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making faces 2011 :: pretty things

beauty is skin deep... which is why they keep the skin
although it's been an interest of mine since i was very young and playing with colours to see how i could change my face, this is the first year i started writing about beauty products on the blog. i think that this is largely because i had internalised the belief that an interest in beauty was automatically frivolous when compared to other things. however, more recently i've come to realise that i am an aesthete in many ways and my interest in cosmetics is just one more expression of that. so while it isn't a creative pursuit, i also don't find it any more frivolous than an interest in listening to other people's music, reading other people's books or having any form of collection. these are all things to be admired for the pleasure they bring us. i also don't find taking pride in one's appearance to be particularly shallow or vain. on the contrary, it's a way of expressing that i want others to perceive me as i perceive myself and of giving life to the many versions of the person i am. and having realised that, i realised that this interest was worth sharing as much as anything else i write about here.

all that to say that this was something new i tried this year and i'm happy i did. especially because it was such a banner year for a beauty addict.

up until this year, i had actually been a pretty fierce mac loyalist. although i'd always picked up little treats for myself at the drugstore, mac were the ones who really wowed me with their selection of colours. although i'd tried some others, my focus remained pretty narrow. in the last year and a half or so, however, i decided to branch out and see what else was around. now, my interest is pretty broad, which gives me a lot more options and also a lot more choices to make.

this process was aided by the fact that i felt my old standby mac had one of the weakest years since i've been a fan [since the late 90s]. although there were some gems, there was nothing like the collections of 2010, which i'd consider the strongest year they've ever had. i love their strategy of releasing multiple collections with off-kilter [i.e., not simply seasonal] themes, but it does seem like their attempt to launch so many collections has resulted in an overall decline in quality. with the price increases they've instigated [particularly targeting their "home market" in canada] they'll soon be in the same price range as brands like nars and laura mercier, but they aren't at their level in terms of quality. watch your back, mac.

i'd advise mac to look out particularly for polish-born brand inglot. i've become more familiar with their products this year and, at prices lower than mac [and, depending on how many you buy, lower than some drugstore brands], their quality is unparalleled. sorry, let me clarify: inglot's shimmer and satin finish shadows compete with higher-end brands, but their matte shadows are, hands down, the best on the market. no fooling. better than matte finishes from any other brand. yes folks, they're that good. and since they currently have their 10-pan palettes on special for $70cad, that means you can get those shadows for $7 a piece. pretty amazing if you ask me.

seriously, inglot are, as far as i'm concerned, the biggest new player on the market. i'm guessing it's a matter of time until one of the big colour cosmetics giants- l'oreal, estee lauder, lvmh or shiseido- snatches them up. truly, they'd be fools not to.

over the past year, i've also developed new favourite brands for different reasons. in fact, i've developed a lot of love for a lot of different brands, because i've had such great experiences with them. but there are a few particular favourites that stand out in my memory.

so without further ado, here are the "winners" of the first annual "more like space preserved head awards". because who wouldn't want to add a shrunken head to their trophy cabinet?


eyes ::

armani eyes to kill shadows :: at $42cad, these are stupidly expensive and hard to get [you can order them for less money from nordstrom and neiman marcus in the u.s.], but they are absolutely worth it. these physics-defying powders feel like creams, apply like creams, but set like friggin' magic marker. and yet, they wash off with a regular makeup remover. how does that happen? only the elves at armani beauty know for sure. after introducing these as limited edition items in 2010 for the holidays, armani made the smart move and made a dozen permanent colours that will draw customers to their counters like flies. the multifaceted shades remind me of what i hoped mac's mineralize shadows would be, except that they truly show dimension and multiple colours when applied. unbelievable and truly one of those rare cases where technology trumps jaded expectations.

mac mega metal shadows :: hey, just because they were having an off year doesn't mean that mac were completely asleep at the switch. this collection of frosty-but-wearable shades released in january showed the brand at its best. the worst thing about them was that they were all limited edition, because these truly belong in the mac hall of fame. rich in pigment, easy to blend and long-lasting, these shadows were mind-blowing in every way. and, yes, you can still track some of them down on line.
favourite shade :: yikes. i love all the ones i have almost equally. i get the most use out of violet-black "unflappable", but if you can get your hands on any of these, it'll be money well spent. 

nars dogon & guerlain cherry blossom
nars duos :: technically speaking, there's nothing "new" about nars releasing eye shadow duos. after all, they're part of the regular line of products. but every now and then, one must take a moment and appreciate how great something is. particularly when you've got something as amazing as the roster of eye shadow duos released by nars this year. although i skipped the spring offerings [something i'm regretting], every other collection had something for me, be it the unexpected smoky "dogon" duo from the summer, the surprisingly wearable "grand palais" duo from the fall or the refreshingly offbeat take on blues with the holidays' "mandchourie", nars seemed to have unerring aim this year with colour. [in fact, from photos i've seen, this continues with their spring 2012 collection.] it's incredible the dimension, complement and contrast that nars is able to offer with these duos, but i'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.
favourite shade :: sticking to the ones released this year, i'd have to go with "dogon". the combination of icy taupe with an eerie green sheen and a rich blue-black makes an incredible combination that's quick to work with. 

guerlain ecrin 4 couleurs :: amidst a rather understated fall collection, guerlain chose to reinvent all of their eye shadow quads, offering a new selection of complementary colours in impeccable formulas for well less than their artistically preented 6-shadow palettes. the quality is, well, pure guerlain- smooth, easy to apply and blend, nuanced and classy. the shades are safe enough that they can be used in pretty much every situation, but they also have subtleties to them that make them stand out from other companies' offerings. there is a reason why guerlain commands such high prices in the cosmetic market. they're that damn good.
favourite shade :: les bois roses. it's a combination of a very light pink, a grey-taupe, a shimmery warm dark brown and a sparkly rosewood shade, that can be used as a shadow or a liner. it's the sort of things i could wear every day, if i were the kind of person who wore the same look every day.

hourglass prism
hourglass duos :: the small american company hourglass is still finding its feet, but, being distributed by cosmetics giant sephora helps, in addition to the fact that they've been receiving a ton of love from various bloggers for their shadow duos. i tested these waters earlier in the year and was unprepared for how wonderful they would be. the quality of the shades, their staying power and their texture easily marks them as one of the best on the market. one can only hope that they choose to expand beyond their current selection in order to satisfy the demand for more shades. even at $44cad, they're a great deal, considering they include two shadows, each almost double the size of shadows from other companies. keep that in mind before you write them off as too pricey.
favourite shade :: they're all fantastic and which you choose will in large part be determined by your needs. being a smoky eye lover, i'd have to go with "prism", a steely blue grey combined with a deep black with silver sparkles. 

yves st. laurent faux cils mascara :: if i'm going somewhere with very little makeup, which does happen, the last thing to go is always mascara. i can sacrifice anything else, but i do like to pamper my lashes. in fact, finding the be-all end-all of mascaras has been a kind of quest for me [i guess that's why some call them holy grail products] and this year, when i was given a sample of this mascara, i felt like i'd reached the promised land. my fringes stay ultra-black right to the tips, appear full but never clumpy and, most important, it performed very well on the "ow, my eye" test. [for those of you who aren't me, it's pretty much inevitable that you will eventually end up poking yourself in the eye with your mascara wand. this is never a particularly pleasant experience, but there is a lot of variation in terms of what effect the formula has when it comes in contact with your eyeball- intense watering, burning, itching, etc. with this formula, once you've shaken off the initial shock of having some moron- you- poke you in the eye, you're pretty much fine.] i've tried many, but this is my favourite.

lips ::

i'm a lipstick junkie, i admit it. even dom has started raising an eyebrow when i add to my collection and he's about as understanding as a person can get. it's just that he's figured out what everyone except me already knows: i'd have to grow a few more heads to go through all the lip products i own on a regular basis. but really, it's just because there are so many wonderful shades out there. and, yes, i can tell the difference between all of them. i'm pretty sure.

reds, berries and vampy shades are my primary addiction, but i've evolved to the point where i'll try just about anything [i'm still a wee bit leery of browns, but some of them work]. here are some of my favourite formulas.

yves st. laurent rouge pur couture :: beautiful, opaque coverage and a satiny finish in an ever-increasing variety of colours. and what colours! i love that what you get is pretty much exactly what you see in the tube and that they have a real range, from conservative to pretty wild and i am very pleased that they continue to add to their permanent collection every time they have a new launch. they're now up to forty shades, so you're bound to find something you like. the darker colours work best with a liner and can be a wee bit more drying [although my lips tend to dry out fairly easily anyway].
favourite shade :: muted raspberry "rouge vermillion", the kind of red that anyone can wear.

rouge d'armani 608
rouge d'armani :: mind-blowing. never drying [even on me], richly coloured, incredibly precise on application, long-lasting... the only thing that irks me about these is that, compared to other lines, the colour palette is more limited. even their somewhat irksome numbering system is workable once you get the hang of what the numbers mean. here's hoping that they add more shades [and not just include limited ones] as time goes on.
favourite shade :: limited but still available red plum #608.

guerlain rouge automatique & rouge g :: i honestly can't choose between guerlain's two wonderful formulas. on the one hand, the rouge g's are rich, moist, nuanced, wearable across skin tones, and are heavy enough to beat someone to death if the need arises. on the other hand, the rouge automatiques, newly launched this past spring, are stylish, fun, light enough to work even in warm weather and have casing that looks like something james bond would have. [if james bond wore lipstick.] guerlain also get extra love from me for keeping their canadian prices fairly close to those in america, which many other brands don't.
favourite shade :: for the rouge g formula, deep berry "gigolo" is unparalleled. as good as the formula is, this seems to improve on it. unreal. for the rouge automatiques, the slightly shimmery light pink "cherry blossom" was a surprising favourite for me. sure, i love the deeper and brighter shades, but this one brings a radiance to my complexion that i've never seen before. and considering how many light pink lipsticks there are out there, this one is remarkably unique.

i'm not someone who's tremendously into glosses, although i do like them from time to time. generally, since i prefer a stronger lip, i'll opt for a lipstick. however, i have developed a love for chanel's glossimers, especially the more pigmented ones. i've also recently tried out the gloss d'armani [launched this summer] for the first time and i have to say that formula is both impressive and fascinating. i'll be adding to my collection of both over the next year, i'm certain.

face/ cheeks ::

mac lightscapade :: i've been waiting since 2006 for this to come back and it finally did. there was more than a little disappointment because the new version had considerably less variation in colour and got nicknamed "beigescapade", but for the money, it's still a very nice highlighter to have. it's difficult for me not to wear this every day because of the luminous pearly sheen it gives me. 

nars deep throat :: my absolute favourite "natural flush" colour. back in my gothier days, i used to avoid blush like it was coloured anthrax. it was much later that i figured out that adding colour to the cheeks brings dimension and shape to the face. who knew? [everybody except you, apparently -ed.]

guerlain serie noire blush g :: this is a bigger pop of colour, something that brings a sort of tropical glow, like the light of a sunset reflecting on your skin. it's a striped blush, with shades of coral, orange, light pink and magenta and, when blended, it reads as a vibrant, warm pink. even on pale complexions can pull this off [trust me], since it can easily be blended out into something more subtle.

the subtle effect of guerlain terra inca powder
guerlain terra inca sublime radiant powder :: i questioned my sanity just a little when i bought this, because it was the most expensive makeup purchase i ever made and because i don't really wear bronzers. why was i buying this? to be honest, the carved wood packaging sort of hypnotised me and i had to admit that the shade had enough rosiness to it that i thought it would work. and how. i've used this powder more often than anything else i bought this year except foundation and mascara. my skin is indeed radiant and sublime when i apply it, no matter how wretched i might feel. it's subtle enough that it doesn't really read as a bronzer, just as a perfect glow.

for skin care, as i mentioned a little while ago [in my "friday favourites"], i've fallen quite hard for nuxe, both because of their natural, sustainable orientation and because the quality of the products has been so high. i've also recently been trying out several products from korres, who have a similar mindset and who have likewise impressed. i'm hoping that the test sales they seem to be conducting in certain drugstores here result in them being rolled out throughout the chain, since it would be nice to have them widely available.

i was going to include a list of favourite nail polishes, but i then determined it would look like this: chanel chanel chanel chanel chanel chanel chanel. what can i say? they do a fine varnish. well, to be fair, opi's "pirates of the caribbean" set and their "touring america" set were both nice, muted shades as well. 

overall, my favourite collections, divided up by season were:

spring :: a tie between chanel, whose delicate colours made me realise that soft looks could be interesting and guerlain, who chose a much bolder palette.

summer :: mac's "surf baby". it's funny, because summer collections often leave me a little cold, but for the last two years, i feel like mac has done an outstanding job at finding colours that are great for everyone. the quality on this collection was close to the best they had all year. plus you had the "zombie surfer" model, who was kind of awesomely creepy.

fall :: i regret that i wasn't quick enough on the draw and missed out on laura mercier's "canyon" collection, a palette reflecting the colours of the desert sunset, which actually looked like it was the standout of the year. of the ones i did buy from, i'll give the edge to guerlain, because the launch included "gigolo" and introduced their new eye shadow quads.

holiday :: remarkably, remarkably difficult, because i felt that, across the board, these were some of the strongest collections all year. i'll give the edge to chanel, because their shades were so classic and elegant and at the same time, had a bit of an edge.

chanel glossimer meteore & mac jealousy wakes
special mention :: mac's "bloggers' obsessions" collection was a fantastic idea, extremely well executed. beauty bloggers probably have more influence on cosmetic purchases than fashion magazines at this point and it was incredibly smart of mac to reach out to a group of them and have them create products. almost all of them are still available on the mac web site and the quality here is  outstanding. all of these products have remained in frequent rotation since they launched in june.

i've determined that 2012 will be a year when i explore more brands, particularly some of the smaller "boutique" brands that are more difficult to get up here- beauty blogger favourite rouge bunny rouge, edward bess, burberry's classic take on colour [still fairly new and launched in only two individual stores in canada thus far], laura mercier and le metier de beaute to name a few. but that doesn't mean i'll be abandoning my favourites, new and old. just that i'll continue to expand my range, refine my preferences and let you know how it goes.

although dom and i had a quiet new year's, i did prepare us a holiday dinner and, yes, i even got a bit gussied up for the occasion. [i also doused myself with flour, which kind of ruined the effect, but i'm sure i looked quite fetching when i entered the kitchen.] so thanks for reading and for your continued support. there will be more things to discuss throughout 2012. here's my new year's look to get things started.

products used

face ::
mac prolongwear foundation "nc15"
dr. hauschka concealer "01"

eyes ::
guerlain ecrin 4 couleurs "bois de roses" [description above]
benefit they're real mascara

cheeks ::
mac mineralize skinfinish "lightscapade" [cool white highlighter]
nars blush "deep throat" [natural warm pink]

lips ::
chanel rouge coco "fatale" [rich burgundy]

happy new year!!


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