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Holiday Gift Guide: Gift-Giving Tips & Tricks


Holiday Gift Guide: Gift-Giving Tips & Tricks

If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of giving a really fantastic gift, it’s know how amazing it can be.  It’s so fulfilling and satisfying to know you picked just the right thing for that one special person.  Similarly, when you receive a gift that’s exactly what you wanted/needed, you get a sense of how much thought the giver put into the gift.  It seemed like several readers struggled trying to figure out what kind of gifts to give friends and family when it came to beauty, particularly because they weren’t sure what colors to choose.  I thought I would touch on some tips born from past experience on that particular issue as well as some more generalized tips and tricks when it comes to the art of great gift giving.

Little Touches Count

The little things can add tremendous value and appeal to your gift. Think about when someone takes an amazing gift but throws it into a paper bag at the last minute; or how about the time you totally forgot to grab a card and just shoved a gift in someone’s face?  Fancy wrapping or expensive greeting cards are by no means necessary to a great gift, but remembering to take as much time in the presentation of the gift as you did in the acquisition of it is important. You can also keep an eye out for gifts that already come in festive packaging or bags.

I do, personally, splurge on fancier gift wrap, because I have a thing for Christmas decor and like to see lots of shine and color under the tree.  Holidays come earlier and earlier each year, so you can find great bargains on wrapping paper at local discount stores as well as online.  You can also stock up right after the holidays for the next year if you have some storage space!  I also like festive ribbons for smaller gifts or awkward-to-wrap gifts.   I often make my own cards to attach to gifts with colored card stock and simply scrawl a short and sweet note to the recipient.

It’s Not About the Money

I cannot emphasize it enough, but it is the thought that really counts, especially when you’re not gifting to a five-year-old who’s been dreaming of the latest gaming system for the past 364 days.  But in all seriousness, the majority of people, and hopefully, your dearest friends and family, are not googling what you bought them to see how much you spent on them.  Your best friend who is the girliest girl you can imagine doesn’t want to receive a weed wacker for the holidays, and it’s just important to know your recipient and find a gift that would resonate with them.  Don’t get caught up in the idea that more is better or that bigger is better!  Keep gift ideas in mind all year round, even pricier ones (that are just outside your budget), because if you know your partner has their eye on such-and-such electronic, you can keep an eye out for price drops towards the second half of the year.

Sales, Sales, Sales

Stemming from looking out for deals on must-give gifts much earlier than the last two months of the year is taking advantage of sales, but I will caution you not to let them take advantage of you!  Just because there’s a sale doesn’t mean you have to find something for someone there.  November is the time for Friends & Family sales and events, several having already taken place, but there are more to come.  Similarly, the infamous Black Friday is nearing (along with Cyber Monday), which can be a good opportunity to take advantage of sales.

Use Social Media and Networking

So much of our lives are now online, from the photos and videos of our lives to our favorite interests.  Many people have their favorite social networking sites that they use, and you can learn more about their various interests from a profile.  I’m totally serious here!  Sometimes you bond with someone over certain common interests (say, beauty), but you might not know their favorite music or movies.  If you have friends or family members who are really active, you might be able to see what kind of things they’ve liked in the past couple of months to help give you an idea of where to start your search from!

Gift Guides from Everyone

Almost everyone has some sort of gift guide these days, and I don’t mean bloggers but major retailers and individual brands.  Most of them have a section on their website for gift sets/value sets as well as gift guides broken out by price or “personality.”   Perhaps you have a favorite brand you want a friend to experience or you know your friend’s favorite brand but you’ve never used anything by them; either way, you can peruse through recommendations from the brand as a great jumping off point.

5-Minute Primer on Beauty Products for Others

You have your beauty partner in crime, but you’re just not confident about buying them something because you don’t know if they’ll good in it or if it’s a shade they’d like.   There are fantastic items that are more neutral and general that work across skin tones and undertones, but there are certainly plenty of products that just tend to look better on a certain skin tone/undertone.

  • Stealthily get a grasp on their skin tone:  if your friend wears a bracelet or watch, you can try to get a look at the underside of their wrist/forearm by asking to see their bracelet/watch close-up.  Green veins indicate warmer undertones, while blue veins indicate cooler undertones; if you can’t really tell, they may be neutral.  You can also use the jewelry trick; does your friend wear a lot of gold or silver jewelry?  Is there one they look better in?  Gold looks better on warmer skin tones, while silver looks better on cooler skin tones–but be careful, a lot of people prefer a metal over the other, regardless of their undertone!
  • Think about the colors/styles/products you see them in most:  if you’ve never seen your friend wear red lipstick and only baby pinks and barely-there nudes, buying them a red isn’t necessarily the best way to go (unless you’re deliberately prodding them to finally wear one and you know the perfect one for them!).  Do they wear bold eyes? cheeks? lips? What feature do they emphasize?
  • Something old or something new?  Consider whether you’re trying to simply buy them something they would love to wear, which means it is likely to be similar to other shades they already own (so go see if you can snoop through their makeup bag!) or if you’re trying to get them to try something they wouldn’t normally wear (perhaps something they’ve been curious about).
  • Warm undertones look best in shades like earthy neutrals, coppers and bronzes, yellowy greens, metallic golds, corals, oranges, and yellow-based pinks.  I believe anyone can wear anything–it’s just a matter of pairing it with the right products; this is merely a quickie guideline to pick the most-likely-to-suit products.
  • Cool undertones look best in shades like sooty neutrals, beiges and taupes, charcoal browns and grays, blues, blue-based teals, blue-based reds, fuchsia pinks, berries, cotton candy pinks.  Again, this is a mere snapshot of common colors that often work well on those with cooler complexions but you should feel free to wear whatever you like!

 Share your gift-giving tips & tricks in the comments!

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Tarina Tarantino Delightful Jewel Eyeshadow Palette

Tarina Tarantino Delightful Jewel Eyeshadow Palette
Tarina Tarantino Delightful Jewel Eyeshadow Palette

Tarina Tarantino Delightful Jewel Eyeshadow Palette ($32.00 for 0.32 oz.) is a cooler toned set of more neutral shades. I think we could hedge and say it’s more neutral-cool than really, truly cool-toned. The formula is designed to have intense color payoff, and the eyeshadows are long-wearing and can be used wet or dry (always good to know–more brands should note this!).

I reviewed Dreamy initially, which I was really digging, and I like this one a lot, too–it’s not my personal favorite just by preference, but the quality is lovely and lives up to my readjusted expectations for Tarina Tarantino’s beauty line. I think Sephora is doing these palettes an injustice by not even taking the time to describe each palette’s colors! You just get this ridiculously tiny photo of the palette, but I think with a smaller brand like this, more would be better. I noticed this mostly because I like to start off each review with the brand’s official description of the shade as well as the formula. It helps me to breakdown what I should be looking for and hit on in the review.

The top shade in the palette is a cool-toned medium-dark brown with a frosted finish; it’s almost taupe, but I don’t think it has quite enough gray tint to make it a true taupe. The pigmentation is excellent, and the texture is dense, buttery, and applies smoothly. It’s much lighter than the taupe-ish shade in Dreamy (just because at first glance, they seem similar). It’s a little darker than MAC Magical Mist, cooler-toned and less red-based than Urban Decay Wreckage, and it’s just a touch cooler-toned compared to Bare Escentuals A-Ha.

On the left, there is a bright, frosted gold-tinged white. It’s almost too light to call it a white gold. It has good color payoff and applies smoothly. It is extremely similar to the white gold shade in Dreamy, but it’s also similar to several other shades, including theBalm Envious Erin, theBalm Tempting Tara, Urban Decay Zephyr, and Bare Escentuals Breathtaking. It’s the warmest shade in the palette and definitely not neutral or cool-toned.

In the middle, there is a pale neutral pink with a white frost finish. The payoff is decent but could be better here (think 8/10); it’s not as intense as the other shades in the palette. MAC Fresh Ice is cooler-toned, almost lilac in comparison, while Bare Escentuals Muse is similar but less frosted and more opaque.

On the right, there is a barely warmed golden peach with a metallic finish. It’s smooth and soft, while the pigmentation is good. Inglot #330 reminded me most in terms of color, but it has a matte finish. I couldn’t think of anything else that was similar, though.

The last shade, on the bottom, is a slightly cool-toned dark brown with this slightly warm undertone peeking through. It’s interesting, because the sheen on this looks gray tinted, but the edging has a warmer tone to it. The texture is almost matte, kind of like half-matte, half-satin; and the color payoff is nice. It’s a bit grayer and lighter than MAC Charcoal Brown. MAC Double Feature 3 is a bit closer but not quite.

Looking at the general range, I think they could have made one or two of these colors more cool-toned, because then they’d have a genuinely cool-toned but fairly neutral palette to offer. This palette will work well universally, though, because it’s a mix of cool and warm but for the most part, nothing leans too far in either direction. The color payoff was good on all the shades except the center shade, which was so-so–better than average but not as good as the others. I tested out this palette without a primer (just used three shades on one eye), and it made it to eight hours without creasing or fading, but it had very subtle creasing after ten.

Tarina Tarantino Delightful Jewel Eyeshadow Palette

A+
10
Product
9.5
Pigmentation
10
Texture
10
Longevity
5
Application
99%
Total

7 Tried & True Must-Have Products

By Dustin Hunter, Makeup Artist

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Dustin Hunter has been designing various media since his early teen years. Studying several different art forms, Hunter’s creative background ranges from illustration and photography to fashion and interior design to music production and makeup artistry. He has worked for over a decade as a professional illustrator and his retail interior design concepts have been featured in nation-wide publications, receiving recognition for their uniqueness and creativity.  Check out his blog and YouTube channel!


MAC Reflects Transparent Teal Glitter

7 Tried & True Must-Have Products

I’m a sucker for multi-purpose products: pigments, cream and liquid paints, mixing mediums, etc. I like to custom-blend just about everything! Not everyone feels the same way, though, and sometimes, it’s nice to have one product that does a job and does it well. These are some of my tried-and-true favorites from a few different companies (hopefully some that you haven’t heard of before)!

Estée Lauder Pure Color Lipstick | Their Long Lasting Cream finishes are some of the best lipsticks I own. They cover well and feel luxurious on the lips. The BEST ones are almost always limited edition. Favorites in the Permanent Range: Cherry Passion, Melon and Rose Tea.

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tars | I’m actually not a huge fan of these on the lips, but, OH, the blushes these make! They last forever and blend like a dream (they DO have mint in them though so avoid the eye area). Favorites: Cha-Cha and Divine.

Face Atelier Ultra Sheer | I love these liquid luminizers because you can mix them with foundation, cream blush or bronzer for glowing skin or apply them on their own (I use a fluffy blush brush) for a natural highlighting effect. Favorites: Champagne.

Terra Firma Gel Mineral Matte Finish Bronzer | I use this on myself all the time. It’s highly pigmented (I dilute it with body lotion), long-wearing, won’t rub off on clothes and looks SO amazingly natural – If most bronzers are too orange for you, look no further! (There’s also a shimmering version if you like to twinkle.)

MAC Reflects Glitters | A MAC PRO exclusive (but anyone can buy from MAC PRO). I’ve used these in a multitude of ways: mixing custom lip gloss, over mascara for sparkling lashes, on top of just any eye look, pressed over lipstick for a metallic foil effect, as a face and body highlight, worked into a hairstyle, etc. Not many things are THIS pretty! (Be aware that MAC lists these products as “not for use in the eye area.”) Favorites: Reflects Bronze, Reflects Gold and Reflects Transparent Teal.

MAC Blot Powder and Purely Cosmetics Diamond Perfect Finish Powder | My two favorite setting powders! Blot Powder by MAC is perfect for mattifying a look without adding any color or texture. Diamond Perfect Finish Powder by Purely Cosmetics is a transparent loose powder that easily outperforms the transparent powders I have from MAC and MUFE (smoother application, better line diffusing AND it doesn’t bounce light back in photography).

See more photos & swatches!

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Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Under $50


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! 🙂

Eyes: Long-time readers know I’m a huge fan of Aqua Eyes, and the Make Up For Ever Wild & Chic Aqua Eyes Collection ($36.00) contains five travel-sized (I’m guessing 0.02 to 0.03 oz.) and one full-size (0.04 oz.) eyeliner; for the price of two full-sized eyeliners, you’re getting six shades to try of a fantastic formula. Urban Decay also has two Eyeliner Sets ($32.00 each) that contain five travel-sized 24/7 Eyeliners; there is also a Shadow Pencil Stash ($34.00). At this price point, you can find some excellent palettes that came out just in time for the holidays, like Urban Decay Mariposa Eyeshadow Palette ($39.00) and Bare Escentuals Ready 8.0 Eyeshadow Palette ($40.00).

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?

The best thing to do is go outside and look at what products you’re thinking of wearing to make sure everything matches/coordinates. Then, when you’re in the space with the less-than-stellar lighting, concentrate on texture and light/dark–pay less attention to the color as you are whether everything is fading to the right gradient, edges are softened, etc.

— Christine

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Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Under $30


Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Under $30

First, I want to cover holiday gift sets, kits, palettes, and value sets specifically and exclusively. There are several more posts to come, including items from holiday color collections as well as permanent products and more. I tried to take into account the incredible input I received from readers, so the whole guide is broken down by price with special attention to different categories of products (e.g. lipgloss vs. eyeshadow), as well as I tried to provide commentary on who the gift might work for.

A Few Money-Saving Tips

  • If you’re on a tight budget this year but feel you absolutely must buy something to gift, consider doling out more on a single value kit/set but then breaking it up. For instance, a kit with ten lipglosses can be split and gifted to two or three or even ten people. You can buy festive holiday ribbon at a local crafts store to tie around the gloss, or you could include a few holiday candies or homemade baked goods.
  • Splitting up sets is also a great idea if you’re looking for stocking stuffers or you want to do more mixing-and-matching of gifts for your favorite pals (say a gloss, eyeliner, and lipstick).
  • When it comes to getting the most for your money, pay attention to the amount of product you’re getting and compare to the full-sized version (and its price).
  • Consider nail polish sets and kits; some come around for the holidays (but availability online may be difficult), there are lots of fantastic brands for $2-5 a pop, so you can get a good variety without breaking the bank.

Eyes: Snag two travel-sized eyeliners (which are usually around 0.03 oz., compared to 0.04 oz. for full size) in Oil Slick and Rockstar in Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Duo ($14.00); there is also one in Bourbon and Ransom. Bare Escentuals Strike It Rich Prime Time Collection ($28.00) contains five miniature-sized versions of the brand’s colored primer, which I’m a fan of; the only way the kit could have been better is if they included Urban Nature!

Cheeks/Face: Trial kits like Benefit One Prime Day ($10.00) are great for personal use but also to give, because you’re giving someone the chance to try new products they might not otherwise buy, but if you’re not totally sure they’ll love them, neither of you will feel bad. I’d give this to a friend who complained about their oily skin! Something else to consider is Benefit’s Powda WOWza, which consists of three top-selling face powders (and two that I love): CORALista, Bella Bamba, and Hoola.

Lips: This is an easily one of the best places to get a lot of bank for your buck when it comes to holiday sets–there are numerous lipgloss/lipstick kits available. I love the sheer, tinted hydrating lip shines, and the Philosophy Much Mistletoeing Lip Shine Set ($20.00 for 4×0.50 oz.) is a good value (these are full-sized!) and already comes in festive packaging. Korres has a great lipgloss formula in their Cherry Oil Lipglosses, and for the holidays, they have a Cherry-Picked Cherry Oil Lipgloss Quad ($28.00 for 4×0.20o oz.) set–and don’t let the word “quad” fool you, because they’re four individually packaged glosses that are full-sized. For lip balm, you know I’m loving and have to recommend Jack Black Balm Squad Lip Quad ($25.00 for 4×0.25 oz.) includes four full-sized lip balms of my very favorite formula in four flavors (there is also a lip balm/hand cream duo for $12, and both formulas TOPS!).

Skin/Body: Badger Three Bold Balms Set ($15.99) is a fabulous balm for healing dry, cracked skin, and this set gives you one to help with sore muscles, another for everywhere, and one scented to help you sleep–a totally classic multi-purpose balm but in a cuter set for the holidays. Bliss Winter Wonder Hands ($11.00) is a duo of hand creams that are purse-sized and fit easily into stockings. It’s not my very favorite hand cream, but it’s a good one! Burt’s Bees Healthy Hands Repair Kit ($12.99) is perfect for someone who works with their hands or loves to do their nails (and is therefore meticulous about their hands!).

When it comes to body care, my favorite go-tos for gifts are Philosophy and Bath and Body Works. Philosophy has numerous gift sets available (from all categories they offer), but a few of the ones I like best are Sugar Plum Frost Set ($18.00), Candy Cane Trio ($22.00), and Fun in the Frosty Air Trio ($25.00). Similarly, Bath and Body Works has tons of various baskets and sets. Giving body products are excellent gift ideas for people who enjoy relaxing (think baths and long showers) or for those you don’t know well enough to be able to pick a specific color for. If you’re unsure about someone’s scent preferences, food-based scents tend to be most generally applicable, so long as they’re not cloyingly sweet.

Fragrance:  They may be teeny-tiny, but you’ll be surprised at how many uses you’ll still get out of Tocca’s Love Yourself Collection ($18.00 for 7×0.05 oz.). Pacifica Hawaiian Ruby Guava Take Me There Set ($18.00) contains travel-sized versions of the scent’s rollerball perfume, body butter, and body wash, which would be a great layering kit, especially for someone who enjoys fruitier, tropical scents.

Do you have any suggestions for readers on the prowl for affordable holiday gifts this year that came out just in time for holiday gift-giving?

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