Five gift ideas for the woman who has it all | The Gift Guide

Friday, December 20, 2013

For the luxury skincare lover: MIYU Beauty Hydrate Mi Beauty Essence

Founded just this past year by fellow blogger Connie Tai, MIYU Beauty is a new Canadian brand that’s stealing hearts across the blogosphere. I’m having difficulties putting together a review of the line (I live in fear of the glycerine ratios in facial sprays, which do wonders for a few days but always seem to break me out after a week), but I can’t find a single bad thing to say about the aesthetic — or the people behind the brand.

Beautifully housed in luxe-but-lightweight packaging with Ladurée-inspired details, the MIYU facial spray serums (!) are innovation at its best. { buy }

For the green girl: Osmia Organics Sunset Body Oil

Osmia Organics is a company that I was introduced to pretty recently, but I’m completely smitten with their range. Run by a former emergency room doctor who found her calling in all-natural skincare, the entire Osmia line up is exquisitely packaged, all-natural, and beautifully formulated.

While perfumes and skincare can be hard to pick for someone else, though, Osmia’s body oils & soaps are a great way to gift a little luxury without the worry. Sunset, one of Dr. Sarah Villafranco’s newest creations, is a super-sexy (but not at all overpowering) jojoba-based blend that hydrates immediately with absolutely no oiliness left on the skin. { buy }

Osmia Organics Sunset body oil review

Osmia Organics Sunset Body Oil (2 oz)

For the best friend: Je Joue MiMi Soft

Here’s your not-so-fun science fact of the day: did you know that only 25% of women report frequently experiencing orgasms during intercourse? We live in a culture that’s so fixated on sex, and yet — from magazines (five surprising tips on how to please your man!) to porn, sex is all about male pleasure, not female.

In the sprit of the season, consider giving someone the gift of self-love. Let them know that, like leaving the house without your makeup, sex isn’t anything to be ashamed of. And if we get to indulge in a bit of high-end tech while on the road to sexual equality? All the better.

The Je Joue MiMi Soft is small, classy, and discreet, with a soft, comfortable silicone finish (the safest material a vibrator could possibly be made from), a fully waterproof body, and a rechargeable battery. And the charger, you guys. The charger is so cool. It magnetizes onto the up/down buttons and supplies the vibrator with power through science magic, and I won’t be told otherwise. { buy }

If you’d like to see a review for the Je Joue Mimi Soft, click here to count your vote anonymously!

PS: This vibe was sent in by SheVibe.com.

Unlike everything else in this post, the Mimi was sent in by a storefront, not a brand. SheVibe.com is an online store that’s a far cry from the stereotypical blacked-out-windows sex shop in the bad part of town — I chose to work with them specifically because their site features reviews, articles, message boards, and tons of original artwork.

Whether or not you’re looking to purchase a new toy this season, their comics and articles are definitely worth a look!

Annabelle Cherry swatch TwistUp Retractable Lipstick

Annabelle TwistUp in Cherry — from this post

For the lip lover: Annabelle Cosmetics TwistUp Retractable Lip Crayon in Naked or Cherry

These lip crayons may not feel super-luxe when you hold them, but oh my – do they ever pack a punch. With a lush, comfortable formula and way more pigment than any drugstore product has any right to have, Annabelle TwistUps are the perfect choice for a bit of luxury on a budget.

Naked is a stunning satin-matte nude that suits my skintone (and a surprising many others) just perfectly, while Cherry is a drop-dead-gorgeous opulent red. Neither have shimmer, and (excuse my French) are classy as hell on the lips. { buy | review | swatches | win one! }

For the luxury makeup lover: Make Up For Ever Artisan Brushes 

I know I usually put my beloved Cozzette brushes in gift guides, and don’t get me wrong — I still love them. But while the Artisan brush range is just as soft, cruelty-free, and well-made as Cozzette’s S range, Make Up For Ever’s new brushes come with sleek, wood-finish handles and dark metal ferrules that Cozzette’s range just doesn’t have.

I can’t speak for all of Make Up For Ever’s brushes, but the #150 Angled Cheek Brush, #174 Small Concealer Brush, and #304 Lip Brush all get my seal of approval. And, I mean, really — who couldn’t use just one more brush? { buy }

What’s on your wishlist this season?

Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow Custom Palette Case: review, photos | (Colorful Eyeshadows Part 1/3)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow key

The product: SEPHORA COLLECTION Colorful Eyeshadow Custom Palette Case

As you may have guessed from Twitter, Instagram, or even this New This Week post, I’m having a bit of a Sephora Collection “moment” right now. They put out a new eyeshadow range recently, complete with a brilliant key-and-pan palette system, and I could not be more impressed by it.

I’m most excited about the eyeshadows in this range (coming up next week), but I thought I’d start off with a post on the system itself, just to acquaint you with it.

Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadows

The Colorful System & Palette

The concept behind the Colorful Eyeshadow range is pretty simple, but I have to give the execution props. The palettes are sturdy, easy to open/close, and each slot is magnetised (including the one for the key, which is cleverly levered out by pushing down on the non-magnetized end.)

I think the key is what really makes the Sephora system stand out for me; the simple, sleek too makes it hard to gouge out your eyeshadows by accident without really adding any weight or size.

(Also worth noting is that unlike somebody, Sephora hasn’t chosen to annoyingly suspend their pans in half their packaging when in palettes!)

Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow palette review

Worth noting is that the palettes are a little heavy, what with the large mirrors, but you could always just throw the singles into your makeup bag for something lighter — each shadow is sold in a case, which I think is brilliant! (Think more MUFE, less MAC: you won’t have to choose between singles and pans.)

The Sizing

Sephora Collection vs MAC, NARS, MUFE Eyeshadow

Sephora Collection pan size vs. MAC, NARS, MUFE eyeshadow singles

The Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadows are 33mm pans, smaller than Make Up For Ever but larger than MAC. I can see why each brand wants to use its own pan size, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have liked them to fit in with one of the other brands!

I think, optimally, I’d have liked to see smaller pans and slightly lower prices — who really needs that much eyeshadow all at once, you know?

Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow size comparison

The Pricing

The Colorful system is priced as follows:

  • Colorful Eyeshadows: $13 USD/$16 CAD
    • Just to note, this is $186 USD per ounce; MAC’s singles are $300, Urban Decay’s are $360, NARS’ are $343, and MUFE’s are $250 (all USD per oz).
  • Colorful Eyeshadow Custom Palette Case, 3-shade palette: $12 USD/$14 CAD
  • Colorful Eyeshadow Custom Palette Case, 6-shade palette: $14 USD/$17 CAD

Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow custom palette + pans

The verdict?

I know this post doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of the shadows (reviews and swatches of these six coming up next week), butlove the Colorful Eyeshadow system. The shadows I’ve tried so far have been really impressive, especially from a house brand, and I’m smitten with the pan-or-palette options.

In a word? I am reluctant to use just one, but if I had to: awesome.

Availability: Sephora, of course!

For the launch, the 3-pans are free with the purchase of 2 eyeshadows, and the 6-pans are free with the purchase of 4 — it’s a USA-only offer, but I thought I’d give it a mention! (No word on if/when the deal will be over, sorry

Keep reading! »

For the girl who honestly doesn’t need anything else | Sephora x Cinderella Stroke of Midnight Compact Mirror

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cinderella mirror - Sephora x Disney

The product: Disney Cinderella for Sephora Stroke of Midnight Compact Mirror

One of this holiday season’s most beautiful finds is the dual-sided Sephora x Disney Cinderella compact mirror. Weighted and glossy, it’s honestly even more gorgeous in person than it is online — too heavy to be “purse-friendly” for me, but I’m sure others will beg to differ.

Disney Cinderella for Sephora compact mirror

Metal and reflection with a faceted glass top, the Stroke of Midnight mirror certainly sits on the heavy side, both in build and feel. The construction is wonderfully solid (I’d be more worried about my toes if I dropped this than the case), and the push-button closure holds tightly while still being easy on the joints.

Inside are two mirrors (one magnifying, one regular), with the text “time for your moment curved across the latter.

Sephora x Cinderella Compact Mirror

Sephora x Disney Cinderella compact mirror

For size…

It’s always hard to tell what size something will be from photos like these, so I took a few “holding shots,” too. I have fairly small hands (I’m 5’2″; the mirror is about 2.75″/7 cm across.)

Sephora x Disney Cinderella - time for your moment

Sephora x Disney Cinderella - Stroke of Midnight

The verdict?

At $20 USD/$24 CAD, this mirror is a little pricier than most — but absolutely worth it, for the product. Heavy and luxurious, it has a very elegant, “princessy” presentation, while still coming across as a product for fully-formed adults (rather than children wrapped in oversized tulle and chiffon.)

The Stroke of Midnight mirror is sold out online, but certainly still worth checking your local Sephora for! (The inherent “find in store” widget on the Canadian and American Sephora sites should do the trick.)

Keep reading! »

A brush set that’s blowing my mind (and a great Shiseido Perfect Fundation Brush substitute!) | Sephora Luxe Face Brush Set review

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sephora Luxe Face Brush set

The product: SEPHORA COLLECTION Luxe Face Brush Set

I haven’t written a review on a Sunday (to go up on a Monday) in ages, but this week, I just had to. We’re quickly running out of time before Christmas, for starters, but more importantly — I bloody love this brush set, you guys.

Sephora Collection Luxe Face Brush set

This is the third brush set I’ve reviewed since the summer, but the Luxe Face Brush Set is by far my favourite. While the Sephora + Pantone Universe Luminous Brush Set was a great buy for the price, and the Enchanting Brush Set was a definite “nice to have,” this one is an absolute “you need this” — praise that I honestly don’t even give to all of the Chubby Sticks.

(And I love me a Clinique Chubby Stick.)

Sephora Luxe face brush set - flat top foundation brush favourite

At $48 USD/$58 CAD, five brushes and a clutch isn’t a bad deal — particularly when you take into consideration how ridiculously chic each piece is. Unlike a gift with purchase bag, or even a lot of other brush set bags, this one is actually wearable for a night out, which is a really nice deviation from the norm.

(Do you even say “wear” when it comes to bags? Carryable? Holdable? Acceptable?)

Despite having more brushes than I know what to do with, I’ve used the concealer & flat top foundation brushes in this set every single (makeup) day since first trying them out. I have honestly applied concealer just for the sheer joy of using the flat-top brush to buff it in, and I regret absolutely nothing.

Sephora Collection Luxe Brush Set(face)

Oh, and I guess the other brushes are lovely, too. (You probably wanted to hear that, right?)

The powder brush is fine; it’s a little small & loose, and despite not being rough, it’s not particularly soft, either. I could definitely live without it, but at the same time, it doesn’t pain me terribly to use it. The eye brushes more than make up for it, at least — small blending brushes and all-over eye brushes are two of my go-to eye brush staples, and it’s fantastic to see something other than a flimsy placement brush & lash comb in a set.

(The rounded eye brush is actually a “precision crease brush,” but my fellow monolidded lovelies will know how useful they can be for fine-detail blending, too!)

Shiseido perfect foundation brush dupe

The verdict?

I very rarely lose it over makeup tools, but the flat-top brush in this set is so excellent — I’ve been meaning to pick up the Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush ($30 USD) for months, but at just $8 ($48 over 6 pieces), this more than suffices. Sephora’s version is densely packed, incredibly soft, and does a phenomenal job of blending in both foundation and concealer to a picture-perfect finish.

Honestly, I’d happily fork over $48 just for the concealer and foundation brushes in this set. The fact that they’re paired with a cute clutch, a decent powder brush, and two great eye brushes makes the Sephora Luxe Face Brush Set a can’t-miss.

Availability: Find it here at Sephora before it sells out!

Keep reading! »

Light up the holidays with this Sephora + Pantone Universe Luminous Brush Set: photos & review

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The product: SEPHORA + PANTONE UNIVERSE Alchemy of Color Luminous Brush Set

I’ve been planning a “daily beauty” column recently, and I thought I’d start it off with this Sephora + Pantone brush set — that is, right up until it got a stealthy half-price markdown. 

While it’s good, it just didn’t feel like it was $80 worth of awesome, you know? But, at $41 CAD, these white-bristled synthetics are worth a second glance.

Beauty & the Bag

Housed in a large silver makeup bag, the Luminous Brush Set is made up of eight brushes, all super-soft synthetics. (Well, I mean, not the brow/lash comb, but then, those never are.)

I’m not usually a fan of bags that come as part of a set, but Sephora really knocked it out of the park with their Fall/Winter makeup brush sets’ bags, both in their Sephora Collection line and in the Sephora + Pantone Universe one. This one’s much larger than most–9 1/2″ tall, 7 1/4″ wide, and 2 1/2″ deep–and while the brushes make this set worthwhile on their own, the bag really takes it that extra step.

The individual brushes

The Luminous set includes eight brushes, but I’m going to count it as six — no one actually needs as many brow/lash combs as they’ll end up with after buying a makeup brush set or two, and the powder brush in this set is okay, but pretty sub-par compared to everything else. (Cheap powder brushes are just so floppy, you know?)

I liked the liner & concealer brushes, in particular — the concealer brush is just the right mix of soft & firm, making it easy to blend cream products seamlessly around the eyes and nose. The liner brush is really good, too: tiny and flat, it pairs well with gel liner for a sharp, easy-to-control line.

Another honourable mention is the unexpectedly soft smudge brush. These tend to be stiff, which really irritates my eyes, but this one was a great shape for getting blending around the lashline (or applying along it, for smaller eyes) – without feeling like a porous wooden stick.

The finishing touches

All of these brushes are labelled on the handle (both in English and French, though I’m not sure if that’s the same in the US), making them perfect for the beauty beginner. It’s just a little thing, and I’m not terribly strict with my use-what-where rules, but it’s a nice touch!

The verdict?

I’d really hesitate to recommend this at its original price, but at $34 US / $41 CAD (seriously!) this set’s an absolutely brilliant deal. While not top-grade brushes, they’re all very good, and the types & shapes have all been picked out quite well. Plus, the bag is a great find — a little flashy, but the size & easy-to-clean surfaces mean I’ll definitely be keeping it around.

With a markdown this good, I’m not sure if it’ll still be around by Christmas, so pick up a set (or two) now — it would make the perfect gift for someone just getting into makeup, and at that price, I’d recommend it as a soft, synthetic brush set for yourself, too.

Keep reading! »

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