Friday, October 10, 2014

Elegance Paris: A comprehensive look

 Ever since I picked up and reviewed Elegance Paris' Nouvelle Eyes in 02 (here), I couldn't get the brand out of my mind. I find myself perusing the Elegance section on Ichibankao from time to time and thought there was no better time to splurge on more Elegance pretties than during my birthday month.

Radiance Quartet BR400 (8,650 yen)
I first heard about these Radiance Quartet powders from a favorite beauty blogger of mine, Beauty Gypsy. Apparently these are under Elegance's "other series" category, and thus, are more exclusive (but still part of the permanent line.) In short, they are a blush and highlighter in one compact. These come in three flavors: pink, orange, and brown. My knee jerk reaction would have been to snatch the orange one, but the rational side of me stepped in last minute telling me I didn't need any more orange blushers. Hence, the brown one.

In the pan, it seems like it would be more of a bronzer, and some skintones may be able to pull this off as a bronzer. On me, it's too warm and has too much of an orange undertone. Instead, I prefer swirling a brush into the three shades on the left to give a glowy, nude blush that pairs extremely well with a smoky eye -- or just for some subtle definition when I'm not contouring. One can concentrate on the different stripes depending on their skintones and/or preferences. The powder is very finely-milled and blends effortlessly. It stays on beautifully and lasting the entire day on my skin with just the hint of fading by the 10-hour mark. There is a very noticeable scent, however, and it finally occurred to me that the scent is similar to that of Les Merveilleuses Laduree products.

Bottomline: truly one of the standout products from the line.

Poudre Haute Nuance 01 (13,000 yen)
Multi-colored face powder is my kryptonite, and Elegance just delivers them so elegantly (pun intended) making them hard to resist. 01-03 are more mattifying, whereas 04 and 05 are more luminous in finish. One of the drawbacks to ordering online is not having a feel for them beforehand -- how they apply, which one is more suited for certain skintones, etc. I chose 01, since I thought it would be the more universal shade, much like the Meteorites, but I was wrong. This is best suited for fair to light folks, as it can look very obvious if I overapply, which is quite easy since it is more on the powdery side. There is also a light floral scent to this powder.

Is it mattifying? Yes, but not as mattifying as the Guerlain Meteorites compact pressed powder, and certainly nowhere close to how loose powders perform. I have tried this as a finishing powder, and I find that it works well for that purpose too. Maybe my views on this would have been different had I picked the right shade, but in my opinion, I don't think this is a must have by any means. That said, I do hope to try one of the more luminous shade options in the future.

Nouvelle Eyes 01, 11, 12 (7,400 yen)
Onto the more noteworthy show stoppers of Elegance's lineup (figuratively and literally speaking): The Nouvelle Eyes quad. I have yet to find another eyeshadow quad that rivals its design and bling. (Swatches of each quad can be found after the individual reviews.)

01: (permanent) This quad reminds me of Suqqu's EX-12 Hisuidama meets Tom Ford adult glitter shadow. All four colors are unbelievably smooth and just apply easily with no fallout at all! Some may say that this is the most sheer quads of them all, but sheerness is such a subjective term these days. None of the Elegance quads I own are richly pigmented by any stretch of the imagination. They are, however, buildable and softly pigmented, so it all boils down to a matter of preference. There are no mattes in the quads -- only glitter, shimmer, and more glitter. Since the glitter is so refined, I can definitely say it's daytime and work appropriate. Probably one of my favorite quads, this is a must if you are fans of Tom Ford glitter but with the complexity of Suqqu shadows.

11: (LE) I was most excited for the navy blue shade of this quad, but ultimately, this is a palette I know I won't be getting too much use out of. To start, it is too cool-toned for me, and secondly, the navy blue just translates as a satin black with zero dimension -- only unevenness and patchiness upon application. I do think that this palette is more suited for those who are looking for minimal shimmer and sparkle on their eyes. The gray does lean blue on my lids, so if you are someone who has a difficult time pulling off grays for the same reason, you may want to make a note of that. For me, this palette is a dud since I'll eventually be reaching for the taupe and ivory-champagne shades of the four.

12: (LE) What drew me to 12 was the unique color combination of cool and warm tones. One can technically get two eye looks from this one palette alone by drawing a horizontal line dividing the top two shades from the bottom two. Thankfully, this fared better than #11, and the three lighter colors are more pigmented. The black forest green is not as smooth as I had hoped, but it is still gorgeous nonetheless with the noticeable gold glitter. Unlike the previous two quads, I find that I can achieve a full look with all four colors, since the top right hand shade actually  makes for a nice transition (or even crease) color. I do think this is one that's worth owning, and I particularly like mixing the two different tones to give a more polished look.

(Swatches in clockwise order over bare skin)

Just like all the other makeup brands out there, there are bound to be hits and misses. Elegance Paris is no exception, though the line will always excel in packaging -- which undeniably will keep me coming back for more. The pricepoint for Elegance products definitely reflects the shiny golden packaging, but I do wish there's more substantial weight to the compacts (which are made of plastic.) I plan on trying the blushers and lipsticks next, but seeing how they are permanent, I can hold off on them for a while. I do strongly recommend checking the products out in person, if possible, since the "swatches" both from the Elegance Paris official website and from Ichibankao can be a bit misleading.

Please note that the prices listed are what Ichibankao charges. You may find them at lower prices (read: in Japan), but I have yet to see Elegance sold online elsewhere.
Friday, September 12, 2014

Suqqu EX-21 Murasakisuishou quad
03 Aoruri trio
01 Momoshuiro Balancing Cheeks

Suqqu is easily one of my Top 3 favorite Japanese cosmetics brands when it comes to point makeup, especially their eyeshadow quads. It's difficult to say what the Western counterpart of Suqqu is, since I feel that this brand is truly in a class of its own. Simple yet elegant in terms of packaging, Suqqu prides itself on sophistication and luxury.

I first heard of Suqqu about two years ago, but since it was such an exclusive line at the time, it fell off the radar until Imomoko started carrying the brand. Price-wise, I would say that as a whole, Suqqu rivals that of By Terry. In fact, when it comes to eye quads alone, it makes the Tom Ford quads seem mid-range, thus explaining my paced additions turned hoarding to my collection.

When I first saw promo images of the autumn/winter collection, I knew the limited edition "quad" in EX-21 Murasakisuishou would be mine. It is just as hot of a commodity as the Tom Ford Nude Dip quad for understandable reasons.

This is essentially an octet, since each pan is divided into two sections. Like all Suqqu shadows, these are softly pigmented and buttery smooth. They also blend easily and last all day on my lids over primer. All eight shades are what I would deem 'adult shimmer' shadows. From the most shimmery-metallic to the shimmer-satin finishes, I can see this palette working across all age groups, although one would need to add a matte transition color to the mix.

One minor drawback to this palette is the two pans with the horizontal division. It is rather difficult to dip a larger and fluffier brush into the individual shades without picking up the adjacent one but still doable with a flat shader. My favorite ways to wear them is to actually layer both shades as Suqqu shadows do so beautifully!

I cannot sing enough praises for this palette. From daytime appropriate looks to the smokiest of smokey eyes, this palette is incredibly versatile. I have seen it being sold anywhere from $94 to $115+ at the moment, but this is a palette that I guarantee you will want to have in your arsenal of palettes.

Suqqu also released trios for the first time along with their a/w 2014 collection. However, they are permanent. Does that make me hold off on purchasing them at a later time? Absolutely not. I had no intention of picking up any of the trios, let alone this palette because let's face it: I can't recall the last time I sported a blue eyeshadow. However, late night (read: 2AM) surfing on Enablergram led me to place an impromptu order, and I am now the owner of 03 Aoruri.

To be honest, I'm on the fence on Aoruri, as I feel that it's not quite up to par as the quads. The top shade is patchy and is somewhat of a glitterbomb. The middle is reflective of the quality and blendability of Suqqu shadows that I've come to love. And the last is just sheer and not as smooth in texture, however, it makes for a great liner since it does give subtle definition when applied across the lash line layered over the middle taupe.

Unlike the quads, I do see slight creasing and even fading with these shadows after I had put them through the sweat test at the gymnasium. I can't say that the other two trios are like this, but I can't say that I will be rushing to pick them up either after seeing the quality of this one. A trio runs anywhere from $63 to $71+ from Ichibankao and Bon Bon Cosmetics, respectively.

Suqqu shadows are not for everyone. If you're expecting Urban Decay in-your-face-pigmentation-in-a-swipe, then these are not for you. If, however, you prefer more subtle, everyday wearable palettes, then you may want to give the Suqqu quads a go. If I were to describe the shadows, I'd say they have the dimension of Dior with the depth of Chanel.

Suqqu Balancing Cheeks in 01 Momoshuiro is my first and certainly not last blush from them (assuming they release more unique color combinations.) Like the eyeshadows, the blushes blend effortlessly and have an incredible staying power when applied. The blush pans are small though, so a smaller cheek brush is necessary here. Or you can use the included brush -- which has to be the softest brush I have ever felt that comes with a cheek product. Think along the lines of Chikuhodo Z-4.

Admittedly, I was attracted to Momoshuiro because it looked similar to two of my Top 3 blushes of all time: MAC Cream Soda (LE) and Giorgio Armani Sheer Blush #10 (discontinued.) Not only would this serve as a back-up for both blushes, but it is super convenient for traveling. See how I justified that? But, I soon discovered that they are completely different. Close, but different.

The left pan is much lighter than Cream Soda. In fact, it barely shows up on my NC25 skin tone. The right pan is more rosy and more mauvey than GA #10. Suqqu's way of utilizing both shades is to first sweep the right shade across the cheeks (and concentrating more towards the back) while applying the left shade strictly on the apples and blending it toward the right shade. I have been wearing Momoshuiro in such a manner. Together, it leaves my cheeks with the perfect healthy glow of peachy-pink.

This was released as part of the Spring 2014 collection but have now joined Suqqu's permanent line. I would recommend this for folks up to medium skin tones, as it won't translate too well on deeper skin tones. A blush ranges anywhere from $84 to $103+, so I can't wholeheartedly place this under the must-have category, but rather in the 'nice-to-have' group.

Have you checked out any Suqqu beauty products? I'd love to know what your favorites are!
Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tom Ford Autumn 2014 Collection
Nude Dip quad and Stroked contouring cheek color duo

Tom Ford limited edition collections set off the inner hoarder in me. Sure, half of the time, they sell out before they even grace the counters across the states, but doesn't that just add to the thrill?

Taupe eyeshadow? Check.

Beigey highlight? Check.

Coral-orange blush? Check.

Really, Tommy. You know the way to my heart... and wallet.

The star of the collection is -- without a doubt -- the quad in Nude Dip ($79.) Not to sound too overly-dramatic or anything, but there is a national Nude Dip crisis at the moment. However, word on the street is it will be available at department stores' websites early September, so keep your eyes peeled. Thankfully, I was gifted this as a birthday gift, and I couldn't thank the person enough! I was saved from calling every TF counter from coast to coast trying to track down this baby.

Let's just say that if this wasn't sold out nearly everywhere, I'd be submitting an order for a back-up. That's how much I love this quad. However, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's take a look at the gorgeousness.

Shimmery, metallic, smooth, pigmented, and long-lasting... just how I like my eyeshadows to be. Neutrals, too, of course. There's usually one shadow that under-performs in most quads, but not with Nude Dip. All four shades translates beautifully to leave a metallic sheen on the eyes that is never over the top. One can tell from the swatches that they are highly pigmented (with practically no fallout!), even when applied dry. I haven't tested nor worn them wet, but I would assume that they boast an even bigger punch. I'm usually not the biggest fan of wet/dry shadows, but these are nothing short of amazing.

Whether or not you're a fan of neutrals shadows, I really do think this is one limited edition product from Tom Ford you don't want to miss. Despite Nude Dip looking like a cool-toned quad, it actually leans neutral, thus, complimenting any blusher harmoniously. It's a simple palette, but one can create several eye looks while supplementing a transition shade (and possibly a browbone highlight) with it.

My favorite [quick and easy] look using all four shades in Nude Dip is:
  • ivory gold in the inner coner
  • taupe all over the lid and outer 2/3 of the lower lash line
  • dark chocolate brown in the outer V (blended out with Urban Decay Naked in the crease)
  • champagne on the inner 1/3 of the lower lash line
  • Urban Decay Skimp as brow bone highlight
No liner, just mascara. Simple as that.

Blush duos (or contouring cheek color duos, as he likes to call them) are new to Tom Ford's makeup line. In fact, so are powdered highlighters, not taking into account the highlighter from the Unabashed palette. I initially held off on purchasing Stroked ($77), because I thought the blush looked similar to Love Lust. Long story short, the highlighter beckoned, and I responded.

Now that I have Stroked, I couldn't be any happier with my decision. Tom Ford's blushes usually run $57 each, so paying nearly 1.5 of a blush for two pans of product is quite the deal. Sometimes, the quality of a product is compromised when in a "palette", but I'm happy to say that the quality of both the blush and highlighter is what I would have expected his cheek products to be -- pigmented, finely-milled, easy to blend, and with great lasting power. I really cannot rave about this duo enough!

The highlighter was a pleasant surprise, and I wish he would release highlighters as part of his permanent range. It is a beige highlighter with just the hint of peach undertones to make it suitable and flattering for both warm and cool toned folks. It reminds me a lot of Chanel's highlighters, since it is more glowy and subtle than it is frosty and metallic.

Just for comparison purposes, I have Love Lust, Savage, and the blush from Unabashed to compare the blush from Stroked to. As you can tell, there are no dupes in the bunch. The blush in Stroked applies more coral on my cheeks, even though it seems more terracotta in the pan.

There was another contouring cheek color duo released along with this collection in Softcore ($77) which I passed on, because the highlighter is quite similar to the one from Stroked, so I couldn't justify owning both blush duos. The blush in Softcore is also darker and berry-toned, so if you typically gravitate towards such a color family of blushers, you might fancy Softcore over Stroked.

All in all, another winner of a collection from Tom Ford. My picks would have to obviously be the quad and Stroked blush/highlight duo, but then again, I'm partial to my brown eyeshadows and peachy-coral blushers. He also released two lipsticks, Negligee and Twist of Fate, a polish in Black Cherry, and an extreme mascara in Mocha Rush -- all limited edition -- along with this collection that might pique your interest if you are in the market for something other than an eyeshadow palette or cheek products.
Friday, August 22, 2014

Jill Stuart Velvet Crystal Eyes 01 Nudy Venus

There was a time when I felt the need to own every single Jill Stuart quad she has ever released. Now that I'm older (and, hopefully, wiser), I find it an impractical goal. I can't pull off shadows chock full of glitter on a daily basis, and her shadows are known to pack quite the shimmer and glitter particles, while still being slightly on the sheer side at times. Don't get me wrong, they're still gorgeous and perfect for nights out -- not so much for an everyday conservative work place.

That said, Jill Stuart recently launched a Velvet Crystal Eyes line, which is such a nice departure from her former Jewel Crystal Eyes and Illuminance Eyes quads. The shadows are more pigmented (compared to other Japanese eyeshadows) and just overall smoother in texture. The best part of it all? She's finally incorporated satin finish shadows in the midst of shimmery shades in these, as opposed to her older quads, where all four shades contained glitter. It's still difficult to achieve a full look look with the current layout, methinks, but it's doable if need be.

Wanting to play it safe, I stuck to my comfort zone of neutrals and opted for 01 Nudy Venus. The colors are straightforward with one satin brow bone highlight/all over base shade, two shimmery lid shade options, and one shimmery shade perfect for lining or the outer-V. The eye looks one can come up with with this palette alone is limited, but it has all the shades I need for an everyday, quick, and fuss-free look. I previously used the included applicators to apply the shadows as they ran more sheerly, but with the new formula, the applicators are rather useless.

(From top to bottom):
-Shade 1: Shimmery dark chocolate brown with a handful of glitter particles that do not translate when applied
-Shade 2: Shimmery, metallic beige-champagne that is probably the smoothest shade of the four
-Shade 3: Shimmery, slightly metallic pink-champagne
-Shade 4: Satin ivory white that -- more or less -- disappears on my NC20ish skin

With the new quads come a couple of changes. The first and most noticeable is the design of the palette. I personally find it more simple in design, though bulkier and certainly heavier than her other quads. Now, Jill Stuart listed her new quad as containing 8 grams of product, as opposed to the former 6 grams. The size of the pans look the same to me, and the new palettes seem to actually contain less product to me, so I'm not sure where exactly the weight discrepancy comes from.

Quality and performance-wise, I'm happy to say that these stack up to Jill Stuart's past offerings. With primer, these stay put for at least a good ten hours. Without primer, I suspect they still run on the sheer side. The shadows themselves do have the traditional floral scent that is common in her products, so do make note of that if you are one who are sensitive to fragrances (in eyeshadows, especially.)

I couldn't be any happier with the launch of the Velvet Crystal Eyes line, and I do intend on picking up her limited edition palettes, as the color schemes are more unique than the current permanent range. The price of a palette ranges anywhere from $55-$70, depending on the website you order from.
Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cle De Peau Eye Color Quad in #305 Satin Moon

Cle De Peau's newly reformulated line of eyeshadow quads has got to be one of the most highly anticipated launches for fall 2014. I mean, how could it not be? Just look at those shades!

CDP released eight palettes that will be part of the permanent range to replace the former quads, and I couldn't be any happier. The older quads, while creamy in texture, was a bit ho hum in the color selections. None of the color combinations really called out to me, and the shadows themselves were more on the sheer side as well.

The new formula, however, is amazing -- to say the least. The quads, dare I say, easily rival Tom Ford's quads. Yes, you read that right. Tom Ford shadows translate much, much better on the eyes than they swatch at times. These CDP shadows swatch beautifully and they wear just as nicely. In terms of texture, I do find them smoother than some of TF's shadows. However, they both blend effortlessly and with great lasting power -- easily 10 hours with no fading nor creasing when applied over eyeshadow primer!

From the eight new quads, #305 Satin Moon was the one that really caught my attention. "Satin Moon" is a bit of a misnomer if you ask me, because all of the shades are anything but satin in finish. In fact, all four shades are shimmery in nature.

I cannot fault this palette in any way. If I were to nitpick, I'd say that Shade 4 is a bit on the drier side. It's also the only shade that's chock full of noticeable (yet finely finely milled) multi-colored glitter. Shades 1-3, however, are just phenomenal -- a dream to work with! I cannot say that the other quads are of the same caliber, as I didn't get the chance to swatch all eight of them, but the ones I did swatch, I loved. In fact, #303 Baby Universe is conveniently sitting in my cart as we speak.

My biggest gripe with CDP (and the main reason why I don't own any other CDP products aside from this quad) is that the palette ($55) and the compact ($25) are sold separately. It's a concept I could never fully wrap my head around, aside from profit-making from the company's standpoint. The refill might fit inside a Z-palette, but if you're already taking the CDP route, you might as well go all the way and just bite the bullet on an empty compact. That said, the older compacts are not compatible with these new quads.

I'm one of those folks who likes to use all of the colors in a palette for eye looks. To be honest, this palette is not complete on its own. It lacks a matte transition color and a solid brow bone highlight. However, for the sake of this review and my wanting to incorporate all four shades in one look, this is my favorite way to wear this palette. To make it more cohesive, I did reach for two additional Urban Decay shadows (both of which are easily dupable.)
  • Urban Decay Skimp as brow bone highlight (Any preferred highlight shade will do.)
  • Benefit B-day suit as a base all over the lid (optional)
  • Shade 1 on the inner 1/3 of upper lid and inner corner
  • Shade 2 on the outer 2/3 of upper lid
  • Shade 4 on the outer V and along the top lash line
  • Urban Decay Naked in the crease (MAC Kid or Wedge are good alternatives)
  • Shade 3 along the bottom lash line
  • Too Faced Perfect Eyes black liner to tightline
  • Givenchy Noir Couture Waterproof mascara on top and bottom lashes
 There's bound to be a quad for everyone with Cle De Peau's fall line-up. It will be hard resisting all the gorgeous color schemes, but thankfully, these are not limited edition. It's just a matter of time, really.

All eight quads are now available everywhere Cle De Peau color cosmetics is sold. I strongly suggest running to your closest counter for a swatch-fest. You can thank me later when you come home with a quad or two, although I'm not responsible for your thinning wallet.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Les Merveilleuses Laduree
Face Color Rose Laduree 02

If I could own every single product ever released from one Japanese brand, it would have to be from the brand Laduree. It goes without saying that they know packaging -- very well at that! Along with fancy packaging, sometimes, comes compromised quality, but I must say that Laduree shines in the quality department too.

I had been lusting over the famous rose petal blushers for as long as I can remember, but being from the states, the full set (blush and pot) runs anywhere from $136 to $170 -- depending on whether or not there's a sale going on. Still, it's a price that I can't stomach, so I couldn't be more grateful to have received this as an early birthday gift all the way from France!

Laduree had released many limited edition colors of these blushers, but I stuck to one of the three colors from the permanent range: 02 (brighter warm pink.) 01 is a lighter baby pink, which I know will barely show up on my NC25-NC30 skin tone, whereas 03 is a warm brown -- I couldn't think of anything less attractive than brown rose petals sitting on my vanity.

The blush is a DIY in of itself. The rose petals/blush itself comes in a refill form in a plastic case and wrapped in a silk drawstring bag. The plastic pot with the Marie Antoinette-ish locket must be purchased separately. Laduree advised to only transfer half of the petals into the pot, but let's face it, ain't nobody got time for that. Besides, I like seeing my pot filled to the brim with petals than seeing it half empty.

What exactly are these petals? In short, they are blush-coated sheets of paper, which had been cut in the shape of flower petals. Now why didn't I think of that? Some petals have pale yellow to yellow centers which give the blusher the glowy and slightly highlighted effect. It is next to impossible to solely pick up said center shade to use strictly as a highlighter though; I've tried on many occasions only to give up in frustration each time.

Delicate? Indeed! However, I was surprised to see that it is very easy to pick up product with a natural-haired brush with just a few swipes across the petals. Laduree specifically designed a goat-haired, plastic handled cheek brush to use with this product, but I wasn't in the market for another $100+ brush.

Instead, I found that my Kose Addiction Natural Veil brush works just as well in grabbing the right amount of pigment, as you can see from the product on the bristles. Again, any natural hair, pointed, densely packed bristles of a brush in your collection will do, since the pigment isn't pressed too tightly onto the petals.

On my cheeks, it gives a healthy subtle warm pink glow. I can continue to build the color intensity to give a more flushed look if I really wanted to, but I prefer my blush to be on the more subtle side. 02 is a shade I can see light to medium (and possibly tan) folks wearing as a blush. Any darker, and the color may not show up too much.

I have worn the blusher for more than twelve hours before, and the color held up quite nicely in the humidity without any signs of oxidation nor fading! That alone has me looking into the other rose petals that Laduree offers. Ehm... the mini versions of the blushers, that is. The petals also have the distinct Laduree scent, which I can only describe as a "mature woman" scent: think powder meets floral (rose.) If you are sensitive to heavily fragranced products, do note that the scent lingers longer than usual on the cheeks. In fact, I can still detect it after I had removed the swatch from my hand!

The question that many are probably wondering is whether or not the product itself warrants the exorbitant price tag. It all depends really. If you want a blush that performs just as beautifully as it looks sitting on the vanity, then yes, you do need one of these blushers in your life. If you are one who could care less about the aesthetics, then no, this is not a must-have, as you will find other blushers that are just as good of a quality. In fact, this shade is easily dupable, in my humble opinion.

The prices of these blushers are over-inflated here in the states, and often times, the sites that do carry them (such as Imomoko) usually have limited stock. Thus, I highly suggest checking out Ichibankao, Mihokoshop, and BeautiesHK instead if you want to snatch one of these beauties without having to pay the marked up prices.