Friday, August 22nd, 2014

MAC Marge Simpson's Cutie-cles Nail Stickers
MAC Marge Simpson’s Cutie-cles Nail Stickers

MAC Marge Simpson’s Cutie-cle Nail Stickers ($16.50) have a shiny, yellow background with the cast of the Simpsons drawn in black. It’s the same pattern/design as featured on the boxes in this collection. You get two strips, each with eight diffently-sized “nails.” They’re about an inch in length (from the usable edge to the tip).

I don’t know if I’ve ever used nail stickers, but at least not in the last decade, so I was honestly surprised at how easy these were to apply and how nice they looked. The instructions were helpful, and as someone who has pretty much nil experience with it, I only had one goof where the sticker creased a tiny bit on one nail. I started by peeled the back of the sticker halfway, which exposed only the lower half of the sticker, so I could maneuver that along the bottom of each nail, and then slowly peeled the remaining bit off as I stretched and pressed the sticker onto the nail. Then, I bent the excess sticker over the free edge of my nail, rounding along the curves, and used a glass nail file to remove the excess. I did all ten nails in about five minutes–it was extremely easy! I’ve had them on for seven days, and they’re no worse for the wear: they look exactly the same eight days later as they did when I put them on. To remove, I used regular nail polish remover and felt, and it removed easily (pretty much like regular polish), and bonus: no yellow staining.

They don’t look as natural as something done yourself to me, because the bottom edge of it is so perfectly curved/neat, and obviously the drawings are perfect across all your nails. The pre-cut nails fit fairly well on me; only on one nail on each side was the width not quite right, but I was able to easily cut the excess sticker by just rounding my thumbnail along that edge. It’s hard to tell that these are Simpsons-related from afar, as the drawings are smaller. I was also really bummed with how the drawings were translating onto the nails. Not a single nail (and mine are longer, 0.6″ from base to tip) has Marge on it. Smithers shows up on six of the ten nails, and Edna shows up on four of the ten nails. Part of Maggie’s head is visible on six of the ten, then Lisa and Homer show up on two of the ten. Mr. Burns shows up once on each pinky nail, and there’s a bit of Sideshow Bob visible on the pinky nail design as well. I really wish they had broken up the design and thought more about who was going to be visible towards the base (which everyone will use).

These new, limited edition nail stickers are part of MAC’s collaboration with The Simpsons, which will launch online on August 28th and in-stores September 4th.

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Thursday, August 14th, 2014

NARS Yachiyo Kabuki Brush
NARS Yachiyo Kabuki Brush

NARS Yachiyo Kabuki Brush ($55.00) is described as a “multi-functional tool designed for defining cheekbones, highlighting the complexion, and blending and diffusing color on or around the eye area.” It’s a slightly smaller-than-medium-sized blush brush that flares outwards from the base and then tapers gradually to a point at the tip. It’s 1.5 inches / 4 centimeters in length, 0.75 inches / 2.5 centimeters in width (at its widest) and thickness. It has a total length of 6.25 inches / just over 16 centimeters. It has a fair amount of spring and moderate density. I liked it best with under-pigmented blushes or blushes with stiffer, drier consistencies, because the bristles aren’t as soft, so they seem to disturb the surface of tougher powder blushes better, but it’s a brush that doesn’t feel as nice on the skin at times. When I use a feathery touch, I don’t notice that it’s lacking some softness and smoothness to the bristles, but if I try to buff or really blend and diffuse color, it’s less comfortable. I remember hearing a lot of raves for this brush over the years, so when I received it, I was disappointed by the texture and feel of the brushes. It actually prompted me to try Hakuhodo’s Large Yachiyo brush ($50), which is softer but not as soft as other face brushes.

NARS Mie Kabuki Brush ($55.00) is described as a “soft, allover face powder” brush that uses goat hair bristles. It’s a medium-large powder brush that flares from the bottom, rounds out in the middle, then gradually tapers to a soft point at the top. It’s nicely weighted with slightly more weight towards the brush head end, but it feels comfortable in the hand. The brush head is 1.75 inches / 5 centimeters in length, 1.25 inches / 3 centimeters in width (at its widest point) and thickness. It had a total length of 7 inches / 17.5 centimeters. The bottom half (towards the base) is dense, and as it moves up, it has more of a moderate density and moderate spring. The bristles are somewhat rough/scratchy against the skin, especially if you use any tapping or stippling motion, and it is less noticeable if you use slow, sweeping motions. It is about double the size of the Yachiyo with greater density, but it is similar in overall shape.

NARS Mizubake Kabuki Brush ($55.00) is described as a “contour and sculpt” brush with goat hair bristles that can be used with blush as well. It is a short-handled, flat-topped brush that flares out from the base. The brush head was just short of 1.25 inches / 3 centimeters in length, and 1.25 inches / 3 centimeters in width (at its widest point) and thickness. It had a total length of 4/5 inches / 11 centimeters. It could have a better cut–the bristles are a bit uneven, but it was significantly softer, smoother, and nicer to use on the skin compared to the other two brushes above. It had moderate density with light spring, so it worked well for buffing product into the skin, stippling, blending, and sweeping. Of the four, this was the only one I liked, though the shape itself isn’t one that I use in my regular routine, but it is a nice alternative to a buffer brush for someone looking for a longer handle (compared to most buffer brushes, that is!) and less density (it is easier to clean and dries faster than your typical buffer brush, since it is less dense).

NARS Kudoki Kabuki Brush ($40.00) is described as a “sable and pony hair” brush used to “contour the eye for impeccable crease definition.” It is a medium-large-sized, sharply angled eye brush. The brush head measured 0.5 inches / just over 1 centimeter in length, 0.4 inches / 9mm in width, 1/8 of an inch / 3mm in thickness. It had a total 6.5 length of inches / almost 17 centimeters. It’s a firmer, denser brush that is very precise, so if you like a soft, diffused crease, this isn’t an appropriate brush. This seems like a brush you’d use to create a cut crease look. It could be used to apply eyeliner as well, but it is a thicker angled brush, so it would be for a more specific look/application or perhaps smudging out eyeliner. The bristles were fairly soft, but the shape is “sharper” in a way, so use a light pressure when applying to find your comfort zone. The cut could be better, as the edge is noticeably uneven.

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Yachiyo Kabuki Brush

Moderate density, springy brush that is best for under-pigmented powder products as the bristles are scratchier/rougher and dislodge powder from stubborn pans of powder better, but it can be uncomfortable to use, especially when blending due to the scratchiness.
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Mie Kabuki Brush

A medium-large all-over face powder brush with rougher/scratchier bristles, which makes it more unpleasant to use as an all-over face brush. The lack of softness is more noticeable when tapping or patting the brush against the skin and slightly less apparent when doing a sweeping motion.
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Mizubake Kabuki Brush

Moderately dense, light springiness that made it work well for buffing and blending out powder products on the skin for a really diffused look. The bristles were fairly soft, and the brush is similar to how one might use a buffing brush but with a flatter edge and a longer handle (but it is a short handle compared to face brushes in general).
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Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Z Palette - Fall 2014 Colors
Z Palette – Fall 2014 Colors

Z Palette Large Palettes ($20.00 each) will add five new colors in September. The new colors are: Lavender, Orange, Sky Blue, Yellow, and Pearl White. The Yellow shade is the brightest and most neon, while Sky Blue and Orange are slightly subdued. The White is a bright, crisp white.

Each palette comes with 20 metal stickers so you can magnetize any product you plan to put in it. The Large palette fits about 28 standard-sized eyeshadows (MAC, Urban Decay, Makeup Geek, etc.). Ever since I saw MakeupByTiffanyD depot NARS eyeshadows with floss, I’ve been kind of wanting to try, so I just might see how that goes to fill these up! Has anyone tried that method with success?

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Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

simplehuman sensor mirror
simplehuman sensor mirror

A couple of weeks ago, after seeing several readers recommend it, I decided to pull the trigger and buy the simplehuman sensor mirror ($200.00). It supposed to be a light-up mirror that uses a built-in sensor so it lights up when you get near it, and it uses LEDs to provide light that mimics natural sunlight. The LEDs are supposed to outlast you even with daily use, so theoretically, you shouldn’t have to replace the light or the mirror while you have it. (The claim specifically: “Our mirror’s LEDs have been rated to perform like new after 40,000 hours — that’s an hour a day, everyday, for more than 100 years.”)

simplehuman is likely known for their design, and I definitely liked that this is more of a cordless product, as it keeps my countertop cleaner, requires one less electrical socket, and is easily moved from one room to another. (I find that I keep it nearby for photos when I’m applying lip products, but then I’ve also been using it where I do my makeup.) One charge is supposed to last five weeks, so you don’t have to worry about regularly plugging it in. I haven’t had to charge mine over the two weeks I’ve used it. It’s heavy enough that it isn’t easily knocked over, but it’s easily carried to another room or put away. The mirror tilts nicely, so you can choose the angle that makes sense for how you’re positioned. I have it angled so it looks more like a dinner plate when I’m applying lip swatches, as I stand while doing so, but when I’m doing my makeup, I sit, so I have it positioned more vertically. You can also adjust the height. simplehuman has an adjustable diagram here so you can see how it adjusts.

The lighting is good; it does a good job of mimicking natural sunlight–much like sitting in front of a window without direct light (so it doesn’t turn yellowish), and it illuminates evenly as it is a ring of light.  It’s not hard on my eyes, as it is not so bright that it’s going to light up a room, but it does give you targeted, consistent lighting right where you need it. It would be nice if there was a dimmer, as some may be more/less sensitive to light.  The size and magnification worked well for me, as I could see my features more closely and do a better job at applying products more precisely as things were magnified, but I could still see more of my face to get an overview of the look. I still think having a regular mirror nearby is handy, though.

My only gripe was that there wasn’t a way to force the sensor to take longer to shut off. We actually have sensor lighting in our bathrooms, and we’ve adjusted all the timers, because when we first moved in, we’d end up showering in the dark as they’d turn off too soon! According to simplehuman, they use “intelligent multi-sense” that’s supposed to “adapt to your behavior … It becomes more sensitive during use, so it won’t turn off unexpectedly.” About half the time I use it, the light turns off when I look down to do eyeliner, because my face drops beyond the sensor on the top. If you actually get up to get an item, or if you lean over to pull something out of a drawer, it’ll probably shut off. It takes a second to pop back on when your face returns. I’d love to adjust it from maybe 5 seconds delay, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, etc.

It does lack some of the features you may be more comfortable with (or prefer) in other makeup mirrors, like the ability to switch between magnification levels (or swivel to a regular mirror/no magnification mirror), types of lighting, dimming, side panels for more extreme viewing angles, and so on. Ultimately, this is a simpler makeup mirror, but the brighter, more calibrated, and even lighting is one of its greatest selling points. I just think it depends on your needs and what features you actually use.  I don’t know that it is “worth” the price tag, as it is significantly more than most makeup mirrors on the market.  It has a really nice streamlined, cordless design and great lighting, but if you already have a set-up with good, natural lighting streaming in, I’m not sure you’ll get the value out of this product. For my purposes (for lip swatches and eye makeup), I’m finding I really like it a lot–more than I thought I would–so yes, if it holds up for several years, I think I could tell you it was worth it (for me).

I was actually debating on whether to opt for the smaller (and cheaper) version, but I ended up buying the full-sized for myself. Not even twelve hours after I bought it, Sephora pitched me about the mirror and asked if I wanted to receive either the standard or mini for consideration, which ended up working out nicely because one of the things I really was curious about was how the full-sized and travel version compared to each other! Now, I get to do that for you :) There is also a wall-mounted option that is the same as the full-sized version in this post. I think the wall-mounted one would be best suited for someone with a set-up that requires standing.

simplehuman mini sensor mirror ($130.00) has one major advantage over the larger version: it’s travel-friendly. It comes with a zippered, slightly firm case that holds the mirror, which folds down. Potentially, the second major advantage is that this mirror has 10x magnification (compared to 5x magnification of the full-sized mirror).

The easiest difference to spot is that it is a much smaller mirror–4.75″ across compared to the 8″ full-sized mirror–but the magnification is also quite different. On the mini, it has 10x magnification, whereas the standard is 5x. The sensor light is on the bottom of the mini but on the top for the standard. If desired, you could actually flip the mirror to the other side, which shortens the height of the mirror (depending on the surface you set it on, how tall/short you are, your seat, etc.). The mini is about 3″ shorter, a skinnier stem, but the base has a similar footprint, it’s just lighterweight and less robust (but the diameter is about the same). A single charge on the mini is supposed to last up to 8 weeks, while the full-sized is 5 weeks, though they use the same USB charger. I have a note on my calendar to check in sometime in October on charging.

The mini is lighter-weight, though I wouldn’t describe it as that light, and it’s a fine weight if you’re packing a larger suitcase but may add a bit more weight than ideal to a carry-on. It doesn’t take up too much space, though, and the case has some protection but has some give (perhaps best described as firm, but not solid, case).

I found I preferred using the full-sized mirror, as I could see more of my face, and felt like I didn’t have to be as close-up to the mirror, which gave me more room to work (especially important if you use a long-handled brushes) and some ability to “step back” to see the results. When I used it, I felt really close to the mirror at all times, so I think the diameter is smaller than what my needs require, much like the magnification was more than I needed except for tweezing that one stubborn misplaced brow hair. For me, it didn’t feel as practical or as useful when I would sit down and do my makeup in front of this. However, if you really need more than 5x magnification, the mini may be the right choice. No matter which one you have, a regular mirror nearby is handy so that you don’t forget to look at the big picture (whatever everyone else will see!) as well.

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Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

NARS Powder Brush #10
NARS Powder Brush #10

Last April, NARS released new Artistry Brushes. Since then, I’ve spent time using them on and off, figuring out which ones I like, don’t like, and all that. I don’t like any of the face brushes; I find them prone to shedding and at times, scratchy–the latter is hard to deal with. I had shedding with all four face brushes I tried continuously, though after a dozen or more washes, I only find a stray hair here and there now, but initially it was more than a few. The only thing I liked about these were the handles, as they were weighty and well-balanced. They are not brushes I would reach for voluntarily due to the scratchiness as well as the shedding.

NARS Powder Brush #10 ($52.00) is supposed to “blend, buff, and diffuse powder.” It’s a large, flared brush with a slightly tapered (just along the edges) top, that is almost flat. The fibers did not look to be all that well cut–they were quite jagged. It was moderately dense with good flexibility and spring, so it was able to apply a loose setting or finishing powder well without applying too much (it was just uncomfortable to apply). This brush shed quite a bit initially, and it has come down to only a few per use, but it’s still frustrating to deal with it at this price point. The brush head is 48mm in length, 40mm in width, and 40mm in thickness. It had a round, open ferrule and a total length of 7 inches or 18 centimeters. I noticed that the two brushes with all-black bristles seemed to be the roughest and least well-cut–very uneven and the bristles felt thicker, whereas the two brushes with browner bristles were softer and had a more even cut.

NARS Bronzing Powder Brush #11 ($52.00) is a densely-packed, buffer brush with a short-handle (like a regular short handle, not a squat, buffer brush type handle). It flares out slightly with a gentle dome shape. This one was softer than #10, so it is moderately soft. It only seemed slightly scratchy if you tried using it to stipple or tap product on, but if you sweep, buff, or blend, it is fairly soft and doesn’t irritate or bother my skin when used. It blends very well, whether that’s applying bronzer or to correct over-applied blush. It’s 35mm in length, 43mm in width, and 43mm in thickness. It had an open, round ferrule, and a total length of 4.5 inches or 11.5 centimeters.

NARS Blush Brush #20 ($42.00) is a dome-shaped, medium-sized blush brush. It flares out slightly from the ferrule and them rounds along the corners. The bristles are densely packed, and the brush feels soft most of the time. On mine, there’s one edge that is slightly scratchy when I pat on blush color for initial application. The density of this brush makes this pick up quite a bit of pigment and deposit it in one place, so if you’re heavy-handed, you’ll want to look for a less dense brush, but if you tend to always under-apply or have sheerer blushes, you might like how easily this will pick up color. It will soften the edges, but I recommend wiping off excess color on a paper towel or tissue to get good diffusion. The brush head is 35mm in length, 30mm in width, and 20mm in thickness. It had a slightly pinched ferrule, and a total length of 6.5 inches or just over16 centimeters.

NARS Contour Brush #21 ($42.00) is an angled, medium-sized brush designed for contouring. This brush could have been cut better–the bristles were somewhat uneven, and it was noticeably scratchy on the skin during use. When applied with light pressure and skimmed across the skin, it felt okay, but I often felt like it was scratchy when using it. I had shedding problems with this one for the first six washes, and after that, it sheds two or three bristles per use. The shape fits well in the hollows of the cheeks for a softer, more diffused contour. The brush head is 33mm in length, 35mm in width, and 20mm in thickness. It had a slightly pinched ferrule with a total length of 6.5 inches or just over 16 centimeters.

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Powder Brush #10

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Bronzing Powder Brush #11

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Friday, May 30th, 2014

Chikuhodo Z-8 Cheek Brush
Chikuhodo Z-8 Cheek Brush

Chikuhodo Z-8 Cheek Brush ($141.00) is a medium-sized, tapered, slightly paddle-shaped, blush brush. The brush head is 1.25 inches or 3 centimeters in width, just over 1.5 inches or 4 centimeters in length, and 0.75 inches or 2 centimeters in thickness. It has an open ferrule and a total length of 6 inches or just over 15.5 centimeters. It is made out of gray squirrel hair.

It’s an impossibly soft, dense blush brush that applies both sheer and more pigmented blushes with ease, blends them almost as you apply and lay down the color, and never, ever irritates the skin. I like how dense and full the brush is, but it still has give; it doesn’t feel stiff or heavy against the skin–you still get a lot that featheriness of a less dense brush. This brush is a real multi-tasker, if you wish it to be, because it’s large enough to apply blush, bronzer, or powder as desired, but it isn’t overly large, so it could also work for dusting on a highlighter (probably one that is sheerer) or finishing powder all-over the face. I’ve had no issues with shedding over the past two months I’ve been test-driving it. I can see why some splash out for luxury brushes like this one, though that “is it worth it” question is always going to be difficult. I couldn’t think of similar brushes to this that I have; its density and roundness at its base made it hard to dupe (most of my blush brushes are flatter).

Chikuhodo Z-2 Highlight Brush ($92.00) is a thinner, tapered brush. It is made out of gray squirrel hair. The brush head is 1.5 inches or 3.5 centimeters in length, 0.75 inches or 2 centimeters in width and thickness (it is rounded). It has an open, rounded ferrule with a total length of 6 inches or 15 centimeters.

The really tapered tip allows for highlighting with precision along the bridge of the nose particularly well, but it can easily deposit highlight onto cheek bones, forehead, or even all over (this is actually how I’ve often used it: to dust on a finishing powder like Guerlain’s Meteorites). As it is a smaller brush, it may take a few more strokes for all-over application, but it seems like the ideal size for applying a highlight to cheek bones. It’s not so large that it will overlap heavily with your blush application, but it still has a soft, feathery feel so that the highlight applies evenly, smoothly, and is diffused on the skin. The most similar brush I have to this is the Hakuhodo J5521, which is shorter and is less tapered/narrow (and it is not quite as soft, but it’s a very soft and well-made brush as well). MAC 165 is also similar, though a lot less soft and not quite as pointed at the edge. MAC’s 138 has a similar shape but is two and a half times the size.

Chikuhodo Z-3 Contour Brush ($54.00) is small, flat circular brush that almost looks like a very, very tiny flat-topped kabuki with an elongated, thinner handle. I can’t recall having a brush shaped like this for contour (or for any other purpose in this size). It’s made out of gray squirrel hair and has a glossy black handle (slightly shorter than the average brush’s handle). The brush head measures just over 0.50 inches or 1.5 centimeters in length, just over 0.5 inches or 1.8 centimeters in width/thickness (it is round). It had an open, round ferrule and a total length of just over 5 inches or 13 centimeters.

If you prefer more precise, detailed-driven brushes, you might like this option for contouring, as it is noticeably smaller in general compared to your average face brush. It fits well underneath the cheek bone and in the hollow of the cheeks for contouring. The brush is incredibly soft, never scratchy or rough, whether used in a stippling, sweeping, or buffing motion. I really liked it for contouring, as you can get a stronger, richer contour line and then buff and blend it out without over-blending. But I really loved it for buffing concealer and applying powder beneath my under eyes and around the nose. The softness is much appreciated along the under eye area. It also worked well for buffing out the edges of cream blush or adding a bit of powder to soften an over-done blush without worrying about over-correcting as you might with a larger buffer brush.

Chikuhodo brushes can be purchase at Now-e Project. Starting today, they have reduced shipping up to free shipping, depending on purchase amount ($250+ = free). They also have four sets of various Z-series brushes bundled (saves a bit!) if you’re looking to buy a few at once. Or you can save 10% with code TEMPTALIA. All valid coupons cannot be used with other coupons (one per order), discounts, or special value offers.

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Z-2 Highlight Brush

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