May 312017

It Cosmetics sent over their line of three Confidence in Your Glow Palettes ($32 each), which are all-in-one palettes that include a highlighter, blush and bronzer in three coordinated shades. Although this isn’t a brand I know extensively, I thought it best to post these as they may be of interest. These are available at Ulta Beauty and QVC online.

As we launch into the summer months, I’ve been craving a bronzer that gives me that natural flush of pink, red or warmth that mimics the look of skin that’s seen some a kiss of sun . Of course, no single powder can do all that. A separate blush and bronzer is the only way to give a natural looking effect. Pop a highlighter in there and you are good to go. The packaging is reinforced cardboard, which isn’t ideal for traveling but serviceable for home use. Notice that the One Sweep Wonder Brush ($48) (above) has a flat, duo-fiber soft and feathery head that is designed to lightly pick up the very soft, merged powder of these products. This is Instant Warm Glow:

This format is similar to Kevin Aucoin’s The Neon Bronzer ($58), with the highlight on the left, the blush in the middle and the bronzer on the right. The One Sweep Wonder Brush is narrow enough to pick up each shade individually, although a small-headed brush of another type (a typical highlighter brush) would do as well. Here are all three shades–Instant Warm Glow, Instant Natural Glow, and Instant Nude Glow.

The texture of these is extremely soft and pigmented. Using a typical blush brush picks up more product than I’m used to–I can see why the One Sweep Wonder Brush has duo-fiber styled bristles. You do not need much to get significant color, at least on my fair skin tone. Also, the powder is very, very soft. The colors are summer-wonderful. My favorite was Nude Glow, but all of them gave that “day in the sun” glow. The highlighter shades were fabulous. Swatches:

So pretty!! Once applied to the skin, the texture of these was quite nice. They weren’t the most super-finely milled, but extremely nice. The colors are gorgeous.

These are available at QVC online and Ulta Beauty.

These were sent without charge for consideration for review.

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May 232017

A few weeks ago, Sabrina at The Beauty Look Book and I shared a glorious day in New York City, makeup and perfume shopping, lunching, and generally having a wonderful time. In the many years that Sabrina and I have corresponded, this was the first (and hopefully not the last) time that we’d met in person. I can say that Sabrina is one of the smartest, kindest and most generous people that I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

Consistent with her fabulous personality, Sabrina invited me along to her appointment at New York City’s Creed Boutique (794 Madison Avenue) on the Upper East Side. This little jewel-box contained an incredible range of hand-crafted fragrances, knowledgeable sales people, and a welcoming atmosphere in which to try some truly outstanding fragrances. Sabrina’s review of our visit is here. For those shopping online, Creed is sold at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman.

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My Thoughts: Hylamide Finisher Photography Foundation (Golden Tan)

 Foundation, Skin care  Comments Off on My Thoughts: Hylamide Finisher Photography Foundation (Golden Tan)
May 182017

When I was playing on The Ordinary’s website, I wandered over to one of their sister brands Hylamide to find the Hylamide Photography Foundation ($21). Part of their Finisher series, this is a foundation add-in that improves the overall look of your skin once the foundation is applied. It’s an unusual product, and I haven’t ever seen anything like it (although perhaps this Peter Thomas Roth 24K Prism Cream might be in the same neighborhood).

I realize that MAC’s Next to Nothing Foundation (review coming soon!) is billed as an “Instagram filter for your face.” However, this very humble, functional deep grey plastic squeeze bottle includes a formula designed to actually accomplish that same goal but in a completely different way. According to the line, this product is a “Next-generation golden tan foundation is designed specifically to make the skin look better for the camera lens while blurring away imperfections in real life” and let me tell you it works.

Here are the details from the line:

Fractionated Blurring Silica Suspension: Nano fractions of silica-based prisms create light confusion to reduce the looks of visible lines and pores immediately without looking like traditional makeup, while specifically creating a perfect backdrop to highlight facial features through the camera lens.

Prismatic Camera Hue Yellow-Red Correctors:Ultra-advanced super-fine hue correctors black out unwanted tones in real life while creating the look of angular shadows for more definition on camera.

Prismatic Gold Technology: Adds a discreet golden glow instantly for a visibly radiant, healthy-looking skin while adding a cinematic look in photographs.

Oil-Free Bio-Sugar Complex: Super-light oil-free biotechnology complex is clinically proven to offer comfortable hydration immediately with an effect that lasts with continued use.

The formula comes in three shades: Transparent, Golden Tan and Dark Tan. I purchased Golden Tan.

Right out of the bottle, the liquid is a reflective deep yellow gold. Those on the paler side will notice that this color darkens foundation slightly (pictures below using NARS Tinted Moisturizer in Alaska), so it may help to start out with a foundation that is on the lighter side. It adds a touch of glow to the foundation, but if you don’t use more than a drop it’s very flattering. For me, the product is too dark to use as a highlighter so my experiments have only used it to mix into my foundation. You can see how much darker this is compared to Marc Jacobs highlighting Dew Drops, below.

Sometimes I struggle with uneven skin tone, and I’ve noticed that this product virtually eliminates that. It makes my skin look healthier, more even-toned, and more dense and creamy. It doesn’t seem to add to the coverage of the foundation I’m using, but it does seem to just make my skin look perfected. There’s an enormous payoff for this little extra step. Ingredient list (click to enlarge):

I’m not sure why the product works, but in my experience it actually does. The Finisher Photography Foundation is available from the Hylamide website.

Sephora links are affiliate links. Purchased product.

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NARS Sunwash Diffusing Bronzers: Seaside, Laguna, Casino and Falaises

 Bronzers, NARS  Comments Off on NARS Sunwash Diffusing Bronzers: Seaside, Laguna, Casino and Falaises
May 172017

For Summer 2017, NARS has created its Sunwash Diffusing Bronzer range. This is a set of four bronzers that have a unique chevron pattern that’s both beautiful and modern in Seaside, Laguna, Casino and Falaises ($40 each/ 0.28 ozs.). These have a sturdy, rectangular packaging and a subtle range of tonality that offers something for everyone. These are available from Sephora, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Barneys New  York

Seaside is the lightest, with a touch of a warm peach undertone.

Laguna is the same lovable shade that’s perfect for so many light to medium skintones.

Casino is the familar deep-toned bronzer that you’ve seen in NAR’s standard line.

The new Falaises is the deepest shade that incorporates a touch of red.

All shades are matte.

Another set of swatches:

A few thoughts:  Laguna and Casino are dupes of the standard shades, so if you like the pretty pattern then this gives you a nice option. Seaside is very very pretty, although I like the deeper red-undertone Falaises very much.  These pans tend to be harder compared to the standard NARS formulation. I got virtually no fallout or powder kick-up. But I found myself using stiffer-bristle brushes to get the right amount of powder out of the pan.

It’s wonderful to see a company appreciate that even slight variations in undertone and shade make a huge difference in the bronzer area. This gives us a full palette or choices, depending on what is going on with your summer skintone and preference. This is a beautiful range that increases the traditional NARS range into some very useful variations. These are available from Sephora, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Barneys New  York

Affiliate links–Items sent from NARS to Cafe Makeup without charge for consideration for review

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May 052017

The beauty world is a-buzz about The Ordinary Skincare, a subdivision of Deciem which is housed in Canada. The brand was started to essentially hack the world of high-priced skincare with effective formulations that sell at an extraordinary price point–many formulations are under $10. As the website says, “The Ordinary exists to communicate with integrity and bring to market effective, more familiar technologies at honourable prices.” The line is free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, animal oils, benzalkonium chloride, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, mercury, oxybenzone. For many of us who are used to paying in the range of $60 to several hundred, this idea is a breath of fresh air. Certainly a shelf of high-end products quickly escalates. The concept that The Ordinary offers clinical formulations at below-drugstore prices is quite attractive. The line ships from their own website as well as from Beautylish.

I tried a few products from their line to see how I thought the line stacks up against a higher-end experience. To jump to the conclusion, I found that several of their products are quite effective. However, I noticed a lack of refinement in a few areas that users of high-end products are likely to notice, and one that just didn’t seem to stack up at all.

First up is The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% ($5.80). This white cream definitely delivers the Vitamin C. It didn’t take more than a week for my skin to look better, brighter and more fabulous. As you likely know, Vitamin C is a tried-and-true active ingredient that works well for anti-aging. The ingredient list offers Ascorbic Acid (another name for Vitamin C) as the first ingredient, followed by squalene (an anti-oxidant). Click to enlarge–

The actives are delivered in a highly emollient white cream in a travel-friendly squeeze tube. For those who have experienced dry skin with typical Vitamin C serums, this may be welcome news. Unfortunately, the cream has some white lumps in it (which seems to dissolve as you apply it) and a very distinctive (not very pleasant) scent. For me, the cream was too moisturizing to wear under foundation and it felt quite heavy. You might not notice any of these qualities if you wear it overnight, but be forewarned those with clog-prone skin may tread cautiously because this formula is on the heavy side.

One product that really delivered was The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG ($6.70), a water-based serum that firms and tightens the undereye area. We all know that caffeine can get rid of puffiness tout de suite, and this one delivers on that score.

Delivered in a glass bottle with a serum pipette, a 1/2 drop under each eye wakes up the undereye area all day long.

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Apr 282017

Once again, Cafe Makeup is returning to its long-loved NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils ($27/each). This shade expansion offers long-wearing, moisturizing feel and the famous NARS matte texture. These are love down to the last nub. And, by the way, how cute is this Crayola-style box that they shipped these in?  It even came with a built in sharpener. For a more portable option, go with this NARS sharpener ($6), which works beautifully with these. It’s well worth the small investment.

These are available at Nordstrom, Sephora, Barneys New York, Selfridges UK, Net-a-Porter, NARS online, Ulta, Bloomingdales, Blue Mercury, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor (press samples/affiliate links)

Let’s start with the nudes, shall we? Here are:

Some of my favorites are Dolce Vita (I’ve used up more than my share of these), Bahama, Intriguing and Bettina, and of course Do Me Baby and Consuming Red.

Here are some amazing reds:


As usual, I go for deeper reds (Mysterious Red, Dragon Girl and Cruella) but your preference may vary. These red velvet mattes are probably the best of the line, each of these provides rich, vibrant color. Long wearing, comfortable, and beautiful, once you find one that works for you, you’ll never want to be without out. Spectacular!!

These roses (and one blue) are such a wide range of shades that I’m having a hard time imagining a color that isn’t represented here.

Of course, I adore Damned and Train Bleu. I feel like NARS has to continue to make these classics forever.  Unspoken is little too edgy for me personally, but I can see someone else rocking it. It’s definitely a runway, edgy shade.

Amazing, yes? Which are your favorites?

These are available at Nordstrom, Sephora, Barneys New York, Selfridges UK, Net-a-Porter, NARS online, Ulta, Bloomingdales, Blue Mercury, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor.

These items were sent to Cafe Makeup without charge for consideration for review/ Affiliate links


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Apr 032017

Tom Ford Reflects Gilt Highlighting Duo ($78) is one of the premier highlighting palettes of the Summer. Although tiny in size (the compact is the same as last year’s Bicoastal Blush duo), the formula of the two colors is absolutely superb.

It is a soft, well-made, pigmented, smooth and perfectly formulated to adhere directly on the skin.

The top shade is a warm yellow gold. As such, it looks best over bronzer or for an evening look. The bottom color is an amazing rose gold that looks beautiful as a shimmery blush (or applied lightly as a highlighter).

These shades have a life and complexity that is absolutely spot-on gorgeous. Yes, good things do come in small packages. This one is an amazing highlighter, a standout in a crowded field.

The Tom Ford Reflects Gilt highlighter palette is now available at Nordstrom, Sephora, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus.

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Mar 302017

Once I saw images of the NARS Banc de Sable palette ($49) I knew that I had to try it. The palette includes three highlighting shades designed to compliment a range of skin tones and to bring  you from Spring through Summer.

The lightest color (Rivage) is a pearl tone that is ideal for the upper cheek on any skin tone. The second (Sale) is a peach-infused shade that is beautiful over the cheek using a nude, peach or coral blush. I sometimes wear the deepest shade (Embruns) as a nude shimmery blush with a bronzer.

The texture of these melds beautifully to the skin, without any glitter bits. It’s just as smooth as butter. In a season crowded with some of the most creative, fantastical and generous highlighters that we’ve seen in a while, I’d put NARS Banc de Sable as a must-have. These are classic, flattering shades. And that texture. I’m seeing too many micro-glitter choices in other lines. But NARS is giving us the goods without compromise, something that’s going to flatter and looks expensive and “just right.”

Although the palette applies beautifully, I find myself reaching for a stiffer brush with this one. Although this palette gives no dust-up or fall-out, the material is pressed pretty firmly into those pans. I’m finding the Charlotte Tillbury Highlighting brush a good density for this palette. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fooled into thinking that this brush is the best brush of all time, but it has enough stiffness to do a good job with this palette. Your MAC 129 does a nice job as well. Both have a nice, compact head for precise placement and some ooomph in the bristles.

So, yes yes YES on NARS Banc de Sable. Available at Sephora.

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Mar 262017

AveSeena Ageless Perfection Cream ($157/ 1.7 oz) is an effective anti-aging moisturizer that I’ve added to my routine over the past few weeks. This formula, which uses plant stem cells, vitamins, botanicals and flowers, has been a delight to use.  Although the formula is rich, it sinks in quickly and hasn’t given me any hint of breakout (which is unusual for me, especially for a product that has these rich moisture-adding properties).

This moisturizer plays well under foundation.

The packaging is a lightweight, travel-friendly jar that has an air-tight pump mechanism to keep the product clean and fresh. Below is how the product comes out when you press on the top:

It has a natural flower-scent (mostly a light rose) that has no synthetic fragrance added. Here are some of the primary ingredients:

This is a luxury moisturizer that works–it gives my skin a moisturized, plumper and brighter appearance. It’s gorgeous.


AveSeena Ageless Perfection Cream is available here.

Here is the full ingredient list:

Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Water, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Water, Glycolic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-3, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Silk Protein Amino Acids, Stearic Acid, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glycerin, Isopropyl Palmitate, Globularia Cordifolia Callus Stem Cell Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Squalane, Methylsulfonylmethane, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Ubiquinone, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Mahonia Aquifolium (Oregon Grape) Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Euphrasia Officinalis (Eyebright) Extract, Helichrysum Italicum (Helichrysum) Flower Oil, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Seed Oil, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Matricaria Recutita (German Chamomile) Flower Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Rosa Damascana (Rose) Absolute, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Geranium Maculatum (Wild Geranium) Extract, Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Leaf Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Extract, Decyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Caprylate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide.
pH is between 5.5-6.5. Vegan.

Natural and/or organic ingredients.

This sample was provided to Cafe Makeup without charge for consideration for review.

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Mar 262017

AveSeena Essential Radiance Serum ($74/ 1.0 ounce) is a lightweight gel serum that is designed to add moisture, soften skin and add anti-oxidants to neutralize free radicals. I’ve worn this serum twice a day under the AveSeena Ageless Perfection Cream for the past few weeks with some lovely results. It seems to help soften and even the texture of my skin, and provide a smooth surface.

I typically wear this under foundation, and it seems formulated to work well in that role. As with the other AveSeena products, this serum is allergy tested and dermatologist approved; PETA and Leaping Bunny certified, cruelty-free; EWG Verified TM; vegan and H-free – free of any unwanted chemical additives such as parabens, phthalates, SLS, or artificial dyes.

The full ingredient list is here: Rosa Damascana (Rose) Flower Water, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Glycerin, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Methylsulfonylmethane, Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi Mushroom) Extract, Glycolic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan), Salix Lucida (Willow Bark) Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng (Ginseng) Root Extract, Pimpinella Anisum (Anise) Fruit/Seed Extract, Armoracia Rusticana (Horseradish) Extract, Schizandra Chinensis Fruit Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Fruit Extract, Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) Leaf Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Globularia Cordifolia Callus Culture Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Leaf Extract, Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Extract, Geranium Maculatum (Wild Geranium) Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol. pH is between 5.5-6.5. Vegan. Natural and/or organic ingredients.

I loved the results from the serum, and I particularly loved the healthy and pure ingredients. It’s wonderful when scientifically-formulated products truly deliver!


This was provided to Cafe Makeup without charge for consideration for review

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