Brows maketh the face

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When I look back on my high school years, I think of all those hairs I tweezed out of my eyebrows that I’ll never see again. In my adolescent years (and very likely in your adolescent years, unless you are around 20) THIN & SHARP are the words that come to mind when we imagine the perfect brow. How far we have come in the past decade – over tweezing is out, patches be gone and the perfect brow is thick and neat. If I walk around my local shopping centre, I don’t think I see anybody under the age of 25 with thin brows. Of course, this isn’t always a good thing – like any trend, some people just take it TOO FAR.

Anastasia Beverly Hills can be credited with some of the biggest improvements in the brow game with her pencils and powders. If you want to improve your brow look, read on…

(Disclaimer: I haven’t talked about concealer or eyebrow brushes – consider this a beginners guide to eyebrows)

Pencil

perfect-brow-pencil

If you are new to getting your eyebrows on fleek, or want something low-fuss, this stuff is THE SH*T. Easy and quick to use, huge range of colours and completely natural finish. You can buy it direct from the Anastasia Beverly Hills site, or from Sephora Aus.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil
RRP: $26.00 (USD) / $42.00
Stockists: Anastasia Beverly Hills / Sephora 

Powder

smashbox-powder

Anybody who watches Cammy on Snapchat [she’s an eyebrow queen from LA / find her @blossombeautylo] knows that the secret to a completely natural brow is the ombre finish at the start of the brow. For a long time I only used powder, but I find the ABH pencil is quicker and more precise than this powder. If you have unruly brows, the wax in this set is useful. Unfortunately, I think this powder is either on it’s way out or just isn’t worthy of being in Australia. Keep your eyes peeled if you’re overseas.

Smashbox Brow Tech
RRP: $26.00 (USD)
Stockists: www.sephora.com

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It is completely annoying to read recommendations of products not available in Australia, so I’ll include a product that you most definitely can find locally. Benefit has really upped their brow range this year and although I’m satisfied with my current tools, I think they are worth checking out if you are keen to find a decent product at your local department store. Powder and wax combo that has 6 shades.

Benefit Brow Zings
RRP: $55.00
Stockist: Myer 

Gel

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If you were not naturally blessed with a lot of hair in your brow, but have a decent shape and want to thicken up your look, use a gel to add some fake hair. This will help even up any patches or thinness and will blend in effortlessly. If you fear any of these other products or think drawing it on is too much, this is the stuff for you.

Benefit 3D Browtones
RRP: $42.00
Stockist: Myer 

Cream

pomade

I admit this stuff is the scariest of the lot – the almighty pomade. It’s not a product I personally want to use, but the severe nature of the pomade just doesn’t suit me and nor do I have the patience for it. Keep in mind, I am olive skinned and have naturally dark brows (no $$$ spent on eyebrow tints for me), so I’ve found the pomade finish is just a bit too much for me. If you have some serious bald patches or are seriously faking it when it comes to your brows (i.e. you don’t have much hair there), this stuff is for you. You will need a stiff angled brush for this as well as a spare 10 or so minutes.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade
RRP: $18.00 (USD) / $32.00
Stockists: Anastasia Beverly Hills / Sephora 

Waxing, Tweezing and in between

My final warning to you is about what to do to care for your brows. You can have all the pomades and powders that Anastasia can think of, but they are useless to you if the base is hopeless. Only tweeze stray hairs, don’t even think about touching those long hairs your face has been growing for God knows how long! Find a decent brow technician, and find what suits you – tweezing, waxing or threading. Whatever you do, DO NOT go to a walk-in salon that does not specialise in brows – you will be butchered, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll never see those hairs return. You may be slaying in all other aspects, but rubbish brows will be your downfall. Go to someone who will see you as an ongoing client – save your walk-in waxing for arms and legs.

Remember, BROWS MAKETH YOUR FACE.

And if irritation occurs, discontinue use… 

Paint the Town Pink (with Lipstick!)

I’m a Simpsons fan, so the title today is a really obscure reference to a line from it – props for those who get it!

So, summer here in Sydney is saying goodbye, but before it goes and Autumn and berry shades set in, I’m trying to embrace shades of pink. Clearly from my heading photo, you can see I’m a pink fan, and regular readers will have noticed I’m always raving about pink nail shades. So here are some of my tips and recommendations for wearing a bold, pink lip…

Rimmel Pencil Collage

Firstly, you need a lip liner – bold lips need some boundaries, and the lip liner will give you this. My go-to pink liner is Rimmel Lasting Finish 1000 Kisses in Indian Pink [$8.50 at Priceline]. It’s a fairly universal pink liner, and works for the range of products and types of shades I’m going to cover below. I can’t say if it lasts 1000 kisses as I haven’t tested this claim!

Chi Chi Collage

Matte: Chi Chi ‘Bimbo’ [$18.95 Myer]
This is a killer matte shade, for a decent price. The packaging is divine (sorry I forgot to take a photo with the lid on, but it is really pretty) and the lipstick is really pigmented. It layers onto the Rimmel liner perfectly, but unfortunately doesn’t have great staying power – like all bold lips, it will need heavy monitoring while wearing it.

Revlon Lip Stain CollageStain: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable in ‘Sweetheart Valentine’ [$17.95 Priceline]
This is easily one of my most wearable bold pinks – you get great colour payoff and a decent wear time with this. It is a stain, but if you blot it with a tissue after application, you will really make sure it sinks in. A liner isn’t necessary with this, but I like to pair it anyway, just for longevity. I’ve managed to keep this on for a whole day at work which involves a lot of talking as well as eating lunch.

Revlon Lip Butter CollageLight: Revlon Lip Butter in ‘Lollipop’ [$21.95 Priceline]
This isn’t my favourite for a bold pink, but is a great way of trialling pink without committing to a strong lip for a whole event. This will get eaten up/fade, but that is just the nature of Lip Butters. You do get a nice pigment from it, it just doesn’t wear for very long. Out of all the products in this post, this is the only one I would dare to try putting on without a mirror – the texture of lip butter means you can touch up lightly and it will spread over your lips fairly well.

MAC Lip Collage

MAC: Retro Matte in ‘All Fired Up’ [$36.00 MAC/Myer]
There can’t be a lip post without a MAC inclusion! So it gets it’s own category – this particular MAC shade is part of the Retro Matte collection, and is a new product to my pink collection. I haven’t worn it much, so can’t vouch for its wear time, but as a MAC product, I can trust it will be excellent quality and bloody gorgeous.

YSL Lip CollageGloss: YSL Rouge Volupte Shine in ‘Pink in Devotion’ [$55.00 Myer/David Jones]
This is a complete luxe inclusion, and makes the cut just because of the beautiful packaging. Don’t get me wrong, it is a gorgeous colour, and feels really lovely on, but it’s not particularly long wearing or even that bold. I’ve included it as a gloss because it really functions as one – it wears as long as a gloss typically does, and has the same level of pigment – the upside is that it is not sticky at all! It’s really expensive, so it also doubles up in the ‘Treat Yoself’ category.

Final Tips
When wearing a bold pink lip, it’s important to keep your eyes pretty basic – I personally go for a basic gold shade, and try to keep it light (often with brown eyeliner or a thin black liner). A pinkish blusher is a nice match-up, but I recommend applying it after lips, so you have an idea of how much colour you need for your face. Finally, keep it really flawless for your base – be meticulous with concealer, and blend blend blend (you are not a bakery – no cake allowed)!

If you need some further inspiration, check out my favourite YouTuber Lisa Eldridge’s Easy Summertime Pink Makeup tutorial – she has some great tips, and looks stunning (as always!).

Let me know how you feel about pink and if you’re willing to give it a try! And as always, if irritation occurs, discontinue use (though a colour can’t irritate your skin)!

Beauty Burn: Origins GinZing

I’ve mentioned it in some of my previous skincare posts, but today I’ll reveal the details of my love of moisturisers. Since I was a young child, my mother has been a passionate believer in moisturising – we were not allowed to do anything until we had some “cream” on our face. I grew up using Rosken’s Vitamin E Skin Repair, which was discontinued (or at least became very difficult to find) in my early adolescent years. It eventually made a comeback, but we had moved onto other products by then – plus, it was my adolescent years – where had all these other products been all my life?!

My habit and love for moisturising still continues to this day, and I actually cannot operate without some form of moisturiser on my face. I love the QV Face cream, I’ve mentioned my Kiehl’s love here, and… I’m suddenly having a total mind blank wondering what I used between my Rosken days, and well… today? Suddenly I can’t recall any details! So basically, what I’m trying to say, is that I come from a long line of moisturiser lovers (even if that line is only my Mum and I), so I am interested up to check out some new ones.

Fast forward to my Treat Yoself day in April, and I picked up the Origins GinZing moisturiser. Now, I’ve given away my verdict in the title, but play along. It has a really zesty scent, is packaged beautifully (I love the simple orange and white contrast), and I had a lot of hope in the Origins brand (since Lisa Eldridge recommends it!), so parted with my $44.

How sad. This was so disappointing! It smelt so fresh and awakening, but really didn’t do that for my skin. It wasn’t harsh or unkind to my skin, it just didn’t do anything special – and I expect something for that price. After some consistent use, I decided it was too citrus-y for my liking (which is surprising, as I love most things citrus), and although it felt nice on application, a minute later, I felt nothing – it felt like I hadn’t even applied anything! The feeling of tight skin drives me mad, and I will not stand for it!

I’m going to keep my eyes out for an Origins mask while I’m in the US (and will definitely insist upon a sample before parting with my money), and then will give my final verdict on the Origins brand (I’m a harsh critic).

Origins GinZing

Would I buy it again? Definitely not. I’ve relegated this to a once-a-week product, in the hope that maybe mixing it up in my skincare routine will give it a bit more oomph.
Who would I recommend this to? Citrus lovers! Or anybody looking for a very light moisturiser, particularly if they have very oily skin and don’t necessarily need lots of external hydration.
Is it value for money? Not in my opinion ($44).
How can you get it? I picked mine up from Mecca Maxima, and it’s also available from Kit Cosmetics.

Slap it on: Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil

I’m such a sucker for a retail hit, particularly when shopping alone. When I’m shopping with a friend, it’s quite easy for me to buy nothing, and return home still feeling somewhat satisfied. Shopping alone, and no purchases? Sad face for me.

I’ve been interested in hitting up the Clarins counter at Myer since MO [a regularly mentioned friend on this blog] decided to trial some products before Christmas. At the time, I wasn’t so interested in the skincare, but instead was drawn towards a gold shade eyeshadow quad – like I need more gold toned eyeshadow palettes in my life? I managed to walk away, but in the back of my mind, I was interested in returning. The beauty of MO investigating the products was that I could find out the prices, so I could make a confident return to the counter. I am so easily influenced once I hit a counter, regardless of how ridiculously priced a product may be, so it really pays for a person like me to do some research beforehand.

Anyways, so it was time for a new cleanser, so I figured a Clarins cleanser was worth a trial. Because I am so easily influenced, I couldn’t help but be interested in other products in the range. The sales assistant showed me a small handful of products (and of course I couldn’t help but ask about the gold eyeshadow quad, just in case it was still available), and she showed me some serums and some oils. I’ve been reading a lot about the use of oils within one’s skincare regime, and one of my favourite bloggers (Makeup by Patricia) is a huge advocate for facial oils. I rubbed and scrubbed a number of products, and the Blue Orchid Oil was a stand out. Easily absorbed, gorgeous smell, and would finally fill my need for a facial oil.

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Dayum Clarins, where have you been all my life? I am in LOVE with this oil. The smell is so addictive, I just want to use it every night. Since it’s an oil, and I am prone to oily skin most of the time, I’m trying to avoid using it every night. I obviously automatically wanted to pick up the oil for Oily Skin (which is the Lotus Face Treatment Oil), but the sales assistant really recommended I try the dehydrated skin version (the Blue Orchid) as we’re heading into winter, where most people are prone to dehydration. It is perfection for my skin – it really does eat up the oil, so I think the dehydrated skin recommendation was best. My skin feels amazing immediately after application, and looks amazing once I wake up. It has really helped brighten up my skin, and is such a lush addition to my pamper nights!

Would I buy it again? No doubt. I would like to try some other facial oils, but this is really quite perfect.
Who would I recommend this to? Anybody wanting to up their skincare treatment; anybody who is a sucker for products that smell amazing; anybody with dehydrated skin.
Is it value for money? I’ve been using it almost daily (it just smells so good – it requires a lot of discipline to only use it every 2nd night), and I’ve barely made a dent in the 30mL level. It comes with a pippet, and about 4 small drops covers my face easily. It retails for $49.00.
How can you get it? Clarins counter at Myer.

Sorry for my silence over the past week readers – had to fight off a bug last week, and had a baby shower over the weekend! 

So you want to start a brush collection? (Just for fun)

As the title suggests, these are all your bonus brushes. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are plenty of fun brushes you can add. These are more the brushes I recommend if you’ve got some extra coin, want to build your technique, or even better, someone wants to gift you some brushes (?!).

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Lipstick/Concealer Brush
The one pictured above is from The Body Shop range, and is marketed as a concealer and lip brush (and I do use it interchangeably). Perfect to really pack a lip product into your lips, and great to tidy up lip edges with a bit of foundation/concealer. I personally use my flat foundation brush to apply concealer (a tip I got from a MUA a few years ago), so now this brush is primarily used for any deep lip colours I may apply.
RRP: $14.95

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Lash Brush
Pictured above is the MAC 204 Lash Brush, which is really for illustration purposes; I don’t personally own the MAC version. Now this is used to tidy up brow hairs, and comb all the hairs into place. I have occasionally used it to tidy up any clumpy mascara, but this is extremely rare (I’m more inclined to use a tissue to clean up any clumps). Instead, I use this daily to get my brows into order. I don’t have unruly brows, but I have a few hairs that don’t like to stick with the pack – I can’t really notice them, but I can really notice the difference when I use this to brush through the hairs. Plenty of eyebrow pencils come with this included (Chanel does one with it included), but none of the eyebrow kits I use have ever included it. I have the Manicare Artiste Lash Brush (I’m not entirely sure, but I think it was <$15), which is a great dupe. As long as the brush is firm and strong, it will last. Plenty of companies have brushes they market as “Lash & Eyebrow Combs”, but they lie – this is a much better option; I personally find the combs useless.
RRP: $18.00 (for the MAC 204 Lash Brush)

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Angled Brush
This brush came in my original MAC Face Brush set (that I’ve mentioned before), and was pretty unloved for a long time. I used it very occasionally to apply some darker outer corner eyeshadow, but really, it didn’t get much attention. I still use it if I’m ever tempted to do a shadow liner, but again, this is quite rare. My daily use for this however is to apply some light colour through my brows. I use a powder brow kit from Smashbox, and this brush does almost all the work. Before I used the Smashbox pot, I used a $2 Innoxa dark brown eye shadow that I dug out of a bargain bin – and the brush still worked its magic. I love it so much for my eyebrows that it doesn’t get used for shadows anymore, but it can definitely be utilised as a fun additional brush in a kit.
RRP: $37.00 (for the MAC 263 Small Angle Brush)

So, that is it for my brush collection posts – for the time being! Thanks for reading along, and for the feedback provided (whether it be privately or publicly on this blog). I hope it has been useful for anybody considering brushes, and if anybody has any recommendations, please comment below!

Line up, line up…

Eyeliner… I love you, and I hate you. When nobody of interest is going to see me on a particular day, you glide on with perfection. When everybody significant in my life is going to see me, you become a raging mess. Why do you do this to me? And why can’t I dump you?

As you can guess, I have a love-hate relationship with eyeliner. Someone recently asked me for some eyeliner recommendations (thanks for the inspiration, MA), so I thought I’d do a multi-product review, which seems to be my thang lately.

Image[Pot on the left is MAC Fluidline in ‘Dipdown’; Top to bottom: Face of Australia High Definition Liquid Eyeliner in ‘Brown’, Sephora Collection Nano Eyeliner in ’01 Midnight Black’, Shu Uemura Liquid Eyeliner Pen in ‘Black’ and Lancome’s Le Crayon Kohl in ‘Noir’]

Now, I use eyeliner basically on a daily basis, and I’ve tried a fair few different eyeliners over the years.. and these are my current favourites, and have been for the past 1-2 years.

MAC Fluidline
This is a gel eyeliner in the most traditional sense – you need a seperate brush to apply it, and it glides on wet, and dries quickly. I absolutely love the MAC Fluidline range, and highly recommend it, despite its high cost. It goes on smoothly, and can be tidied up quite easily before it dries. I find it stays put all day, but comes off without you needing to tear out all your eyelashes from scrubbing. I’ve just got a cheap Models Prefer Angled Eyeliner brush (see below) to apply this – it does the job just fine.

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RRP: $32.00 – Available at all MAC counters (Myer) and MAC stores. 

Face of Australia High Definition Liquid Eyeliner
This was a total surprise for me – I had really low expectations. I love to have a brown liquid in my collection at all times, and wear it more regularly than I wear black liner. I’ve been using this for about 4 months, and have been pleasantly surprised. I’m a diehard Face of Australia fan, which is why I trusted the brand, and was so pleased that it went on so easily, and stayed on for the whole day. It’s got a felt-tip applicator, which is perfect for me when I’m rushing to work.
RRP: $11.95 – Available at Priceline. 

Sephora Collection Nano Eyeliner
This was such an adorable and surprising find! I got this in a gift pack from a girlfriend last year who had travelled to Malaysia, and didn’t have big expectations for a Sephora branded mini-product. This doesn’t have the perfect staying power, but what I love about it is that it’s tiny and therefore does an awesome fine line against my lashes. It is a bit smudgey if it’s used for a thicker line, but for a thin line, it’s perfect. It’s beautifully soft, so goes on really nicely, but the softness is where the smudging comes from, in my opinion.
RRP: $5.00 (USD) – Exclusive to Sephora. 

Shu Uemura Liquid Eyeliner Pen
This eyeliner has been my long-time love, and started my love for liquid eyeliners. The tip on this thing is so fine, and gets the most accurate line every time. It has a calligraphy pen-style cartridge that you insert (and therefore replace), and a fibre hair tip. I think this thing needs a bit more Beauty Blogger love – it’s really hard to get in Australia, but easy everywhere else, so I’m surprised it doesn’t get a lot more love. I picked up my first pen in Hong Kong Duty-Free, and have picked up replacement pens and cartridges in Singapore, Dubai, London and Thailand (this isn’t my tale of travel, I just mean it’s quite easy to get for an Australian traveller – these are common destinations or transits).
RRP: $20.00 (USD) – All decent international department stores and Duty Free stores – just look for the Shu Uemura logo (very popular in Asia). 

Lancome Le Crayon Kohl
Finally, this is my most recommended out of the lot. It’s a staple kohl pencil, nothing fancy or complicated like the Shu Uemura or MAC Fluidline. You need a basic pencil sharpener to maintain this thing, and it can be bought easily. Lancome is stocked in Myer and David Jones, and some of the dodgiest and smallest of these chains that I’ve ventured into have managed to have a Lancome counter. It’s not as soft as the Sephora, but that gives it better wearing power – no smudging! It’s one of the only pencils I can easily apply to my extremely sensitive water line, and it softens up enough on application to make it comfortable. It’s expensive, but it’s also very long – so I think you get a lot for your buck, especially when comparing with a mid-range eyeliner that might come in between the $20 and $30 mark.
RRP: $45.00 – Available Myer & David Jones.

Which one would I buy again? The one I’m most tempted to restock for its uniqueness is the Shu Uemura – I love that it gets a super fine line. However, the one I actually couldn’t afford to not have is the Lancome – it’s just such a staple, and so versatile.
Is it value for money? You get a lot of product for your money. Myer is known for it’s 10% off all cosmetics nights/weekends, and Lancome makeup is always included – so you could at least save $4.50 off the RRP.
How can you get it? Myer & David Jones. All the other eyeliners I’ve listed their stockists above.
Which one do I recommend for something different? Hah, what a loaded question. If you’re an experienced eyeliner user, and want a change, try out the Fluidline. I’ve also heard good things about the Loreal gel eyeliner, so that may be worth a try.

 

Now, eyeliner is very important to makeup loving women – do any of my readers have any recommendations or eyeliner loves? If so, I’m always interested in expanding my collection – please comment below! 

So you want to start a brush collection? (Face)

Where does the week go? It’s almost Easter weekend, hooray for extra long weekends! My weekend will be spent working from home, playing with new products, and some light socialising. I hope you all have a great weekend!

So, following on from last week’s eye brush information, this is the face brush collection post. HUGE disclaimer: the MAC brush prices in this post will possibly create a deep rage within you – I own the bloody things and I was horrified when I saw the prices!

So, for foundation brushes, I have two recommendations:

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Real Techniques Buffing Brush
Now this is a cult product that I couldn’t resist buying. I’ve been a long time flat foundation brush user, so converting me was going to be hard. I picked up the Real Techniques Core Collection brush set from Priceline (20% off – $38.00), just to try out the Buffing Brush. I can tell you, that this brush lives up to the hype. It really does buff foundation into the skin beautifully, and creates a really soft finish. It requires minimal buffing effort, and makes all decent foundations work into the skin. It’s a synthetic fibre brush, which really doesn’t excite me, but it does keep the price low, and make it incredibly easy to keep clean. Unfortunately, it only comes in the Core Collection set, and can’t be bought on it’s own. The kit comes with a contour brush, a flat foundation brush and a concealer brush – none of these excited nor interested me.
RRP: $44.99

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The Body Shop Foundation Brush
Now, this has been my foundation application go-to for years. I have repurchased this twice, and still have it in my collection, despite my recent addition of the RT Buffing Brush mentioned above. Again, it’s a synthetic fibre brush, so it’s not exciting, but I do find it easy enough to clean. Synthetic fibres seem to be easier to clean for products that build-up so easily and quickly, like foundation. I’ve never had any hair shedding from this brand, and really do recommend their brush range for a decently priced brush. I’ve repurchased this brush after years of daily use, once the hairs have lost their shape. I think The Body Shop makeup and tools ranges are really underrated, and recommend checking them out if you’re in the market for a mid-range priced product.
RRP: $27.95

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MAC 109 Small Contour Brush
Now, I don’t think this is the be-all and end-all in contour brushes. I really don’t think you need the MAC version of this brush, and instead only included this product so you can see the shape and design of the brush head, because I do think it’s a useful brush to own. This allows for easy application of blush and bronzer, and helps keep product to a really defined area. I actually don’t use the MAC version of this, and instead have a lovely Lancome version which came in a beauty gift pack – win! This is a combination natural fibre brush, for those interested.
RRP: $62.00

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MAC 187 Duo Fibre Face Brush
Now this I really do love, and use my MAC version of this daily. My first face brush hunt was for a decent face brush, as I love to apply powder, and that was my first step in skin coverage. I’ve tried Shu Uemura (had lots of hair shedding), I’ve tried The Body Shop (was a bit too uncontrolled for my liking), and then finally decided to try the Duo Fibre. I’m not going to pretend that I understand the science behind the double fibres, but whatever it is, works. The combination allows for decent buffing whilst also lightly applying powder – no cakey finish, just enough to take the shine off. There are plenty of dupes on the market – Models Prefer have a huge range of brushes, and the Artiste range available in Myer is pretty decent for it’s price point. The MAC version is a Goat & Synthetic combination fibre brush.
RRP: $85.00

I hope you found this helpful, feel free to leave a comment if you have any requests or questions, particularly regarding brushes.

Beauty Burn: Sephora Australia 2015

So Sephora thinks it can move to Australia and be a success? Do the big wigs of Sephora (which is the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group) know anything about Australian beauty retail? Have they ever had any dealings with the sales assistants on Australian beauty counters???

Now, I don’t want to burn everyone with the same flame – I will say I’ve had some ordinary experiences at beauty counters – that’s to say, not amazing, but not awful either. One of my first MAC store experiences was when I visited MAC Chapel Street (Melbourne) back in 2007, and that actually was a lovely experience. I was doing some last-minute makeup prep for my brother’s wedding the following day, and the sales assistant gave me great advice for a few small items that would make a huge difference. MAC Select Cover-Up entered my life, and still remains to this day. I started my first make-your-own-quad eyeshadow collection (I got 2 shadows, and have yet to fill the quad with 2 more), and he gave me plenty of direction for an eye look to suit a bright red outfit (which isn’t the easiest thing to do). I’ve also had some decent service from the Sydney International Airport Duty-Free MAC counter, despite literally thousands of people browsing there on the way to their flight.

Unfortunately though, they are some of the only positive Australian beauty experiences I can conjure up in my memory. That’s a pretty sad report. I’m a regular shopper and browser, I often have money burning a hole in my pocket, and I’m a fairly non-confrontational personality type – I’ll burn you on Facebook or verbally to my friends, but that’s about it, I’m not going to shout and scream in store. So after over a decade of loving beauty and makeup, I think I can safely say that it’s not me, it’s you, Australian beauty counters. Why is getting a sample of a product you want me to commit over $50 to, like getting blood out of stone? Why do you insist on pursing your lips when I (or any other customer – I don’t think it’s personal) near your counter? Is your job not to sell and promote beauty products? Why do you think your company educates you on their products – do you think it’s only for your personal gain?

Today, I had a really aggravating experience at a Benefit counter. I had the day off work, and was really looking forward to checking out some new products; I’d even squirreled some money away, that was, lo and behold, burning away in my pocket. My sister-in-law joined me for some shopping, and as a fellow beauty enthusiast, I informed her of the #mascaraswap currently happening at Benefit counters. A friend had called me yesterday to tell me that she had swapped her $2.50 Essence mascara for a deluxe sample of a “They’re Real” mascara at Benefit. If they’re letting you swap your Essence mascara, then clearly there’s no judgement there. So off we went to Benefit, which was a concession within Myer.

Now, the sales assistant wasn’t getting any points for sales, but I’ll give her props for making me feel incredibly uncomfortable – she did raise the bar for snooty sales assistants. She was quite literally doing nothing when we entered (the concession is an entire section, similar to a MAC concession; not just a counter), and continued to do nothing while we browsed. But of course, she didn’t do nothing at a distance – she stood right next to us, while breathing over our shoulders. She offered no advice, no commentary; just silent judgement. I looked around for the #mascaraswap info, and there were probably close to 20 balloons promoting this offer. When we asked… OH, the offer ended yesterday. So, why are there 20 balloons still up? Hard day of nothing stopped you from deflating the balloons? Your Benefit boss came in and confiscated every single sample that remained yesterday at 5pm?

Although this experience was insulting, it’s not exactly an exception. I came home and discovered another customer had a very similar experience at the same counter (she burned the sales assistant on Facebook), except she was told the offer ended ages ago, and when she challenged her that the offer goes until May, she was told that lots of teenagers came in and swapped their mascaras, and the stock is now finished.

I think we all know this sales assistant just couldn’t be stuffed. But Sephora, take heed, this is the state of Australian retail. There are lots of retail staff that love what they do, are extremely helpful, and earn their keep and then some. But there are a huge percentage who are just like Miss. Benefit – forget the customer, and just enjoy their discount. I’ve experienced Sephora back in the day, when it was nothing special in the UK, I’ve experience Sephora in the US, Sephora in Europe, and Sephora in Dubai. Dubai’s retail is booming – they have a huge amount of migrants working their butts off, and reaping the rewards of a lifestyle in the UAE. The US experience is completely unmatched however. Samples are easy to get, advice is easy to get, product information is easy to get – they make it easy to spend your money. The question that remains a mystery to me is whether their staff get paid commissions – but whatever the US formula, it is working. It’s not enough that there are multiple brands in one store – beauty buffs don’t mind pounding the pavement to try new products. It’s not just that the prices seem reasonable – that’s just the way it seems relative to the Australian prices – but Sephora USA is not making its buck off Australian tourists. It’s competing against incredibly low drugstore prices, and somehow winning.

Sephora Australia, you interest me, but I’m not sold just yet. Let’s see what your sales formula is here, and how that materialises for customers.

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So you want to start a brush collection? (Eyes)

Makeup brushes, one of my greatest beauty loves! I have to start the post with thanking my colleague for the inspiration. We were caught in the rain leaving work the other day, and she asked me in passing if there were any MAC brushes I recommended… Errr, makeup brush recommendations in the rain? This is a conversation that needs to be had in drier conditions, because it’s definitely not a quick discussion. Now, she asked about MAC brushes, so it makes sense to naturally start there, and work our way through – this will be part of a series of posts about brushes. Obviously the prices of the brushes I mention today will make most people scream, but fear not, I will eventually get to some more budget options.

My love of brushes started way before my makeup collection grew. It was before the time of YouTube tutorials and #beautybloggers, so I’m not sure where the interest came from – I just had this strong feeling that brushes would be a really key component of my love of makeup. I got my first MAC brush set for my 18th birthday from my brothers – one was travelling overseas quite close to my birthday, so that was my request. 10 years later, I can tell you I still have all the brushes, and use 4 out of the 5 – truly an investment that paid off. They were a little disappointing in that they shed more hair than I expected, but Mr. Google told me that was because they were part of the Special Edition (SE) range, and were of an inferior quality to the full-sized (and therefore full-priced) MAC brushes. I’ve never purchased another SE brush set, and instead saved my pennies for the regular product instead, and the difference in quality is quite noticeable – minimal hair shed, and noticeably softer hair. Anyways, that’s enough about how and why I love brushes.

Today, I’m going to detail 3 excellent eyeshadow brushes that I really rate, and think are worth the investment. They are ridiculous in their  cost, so if you have a friend or family member off to the US, MAC brushes are the thing to request – light and easy to bring back, extremely easy for someone to find for you, and essentially half the price of the Australian pricing.

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MAC 217 Blending Brush
This is literally my Holy Grail in eyeshadow brushes. There is really nothing else like it on the market. I’ve even tried to find other MAC brushes that might come quite close (286 Duo Fibre Tapered Blending Brush for those hardcore fans out there), and it didn’t come close. Anybody who loves (or requires, in some people’s cases) a smokey eye, this is the brush for you. If you only buy ONE brush from MAC in your lifetime – make it this one. The difference this makes to any heavy eye look cannot be compared to any other brush in a kit – it softens and really polishes off the look. I personally don’t use it a lot to apply colour (I use the 286 for that), and instead try to keep it as naked as possible, so that it can really do its best blending work with no residual colour present. It’s essentially a fluffy white brush that softens up any harsh lines or over application of shadow, but does this in the most magical way possible.
RRP: $37.00

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MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush
Now this is one of the brushes that came in my beloved Special Edition collection all those years ago. It has been used with much love and enthusiasm, so much so that the top of the brush came away from the handle of the brush! Thankfully the brush hairs weren’t effected, and it can still be used – the full-sized one is on my list from the US this year. Now this is your standard eye shadow packer. I have two brushes in this same style – short, but firm and tightly packed hairs. None of this sweeping movement that you get from the 239, but just pure packing on of colour. The hairs are quite thick, so what I like to do is use one side for light shades, and one side for dark shades. Lately my go-to eyeshadow combo has been the Bourjois Cream to Powder shadow as the base, and the Rimmel Scandaleyes in Bad Bronze – so one very light shade, and one very dark shade, but both creamy, so needing lots of packing. One side gets used for the light Bourjois shadow, one side gets used for the darker Bad Bronze shadow – no colour transfer. This has been an everyday work look, so ain’t nobody got time to spot clean a shadow brush!
I don’t think that MAC are the only uses to do such a style of brush – I have a Lancome version that is very similar, but it definitely doesn’t have the firm packing ability that this brush has. I’ve always used this for very dark shades on the outer eyelid, and anytime I’ve used any sort of cream shadow (MAC Paint Pots, for example). So, keep your eyes peeled for a similar brush – keywords being short, thick and firm hairs. If you can’t find it anywhere, go for the MAC one.
RRP: $48.00

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219 Pencil Brush
Now, my final brush is just a little favourite of mine – it’s definitely a non-essential, but this also depends on how serious you are about eyeshadow. My favourite feature is definitely my eyes, and I enjoy trying out some different looks, and spending some time on my eye makeup. So, for someone like myself, I think this is worth it. For someone who doesn’t own a single brush, then this is definitely not necessary, and not something I recommend early on. This is another firm-hair brush – but angled like a pencil, as the name suggests. I generally use this on my inner corner, or when I’m doing a really heavy smokey eye, and want to go back towards the inner corner with some lighter shades. It’s precision is amazing – holds product beautifully, and really gets into those smaller spots. I don’t often apply eyeshadow under my bottom lash line, but if I ever do feel compelled, this is the brush for it. I’ve tried the 215 Medium Shader brush for the bottom lash line as well, but that is just too firmly packed for my liking. I have extremely sensitive eyes, so the 219 Pencil Brush has just the right amount of packing to reduce product fall, but still soft enough to use on the more sensitive parts of my eye. I haven’t even investigated any dupes from another other brands, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled to see if there any worthy companions. To be honest, this was a USA request from a friend a few years ago, which is why I frivolously got the MAC version without looking for any cheaper options. Let me know if you’ve seen anything like it.
RRP: $45.00

All MAC products are available at MAC stores and counters (located within Myer) across Australia. They also have an online store which has free shipping for >$100.00 order (and often have >$50.00 free shipping specials).

Thanks for reading the first part of my brush collection series. I did forewarn you that the prices may make you extremely angry, but I feel minimal guilt with MAC brushes. They should last you easily over 10 years, you will start using them every time you want to apply eyeshadow, and you’ll be shocked at what a difference they can make to your final look.

Until next time, readers…

*Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a professional makeup artist – just a simple lover of products. I am merely giving my thoughts and opinions on makeup brushes for the average citizen, as a fellow average citizen.

(All photos in this post courtesy of Google Images)

The long awaited review…. The Clarisonic Mia II

This has probably been my most expensive beauty investment in the past 12 months, and one of my most considered purchases of 2013. This has been marketed in Australia for over a year, and it kind of tickled my fancy, but once I went to the US and kept seeing it in Sephora, I became much more interested in trying it. I almost bought it in the US, but for a very small saving, I figured the hassle of using a converter plug wasn’t worth it. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t mean I bought it upon my return, but instead considered it for another 6 months. Finally in December, I committed to the purchase and bought it from the Clarisonic online store (www.clarisonic.com.au).

I do think it’s still early days, but I’ve had a few friends asking me for my thoughts on the product, so I’ve decided to add it to the blog. Firstly, to give you an idea of my skin type, I’ve got oily combination skin (i.e. minimally combination, mostly oily), with hyper-pigmentation along my cheeks. My pores aren’t a problem area for me, nor are fine lines a focus – my main goal is to improve the hyper-pigmentation scarring. I am a beauty salon enthusiast, and regularly get facials, microdermabrasion and extraction treatments. I’ve experienced a Mia style cleansing brush during treatments before, and loved it. It’s one of those parts of the treatment that I wish could go for 10 minutes – super relaxing, massaging and overall, quite a unique part of the facial.

Now, when I first got it, I was annoyed to discover that it needed a 24 hour charge before first use. I already waited quite a long time for the delivery, so to have to wait again for another day was really disappointing. It also requires 18 hour recharges, which I’ve had to do on average about once a month. I read reviews online with people saying they didn’t have to recharge it for 4-6 weeks with twice daily use, which I’m pretty iffy about – the first month I used it about 18 times before it needed a recharge. It’s not a big deal, but an 18 hour recharge is a bit unexpected. My laptop takes less time to recharge…?

In terms of actually using it – it’s really very simple. It runs for exactly a minute every time – 20 seconds on the chin and nose, 20 seconds on the forehead, 10 seconds per cheek. It buzzes to let you know when to change to the next part of your face. I actually modified my zones to chin & neck, forehead & nose and then each cheek. There are a lot of reviews of this product online, and most of the ones I read mentioned a horrendous breakout for the first fortnight, and then clearer skin. The idea of a hideous breakout for the first fortnight terrified me, so I started with very casual use. I used it every second evening only, and had no initial breakout (phewf). It came with a Clarisonic cleansing gel, but of course you can use any cleanser you like. Again, to minimise the chance of a breakout, I used my Philosophy Purity cleanser, which I find quite gentle. It came with the standard inclusion of the sensitive brush head, which I think will be my next brush head purchase (the brush heads need to be replaced every 3 months, just like a toothbrush).

Two months on, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. I generally use it once a day, in the evenings, and am still using it with the Purity cleanser. I’ve used the Clarisonic gel as well, which was fine, just a bit too foaming for my liking (it keeps bubbling up around my nose and mouth, and I feel like I have to hold my breath!). What I perceive as the outcomes of using the Mia are obviously all subjective – I didn’t take before and after shots, I didn’t keep any form of clear records; it’s all my perception and opinion. Overall, I feel like my skin is visibly smoother, my pores are definitely more refined (adding to the smoothness), and I do think I’ve seen some improvement in my hyper-pigmentation. Part of the Mia marketing is that it promotes better cleansing, which results in better uptake of treatment products, so this may be how it has helped with reducing pigmentation. I love using the thing, it feels like such a salon experience, and it has become a solid part of my evening skincare routine.

Would I buy it again? Hopefully I’ll never need to replace it!
Who would I recommend it to? People looking to really up their skincare routine, or for those who have really fancy skincare products already, and want to increase their effectiveness.
Is it value for money? I do wish it was cheaper, just to make it more accessible. I feel like it does a lot of what it claims, so have to give it credit for that. The corresponding price-tag is $175.00.
How can you get it? Myer, David Jones, Skincare Store and Clarisonic. [Disclaimer: There are a  lot of online stores stocking this product, I’ve named the two that I trust and recommend from personal experience.]

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