My Mascara Picks

The last time I fiddled with mascara and enjoyed it, it was with Korres Abyssinia Oil Volumizing Mascara. That was almost exactly a year to-date and since then, I've had the pleasure of getting to know 6 drugstore mascaras. Yes, 6. That might seem unimpressive to some, but I've never been picky with mascara, so to try more than 1 and moving onto others is new for me. Mascara is also just not one of those products I can't stand paying more than $7 for. Luckily, that left me with a number of very popular drugstore options. They were:

  • CoverGirl LashBlast Volume (chubby orange tube) - Let's just say, not impressed. It didn't really give me volume, and my lashes felt dry, spidery, and brittle. Not sure why this is a popular favorite. Also, the brush was just too big and oddly shaped. It looks like an inflated barrel. I think I actually poked myself in the eye once.
  • CoverGirl LashFusion (chubby purple tube) - Ditto. I didn't see much of a difference between the two, other than the color of the tube. Slightly better than the LashBlast, although I can't be sure why. The brush was slightly different and the effect a little nicer, but still uninspiring.
  • Maybelline Colossal Volume Express (chubby yellow tube) - Loved this one. The brush is large, but it's a traditional bristle brush and not a plastic one, which made all the difference. It just did what a mascara should do - coat the lushes well, little clumping, volumizing (my preference over length), and stayed put. A little drama, but not over the top, although you could go there if you wanted. I would have repurchased and continued to use, but read on...
  • Maybelline Volume Express One-By-One (chubby hot pink tube) - This one comes closest to the Korres mascara I like so much. Like the Korres, this gives a defined fullness to lashes. True to its name, the wand seems to catch every little lash and pull it apart from the others. As is the trend these days, the brush is large, and plastic rather than bristle. But unlike the CoverGirl LashBlast, the brush is well-designed - it tapers a bit at the end, the "barrel" is smaller, and the little combs longer. I also like the formula of the mascara itself - it is more fluid and inky than the others, but just dry enough to set quickly. I haven't experienced any clumping with this, and I rarely need to follow up with a tissue or lash comb. Plus, it stays all day and holds the shape of my lashes.
  • Maybelline TheFalsies (also a chubby purple tube!) - Ah, TheFalsies. People seem to have ridiculously high expectations of this mascara. My expectations of mascara are minimal and I don't really buy into all the crazy claims. In my experience, this is a very good mascara for a dramatic fringe, and a good combination of the Colossal and One-By-One mascaras. The brush is completely new, so hats off to Maybelline for that. It's sort of a flat, spoon shape. For some pictures, check out this review on NouveauCheap. Basically, imagine the head of a cotton swab/Q-tip. Now flatten and elongate it a bit, and add bristles. There you have it. I think the new shape is interesting and I do find application a little easier compared to other brushes because it sort of cups your lashes. The downside is the formula, which is on the thick side and prone to clumping. But this mascara is meant to amplify the lashes even more so than the Colossal or LashBlast, so you win some, you lose some. A good lash comb might be necessary for some after a coat or two. Like the One-By-One, it stays put all day and maintains the shape of my lashes. Perhaps a little bit on the stiff side, but that's expected for this mascara, and the feeling is nowhere as rough and dry as LashBlast.
  • Rimmel Sexy Curves (slim, teal, metallic tube - nice change) - This little-known mascara of the unique tube color worked rather well for me. The formula and consistency are just right - similar to the One-By-One but thinner, and also clump-free. The plastic brush is the skinniest of the bunch, which I prefer for getting all the little lashes. It also has an interesting shape - tapers in the middle but has is full on each end. Different, for sure, and it glides onto the lashes. This mascara definitely gives more length than volume. Although I prefer volume, I still liked the overall look because it wasn't too dramatic but still kind of - doll-like without being porn-star or Japanese anime. Its ability to produce sexy "curves" was not an issue for me (my lashes are curvy to begin with). I definitely would have repurchased this had I not continued to experiment.
*Note: All were waterproof versions and all stood up to my oily, watery eyes.

The winner in this year's unofficial Mascara Madness? Maybelline Volume Express One-By-One! Not only was I happy with the volume and definition, it's a breeze to use. No wiping excess mascara or lash comb necessary. It's hard to pick a few top choices. Overall, I'm comfortable with either One-By-One or TheFalsies, followed by the Colossal and then Rimmel's Sexy Curves. If I had to pick a combo of one day mascara and more dramatic, I'd go for Sexy Curves/Colossal and One-By-One/TheFalsies (my current combo).

Korres Ginger and Vitamins Foundation, SPF 10

In the continuous effort to edit my makeup collection, this past summer I decided to try light-coverage foundations instead of tinted moisturizers (TM). A couple of my previously-used TMs were collecting dust, and I didn't have any face makeup for special occasions. Other than a dusting of powder if I have the heart to do it, I don't usually wear face makeup. However, light foundations/tinted moisturizers do even out my skin and provide a good barrier for my sensitive skin. And when you're going for more makeup, you need a little something over that bare skin.

Ok, yeah, so the real reason I tried Korres Ginger and Vitamins Foundation is because I read about it on Kajal Couture and just had to have it! I get tired of hearing about the same products on every beauty blog - it is a bit uninspiring and it seems like everyone uses the same new products, or the same old, over-hyped products. So little true exploration left! But, that's another topic for another day. Point is, I was impressed by Kajal Couture's glowing review and I'm glad I took a chance on this little-known product.

This is one my few pricier purchases with which I haven't experienced any buyer's remorse. In terms of coverage, this is definitely light-to-barely-medium. While I don't have many blemishes and scars, my skin gets irritated and reddens easily. This helps to even things out a bit. For a little more coverage, I use some concealer and powder to set. The texture is also nice - it is very lightweight and a little on the runny side (the formula is water-based), almost like liquid out of the bottle rather than than a cream in a tube. It's still very easy to use and blend though, and you really only need a small amount (pea-sized or less). The overall finish is a soft satin that looks natural and never cakes or dries up. I use L5, the second to darkest shade, for my golden/tan skintone. It's a tad light going on, but it settles and blends in well. I'm not sure how the shade will change/suit my skin as I get more tan this season, but I'm willing to mix it with something darker if need be. LF6 is probably a good bet for summer, or to keep on hand to mix with LF5 depending on what shade my face decides to be on a given day.

The SPF 10 is an added bonus - I prefer the low number here, because it prevents that white cast which some SPF formulas can have. I also love the convenient tube packaging and the slim design. It looks more like a prescription tube of acne medication actually, or a mini toothpaste. Some might prefer prettier packaging, but not I. This works, and that's all that matters.

If you really want a drawback or two, here they are. First, sensitive noses, beware. While I'm typically not sensitive to smell and don't mind fragrance, I find that this foundation has some weird, "organic"-y funk going on. I've gotten used to the smell and it doesn't bother me now, but I definitely noticed it in the beginning. Second, there isn't a huge shade selection. That said, I find that the shades it does have are often hard to find, and they might work for people with in-between skintones. But if you're considered very fair or very dark, there won't be many options here.

As a side note, I did try a coordinating concealer and enjoyed that as well. If I had kept and used it, there would probably be a glowing review here. But I didn't need it at the moment, so back to the store it went.

In truth, this is more a TM than a foundation, but if you need either a light foundation or a TM that is mid-range price-wise, good quality, and natural, this is it. Quality-wise, I'd say it is comparable to Laura Mercier's TM ($42) and because it is natural, preferable over Clinique's ($27 - I don't have much luck with their products anyway, other than lipstick), although they are similarly-priced. As far as high-end/Sephora brands go, the price is reasonable, although I got mine on sale. $28 @ Sephora (There is currently a sale on limited shades on the Korres website, so scoop one up now if you can)

Burt's Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser

After a long while, the beauty blog bug bit me hard today. I've tried some new things during the last year, and am eager to share! Burt's Bees (BB) Orange Essence Facial Cleanser is a good place to start.

My skincare routine has not changed much since The Neverending Skincare Story II post in July 2010. I repurchased and continue to use Avene Cold Cream Emollient Soap-Free Cleansing Bar, Nivea Soft moisturizer, and Neutrogena Dry-Touch SPF 55 sunscreen. I did, however, move on from the oil-cleansing-method (OCM) with jojoba oil. No reason, other than the fact that I used up the whole bottle (good) but was ready to try something new (good and bad). I wanted something that would remove makeup well (since I try to make the most of my collection lately, and because the Avene bar isn't the best for this) and was as all-natural as possible. Since I had a good experience with 2 BB cleansers in the past (Soap Bark & Chamomile Cleansing Cream and Peach & Willowbark Deep Pore Scrub), I thought it would be fun to try a third.

I'm sure that if I suggested this orange-tinted, Vaseline-like cleansing balm, they would be pretty skeptical. But after Avene's cleansing bar, this has been my next-best find. In terms of texture, it is a happy medium between liquids, creams, and gels, both in terms of use and effect on the skin. For me, this is also a refined version of Vaseline in high school to remove makeup (mostly eye makeup at the time). Let's face it, we've all been there! I, for one, rather miss the simplicity of it. So while the Orange Essence Cleanser might seem scary to some, it is actually a treat to use.

Once massaged onto the skin (with or without moistened fingertips/face), this cleanser softens and spreads smoothly into a thin layer. It's nowhere as thick and greasy as Vaseline, and washes off easily. This does not lather, so if you need something sudsy, you'll either be pleasantly surprised or just not into it. I don't have a problem with the lack of lather, because unlike many cleansing milks which also do not lather, this stays on my face before I wash it off. My skin feels moisturized and balanced, without an oily or waxy residue, and it is super soft in the morning. I think come summertime, I could get away without using moisturizer after. Many reviews on MakeupAlley suggested wiping this off with a washcloth, but I found that a water rinse works just fine. I imagine that this is what Clinique Take Off the Day Cleansing Balm is like, but I've never tried that and prefer the both price-tag and all-natural goodness of BB's version.

I'm a big advocate of this cleanser because the texture makes it versatile, regardless of skin type or purpose. For oily skin, this could replace oils for the OCM. Since the texture is thicker and doesn't absorb the same way an oil would, I actually find it easier to apply and remove than say, jojoba oil, especially if you prefer a water rinse afterwards (since the oil repels water). You could also try: 1) Removing it with a cleansing towelette like Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes; water rinse optional 2) Rinsing with water, following-up with a toner to remove any residue if you feel it. For dry skin, this is a no-brainer. For basic cleansing, also a no-brainer. As a makeup remover, using the cleanser along with either of the 2 steps above is especially effective but still gentle. However, I wouldn't suggest using this as an eye makeup remover - the orange essence (acidic, although I'm not sure how strong) maybe not be a good idea in that area, and the company website warns against it. Removing very light eye makeup or just eye shadow is probably fine, but if you really need to get in there, try a separate remover. I haven't experienced any stinging or bad reactions myself when this came near my eyes, but it's better to be careful.

I'm usually a major skeptic when it comes to marketing claims that involve a "special" ingredient like orange oil. But I must say, my face looks fresher and brighter after using this. And not just because it's clean and dewy from water. I think the orange oil really does act like an exfoliator and makes a difference in the texture of my skin and complexion - a slight brightening effect and a noticeable smoothness. Not complaining!

Overall, this is an effective cleanser that does improve my skin, and fulfills my desire for new and interesting products. $12 @ drugstores and the like.

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