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making faces :: the seventh annual shrunken head awards for achievement in beauty

yes folks, it is that time again, and while these awards don't have the red carpet i would so dearly love to see, it's always exciting for me to hand out a few heads. [actually, i don't know that i'd want to see a red carpet that wound up at my door. i probably wouldn't have snacks or anything and i get antsy being around strangers.]

as always, i'll begin the festivities with my customary "why shrunken heads?" explanation:

if you're not familiar with the shrunken heads, it's a tradition that i inaugurated in honour of the fact that beauty is fleeting [all the more reason to remember it] and reflecting on the year in beauty is also a way to preserve it. [get it? preserve? why are you backing away from me like that?]

but if you know me, you're aware that i'm the sort of person who would just love to use a shrunken head as a symbol of beauty.

this year's awards are accompanied by a bit of guilt, because the fact is that i haven't reviewed much of what i'm about to salute. fortunately, a lot of it is still readily available, so you won't have trouble tracking it down, should you wish to do so. a lot of the products have been pretty thoroughly reviewed elsewhere, which makes me disappointed in my own lack of originality, but also means that it's likely you've seen something about them already.

so... on with their heads!

category one :: formulas

best new complexion product [liquid, gel, or cream] :: fenty beauty pro filt'r foundation

if you're going to be a celebrity doing a makeup collection, the bar has been raised from ground level to empire state building. celebrity collaborations always put me off, because they most often seem like someone just stuck a name on average products. this, however, is not a collaboration. rihanna worked on every single one of the products and hit most of them out of the park.

the best of the bunch, though, has to be this liquid foundation. i've heard mixed reports from people with dry complexions, but for those of us who glow a little too easily, this is the new gold standard. plus, m'lady made a statement by launching forty shades. i fret a lot over undertones, so the idea of having multiple options across a range of skin tones already makes me want to stand up and cheer.

best new complexion product [powder, loose or pressed] :: urban decay velvetizer

never was a product so well-named. mixed in with liquid foundation or applied lightly as a finishing powder, this stuff is a damn miracle. it got a bit lost in the shuffle of fine urban decay releases this year, but it's permanent. lucky us.

best new eye product :: marc jacobs matte highliner gel crayon

i felt like this wasn't a really big year for innovative eye products, which is pretty much what i thought last year. i haven't tried the raved-about pat mcgrath mothership palettes [i just haven't been able to bring myself to commit], but nothing has wowed me since early 2015, when giorgio armani released their eye tint formula for the first time.

that said, i really like these smooth, pigmented and long-lasting babies from marc jacobs. my water lines don't get along with most liners, but these ones fare well better than average. there's also a great colour selection, with workhorse neutrals and vivid pops of colour.

best new cheek product [colour] :: nars liquid blush

the only bad thing i can say about this formula is that it's too good. it has so much pigment and lasts so long that i can't imagine actually using up a full bottle. ok, i could criticise the itty bitty shade range, but i understand wanting to start with a few sure-fire hits, and a new one is already coming with the spring collection. this launch truly does establish nars as the kings of all blushes.

best new lip product :: bite beauty amuse bouche liquified lipstick

the reason you don't generally see liquid lipstick reviews on here is because i generally don't like liquid lipsticks. i find them dry or messy or difficult to work with and often some combination of those three. but leave it to bite to come up with something i love.

now, these aren't going to please diehard liquid lipstick lovers, because these are, well liquid lipsticks. what i mean is that they're liquid versions of the brand's regular amuse bouche formula, so they're not matte and they're not transfer resistant. making the formula liquid means that you're getting more pigment [because, really, you're applying more colour], but these never look or feel heavy. here's a look at "infu" and "mauvember".



category two :: collections

best spring collection :: bite beauty :: edgy neutrals

i said this last year when i named bite's summer collection as the best of the year: you do not need a huge selection to impress me. i absolutely loved this pocket-sized launch, which included a few of bite's existing amuse bouche lipsticks and four new shades named for mushrooms which did challenge the conventional idea of a neutral lipstick. the yellowy undertones in the new shades are the sort of thing that you just don't see very often and, while that might make them as scary as any vamp lipstick, i really appreciated the originality.

best summer collection :: urban decay :: basquiat

i loved the products in this launch and i really loved the care and attention to detail that urban decay put into it. although i don't think i needed every product, i was sorely tempted to get the gorgeous collector's box that contained the whole thing. as it is, just looking at the items that i did buy is enough to put a smile on my face. there may be issues with using artists' work for commercial products, but if you're going to do it, this is a great example to follow.

best autumn collection :: urban decay :: naked heat

this would be one of the more "duh" choices this year. the neutrals-with-oranges-and-red-palette trend that started with anastasia's modern renaissance should by rights have ended here. where modern renaissance has shades that look almost stained, with vivid pops of red and plum, naked heat is full of fire. the jewel-like reds are absent, replaced by rust, chestnut, maroon and burgundy. the tones are brighter and more intense, but still wearable on a lot of complexions.

the goodness of the palette, though, shouldn't hide the goodness of the other items that came out with it: three lipsticks and three stunning eyeliners in similarly fiery shades were also added. they complement naked heat perfectly, but they're richly satisfying in their own right.

honourable mention :: nars

this one seemed to slip under a lot of people's radar [maybe their eyes were burned by urban decay], but it had a lot of worthwhile products. for starters, it had six new [some limited] audacious lipsticks in startling colours, including a strange but surprisingly wearable nude [vibeke] and a couple of unusual vamps [ebony wood aya a deadly deep cool purple called kir]. it also had a beautiful reddened plum blush with shimmer, a sort of brighter cousin to their classic sin. here's a look at the lipsticks launched: "aya", "kirat" and "vibeke". i'm wearing "blissful" in the first two shots.



best winter collection :: nars :: man ray

this was another collection i happily could have purchase all of. in the end, i was pretty good, purchasing one of the collection's limited blushes and one of the adorable mini lipstick and highlighter sets. unlike the andy warhol collaboration a few years back, which fell absolutely flat, this one combined nars' strengths with the beauty of man ray's visual art.

man ray is one of my favourite photographers, although i'm not as familiar with his painting. i thought that the packaging for the gift sets in this collection was almost worth the price of purchase itself, and the splashing of his "lip" graphic over the more standard items gave a sense of wit. the products included didn't all tie in well to the theme, but there were enough sharp, graphic eyes and deep lips to recall the golden age of black and white.

here's a look at "hot sand" and "rita" [highlighting blush and audacious lipstick], which are both permanent, but which were sold as a combined set for a sweet price, and, in the second photo, "fetishized" blush, a glorious watermelon red-pink.



honourable mention :: guerlain

you could dismiss guerlain's petite holiday collection as boring. and you wouldn't be wrong, because red lips with gilt eyes and a hint of gold on the cheeks is boring. it's what every holiday collection was for years, and it's still what a lot of prestige brands return to year after bloody year. but boring can also be classic, and i'd say that this one better fits that description. the two limited edition rouge g lipsticks, a warm and a cool red [glamourous cherry], look standard enough, but both are laced with a find gold shimmer that, unbelievably, makes the formula even better than usual. as the base colour fades a little, the shimmer becomes more obvious, especially on the warmer of the two.

i also fell for the soft golden highlighter, with its art deco-inspired packaging. many people were disappointed, because they found it added little. i think that pale ladies are definitely going to get the most out of it, because it is a subtle highlight, but, like a lot of guerlain products, adds a little je ne sais quoi.

here's warm "flaming red" and cool "glamourous cherry", both seen with the subtle but lovely "terracotta gold light" powder.



category three :: best individual items

best eyeshadow [single] :: armani :: italian riviera

honestly, i hardly bought any single shadows this year, but i love the eye tint formula and this bright, yellowed gold was too beautiful to resist. it's in line with the best examples of the eye tints and, while there are a hundred thousand gold shadows out there, this one is arrestingly original. originally, this was slated to be a limited product, but it seems to have migrated into at least semi-permanent status. here it is on my lids. on my lips here is something we'll be meeting shortly.



best eyeshadow palette :: urban decay :: naked heat

"duh" moment number two. i've already spoken about this above and don't have much more to add. i'm a big fan of the naked palettes, with naked 3 being my favourite for its everyday versatility, but this one comes a damn close second.

best blush :: nars :: fetishized

a bold, juicy pink-red with a distinct, but not frosty sheen, this one just took my breath away. when i got it back, i was impressed with the way it seemed to perfect my skin and how well it lasted over any foundation.

honourable mention :: benefit :: galifornia

this is like the fresher, pinker cousin of their classic bella bamba, and as much as i love that one, i think that galifornia is even better. it's a pink that sits nicely on the warm-cool dividing line that can be applied for a soft "sweetheart" look, or made pretty damn bold.

best bronzer or highlighter :: becca :: prismatic amethyst

cool highlighters have a tendency to turn ashy on many people, me included. so i was very happy to discover this lavender-pink lovely, which definitely gives a chilly reflect, but doesn't leave you looking like you're trying and failing to be goth.

honourable mention :: becca :: vanilla quartz

i'm very glad to see this cream-with-pink-reflect colour is now included in the permanent assortment. it's a bit of a softer glow than most becca highlighters, but it's magical when the light catches the pink particles in the incandescent base.

best lip gloss :: fenty beauty :: gal on the moon

i'd describe this formula as "what i wanted anastasia's glosses to be like". whereas the anastasia glosses faded and bled on me, this one stayed within the lines. it's a lighter formula, so the lasting power isn't outstanding, but it's not any worse than other high end [and more expensive] glosses. this colour is just a marvel: it's got a fairly deep berry base and is loaded with turquoise and silver shimmer. the shimmer and the glossy finish means that it looks light compared to how it appears in the tube. the reflections will definitely turn heads, in a good way. you can see it above in the photo for "italian riviera".

best lipstick :: bite beauty :: mauvember

every year, bite does a couple of limited edition products for "movember", the worldwide charity drive to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer. i bought the first one ever, but skipped last year's, because i felt like it was a little too close to justify owning. this year, however, they drew me in with their gorgeous liquified lipstick formula, and by changing the colour just enough [deeper, redder] that i had to admit it was different. as a mid-range shade, it's the sort of thing that can go anywhere, and it's unlikely to get a lot of attention, other than by making your lips look full and smooth.

category four :: the big one [brand of the year]



urban decay

after years of drifting through owners and brand images, the original alternative makeup brand has really hit its stride. everything that they bring out has a real personality, so that even when they're putting out something that's part of an established trend [naked heat], it comes out looking very much like their own. they're also one of the brands that i find gets the permanent/ limited balance right, giving everyone a chance to buy limited items without having them linger too long. but they also pay attention to sales enough to know when a product should migrate into the permanent collection.

so that's my round-up for the year! i'm already seeing some intriguing things among the spring collections, and i have some sephora gift certificate money burning a hole in my night table... i should probably go put that out. 

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