm. It's still the best overnight lip balm I've tried to date. I've lost count of how many tubes I've gone through.

What are some of your bedtime essentials?

Disclosure: The Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair was 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 honest and based solely on my own experience with the product.


Magic in a Pot: African Botanics Marula Intense Skin Repair Body Balm.

It's no secret I'm a big fan of multipurpose products. Aren't we all, though? I'd seen a couple rave reviews of the African Botanics Marula Intense Skin Repair Body Balm (namely, Amelia Liana's and Joyce's) and recently decided to splurge on a pot to call my own. I've been using the balm for a few weeks now, and surprise, surprise....it's love.

The African Botanics Intense Skin Repair Body Balm claims to regenerate cells, heal, protect and prevent skin irritation, soften, calm and nourish inflamed skin, and so much more.

It contains all natural ingredients, including:
:: Marula Oil to heal skin tissue and help reduce the appearance of scars
:: Shea Butter to increase skin elasticity and hydration
:: Helichrysum to heal acne and scars
:: Honey for its antibacterial and moisture retaining properties
:: Green Rooibos Tea Extract to even out skin texture and pigmentation and encourage cell turnover 

Its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties make it great for windburns and sunburns; its intense moisturization properties make it ideal for dry and dehydrated skin; and its repairing properties make it a notable contender for healing cuts, burns and other skin irritations. I can't think of many skin concerns this balm can't tackle.

The Intense Skin Repair Body Balm is incredibly thick and has a rather dry, paste-like texture in the pot, but it literally transforms itself once warmed up either in the palm of your hand or with your fingertips. It's worth noting that it has a light and fresh scent that I believe most would find unoffensive, if not enjoyable. I enjoy taking advantage of the product's multi-use claims and have been using it for several different purposes. 

Firstly, I've been using it nightly in place of eye cream because my usual eye creams have been causing me eczema-like reactions lately, and not only does the balm soothe and heal my irritated eye area, but it also hydrates and nourishes like nothing I've tried before. Secondly, I massage a tiny amount into my acne scars as part of my nighttime skincare routine, and I've seen a visible difference after only a few short weeks of use, particularly in some of the newer marks. Lastly, to help manage some of the intensely dry skin I often suffer with when the temperatures drop, I work a bit of the balm into my dry knees and elbows before bed and wake up with insanely soft skin.

Admittedly, the balm is priced quite high at $55, and I struggle between categorizing it as a luxury item vs. a necessity, because in reality, it's kind of both. The good news is, each pot comes with a whopping 58 ml or 1.96 fl.oz., and considering how little product is needed for each use, I'd imagine one pot will stick around for quite a long while.

African Botanics Marula Intense Skin Repair Body Balm is available from Beauty.com for $55.

The Monday Post #6

Monday is by far the gloomiest day of the week for me, followed by Sunday simply because it precedes Monday. Hopefully, The Monday Post will give you some beauty inspiration and help you get through the week! 

Favorite beauty read/viewing: For those who have a makeup collection currently suffering from clutter and overflow (*raises hand*), Temptalia has a fantastic post on How to Organize Your Makeup - My Tips and Tricks that is incredibly detailed and informative, complete with fabulous suggestions for specific storage pieces. Can you imagine the size of her collection? If she can keep hers organized and tidy, so can I, dammit.

Beauty goal: I'm going to attempt to push aside my Laura Mercier Artist's Palette and LORAC PRO Palette for a little while and show some of my other eyeshadows some love. Not sure I'll be successful though.

Product Rediscovery: I repurchased the e.l.f. Blush Brush a few weeks ago on a whim (I think I gave my old one to my sister), and I've absolutely been loving using it. The smaller size makes it easy to place the color exactly where you want it. Such a steal for only $3.

Beauty lust: I've been lusting after the Sunday Riley Effortless Breathable Tinted Primer for a while now, but sadly, it's sold out every time there's a deal going on, so I haven't picked it up yet. I'm not entirely sure I want it quite enough to spend full price at the moment. Another one on the wishlist? LORAC PRO To Go Eye/Cheek Palette. Like I need another palette, but whatever.

Most looking forward to: I'm finishing up my last week of my current rotation now, then I'll be going home to California for two months! Woohoo, SUNSHINE! Hopefully, that means better lighting for blog photos too :)

Hope you all have a great week!

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My Favorite Look This Week #6

Admittedly, my product choices have been a bit of a snooze-fest lately, because I just seem to reach for the same products over and over again. I guess these could also be considered some of my current favorites.
Sonia Kashuk Shine Luxe Sheer Lip Colour in Sheer Pink Lust
Make Up For Ever Pro Finish Foundation Powder in 120
MAC Blush in Hang Loose

Although I don't necessarily think the Artist's Palette is a must-have per se, I've really been enjoying using it nonetheless. Since I had been dipping my brush into the purple tones in the palette a lot lately, I decided to go for a brown smokey eye on this particular day, opting for Bamboo on the lid, a layered combo of Truffle and Espresso Bean on the outer third of the lid, Fresco to blend everything out past the crease, and Vanilla Nuts lightly on the brow bone. I also smudged a bit of black liner into my top lash line to make my lashes appear darker and thicker to better fit the smokiness.

Ever since rediscovering Hang Loose in my stash several weeks ago, I've been rocking the slightly shimmery, cool, pale pink flush rather a lot. I think I like it more on me now that I'm at my palest, since I was quite a bit more tanned when I purchased it years ago and rarely reached for it. I find that when the two shades are swirled together, the shimmery lavender adds just the right amount of sparkle and sheen, making Hang Loose one of those highlighter-and-blush-in-one kind of products.

And Sheer Pink Lust. This lipstick is such a staple. See how natural and glossy my lips look? I love how well it complements any look, but especially a heavier eye. And it is so moisturizing.

I really liked that this brown smokey eye had a bit of softness to it, and paired with the baby pink cheeks and lips, it created a romantic look with an edge, rather than an in-your-face going out look.

I'll try to put my Artist's Palette away soon in an attempt to mix up my MFLTW posts, but I can't say it won't be a struggle.


POPSUGAR Must Have November Box

The November edition of the POPSUGAR Must Have Box recently landed on my doorstep, and I just had to show you guys everything that was in it, because it is such. a. good. deal.

The POPSUGAR Must Have Box includes carefully selected monthly must haves in fashion, home, food and beauty. Each box costs $39.95, which for me, is pretty pricey; however, once I started looking into the retail prices for some of the products, I was in shock. The box is worth so much more than $39.95. 

The products in the November box:
:: Michael Stars Wrap/Scarf :: 
Gorgeous pale grey scarf with black aztec print. It's also quite large/long (I personally love the slightly bulky scarf look) and really nice quality.
:: Illume Candle in Nice :: 
I've heard great things about Illume, so I was ecstatic to find this in my box. Nice is a sweet, yet soft, vanilla scent.
:: Land's End Wine Tote ::
One of the only things in the box I was indifferent about.
:: Maison de Monaco Strawberry and Blackcurrant Cream Preserves ::
I've been eating this on toast and it's YUM.
:: The Soap & Paper Factory Roland Pine Shea Butter Soap ::
Can't wait to try this. I love earthy scents.
:: Absolute! Nail Polish Remover Pads in Spring Fresh ::
Great idea, in theory, but these oil-based nail polish remover pads could barely get my polish to budge.
:: Barefruit Crunchy Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips ::
:: $30 Canvas Pop Gift Card ::
I'd never heard of Canvas Pop before, but apparently they make canvas photo prints in just about any size. Sounds like the perfect Christmas/Valentine's Day/Birthday gift in the making...

Just to give you an idea of how much the box is worth, the scarf, candle and soap alone cost $65.75! Add in the $30 Canvas Pop gift card and the rest of the other goodies, and we're well over $100.

Michael Stars Wrap/Scarf

Canvas Pop Gift Card

POPSUGAR is offering my first 50 readers $10 off a 3-month subscription to the Must Have Box if you subscribe between now and December 11th. Simply use the code "NOVSELECT." 

The price for a 3-month subscription is normally $109.85, but after $10 off, each box would end up costing around $33. Imagine getting everything I got in this month's box for $33. Since this is my first Must Have Box, I can't say with certainty that every box will be as great a deal as this one, but, from what I can tell from looking at photos of past boxes, they all seem to be pretty darn good. And, since this is the season of giving (and not the season of buying more stuff for yourself that you don't need...I keep trying to remind myself that!), can I just say that I bet this could make an excellent gift for quite a few people this holiday season? It basically covers all the bases.

Disclosure: POPSUGAR Beauty sent me their Must Have November Box free of charge. I am a POPSUGAR Select Beauty Blogger; however, I was not obligated to review this box, nor am I getting paid for this post. The opinions expressed in this post are honest and based solely on my own experience.


Will Work for Makeup's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: STOCKING STUFFERS

Part IV of the gift guide series focuses on slightly more affordable and/or compact gifts that would make great stocking stuffers. Though I aimed to find products that were around $25 or less, keep in mind these sets could also be split up to serve as small gifts for a few different people as needed to fit your budget.

Beautysets - WWFM's 2013 Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

:1: Nails Inc. Autumn Winter Collection $25 ::
This collection of mini polishes truly rounds up some of the quintessential colors of this time of year, including a vampy maroon and an earthy brown. The pale grey is a standout in my eyes, as it has some unexpected, yet subtle, pretty pink shimmer running through it.

:2: Caudalie Hand Cream Trio $25 ::
Anyone would be lucky to receive this set of luxurious, French vineyard-inspired hand creams, although I think one in each stocking would more than suffice. A rich and nourishing hand cream is a necessity this time of year.

:3: Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio $28 ::
This trio of cult favorites has all of her bases covered: a subtle nude, an everyday pink and a juicy red. Hydrating, sheer but buildable pigmentation and chic packaging? These tinted balms tick all the right boxes.

:4: Boscia Pink Peppermint Blotting Linens $5 ::
Boscia's blotting linens are a favorite among many that suffer from dreaded midday shine, and the sparkley pink packaging with linens made from natural leaf fibers might provide a bit of insight into why. As for the pink peppermint scent? It doesn't get anymore festive (or refreshing) than that. Don't be rude - buy her multiples.

:5: Travalo Touch Rollerball $20 ::
This device makes it possible for her to decant her normal, spray perfume into a convenient (not to mention chic) on-the-go rollerball. That way, she can have her gorgeous perfume bottle sitting prettily at home on her vanity while still being able to enjoy her favorite fragrance on the road. Who wouldn't want the best of both worlds?

:6: MOR Lip Macaron Set $25 ::
Another set that is perfect for splitting up. With flavors like Lychee Flower, Rosebud, Passionflower and Cassis Noir, I wouldn't be surprised if one of those "went missing" into your personal makeup bag before ever reaching anyone's stocking.

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My Favorite Look This Week #5

It wasn't exactly intentional, but I realized sometime this week that I've been slowly incorporating more fall tones into my makeup little by little. My favorite look this week was a bit heavier and smokier than some of the other MFLTW looks, and it's a favorite for a few different reasons:

Firstly, I'm wearing the base combination I talked about in this post, and the fuller coverage has been a nice change of pace for me. It doesn't hurt that the lasting power is phenomenal either. 

Secondly, the eyes. I had been using my Laura Mercier Artist's Palette almost exclusively since acquiring it a few weeks ago, but I started missing my LORAC PRO Palette this week, so I took it out for a spin. It's still my favorite eyeshadow palette at the moment, without a doubt. It's not easy finding a palette where you literally love every single shade. I opted for a smokey, taupey-purple in this look.

Lastly, I'm infatuated with Illamasqua Lies' glossy pink sheen. I have quite a few highlighters, but definitely nothing quite like Lies.

LORAC PRO Palette (I used Nude, Pewter, Mauve, Sable and Garnet)
Bobbi Brown Blush in Berry
Chanel Les Beiges Powder in 30
Illamasqua Cream Blush in Lies (it's more of a highlighter than a blush)
Hourglass Immaculate Foundation in Shell
Make Up For Ever Pro Finish Powder Foundation in 120 Neutral Ivory
Jordana Twist & Shine Balm Stain in Honey Love

Glossy, icy pink sheen on the tops of my cheekbones, courtesy of Lies. I like using my ring finger to tap it into the skin.

I've played around a lot more with Bobbi Brown Berry blush, and I think I love it even more now than I did when I reviewed it, probably because I've gotten the application down. Now, I can apply it in a few seconds just like I can with any other blush. I think it just took some practice. I've been using the e.l.f. Blush Brush lately, and I've learned how to tap the brush in ever so gently in order to pick up the perfect amount of product each time. I don't even need to dust the brush off on the back of my hand before applying anymore! If you're on the market for that quintessential fall/winter blush shade, I'd highly recommend picking up Berry.


Will Work for Makeup's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: THE GIRL WHO HAS EVERYTHING

Part III of my holiday gift guide is for the beauty lover who can often be overheard justifying the size of her makeup collection to herself while maniacally repositioning the lipsticks in her makeup drawer in a last-ditch effort to get it to close. These are some of the tougher ladies to buy for, as you can probably imagine, and you really have to think outside the box a bit. A Naked palette just ain't gonna cut it.

Beautysets - Will Work for Makeup's 2013 Gift Guide: TGWHE

:1: Deborah Lippmann Big Bang $78 ::
Deborah Lippmann has one of the best luxury nail polish formulas out there, and this selection of crรจmes, glitters and shimmers is downright drool-worthy, to say the least. Any polish fiend would be delighted to find this set wrapped prettily under the tree.

:2: NEST Eau de Parfum Coffret $38 ::
While I definitely think that, in general, gifting fragrances can be a bit dicey, a collection of five very different and distinct scents would make it awfully difficult for her to not fall in love with at least one. And can we just take a second to appreciate the gorgeous designs on those bottles?

:3: Buxom Shimmer & Shake Show-Stopping Collection $59 ::
These smooth, plumping and long-lasting glosses are some of the best on the market, and with an array of 15 shades to pick and choose from, even the girl who has everything is bound to find a few new favorites in the bunch.

:4: BECCA The One Perfecting Brush $49 ::
This innovative goat hair brush boasts perfect, airbrushed application of just about every product and every step imaginable in a makeup routine, from liquids to powders, concealers to bronzers, all the while without absorbing all of the product in the process. This may just be one brush she doesn't have.

:5: Too Faced A Few of My Favorite Things $56 ::
Twenty versatile neutrals and enticing jewel-toned eyeshadows, two universally flattering blushes, two bronzers, a mascara mini and a plumping lip gloss? This is undoubtedly one of the best all-around releases this holiday season.

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Made to Last.

When you have combination skin, or oily skin for that matter, it can often be a struggle finding ways to make your foundation last all day. My main problem area, as far as midday shine and foundation/concealer breakdown are concerned, is my t-zone, so when I found out I had a particularly long day of work scheduled last week, I made it into an opportunity to try something new.

I always use foundation primer on long days anyway, even if I'm planning on wearing a long-lasting foundation, like the Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation (Shell). The velvety finish of the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, in particular, creates the perfect base to allow Hourglass Immaculate's soft powder finish to glide on effortlessly. I usually get a solid 8 hours of wear time with this combo alone, but seeing as how I was looking for my makeup to last an extra few hours on this particular day, I knew my usual go-to pairing wouldn't cut it. At this point, I was faced with a conundrum - Do I go one step further and powder a powder-finish foundation? After all, how much is too much?

So, yeah. I ended up reaching for the powder in the end - Make Up For Ever Pro Finish Multi-Use Powder Foundation (#120 Neutral Ivory) to be exact. (Tip: Gently blot all over after applying your foundation, but before powdering, to soak up any excess oil from your moisturizer and foundation. This will help powder to apply more smoothly and wear longer.) I opted for just a light dusting of powder with a fluffy brush in an attempt to avoid cake-face, and as I brought the brush up to my face, I thought, "This could be a huge mistake." Thank goodness it wasn't. The powder set my foundation beautifully and added additional coverage to create the most flawless, natural, full-coverage complexion I've seen on myself in a very long time. And this may surprise you (it did me), but when I took a peek at my skin up-close in the mirror, it was smooth, poreless, and perfect. No cake in sight. 

Intermittent restroom breaks throughout the day yielded reactions that became progressively more surprised each time I looked in the mirror and realized I still didn't need to blot. Brilliant. I took one last, good look at my makeup that night before taking it all off, and it actually pained me to see it go. So, does this mean that sometimes more is actually more? Who knew.


Will Work for Makeup's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: THE MINIMALIST

Part II of my gift guide showcases a selection of products carefully chosen with that minimalistic beauty in mind; you know, the one who slicks on a touch of gloss, gives her brows a quick groom through and calls it a day? Yeah, her. These gifts will simply enhance what her mama gave her, sans all the bells and whistles.

Beautysets - Will Work for Makeup's Gift Guide: MINIMALIST

:1: Urban Decay Ocho Loco 2 $59 ::
Even if she's not an everyday wearer of eyeliner, every girl needs at least a few solid liners in her arsenal she can rely on to add definition and drama to her look when the occasion arises. The inclusion of the bright liners is just the cherry on top.

Sephora Collection Deluxe Antibacterial Brush Set $60 ::
This set of seven brushes contains all the key players to cover most all of a minimalist's beauty application needs, including face, eyes and brows.

:3: Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfectors Set $40 ::
Three full-sized, moisturizing tinted lip gloss/balm hybrids for less than the price of two? Go ahead and snag an extra set for yourself...I won't tell ;) And, did I mention they smell like sweets?

BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector $41 ::
This skin illuminator comes in four shades (Moonstone is pretty universally flattering), and the stuff is basically foolproof. Faking that dewy, radiant glow has never been easier. Don't worry if she's not a fan of foundation - this can work its magic on its own.

:5: LORAC PRO To Go Eye/Cheek Palette $38 ::
Six neutral eyeshadows suitable for both day and night looks, two gorgeous blushes and a bronzer? Buy her this, and she won't need much else.


The Morning & Nighttime Cleansers.

My morning and nighttime cleansers recently underwent a bit of a switch-up after I used up both my Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser and Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm. Although both of those products are absolutely fantastic, I decided against re-purchasing them at this time in favor of trying something new. My picks? Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel and Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm.

I start off my mornings with one pump of the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel (£32.50 for 5 oz/150 ml) massaged onto dry skin, transforming the gel into an oil-like cleanser, before gently removing it with a warm, damp washcloth. The Renaissance Cleansing Gel is packed with pumpkin enzyme to purge the skin of dead cells, vitamin A to promote elasticity, vitamins C and E to protect against free radicals, starflower oil to promote firmness and sulfur to detoxify and reduce inflammation. It leaves my skin looking brighter and feeling clean, soft and hydrated. Whereas I felt that the Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser was more light and refreshing, this rose chamomile-scented cleanser is luxuriously warm and soothing, making it perfect for cold winter mornings. I mean, just take a look at that description: "illuminating vitamin facial cleanser" - who wouldn't want that?

The Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($28.50 for 3.8 oz/125 ml) has been my new obsession as far as the nighttime skincare players are concerned. It has quite a solid consistency in the pot (seemingly very un-balm-like), but the second it is massaged onto dry skin, it melts into a silky, never greasy, oil consistency that breaks down all forms of makeup like nobody's business (my Stila waterproof mascara included). Although Clinique claims the balm should be rinsed off, I always use a washcloth and never experience any residue left behind. Nevertheless, I still follow it up with a second cleanse for good measure (I've been loving the Osmia Organics Black Clay Facial Soap lately).

Compared to the Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm, which I loved while it lasted (I went through two tubs!), I'm actually surprised to come to the conclusion that I think I might just enjoy Clinique's version more (and my wallet thanks me). Although I never had adverse reactions to the EH, Clinique's is free of fragrances and essential oils, making it perfect for even the most sensitive of skin types. It's also worth noting that both balms can be used around the eye area without causing any stinging or irritation. The Clinique balm could certainly be used for the second cleanse, as I did with the EH balm; however, I enjoy using it first simply because it is such an effective and fuss-free makeup remover. In my opinion, the EH feels more luxe simply due to its beautiful fragrance, but in all honesty, the Clinique is just as effective, and I actually prefer the consistency of it (not to mention the price, ahem) over the EH. 

The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel (£32.50) can be purchased from Cult Beauty, and the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($28.50) can be purchased from Sephora.


The Affordable Beauty Box: Beauty Box 5.

I'm not sure where I stand as far as monthly beauty boxes are concerned. On the one hand, I think it can be a great way for people to try out new brands and products that they might not otherwise be introduced to, and at a relatively minimal cost. On the other hand, if the selection of products in the box fails to impress, you could potentially be left with a box of duds hanging around your house gathering dust. When Beauty Box 5 offered to send my one of their monthly beauty boxes, I decided to take a look around their site to see what they're all about and noticed that their boxes cost a mere $12 a month. Pretty reasonable, I thought, considering some other companies' beauty boxes run around $20-30 a month. So, I took them up on their offer.

Beauty Box 5 is a beauty box subscription service that allows subscribers to sample five products monthly that include a great mix of high-end, drugstore and eco-friendly products from brands such as BECCA, Ellis Faas and It's a 10, to name a few.  

Upon opening my box, I was quite impressed as three of my five "samples" were actually full-size products. The products I received were:

Model Co Black Eye Liner Pencil (full-size) :: This black pencil is quite a pigmented, true black, and it glides on smoothly enough. However, when applied on my waterline, it smudged and smeared within an hour. Brownie points for a cap that doubles as a sharpener though!

Be a Bombshell Lipgloss in Taupeless (full-size) :: The formula is quite thick and a bit sticky, which also makes it long-lasting. It looks and feels more like a liquid lipstick, more so than just a gloss, because of its medium-opaque coverage and slightly heavier texture. Though I initally thought Taupeless wouldn't suit me at all, it turned out to be quite a flattering warm nude.

Tree Hut Shea Sugar Body Scrub in Coconut Lime :: I've actually used this scrub before (and the Coconut Lime scent is my favorite!), so I already knew I'd like it. It's an incredibly effective scrub without being abrasive, and the shea butter leaves skin feeling nourished.

Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30 :: Aveeno claims it can be used on both face and body, but it's quite heavily scented, making me wary of applying it to my face. Nonetheless, it has a light texture that absorbs quickly and doesn't feel greasy.

Be a Bombshell Eyeshadow in Dancing Queen (full-size) :: It's a shame that I find silver shades absolutely vile on me, because Dancing Queen has the most gorgeous, buttery smooth texture with great color payoff. 

L to R: Model Co Black Eye Liner, Be a Bombshell Dancing Queen Eyeshadow and Taupeless Lipgloss

Beauty Box 5 offers three different subscription plans: monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Obviously, the quarterly and yearly plans are better deals than the monthly plan. Also, shipping is free for the US and Canada!

Monthly: $12/box
Quarterly: $30 for 3 months = $10/box
Yearly: $99 for 12 months = $8.25/box

I personally was not completely blown away by the products I received in my box, but I still think Beauty Box 5 is a great deal. The full-size Be a Bombshell eyeshadow and lipgloss would have costed me $28 alone, although I think it would have been nice to receive five products from five different brands in order to keep things a bit more interesting. Though I won't be subscribing myself, I think Beauty Box 5 could make a great gift for some of the younger ladies out there who are just getting into makeup. Conveniently enough, Beauty Box 5 offers the option to gift 3, 6 or 12 boxes for $30, $60 and $99, respectively. 

You can read more about Beauty Box 5 on their website.

Disclosure: Beauty Box 5 sent me this beauty box 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 honest and based solely on my own experience.
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