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  • Lord & Taylor30% off almost everything + 10% off cosmetics & fragrances with code FRIENDS, ends 12/15.
  • SaksReceive a gift card up to $700 on your purchase of $250+ with code DEC2016, ends 12/09.
  • Tarte30% off with code BESTIES, ends 12/11.

Best Eyeshadows | Holiday 2016 Gift Guide

Best Blushes | Holiday 2016 Gift Guide

It’s that time of the year again:  holiday gift guides aplenty!  This year, I’ve broken out my gift guides into best of selections for blush, eyeshadow, highlighter, lipstick, lipgloss, palettes, and brushes.  These guides feature permanent formulas so that they can be useful anytime during the holiday season or even into next year.  For limited edition holiday products, you can check out our list of the top 50 highest-rated holiday products, which updates as I post more reviews for holiday products.  I hope you find this list of top performing eyeshadow formulas useful 🙂

Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow

Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow

Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow ($21.00 for 0.08 oz.) still remains my very favorite powder eyeshadow formula. I’m particularly fond of their more shimmery and satin finishes, though their mattes are nice (but they aren’t as dense, and I love a denser, creamier eyeshadow). Their are over 200 shades to choose from, so you can imagine it is hard to pick favorites, but here are swatches of some of my must-haves!

Availability

Sephora

Tarte Metallics Shadow

Tarte Metallics Shadow

Tarte Metallics Shadow ($14.00 for 0.07 oz.) is a new formula that debuted this year, and I was able to confirm with Tarte that they anticipate these being part of the permanent range, at least for the next year…. so here’s hoping they will make a stronger commitment to the formula by adding more shades next year! The formula on the Metallics range is soft, smooth, blendable, and almost cream-like as they have a denser, richer feel to them. They are pigmented, long-wearing, and easy to use. Some of my favorite shades are Sinful, Pokerface, and Dame.

Availability

Sephora, Ulta, Tarte

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More Holiday 2016: Besame, Wander, BUXOM, Giorgio Armani, Kevyn Aucoin

Besame Mini Lipstick Set
Besame Mini Lipstick Set

More sets I saw online! 🙂

Availability

Now online

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The Details

Besame Mini Lipstick Set | $25.00 | Limited Edition

Bésame Cosmetics’ Classic Color Lipsticks feature vintage-inspired, smooth lip colors that leave a budge-proof finish that stays put, while the angled design achieves precise application. Each lasting color is inspired by the shades worn by coveted Hollywood starlets of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, imparting an iconic, satin-meets-matte lip look. Each formula is enriched with macadamia oil, vitamin C, chamomile, and aloe to leave your lips feeling soft and hydrated.

  • 5 x 0.035 oz/ 1 g Classic Color Mini Lipsticks in Noir Red (1930), Cherry Red (1935), Red Velvet (1946), Dusty Rose (1969), Chocolate Kiss (1970)

Wander Beauty Prone to Wanter Lipstick Set | $49.00 | Limited Edition

Instantly switch up your lip look with these richly pigmented, long-lasting matte lipsticks. From brights to neutrals, customize the shades you want to take on the go. Simply pick a color combination and insert the two lipsticks into the Wander Beauty core for long-lasting, portable color. Enriched with marula oil, castor seed oil, coco seed butter, jojoba oil, mango seed butter, and sunflower oil, the formula glides on effortlessly and keeps lips moisturized.

  • 6 x 0.07 oz/ 2.04 g Lipstick in Velvet Rope, Miss Behave, Wanderberry, Barely There, Exhibitionist, B.B.

BUXOM Frozen Assets Bold Gel Lipstick Collection | $39.00 | Limited Edition

The Frozen Assets 8-piece Mini Big & Sexy Bold Lipstick Collection includes a range of nude to red shades in moisturizing matte and satin finishes in a lightweight, gel formula. Each shade delivers piercingly vivid, one-stroke color to shamelessly stand out.

  • 4 x 0.03 oz/ 1 g Mini Big & Sexy Bold Gel Matte Lipstick in Racy Reveal (matte warm light pink), Sinful Cinnamon (matte cinnamon brown), Ultraviolet (matte bright violet), Ruby Temptress (matte brick red)
  • 4 x 0.03 oz/ 1 g Mini Big & Sexy Bold Gel Lipstick in Rebel Rose (satin rosy pink), Graphic Grape (satin deep purple), Forbidden Berry (satin deep pink), Fuchsia Fetish (satin hot pink)

Giorgio Armani Matte Eye Tints

Giorgio Armani Matte Eye Tints
Giorgio Armani Matte Eye Tints

Giorgio Armani Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a new finish within the Eye Tint family, which is a liquid eyeshadow formula that feels and performs like a cream but dries down to a powder-like eyeshadow within 10-15 seconds. The previously released shades in the Eye Tint formula have all had some shimmer (from pearl to glitter), and on the whole, I have quite liked them as they are fairly pigmented, long-wearing, and most are easy to use. I found the texture of the Matte shades to be similar to past shades, but I personally felt like the application was more challenging, especially with shades deeper than my natural skin tone. I can, however, see these working well as a good all-over shade and can even work as a flesh-toned base (if one of the six shades suits yours). I liked using flat, synthetic brushes over fingertips for anything that used more than one at a time, and I found the brush to apply the colors more evenly overall. What I like about the Eye Tint formula–that was present in the Matte shades–is that you can still diffuse the edges somewhat while it is dry, as it is more powder-like with better hold than a traditional powder product.

Giorgio Armani Taupe Smoke (19) Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a dirty, olive-brown with warm undertones and a matte finish. The consistency was more watery, though it didn’t take too long to dry down, so the resulting payoff was semi-sheer. It is somewhat buildable, but it is hard to keep the color even on the skin. It wore well for fourteen hours on me (out of the 16 the brand markets it as wearing for). LORAC Vintage (LE, $19.00) is lighter (95% similar). Kat Von D Oak (LE) is darker (95% similar). Tarte Sweet Tea (LE) is lighter, warmer (90% similar). MAC Sandstone (LE, $16.00) is cooler (90% similar). Becca Ombre Nudes #4 (P) is darker (90% similar). Sephora + Pantone Universe Carob Brown (LE) is warmer (90% similar). Sephora + Pantone Universe Cocoa Brown (LE) is more shimmery (90% similar). MAC Felt (LE, $16.00) is darker (90% similar). Burberry Khaki (08) (P, $29.00) is cooler (90% similar). Urban Decay Faint (P, $19.00) is darker (90% similar). Makeup Geek Dirty Martini (P, $6.00) is cooler (80% similar). NARS Shade III (LE, $25.00) is darker, cooler (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani Leather Smoke (20) Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a very deep, dark brown with subtle, warm, reddish undertones and a mostly matte finish. The texture wasn’t too watery or too thin, so it was easier to get nearly full opacity out of the color. It wasn’t as foolproof as the shimmery Eye Tints, as the color tended to apply unevenly more often than not. I was able to wear this for a good fourteen hours before it started to crease faintly. Too Faced Chocolate Cake (LE, $16.00) is lighter (95% similar). Too Faced Triple Fudge (P, $16.00) is darker, warmer (95% similar). Kat Von D Shadow Box (P) is lighter (95% similar). bareMinerals Boardroom (LE) is darker (95% similar). Smashbox Java (P) is darker, cooler (95% similar). Tarte Multi-Tasker (LE) is less glossy (95% similar). LORAC Espresso (P, $19.00) is cooler (95% similar). Anastasia Rich Brown (P, $12.00) is cooler (95% similar). Tarte Wind Down Brown (LE) is darker, cooler (95% similar). Bobbi Brown Bark (P, $28.00) is more shimmery (95% similar). Makeup Atelier Honey Brown #5 (P) is cooler (95% similar). Inglot #326 (P, $6.00) is darker, cooler (90% similar). MAC Dash of Mocha (LE, $16.00) is darker, cooler (90% similar). Tarte Dream in Chocolate (LE) is cooler (90% similar). Clarins Brown #4 (P) is more shimmery, lighter (85% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani Fur Smoke (21) Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a dark brown with warm undertones and a mostly matte finish. This one seemed to have the tiniest bit of satin shimmer to it, and I think that addition made it easier to work with and apply to the skin without it becoming uneven or patchy as it dried down. It had a thin consistency, but it didn’t sheer out too easily when applied. On me, it wore well for fourteen hours. Laura Mercier Ganache (LE, $23.00) is darker (95% similar). MAC Corduroy (P, $16.00) is cooler (90% similar). Marc Jacobs Beauty The Dreamer #4 (P) is darker, cooler (90% similar). Viseart Minx #2 (P) is lighter (90% similar). Laura Mercier Coffee Ground (P, $23.00) is darker, cooler (90% similar). Make Up For Ever #17 (DC, $20.00) is darker, warmer (90% similar). Kat Von D Wolf (P) is more shimmery (90% similar). Estee Lauder Bronze Dunes #4 (LE, $21.00) is lighter (90% similar). Anastasia Hot Chocolate (P, $12.00) is darker, cooler (90% similar). Anastasia Fudge (P, $12.00) is warmer (90% similar). NARS Self Portrait 3 #1 (LE, $25.00) is lighter (90% similar). Chanel Charming #4 (LE) is darker (85% similar). Laura Mercier Truffle (P, $23.00) is lighter, warmer (85% similar). Gucci Beauty Autumn Fire #4 (P) is lighter, warmer (85% similar). Kat Von D Sytry (P) is darker, more muted (85% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani Spice Smoke (22) Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a medium-dark, plummy-brown with warm undertones and a matte finish. It had semi-opaque color payoff, which wasn’t too buildable, but it could be diffused as it was drying down without it becoming patchy or uneven, so it was a little easier to work with than some of the other darker shades in the range. This shade lasted for 14 hours on me before creasing slightly. Marc Jacobs Beauty About Last Night No. 20 (LE) is darker, cooler (90% similar). LORAC Goji (LE, $19.00) is lighter (90% similar). NARS New York (P, $25.00) is cooler (90% similar). Ciate Queen Bee (LE) is cooler (90% similar). LORAC Dusty Plum (LE, $19.00) is cooler (90% similar). Anastasia Red Ochre (P, $12.00) is lighter (90% similar). theBalm #13 (P, $6.50) is cooler (90% similar). bareMinerals Kismet (P) is darker, more muted (90% similar). Guerlain Turandot #3 (LE) is more shimmery, warmer (85% similar). Make Up For Ever M822 Plum (P, $21.00) is lighter, brighter (85% similar). Sleek MakeUP Propose in Prague (LE, $9.99) is lighter, warmer (80% similar). Tarte Leader (P) is darker (80% similar). Anastasia Hot Chocolate (P, $12.00) is darker (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani Camel Smoke (23) Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a medium brown with warm, caramel undertones and a matte finish. This was the easiest shade to use, as it was the most opaque and least thin, so it spread better without sheering out and didn’t get patchy. On me, the color lasted for 14 hours before I noticed some creasing occurring. Anastasia Lula (LE, $12.00) is cooler (90% similar). MAC Swiss Chocolate (P, $16.00) is darker (90% similar). Inglot #337 (P, $6.00) is warmer (90% similar). NARS Sophia (P, $25.00) is darker (90% similar). Lancome Voyage (P, $19.00) is darker (90% similar). LORAC Lt. Brown (P, $19.00) is lighter, warmer (85% similar). MAC Soft Brown (P, $16.00) is lighter (85% similar). Tarte Force of Nature (LE) is lighter (90% similar). Gucci Beauty Tuscan Storm #3 (P) is lighter, warmer (85% similar). Colour Pop Cornelious (P, $5.00) is lighter (85% similar). Kat Von D Succubus (P) is warmer (85% similar). Kat Von D Unrequited (P) is lighter (80% similar). LORAC Sepia (LE, $19.00) is warmer (80% similar). IT Cosmetics Adore (P) is more shimmery, lighter (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani Nude Smoke (24) Matte Eye Tint ($39.00 for 0.22 fl. oz.) is a medium-dark beige with warm undertones and a matte finish. It had mostly opaque color coverage that wasn’t too watery in its liquid form, and it dries down fast enough that it didn’t settle into lines while there is still time to blend. On me, the color wore well for fourteen hours before creasing. Urban Decay Commando (P, $19.00) is cooler (95% similar). bareMinerals Come True (LE) is darker (95% similar). MAC Georgia Peach (P, $16.00) is darker (90% similar). Guerlain Hey Nude (04) (P, $34.00) is warmer (90% similar). Tarte Force of Nature (LE) is darker (85% similar). Hourglass Infinity #2 (P) is darker, warmer (85% similar). Becca Ombre Rouge #1 (P) is lighter (85% similar). LORAC Black #3 (LE, $19.00) is lighter, warmer (80% similar). NARS Hammamet (Left) (LE, $25.00) is darker, warmer (80% similar). Tarte View from the Taupe (LE) is darker (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Taupe Smoke (19)
7
Product
6
Pigmentation
7
Texture
8.5
Longevity
4
Application
72%
Total
Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Leather Smoke (20)
8.5
Product
9
Pigmentation
8
Texture
8.5
Longevity
4
Application
84%
Total
Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Fur Smoke (21)
8
Product
9
Pigmentation
8
Texture
8.5
Longevity
4.5
Application
84%
Total
Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Spice Smoke (22)
8
Product
8.5
Pigmentation
8
Texture
8.5
Longevity
4
Application
82%
Total
Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Camel Smoke (23)
8.5
Product
10
Pigmentation
8.5
Texture
8.5
Longevity
4.5
Application
89%
Total
Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Nude Smoke (24)
8.5
Product
9.5
Pigmentation
8.5
Texture
8.5
Longevity
4.5
Application
88%
Total

See more photos & swatches!

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Giorgio Armani #501 Uptown & #601 Plum Vinyl Ecstasy Lacquers

Giorgio Armani Uptown (501) Ecstasy Lacquer
Giorgio Armani Uptown (501) Ecstasy Lacquer

Giorgio Armani #501 Uptown Ecstasy Lacquer ($38.00 for 0.20 fl. oz.) is a medium, pink-coral with warm undertones and a creamy, lightly glossy finish. It darkens quite a bit on lips and appears pinker as well. It had semi-opaque coverage which went on evenly, and it was somewhat buildable (it’s supposed to be buildable). The color wore for six hours and left behind a strong stain. MAC Never Say Never (LE, $20.00) is lighter (90% similar). NARS Salamanca (P, $26.00) is lighter (90% similar). Guerlain Candy Stripe (P, $30.00) is warmer (85% similar). Dior Rose Tricheuse (669) (LE, $35.00) is warmer (85% similar). Revlon Papaya (P, $7.49) is warmer (85% similar). Make Up For Ever 205P Pearly Rose (P, $19.00) is lighter (85% similar). Guerlain Nahema Smack (P, $30.00) is warmer (85% similar). NARS Paris Follies (LE, $26.00) is warmer (85% similar). Hourglass Nectar (P, $28.00) is warmer (85% similar). Dior Wonderland (575) (P, $35.00) is lighter (85% similar). Dior Tropiques (379) (P, $35.00) is lighter, brighter, cooler (85% similar). MAC Drawn in Chic (LE, $15.00) is lighter, brighter (85% similar). Marc Jacobs Beauty Paint It (202) (DC, $28.00) is lighter, brighter, warmer (80% similar). Illamasqua Mistress (P, $22.00) is lighter, brighter (80% similar). Gucci Beauty Crushed Coral (P, $32.00) is warmer (80% similar). Revlon Kiss Me Coral (P, $7.99) is warmer (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

Giorgio Armani #601 Plum Vinyl Ecstasy Lacquer ($38.00 for 0.20 fl. oz.) is a medium-dark plum with subtle, cooler undertones and a lightly shiny finish. It had semi-opaque color coverage in one layer and could be built up to mostly opaque coverage (but always with some translucency) with two to three layers. The consistency spread across the lips well and left even color that didn’t gather into lip lines (not an easy feat for deeper shades like this). The color wore for almost eight hours with the shine fading after five hours. MAC It's Never Ending (P, $24.00) is lighter (95% similar). MAC Preserving Passion (P, $24.00) is warmer (90% similar). Revlon Embellished (P, $7.49) is warmer (90% similar). Urban Decay Vice (P, $26.00) is more shimmery, lighter (90% similar). Maybelline Caviar Couture (050) (P, $8.99) is cooler (90% similar). Chanel Distinction (21) (P, $34.00) is darker, warmer (90% similar). Tom Ford Beauty Exposed (P, $52.00) is darker, warmer (90% similar). MAC Lust for Life (LE, $15.00) is more shimmery (90% similar). Sephora Plum Fiction (19) (P, $12.00) is lighter, brighter (85% similar). Chanel Crushed Cherry (DC, $30.00) is darker, warmer (80% similar). MAC Peer Pressure (LE, $20.00) is darker (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

FORMULA SUMMARY | The Ecstasy Lacquer formula is supposed to have the shine of a gloss, color and hydration of a lipstick, and the long-wear of a stain, though they say “applied in a single layer for a subtle touch of color … or in a layered application for a bold, statement lip.” It has a floral scent, which is noticeable in the tube and for an hour or so of wear (particularly strong when it is drying down). There is a slight taste to me, as well. Initially, the formula is thin and more water-like, but after you’ve applied it, the consistency thickens, levels out, and “adheres” to your lips in a very comfortable wear. The consistency is mostly non-sticky and gradually gets a lightly tacky about half-way through wear.

Giorgio Armani Ecstasy Lacquer #501 Uptown
9
Product
9
Pigmentation
9
Texture
10
Longevity
5
Application
93%
Total
Giorgio Armani Ecstasy Lacquer #601 Plum Vinyl
9
Product
9.5
Pigmentation
9
Texture
10
Longevity
5
Application
94%
Total

See more photos & swatches!

13 Emerald Greens to Covet

Long-time readers will probably find this no surprise… but I love emerald green when it comes to makeup! Whether it’s for nails, eyes, or lips. Here are 13 favorites — from deeper to brighter, warmer to cooler! 🙂

  1. Butter London British Racing Green — A Cool Green with a Pearl finish.
  2. Zoya Logan — A Cool Green with a Glitter finish.
  3. Kat Von D Iggy — A Cool Green with a Frost finish.
  4. Sephora Go For a Ride — A Cool Green with a Pearl finish.
  5. Make Up For Ever ME304 Emerald — A Cool Green with a Frost finish.
  6. Milani Green Safari — A Warm Green with a Frost finish.
  7. Buxom Pre-nup — A Cool Green with a Frost finish.
  8. Giorgio Armani Emeraude (04) — A Cool Green with a Satin finish.
  9. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Cosplay — A Cool Green with a Satin finish.
  10. Make Up For Ever D306 Bottle Green — A Warm Green with a Metallic finish.
  11. Urban Decay Kush — A Warm Green with a Frost finish.
  12. NYX Risque — A Cool Green with a Metallic finish.
  13. Colour Pop Empire — A Warm Green with a Metallic finish.

See side-by-side swatches!

Giorgio Armani #402 Red to Go Ecstasy Lacquer

Giorgio Armani #402 Red to Go Ecstasy Lacquer
Giorgio Armani #402 Red to Go Ecstasy Lacquer

Giorgio Armani #402 Red to Go Ecstasy Lacquer ($38.00 for 0.20 fl. oz.) is a bold, bright orange-red with warm undertones and a creamy, high-shine finish. Revlon Fire (P, $7.49) is lighter (95% similar). Revlon HD Fire Opal (560) (P, $8.99) is lighter, brighter (95% similar). MAC Flash Drive (LE, $20.00) is lighter (95% similar). Maybelline Signature Scarlet (020) (P, $8.99) is lighter (95% similar). NARS Mineshaft (P, $26.00) is lighter (95% similar). Anastasia Runway Red (-, $16.00) is more shimmery (95% similar). Tom Ford Beauty No Vacancy (P, $52.00) is lighter (90% similar). MAC Push Some Buttons (LE, $20.00) is lighter (90% similar). Laura Mercier Poppy (P, $25.00) is lighter, cooler (90% similar). Christian Louboutin Beaute Altressa (P, $85.00) is darker, cooler (90% similar). MAC Forever Darling (P, $24.00) is lighter (90% similar). Urban Decay Punch Drunk (P, $26.00) is lighter (90% similar). NARS Special Force (LE, $28.00) is darker (85% similar). Shiseido Lust (RD305) (P, $25.00) is lighter (90% similar). MAC Always and Forever (P, $24.00) is lighter, more muted (80% similar). Illamasqua Temper (P, $22.00) is lighter (80% similar). See comparison swatches / view dupes side-by-side.

#402 Red to Go was nearly opaque in a single layer, though perhaps you could use less and do a better job smoothing and evening it out to get that “subtle touch of color” in a single layer, as the brand mentions. It’s a buildable formula, which is interesting, I think. It does actually build-up well, despite having a water-like texture that dries to a thicker, more gel-like one. I think if you prefer your gloss to be more opaque, you’d like the coverage that comes right out of the tube. It dried down and felt smooth, hugging (but not uncomfortably clingy), and comfortable to wear overall. The color was still going strong after six hours with noticeable shine. It was lightly hydrating while worn.

FORMULA SUMMARY | The Ecstasy Lacquer formula is supposed to have the shine of a gloss, color and hydration of a lipstick, and the long-wear of a stain, though they say “applied in a single layer for a subtle touch of color … or in a layered application for a bold, statement lip.” It has a floral scent, which is noticeable in the tube and for an hour or so of wear (particularly strong when it is drying down). There is a slight taste to me, as well. Initially, the formula is thin and more water-like, but after you’ve applied it, the consistency thickens, levels out, and “adheres” to your lips in a very comfortable wear. The consistency is mostly non-sticky and gradually gets a lightly tacky about half-way through wear.

Giorgio Armani Ecstasy Lacquer #402 Red to Go
9
Product
7.5
Pigmentation
10
Texture
10
Longevity
5
Application
92%
Total

See more photos & swatches!

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