Thursday, November 17th, 2011


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?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

NARS Catfight Lipstick
NARS Catfight Lipstick

NARS Catfight Lipstick

NARS Catfight Lipstick ($24.00 for 0.12 oz.) is described as a “nude mauve.” It has a semi-matte finish, which is supposed to yield full color coverage, be long-wearing, and moisturizing from the inclusion of conditioners and antioxidants. I don’t know if I’d use the word “nude” to describe this color. It’s a pink-plum with a subtle, cool undertone running through it. The finish is decidedly semi-matte–it has the look of a matte overall but there’s a little sheen there, and the sheen is still visible from afar. MAC Hot Gossip is pinker and glossier but similar in color.

NARS’ Semi-Matte Lipstick formula wears four to six hours on me, and when I wore Catfight out for errands, it wore welll for four hours and needed reapplication at five. It’s unscented and tasteless to me. I don’t find it hydrating; it’s not as drying as some matte finishes are, but it’s not comfortable to wear for longer than three hours. I had strong urges to apply balm by that point!

The Glossover

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product

Catfight

B
I wish it was more hydrating or less drying, because wearing it for longer than a few hours results in rather dry, chapped lips. I'd recommend wearing it with balm or gloss on top or underneath to help combat that particular issue.

Product

7.5/10

Pigmentation

10/10

Texture

8.5/10

Longevity

8.5/10

Application

4/5

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Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Video Review: NARS Holiday 2011 First Impressions & Swatches

First look at NARS’ holiday collection along with swatches and brilliant (total sarcasm) commentary by yours truly :)

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

NARS Albatross Lipgloss
NARS Albatross Lipgloss

NARS Holiday 2011: Albatross Lipgloss

NARS Albatross Lipgloss ($24.00 for 0.28 oz.) is supposed to yield a “luminous glow” once slicked onto lips. I can get down with that; it’s virtually colorless but has a fair amount of white gold shimmer that deposits on the lips to give it a very glossy, shimmery look. It’s not quite as white as MAC Almondine or MAC A Quiet Roar.  It’s the kind of gloss I’d stow in a makeup bag for a quickie enhanced lip if I had nothing else on or add warmth and glow to a deeper shade (think red or berry).

While NARS describes their gloss formula as comfortable, glossy, and non-sticky, I can’t agree that they’re non-sticky. They’re not thick and sticky like some other glosses, but there is noticeable tackiness. They are comfortable to wear, though, and the gloss spreads evenly across the lips without being drying. In the past, some of NARS’ glosses have had a plastic-like scent, but I haven’t had that issue in the past six months or longer of their glosses (so maybe they fixed that under the radar!). With a lighter shade like Albatross, I get about two hours of wear before it needs a reapplication.

The Glossover

coming-soon

NARS Albatross Lipgloss Review, Photos, Swatches

B-
I like the gloss formula overall, except it doesn't wear well--I typically get four hours of wear out of lipgloss, but Albatross needs a reapplication after two! It does last a wee bit longer over a lipstick but not by much.

Product

8.5/10

Pigmentation

9/10

Texture

9/10

Longevity

6.5/10

Application

4/5

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Saturday, October 29th, 2011

NARS Mandchourie Eyeshadow Duo
NARS Mandchourie Eyeshadow Duo

NARS Holiday 2011: Mandchourie Eyeshadow Duo

NARS Mandchourie Eyeshadow Duo ($33.00 for 0.14 oz.) is a new shade for the holidays described as a “gold-infused denim” and “rich navy.” It will be added to the brand’s permanent range. NARS line of pressed powder eyeshadows are supposed to be “highly pigmented, long-wearing, and crease-resistant.” They don’t wear all day on me without a primer, though some perform better than others. I typically get around eight hours with subtle creasing and marginal fading, but the usage of a primer will get me to twelve hours without any creasing or fading.

The first shade is a medium-dark navy blue with indigo undertones and golden shimmer. It had decent color payoff, but it wasn’t perfectly opaque, though the softness of the powder itself made it extremely easy to blend. The hue reminded me instantly of MAC Blue Spruce, though the two are noticeably different; Blue Spruce is greener and has more of a copper-colored sparkle, whereas Mandchourie is golden and distinctly blue.

The other shade is a dark navy blue with subtle indigo undertones and a matte finish. Make Up For Ever #147 is the only shade that seemed to compare at all, but it is shimmery and not quite as dark. Like the first shade, the texture is silky soft and smooth, but it is so soft that it is a little powdery. It blends easily, and you can tap it on for better color payoff on the lid, but be wary of fall out. I’d recommend doing the eyes first and foundation after when using this particular duo.

The Glossover

palette

NARS Mandchourie Eyeshadow Duo Review, Photos, Swatches

B
There's a fine line between soft and powdery, and this duo seems to be caught between the two. The softness gives a beautiful, smooth application that's easy to blend out, but it also makes it prone to sheering out and powdery fall out during application.

Product

8.5/10

Pigmentation

8.5/10

Texture

8.5/10

Longevity

8.5/10

Application

4/5

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Saturday, October 29th, 2011

NARS Ponderosa Cream Eyeshadow
NARS Ponderosa Cream Eyeshadow

NARS Holiday 2011: Ponderosa Cream Eyeshadow

NARS Ponderosa Cream Eyeshadow ($23.00 for 0.10 oz.) is a limited edition holiday offering described simply as “mink.” NARS describes their cream eyeshadow formula as lightweight, blendable, buildable, and it can be worn alone or paired with a powder eyeshadow for “longer-lasting wear and added dimension.” I’m glad NARS mentioned using a powder eyeshadow for longer-lasting wear, because without a powder on top, I only achieved an hour of wear before it was a creased mess of brown on my lid–and I don’t have oily lids at all.

Admittedly, I was a little torn on how to effectively rate this product, because “it can be worn alone” seems rather ill-advised if you end up with an irreparable makeup faux-pas on your eyes in an hour or less. I decided to meet NARS halfway; I wouldn’t expect or rate with the expectation of eight-hour wear but would expect it to last through a casual dinner at the very least! I also would not recommend wearing this as an eyeliner, because it smudged and migrated into the under eye area.

It’s a complex shade of brown, because it’s a cool-toned deep, dark brown with burgundy and bronze micro-shimmer. MAC Legendary Black reminded me of this color but not as deep or as cool-toned. Wet ‘n’ Wild Comfort Zone also has a similar shade that’s a bit warmer. MAC Smut is comparable but seems a smidgen darker. It comes together nicely, and there is plenty of pigmentation.

The consistency is extremely creamy, so it glides and applies well, but it sheers out easily. I recommend applying it layers rather than applying a lot at once if you want really rich, opaque color. By building in layers, you’ll also give each layer to set a bit so it will hold together better overall. It’s completely wearable and certainly more durable with a powder on top to set; you can try a translucent powder, which will give it a slightly more muted look, but it will enhance the wear to eight hours without creasing or smudging.

The Glossover

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coming-soon

Ponderoa

B-
It doesn't work well alone, because it does seem to crease very quickly (even with a sheer layer of product), but if you use it in conjunction with a powder (translucent or otherwise), it holds up much better.

Product

7/10

Pigmentation

10/10

Texture

9.5/10

Longevity

6/10

Application

4/5

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