Essie Master Plan swatches, review, photos | Grey nails for grey days

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Essie Master Plan review swatches

The product: Essie Nail Polish in 779 Master Plan 

You guys, I am so bad with Essie polishes. This is my — fourth? fifth? and I keep going back to the brand, because they have the most divine colour range, and everyone speaks so highly of them, and I just–

Good lord, I cannot apply them to save my life.

Essie Master Plan swatches review - grey creme polish

Essie Master Plan swatches — two (thick) coats, no topcoat

The formula and application: Maybe I’m just lacking in skill, but I can never make an Essie polish go flat on my nails. Their smelly but 3-free formula is always too thick, too lumpy, and ends up sort of mottled and streaked.

The only two brands I’ve ever had this problem with are Essie and Clinique, both of which are loved by so many others whose opinions I trust, and I just don’t get it. I think it may actually be a brush problem, not a formula one (I much prefer thin, wide brushes), but either way — I’d prefer almost any ‘ol brand, even a drugstore brand, for a flawless, even nail.

(Sorry, Essie lovers. Want to share your tips & tricks with me?)

Essie Master Plan swatches review

The colour: Described by the brand as a mischievous soft greythere isn’t really anything, uh, mischievous about Master Plan. That said, it is certainly a soft grey (darker and less of a yellow-beige than stock photos would have you believe), and it’s rather understated. It features a cream finish, and there’s something a little bit utilitarian about it — it’s more cement-grey than putty grey, and has just the right balance of blue and green.

Master Plan reminds me of those art erasers that all of the art students had back in high school — the mouldable ones. It grabbed me far less than I had expected it to, but for those who can really pull off greys, this is a wonderfully basic one. It’s hard to create a shade that’s just-so, but Essie do it beautifully with Master Planit’s grey; no more, no less. 

Essie review Master Plan

Essie Master Plan swatched on awkward, dry, stubby fingers

The verdict?

Master Plan was a dud for me, as you can (maybe?) see in these swatches, but I think it could be really great if you know how to work an Essie polish. It’s as basic a grey as you can get – not too warm, not too cool, and not marred by any shimmer.

For those who pull off industrial-chic really well, this one is definitely worth a look. And do me a favour, if that’s you, my dear Essie fan, please hit me up in the comments thread with your tips & tricks for getting their polishes to apply smoothly!

Availability: The Essie range is available at drugstores, beauty supply stores, and online. In Canada, I know for sure that you can find them at Shopper’s Drug Mart, though I believe the selection is often seasonal.

This bottle was submitted for review by Beauty Stop Online, who have been incredibly understanding about how long it’s taken me to get this post up. Master Plan is available on their site here for $5.99.

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Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair review, photos | The one winter lip balm you absolutely need to own

Monday, January 20, 2014

Osmia Organics Lip Repair review comparison Honey-Myrrh

The product: Osmia Organics Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair

Have you met Osmia Organics yet? Until very late last year, I hadn’t — and I wasn’t all that interested in the line. Sure, their packaging was pretty, and everyone else seemed to love them, but niche organic lines seem to be a dime a dozen these days. What’s one from the next one, right?

Wrong. Their range is relatively small, but everything is such a joy to use: naturally-fragranced, packaged in the most beautiful, basic glassware, and run by a small business owner in a mind-blowingly idyllic, dreamy, snowy Colorado nook. I’m a convert, you guys — and this lip balm is a big reason why.

Editor’s note: Win this (and a few of my other Osmia favourites) here!

All natural lip balm review Osmia Organics

Osmia Organics lip balm review natural

Osmia Organics Honey Myrrh Lip Repair review – unbroken surface

The formula: Osmia makes sure to note that this “Lip Repair” isn’t quite the same as your standard lip balm. Formulated with organic manuka honey, myrrh extract, and lanolin, it’s designed to heal dry and cracked lips in a matter of days.

The surface of your new balm needs to be “broken” with the tip of your finger or the back of your fingernail before use (it forms a stiff layer after being poured and cooled, but no product needs to be removed or wasted), which I think is just the coolest thing — as a lip balm addict, anything new and different is always interesting to try. Once broken, the balm is much softer and more emollient, working easily into the lips and forming a comforting layer.

Osmia Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair Review

Osmia Organics Honey Myrrh Lip Repair review – broken/cracked surface

The wear: The Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair isn’t lipgloss-sticky, but it sticks around. While drugstore lip balms like Maybelline Baby Lips & Labello/Nivea have me reaching to re-apply every hour (minimally), Osmia’s Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair lasts from meal to meal, and wears well overnight. Yes, you can really feel it on your lips (it’s a lot tackier than a a tube of Chapstick), but honestly?

For lads & ladies with dry lips, you want your lip balm to stick — that’s what makes it great.

The (impressively short and natural) ingredients list:

Castor Bean Oil, Beeswax, Cupuacu Butter, Lanolin, Manuka Honey, Tamanu Oil, Gmo-Free Vitamine E Oil, Wild Myrrh Co2, and Bergamot FCF Essential Oil.

Osmia Organics review - Honey Myrrh Lip Repair balm

But does it work?: In one, short, succinct word, yes.

While not quite as effective for my lips as Bobbi Brown’s Lip Balm SPF 15 (my go-to overnight lip hydrator and healer), Osmia’s Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair comes a very close second. It wears just a fraction shorter and doesn’t prime lips in the same way, but I think a lot of people will be more comfortable with Osmia’s version. It’s a little less sticky and much more natural, carrying a strong herby/natural scent rather than a strong synthetic one. I love my Bobbi Brown lip balm, but it feels like slapping a chemical salve on my lips — not exactly pleasant.

Of all of the lip balms I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a lot), this is my second favourite, falling very close behind the first. It is hands-down the best natural option, and works wonders on very dry, cracked lips! 

Osmia Organics review - Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair

The verdict?

If you’re on the market for a new lip balm, please give Osmia’s a try. It’s a little pricy at $22 USD, but it hydrates and nourishes the lips quickly and beautifully, touting an ingredients list so clean that it’s well worth the cost.

Don’t get me wrong: I wear a ton of non-organic, non-natural products on my lips, but it just feels kind of weird to be doing it overnight. Like, where do nighttime lip balms go? You’re not wiping them off before dinner, but they’re almost always gone by the morning — are they all over your pillowcases? Did they seep into your skin while you slept? Did you eat them by accident while dreaming about cake?

Osmia’s Honey-Myrrh Lip Repair won’t disappear in the dead of night like some sketchy one-night stand, and the most frightening thing in it comes from sheep. I wish it was less strongly scented, but aside from that? Colour me impressed.

Availability: $22 USD/0.28 oz at Osmia Organics. International shipping available!

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Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio review, swatches, photos | A quick, easy, last-minute gift idea

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fresh Sugar lip balm review

The product: Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio

   ↳ Sugar Petal, Sugar Honey, and Sugar Cherry Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

Okay, so: it’s the week before Christmas and you:

a) Get a last-minute invite to a holiday girl’s-night-slash-secret-santa gift exchange,

b) Find out that your distant cousin, twice removed, is going to be at your parents’ this year (and you need a gift for her),

c) Realize that your sister’s gift, while pretty cool, could use an extra dose of awesome.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment review

In any of these scenarios, I’m going to go right ahead and recommend that you snag a Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio from Sephora on your way to… wherever it is you’re headed. I’m a sucker for a Fresh lip balm, so this trio of three minis (which comes in a super-easy-to-wrap box) is a pretty no-fail gift idea, as far as I’m concerned.

The shades: The Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio contains Sugar Petal, a neutral-pink with a touch of brown, Sugar Honey, a medium-nude with a hint of red (for warmth), and Sugar Cherry, an absolutely gorgeous sheer red. The first two are nice, but Sugar Cherry gives the lips a really lovely, natural-looking, “just bitten” effect — perfect for the winter.

Fresh Sugar Petal lip balm review swatches

Fresh Sugar Petal Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

Fresh Sugar Honey lip balm review swatches

Fresh Sugar Honey Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

Fresh Sugar Cherry lip balm review swatches

Fresh Sugar Cherry Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15

The Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 formula: The first thing to note about the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments is that, while they have a fairly moisturizing formula, they’re very soft and slippery. It makes the balms comfortable, but also prone to sliding around on your lips & smooshing during application.

Despite being formulated with hydrating oils like meadowfoam seed oil, avocado oil, and jojoba, these aren’t the best choice for an actual “lip treatment” (as opposed to a tinted balm). They’re hydrating while worn, but need to be reapplied every two hours or sooner, making them a good choice for daytime wear but not a great one for overnight. The Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment formula has a nice, lemony-sweet scent — sugary without being overpowering and just citrusy enough.

Fresh Sugar Cherry review photos swatches

The tint: Because of the slippery formula, these balms need a minute to sink in. Once they do, however, the colour stops sliding around on my lips, and acts more like a balm with a very light stain. I’ve tried four shades of this balm (Honey, Cherry, and Petal, all featured here, as well as Rose), and all of them deliver exactly the amount of pigment I’d want from a tinted lip balm — more than a Clinique Chubby Stick, less than a lipstick, and definitely enough to give my lips some really natural-looking colour. 

The packaging: Mini sizes of products usually lose out when it comes to packaging, but the great thing about Fresh lip balms is that they don’t. Just as solid, luxe, and well-made as the full-sized versions, mini Fresh Sugar lip balms feature the same coated-metal tube & twist-closure bottom as their full-sized counterparts.

Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio review swatches

The verdict?

I have a no-longer-secret soft spot for Fresh Sugar lip balms, and I think that this set is a worthwhile indulgence. No one needs a 20-something dollar lip balm, but the Sugar lip balms are a really nice treat. The scent is close to lemony biscuits and far from lemon cleaner, and the light tints really do do a great job of adding colour without making it obvious that you’re wearing makeup.

To note, these mini lip balms are 0.08 oz, the same size as last year’s BI birthday gifts. Buying just one full-sized tube is a little cheaper (in listed price, not cost per ounce), but I actually prefer these small(ish) tubes – they’re perfect for throwing into your handbag, and three shades is always more fun than one!

Availability: $28 USD/$32 CAD for the Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Trio (3 x 0.08 oz), or $22.50 USD/$26 CAD for a full-sized tube (0.15 oz).

Additional photos & ingredients »

Osmia Organics Juniper Fire Perfume Concentrate review, photos | Winter woodlands in a bottle

Monday, December 16, 2013

Osmia Organics Juniper Fire review

The product: Osmia Organics Juniper Fire Perfume Concentrate

2013 is turning out to be a great year for smoky scents. Between finding love in both Juniper Fire and Illume’s Woodfire candle, I’ve spent almost all of this month surrounded in deep, outdoorsy scents — and I couldn’t be more smitten with them.

Osmia’s perfumes are, perhaps, the most perfect portrayal of natural perfumery. The way Dr. Sarah Villafranco talks about her fragrances is so personal – each scent has a story, and each is made by hand in small batches. Blum, for instance, “may be a limited run, depending on [her] ability to procure more of the amazing honeysuckle absolute,” while Prima (“inspired by the smell of the dark, rich soil as it emerges from under the Colorado snow in the early spring,”) is blended with saffron oil that swirls its way into the fragrance like ink.

Osmia Juniper Fire perfume concentrate review Osmia Organics review

Juniper Fire is no exception to this rule. It was Sarah’s first perfume, and smells like an evergreen forest in the calm of winter. Beneath that, though, there is an undeniable warmth – almost as if you’re walking through these beautiful old trees, as tall as skyscrapers, but you can’t feel the chill at all.

A tribute to Sarah’s beloved Colorado, and created “after stepping outside our house on a breathlessly cold, blue-sky day with a fire burning in the fireplace,” she describes it as:

“Sweet, crisp, and comforting – somehow both chilly and incredibly warm.  A vanilla and sandalwood base with a hint of smoke, and the deeply wholesome smells of juniper and cedar – it’s like getting embraced by the mountains.”

Natural perfume review - Osmia Organics Juniper Fire

To me, Juniper Fire opens a little medicinal — but it’s not the kind of medicinal you’d find in a bottle of cold medicine. There’s this old Chinese remedy that my grandmother used to keep under the bathroom sink; a brown-coloured fluid in a red box that was meant to numb and heal bruises and sprains. A tincture of evergreen resin, safflower, and ginseng, it stained horribly, but she swore it took the pain away. Juniper Fire reminds me, at first, of that.

Past the first few minutes, though, Juniper Fire settles into something much more woodsy and close to the skin. It looses its medicinal edge and plummets straight for sexy — clean and unisex, but not department store unisex, you know? It’s sexless and genderless; a quiet, crackling campfire in the woods. 

The one thing about Juniper Fire that makes my heart break, however, is its longevity: a mere five hours, on my skin. That said, the scent is entirely unique, and only gets better with time: I merely like it for the first hour, but by the time I reach the third, my nose is literally pushed up to my skin. It’s beautiful – absolutely like nothing else you’ll ever find indoors. 

Osmia Organics perfume concentrate review Juniper Fire

Cedar Smoke, a similar Osmia scent, is no less gorgeous. It’s more subtle than Juniper Fire, and a little softer — though it does open with a touch of a (different) almost-medicinal note, just for a minute or two. Its cedar base leaves it smelling vaguely like a really sexy, dry sauna, and I would actually like it more than Juniper Fire if it packed a bigger punch. Osmia is very clear about the fact that their scents have only a 2-5 hour lifespan on the skin, and Cedar Smoke sits firmly at the two-hour end of that spectrum.

Cedar Smoke is more comforting than Juniper Fire, while Juniper Fire is more unique. I think anyone who loved one would at the very least like the other, but they are different enough that you need to sample both and pick your favourite!

Juniper Fire is a perfume concentrate, $150/0.48 oz in organic grape alcohol. Cedar Smoke is a perfume oil, $75/0.28 oz in organic jojoba and fractionated coconut oils. Both are packaged in glass with rollerball applicators.

Osmia Organics perfume concentrate review

The verdict?

I’m always hesitant to recommend products that come at a price like this, but in this case — I can’t not. Juniper Fire is beautifully composed: equally fitting on both men and women, it’s sexy in a very, very understated, down-to-earth way. To put it succinctly, Juniper Fire is the kind of winter scent that you’d never be able to find in a department store, and it’s all the better for it.

Like a breath of air in a snowy forest, it’s crisp, smokey, and wonderfully singular. At $150 USD, I’d really have liked to see better tenacity and sillage, but some ingredients (ingredients like cedar wood, pine needle, or juniper essential oils) just don’t have that — and I get it, I do. You can’t bend the boundaries of science, and Osmia is very upfront about their scents’ 2-5 hour, low-sillage wear.

For most of us, natural perfumes may seem overpriced: but if you have someone in your life who loves scents but can’t wear synthetic compounds (my sister, for instance, gets really pervasive headaches around them), or you’re trying to detox your personal care regimen, then they’re more than a worthwhile indulgence. 

Available: $150 USD/0.48 oz roll-on concentrate at Osmia Organics, or $2 for a sample (0.06 oz). International shipping available!

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Clarins Forest Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review, swatches, photos | Clarins Graphic Expression, Fall 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review

The products: Clarins Ombre Minérale 4 Couleurs (Eye Quartet Mineral Palette Long-Lasting) in 11 Forest

Like the Clarins Graphic Expression Face & Blush Palette reviewed earlier this week, the Forest eyeshadow quad launched in Clarins’ Graphic Expression Fall 2013 colour collection. A new addition to the permanent range, it’s a little less gift-able than the powder, but no less lovely.

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet swatches review

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet

The formula, texture, and pigmentation: Introduced this August into Clarins’ permanent range, Forest is a beautifully earthy quad. As a sheer eyeshadow/mixed textures lover, I’ve always been a big fan of the Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palettes, though they’re not for everyone.

Like the other products in the Eye Quartet range, Forest features three hard-but-smooth eyeshadows that lend very well to seamless blending and medium-intensity looks, while layering well over primer or foiling works well to add colour density. I find the shades to be a little butterier and more pigmented than some of the other Clarins quads (the darkest shade in particular), and love that they all have a different finish.

Clarins Forest Eye Quartet review

Clarins Forest, Graphic Expression swatches review

Swatched L-R: Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette in Forest (4), Clarins Face & Blush Powder in Graphic Expression (wide)

The shades: In the top row Forest features a really interesting, almost dirty khaki with a bit of very fine microshimmer and a very sheer, white-and-gold shimmer (tiny yellow-gold microshimmer and slightly larger white reflects suspended in a transparent base). On the bottom, it features a green-based charcoal with noticeable gold shimmer (it looks black in the pan, but swatches on dry skin as a medium-sheer matte with a greenish cast and gold shimmer interspersed throughout) and a very pretty neutral-brown taupe (frost).

The finishes of this quad, like all Clarins quads, are what really sell me on it: a satin, a glitter, a matte-with-microshimmer, and a frost. Worn together, the textures of the Eye Quartet Mineral Palettes give any natural, demure eye look a really intriguing edge.

Clarins Forest swatches Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review

Swatched L-R: Clarins Eye Quartet in Forest, Clarins Face & Blush Powder in Graphic Expression

Overall, this quad has a warm green vibe to it — something you don’t see a lot of. I think it would be especially lovely on warm olive tones, but it would work really well on beige and neutral skintones, too. It looks a little bit “off” on me (which eyeshadows very rarely do), so I’d say that the only colouring this quad wouldn’t shine on would be cool olive ones (cool pink overtones and light olive undertones).

Clarins Forest eye quartet swatches

Swatched L-R: Clarins Eye Quartet in Forest, Clarins Face & Blush Powder in Graphic Expression

Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette review swatches Forest

The Face & Blush Palette and Eye Quartet Mineral Palette (Ombre Minérale 4 Couleurs) packaging

The verdict?

The Forest quad doesn’t get quite as much of a gold star from me as the Graphic Expression blush/powder, but it’s a very pretty product, too: the same beautiful-but-lightweight gold Clarins packaging, with four wonderful mix-and-match eyeshadow finishes inside.

Forest is a little more pigmented than other Clarins quads, and is a must-have for anyone who wears khakis really well. Unfortunately, that’s one of the few colours that doesn’t work very well at all on my skintone (I photographed a look with it but had to scrap it), but I think it would look like a dream on my sister’s warmer, more olive-toned skin — to each her own, really.

Availability: $42 USD/$42 CAD, and is a new addition to the permanent range.

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