More Pop to Lust After

How gorgeous does that look. Nothing could satisfy my eyeliner cravings more, especially since I've been meaning to experiment with everything non-pencil. Pop Beauty recently introduced Liner Cake, a funky little tin of 5 powder liners (featured in Allure's June 2008 Beauty Reporter). Since I've had a good experience with their lip glosses, I'm very tempted to give these a try.

The Darkness "cake" includes Velvet Plum, Emerald Green, Electric Blue, Silver Black, and Gunmetal - sexy. I doubt all of these will work on me, and I've seen photos where they all look different. But it might motivate me to finally put eye liner/shadow brushes to good use. Plus, for the price, 5 shades isn't bad at all.

$19 @ Sephora

These Colors Might Make People Happier - Fresh Firebird Mascara

I know Maybelline's Colossal Volum' Express Mascara has received much attention due to its neon yellow and purple packaging. I'm sure this has helped sales, but I find the packaging as ugly and outdated as Maybelline's Great Lash Mascara.

Non-drugstore mascaras usually have tamer packaging, at least color-wise. Now, Fresh is introducing its Firebird Mascara in the prettiest blue/yellow packaging. The colors are understated and modern, and the tube slim and sleek as it should be. So much more appealing than the colossal ugliness of Maybelline.

At $26, the Firebird is as expensive as the Supernova (which also has pretty packaging), but the cool colors and design make it seem more unique and worthwhile. I think the colors and design are so very fresh and if there were one pretty-package of a mascara I could get my hands on, this would be it.

You can read more about it in In Style Magazine, July 2008 or the Fresh website.

My Buddy, My Blush - Wherever I Go, You Go

I've used San's term of "making out" with makeup loosely, but this time I mean it. I am nearly in love with my CG Cheekers Blush in Golden Pink. I could smear this baby all over my face like's there no tomorrow and not care if I look an Indian show dancer who didn't finish putting on all her makeup and applied whatever was on in the dark.

I've gotten several compliments on it (I swear everyone thinks it's NARS), although a few times I've used a bit of a heavy hand with it. This is partly because I don't have a great eye and can't always tell if it's showing up, and partly because I just love it so much that I can't help but apply more than I may need. Oh, and also because the cute-as-a-button Posh Retractable Kabuki Brush is currently the only one I carry and it may be a bit much for blush application.

I have one in my bag and one at home and am considering buying more for the hell of it. I mean, they're so cheap I can't resist - less than $4! All I can think about when I see a product in Sephora lately is how many Golden Pink blushes I could buy with that money. I'm also going to get the Posh Retractable Blush Brush just to use with it (I use the Eco Tools one when applying at home).

If I were to ever have my own makeup line, I would surely copy this color. I think I'm going to go put some on right now.

Things I Have Already Almost Used Up

I was shocked to notice the other day that I've pretty much inhaled my Clinique Bare Brilliance in Chocolate Ice as well as Pop Beauty's Mini Ribbon Gloss in Peony Pink.

I am not one to use up any of my makeup. It usually goes into the trash if it's incredibly old or if it's just taking up space. I've never even finished an eye pencil.

After San mentioned to me that her Buttershine was going fast, I realized that my own Bare Brilliance was worn almost to a nub. The Bare Brilliance formula is much more sheer than the Buttershine, so the chances of it disappearing on me were pretty high, in addition to the fact that I don't actually have many lipsticks and that my lips are perennially dry and chapped.

But I think the real reason there is so little of both products left is that - they work, and I used them consistently! I'm not kidding when I say that due to the Pop gloss, my lips are actually in better condition than they were a few weeks ago. Very few lips balms/glosses/lipsticks actually relieve my dryness, but this one works so well, I used it a couple of times a day even though once is usually enough.

And the Bare Brilliance is still one of the most perfect lipsticks ever. Perhaps it could be a bit more pigmented. However, I have the Buttershine in Rum Kiss, and use it much less frequently precisely because it has more color payoff and I don't necessarily need it all day. Plus, I have pretty small (if well-shaped, hehe) lips so I try not to overdo the color there.

I'm sort of glad that I intend to repurchase these items although I didn't realize I would get through them so quickly. Highly recommend - again!

Forget Me Not

I may be approaching that point where I prefer myself with a little makeup.

My worst fear about wearing makeup regularly has always been that someday, I wouldn't be able to walk out of the house without it and that people would think I look horrifically tired and blank au naturale.

Last night I dabbed on some blush to dinner with the family and my sister proceeded to tell me I was wearing too much. The day before, my friend had also noticed it and asked me if it was NARS (it's not - in case you don't know about my current blush obsession, read here). Am I overloading because a little just isn't enough anymore?

This morning I walked out of the house with only mascara. When I got to the office, I decided my eyes looked non-existent and added a wee bit of eyeliner. And lipstick (although the sheerest one I own). Then, because its fun to pop open my TheBalm eyeshadow, I dabbed on some eyeshadow. I don't know how much any of this made a difference, but I definitely felt better. Goodness. But perhaps better than chocolate?

Lately I think my face is too shiny in the mornings and I've been swirling around some face powder with my awesomely fun retractable kabuki brush. I sort of feel like Casper afterwards but I tell myself it's necessary in this weather.

I guess this is all part of The Evolution. I'm a bit wistful at the change, but all change is good, right? I just hope no one forgets what I look like naturally and that it is still the best Me.

Clearly, I am overreacting because most girls still wouldn't think I'm wearing much, if anything. I think another Sephora trip is in order.


Makeup Compulsions Or Why I Don't MAC

I firmly believe that everyone has some degree of OCD, whether it has to do with their work or their personal life. Not surprisingly, one of my compulsive behaviors has to do with makeup.

My confession: I can't have one item from any brand. It's got to be at least two. And of course, from two, it's a slippery slope towards hoarding.

Luckily, I've managed to keep my insanity confined to a handful of brands (Stila, NARS, and Tarte mostly). And for the most part, these brands have a finite number of products that work for me and that I'm interested in.

But MAC? MAC can't be content with their core line. Nooo. They release new products -- limited edition collections -- practically on a monthly basis. New products, new colors, new formulations. They're not even content to keep their packaging the same. Each limited edition line comes in new and embellished colors and designs.

And let's talk about the "Limited Edition" aspect of this all. There's nothing better to drive a woman into a tizzy than to tell her that she can't have something - especially a woman with a collector instinct. So time after time, month after month, women flock to their local MAC counters and stores to snap up products and colors that they fear won't make an appearance again.

I just can't bring myself to get sucked into all of that; it would be the beginning of my demise. Luckily, I'm not a huge connisseur of eyeshadow, MAC's number one draw. And I haven't particularly enjoyed the two or three lipsticks that I've tried.

One of these days, I'll probably get sucked in, without a doubt. But for now, I'm keeping my wallet protected from MAC.

What's your makeup OCD?


The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Blemish Stick

One of my favorite new products has got to be The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Blemish Stick. I've been on this natural-oils kick to improve my skin (jojoba oil is good, Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick is not so good), and had been meaning to try a blemish-fighter with tea tree oil. I have the Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil and Awapuhi Cleanser and like it, so I though I would give another tea tree oil product a try.

The Sales Lady suggested that I try this versus pure tea tree oil, which is highly concentrated and should be used carefully. MUA reviewers rave about the results when tea tree oil is mixed with other products or used sparingly, but I agreed that may be not be the best idea, especially for sensitive skin.

I completely understand why this is on Sania's list of things that she has tried and repurchased. I mean, the stuff really works! It's a little green and black tube with a sponge-tip wand that you use to dab the gel-like lotion on trouble spots. Very easy to use, very sanitary, and very portable.

I successfully fought off a monstrous (and I mean Monstrous) zit a couple of weeks ago by dabbing this on the spot a few times a day. I could feel the zit wanting to bust out from under my skin, but luckily, it never did. This stuff dried it up without completely drying the surrounding skin. This didn't happen overnight, however. It took about 2 days, but I was okay with that because the zit definitely didn't get worse during the time and its appearance definitely wasn't as frightening during that period.

That was a cystic zit - I've had a whitehead this week that has reduced in size remarkably over 24 hours. In combination with Neutrogena's On The Spot Treatment, it also substantially reduced another teeny skin bubble that had appeared on my nose.

It has also gradually helped fade some old pimple scars (this was also helped by the acne medication I'm currently using). The key is to apply a few times a day (but don't overdo it) and leave the bad guy alone. You could spread this over problem areas as well since it's gentle enough, but it's meant to be a spot-treatment and should probably be used as such.

Like Sania said, this isn't exactly a miracle stick, but it's pretty damn reliable. Definitely better than some drugstore potions I've tried, and about the same price. I keep it in my bag! $9.00 @ The Body Shop


L'Oreal FeatherLash

I bought this on sale at Duane Reade for, like, less than $4. How can you go wrong with something at that price? Even with the kinks, it's still pretty much worth it. But I do hope that kind of thinking isn't coloring my views on L'Oreal's FeatherLash (water- resistant) in Black.

As I've mentioned several times before, mascara really isn't my thing. My lashes are already rather curly and usually, one swipe of a good liner is enough. It's not that I think both look too dramatic, but usually when I wear liner, the mascara doesn't make all that of a difference (in my opinion) - I prefer to wear it alone.

This mascara is definitely perfect for that naturally defined look that is still a bit inky and glossy (the look I like best). At one point I was all about getting Clinique's Naturally Glossy Mascara but I think this may just be the drugstore answer to it.

FeatherLash has a nice, full bristle brush. When I first applied it, I thought it was going on somewhat like Maybelline's Great Lash (which I have not used in years and I basically think sucks) and making me look like I have 3 lashes. But then it spread out a bit and my lashes, more defined and full, returned. This could potentially need a lash comb depending on how much you apply and your lashes, but that probably goes for most mascaras.

The formula is nice and thin without being runny, and lasted me all day without a single trace of raccoon eye. I planned on removing this first with cold cream and then eye-makeup remover, but I don't think anything even came off with the cold cream - it must have flaked off by that time of day, which is a good thing because it was 10:30 pm. I would've been scared if it had started to colonize my lashes and refused to go. I'm glad this won't require extra cleaning.

I like the no-fuss packaging - a simple silver tube and gold cap. Another very portable product. There were absolutely 0 clumps, and lashes felt soft and light - I hate the usual creamy mascara heaviness. This would look great alone and can create both everyday and more dramatic looks. After drying, the brush seems to get caught on the the lashes a bit if you try to apply more, but I can live with that.

I've read that this is one of the few good brown mascaras so it's probably a good bet if that's what you prefer. Also, it appears that this (or perhaps an earlier version) comes in 2 brush types - curved and straight. I definitely have the straight one but the packaging hadn't indicated that.

I've used L'Oreal's Voluminous Mascara before but I think I like this better. I hope this isn't being discontinued - it could be since it was on sale. $7.95 @ Drugstore.com

Quarter Life Challenge - Blush 9

Tarte Cheekstain Mini in Dollface

I've posted on Tarte cheekstains before, but since it wasn't part of the challenge, it's fair game to include here. For the purposes of this conversation, I won't talk about the details of the formula again.

Tarte Cheekstain in Dollface is a bright pink in the tube, but goes on very sheer, almost unnoticable. I find that it's stickier than most of the other Tarte cheekstains that I have tried; perhaps that is a function of the pigments in it.

Dollface is one shade that borders on being unusable for us brown girls, because it's just simply too faint. The yellow-green undertones of my skin are just too much for this cool-toned blush. Initially after I apply, it's visible - but fifteen minutes or less later, nothing.

On the plus side, it has a lovely fruity smell, and I'm certain it would work for paler girls than I. Tarte cheekstains are a great way to "blush and run" due to the ease of their stick format. Dollface will, however, require a light blotting of translucent powder to cancel out the stickiness.

As for me, I'm just glad I have a mini and not the full size.

$28 @ Sephora

Not So Vogue

Italian Vogue's July 2008 issue will feature only black models since they are so underrepresented in the fashion industry (read about in The New York Times here). I was kind of intrigued and impressed by this idea, but also rather disturbed because of course, the magazine is now turning this into, quite literally, a very black and white issue.

I guess Italian Vogue is making some sort of an effort here, albeit a very superficial one. What I don't understand is why there are still such extremes, and not just in terms of skin color but overall "look" - why is classic and patrician versus exotic and new? I get that this is probably what sells, and I also understand that black and white models can still encompass a wide variety of looks and body types, but it still seems that everyone else falls between the cracks.

The other day, a friend was telling me how people are always surprised to hear her ethnicity because she doesn't supposedly look "Indian," with the implication that looking remotely "ethnic" would somehow make her less attractive. I say we get an issue of Italian Vogue out there that is um, brown maybe, since most people fall somewhere between black and white, plain and exotic, and are definitely more "ethnic" looking than the fashion industry seems to prefer.

Now I want to start a magazine for these people. Oh, wait, that's totally been done before. I'll just superficially blog about such issues instead.

Another Great Drugstore Liner - Prestige

Clearly I have become Drugstore Queen of late. I returned to Duane Reade to pick up another Wet 'n' Wild in Black and Dark Brown, but instead found these 2 cute little felt-tip liquid liners - Prestige's Hi-Definition Fluid Eyeliner Stylist. I think this might be a new product because it is not listed on the company website.

When I asked the cashier how much they were and opted for the Wet 'n' Wild again, she told me that the Prestige ones were really great and that I should give them a try. I appreciated her input and decided to go with Black and Black/Brown. A couple of years ago, the Prestige One Stroke Liquid Eyeliner in Black was the only eyeliner I used. These are a great alternative to the pot-like packaging of that liner. I've previously tried their pencils as well but wasn't too impressed.

The liner is a screw-cap pen with a felt tip. Great quality, and extremely easy use, with a nice selection of colors - Deep Navy, Black/Brown, True Teal, and Black. It's much like a fine marker and creates a thin, defined line. Because of the felt-tip and and pocket size, it's also easy to smudge into the lash line as well as store. I'm trying to keep my makeup bag light, so this is the perfect, tiny and lightweight addition. $5.99 @ Walgreen's & other drugstores


HiP Jelly Balm - It Does Exist!

So following up on my earlier lead, Suman and I went to Walgreens to investigate the HIP Jelly Balms, and lo and behold! They do exist!

Basically a form of pot glosses, HIP Jelly Balm comes in six colors, all basic shades of red and pink. The shade I picked up is called Delectable; it's a translucent pinky red, almost watermelon-like. Other shade names include: Succulent, Ripe, Plush, Luscious, and Savory.

You can apply the balm with your finger or a lip brush, and they provide a nice tint to the lips. I'm not thrilled with having to use my fingers to apply, but luckily these aren't super sticky and don't leave a film on your fingertips.

While I haven't tried the MAC Tendertones that these have been compared to, Stila used to have a similar product (now discontinued) called Lip Pots. The HIP balms are along the same lines, but are sheerer than the Stila ones, which verged on the opaque.

These apply with a very suble hint of color. They've got a pretty strong scent to them - a burnt caramel fragrance, super-yummy but super-sweet. They have the same scent as the HIP Shine Struck Liquid lipcolor, for a point of reference.

The packaging of these is very similar to the HIP Cream Eyeliner pots; a pretty sturdy glass pot with a black screw-off lid. However, unlike the eyeliners, these just come shrinkwrapped without a box.

They're located in their own special display, apart from the main HIP fixture, so it's unclear as to whether these are limited edition. But I do recommend them for a casual makeup day, as a no-fuss lipcolor for a girl on the run. Many drugstores often have HIP products as part of Buy One Get One Free sales, which make them a really economical alternative to lipstick.

$8.99 @ Walgreens

Wet 'n' Wild Mega Liner - Dark Brown

You know that episode of Sex and The City where Carrie starts seeing her high school boyfriend again, and wonders if she had it right the first time around? Well, now I know I did.

I hope not all makeup lovers are as fickle as I am, because then I might not be able to trust anyone else's opinion ever again. Then again, if I didn't listen to others (ahem, mostly San and MUA) once in a while, I might not have found some of my current (and likely more long-lasting) favorites. To that list, I will now have to add Wet 'n' Wild's Mega Liner Liquid Eyeliner in Dark Brown (new shade!) and take back many an eyeliner rant on this blog.

In my exhausting quest to find the perfect eyeliner, San encouraged me to give cream/liquid eyeliners a try. I hesitated because I didn't think I had time for that in the morning. Through most of high school and college, black liquid eyeliner was a staple, but only for getting "dressed-up" when time wasn't really a factor. But to be honest, I actually hate pencil eyeliners. They're just kind of annoying and not-fun to use. It's like taking a wax crayon to one of the most awkward parts of your face. I think I would rather use a Sharpie.

Sometime ago, I decided pencils were more subtle and sophisticated. Consequently, I spent many a shopping trip in Sephora and drugstores and settled on a few reliable ones. Most of the time though, I curse the entire eyeliner application process and wish there was an easier way to get the look I want.

So much for evolving. Why have I bothered this entire time??? After reading a glowing review for this Wet 'n' Wild liner in regular brown, I went out to buy it and instead found the latest, rich Dark Brown that the company has introduced. I thought hard and decided that perhaps I need to return to my roots and give the liquid a shot again. I've used it only twice so far and am sold. We really did know better back then. Sigh.

The thin brush can be a little annoying (the H20 Proof one has a felt tip, so that might be worth trying too), but nothing to really complain about. This allows a quick, precise application with rich color payoff. It is exactly the deep brown I have been looking for. Also, fixing liquid eyeliner is easier than one would think - you can dab hard to take off some of the liquid or smudge a bit into the lash line if there is extra, let it set for a few seconds, and go.

I love this product because it is so damn cheap and easy to carry around. I will still give some gel/cream liners a try but I'm definitely going to get another Wet 'n' Wild one in the same dark brown color - 1 for home, 1 for the bag. $2.99 @ Drugstores


Smashbox, Meet Your mark.

I'm more of a lipstick girl than anything else. I hate the sticky feeling of glosses on my lips, and regardless of how many I buy, I have never finished up a single gloss. That's why I was majorly surprised this morning when I reached for my mark. glossblossom, and found that it was on its last legs.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised; I reach for this little pink tube pretty often. mark. glossblossom Ripening Lip Tint has somewhat of a unique niche in the landscape of lipgloss. It plays in the same territory as Smashbox O-Gloss - the whole 'a unique color for every woman' field - but there are some key differences.

First off, at $6, it's significantly cheaper. But what else would you expect from mark, a sub-brand of the catalog giant Avon? mark. is marketed towards younger women and teens with its spokeswoman Lauren Conrad from The Hills, but it's got some really interesting products.

The comparisons between mark and Smashbox don't just end at the price - while both come out of the tube mostly clear, O-Gloss is significantly thicker and goopier than its catalog cousin. O-Gloss is also unscented, where glossblossom has a lovely floral melon scent. Luckily it's not a super sweet smell, just a pleasant essence that quickly dissipates.

I never got a good color (or any color, for that matter) out of O-Gloss, but glossblossom adds a wonder pink tinge over bare lips, and it can provide the perfect glossy complement to nearly any lipstick. It looks good layered over everything, and it has a surprising staying power without staining lips.

While mark.'s punctuation may annoy me - what is with that that period?? - they're going to get my glossdollar every time.

Addendum: ACK! I bought this less than six months ago, but it appears to be discontinued on the mark. site. The good ones do die young.

Maybe It's Me, Maybe It's Maybelline Moisture Extreme Lipstick

Maybelline's Moisture Extreme in Plum Sable is probably the first makeup product that I was truly in love with and went to great lengths to find when it was discontinued. Actually, I was in love with it when it was Moisture Whip in Pure Plum, discovered randomly while in India.

When I returned, I could not find this color here ANYWHERE and frantically asked my cousin there to find me another and send it since I was running low. She sent me 2 other Maybelline lipsticks instead and sadly informed me that Pure Plum was a discontinued shade from a discontinued line.

After a little research, I realized that Moisture Whip had become Moisture Extreme and resolved to find the new, matching shade. This was pretty difficult to do at first, but after much persistence and some blind luck, I located Plum Sable - what a relief.

This is that multi-purpose, moisturizing lipstick that can carry you through the day, from morning to evening. It's a lovely, deep, peach/pink with some cool, plum undertones that don't result in a deep berry shade. Instead, it's "my lips but better" - a natural, warm pink.

Plum Sable is part of the "Browns" color family in this line, which looks best on Medium/Dark skintones. Don't be afraid though - it is not your typical, dramatic burgundy/wine/plum shade that they usually create for people with darker skin. Similar to Clinique's Buttershine in Rum Kiss but less berry-toned, this is an amazingly natural combination of peach/brink/mauve/nude pink that every girl, no matter what her skin color, should have in her makeup bag.

Since it's also a moisturizing formula, it stays put and is just matte enough for a natural look but also has a slight pearl/cream finish that works with more dramatic looks, too. It can be a bit drying, but a little balm or gloss perks it up, especially for evening. This is The Perfect Lip Color For Me - pretty, natural, and thank goodness, inexpensive. I plan on always having this on hand. $6.59 @ Drugstore.com

Quarter Life Challenge - Blush 8

NARS Blush in Crazed

I love NARS blushes. I would marry them, if I could. I kid you not, sometimes I swirl these onto my cheeks and swoon because I'm so in love. And the honeymoon is far from over, folks..

Crazed is one of the more than two dozen powder blush shades in the NARS line. It's a pale magenta with barely perceptible gold shimmer - pretty unique as far as blushes go. Crazed is one of a few deep maroons, raspberries, and purple-reds that exist in the the NARS family; however, each shade has an entirely unique personality.

Crazed leans more towards being an everyday sort of blush for women with medium olive skin. Applied correctly, it contours and provides definition to even the most nonexistent of cheekbones, and it gives me a happy, mellow flush.

The powder formula is finely milled, with intensely pigmented particles. But despite being so pigmented, these blushes blend like a dream.

The thing that sets NARS apart from all of the competition is that their blushes have some serious lasting power. They do not slide off your face, even if you're a bit oily like I am, or touch your face often, as I do. I can go an entire day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. without having to retouch.

The only thing you have to be careful about is getting too much product on your brush. Apply with a *very* light hand, or risk giving yourself the dreaded 'clown cheeks' of doom.

With so many colors, I'm certain there's a NARS shade for everyone out there, and I truly believe that this is one product that should be in every woman's makeup kit. It puts all other blushes to shame.

$25 @ Sephora

Coolest Kohl - L'Oreal Le Kohl Eyeliner

As you can tell from my entries on this site, I've been experimenting a lot with eyeliners and shadows lately, and have settled on a few good products (for now). Prior to this, I used to buy what worked decently and was on sale. Last year, this method resulted in a few amazing drugstore eyeliner finds which deserve special mention here.

By far the best kohl eyeliners were L'Oreal's Le Kohl Smooth Defining Eyeliners in Onyx and Black Sable. I used these both for well over a year and was extremely satisfied. They glide on very smooth with little tugging, even on the upper and lower waterlines. Since they're kohl formulas, they don't have the best staying power, of course, but still last much longer than you would expect. Even some of the best, high-end kohl liners are worthless in this respect since the truer the kohl quality, the quicker it will smudge and give you raccoon eyes. The Sephora brand's regular and waterproof kohl pencils could be an exception, but I have yet to give those an honest try (bought a couple once and returned them). The Le Kohl pencils are just hard enough to give precise definition but soft enough to produce a slightly smoky effect.

I loved Black Sable in particular because it is such a great dark brown/black. Although I am currently using Almay's Amazing Eyeliner, which is a long-lasting, non-kohl formula, Black Sable runs a very, very close second.

Overall, these are classic, reliable kohl pencils, especially for the budget-conscious, that give both simple and more dramatic looks. Other great colors include Carbon Black, Cafe, Smoke, and Le Plum (which I just bought on sale and will try very soon). Had I not started experimenting, I definitely would have repurchased these. $7.95 @ Drugstore.com

Clinique Blushwear Cream Stick Finally Available!

Finally! This is one product release I actually made a mental note of and waited for. A bit sad that I have fallen in love with my CG Cheekers Blush in Golden Pink, but of course I'm always willing to experiment. Especially when the products look this easy to use. The available shades for this blush are (same shades as the regular Blushwears):

* Glow Blush (nude)
* Peachy Blush (tawny)
* Rosy Blush (pink)
* Shy Blush (violet)

I'm slightly hesitant about trying this because I have sensitive, combination skin that breaks out easily, so I don't know if a tube of cream smeared all over my cheeks is the best thing for it. But I'm getting into this blush thing, and I like Clinique packaging, and this looks too pretty to resist even though my current blush costs me less than $4. $18.50 @ Nordstrom's

L'Oreal Bare Naturale Gentle Mineral Eyeliner - Defining Cocoa

This eyeliner is one of the fun finds that relieved me of my Monday blues, even though I didn't actually buy it yesterday. This morning, San informed that she indeed couldn't find any information about it online, so I just HAD to pick it up on my way to work (oh, the miracles of Penn Station). Actually, I picked up two - one in Defining Cocoa and one in Defining Slate.

I was mostly interested in testing these out because of the nice range of available colors - in addition to Cocoa and Slate, there are also black, olive, and bronze shades. Well, we know me and eyeliners, particularly my quest to find pretty colors other than basic black, so this was a must-try for me.

Because I felt confident enough today, I decided to test the Cocoa over the eyeliner I already have on. For starters, if you apply makeup during your commute or even in the office bathroom, this may not be the liner for you. Like most mineral makeup out there today, the packaging of this product is a little funky and annoying, and is definitely an invitation for messes galore. That said, if you are careful and put a little bit more time into your makeup routine than I do, this could work. There is a little pot of powder color whose cap is an upside-down angled brush. There's a separate, clear, plastic cover for the brush.

Basically, you unscrew the clear plastic cap, then unscrew the brush, then shake the pot to get some color into the little sifter tray (which actually wasn't so easy to do), then dip the brush into the tray, and THEN apply. Phew. I'm not experienced with mineral makeup, so I found this process to be a just tad bit cumbersome. Luckily, the powder doesn't spill easily out of the tray because it's actually a little difficult to get it in there in the first place. Also, it doesn't seem like much color is actually needed so perhaps this is a good thing.

I tested the color first on my hand and - loved it. These colors are supposed to be natural, so they are not very intense or pigmented. On my hand, Cocoa was a muddy gray/brown with a slight sheen. It was definitely very "naturale." I layered a little bit over my eyeliner with the angled brush, which I think is a little too big.

What can I say - pretty! It gave some definition and probably set my eyeliner, too. Since this is a powder, a little smudging upon application is expected, and this one gave a very simple and natural smoky look for day. In this color, not overwhelming or evening at all. Next time, I'll try this with a smaller eyeliner brush. I might also try it wet to see if it gives a more precise line and definition. After trying the Cocoa, I'm definitely eager to see how Slate plays out.

I haven't experimented much with non-pencil eyeliners, but I think the effect of this product was similar to using regular shadow as liner, although it probably wouldn't last nearly as long. Shadows are also definitely much easier to carry. For a drugstore product and an for an eyeliner, it's also a little pricey, but I guess that can't be avoided with any kind of mineral makeup.

I think this would be nice to have on hand for perhaps special occasions, or if you like mineral makeup. What I like best are the color options. I might just make a little more of an effort in the mornings and try smudging this into my lash line, or just try using it as a shadow (I have been meaning to use darker ones). Stay tuned for further experimentation with this product. $9.95 @ Drugstores


A Colossal Update

Since there has been so much interest in this mascara, I thought I'd take the opportunity to post some more thoughts on it, having used it for more than a week. [Initial thoughts - here]

Now that I'm over my little summer cold, the odor of this mascara is really getting to me. I've got a pretty sensitive sense of smell, but I tend to ignore most smells of a chemical nature. It's typically strong sweet scents, like vanilla or roses, that bother me and give me a headache.

This, however, smells like.. well, the only way I can think to describe it is - have you ever left a mostly-empty bottle of soda in your car or in direct sunlight, only to discover it a few days later? (Ok, maybe I'm a slob) but Maybelline Colossal has that very nasty fermented smell.

The first few days, as I was coming off my cold, I thought it had been dissipating once I applied it to my lashes. But just yesterday, I put it on and dashed out to run an errand. And as I was driving, I could smell it wafting down from my eyelashes. Not pleasant.

While Colossal does give me reasonably vibrant lashes, I simply cannot abide by the smell. And it doesn't necessarily perform better than L'Oreal Voluminous or Covergirl Lash Blast for me to overlook its (very obvious!) flaw. For now, it's going to be relegated to makeup purgatory until I reach for it a few weeks from now, hoping that it has mellowed out.

M.A.C Eye Shadow - Handwritten

So I've had this M.A.C Matte 2 Eyeshadow in Handwritten (a matte, chocolate brown) for a few months now and done nada with it. I purchased it at the M.A.C store during a weekend o'fun in Boston because the makeup artist there used it as an eyeliner. It looked great, and I thought I would make the same effort at home. No surprise that I didn't. I also lost the receipt so couldn't return it. In defiance, I've been letting it sit in my drawer. But every time I look at it, I regret letting $14.00 go to waste. I guess I've been waiting for for divine inspiration.

Thanks to my Eco Tools and San forever encouraging me to soothe my many liner woes with cream/shadow liner, that inspiration finally arrived. Since the 5-piece brush set comes with an angled eyeliner brush, I was forced to put it to good use and get my money's worth. Over the weekend, I experimented just a tad bit and used the brush to apply Handwritten along my upper lash line. I have to say, it definitely had a better effect than pencil eyeliner, and was easier than I thought to apply. This might also be because Handwritten is the kind of shade that you can't really go wrong with. Even if it smudges a little, it's easy to wipe off without a trace.

The M.A.C makeup artist has used this over the eyeliner pencil in Cocoa (which I also did not love and returned - prefer my Almay for now). If my makeup routine were longer and I less lazy, this would be one sweet combination. I'll go for this look when I have more patience, and perhaps I'll also try a darker brown (most likely Jane's Eye Zing in Brownie Points, which often comes paired with Hazelnut - why don't I think of these things beforehand??). This has encouraged me to try other types of liners and I plan on testing a drugstore safety like Jane's Cream Eyeliners. In the meantime, I'll experiment with Handwritten to create some depth to my many shimmery, neutral shadows. $14.00 @ M.A.C.

Quarter Life Challenge - Blush 7

I know, I know, I'm behind on my blusher posts again - but the past week was simply crazy! Rest assured that I am being really good about sticking to a schedule of actually using the blushes, I'm just behind on writing about them. Without further ado, I present:

Almay Smart Shade Blusher in Berry 030

This blush caught my eye at the drugstore because it's part of Almay's new line of "adjust to your skintone" cosmetics. I was skeptical, but since this was a whole lot cheaper than Smashbox O-Glow, I decided to give it a shot.

First off, the Almay Smart Shade Blusher and Smashbox O-Glow couldn't be any more different from each other. While both profess to adjust to your skintone to give you a natural looking flush, O-Glow is one-color-fits-all while the Almay Smart Shade makeup comes in three different shades -- pink, berry, & natural -- for you to choose from.

Now, I'm not sure why Almay Smart Shade blusher needs to have 3 available shades if it's going to adjust anyway, but I can overlook that. What I can't overlook is that it just doesn't work.

The product out of the tube is a pale purple paste with flecks of what appears to be a berry tint. I applied it with my fingers to the apples of my cheeks. At first glance, things look good as I see a soft berry flush appear on my skin . But within minutes, and a tad bit more rubbing, it disappears almost entirely. Applying more didn't appear to have an effect, so the color isn't really buildable in any way. Whatever color did stick around fades away within an hour or two.

I can see this perhaps working for someone with paler skin, but since I've give this a half-dozen tries, I don't think it's going to stick around taking up room in my stash. It's a pity too, because I thought it was a really neat concept. Maybe one day, I'll get around to trying O-Glow instead.

$8.99 @ Drugstore.com

Score 1 for Evolving

My makeup bag has become quite heavy of late. I actually have to go through it every few days and empty/replace things, especially since I'm on the go so much and by the week's end, it's carrying my life. I was starting to doubt whether my attempts at evolving for the better were doing my any good, until this morning.

I went to sleep at 3, snoozed from 5 - 7, and finally rolled out of bed super-late at 7:30. Got ready in 14.5 mins. Grabbed coffee at the station. Slept on the train. Walked into work looking like a zombie. At least I did my hair yesterday - phew.

I took one look at myself in the mirror and knew I needed an intervention. Out came the makeup bag, and on went some of my Almay black/brown eyeliner, CG blush in Golden Pink, and my Clinique Buttershine in Rum Kiss. Voila. I used to think putting on makeup when you're already looking pretty non-pretty was a bad idea, but today, I was definitely proven wrong. Yay. All my experimentation has not been in vain.

I was also pleased last night when my cousin, a more regular makeup user, complimented me on my makeup and asked if my blush was NARS - muhahahahaha. Little did she know. Yesterday's routine (for a family get-together - no need to wear much makeup at these things but still, wanted to look nice and of course, it was another way of experimenting) included all of the above, minus the Rum Kiss, which was replaced by M.A.C.'s lipstick in Polished Up with a dose of the berry shade from Pop's Mini Ribbon Gloss in Peony Pink, and a smidgen of Smashbox's Cinnamon Toast eyeshadow. Perfectly polished and relatively natural for a summer family get-together that complemented some light Indian clothes as well.

Score 1.

Jelly Balm, Jelly Balm, where art thou Jelly Balm???

Bored and browsing the other day, I came upon a single MUA review for a new product from L'Oreal, the HiP Jelly Balm. Interested, I tried to search for it online but only found a YouTube video comparing it to M.A.C's Tendertones, apparently a very similar product. Since last night, when my CG Cheekers Blush in Golden Pink (yes, I fully intend to become the spokeswoman for this awesome blush) passed for a NARS blush, I'm all about drugstore copycats and would like to locate these mysterious Jelly Balms ASAP.

I have not seen these in stores anywhere and there are still only 3 MUA reviews on it - I don't think the product has even been introduced on the company website. According to reviews and the ever trust-worthy San, I believe they're available at Walgreen's, although they haven't yet appeared on that website either.

Since I've had such a good experience with the Pop Ribbon glosses (I swear my lips are more conditioned and smooth than they ever are) and bought an adorable little balm from The Body Shop on sale for $1.00 (it's no longer available though), I'm willing to give these Jelly Balms a try. Especially since I've read that they have no shimmer - sometimes, you just don't need/want any. I do, however, agree with San and other reviewers that sticking dirty, grimy fingers into pot glosses/balms is never fun. That is, if I can even get my hands on these in the first place! Hmm, perhaps I should find a retractable lip brush...alas, that might be more work than I can handle.

Any leads, please comment.

Update from Sania - we found them, check out the details here!


Posh Retractable Kabuki Brush

Ever since Sania whipped out her retractable brush at Sephora to swipe some NARS' Taos over my cheeks, and ever since I discovered CG Cheekers Blush in Golden Pink, I knew I had to find the perfect brush. I already have the economical and eco-friendly brush set from Eco Tools, but those are proper, long-handled brushes whose portability isn't so great. I know this because one morning at work, I stuffed the blush brush in my pocket along with blush to apply in the bathroom - felt like a handy-man. Not efficient or ideal in the least.

Sania pointed me towards the popular Posh makeup brushes available at KMART. I loved her retractable kabuki, and had been eying TheBalm's Mini Kabuki Brush (a steal for $10), so the Posh Retractable Kabuki Brush seemed like the natural choice. I'm pleasantly surprised at the quality of this brush and how much of a difference it truly made in applying my face powder and blush.

The soft bristles didn't irritate my sensitive skin at all, and picked up just the right amount of blush and powder. This is the first brush I've ever used for powder and I can't believe I was this late in doing so - those stupid little sponges don't do squat! I loved the natural, buffed look it gave with powder, but it may be a bit too large for applying blush, especially since the CG compact is just a rectangular pan of color and you have to dip a few times to coat the brush evenly - it would have been perfect for a large round compact or a pot of color. I may give the Retractable Blush Brush a try to see if it the smaller shape makes a difference.

Makeup brushes are often more expensive than the makeup itself and although I've been intrigued by makeup tools like M.AC.'s Brush #187, this is an "investment" that I haven't particularly cared to make. Now that I've discovered Posh, however, it's easy to reap the benefits of good tools for makeup application. The best part? You can take these sturdy, retractable babies with you anywhere. The regular-sized ones are just a couple of bucks more, and the kabuki comes in a neat little leather case. At these prices, it's well worth it, especially if you regularly use face makeup. They are more expensive if ordered from the company website, so hunt them down at your local KMART or other health/beauty store - you won't regret it. $30.00 @ Posh ; $12.99 @ KMART


Once You Go Brown/Black, You Never Go Back

After yet another day of great wear, I think I'm finally ready to praise one of my favorite new eyeliners, Almay Amazing Lasting Eyeliner in Precise Black Brown. For the longest time, I had been looking for the right black/brown eyeliner shade for everyday wear, and also because with the summer season, black can look a tad heavy for day (even with a great one like the Make Up Forever Aqua Eyes).

I decided to buy this self-sharpening (the little sharpener at the end of the pencil is VERY easy to use), retractable pencil from Almay solely because the black/brown color on the packaging was the deepest brown I had seen yet. The liner glides on surprisingly smooth for a non-kohl , non-liquid/gel formula, and the color is dark enough to give true definition that doesn't fade quickly. I'm usually good to go with one swipe. I can even apply it on my waterline, although that obviously doesn't last as long.

2 best parts - first, when this does eventually fade , it doesn't give you raccoon eyes or make your face look dirty. The color kind of evaporates off or something and it's like you were never wearing it. To fully remove, however, you still need to use some type of makeup remover.

Second, if you need more definition or if there are gaps that need to be filled along your lash line, applying more of this is easy without looking like you a took a Sharpie to your lids. At the same time, if you apply enough, it's just as good as a black liner, if not better - if it does happen to smudge a little, it looks smoky and natural, not like you accidentally rubbed your eyes and forgot you were wearing eyeliner - not the best look.

Additionally, I don't think black is necessary the best color for even darker-skinned girls like me - experimenting with dark browns and greens complements the other hints of color that make my skin tone much better, so I prefer experimenting with these types of "blackened" colors versus pure black.

No product is ever completely smudge-proof or as long-lasting (16 hours for this liner) as the company claims, but this is the closest I've found to one, especially since the color is perfect for me. I love it for work and day events. With some CG Golden Pink blush and some lip gloss, it gives a very nice, polished look without going overboard. ~$6.00 @ Drugstores


Flashy Brown

Get it? Like Foxy Brown? Sigh. I tried. If you've read the initial mumbo-jumbo I posted here, you'll know that I'm a bit obsessed with finding The Perfect Eyeliner for Everything and Every Individual Thing. It doesn't help that there are so many formulas (kohl, cream, glitter, metallic) and shades (everything from black to violet to green to aqua) nowadays.

While I've settled on a great long-lasting pencil from Make Up Forever (read about it here) as well as a great everyday black/brown from Almay, I'm now taken by the idea of a cool metallic liner for the summer or for going out - a great "black pearl" or deep metallic brown would hit the spot right about now! Since I'm also always on the hunt for the most reasonably-priced products, I have been making sure to check out Sephora's expanded collection of liners, although to no avail.

Then yesterday, I came upon the Flashy Liner Waterproof in Flashy Brown #06.
I tried it on my hand and thought wow - the first truly deep, metallic chocolate bronze I have seen thus far. Usually the metallic browns are too light, and tend to disappear on my skin tone. I think this one just might work though. It was very easy to apply and the color was rich and distinct.

I also found it to go on smoother than comparable liners (like Urban Decay's 24/7 metallics) which are just sort of - weird. I don't like any of their browns and there is always something off about the "metallic" sheen. This is definitely more along the lines of what I think a metallic liner should be. Previously, I felt that the metallics were reflecting too much light and not giving enough definition, but I'm willing to give them a try again with the right one.

I haven't bought it yet because I'm not sure how much use I would get out of it, but for the price, it may just be worth picking up - maybe I'll get one in Black Pearl, too - you know, just for fun. $8.00 @ Sephora

Shadow Power

Sania has her blush and I think I have my eyeshadow. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why I'm so taken by eyeshadow when the only product that really does it for my face is lipstick and perhaps eyeliner (although due to the CG Golden Pink, blush is quickly advancing). But every time I enter Sephora, I find a new eyeshadow to lust after. They are just so pretty and the right shade/formula can be so effortless and flattering.

Yesterday it was Urban Decay's Deluxe Eyeshadow in Shag (light bronze/mauve - left) and regular Eyeshadow in Blaze (golden peach/peach champagne shimmer), 2 beautiful, shimmery neutrals. They are similar to the Smashbox one I have in Cinnamon Toast. The Deluxe Eyshadow was particularly interesting because it is a new, "creamy" formula that is apparently supposed to feel like cashmere, and has an interesting pearly/metallic finish. While I don't necessarily think that eyeshadow needs to feel like that luxurious fabric, this one is definitely very soft and easy to blend. This is not a real cream eyeshadow, however, so if you're looking for one, this isn't it. The effect is the same though, and the color gorgeous, and so I think it might actually be the better purchase. Seems like the perfect balance of a cream and regular powder shadow.

The only thing I don't like about these (and many other shadows, which is why I'm sticking with Smashbox) is that they contain a tad of glitter. Just a tad. Probably normal for most people, but I tend to be an old cat lady about such things. Otherwise, I clearly have a fetish for eyeshadows like these that all belong to the same color family and formula. If you are like me, you'll probably appreciate them as well. Enjoy. $16.00 @ Sephora


Jane Eye-Zing in Hazelnut

I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents here on Jane products since I'm in love with this eyeshadow from the fantastically cheap but quality drugstore brand. Jane EyeZing Eyeshadow in Hazelnut is a soft tan/peach/coppery neutral shadow with very subtle shimmer - think peach bellini! It has so many different hints in it, including pink and brown, that I think it would suit just about any skin color and complexion.

The shade and formula make it so versatile - it looks great alone all over the lid and/or brow bone, as a base for other shadows, and also as a general highlighter for the face. It tends to blend into my skin a little too well so I've been experimenting with it in combination with other colors. I actually prefer to use it as a base because it doesn't give the pasty effect of concealer or regular eyeshadow base and only complements whatever color you apply over it.

It's often sold as a duo with Brownie Points, a dark brown shade which I've never tried but looks like a good complement. I may layer this over my new CG blush - exciting stuff. Seriously - you can't go wrong with this no matter how hard you try. If you do, comment and let me know! $3.59 @ Walgreen's and other drugstores

Movie - The Strangers

Good lord, did I have the weirdest movie experience last Saturday. Even though I had wanted to see The Incredible Hulk, I settled for the earlier show of this Liv Tyler-Scott Speedman thriller, The Strangers. I live for these kinds of movies and it being a Saturday night, I couldn't think of anything better than cozying up with some mystery, suspense, and gore.

For the first time in my life, I was scared out of my mind. I never get scared. I've even watched movies where the guys are freaked out and asking me why we picked this movie. I live for all things sci-fi and horror. But this was a completely different kind of terror. It was so quiet and stealth, and some of the scariest scenes were so unexpectedly jarring that I just could not take it. I barely watched most of the movie, I swear. I had my hands covering my eyes for about 2/3 of it (because not much happens in the first 1/3 except the set-up for all the fright to follow). My friend actually had to tell me what was going on. And every time I cracked open my fingers, I saw those scary, white-masked murderers and nearly had a heart attack. I've always been creeped-out by the idea of killer clowns and all sorts of evil hidden under goodness, so these 3 murderers in their smiling masks nearly made my hair go white with fright.

I don't know if I'm getting old or if this movie was really that good. In retrospect, I think it was a little of both. I don't think I can take how randomly awful the world can be sometimes. I had to go to TGIF's (yes, there is actually one near my house) to shake off the fear over some buffalo wings and a drink. And I read beauty magazines with the lights on until I finally fell asleep. And I locked all the windows. And oh yeah, I will never live in a country cabin on a dirt road. Actually, I'm a bit impressed that I suffered even a measly 6 hours after watching this movie. No amount of film or television as ever been able to do that. Just for kicks, I may have to see this again - and this time, I might actually be able to watch it. It's gotten some pretty good reviews, too. If you want to test the scare factor of a horror flick, go check this out.

Best Blush

Yesterday I claimed to know little about blush. In fact, it was the first time I talked about any blush (read it here). Either I'm being impatient again, or I really lucked out, because since then (less than 24 hours), I managed to find The Best Blush (at least for me) - Cover Girl Cheekers Blush in Golden Pink #170.

Now, I'm no fan of Cover Girl cosmetics. When I was 13, I owned a CG face powder, lipstick, and mascara for dance performances. None of their products have ever appealed to me. Browsing through Rite Aid yesterday, I thought I would give some cheaper blushes a shot, so glanced through the CG displays. After reflecting on the Sally Hansen creme blush some more, I realized that the Rosy shade is definitely a little too cool-toned and plummy. I wanted to find an inexpensive version of NARS' Taos - a deep yet bright pink with a peachy-tan base.

CG's Golden Pink is that perfect shade, although not the same as Taos. However, the effect is similar, if not better. I find most blush shades to be either too plum or peachy. This is a crisp, burnt pink with the right balance of warm/cool tones and an almost undetectable shimmer. Don't be fooled by how dark it appears in the pan (almost brick rose). Think bright "desert rose," with some punch and subtle shimmer for a pretty, natural glow. One reviewer on MUA described this as a "caramelly pink" with "microshimmer," and I would have to agree. This shade would be perfect year-round. Goes on smooth and blends well.

I have very warm-toned skin that is also a bit tan/olive, and this blush gives THE most natural flush. For the first time after applying blush I thought, "Wow, that's actually what I look like after a workout or when thinking about a crush!" I'm so excited I don't even know how to describe it properly. If your skin tone sounds anything like mine, just go out and try it - it is so cheap you won't even feel bad if it doesn't work for you. I'm glad I bought two on a hunch that I would need them.

Packaging is, of course, ridiculously outdated. I don't know why any cosmetics company would still make a blush with those rectangular pans of color and the horrible mini brush - we all know pots of color are where it's at and that everyone buys separate brushes anyway. Also, that odd, CG smell is awful. I immediately thought of my grandmother, who has been using CG pressed powder since I was in the womb, which is about since when I've associated that smell with her. But for this price and result, I don't care. San, I hope you would approve. Your quarter-life challenge has definitely broadened my makeup horizons. $3.59 @ Drugstores


Agent #187

Everytime I read an MUA review (individual product review here), I inevitably encounter the famous M.A.C Brush #187. I'm intrigued. Once I find the perfect powder and brush, I'm convinced that this will The Brush To Have. I know I just wrote about the Eco Tools brush set, but this is in a totally different league. It wasn't until I saw the picture that I realized what power this brush must possess. It definitely is more than a little beautiful and impressive looking - seems like it would be up for any task. Made out of goat hairs - how luxurious. Perhaps what they say about the tools is right - I'll have to figure out how to experiment with this one.

I would add this to my wish list, but it's too soon. When I have the right products, perhaps. $42.00 @ M.A.C Cosmetics

Fresh Supernova Mascara

I know this is starting to sound redundant, but mascara really is one of those products I've never been into. Most of the time, it gives me these weird, fake, spidery extensions that I am not at all fond of. My lashes have a natural curl to them as well, so product that amps the curl can just look fake or too dramatic. My sister received this Fresh Supernova Mascara in Black (it only comes in 1 color) as a gift, and it found its way into my makeup bag easily. It was time to throw out my old one, L'Oreal Voluminous, so I thought this was a nice, expensive update.

The first time I tried this, I was actually impressed. It gave a very naturally full and feathery look that was just defined enough without being fake or dramatic. Same results every time thereafter! It also didn't clump, or give me tarantula eyes. Best part, the raccoon eye look was successfully avoided, while still managing to wash off easily at night. I liked the packagin - a sturdy, streamlined aluminum tube - and brush - a classic, reliable shape that isn't trying to be too creative. The creativity is left for the outside of the tube, white swirls and stars - whimsical and yet simple.

The only thing I didn't like about this mascara was that it doesn't give any glossy/pearly/shiny effect, but I guess that's pretty unnatural anyway. This might flake a little in drier weather judging from the formula, which is rather creamy. I can't say I would purchase this on my own because it's pricey, but for those who use mascara more regularly, I would say this has the potential to become a new classic, or at the very least, a good staple. $25 @ Sephora

Summer Shoe Staple

For some reason, I have a lot to say about Payless lately. This is what happens when you "browse." You find things you never thought you would and then have to have them. I must admit that this often happens to me when I have last minute plans (don't ask how they materialize) and realize that I am either inappropriate dressed or that something needs to be changed about my outfit. On one such occasion, it was Payless to the rescue.

I bought the Tori Slides, a black, leather, T-strap wedge with stitched detail from the store's Predictions line, to wear on some too-long jeans, but the buy has turned into a summer-long commitment. I have worn these babies with practically EVERYTHING so far, and to practically EVERYTHING. They work for both day and night, on trousers, jeans, and dresses/skirts.

The wedge heel is just high enough to give you some height and ensure that hems don't skim the floor, but low enough to actually walk around in. I love the detailing on the curvy strap - cute for such an inexpensive, simple shoe. The heel is neither skinny nor too broad/chunky. Most importantly, these are so lightweight, I can barely feel them. There's nothing worse than heavy shoes, especially in warm weather. These are seriously comfortable, and not just for the price - probably more so than more expensive sandals. I may have to get them in the tan color, too! I promise you'll wear these to death and won't regret it. $19.99 @ Payless ShoeSource


I'm still rather clueless about using makeup brushes, but I do know how to wield a blush or powder brush rather decently. That's what I'm excited about this 5-piece makeup brush set I purchased from the drugstore a while back. Eco Tools Bamboo 5-Piece Brush Set is VERY reasonably priced and the quality so far has been impressive.

These brushes feature real bamboo handles and synthetic bristles. The set is equipped with the most basic tools anyone obsessed with makeup (or not) will likely want to use/test at some point or another - a Blush Brush, an Eye Shading Brush, Eyeliner Brush, Lash and Brow Groomer, and Concealer Brush.

Best of all, these brushes come encased in a cool, sturdy wraparound case that can be tied closed. I'm not at the level of indulging in expensive makeup tools yet (or may never be), so this has proven to be a great value. Also, validated by both Sania and MUA reviews - 'nuff said. $12.00 @ Drugstores and $14.99 @ Ulta

Calling Dr. Scholl's

This is not the most glam product to talk about, but I think quite necessary, especially for us quarter-lifers. We all know how much my feet hate shoes, but I should have mentioned I do have some nifty solutions to fix that problem. This mainly involves my friend, Dr. Scholl's. This line of foot/shoe products deserves special mention because it recently developed a range of products specifically for women and women's shoes, Dr. Scholl's For Her. These are more expensive and I have yet to try them, but I give him props for fulfilling what is perhaps a major need in this post-SATC era of all things Blahnik.

I use the Heel Liners on nearly all my shoes - they provide some extra comfort for your heel and prevent that awful burn from new shoes. They stay put and you hardly ever have to replace them, so the $5.00 or so is a major investment. There are also great insoles and cushions which help immensely if you walk a lot like I do (with a heavy step), and if you have a high arch (my foot is practically a bridge).

In my opinion, all shoes and good clothes require a little bit of fixin' and tailorin' for the best comfort and fit. You might think these are for oldies or people with foot problems, but trust me, they make the day much more tolerable and will save your feet years of aging. $3.00-$9.00 @ Drugstores

Avalon Organic Botanicals Lavender Renewal and Vitality for Sensitive Skin Facial Cleansing Gel

I'm still on my cleanser kick (although I'm leaving more and more towards the BB Scrub and Tea Tree Oil Wash), and just received this in an awesome team effort with Sania on Drugstore.com. I basically ordered this because it was on sale, so I apologize for not having some witty rationale behind it (I agree that my wit is questionable so it's just as well).

When I first tried it, I was surprised at how soapy it smelled and the way it lathered, but afterwards, my face still felt fresh (not looking for a squeaky, scrubbed-floor feeling here) and well-balanced without any tightness or dryness, and no irritations over the next few days. I think this is great for summer months and not more than once a day, if that. Then again, I'm opposed to using any cleanser more than once I day....it will of course be drying if you do. I like this for when I'm wearing more makeup than usual or in particularly hot weather where I've been around a lot and my face is grimy and I'm convinced that I need a nice cleanser to feel nice again after a long day.

Overall, a good, natural product to have on hand. It's a large bottle, so will last a while. $11.99 @ Drugstores

Sally Hansen Natural Beauty by Carmindy Sheerest Creme Blush

That has got to be the longest name for a makeup product ever - whew. Let me preface this by saying that my review cannot compare to those written by our resident blush expert, Sania. Of late she has been inspiring me to do abandon my restraint about such things and have fun. With her in mind (and also because I love the TLC show "What Not To Wear"), I decided to try some fool-proof drugstore blush before venturing onto something more fancy and fulfilling (which I did - Taos. On my wishlist. Someone buy it for me!).

Sally Hansen created this line along with the What Not To Wear's makeup artist, Carmindy, famous for her "5-minute face." I thought it would be a safe bet, and it proved to be a pleasant one as well. The Sheerest Creme Blush (I have it in Rosy) comes in a compact-sized, flip-top container with a transparent lid. I like the packaging even though it's rather big for a blush and there is no mirror.

Rosy is a medium berry/mauve color that suits my natural flush. It was pretty easy to apply and the consistency was not too creamy, thick, or dry (although I'm sure it dries out after a while). It did require some extra blending, which I only did with my fingers, so perhaps a good sponge or small brush is needed for creme brushes like this. The color was very natural and wearable, giving a pretty finish that still let my own skin to shine through. No streaking and the color was also not heavily pigmented. It lasted decently long through some very hot, humid weather and an evening without air conditioning. It probably would have lasted longer had I layered a powder blush over/under it, or just applied more. This may inspire me to try the line's powder formula blush as well.

This is definitely a good, anytime, anywhere, throw-in-my-bag, I'm-bored, blush that perks up your face just the right amount - I think. Someday, I hope to try this in combination with Taos. But then people might be tempted to pinch and kiss my cheeks. Only time, experience, and Sania can tell. $8.95 @ Drugstores

Pop Beauty Culture

I once took my younger cousin shopping at Sephora, where she received the cutest little makeover with these cute, inexpensive little beauty products from Pop Beauty, a London-based cosmetics line. I will never forget that experience because the sales lady insisted that I could wear the same products, declared that my lips were extremely dry, and proceeded to rub some glorious lip balm on my chapped excuse of lips, exclaiming that "the oils will make your lips much better and nice" (it really did). I loved the fun vibe of the line, as well as its wear-ability. Had I had a makeup routine in high school, it might have included lots of Pop products. Mind you, this make up is not simply for little girls.

The gloss that I tried on that day was the Mini Ribbon Gloss in Peony Pink. This pocket-sized mini tin has a trio of wearable lip shades. Peony Pink consists of a frosty pink (which does not look frosty at all), nude (which does not make you look dead), and berry shade (which is not aging or drag-queeny). These colors are all surprisingly sheer, long-lasting, and truly moisturizing. They don't forming plastic wrap over your lips, or disappear into thin air. The best part - the texture. Somewhere between regular pot glosses and a proper lip balm (think slightly heavier Smith's Rosebud Salve), these go on very smooth and almost a little creamy without any stickiness. The back of the tin describes this as a "deluxe lip gel with nourishing jojoba oil" - for once, pretty right on. A gel for your lips that isn't going to evaporate or create sticky strings! And they don't settle into the nooks and crannies of your lips if yours are dry like mine - they actually smooth them over and moisturize! The overall effect, either alone or over lipstick, is a little shine and dimension that manages to look very dewy and fresh throughout the day, no matter what finish the shade is appears to have (i.e., frosty, sheer, sparkly). I simply love it.

My first thought after I bought it is that it would be great to smear on while on the subway/bus. Lo and behold, it appeared in amNY's "Board the Beauty Train" (check out the 06.16.08 PDF) special on how to apply makeup during your commute. I must be turning into a makeup psychic.

There is also a larger tin of 4 shades, the Ribbon Gloss (available on the company website but not Sephora), about the size of a regular powder compact. Sania gave me one that she wasn't using, and I love it as well. Since it is slightly more expensive at $15.00, I prefer to use the Mini, especially since it looks like it will last a while and is more portable.

Incidentally, Pop also has also has fun glittery eyeliners called Glitter Stix (available only at Sephora). I've tried the one in Moss and it's very, very cute and edgy without looking like you're trying too hard. Will purchase one and see how practical it is.

At $10 a Pop, I'll definitely get more Mini Ribbons. $10.00 @ Sephora

Quarter Life Challenge - Blush 6

Cargo powder blush in Tonga

Excuse the cluster of Quarter Life Challenge posts, I'm trying hard to catch up from my deficit. Almost there, though - only two more before I'm up to date!

Blush is one of the core offerings of Cargo Cosmetics, a Canada-based beauty company known for their unique packaging. It's also regarded as one of their best.

I'm personally a big fan of Cargo, having liked nearly every product that I've tried from them. I have been using their lipglosses and lipstick for years. Something about their minimalist aesthetic really appeals to me.

I got this blush in the Cargo Holiday 2007 set, and I have to admit it languished in my makeup drawer for a while, prior to my discovery of the wonders of blush. Cargo Tonga is a dusty rose sort of color, most uninterestimg in the pan. But when brushed onto cheeks, it's a wonderfully soft feminine hue - just barely there.

The formula is wonderfully soft and smooth and the color payoff excellent. My gripe comes in with the packaging. While it's deliciously industrial in the round coaster-shaped tin, it's also unfortunately a bit too large and unwieldy to carry around in your bag. The metal also has the tendency to get dinged, and start to oxidize after time. I'm not sure if they've resolved these issues, as my blush is too new to tell, and I've only bought one tin from them for that very reason. And there's no mirror - kind of a pain.

Bottom line, Cargo - I adore your products, and I adore your packaging.. but only for my dressing table.

$24 @ Sephora


Atina Hair Shine

If you are a curly/wavy-haired gal like me, chances are you have at some point or another used an anti-frizz hair serum or cream. I myself was a fan of John Frieda's Frizz-Ease for a very long time. It was quite helpful in taming the frizz and showing off my natural waves, but also somewhat expensive - about $9.00 for 1.7 oz. I preferred this to other anti-frizz products because serum spreads more evenly through the hair and is lightweight. Most hair potions require large amounts for and weight down thick or wavy hair.

I used Johnny boy's serum on-again and off-again for a while (the little bottle does last a long time) and then promptly forgot about it. I'm a firm believer in using any old face/body lotion rubbed into your hands and smoothed over your hair instead. Recently though, I ventured to an Indian beauty salon with a friend on Long Island and she insisted that I try the Atina Hair Shine.

I didn't think it was possible, but this is a *great* replacement for the Frizz-Ease. At about $9.00 for 4 oz, it's also a steal. Plus, the serum has a very light, herbal-y fragrance which I love - I guess that's what makes this "natural" and "ayurvedic" and supposedly "Indian." I rub about a nickel-sized amount into my hair when wet, or just to tame when it's dry. Great to have on hand. $9.00 @ Rani Spas

Conceal Me, Honey

I said I love face paint, but I didn't say I loved make-up meant to conceal the face. While I can't get enough of all things lip and eye (and lately, blush...), all flesh-colored powders, liquids, and creams have always been a mystery to me. For starters, I can never find the right powder, foundation, or concealer shade. When I do find a decent shade, the stuff just never looks right on my face. I believe this is largely because I've never had lovely clear skin to begin with, and any attempts at covering up the fact have been utterly fruitless - they just make things worse.

With some research and practice however, I've managed to locate one inexpensive concealer which not only matches my skin color and complexion rather well, it actually does some decent concealing! This is Black Opal's Flawless Perfecting Concealer in Honey. It's a cream-based stick concealer from a drugstore line aimed at "women of color" that surprisingly has a lot of variety. And for the price, the pay-off is pretty good too. I love this color because it has just enough yellow to prevent me from looking washed out, but isn't too brown either.

I don't use concealer often, but when I do need it, this is a good, inexpensive option. The formula is a bit thick but you can use as little or as much as you need. It's about the same size as a lipstick with black plastic packaging and a clear cover. Very easy to throw in your bag and use on the sly if need be - just a dab on any blemishes and blend.

Perhaps when I can afford more luxuries I will look into the upscale lines for a better alternative (although my Sephora strolls have never resulted in any better color options). $3.95 @ Drugstores


Quarter Life Challenge - Blush 5

NYX Powder Blush in Desert Rose

The next blush on the docket is from a little-known brand, NYX. Had I not read about it on MakeupAlley, I probably would not have come across it on my own. It's available in so few stores, and the store finder on NYXcosmetics.com is not helpful at all. (For ladies in NYC, NXY cosmetics are *not* available at Essentials, contrary to what they say on the site).

I actually stumbled upon this brand, after searching in vain, in a small beauty supply store right by Penn Station. Since I had heard such good things -- many people have said that the quality is comparable to MAC -- I picked up a few items, and naturally a blush was among them.

The NYX powder blush comes in a small fliptop container that is similar a MAC eye shadow compact, only square-ish. There is a clear window on the lid so you can see the color inside, and the surface of the powder has a raised grid design embossed onto the surface.

Desert Rose is a deep brick-red with magenta undertones, and no shimmer. This type of color is perfect for creating the illusion of cheekbones when brushed into the hollows of the cheeks.* Since there is no shimmer, this looks more like a deep flush than a glow.

*Mini-tutorial: make a fish face by sucking in your cheeks. Sweep the blush lightly from your hairline down into the hollows. Voila, instant cheekbones!

The formula blush is pretty smooth, with excellent color payoff. As with many lower-priced brands, I don't get a perfect full day's wear out of it - you will need a reapplication before going out for the evening.  And I do have to say that it doesn't blend as easily as I want it to.  But this line has an amazing range of colors to choose from, and for that reason I would definitely turn to it over and over again. Plus, it's extremely inexpensive for what you get.

I've never been a MAC girl, so I can't compare the brands, but I've loved most everything I've tried from NYX. It's available at Ulta (but no longer Ulta.com), and definitely look at beauty supply stores - you might get lucky!

$6.00 @ NYX Cosmetics

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