The Neutral Palette That Made Me Believe I Needed Another Neutral Palette

I needed another neutral eyeshadow palette (or any eyeshadow palette, for that matter) like I needed another eyeball, but when I saw the Make Up For Ever Artist Palette Volume 1 Nudes You Need pop up on Sephora, I caved...and I don't regret it for a second.

Ever since the reformulated Make Up For Ever eyeshadows were released last year, I've heard nothing but raves. Seriously. Only raves. That should tell you something, right? I made a mental note to pick up a couple, but I always ended up leaving empty handed because I felt overwhelmed by the huge selection of shades (clearly, it can be a good and a bad thing). The Make Up For Ever Artist Palette Volume 1 Nudes You Need basically had my name written all over it, because I would've gravitated towards the neutral shades anyway, and this palette takes the guesswork out of it all. So, into my basket it went.

At $42 for nine 0.06 oz. shadows, I'm sure I don't need to tell you the palette is an amazing deal. MUFE shadows are normally $21 for a full-sized 0.08 oz. shadow, or $44 for a trio, but either way you slice it, it's a fantastic value for money.

The palette is housed in sturdy cardboard packaging with magnetic closure (reminds me of a Z-palette). The shade names are written on the back, and the nine shades consist of iridescent, metallic, satin and diamond finishes. One thing I was wary about was the lack of mattes, but after having played around with the palette for a bit, I definitely don't miss it.

I felt like the heart-eyed emoji when I first cracked open my palette. It's beautiful in real life. When I swatched them, I was blown away by how smooth and buttery they were - almost like a cream. The pigmentation is incredible, and there is never any fallout. They apply and blend beautifully as well, both over primer and on their own, although I do experience a bit of creasing after a full work day, if I don't use primer. I suspect it may be due to the shadows' creamy texture. I love the mix of darker and lighter shades, as well as cool and warm-toned shades in the palette. It's quite versatile, even without any mattes.

Swatches L to R: top row, middle row, bottom row (all L to R)
Wearing ME-644 on the lid, D-652 in the crease and lower lash line, and I-528 in the inner corner
One last look at the gorgeous Make Up For Ever Artist Palette Volume 1 Nudes You Need
This is definitely one of the best purchases I've made in a while, despite already owning enough neutral shadows to last me a lifetime. In addition to being a great value, the quality of these MUFE shadows, as well as the shade selection, make the Artist Palette Volume 1 Nudes You Need a must-have. Trust me.


The Next Generation of Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfectors

I was lucky enough to be invited to an event a couple weeks ago to learn about Clarins skincare and makeup products, with a specific focus on their Garden Escape collection for Spring 2015. Instead of bombarding you with everything in one post, I've decided to break it up into a few posts. To start it all off, we're talking about the follow-up product to Clarins' cult-classic, the Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector: the new Instant Light Lip Balm Perfector.

Clarins Garden Escape Spring 2015 Color Collection (minus the eye palette)
I'm a fan of the original Instant Light Natural Lip Perfectors, already owning two shades, so I was definitely excited and interested in testing out the new balm version. The Instant Light Lip Balm Perfectors ($23) are meant to offer "subtle, natural-looking color with visible shine," all while providing lips with hydration. The formula is definitely that of a tinted lip balm and not a sheer lipstick, and the light wash of color is in-line with that. On the lips, they feel very similar to their predecessor - balmy, moisturizing and cushiony. I like. Though they're not incredibly long-wearing (which is to be expected, considering the formula), my lips continue to feel soft and smooth, even after the product was worn off. The creme brulee scent has also remained consistent, and thank goodness for that, because the Lip Perfector family continues to be one of my favorite scented lip products of all time. My only qualm is the amount of product in each tube - just 1.8 grams/0.063 oz. Considering they're lip balms and need to be re-applied, I could see myself using these up quite quickly.

L to R: Rose, Rosewood, Orange, My Pink, Coral, Red
In terms of shades, Coral and Rose are the most sheer and do not alter the color of my pigmented lips much. The effect is subtle. Rosewood is slightly more pigmented and very much a my-lips-but-better kind of a shade, while Red and Orange are the most pigmented of the bunch. I was most excited to try My Pink, as it's one of those shades that goes on clear but then adjusts to your body's pH level to create a customized pink shade, hence the name. On me, it turns surprisingly bright, but not garish, and leaves a bit of a stain, even after the balm has worn off (it's the only one that does).

L to R: Red, Coral, My Pink, Orange, Rosewood, Rose
Wearing Clarins Instant Light Lip Balm Perfector in Rose
Currently, I have Coral and Orange in my handbag. I reach for the former when my lips need the hydration but I want to keep the color minimal and neutral, and the latter comes in handy when I need a bit more oomph. I'd say those who are fans of the original Instant Light Natural Lip Perfectors will welcome these new balm versions into their collections with open arms. I know I did.

Disclosure: The products in this post were gifted to me at the event. 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.


The Repurchased

I see a lot of "Products I Would Repurchase" type of posts (I think I've even written one myself before), but this post is about the products I've actually repurchased. I've actually used them up at some point (or am currently close to running out), and have decided that I love the product too much to be without it. If that's not a true testament to something being a "favorite" or "holy grail" product, I don't know what is.

Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater is the first facial spray I've really loved in a long time. I use it daily, mixed with my MV Organic Skincare Rose Soothing & Protective Moisturizer, but I also like using it to freshen up my makeup when I've had a long day and am looking a little worse for wear. Despite its no-frills packaging, it provides a fairly fine, even mist that I appreciate.

I raved about the L'Occitane Shea Butter Cleansing Oil here, and as I'm about 75% through my first bottle, I had to restock in preparation. When it comes to makeup removal, this is all I need.

In terms of makeup, Stila Stay All Day Volumizing Waterproof Mascara has been my HG for a couple years now. I've lost track of what number tube I'm on, at this point. It's not a mascara that will work for everyone, but for my fine, sparse, pin-straight lashes, it's amazing.

I'd never tried a brow gel before, but after using up a tube of the Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara in Deep Brown, I knew a repurchase was in order.When I'm feeling lazy, I use it on its own for some added color and thickness. Lately, however, I've been using it to set my brows and give them some texture after filling them in with some brow powder first. Sure, the brush shape is unnecessarily large and could use some tweaking, but the actual product is good enough to make me willing to work with it. 

You may have heard me whine about how I can't use most of my eyeliners and cream eyeshadows anymore, due to my particular brand of contacts causing them to smear all over, but after trying Make Up For Ever Artist Liner in M-10 on a whim, I was hooked. I noticed how well it adhered to my skin when I swatched it in-store, and unsurprisingly, it performs just as extraordinarily when worn on my waterline, all without getting on my contacts. I also like wearing it smudged onto my top lash line for some definition, as it allows a few seconds for blending/smudging before it sets for good.

I have my gel liner moments, but in general, I'm a liquid liner girl at heart, all thanks to Physicians Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eye Liner +Serum. I've been using this one for years, and I prefer its brush applicator to the typical felt tip, as I find it easier to apply, and it doesn't dry out as quickly. I love how inky black this liner is, and it lasts well throughout the day.

I thought my last tube of Urban Decay Primer Potion was the never-ending tube, but apparently, it does have a finite amount of product. Who knew? I don't use primer everyday, because I don't always need it anymore, but on long days, or when I'm wearing a bit more eyeshadow than usual, it's a must, and UDPP performs the best on me.

Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer continues to be my under-eye concealer of choice. I find the high coverage and dewy finish ideal for my often haggard-looking eye area. I sometimes use this on blemishes and redness too, but in those cases, I make sure to set it with powder. It's incredibly long-wearing on the skin, and one tube will last ages.

Lastly, my overnight lip moisturizer of choice - C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Night Balm. Again, I've lost track of how many of these bad boys I've gone through, but I continue to repurchase them by the handful. I've even gotten my sister hooked. Holy grail doesn't even begin to describe it.


Skincare Must-Have: Caudalie Vine Body Luxury Set

The Caudalie Vine Body Luxury Set ($34) was a random purchase I made on one of my many trips to Sephora a while ago. I'd tried their Hand and Nail Cream in-store on a few different occasions, each time telling myself I needed to pick up a tube one day, and as I was set to scrape the bottom of my The Body Shop Shea Body Butter within the next few days, I figured the set was a justifiable purchase. The set includes their Hand and Nail Cream (1.7 fl.oz.) and a full-size Lip Conditioner (0.15 oz.) and Vine Body Butter (7.6 fl.oz.). 

The Hand and Nail Cream has become one of my favorite hand creams for on-the-go. It sinks in almost instantly, doesn't leave hands feeling greasy at all, yet it's still very hydrating. The Vine Body Butter has also become a fast favorite, and I wouldn't be surprised if a repurchase is in the cards once I'm out. It's not as thick as The Body Shop Body Butters, as it has a more airy, almost mousse-like quality, and similarly to the hand cream, it's rich but absorbs quickly, without leaving my limbs feeling wet, sticky or greasy. It's provides lasting hydration and is incredibly nourishing, and I love how soft it leaves my skin feeling. Last, but not least, is their Lip Conditioner. I'd heard good things about their Lip Conditioner, and although it's a good product, I could take it or leave it. It has a slightly waxy consistency that works as a great base under lipsticks that have a tendency to dry out your lips, and it's also a great lip balm to wear as you're doing your makeup to prep for any lip products that follow; however, it's nothing super special, nor is it hydrating or long-lasting enough for use overnight. Like I said, it's good, just not extraordinary.

One of the things I like most about the set is the scent. It smells lightly of grapefruit - fresh and just citrusy enough without being overpowering or offensive. I'm a little obsessed with it, if I'm being honest.

For me, the hand cream and body butter are must-haves, and seeing as how the set is valued at $56 and retails for only $34, I'd say it's a steal, despite not absolutely loving the lip balm. I can't find the set online at Sephora, but it's available on Caudalie's site here.


Cheeky Hourglass Newness

I added a couple newbies from Hourglass to my collection this past week, thanks in part to the Sephora VIB discount that made hefty price tags a bit easier to bear, and I'm smitten. 

Hourglass recently released two shades of their new Ambient Lighting Bronzer ($50), Luminous Bronze Light for lighter complexions, and Radiant Bronze Light for deeper complexions. I was initially wary of these, as I was afraid 1) they'd be too shimmery, and/or 2) they'd be too orange. I eventually bit the bullet and ordered Luminous Bronze Light, which has a bronze shade marbled into their Luminous Ambient Lighting Powder.

The texture of the Ambient Lighting Bronzer is on par with their Ambient Lighting Powders and Ambient Lighting Blushes - smooth, pigmented and blendable. Although it seems quite shimmery when swatched, the sparkle somehow fails to translate onto the cheeks once blended in with a brush (which is a good thing!). The finish can only be described as luminous and glowing, not glittery or overtly shimmery. Luminous Bronze Light is a light-medium, peachy bronze that would best suit light to medium complexions, although it may read a bit orange on the fairest of the fair, I think. I swatched Radiant Bronze Light in-store recently, and it's about 1.5 shades darker than Luminous Bronze Light and more apparently orange in undertone.

Hourglass Luminous Bronze Light Ambient Lighting Bronzer
For the past few weeks or so, I've been lamenting over having missed out on the Ambient Lighting Blush Palette that was a limited edition release for Holiday 2014. The particular shade I was interested in, Incandescent Electra, was only available in the palette...until now. It's been released as a single, and I didn't even think twice before snatching it up.

Incandescent Electra ($35) is a gorgeous marbling of a youthful, yellow-pink with Incandescent Light, an Ambient Lighting Powder shade exclusive to their Ambient Lighting Palette, giving it an overall refined, yet glowing, finish. Prior to this one, Dim Infusion was the only Ambient Lighting Blush I owned, and although I love that one to pieces, none of the other existing five shades stood out to me. Incandescent Electra is a much welcomed addition, especially for spring and summer.

L to R: Bare cheeks // Wearing Luminous Bronze Light // Wearing Luminous Bronze Light + Incandescent Electra
When I was going through the above face shots, I was surprised by how sallow and dead my face looks without bronzer or blush. Keep in mind, I had on a light coverage foundation that day, too. Yikes. I'm someone that needs color added to my complexion to liven it up, and Luminous Bronze Light and Incandescent Electra have been doing a beautiful job at that this week.

Luminous Bronze Light is a perfectly peachy bronze that doesn't pull orange once applied, unless one is very fair, I would presume. It warms up my complexion so naturally without ever looking muddy. Incandescent Electra adds a complexion brightening pop of color that I think would suit a wide variety of skin tones.

L to R: Luminous Bronze Light, Incandescent Electra

Wearing Hourglass Luminous Bronze Light Ambient Lighting Bronzer and Incadescent Electra Ambient Lighting Blush
Both of these are a win, in my book. I love how luminous these are, without being frosty or emphasizing pores. The powders just blend so nicely into the skin. After having swatched the other shade of bronzer, Radiant Bronze Light, I'd recommend perhaps trying that one on before purchasing, simply because it did seem to have a tendency to pull quite orange. But who knows? Luminous Bronze Light was a pleasant surprise for me, so Radiant Bronze Light may very well be one, too, for those with medium and slightly deeper skin tones.

Also, a couple of you have mentioned that you'd be ecstatic to see Hourglass release an Ambient Lighting Bronzer Palette  at some point, and I agree. How awesome would that be?!

Have the new Hourglass Ambient Lighting Bronzers caught your eye?


A Much Needed Hair Makeover

I'm someone who is constantly bored with my hair. When it's long, I want it short; when it's short, I want it long. I'd dyed it a few times before in the past, each time with boxed hair dye at home and with some variation of a warm red-toned brown shade. In the past few years, I've sported my natural hair color, a very dark brown/black, and I've realized that short to mid-length hair suits me best, as my hair tends to look quite thin and straggly at longer lengths. When I went in for my hair appointment two weeks ago, I was ready for a change.

New hair!
My hairstylist is Natalia Bolanos, and I've been going to her for years. You can follow her here on Instagram to see her work, and if you're in the Orange County area, I'd highly recommend her! Below were my hair inspirations going into my appointment. I wanted my hair cut to slightly longer than shoulder length with a subtle A-line, and for my color, I wanted something that would be quite dramatic on me and different from anything I'd had before. On the left is the inspiration for my cut (photo credit: Anh Co Tran), and on the right is the inspiration for my color (photo credit: Cherin Choi). I showed my stylist these two photos at the very beginning, and she took care of the rest!
My hairdresser first washed my hair, cut and dried it, then she got to coloring. She painted on warm brown highlights that start at my roots before painting on the bleach mixture on the bottom half of my hair. The highlights aren't too visible in these photos, but they add an overall warmth to my hair and helps incorporate the golden blonde/brown ombre that you see. 

After washing out my color, she blow dried my hair and curled it with a 1.25 inch curling iron. She wrapped about 1.5 inch section of hair around the iron, leaving out an inch or so at the ends and omitting the clamp, and made sure to hold the iron perpendicular to the ground, never horizontally. With the exception of my bangs, which she curled away from my face, she curled the two or three sections around my face on each side towards my face, so that the waves would fall towards me and accentuate the subtle A-line shape of my cut. She said that for the pieces in the back, I could alternate the direction of the curl if I wanted to and to not even bother with the sections underneath. Afterwards, she finger combed through the curls and spritzed it with hair spray. Here's the finished result! 
photo credit: Natalia Bolanos
photo credit: Natalia Bolanos

I'm usually quite lazy with my hair, so although it looked amazing when my stylist styled it, I'm really happy the cut and color look great when my hair is worn straight too, which is how it is most days. Here, after letting it air dry for about 30 minutes while I did my makeup, I just ran a bit of the Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment through my hair and blow dried it for about 3-4 minutes (my hair dries quickly).
Here, I've curled it with this Remington Teardrop Wand using the same method my stylist taught me (the wand is okay...not sure I'd recommend it), and I think it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself :) The best part is that it only takes me about 8 minutes to do!
Something that is to be expected when coloring your hair, especially when bleach is involved, is that your hair will become more dry. My stylist told me not to worry about my hair becoming super dry, brittle or breaking off, because we were using only small amounts of bleach (as in, I wasn't trying to become platinum blonde). I'd say that while my hair isn't as soft or silky as it was, it's only a little bit drier to the touch than it was before, and it's definitely not brittle or damaged feeling at all. I'll talk about all the products I use in my hair in another post soon.

Overall, I'm in love with my new hair. I love how golden the color turned out (very different from anything I've had before!), and I think it's the perfect color for me for spring and summer. As for the cut, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more full and voluminous my hair feels! I like that the subtle graduated A-line keeps the long bob (aka lob) from looking too young and juvenile.

Funny story: I've actually had a lot of mixed reactions to my hair. Some people have told me, "Wow! I love it! It looks so good on you!" while others react with, "You....changed your hair....(nods in silence)." Doesn't bother me either way, because I LOVE IT :)

If you're interested in visiting Natalia, feel free to check her Instagram for her contact info.


The Lip Liner Comeback

Top to bottom: Rimmel Eastend Snob, Rimmel Natural, Urban Decay Naked2, Prestige Silk, Marc Jacobs Prim(rose)

L to R: Eastend Snob, Natural, Naked2, Silk, Prim(rose)

Lip liners are kind of having a moment right now, aren't they? I used to think lip liner was only needed with bright and bold lip colors, to create a more clean edge and prevent bleeding, but nowadays, it's the more natural, lip-toned shades that catch my eye.

The Rimmel Exaggerate Full Colour Lip Liners ($6) are some of my favorites, and for the price, you really can't go wrong with having a few of these in your collection. I have Eastend Snob, a mauve-pink, and Natural, a tawny pinky-nude. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Naked2 ($20) is a pinky brown that's a few shades darker than Rimmel Natural. Prestige Lipliner in Silk ($5) is a pale, cool-toned pink that isn't as smooth or creamy as the others, but I still reach for it from time to time. Marc Jacobs (P)outliner Longwear Lip Pencil in Prim(rose) ($24) is a deep rose that's like a darker version of a my-lips-but-better shade on me. With the exception of Prestige Silk, which is a bit drier of a formula, the others are pigmented, creamy and adhere to the lips without drying them out.

I like wearing these natural lip-toned liners a few ways. Sometimes, I'll line my lips and lightly blend in the color before topping it off with a nude gloss (seen here). I like that it gives my lips more shape and definition than if I were to simply wear the gloss on its own. I also like to fill in my lips with it and apply a similar shade of lipstick on top. Again, the liner adds some definition, but I also like the extra dimension it gives, not to mention the additional lasting power under a lip color with longevity that is otherwise average (seen here). The last way I like to wear these liners is just on their own, by lining the lips and filling them in completely. Prestige Silk is a bit too dry for me to do that with, but the others are great. They're opaque and just creamy enough, and they provide a matte and incredibly long lasting lip color.


#LoveLoccitane + Get Their Hand Cream for FREE!

The people at L'Occitane reached out to me recently so that I could my readers know about an amazing promotion going on where you can get their amazing hand cream for free! I currently have a big tube of their Shea Butter Hand Cream sitting on my nightstand, and I often have one of their travel-sized tubes in my bag. Believe me when I say you need to try them. Not only are they supremely hydrating, but they leave my hands feeling so soft and supple, and they're available in so many great scents.

All you have to do to score yourself some free hand cream is visit their site here and follow the prompts, which include:

1. Liking L'Occitane on your favorite social network
2. Sharing with your friends 
3. Entering your email address

After you've completed those steps (it took me all of maybe 20 seconds), you'll receive an email with a unique code that you can take to any L'Occitane boutique by Sunday, April 12th to redeem for a free 10ml Hand Cream duo in an exclusive L'Occitane Collector's Tin! It's also redeemable online with purchase.

Happy Friday!

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