Thursday, October 31st, 2013


Harley Quinn Makeup Tutorial by Julia Graf

My favorite part about Halloween is actually seeing all of the insanely creative people in the beauty community showcase their talent and skills with really over-the-top makeup, complete with tutorials. Really, I just like seeing the transformation. I highly recommend checking out the robust Halloween tutorial playlists of the likes of Julia Graf (aka MissChievous), Kandee Johnson, GoldieStarling, Pixiwoo, and the classic Petrilude. For great DIY costumes in addition to makeup, Macbarbie07 has your number!

I invite you to share your favorite Halloween tutorials (but they can’t be your own, it’s about sharing the love!) in the comments below!  If you find a new favorite, don’t forget to subscribe to their channel and like their video! :)

Check out 17 more of my favorites!  Continue reading →

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Must-Have Eye Brushes
Must-Have Eye Brushes

It’s been a long time coming, so I’m so excited to share with you my favorite, must-have eye brushes! I’ve categorized them into a few different groupings, and when it comes to eye brushes, well, one can never have too many duplicates. Though you can definitely use one brush with multiple shades, if given the chance, I prefer to use one brush per color. I tried to include brushes that had high quality duplicates, too, so that you could see a few options for a given style (that is my must-have), because the shape tends to dictate whether a brush is one I’ll reach for often.

I would LOVE to hear about your must-have eye brushes, if you would be so kind as to share below!

Note, I have about 30 brush reviews I’ve yet to post, so some brushes mentioned here will eventually have fully fleshed out reviews, complete with individual photos. Stay tuned!

Blending Brushes

The classic may be MAC 217, but Hakuhodo J5523 is my new favorite–so much so that I bought a second one to add to my stash.

  1. Sephora Pro Blending Brush #27 ($20.00) is a soft, lightly fluffed-up brush that works well for blending powder products together, applying highlighters to the brow bone, or dusting a sheer color all-over the lid.
  2. MAC 217 ($24.00) is a long-time favorite for myself as well as readers as a go-to brush for blending eyeshadows together, softening edges, and applying brow bone highlighters. It’s a solid choice and readily accessible for most.
  3. Hakuhodo J5523 ($18.00) is incredibly soft, lightly fluffy, and a dream to use. It outshines both the brushes mentioned above, and even better? it’s the cheapest of the bunch.

Crease Brushes

If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you’ll know that I’ve often raved about MAC’s 226 brush, which was a limited edition medium-sized, tapered crease brush (I think I have four or five of them). So long 226, for I’ve found four replacements that I love even more (who knew!). Hakuhodo J142 wins this one for quality, shape/size, and price.

  1. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Tapered Blending Brush ($22.00) is a slightly shorter, nicely rounded and tapered brush that works well for depositing color into the crease and then blending and diffusing that color. It’s incredibly soft, works well, and is synthetic, so it’s what I usually reach for when I’m using liquid or cream products.
  2. Tom Ford Eyeshadow Blend (13) Brush ($55.00) is the perfect shape, density, size, and softness for depositing color into the crease with good color deposit and blends and softens the color easily. It’s a real workhorse of a brush for me. That being said…
  3. Hakuhodo J142 ($18.00) is a near-exact dupe of Tom Ford’s crease brush and a third of the cost–and because it’s nearly the same, this is my top pick. I reach for this one often, so I recently purchased a second one of these to have on-hand.
  4. Hakuhodo G5522 ($28.00) is slightly larger and a bit more tapered than the other three brushes, so it works well for really diffusing and softening color. I also like using it to lay down a mid-tone color that I’ll put in the crease first and really blend well past the crease before adding a darker color to define the crease (with a more precise brush).

Eyeshadow Brushes

Sorry, there’s only one that is the holy grail for me, and that’s MAC 239 ($25.00). It is the perfect brush for applying eyeshadow, and frankly, if I could only have one brush to do my eye makeup, I’d pick this. Over every single brush mentioned in this post. There’s a reason why I have six of them. (I’m pretty sure I have two more hiding from me.) I have tried two Hakuhodo brushes (J242 and J004) and neither are quite right to me–though I am still testing the J004 so we’ll see. The shape of the 239 is square-ish, and it’s quite dense but still has a slight fluffiness to it, so it blends out colors if desired. It deposits eyeshadow nicely onto the lid, and it can be swept on or patted and packed on.

Cream Eyeshadow Brushes

When it comes to cream (or liquid) eyeshadows and products, I like firmer, flatter brushes for application. My favorite is MAC 242, because it’s firm, flat, but not too big or too small, so it is good for laying down a lot of color at once, blending out edges, and is a versatile choice.

  1. Tom Ford Eyeshadow Brush ($55.00) is a larger, slightly fluffy, flat eyeshadow brush with a tapered edge. It’s nice for applying eyeshadow all-over the lid, so I like it a lot for creams (but it does work well with powders). The fluffy edge makes this brush work for blending the edges of cream eyeshadow, too, so you can that diffused, softened edge.
  2. MAC 242 ($25.00) is a smaller, flat and firm brush with a slightly domed edge. It’s great for applying cream products to the inner corner of the lid, and it also works well for packing out any eyeshadow (powder or cream) and helps minimize fall out.
  3. MAC 252 ($32.00) is a large, flat brush with a slightly domed/rounded edge. It’s excellent for applying cream eyeshadow all over the lid and still having enough edge to blend out the edges. It’s not as fluffy as the Tom Ford brush but is similar in size.
  4. MAC 249 ($27.00) is a firm, flat brush that gives the most streak-free finish even with more emollient products. I, of course, just learned it has been discontinued when attempting to find the current price on. I guess I’ll have to go about finding a dupe for it now!
  5. Hakuhodo J242 ($17.00) is similar in shape to the MAC 242, but it is softer and a bit fluffier, so it doesn’t pack on color as intensely, but it is softer to use on the lid and blends out color even better. It also does a nice job of applying cream products with minimal streaks.  This brush also works well for applying powder eyeshadow, but I find it a little too narrow personally so I don’t often use it for powder.

Detail Brushes

These are smaller, more precise brushes that I don’t reach for as often as the brushes above, but they’re ones used enough that they’re still worth mentioning. These may also be helpful for someone with less lid space or who needs smaller brushes for their eyes.  MAC 266 is the only one I use every day from this grouping, as the others tend to be used if the application calls for it.

  1. MAC 266 ($20.00) is my go-to for filling in my brows, which I fill in with powder eyeshadow. It has a nice slanted edge, is firm enough to apply thin, precise lines, but has enough thickness that it can gently soften those lines as necessary.
  2. Hakuhodo G5513 ($16.00) is a small, flat, dome-shaped brush that works well for patting, packing, or sweeping eyeshadow onto very small areas. It is similar to Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer (15) Brush but is slightly bigger.
  3. Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer (15) Brush ($50.00) is a small, flat, dome-shaped brush for very, very precise eyeshadow application. I also like using it to pat on eyeshadow on the lower lash line or for blending out very small areas.
  4. MAC 208 ($20.00) is similar in shape and style to the 266, it’s just thinner. It’s great for applying cream, gel, and liquid eyeliner.
  5. MAC 228 ($24.00) is a small, dome-edged brush that’s lightly fluffy. It is a lot like the 239, just much, much smaller, so it works in a similar way: for applying eyeshadow, can blend out if necessary, and can be used in a sweeping or patting motion.

See more photos! Continue reading →

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Must-Have Blush Brushes
Must-Have Blush Brushes

For nearly a year, I’ve been broadening my brush horizons and specifically testing an array of brushes from several brands. These are the brushes that I continue to reach for even after I’ve wrapped up testing. You’ll most likely see similar shapes across the brushes I’ve pulled, as these are the shapes/sizes that I find to work best for how I apply my makeup.  I tried to keep the list to my very, very favorites–ones I reach for and will use over and over again. I have also made the hard choice of choosing between children by trying to pick my ultimate favorite out of each grouping. When there are multiple brushes that are similar in shape/quality, I’ve also included those so you can have a few brands (and price points, sometimes) to choose from.

I would LOVE to hear about your must-have face brushes, if you would be so kind as to share below!

Note, I have about 30 brush reviews I’ve yet to post, so some brushes mentioned here will eventually have fully fleshed out reviews, complete with individual photos. Stay tuned!

Blush Brushes

I like somewhat flat, lightly domed or tapered, and moderately dense brushes for most blush application. These types of brushes work well for applying cheek color and laying down good color in one go, and then they work well to blend and diffuse the color once on the skin. If I could only pick one, I’d recommend Hakuhodo J5543– the Tom Ford Cheek Brush is just as superb but it is more expensive (and they are very comparable).

  1. Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush ($78.00) is a luxurious brush that’s densely-packed with bristles and as soft as silk.
  2. Hakuhodo J5543 Blush Brush ($60.00) is very similar in shape to Tom Ford’s Cheek brush, it’s just not quite as dense. I use these two interchangeably.
  3. Sephora PRO Precision Blush (73) Brush ($32.00) is flatter than the two above, and it is slightly tapered, so it works well for really dragging and drawing color upwards towards the temples of the face. It’s also less dense (because it’s flatter), so it can work well for applying more pigmented blushes without going overboard.
  4. Honorable Mention: Hakuhodo Large Yachiyo Brush ($48.00) is a fluffier, tapered, slightly domed-shaped brush that’s not too dense but not too airy. This is a newer addition to my routine, but I had been using NARS’ Yachiyo brush previously and this is similar in use (it’s not as tapered as NARS’). It’s not as soft as the above three brushes, which makes it particularly useful for a blush that’s sheer–it tends to grab pigment really well because it dislodges the powder from the surface more readily than the other brushes.

Foundation Brushes

I typically use liquid foundation, as it tends to be the best fit for my skin type, so my choice of brushes reflects that. If I had to pick one from these four (money being no object), it would be Tom Ford Cream Foundation (02) Brush. However, knowing that it is extremely expensive, I think Real Techniques Expert Face Brush gives this a real run for its money, and at a fraction of the cost, would be my recommendation in most cases.  I would start with that one, quite honestly, and if you were happy with that, then no reason to tempt yourself further!

  1. Real Techniques Expert Face Brush ($8.99) is a synthetic brush that’s great for applying, blending, and buffing in liquid foundation. It’s incredibly affordable and works well.
  2. Hakuhodo G5556 ($69.00) is a blend of synthetic and goat hair with a round brush with an angled, flat edge. It works well for buffing and blending out foundation.
  3. Hourglass Foundation/Blush Brush No. 2 ($58.00) is a synthetic brush with a longer brush head and a rounded, slightly domed edge. This has been a go-to brush applying liquid foundation for at least year prior to trying some of my other new favorites, but I still like this one a lot. I like this one for particularly thin or watery foundations. I will note that it can be a pain in the behind to get totally clean and pristine again.
  4. Tom Ford Cream Foundation (02) Brush ($72.00) is a smaller, dense, somewhat flat and rounded brush that delivers an exceptionally streak-free, well-blended, flawless finish with ease. This brush was also the easiest to clean.

Contour Brushes

The most common type of contour brush is an angled brush, but I also like a tapered shape. If you don’t do a lot of contouring, you may find a tapered contour brush works better because it can also be used to apply blush or highlighter. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend MAC 168, as it has been a cult favorite for years, and it remains a classic in my stash.

  1. Hakuhodo J5521 ($36.00) is a small, tapered brush that works well for contouring and highlighting, so I really like that it’s a more veresatile/dual-purpose brush. It’s very soft, picks up and lays down powders well, and is easy to clean. If you want something more affordable, the Contour Brush in Real Techniques Core Collection ($17.99) is a nice alternative.
  2. Hakuhodo J511 ($33.00) is a small, angled brush with silky-soft bristles and a moderate density–it has a fluffiness to it that works well for blending and laying down natural contours. This is smaller than MAC 168, so it would be ideal for smaller faces or for more detailed/precise contours.
  3. MAC 168 ($35.00) is a classic, and it’s still a favorite for me. It’s just the right size–not too big, not too small–soft, blends powders beautifully, and fits well into the hollows of the cheek. It has a nice fluffiness that works well with contouring/sculpting powders to deposit enough color but not too much all at once.

Highlighting/Finishing Brushes

Fan brushes, in general, are superb for giving a soft, diffused coloring with minimal blending required. I really think they’re an underrated tool! I always reach for these throughout the week. I find the size, shape, and materials of the MAC 184 to make it my favorite–I like that it’s a blend of fibers, so it still works well with cream/liquid products as well as with powders.

  1. MAC 184 ($24.00) is a duo-fiber fan brush that’s not too big or too small (I really love the size), and I love that it works well with powders, liquids, and creams. I tend to use it for highlighting or finishing powders, but I also use it for applying cream blush or any intensely pigmented blush that I need to take it easy on.
  2. Sephora PRO Fan Brush #65 ($27.00) is wider and denser, so it is particularly lovely for applying an all-over highlighter or finishing powder.
  3. Hakuhodo J4004 ($26.00) is incredibly soft, so if you have more sensitive skin, it may be the best bet for you when it comes to a fan brush. It’s slightly smaller than MAC 184, but it has a nice feathery quality to it and I reach for it when applying a more frosted highlighter.

Powder Brushes

I find myself using Make Up For Ever #128 anytime I apply a setting powder–it’s really a go-to and completely made other powder brushes I’ve used in the past obsolete. The two other brushes mentioned here are nice-to-have brushes that I do use often, so for me, they’re must-haves, but I don’t think they’re necessarily as applicable for everyone.

  1. MAC 138 ($53.00) is a large, tapered brush. It’s fantastic for applying any powder all-over the face where you still want a lighter/more natural application. I often use this with Guerlain’s Meteorites.
  2. Make Up For Ever #128 ($52.00) is my new go-to for applying setting powder, because it has a nice “press” feeling due to the way the brush head is constructed (read my review, which is linked in the beginning, for a better explanation of this).
  3. Tom Ford Bronzer (05) Brush ($115.00) might be touted as a bronzer brush, but I like it for dusting on finishing powders or other translucent, sheer powders. It’s a massive brush, so it takes care of that task in no time.

I store my brushes in wide, cylinder vases/jars and have filled them with glass beads.  I only keep out the brushes that I use regularly (I go through a fair amount of brushes in a week span with how much I test), as you may have an issue with dust gathering on unused brushes if they’re left out and rarely used.  I find that I use mine frequently enough that I haven’t noticed this as an issue.  Brushes I don’t use or infrequently use, I store in plastic containers in my bathroom drawers.

See more photos! Continue reading →

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Too Faced Be Merry, Be Bright Kat Von D Spellbinding theBalm Balm Voyage Urban Decay Vice 2 Eyeshadow Palette Sugarpill Cold Chemistry LORAC Pro Palette Too Faced Pretty Rebel Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder Sleek MakeUP Vintage Romance

As promised, here are my top picks for palettes to snag during the holidays! :)  Also… as I review other palettes from the holidays (I don’t think I have too many more!) and find other great choices, I’ll be sure to add them here.

  1. Too Faced Be Merry, Be Bright Set ($45.00 for 1.28 oz.) consists of two “books” of makeup–each has six eyeshadows and two blush/cheek colors. The quality was good across the board, and there was a nice variety of colors and textures. You can read part one and part two of my reviews on it.
  2. Kat Von D Spellbinding Eyeshadow Palette ($55.00 for 1.20 oz.) contains twenty-four (24!!!) eyeshadows, and they’re even designed to be layered and used together, so you can have an endless amount of combinations and textures! You can read part one and part two.
  3. theBalm Balm Voyage ($42.50 for 1.21 oz.) has sixteen eyeshadows and three lip/cheek colors, but the eyeshadows are the stars. This is a great choice for someone who prefers more matte/satin finishes. Check out part one and part two for reviews on this palette.
  4. Urban Decay Vice 2 ($59.00 for 0.60 oz.) has twenty eyeshadows to choose from with a variety in texture and color to choose from. If you love pigmented, buttery, soft eyeshadows–this one’s for you. You can read part one and part two of my reviews.
  5. Sugarpill Cold Chemistry ($34.00 for 0.48 oz.) is a wintry mix of cool-toned gray, white, purple, and teal for someone who loves bold, rich colors and a lot of them. Not limited edition but a perfectly-timed release for the holiday season. Read my review here.
  6. LORAC Pro Palette ($42.00 for 0.55 oz.) is a cult-favorite palette for a reason–it combines mattes with high frosts. There are eight matte shades and then eight more frosted shades, and you can mix and match them for satin and pearl finishes, too! Permanent and available year-round, there’s no hurry to snag one, but with holiday deals and sales, now’s a great time to try it. Read my review here.
  7. Too Faced Pretty Rebel ($46.00 for 0.50 oz.) contains ten eyeshadows, which might not be as sexy as a mega palette, but these are ten fantastic eyeshadows. If you love jewel-tones, bold and bright shades, and your frost finishes, this is a palette worth considering. Read my review here.
  8. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette ($58.00 for 0.35 oz.) is for those who love a beautiful, glowing complexion and flawless canvas. Ambient Lighting Powders are amazing on their own but getting three for a little more than the price of one? Great opportunity to try more shades or add them to your routine. Read my review here.
  9. Sleek MakeUP Vintage Romance Eyeshadow Palette ($9.99 for 0.36 oz.) is my more budget-friendly pick for a fall/winter palette with great quality–nicely pigmented shades in hues of gold, berry, and purple. Read my review here.

What palettes would you recommend to others for the holidays?

Monday, October 21st, 2013


Urban Decay Ocho Loco 2 Eyeliner Set

Some of these are gifts that I’ve specifically reviewed, others are formulas I’ve tried but perhaps not the full set or that exact set. I’m excluding palettes from this post, as I want to do a round-up of my favorite palettes separately. I’ve also included a list of additional holiday gift suggestions that tick a lot of the boxes on what I’m looking for in a good gift set but I may not have tried before. In general, when I want to maximize my money and get the most out of a set, here’s what I look for:

  1. Variety — One of the best aspects about buying a palette or a set or kit is getting to try a bunch of products or shades, some that you might not be willing to buy individually. Depending on what you already own, you may also have to consider how much overlap there is with what you already have compared to what’s included in the set (and if you want doubles!).
  2. Value — How often have you actually finished a full-sized product? Even when I only used MAC and wasn’t blogging and buying full collections, the only shade I ever finished was the shade I used for my brows–and that still took years of daily use. I remember the blush that I used every single day for at least a year, if not longer, was about half-gone. Most of us just aren’t going to finish the majority of products we own, which means, we don’t actually need the full-sized. Value is both what you get (quantity) and what you’ll actually use from it (so a palette with 20 colors that you’d use only one from isn’t valuable to you!). At the same time, a set that saves you a couple bucks isn’t that exciting.
  3. Price — $500 for 300 items is still $500. I find a lot of the best sets come in around $50 or less. If you are a huge, huge fan of a particular brand and have the money to splurge, some brands over super-over-the-top-mega-sets at $200+ that can be well worth it, though. (Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Liner set from previous years comes to mind.)
  4. Packaging — minis can be tricky, so sometimes a mini can be so small that it’s not very functional. An eyeliner that’s an inch tall is annoying to use, or a nail polish where the brush is half the size can also be problematic. There’s not deal-breakers, but it’s something I’ve learned to pay attention to.

Under $60

Under $100

Some additional sets to consider…

Note, I haven’t tried these products extensively or at all, so I can’t vouch for the quality, but these are good opportunities to try something new OR if you have tried the formula already and liked it, I think they’re worth considering!

  • Sephora Formula X The Twenty Two ($55.00) includes 22 miniature-sized bottles of the new formula. There is also a 10-piece set of Sephora’s regular polish with full-sized bottles for $36.
  • Sephora Favorites are kits that feature top-selling products across brands from Sephora, and there are 12 different sets available ranging from lips, mascara, eyeliners, fragrances, rollerballs, and more. It’s a great way to try out cult favorites in a one-stop shop. I think the fragrance/rollerball sets are pretty nice, since even trial sizes of fragrances can be all you need of a fragrance you like but don’t love.
  • Bite Beauty 15 Shades of Sephora ($48.00) includes 15 shades of glosses, eacch at 0.06 oz., giving you plenty of options to choose from.
  • Kat Von D Spellbinding Lipstick Set ($39.00) includes 10 miniature-sized lipsticks (0.042 oz. each); great variety and a healthy mini size that you can get many uses out of.

Stock Up on Skincare

Whatever your favorite regimen, the holiday season is a great time to pick up value-packed starter kits, travel-sized versions (great for actually traveling!), or mega-sized versions. So, keep an eye out for those!

What are your favorite holiday gift sets/kits this year?

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

I shared my favorite oranges yesterday for Halloween, so of course, the other side of the coin is rich, inky blacks! Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Illamasqua Creator — a deep, dark black with silver flecks and sparkle with a glossy, high-shine finish
  2. Chanel Mirifique — a sparkling, creamy, deep dark black
  3. Urban Decay Perversion — a cult favorite; deep, dark, inky matte black for the lash line
  4. Milani Pitch Black — a deep, dark black eyeshadow with a matte finish for under $10
  5. Sugarpill Stella — a deep, dark black loose eyeshadow with teal, violet, pink, and emerald green micro-shimmer

What are your favorite black-hued beauty products?