Review: Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit

I really want to love this palette, but I can’t.

Anastasia Beverly Hills is the brand that turns girls into goddesses. First they fixed our eyebrows and now they fix our faces, sculpting cheekbones and jawlines since April 2014 when the long awaited Contour Kit went on sale.

It’s only in the last few months that I’ve truly realised the wonders of contouring and so, ever since, this palette has been at the top of my wish list. Last Thursday I received some particularly good news (more on this in a later post!) and decided to just bite the bullet.

I’d seen pictures of the palette all over Instagram, but expected a little more than what I got. It looks, dare I say it… cheap *wince*

With the image ABH has as a glamourous, luxury brand, I think it would better suit an Illamasqua-esque packaging: an all-black, glossy case made of sturdy, chunky material with a mirror inside, maybe? Instead, the casing is made of a stiffened, matte black card, the type that will scuff and mark quite easily. Oh, and there’s no mirror 😦 I’d actually be happy to pay more than £40 for this kit if the packaging was just that bit more ‘fancy.’

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But, even then, I still couldn’t use it.

Short of extending out a robotic arm and applying the powders for me, I expected them to deliver on every level. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s not a huge hype surrounding this kit for nothing; it seems that what money has been saved on the quality of the packaging has gone into the quality of the powders.

The term ‘buttery’ gets used a lot by beauty bloggers, but these powders really are lusciously smooth. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were cream-based; there’s no fall out and the pigmentation is amazing, even with the smallest dab of the brush. It’s another cliché, but a little really does go a verrrrrry long way. I’d imagine it would be a long time before you needed to buy a refill pan.

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For me, it will be a very very very long time – you could even say forever – as I won’t be using 4 of the 6 shades.

So now for the meaty bit: the colours.

I should have seen this coming. The palette is intended for ‘Light/Medium’ skin and though I fit into the former category, I certainly don’t fit the latter. I’ve seen a number of fair girls pull these shades off beautifully but, on reflection, perhaps they aren’t as pale as I am…

The Face Powders

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As the two matte shades in the palette, I’ve assumed that Vanilla and Banana are the intended ‘face powders’ for setting and correcting. Vanilla, while a lovely colour in itself, should really be called ‘Light Peach.’ In the swatches below I’ve compared Vanilla to Bare Minerals’ Powder Foundation in ‘Fair’ and MAC’s Mineralise Powder in ‘Light,’ the difference is huge. There’s no way someone as pale as I am could use this as a powder; on Saturday, I actually used it in place of a blush!

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I knew when I ordered the palette that I would very rarely use Banana – if at all. If you like the sound of Ben Nye’s Banana Powder (which is quite hard to get hold of in the UK), this would make a great alternative. For me, however, the colour is just too strong to use alone. I tried it as a corrector and it works wonderfully, cancelling out the blueish hues of under eye circles. Just dab it over problem areas and then cover with your usual liquid concealer. But having just bought Bobbi Brown’s corrector (which comes in a paste form), I don’t think I’ll be swayed to choose Banana instead. Powder correctors can turn gummy when used under liquid concealers and, with all the primer in the world, it still manages to crease and cake.

The Highlighter

11091167_10152696530006128_1864087248_nThe last of the three light shades is Sand, a pale nude shimmer. This is by far my favourite colour in the palette; it’s delicate shimmer catches the light in just the right way, it’s in no way glittery but has an almost pearlescent finish. In the photo below, I’ve compared Sand to my current go-to highlighters.

As you can see, the colour is very similar to Illamasqua’s Helios from the extremely popular Sculpting Duo. 

Much like Vanilla, Sand is most definitely a peachy nude, however, the satin finish means even pale girls like me can get away with it, especially when it’s layered over blusher. Ideally, though, Sand would look something more like MAC’s Lightscapade, a more universal champagne shade that suits both cool and warm undertones.

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The Contour Powders:

11081443_10152696529991128_653013877_n  (L-R: Java, Fawn, Havana) Again, I knew when I ordered the kit that I would find little use for Java and Havana, as both are particularly warm browns. But, I thought, with Fawn – a cool earthy shade – to rely on, I could use them to add a touch of warmth when the sun was out and when (if) I caught a tan this summer.

Of course, this depended on me liking Fawn. But I don’t. In the palette, sandwiched in between two russet shades, Fawn looks the perfect grey-brown. On my face, though, it’s still just that bit too orange-y.

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In the photo above, I’ve compared the three colours to other contouring products I own. My go-to shades are Illamasqua’s Cream Pigment in Hollow and NYX’s Blush in Taupe, both of which have a much cooler hue when compared to Fawn. Fawn is a lot like Benefit’s Hoola with the volume turned up. 

I have to be careful to add only a modest amount of Hoola before I tip into Tango territory, so Fawn is all the more risky for me. But layered with a touch of blush, Fawn makes for a lovely plum coloured blush/bronzer that’s perfect for a night out, but for a Spring day, it is just that bit too heavy for my taste.

Overall, I’d give this palette a 6 out of 10. The only saving grace being the quality of the powders; as you can see from my swatches, their pigmentation and opacity rivals cream pigments! But, while the colours aren’t unusuable, they do need to be mixed with other products in order to suit my skin tone.

ABH has since promised a ‘Fair/Light’ kit, which will hopefully include all those shades necessary for sculpting a pale face: white, silver, champagne and taupe.

Either that, or I’ll have to get a spray tan..

Hope you like!

Molly x

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Essentials: Bobbi Brown’s Corrector

I’m tired. Okay, I’m exhausted. But I don’t want people to know it.

And it happens every time: an hour after applying my makeup, they start to creep back to the surface, those dark under eye circles. These aren’t just ‘bags,’ they’re suitcases and they refuse to go away.

Despite a cocktail of concealers, my attempts to mask them are all in vain. By 3pm my eyes look dark and drawn. So how do those other people do it? How do they look as fresh at 8pm as they did at 8am? The answer: correctors.

Colour correctors can be applied underneath concealers in a paste form, or over the top of concealers in powder form, and are produced in a variety of shades according to their purpose (and their place on the colour wheel):

Green counters red –for taming angry spots and broken veins;

Yellow counters purple –for masking particularly dark circles, scarring and bruising;

Orange counters blue – for hiding under eye circles;

I chose Bobbie Brown’s Corrector (£19.00) because of its amazing texture; correctors are, by their nature, a lot thicker and tackier than concealers, but this is thick while easy to blend, gooey but not greasy. In my opinion, Bobbi Brown also has the widest variety of shades available. I had looked into buying MAC’s Conceal and Correct duo but found the colour choices quite limited. Yes, I want enough orange to hide my dark circles, but I don’t want to look like I’ve had a fight with a can of St Tropez.

The lightest shade of corrector available in the Bobbi Brown range is called ‘Porcelian Bisque,’ an almost magnolia colour with the slightest hint of warmth. I assumed that this would be the ideal shade for me, but when swatching it in-store I found it too light (!shock horror!). This would be a great choice for those wanting to try a tame corrector for the first time, or those lucky enough to have only the faintest dark circles. I, on the other hand, want a Photoshop worthy corrector, so I picked ‘Porcelian Peach.’

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As the name suggests, this shade is still among the lightest offered by the brand, but it has a considerable orange hue. In the swatch above I’ve compared it to my typical concealer shade, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly (on the left). Bobbi Brown’s offering is the brightest of the two by far and has a salmon-esque colour as opposed to NARS’ typically yellow-toned bases. The corrector immediately lifts and brightens the skin, while it’s texture (I hope you can tell from this swatch just how thick and luscious it is) acts as both a wonderfully smooth primer and a glue to hold down your concealer.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous at first; being so pale, I’m particularly paranoid about my colour choices and, though I’ve had a number of concealer faux pas, I’ve never applied something so peachy intentionally. But, it works! In the pictures below, I applied my base as I usually would on the left and have added the corrector on the right. The difference is huge, and wonderful!

The true test of a corrector is its staying power. When your concealer begins to break down and fade after 5-6 hours (even when using the premium brands), a corrector will stay in place at full coverage for around 8-9 hours, meaning your face looks as fresh and dark circle-free as it did when it was first applied.

Of course, it’s not a miracle worker and there are some things to be careful of. This is by no means a light formula and adding another paste to your makeup routine does increase the risk of caking and creasing. The former can be easily avoided as long as you aren’t heavy-handed and blend the corrector in well – a  little goes a very long way (this one in particular won’t lose its intensity once blended).

As for creasing, I’ve found that applying a good amount of primer beforehand and a fair dab of powder afterwards helps to stop this from happening for the majority of the day. When I begin to notice lines appearing, it simply work the products back into my skin using my finger, reapply some powder, and I’m ready to go for the next few hours: a small price to pay for a dark circle eraser!

So, would you consider Bobbi Brown’s corrector?

Do you use correctors as part of your getting ready routine?

Hope you like!

Molly x

Review: Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer

On a recent trip to the kingdom of shopping that is Manchester’s Trafford Centre, I thought it was high time I ticked some items off my wish list – the Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer being one of them.

This might as well be dubbed “the ultimate concealer,” claiming to hide all blemishes, brighten all dark circles and even all complexions. And, they’re right. Believe the hype – this stuff is the holy grail.

Colour:

For a long time now my go-to concealer has been MAC’s Prolongwear in NW15 but, despite being amongst the lightest colours offered by the brand, it’s still just that smidgen too dark and doesn’t brighten up the eye area as I would like. When searching for a concealer that would both cover and brighten, Nars’ offering was a constant favourite amongst bloggers, particularly for pale skin.

‘Chantilly’ is described as a “true ivory shade,” but this doesn’t do justice to how gorgeous it is. It is a pure, porcelain colour like no other concealer I’ve seen before, with only a hint of yellow (great for countering those blueish bags and veins). The formula’s light diffusing technology uses tiny mineral particles to reflect light away from those problem areas making the skin appear brighter and fresher. I found that this worked particularly well under the eyes (I’m super paranoid about under-eye circles) and helped to take the redness out of angry spots – sadly no one has invented a concealer that will remove the huge lump thats left behind though 😦

You only have to google colour swatches to see that ‘Chantilly’ stands alone as a wonderfully light concealer. The closest colour-match I can find is Collection’s Lasting Perfection in ‘Fair,’ which is hugely popular amongst those with fair skin (especially as it is only £3.99). With a difference of £18, however, this is where the comparison ends.

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Coverage:

Retailing at £22, the concealer’s expense is truly seen in its amazing coverage and lasting finish. The formula really is ‘creamy:’ luscious and pigmented enough to provide medium to full coverage, but not too thick as to look heavy and cakey.

Nars claims that the concealer is ‘buildable,’ but I would beg to differ. This isn’t exactly a negative as the concealer is opaque enough to provide great coverage with just one coat, but too many applications can reverse the buttery texture and begin to look thick and claggy. This issue is easily avoided with the help of the sponge applicator which gives you greater control over where the product is placed, reducing the risk of applying too much or wasting the excess (unlike MAC’s overly generous pumps!).

11004055_10152607401631128_1132074150_n Finish: 

The concealer blends well with a Beauty Blender, but I find that a brush is best to spread the mixture evenly across the skin and really focus on those areas that need some extra tuning. As you can see from the picture above, the finish is a lovely ‘barely there,’ semi-satin one.

Whereas other concealers begin to break down after 5-6 hours, you can guarantee that Nars’ concealer will stay put, but what it does do, perhaps inevitably, is settle into fine lines. This can be limited with a decent primer, but I doubt there will ever be a concealer that doesn’t find it’s way into those little cracks and crevices. A few creases under the eyes and around my laughter lines isn’t too much to expect after a long day at work, I don’t think.

Would you invest in Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer?

Hope you like!

Molly x

My Contouring Routine

I’m a recent contouring convert; ever since that photo of Kim Kardashian, I’ve been trying to add some definition to my face, drawing various lines in various colours in various places.

I’ve tried taupe, bronze and dark brown eyeshadows, eye pencils, creams and blushes in the hope of achieving the right look and after many attempts (and some utter disasters), I think I’ve finally cracked it!

Shading

Illamasqua’s Skin Base Lift in White and Cream Pigment in Hollow (both £17.50)

My first step is to ‘shade’ my face, or to map out where I want the light and shadow to be; I find that by first adding a subtle glow and depth to the skin, any extra definition added later to the nose and cheekbones looks more authentic. To do this, I’ve found the best products to use are cream pigments, essentially colour-rich concealers.

After applying my foundation and a very light layer of concealer around my eyes (just to even out those blueish veins), I apply the two pigments in those places that I feel need an extra oomph.

(Please excuse the damp hair and pyjamas…my getting-ready routine isn’t at all glamorous)

My favourite products for this shading are Illamasqua’s Skin Base Lift in White and Cream Pigment in Hollow. The Skin Base Lift has a beautifully silky, almost gooey, texture that blends easily with my foundation without losing any of its brightness. While it adds a visible glow to my skin, I don’t rely on this as my sole concealer. Illamasqua claims that each of the Skin Base Lifts has a peach undertone that perfectly counteracts blueish hues, particularly around the eyes. I guess having chosen the white shade, which obviously has very little peach to it, I have had to compromise on this full coverage. Nevertheless, I would recommend this product for those with pale skin who may struggle to find a contouring product light enough to make a noticeable difference.

Hollow is another product ideally suited to paler skin types due to it’s cooler tone. Before using this, I had been using Benefit’s Hoola to define my cheekbones: Hoola is known for having a cooler tone than most bronzers meaning it works well on even the fairest skin, but I personally prefer Hollow as its colour is cooler still, meaning it adds shade without any unconvincing ‘tan’ or orange hue.

Once applied, I then blend these pigments out with my beauty blender being sure to avoid any streaks, but also to keep the colours within their demarcated ‘zones.’

Defining

NYX Powder Blush in Taupe (£6.00) and Illamasqua’s Gleam in Aurora (£21.50)

For adding further, more defined, shadows to my face, I prefer to use a dark powder. As I like to add a little more colour to my nose (which, due to my combination skin, can get oily), I use a powder to avoid adding more product, which can lead to caking.

I use NYX’s Powder Blush in Taupe, a similar grey-brown to Hollow, to carve out my cheekbones with a dense blusher brush and to shape my nose with a detail brush, as shown below. As a powder, it is much easier to build up substantial colour without clogging the skin with too much product.

That being said, for my highlighter, I would have typically used a white eyeshadow with a light shimmer, until I discovered Illamasqua’s Gleam. I recently bought a bundle from eBay which included this Gleam and now I can’t stop using it.

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Many reviews I have read have complained that this highlighter’s sticky formula can lift off foundation and it certainly does (I have caused all kinds of blotches because of it) if not used sparingly. To me, it is less of a cream and more of a gel-like consistency and, though quite peculiar to work with, produces the most ethereal delicate glow.

My Gleam, Aurora, is a lovely champagne colour which works well with warmer shades of eyeshadow and lipstick on fair skin. With cooler shades of make-up, I would probably opt for a similarly cool toned highlighter – I’m waiting for Illamasqua to bring out a white/silver Gleam!

My face is now ready for eyeliner, mascara, the works! Contouring can look lovely and natural when just set with a little powder and left alone, but can also provide a base for adding a little blush or extra bronzer. In the look below, I chose to keep it simple with an ordinary contour and neutral lips and eyes.

What are your favourite products for contouring?

Hope you like!

Molly x

What I Wear To Work

I’ve recently started work at a local university (hence why my posts will now have to wait till weekends) and so, while I need to look smart and professional, a little self expression is always welcome.

Outfit

In terms of outfits, I like to stick to neutral colours – white, black, grey and navy – but play around with textures and patterns. Mohair, lace, cord and viscose help to add a bit of interest to block colours and each have their own particular way of clinging to my figure or flowing loosely. I have a definite thing for all things check and tartan and recently bought a two piece check co-ord set from Marks and Spencer. The top piece is a gorgeous peplum shape, the fit of which nicely balances out the straight legged trousers.

Make-Up

My work make-up follows the same principle as my outfit: I tend to keep my eyes neutral, but use a bold colour on my lips. Benefit’s ‘Big Beautiful Eyes’ palette is the perfect little contouring kit containing a creamy ‘industrial-strength’ concealer and three different colours to help create a gorgeous muted smokey eye.

The palette offers a concealer in ‘Boing 02,’ an alabaster pink base eyeshadow, a cocoa shimmer contour shadow and a deep chocolate liner colour, each of which have their own designated brush specially designed for their specific forms of application.

Benefit’s ‘Boing’ is a shade darker than my usual concealer so I tend to use it to cover blemishes and opt for MAC’s Studio Finish Concealer in NC15 under my eyes. My base is completed with a sweep of Bare Mineral’s Touch Up Veil in ‘Light’ – a lovely lightweight compressed powder that helps to minimise shine and even out my complexion.

Finally, my current lipstick of choice is No7’s Moisture Drench Lipstick in ’02 Plum Beautiful,’ which not only has a lovely satin finish but also doubles up as a lip moisturiser.

Make-Up Bag

It’s rare that make-up applied at 6am will stay put until 5pm, so I carry a mini make-up bag with me to help top up throughout the day. Inside I carry my lipstick of choice, a dinky reel of dental floss, a mini tube of hand cream and a travel bottle of perfume. I also take my Collection 2000 Lasting Perfection Concealer in ‘Fair 1:’ this concealer is considerably lighter than that in the Benefit kit so I top it up at lunch time to freshen up my face and stop my eyes looking heavy and tired.

What make-up essentials do you take to work?

Hope you like!

Molly x

Concealer for the Palest of the Pale

I’ve recently finished my dissertation and have the under-eye circles to show for it. Having headed to the shops to find something to hide them with, I encountered every pale girl’s worst nightmare: finding the right concealer. Over the years I’ve accumulated my fair share of ‘under-eye illuminators’ and ‘cover-up sticks,’ some great and some shockingly bad, so I thought I’d share a few of them, and my current favourites.

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1: Collection 2000 – Cover Up Stick in 01 Light Translucent, £1.99. This is a great concealer and is, dare I say it, slightly too light. It’s warm tone is great but it offers very little coverage (without having to paste it on). 5 out of 10. 

2: Collection 2000 – Lasting Perfection Concealer in 1 Fair, £4.19. Brilliant. Really brilliant. It is the perfect colour for me and the fact that it is liquid, rather than a paste, means it’s easy to apply without having to pull at my skin to blend it in. If you require a matte concealer this may not be ideal for you, but I personally like it’s dewy look. 9 out of 10.10719233_10152319045236128_576622008_n

3: Rimmel – Hide The Blemish Concealer Stick in 001 Ivory, £3.99. This is a nice colour but offers only a light coverage and remains oddly sticky. 6 out of 10. 

4: Rimmel – Stay Matte Dual Action Concealer in 010 Ivory, £4.99. I remember buying this when, after living off pick ‘n’ mix at uni, my face broke out in spots. The concealer has a green core that works to neutralise redness in the skin so it is particularly effective at covering blemishes and sore spots. 7 out of 10.

5. Revlon – Photoready Concealer in 002 Light Pale, £6.49. This is good value for money and offers a medium coverage that requires very few touch ups. 8 out of 10.

6. Max Factor – Mastertouch Under-Eye Concealer in 303 Ivory, £7.99. Ivory? I beg to differ. I found this in the very bottom of my make-up bag and am slightly worried that it is almost empty. The ‘precision tip’ sponge applicator is very useful but the colour is far from pale. 4 out of 10. 

7. MAC – Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer in NC15, £15.50. I have dry combination skin so this emollient-based (moisturising) concealer is perfect for avoiding that dreaded crepey look. I also prefer its full coverage to hide those dark circles and any veins showing just below my skin. The only issue I have found is, as a paste, the concealer is difficult to apply evenly. 9 out of 10. 10717544_10152319045231128_370844991_n

8. MAC – Pro Longwear Concealer in NW15, £17.00. I recently read that NW (neutral warm) shades are better at hiding the blue-purple tones of dark circles than NC (neutral cool) shades. I’ve always opted for cooler shades assuming that warmer ones would look too orange on my skin, however, this colour is perfect! It’s liquid application means it’s easy to distribute and, as the name suggests, it lasts amazingly throughout the day with no need for touch-ups. 10 out of 10. 

If you are looking for a full coverage concealer without that greasy feeling then MAC’s Pro Longwear is a worthwhile investment. At £17.00 though, it is a little pricey for such a tiny little bottle, so if you’re willing to top-up your make up throughout the day then I would recommend Collection 2000’s Lasting Perfection Concealer – it may not last, but it is almost, almost perfect!

Hope you like!

Molly x