Make Up For Ever #10 Aqua Cream ($22.00 for 0.21 oz.) is described as a “golden tangerine sheen.” It’s a vibrant orange with golden shimmer-sheen. It’s borderline retina-burning, honestly! It’s approved for use on the lips and cheeks (so not eyes). Whether it’s used more opaque or sheer, it’s a rich color and applies opaque. You would use the teeniest, tiniest bit to get a wash of color for blush or a lip tint. It has a more molten, deeper hue when layered (like the heavier swatch). OCC Banjee is lighter but still bright–it’s the only shade I could think of that came close to being a dupe. A lot of the other orange lipsticks I thought off are darker. Maybelline Fierce & Tangy is much lighter.
Aqua Creams work well on the cheeks as far as wear goes, and lower shimmer shades like #10 add color easily that also sticks around for eight hours or longer. Because it has a softer finish, it doesn’t emphasize pores, so it sits well on the skin. What I really like is that these don’t remain sticky on the cheeks, which many cream blushes do. On the lips, I find this one stains a bit, and again, because the finish has less frost in it, it is not as drying as other Aqua Creams have been for me. It’s not my first choice in lip color, because it’s not hydrating and a bit drying, but it does wear for five to six hours and leaves behind a subtle tint.
Make Up For Ever Aqua Cream is a great formula, but while I love the performance for eyes, it's not quite as stellar when it comes to cheeks/lips--so if it's not eye-safe, then the overall score is a bit less. It's good on the cheeks when it has low shimmer, but on lips, it's long-wearing but somewhat drying.
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Holiday Gift Guide: Must-Have Beauty Products for Lips
One of the things I am most thankful for is that by becoming a beauty blogger and having the opportunity to try so may different products is that it’s opened up my eyes to how many fantastic brands and formulas there are. Not every brand does everything perfectly, and there are a lot of great formulas that are just varying degrees of great. Picking a favorite really comes down to a less quantifiable factor, I think. It might be the color range, packaging, scent, or the overall feel. These are all lip products I personally recommend from brands’ permanent ranges.
Kiehl’s #1 Lip Balm ($7.00) is nice for those who prefer a thinner balm with no shine. It’s very, very slick and thin on the lips, but it does a good job at moisturizing.
Jack Black Lip Therapy Lip Balm ($7.50) is my all-time favorite lip balm, and I have them all over the house–at my desk, purse, pocket, nightstand–and a stock pile of them in reserve. So, so hydrating and comfortable to wear. My favorite flavor is Lemon & Chamomile, with Original as a runner-up.
Philosophy Lip Shines ($10.00) are kind of a balm, kind of a lip balm; because they tend to run so sheer and have the thicker feel of a balm, I’m going to go with it as a lip balm! I like that they’re fragranced with Philosophy’s signature scents plus have some shimmer and shine.
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment ($22.50) is a decadent balm that works well but wears away quickly–I like the product, not so much the price tag and how quickly it finishes, though! They do have tinted versions, though, and they’re some of the better lip stains because they’re more hydrating, but they are prone to uneven fading.
Sara Happ The Lip Scrub ($24.00) is my favorite lip scrub, because it holds together well, exfoliates lips, and leaves them feeling soft and moisturized.
Guerlain Terracotta Baume Au Couer Lip Balm ($30.00) is tinted and feels like butter on lips; it wears for a few hours before disappearing, but it’s moisturizing the entire time.
La Mer The Lip Balm ($45.00) is probably the priciest lip balm I’ve ever used, but it really does work well. It hydrates lips while still wearing well (you won’t have to reapply every hour).
CoverGirl Lip Perfection ($6.99) is really rich in color, glides on easily, and wears for hours. The downside is the scent, so if you’re super sensitive to smells, you might look elsewhere, but these perform well overall.
Maybelline ColorSensational Lipsticks ($8.29) is a good go-to for a more affordable lipstick brand, and of course, like other drugstore brands, you can catch it on sale for much less than $8 a pop. I find the creamier shades are the best!
MAC Lipsticks ($14.50) straddle that price point that doesn’t quite break the bank, feels a little more high-end than some drugstore brands, and is an all-around good formula. Their range is one of the most extensive that I know of, and with that, does come some inconsistency–not every single shade is as great as the last, but they do have several favorites. Some of these include Angel, Russian Red, Girl About Town, Crosswires, Sweetie, Cosmo, Plumful, and Media–just to scratch the surface.
Korres Mango Butter Lipsticks ($18.00) are lightweight, comfortable to wear, and come with a fairly glossy finish and semi-sheer color. Shades like Natural Pink and Natural Purple are really easy to wear.
Bobbi Brown Rich Lip Colors ($23.00) are long-wearing, opaque, and comfortable to wear. For cooler skin tones, try Bare Pink, Cosmic Raspberry, and Mod Pink. For warmer skin tones, try Cosmic Raspberry, Soft Coral, and Sweet Nectar.
Giorgio Armani Rouge d’Armani Lipsticks ($30.00) are creamy, moisturizing, and long-wearing while delivering good color coverage in over forty different shades. Shades like #400, 402, 501, and 506 are really easy to wear on most skin tones.
Hourglass Femme Rouge Velvet Creme Lipsticks ($30.00) are rich in color and long on wear. For cooler complexions, I think shades like Ballet, Edition, and Fresco would work. For warmer complexions, try Edition, Muse, and Whisper.
Dior Rouge Dior Lip Colors ($32.00) is long-wearing and moisturizing with a wide range of shades. For warmer complexions, I recommend shades like Pink Songe, Andalouse, and Red Muse. For cooler complexions, I recommend Pink Caprice, Devilish Pink, and Daisy Plum.
Guerlain Rouge Automatique Lipsticks ($35.00) come really close to the Rouge G formula, but they are slightly less creamy, sometimes less opaque, and a smidgen less hydrating. They are really close but there is a noticeable difference on lips. I still really love the formula, though! For cooler complexions, I recommend Samsara, Cherry Blossom, and Champs Elysees. For warmer complexions, I recommend Violette de Mad, Rouge d’Enfer, and Coque d’Or.
Guerlain Rouge G Lipsticks ($47.00) is my all-time favorite lipstick formula, because it’s long-wearing, opaque, moisturizing, and the color range is really nuanced. For cooler complexions, I like Galia, Greta, Gabrielle, and Grenade. For warmer complexions, I like Galante, Gala, Gipsy, and Ginger.
Cle de Peau Beaute Extra Silky Lipstick ($52.00) feels like glossy silk on the lips; it’s super moisturizing and has a glossy shine. It wears well on me, too, despite how creamy it is. The shade range is really wearable and mostly universal, too.
Cle de Peau Beaute Extra Rich Lipstick ($60.00) is a decadent formula that’s rich in color, comfortable to wear, long-wearing, and has a formula that helps to plump and fill lip lines giving lips a smoother look. It’s totally over the top, but it’s an excellent formula, so you’re not just paying for brand name/packaging here.
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipglosses ($6.99) is a budget-friendly shimmery gloss that’s mostly sheer but delivers a fair amount of sparkle and dazzle. Like other sheer formulas, the range should work across skin tones.
Korres Cherry Oil Lipglosses ($17.00) are hydrating and comfortable tow ear, and about half the range delivers richer color, while others are sheerer (and are described as such). My favorites are #52, #52, and #22.
Make Up For Ever Lab Shine Lipglosses ($18.00) is a really wide range of glosses with three different finishes. I really like how Make Up For Ever has expansive color options for most of their products, and the lipgloss range is no exception.
Illamasqua Intense Lipglosses ($20.00) are a total must if you or someone you know loves opaque lipglosses–these are really rich in pigment, comfortable wear, long-wearing, and have a beautiful glossy shine. I recommend virtually all of them, but a few of my favorites are Belladonna, Hermetic, and Move.
Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Lipglosses ($23.00) are a new favorite for me; they’re very reminiscent of Chanel Glossimers but more affordable. Sheerer color with lots of dazzling sparkle! Because they’re on the sheerer side, the shade range is fairly universal.
Hourglass Extreme Sheen High Shine Lipglosses ($28.00) are super slick, comfortable to wear, and moisturizing. Some shades are sheer, some are more pigmented. Shades like Siren are beautiful and opaque with a really interesting metallic finish. Fortune is a great shade for everyone because it’s sheer and peachy-pink.
Giorgio Armani Gloss d’Armanis ($28.00) may not be as long-wearing as the brand claims, but a gloss that wears six hours without drying lips out while delivering good color coverage is rare. I really love this formula, despite the shortfall in wear (relative to their claim). I love shades like #401, 402, 404, and 505.
Chanel Glossimers ($28.50) are a classic gloss for someone who loves lots of shimmer and glossiness. These took me awhile to appreciate, but they really do shine and sparkle. These days, most shades are sheer, so they should flatter the full spectrum of skin tones. I really like shades such as Aurore, Coral Love, Futile, Meteore, Spark, and Sundress.
Le Metier de Beaute Lip Cremes ($36.00) are extremely creamy, non-sticky, and hydrating. It was one of my first high-end glosses (and probably high-end purchases in general)–who knew that $36 would become “normal” to me one day–and I absolutely love shades like Fraise Creme, Framboise Creme, and Papaye Creme.
Cle de Peau Beaute Lipglosses ($48.00) wear longer than the average gloss, have a great shimmer and shine, and are moisturizing. May I recommend #2? It’s a total staple for me.
Holiday Gift Guide: Must-Have Beauty Products for Eyes
I’m going to do my best to crank out the last few gift guides in the next day, because I know a lot of sales are coming up for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and I don’t want you to miss out! These are all products I personally recommend that are part of the permanent range. Products are listed in order of ascending price!
Milani Liquif’Eye Eyeliners ($5.49) is a standout formula with a wallet-friendly price tag–if they had a bigger range, they’d be even better. I love their Black and Aqua shades.
MAC Fluidlines ($15) is a long-time favorite, because it’s creamy enough for smooth, crisp application but sets and wears well. My favorite is Blacktrack.
Tarina Tarantino Dream Hyperliners ($15) are a newly-discovered favorite with a fantastic color range, rich color, and long-wear. My favorite shades have been Sparkling Ammunition and Puppeteer.
Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Liners ($18) also has an amazing range of shades as well as finishes, and this is an eyeliner that stays on well throughout the day. I regularly reach for shades like #4L, 5L, 12L, and 20L.
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Pencils ($18) are a total go-to for me! They have a full color range available, and they’re soft and glide on easily. Some of my favorites are Bourbon Covet, Graffiti, Mildew, Rockstar, Stash, and Underground.
Stila Smudgestick Waterproof Eyeliners ($20) are super soft and pigmented, but they do run out of quick–but their color range is so rich, it’s hard to say no. I love Moray, Peacock, and Stingray.
Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliners ($21) is a rich, long-wearing gel eyeliner that’s smooth and creamy but still wears all day. Check out shades like Black Mauve Shimmer Ink and Cobalt Ink!
Make Up For Ever Aqua Liners ($23) is my absolute favorite for liquid liner, because the color range is wide and the formula itself stays on all day. I recommend shades like #3, 4, 9, 10, and 14. If you like lots and lots of sparkle, consider Stila Sparkle Liquid Eyeliners ($22) which have a very similar formula but their shades have more shimmer.
Wet ‘n’ Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow ($1.99 to $4.99) are a real steal with a lot of variations and options available, and a lot of the shades are of excellent quality.
Inglot Eyeshadows ($5) won’t break the bank but will deliver intense color payoff–they’re most well-known for their mattes and Double Sparkles.
Sugarpill Chromalusts ($12) are finely milled with lots of dimension. My favorites are Stella, Absinthe, and Goldilux! I’d also recommend checking out their eyeshadows if you’re shopping for someone who loves bright colors (they’re also $12 and top notch).
theBalm Eyeshadows ($16) are richly pigmented, silky smooth, and wear really well. Their individual singles are great, but they also have several palettes that work well, too. My favorite singles are All About Alex, Jealous Jordana, and Risque Renee.
Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow/Liner ($19) are some of my favorite cream eyeshadows for quick all-over washes or as an eyeshadow base; the range is generally more neutral/subdued so it would be great for busy folks who don’t have a lot of time to spend on their makeup every morning. I love shades like Birthday Suit and Skinny Jeans.
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Shadow Pencils ($20) is a chubby pencil that can be used as an eyeliner or more like a cream eyeshadow (or even an eyeshadow base). They wear really well and deliver pretty good color. I like shades Clinic, Lit, and Midnight Cowboy.
Bare Escentuals Ready Eyeshadows ($20 for duo, $30 for quad) caught me off guard, because I really didn’t think they’d be out of this world, but they’re really, really good. Some of my favorite duos are The Scenic Route and The Escape, and some of my favorite quads are The Elements and The Truth.
MAC Pigments ($20) are still one of my favorite products for really revving up a look. Some of the permanent shades I love are Pink Opal, Melon, and Teal.
Make Up For Ever Aqua Creams ($22) come in neutrals as well as bright pops of color, and they’re a cream product that really locks down once it sets. I love the Aqua Creams best for eyes. I totally dig shades like #2, #5, #13, #15.
Illamasqua Pure Pigment ($24) may be pricey and they don’t come with a whole lot of product, for most consumers, it’ll take years to get through. The reason I like these is I feel like the range has a lot of complex, unique shades.
Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Over $50
The last part of the Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy section of the guide features the more indulgent gifts to give this holiday season. These may be luxurious, or they may offer tremendous value but will be an investment for years to come. Next part of the guide will focus on limited edition holiday color favorites. If you missed it, I already posted the under $30 and under $50 guides!
A Few Tips on Breaking the Bank for Gifts
Typically, the thought really is what counts, and if you have the budget for it, great gifts can be pricey gifts, too, but make sure you’re still thinking about the person you’re buying for and getting them something indulgent that they want. Similarly, just because it’s a gift you’d love to receive doesn’t always translate to one your recipient would love to receive.
Not all sets are created equal–I picked my favorites (across all the holiday kit/set guides) that I felt were good overall, both for quality as well as value, but sometimes kits have minimal savings or it might be in a product you’d never use (maybe it’s a mascara or primer or whatever). It’s easy to get caught up in “savings” when it’s plastered all over the kit/sale page but remember to read the fine print and see what’s really inside.
Sometimes buying full-sized products is better if your budget is bigger. For instance, for the price of the NARS set ($125), you could purchase five full-sized, individual NARS lipglosses–and you could hand-pick the colors or shades. You can also mix up brands, product types, and whether something it’s limited or permanent that way.
Eyes: One of the ultimate gift sets this season is Make Up For Ever Wild & Chic Aqua Cream Collection ($175.00), but it presents a good opportunity to have several full-sized Aqua Creams at less than retail; I love Aqua Creams in general, and this set is mostly neutral, so it’s workable across skin tones and preferences. If you thought that was indulgent, check out Make Up For Ever’s Wild & Chic Collector Case ($330.00), which contains an instant makeup stash (it’s valued at $616 in product), just at a rather hefty price tag. For Bare Escentuals fans, one of my favorite kits from their holiday offerings is Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Oh La Luxe ($79.00) which contains fifteen shades for eyes/face. They come in a metallic zippered bag, too, which is nice for travel.
Cheeks/Face: There didn’t seem to be very many cheek/face kits/sets this year in this particular price range, but I did like Make Up For Ever Wild & Chic Best of Make Up For Ever Kit ($55.00), since it contains several of their ultra-popular products without having to shell out fully for it–like their HD Powder, Aqua Cream, and Primer. Let me share with you a fantastic Hair kit since this category is a bit barren, Blow Out in a Box ($200.00), which features my favorite T3 Featherweight Hair Dryer, along with a T3 AntiGravity Barrel Brush and Wide Tooth Comb, plus Living Proof Full Thickening Cream and Straight.
Lips:NARS Kudoki Kabuki Lip Set ($125.00) is one of those products that very few of us actually buy but something most of us would appreciate receiving as a gift; it’s decadent, intricately designed, purposefully made–it’s pure luxury and a collector’s item. I cannot comment on its quality, as I don’t have it and haven’t seen it, but I see this as that, “ooh, ahh” item for the season. Chanel Les Deux Levres Scintillantes ($55.00) contains two glossimers (Spark and Liaison) along with a miniature-sized Nude Lip Definer all housed in a black Chanel-emblazoned makeup bag; the set is fairly neutral and should work universally, and because it’s Chanel, it can impress (for instance, my aunt would much more appreciate a designer brand, because she would never buy it herself).
Skin/Body: The ever-popular Clarisonic has several year-round kits/sets, but they do put a few more together for the holidays. They all tend to be a good value overall, and it’s really a matter of what accessories/bonuses you’d like with it (or what color!). LUSH has a fantastic offering of holiday gift sets and boxes, including plenty over $50 (and plenty under!), and I love giving LUSH sets for anyone I know who likes to take baths or extended showers to relax–also great for younger teens!
Fragrance: When you’re not quite sure what scent someone wears, or if you know they’re looking for a signature scent or just getting into fragrance, I love the sets Sephora puts together. This year’s Sephora Favorites Rollerball Collection For Her ($65.00 for 7×0.20-0.34oz.) includes popular favorites in rollerball format, so they’re small, travel-friendly, and very convenient; for the fragrance collector, you might consider the collector’s edition, which features miniature sizes of popular scents. I also love fragrance sets like Jo Malone Fragrance Combining Cologne Collection ($95.00 for 5×0.3 oz.) because they can be used individually or together–it’s a great opportunity to pick-up Jo Malone scents in smaller sizes (and for lower prices!).
Do you have any suggestions for readers looking for a really big ticket item to add to their wish list or to splurge on for a loved one?
Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Under $50
This part of the holiday gift guide shares my favorite just-for-the-holidays palettes and kits over $30 but $50 or less–not over-the-top indulgent gifts but we’re getting there. If you missed it, I already posted the under $30 guide!
Cheeks/Face:Too Faced In Your Dreams Makeup Collection ($39.00) is an eye, cheek, and lip palette that’s great for someone new to makeup; I like it because everything is presented in an easy-to-digest manner, and the colors coordinate with each other, so there is no guessing. Benefit Project Flawless ($32.00) is a cutely packaged set that contains a highlighter (Girl Meets Pearl), mascara, lipgloss (Foxy Lady), and blush (Bella Bamba). If that’s not quite to your taste, you could check out Romancing the Mirror ($39.00), which contains That Gal, Sugarbomb, and BADgal Lash.
Lips: I’ve been really digging Bobbi Brown’s High Shimmer Lip Gloss Trio ($38.00); they’re fairly sheer, but they had so much dazzle and shine without feeling gritty–I’ve been reaching for these (because I need to do lip swatches for them!) to layer on top of other lipsticks. Estee Lauder’s Pure Color Gloss to Go Set ($32.50) comes in a cute red faux leather zipper cylinder case with six holiday-appropriate glosses, and I like that it’s ready to give (there’s also a lipstick version).
Skin/Body: I love the way Estee Lauder set-up their skincare gift sets this year; they categorize them based on theme, like even skin tone or anti-wrinkle. Clinique has an excellent set for dry skin (Moisture Surge has saved my skin before!) called Total Moisture ($44.00). Consider giving a decadent, luxurious body cream in the form of this Laura Mercier Souffle Body Creme Sampler Set ($50.00 for 4×3 oz.).
Fragrance: Elegantly packaged, convenient to use, and full-sized, Tocca Beauty Rollerball Trio ($48.00 for 3×0.33 oz.) contains three different scents (Florence, Cleopatra, and Colette), which can be gifted as a set or easily broken up. Juicy Couture ($35.00 for 3×0.33 oz.) also has a trio of fragrance sprays of their signature scents. Fresh Sugar Obsessions Rollerball Trio ($35.00 for 3×0.34 oz.) contains popular Fresh scents, and if you have a foodie friend, this might be a good one for them. What’s really great about rollerballs is they’re easy to give, and they can be re-gifted, too–if you give your friend a kit, and they dislike one scent, it’s so easy for them to pass along to a friend/family member.
Do you have any suggestions for readers on the prowl for holiday gifts this year that came out just in time for holiday gift-giving?
Make Up For Ever #1 Diamond Powder ($24.00 for 0.07 oz.) is described as “white shimmer.” It’s the first shade of Make Up For Ever’s Diamond Powder range, which is a product line that interwines the finely milled texture of their Star Powders with the shimmering nature of glitter. It can be used for eyes, cheeks, lips, or body. This is the kind of product that’s meant to be mixed with other products. Make Up For Ever recommends using it over a creamy surface for “longer lasting hold.”
I wanted to check out this product for myself, because Nicholas Lujan used it on me when I visited the Make Up For Ever Boutique in Las Vegas. I loved the way it shimmered without being chunky or gritty–and, best of all, it stayed put! #1 is like a white-beige; it sparkles a warmer white when the light catches it and more of dark beige when it doesn’t–looks a bit like sand, I suppose. It’s a fine glitter that feels more like glitter than a powder, but it’s not gritty or chunky.
It works well with mixing mediums/bases/sealers (like their Eye Seal). Just dampen the brush, pick up the product, and pat gently where desired. You can also pat them over Aqua Creams, while they’re still wet, and then lock them in with Eye Seal. This is easy enough to work with for consumers, though I mentally categorize it as a more advanced or prosumer product overall.
Have you used Diamond Powders before? How do you use them?