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making faces :: best of 2013 [the third annual more like space shrunken head awards]

yes, it's that time again. actually, it's past that time. most people have already done their lists of what they loved most this year, which leaves this one a little beyond its best before date. sort of like our mascot.

for those of you who are shocked by her but not so shocked that you've run away, i inaugurated the shrunken head awards in 2011 as a tribute to the notion that it beauty is both fleeting and skin deep, a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that beauty is temporary, but also has the power to make us feel like something precious, like a work of human art. also, i just love the idea of having a shrunken head trophy. many thanks to dom for doing some work on her this year, to make her even more special.

looking back at 2013's beauty offerings, i feel a little overwhelmed. i'm not pleased to see that a number of brands are starting to lean towards the mac cosmetics new and limited collections in rapid succession model. it makes things exciting, yes, but also exhausting and it means that it's increasingly tempting to just roll your eyes and walk away from the tornado of "new! new! new!" that's perpetually spinning. that's not to say that i don't appreciate some newness, though. in fact, the brands that really shone last year were the ones who i felt managed their "news" and balanced it with solid colour offerings and reliable availability. increasingly, as i get older and crankier, that last point is becoming a thing with me. i don't want to chase after items all the time. occasionally it's fun, but when you hear about on line waiting rooms and collapsing servers and raincheques and... well, it just starts to take up too many brain cells.

but enough of me complaining, let's look at the good, or at least my version of it, that came from 2013... let's hand out some shrunken heads!

category one :: formulas

complexion products

our complexions are getting increasingly complex. i tend to roll primers, foundations, concealers and finishing products together, but there are so many nuances for all of them that it's confusing. and this was truly a banner year for such products. there were tons of releases out there, joining an already crowded field and what's amazing is how great some of them were.

best new product [liquid, cream or gel] :: nars radiant creamy concealer
it can be hard to get excited about concealers, but when you get one that really works, the difference is immeasurable. like a lot of pale ladies, i have some pretty substantial circles under my eyes, plus i'm no longer a spring [or possibly even a summer] chicken, which means that i have some lines in the vicinity. too often, a formula dense enough to cover the discolouration will be so thick that it gets squeezed into those lines around the eyes. not this one. this hits all the right notes. it hides what needs to be hidden and leaves the rest looking dewy and happy.

honourable mention :: guerlain parure de lumiere foundation
i wasn't sure about this one at first, because i thought it might be just a bit too much glow, but after a couple of weeks of using it, i had to admit it was pretty special. it offers a good level of coverage- nothing too heavy, but enough to even out the overall appearance.

best new product [powder] :: hourglass ambient lighting powders
these delicate finishing powders have their lovers and their haters and clearly i am in the former camp. i've collected four of the five original shades and the limited edition three-pan ambient lighting palette. used alone or together, they gently smooth the appearance of the skin and add a hint of light, a different sort of light depending on which shade is used. truthfully, i wear these almost every day.

honourable mention :: nars light reflecting setting powder
does what it says, for sure. it gives the skin a beautiful translucent sheen and helps prolong the life of your makeup. in either loose or pressed form, it's a great little product to have on hand.

honourable mention :: bobbi brown brightening finishing powder
much like the hourglass ambient lighting powders, this provides both a highlight when applied heavily and an overall radiance when applied lightly. i'm thrilled to see that although they were announced as limited, these little multi-coloured powders that you swirl together to make an overall shade have made their way into the permanent lineup and have, in fact, been joined by a new shade for spring.

eye products

best new product :: illamasqua precision gel liner
black eyeliner isn't a new thing, but i've absolutely fallen in love with how smooth, long-wearing and, indeed, precise this formula is. illamasqua are already the kings of liquid liner- their precision inks are amazing- and now they are the kings of the gel liner, simple as that.

honourable mention :: marc jacobs style eye-con 3 shadow palettes  [also]
although the larger 7-shadow palettes got more attention, i fell for the smaller 3-shadow versions. i felt like the colour combinations were both interesting and wearable and the quality seemed extremely consistent throughout. [note: i did come across a couple that didn't swatch very well, but which worked fine on the eye. i'm not sure why this happens with some products, but i've seen the same thing with guerlain products on occasion.] the best part? the shadows are different sizes according to how much you're likely to use each shade. the darkest colours tend to be the smallest while the all-over neutral colours are larger. genius.

cheeks products- blushes, bronzers and highlighters

best new product :: diorcreme blush
i'll be honest, i haven't tried the chanel ones yet, but as a confirmed powder-blush girl, it was shocking to see a cream formula that i loved this much. no colour saw as much action on my face this year as "pareo", a cool, happy magenta. there was only one thing wrong with these blushes: they were limited. if i'd realised how short a time they'd be on sale, i would have bought them all. dior, you need to do more of these.

honourable mention :: diorblush powder
yup, it's a two-fer. i was incredibly impressed with the new diorblush colours and formula, one of the few that actually lasts on my face. there are a lot of options here for a lot of different complexions, but one of the nicest aspects of these blushes is that they build so beautifully, which means that almost all the shades will work on a range of skin tones.

lip products

best new product :: armani rouge ecstasy lipsticks
the power of a stain, the pigment of a lipstick, the sensation of a balm. although they only launched in the fall, these little tubes of wonder were on my lips more than anything except my coffee mug. the shades range from whisper-light to bold to vampy and each shade has a range within it, depending on how heavily you apply [which will never feel heavy]. i'd say it all sounded like marketing babble if i hadn't experienced it.

honourable mentions :: nars satin lip pencils/ urban decay revolution lipsticks
so smooth, so hassle-free, so pigmented, so lightweight, so all-around lovely. these are the crayons in my ideal colouring box.

i couldn't not say something about these. urban decay have seen a lot of upheaval in recent years, but 2013 seemed to see things set right. nothing showed that more than the re-launch of their lipstick line, which saw them blending their "naked" selves with their old school "punk rawk" roots.

category two :: collections

i have a feeling that choosing best seasonal collections is going to be obsolete in a couple of years, because everyone is doing their most exciting things in the collections that come out between seasons. sure, you get seasonal colour collections, but all the new products get their own launches and usually a little suite of products to accompany them. nonetheless, let's take a look season by season...

best spring collection :: guerlain [also]
i grabbed great, gluttonous handfuls of product from this launch and i still regret the stuff i wasn't able to accommodate.

honourable mentions :: opi and illamasqua
is opi an odd choice? i don't talk a lot about nail polish here because my skills are so terrible that i'm not comfortable taking a lot of photographs of my manicures. that said, i loved their eastern european collection so much that i overcame the horror of my own nails. that has to mean it's special.

illamasqua's collection was wonderful not just because of the products, but because of the charming new "speckled egg" looks they introduced. their new liner technique was fun, dramatic and easy. although their new "blush-up" brush, designed to be like a push-up bra for cheeks, looked suspiciously like something mac had already launched, it dovetailed nicely with the "hassle-free" and "embrace imperfections" messages of the collection. 

best summer collection :: dior
i truly loved their cool-toned bird of paradise take on summer, especially when so many other collections looked alike. how nice were the products? i almost bought a bronzer. that never happens. well, almost never. quality stuff.

honourable mention :: mac
what the heck? i didn't even review anything from this collection. it's true. i almost never review mac stuff anymore because even if i do manage to get it, there seems to be little point when the collection is likely to be sold out by the time i post a review. that said, this collection saw a return to summer form for a brand that has frequently out-dazzled the competition when it comes to summer collections.

best fall collection :: armani

this has the distinction of being my favourite collection of the entire year. and yes, as promised, i do still have moar things to review from it. it's cool, though, because you can still get your little paws on them. the new eyes to kill shadows were almost impossibly complex and beautiful. the lipsticks were reliably wonderful enough that they held their own against the more heavily promoted rouge ecstasy line. i would have happily purchased both of the hundred dollar shadow and blush palettes if my budget had permitted. hell, i would have happily purchased every single thing from this collection if my budget had permitted.

honourable mention :: guerlain [here and here]
i honestly felt that armani so far outpaced everyone that it was really hard to pick a "runner up". that said, although guerlain's collection wasn't perfect, it did feature some pretty darn near perfect lip shades, which made it pretty noteworthy.

best holiday collection :: nars
the quality of these products nicely sidestepped the controversy associated with the collection, while at the same time, the controversial figure of guy bourdin brought some artistry and complexity to the world of cosmetics. a home run on so many levels, second only to armani's kaleidoscope fall collection in my estimation.

honourable mention :: guerlain
the return of cruel gardenia and another devastatingly beautiful offering for the lips was a great reason for applause, even if, once again, i felt like the #1 collection far outpaced its competitors.

category three :: best of the best

this is the "if i had to choose just one" category, although since i'm doing honourable mentions, i guess it's "if you had to pick just two". believe me, it's hard to limit it.

best eye shadow [single] :: armani rose popilla
greytaupepinksilverlavender heaven

honourable mention :: rouge bunny rouge eclipse eagle/ snowy egret
way to pick something you haven't even reviewed yet [and on top of that, to pick two -ed.]... it's coming, don't worry...

best eye shadow [palette] :: guerlain attrape coeur
i get complements every single time i wear this. that has to be a good sign.

honourable mention :: urban decay naked 3
you know how sometimes you love a film and then the first sequel is ok, but kind of feels like repetition and then the third film comes out and it's so incredibly brilliant you wonder if it's better than the original? it's like that.

best blush :: dior pareo
magenta madness, even for a die hard powder girl.

honourable mentions :: nars boys don't cry/ yves st. laurent pepper rose
i'm totally sucking at this "choose just one" thing, i realise.

best highlighter/ other :: hourglass diffused light
if i had to choose one of the ambient lighting powders, it would be this one. it looks like the first light of spring hitting your face. perfection.

honourable mention :: guerlain meteorites cruel gardenia
of course.

best lip gloss :: chanel controversy
probably the most perfect vampy gloss ever created.

honourable mention :: armani flash lacquer black pearl
i'm still not 100% sure i love the new new armani glosses as much as the old new armani glosses, but this one makes a fine argument.

best lipstick :: armani rouge ecstasy attitude
i feel like this was made with me in mind, a glorious everyday red-violet.

honourable mentions :: guerlain madame batifole/ dior montmartre/ urban decay manic
i'm sorry, it's lipstick. i can't limit myself... all of these were amazing and there were more besides! believe it or not, this is me trying to be picky.

and finally...

category four :: the brands

one thing is certain: everyone in the marketing departments of cosmetic companies earned their salaries this year. with all the new product launches, new collections, collaborations and events, there was a lot of hard work that went into making us prettier people. some did better than others, but everyone did a lot. round of applause for the magical beauty elves that make it happen.

before we move on to the good news, though, it's worth taking a look at who stumbled a bit.

although this was the year that i discovered burberry, the brand has had a rough ride for much of 2013. they apparently changed suppliers for the bulk of their line, which meant that counters were out of stock on virtually everything for a healthy chunk of the year. that seems to have especially hurt them in canada, where they're unavailable for all intents and purposes. [at least one of their two counters has apparently closed and word is that the other may be closing as well. since there are no international vendors willing to ship burberry product to canada, including the company's own web site.] apparently they've sorted out their supplier issue and i hope that they're able to swing some type of deal for distribution in the coming year.

there weren't any brands that i thought had a really bad year. i did think that guerlain, coming off a couple of outstanding years overall, seemed a little bereft. their two big product launches- a new line of glosses and sparkly + matte eyeshadow duos- met with mixed reaction. the things that they've always done well, they continued to do very well, however. i don't see real weakness, i just feel like they were doing new for newness sake, with the results not quite measuring up to the rest of the brand.

best overall brand :: nars

a new range of complexion products that were actually exciting to work with, the beautifully smooth satin lip pencils, a handful of scorching blushes, stimulating collaborations and solid additions to a steadily increasing and wonderfully diverse product line. what's not to love?

honourable mention :: dior
their new products didn't seem quite as revolutionary as nars, but dior did some fantastic work on new products this year. they reinvented their core lipstick line with a fantastic new formula and new colours. same for their blush line. their new cream shadows made a lot of "best of 2013" lists and their colour collections were generally beautiful. 

as i did last year, i thought i'd leave you with a few photos of the look i donned for new year's eve, which featured a number of the products that are mentioned in this post. unfortunately, my camera batteries died, so these are phone pics, but i think they give you an idea of what was happening.



as a base, i'm wearing urban decay naked foundation in shade 1.0 and nars radiant creamy concealer in "vanilla". i sculpted my face a little by contouring with chanel "notorious" [recipient of a shrunken head for best cheek product in 2012] and highlighted my cheekbones, brow bone and nose with hourglass ambient lighting powder in "incandescent", from the ambient lighting palette released for the holidays. the entire look was set with nars light reflecting setting powder.

on my eyes, i used shades from the urban decay naked 3 palette for a very neutral look combined with the iconic "speckled eyeliner" technique that illamasqua used for their spring collection. i used their precision gel liner for a black base and applied my speckles using their precision ink liner in "scribe" as well as stila's shimmering emerald green liner "electric", a nod to pantone's colour of the year.

for the cheeks, i wanted a real pop of colour, so i used nars "coeur battant", which pops more than just about anything. to soften it just a little, i dusted guerlain "cruel gardenia" over the top and also added that as a highlight on the inner corner of my eyes.

although with such dramatic liner, i would normally be tempted to do a soft lip, i couldn't resist the allure of something sharp and bold, in this case guerlain madame batifole, which lasted throughout the night, well into the early hours of 2014.

that concludes this year's shrunken head awards. let's all salute the winners and look forward with great anticipation to what they have to bring us in the next year.


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