Saturday, 7 September 2013

Makeup removal love affairs and FRUXURY

So I spend a lot of time talking about makeup application so I think it's only fair to take a brief interval to talk about its removal.

As far as I'm concerned a good makeup remover should be mild enough that I can get it literally in my eye with only very, very minimal stinging if at all, yet with enough punch to obliterate waterproof mascara and liner in one or two wipes without tugging at or removing any of my lashes.

My first initial favourite was Johnson's makeup remover wipes (which I've been using since pubescence), I've used all the different skin types at some point (normal, sensitive, combination, dry, oily) and apart from smell I don't notice a difference - they all work really well. I haven't ever found another wipe or highstreet/drugstore makeup removal product that is as gentle and effective, and I've tried most of the major brands.

Stock photo a la Google
Inexpensive up front cost (£3 for 25 wipes) and there are often 3-for-2 etc deals in store
Easily portable

Packaging allows wipes to dry out after a few weeks
Wipes are too big - it's uneconomical

They way I use these bad boys is I cut open the original packaging and cut the wipes into half then transfer them into an airtight tupperware. Boom, just solved my two cons in under 5 minutes!

Tupperware, the most glamorous of cosmetic accessories 

My second and all time love affair is the combination of Bioderma's Sensibo H2O and Shesheido's cotton pads. Holy crap the luxury! The combination is indescribably soft and gentle, yet incredibly effective. I actually not only enjoy taking off my makeup but even look forward to it - it's like I'm smothering my face in (super hygienic) fairy puppy kisses, or having a fancy facial - whatever imagery is more appealing to you. I'm going to stop talking about how amazing it feels because my obvious crush on these products is frankly rather embarrassing.

Another great thing about Sensibo is the skin benefits - not only will it not break you out or irritate anything, I swear it actually makes my skin nicer - softer and so fresh, never sticky or tight.


High upfront cost
Not easily portable

Muji and Boots 50ml bottles

But hold on to those cons - I'm about to blow your mind! Buy a 50/100ml screw top bottle from Boots/Muji (I can vouch for their quality) and decant the Sensibo! What?! So the only con left is the price? Let's get our maths knickers on then:

  • Johnson wipes are £3 for 25 wipes, coming to 12p per wipe/use (or 6p if you're super frugal like me)
  • Sheshido cotton is £4 (I bought mine in Asia - international prices may vary) for 165 pads, coming to 2.4p per wipe! Suck it Johnson!
  • Bioderma Sensibo is £16 for a huge 500ml bottle (again, purchased in Asia) - this takes me over a year to finish but let's assume a conservative 365 days, coming to 4.4p per use! Suck it again Johnson!

Therefore if you use a full facial wipe every time you take off your makeup (12p per use) you're actually being wildly extravagant compared to using the top of the range ultimate luxury Bioderma and Sheshido products (6.6p per use) which is almost half the price (45% cheaper) per use! And even if you're super frugal with your wipes like me it's still  26.7% (1.6p) more expensive per use!

I am such a huge advocate of quality and investing in good products, so it makes me feel so happy and smug to be numerically vindicated like this. It is both frugal and luxurious - from now on to be know as FRUXURIOUS!

Hang tight for more fruxury,

Saskia X

Lip Tar Custom Mixes: Preliminary Adventures

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics make a liquid lipstick called Lip Tar - you paint it on as the thinnest possible layer (about a bead half the size of a pin head) with an included brush, it then dries to a demi-matte finish. It's amazingly pigmented, long wearing and comfortable to boot.

I currently own 10 of them - 7 traditional(ish) lip colours I love and 4 mixing colours:

Vintage, NSFW, Strumpet, Nylon, Hoochie, Lydia, Interlace, Tarred, Rx, Traffic, Feathered

I finally have the time in my life (thanks to being partially crippled due to recent knee surgery) to play creative artist with all my new colours (below are A TON of photos - proceed with caution).

Here's the method I use to apply them:
  • Moisturise with lip balm and let it sink in for a couple of minutes
  • Wipe off the excess lip balm with a tissue paper
  • Apply the thinnest possible layer to give a wash of colour and create the lip shape
  • Top up to full opacity with another tiny bit of Tar

That will give you a true to Tar colour which is cleanly and easily shaped and doesn't smudge or feather. To then mix an on-the-mouth colour (as opposed to mixing it on a tray/pot) dab on the least possible amount of your second colour and blend out. If you're trying to add a lighter colour over a darker colour (eg red over blue) remember to blot off the excess dark colour first or you'll have to add too much of the lighter colour thus ending up with a gloopy mouth and wasted product.

So without further adu check out my absurdly colourful mouth:

Bare lips
Two coats of Traffic - you can see it's pretty patchy and not as pigment dense as the others
Tried to get graphic and creative: looked like a mouth-flag
Blended it out
You can really see the texture difference between pure traffic and with Rx blended in
Fully blended out and matching my eyes!
Added more Rx, sad green lipstick doesn't suit me as well as I dreamed it would
You can really see the much smoother texture here
Blotted and added Feathered to get a mint green; quick comparison to Lime Crime's Mint To Be (I wasn't trying to colour match here)
Started a fresh with NSFW which is easily the most beautiful true red I have ever seen - neither orange nor too cool.
I originally bought it for mixing as a primary red, but will now definitely wear it alone.
Magical, majestic, magnificent... I'll stop now. It's just perfect
This is where I start getting bored with my regular facial expression
Created an ombre with Tarred but sadly the consistency was even worse than Traffic
Darkened it more - there's a ton of feathering with Tarred and it's really liquid-y, thus sadly this would not be long wearing orpractical to wear out
Blended it together
Added some Rx
Back to bare lips - a reminder of our canvas' original colour
Rx - the pigmentation and consistency was lovely just like NSFW

Added some NSFW and gave up trying to make a cheerfully neutral facial expression
Blotted, added Feathered
Blotted again, more Feathered
Ok so here you can see an issue I ran into: Rx stained my lips badly, making it impossible to get a true purple.
If you're going to be using Rx in a mix always use it second for on the mouth blending as none of the other colours really stain
Stained lips after about half a dozen scrubs with makeup remover
Attempted to roll with it and add Feathered and NSFW on top of the staining
You can still see the staining causing an inconsistent colour and texture. My custom purple/violet/lilac/lavender  dreams did not come true today, but I will try again soon with NSFW as the base colour
I pretty much had to shed 3 layers of skin to get them back to their (almost) original colour
Feathered. Yes, I am so pale I can colour and blend outside of the lines with a pure white lipstick
Unexpected downside: my pearly whites no longer look pearly white!
Im so bored at this point I barely bothered to blend and pose
Feathered and NSFW
After disappointment with the purples this NSFW+Feathered mix really made my night, somehow this photo doesn't do it justice
Not a custom mix but I wanted to wear purple out for cocktails so settled for plain Hoochie

Obviously this isn't anywhere close to the full creative and colourful potential of my Lip Tars (I've got my heart set on a sunset ombre like my Sugarpill eyeshadow look) but it's a great jumping off point. I'll definitely be revisiting this theme/project with both conventional (reds, pinks, corals, purples?) and off the wall colours and combinations.

Also, shout out to Cocktail Cosmetics for being an amazing UK distributor of Lip Tars (and Sugarpill and Lime Crime) - the owner Julie Burford gave me pretty much the best customer service I've ever encountered and my orders arrived amazingly fast and beautifully packaged.

Saskia X

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Essential Eyeshadow Brushes 2: The Collection

If you read my last post you'll have some background about the products I'm about to recommend and why, but if not don't worry!

So you want to do fabulous eyeshadow looks right? Well here're the tools I'd recommend based on what you want:

I want one eyeshadow brush that I can do it all (almost) with!

On a budget?

Get the Real Techniques eye shading brush:

Great quality (soft, no shedding)
Great for both packing on shadow and blending
Synthetic bristles (for you vegans)
Smaller head for precision/smaller lid space
Can handle some abuse without the bristles deforming (perfect for on-the-go)

Too small for a quick 'all over lid' sweep coverage
Not great for use with cream eyeshadow

Overall verdict:
The superman of the brush world, better suited for getting your crease perfect than giving a smooth wash of all over colour. Great for a no-frills intermediate look, I love that I don't feel the need to baby it so it gets a lot more use. I often do full looks with just this brush. Buy it, you'll love it, and if you don't send it to me and I'll send some love right back.

Want a treat or are you building the below collection?

Get a Mac 239

Baby soft
Amazing quality - sources say these babies can last 10+ years
Packs on colour like nobody's business
Great for a simple sweep of all over colour
Looks classy as F
You're one brush into the perfect 3 brush set!

Natural bristles (sorry goat advocates/vegans)
A tad pricey
Doesn't handle precision particularly well as the head is rather large
White bristles stain easily (although this could be a pro for telling you when it needs a wash)

Mac runner up: 217

I know a lot of people would choose this as their 'one' brush but I find it far to imprecise for anything other than a general colour wash or blending.

I want a core collection I can conquer the eyeshadow world with!

Mac 239, 217 and 219 (purchased in that order if you're on a budget)

  • Use the 239 to pack or sweep colour onto your lid
  • Use 217 to blend the edges into a soft gradient
  • Use 219 for precision detailing like lining and crease

These brushes all have the same overall pros and cons:

Baby soft
Fantastic quality
Looks classy as F
Amazing technical ability

Natural bristles (sorry goat advocates/vegans)
A tad pricey
White bristles stain easily (although this could be a pro for telling you when it needs a wash)
Bristle deformation (217 in particular has a tendency to splay out)

Minimal splaying, but this brush is only two weeks old and treated like a princess

And remember: wash your brushes often!

I wash powder product brushes once a week with a wipe down on tissue paper after every use (hence why my brushes are a little colourful - I do a weekend wash). Cream and liquid brushes get a wet wipe down after every use and a shampoo every other day. When I had acne I washed my foundation brush after every use to keep the inflammatory bacteria count down.

I recommend Johnson's baby shampoo as an effective but gentle cleanser (important for natural fibre brushes).

Saskia X

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Essential Eye Makeup Brushes 1: Quality and Brands

Let's talk about eyeshadow brushes shall we? I used to think the result was 90% in the product (eyeshadow) but have since learned that tools can actually take about 50% of the credit! So let's get our tools basics down:

Yup, it looks like I'm picking my nose; nope, my camera refused to not focus on my face

I love good quality products and will nearly always advocate quality over quantity, but sometimes you have to weigh quality vs cost - this is normally my largest internal debate "is it worth it?". Here's a brief overview of different 'levels' of brushes going by price using the market dominating brands as an example:

A cheap brush (ELF/store brand) is about £3-4, an inexpensive ('low end' doesn't seem fitting somehow) brush (EcoTools/Real Techniques) is double that at £6-8, a mid end (MAC/Sigma) brush is again about double its previous counter part at £16-18 and a high end brush (Hakuhodo) is double that again at £32++. The regularity of this pattern pleases me!

Elf < Ecotools < Real Techniques < Sigma < Mac < Hakuhodo

Anyway, disclaimer: I know nothing about super high end brushes - I have literally never touched a Hakuuhodo brush, so I'm just going to skip those. I do however have some experience in Bobbi Brown brushes which are in the awkward price range of between mid and high end, so I'm going to use those as my bench mark 'high' end brushes: they're awful. Bobbi Brown make awful overpriced brushes, I dislike them so much I can't even be bothered to go into more depth than: I have a full eye set (as a gift) that I've touched exactly once and a foundation brush that is put to shame in every way by its EcoTools counterpart. For shame Bobbi, for shame.

Crap quality AND overpriced

So where do I draw the line between quality and cost? It's a toss between 'low' and mid end - it's not hard to justify the small price jump between a cheap brush and an inexpensive one (just a single Starbucks coffee) and because cheap brushes are well, cheap and tacky quality I tend to skip those entirely. And then the jump between mid and high end brushes is frankly absurd to me - maybe I could justify it for one brush one time, but to build a collection at that price point is so far out of a budget I would consider reasonable at any point in my life.

So let's focus on EcoTools/Real Techniques vs Mac/Sigma:

ET and RT both make nice synthetic bristled brushes that are soft, aesthetically pleasing and never shed. Overall, whatever (eyeshadow) brushes you get from either brand will be nice, soft, good quality brushes but without fantastic technical and specified abilities.

Unwashed RT eye shading brush from the front and side

M.A.C. is a brand created and targeted to makeup artists (Makeup Artists Cosmetics duh) thus their brushes are obviously better quality and are handmade in Japan - reports of brushes lasting 10+ years are common - and much more specified, thus this is where you want to go when you're itching to advance from that basic smokey eye. Mac brushes are a mix between natural (animal hair) and synthetic bristles, with the type of hair (horse, goat, badger etc) varying by type of brush.

Also unwashed Mac 239, 217 and 219 brushes

Sigma doesn't boast professional quality like Mac or as high a price tag. They also used to be rather shameless about creating Mac copies (even using the same number naming system), however their brushes are very highly reviewed particularly their 12 piece synthetic sets (which I have my eye on for Christmas), I can't personally recommend them but if you're looking for a one stop face and eye brush set that's better than drugstore but maybe not professional level check them out.
Mrs. Bunny Essential Kit - photo from

So what eyeshadow brushes do I use and love? These ones:

Their grubbiness is evidence of their recent use

I'll dissect what their different uses are and the various pros and ons of each in my next brush post.

Saskia X