Jun 272013

MAC 159 brush1

MAC has recently released the Tropical Taboo Collection, which is all about color and texture.  The one product which really stood out to me, however, is a newly-introduced brush. Specifically, the Mac 159 brush ($35) is the most interesting new brush that’s wonderful for highlighting, and also for precise placement of baked face products. The brush is a fairly short (roughly 6 1/2″) brush with a “cats paw” shape.

Mac 159 brush

From the side:

MAC 159 brush3

This brush is pleasant to use–imaging being petted by a very soft kitten.  Also, it makes unwearably rough-textured baked products meld nicely into the skin, knocking off the powder bits as it goes. If I had not tried it in person, I would not have understood its value.  If you are near a MAC counter/store, it’s really worth trying one of their baked products on with this particular brush.  You’ll fall in love with it–or at least, I did.  I believe that this brush is now part of their permanent line (but don’t quote me, there’s conflicting buzz).

Mac tropical taboo MSF01

While I was at the store, I looked at the new MAC Mineralized Skinfinishes from the MAC Tropical Taboo collection–Adored, Rio and Lust. I’m a highlighter fan (can  you tell?) and so I couldn’t resist picking these up. See, that’s the thing about MAC.  There’s something so fun about their “fabulous-today, gone-tomorrow” speed that’s both dizzying, intriguing and sometimes aesthetically successful.  Perhaps you’re read the same studies that I have–sometimes those who produce the greatest number of creative variations have the highest numbers of “hits”–sure, some misses too.  I try to wait on the sidelines and wait for the hits (and try to skip the misses, although I’m not always successful).

Mac tropical taboo MSF02

Of these, and for my fair warm coloring, Adored was the biggest hit.  It’s an unusual highlighter that looks almost transparent.  It adds just a touch of “glow” with peach-pink highlight where the light hits.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a skinfinish quite like Adored ever before.  It really adds something special over blushes–a healthy glow. You can use it in a “C” shape around the eye and on upper cheek, or lightly all over the blush area to add a little soft shimmer glow to the blush. Even better–when using the MAC 159 brush, I got no noticeable glitter from Adored.

Mac tropical taboo MSF03a

Rio is a cool pink highlighter. The color might be enough for a soft blush if you are very pale (but it’s too soft for me unless I’m going for a very nude-blush look).  The finish goes almost metallic in bright light.

Mac tropical taboo MSF07a

Lust is a soft pink (it’s close enough to Rio that you don’t need both in my opinion). I detected slight glitter particles in direct sunlight with Lust.  Like Rio, the highlight is quite obvious/metallic in direct bright light.

Mac tropical taboo MSF11

As you can see, the color from these is not very strong (these are two swipes each). They’re sheer.

One final note about all three–these really, really look best applied with the MAC 159 brush in my opinion.  They look much rougher  in texture when they are not. But with the 159, they are smooth and meld to the skin. Walking around in different light, I was glad that I splurged on the brush and can’t wait to try it with my other baked products (especially those non-US Chanel blushes–I’m very curious to see what the 159 will do with those!).

MAC 159 brush2

Also, all of the MAC Tropical Taboo colors seem designed for warmer skin tones. I’m not saying that a cooler toned person could never make them work, but it would seem more challenging to me.

Some other random thoughts:  Of these, Adored Mineralizes Skinfinish and the 159 brush were my favorites.  MAC Simmer blush is worth a peek if you’re in a blushy mood (I love it with Adored over it). Applied with the 159 brush, Simmer was like a red-gold stain. I didn’t look at the eyeshadows or the lip products from this collection, but Temptalia has done thorough reviews of the entire range. Also, there are some really knowledgable people on the Specktra Collection Board who post swatches, reviews and thoughts about all of them (with lots of different opinions, skin tones and preferences).

Regardless of how you feel about these metal-reflective baked skinfinishes, you might look at the MAC “cat’s paw” 159.

The MAC 159 brush is available at Nordstrom.com (the skinfinishes are here), MAC Cosmetics.com, and other MAC sources.

This post contains affiliate links (for more information, see About Cafe Makeup)

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Nov 042012

Tom Ford Cheek Brush ($75/#06) is a luxuriously soft and beautiful brush. There are some products that are so perfect, and such complete joys to use, that they are worth every penny regardless of the price. Like Tom Ford’s Bronzer Brush, the Cheek Brush is one of those products.

The head of the brush is tapered and full. After a few washes, the head looks the same as it does out of the box.

The handle is lighter than one might expect, but round and large enough to make use easy and comfortable.

There are few reviews for this brush, although the Non Blonde has done a beautiful job here. While were at it, I’m going to post some first impressions of some Tom Ford blushes that I purchased–Frantic Pink, Wicked and Narcissist ($55 each). I haven’t played with these enough for a full review, but was able to take some pictures that I can share.

First, all of these blushes have a pearly quality that gives a gorgeous, sparkle-free glow. Here is Frantic Pink, a light soft pink-with-a-peach twist:

I don’t typically love blushes that impart only subtle color. I found that Frantic Pink does give enough color to give a blush effect to my NC15 skin tone, and the soft highlighter shimmer was gorgeous.

Wicked is an amazing cool raspberry with a cool pearl.

Close up:

I haven’t had time to play with Wicked or the next blush, Narcissist (released for Fall 2012):

Narcissist does not appear to have quite the amount of shimmery pearl as Frantic Pink or Wicked. It reminds me a bit of a more luxurious, complex version of MAC Full Fuchsia Pro blush.

Swatches, outside in sun:

Swatches, indoors with flash:

I hope that you might enjoy my experiment with Tom Ford. Personally, these all look amazing to me. The packaging is compact and light enough for travel, and the color payoff is amazing. I’ve worn Frantic Pink for a few days, and love the effect. Have you played with Tom Fords blushes or brushes? What do you think?

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Oct 052012

First- This Chanel Inside No 5 video is brilliant. It makes me a bit breathless–I think it’s the narrator’s pacing.

Currently there are three makeup companies associating with Marilyn Monroe presently (Chanel, MAC and Dior). Two with Andy Warhol (Chanel and Nars). None of these seems to be a detraction from these icons’ incredible status. I’m enjoying every minute.

It does seem the makeup industry is having a 1960’s revolution moment.

By the way, I have some of the original Andy Warhol postcards based on the collaboration mentioned in the video. They have little peel-off fragrance samples on the back. When I get back home, I’ll have to post some pictures of them.

Second-  Louis Vuitton. Speaking of a 1960’s revival, during Paris Louis Vuitton’s models wore a simple peach shimmered eyeshadow with soft lips complete with a 1960’s headband-bob.

The show featured the Damier check, extending the pattern into four escalators which formed the stage background.

Third- Tom Ford. I took me until a few months ago to make a few tentative passes at the Neiman’s counter. I’m not done going back yet.
I’ll be posting reviews (but if you want a head start, this Bronzer Brush is to die for). I cannot say that I’ve loved everything I’ve tried, but trust me this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Jun 182012

The Chanel Blending Foundation Brush #7 ($54) is a brush that I’ve put off reviewing for a bit. For one thing, brush reviews aren’t as exciting to me as color makeup reviews. Trust me, a pretty eyeshadow palette or a gorgeous new pink lipstick review pretty much writes itself.

But the reality is, for me, good brushes matter.  Perhaps a pro can get by with her well-trained fingers or the ragged end of a tissue. Good for them, honestly. Personally, I notice an enormous difference when I use a good brush. So I invest in brushes and if it’s engraved with “Chanel” and has a lovely, balanced weight and lush yet feathery brush head, those are reasons enough for me.

The Chanel Blending Foundation brush has a dense base with a medium stiffness, and long white ends that feel very feathery and soft. As many of you know, this type of brush can be used to lightly apply cream or powder products–the very light end bristles apply the product very lightly like light little feathers touching the skin. If you are applying a very pigmented blush and want a light touch, a duo-fibre brush is your best friend. As the name implies, this Chanel Blending Foundation brush can also be used to lightly stipple on cream or liquid foundation for an almost-airbrushed finish.

The bristles on Chanel’s Blending Foundation Brush are lush and lovely. Out of the box, the brush has an elongated hexagonal shape that evokes the iconic Chanel No. 5 bottle stop (which, in turn, is the same shape as Paris’ Place Vendome, which is bordered by the Hotel Ritz where Gabrielle Chanel lived during some parts of her life.


Alas, the brush shape went back to round after a single washing. Here’s a comparison to a MAC 187 brush ($42) that is several years old. An unfair comparison, given the differences in age, but I thought you might find the size comparison useful.

The brush heads of the MAC 187 on the left, the Chanel No. 7 on the right. The Chanel is more compact and feels a bit more dense and plushy:

The two straight on:

For performance, I’ll give a slight edge to the Chanel. The bristles seem to do a lovely job without ever giving a single patch or problem. It’s a touch smaller, so it gives me a bit more control. However, if you are pretty happy with your MAC 187 (as many are!), I don’t think it’s worth the investment to switch unless your MAC is nearing its useful life.

Overall, I love the new Chanel Foundation Blending brush. I do use lots of brushes, so  I don’t regret having another good duo fibre in my brush cup. Definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a good brush for foundations and pigmented powders.




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May 302012

Here are some speed reviews of some products that I’ve been considering lately:

1.Guerlain ‘Secret de Pureté’ Cleansing Cream ($66 /6.5 oz.). This is a remarkably gentle cleanser that manages to remove virtually everything while leaving baby skin behind.

Recently, I received a generous 1.0 oz. sample from a gift with purchase, which has lasted several weeks. I’ve used it with water alone, or on the brush head of my Clarisonic. Here’s my little sample:

This cleanser is remarkable. It takes off my Armani Eyes to Kill mascara, my Chanel sunblock, and my Nars Tinted Moisturizer without stripping the skin in the least. My skin feels moisturized and glows when I’m done. Gorgeous. Yes, it has a perfumed scent.

2.  Edward Bess Luxury Face Brush ($59)  This kabuki-styled brush is perfect for blush, bronzer, and highlighter. Lovingly packaged:

It has a dense compact of bristles, which might lead one to a heavy coverage, but the gently sloped head allows me to pick up just the right amount.

The handle is slightly longer than other face brushes, which makes it a pleasure to use.  It’s an investment, but one that I really do love.

3. Guerlain Shine Automatique in A La Parisienne #263 ($35)  I’m continuing to enjoy Guerlain Shine Automatique in Rose Pompon. I love the slide-up packaging, it’s gorgeous and functional.

Guerlain Shine Automatique A La Parisienne is pretty sheer coral that lets just a peek of your natural lip color through.

If you are shy about wearing this season’s bright oranges, this sheer rose-coral may be perfect.

Here is A La Parisienne on Megan:


As a sheer lipstick, A La Parisienne will look slightly different on everyone. Here are some other reviews:

  • Here at Mostly Sunny Bunny
  • Here at Sandra’s Closet
  • Here at Karlasugar

4. Replere Beauty Shooters($37 for 14 bottles) I’m a big believer that beauty comes from within. I cannot get enough of antioxidant rich foods, plenty of filtered water, and vitamin supplements. Dr. Debbie Palmer has made it easier to get a recommended daily dose of antioxidants, including vitamin C-packed fruits, goji & açai berries, and blueberries in a one ounce (1 oz.) Beauty Shooter.

Packed 14 to a carton, these are purse-sized, single serving little containers that you can take once a day to get your beauty in. One shakes, shoots, and done. I received three of these without charge for consideration for review, and found they had a pleasant, sweet grape cranberry-flavor with a slight touch of pulp. For those that don’t have time to get to a fresh source of fruits and vegetables every day, these provide a very easy alternative.

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May 052012

Elizabeth Arden Rose Aurora Spring/Summer 2012 Collection is a blend of bronzes and rose tones that looks beautifully gift-able (as Mother’s Day approaches, this may solve your shopping dilemma). This color story is a modern twist on the original 1950’s collection designed by Elizabeth Arden herself, with soft rose gold packaging. I loved the originality and beauty of this summer-lovely packaging–it evokes art nouveau in my mind. The colors are a built around accentuated eyes, a soft shimmery lip and glowing skin.

The Pure Finish Bronze Powder comes in three colors ($38 each/0.30 oz.))–Soft Radiance, Warm Radiance, and Deep Radiance. These have a soft, shimmering finish. All three tend to run warm, consistent with the Rose Gold theme of the collection. These bronzers include Zin’cite, an ingredient said to energize and protect skin cells, together with green tea, white tea and minerals that provide antioxidant protection.

For applying these, I found that a large soft brush (including Elizabeth Arden’s own ($22, pictured below) worked perfectly. These bronzers are well pigmented, so put that kabuki away! You do want to chose the right color for your skin tone–going too light or too dark won’t be as flattering as it might be.

Soft Radiance was the right choice for my warm-toned fair skin (NC15/Chanel Cameo/Ivoire). By my estimate, I would suggest those with NC30-40 to go with Warm Radiance, and deeper tones with Deep Radiance. These have a fairly large amount of product for the price point (the pans are fairly large), and with the good pigmentation one should last quite a while.

Here are swatches, including the Honey Ceramide Cream blush ($24), a very natural deep warm rose tone:

Here’s Honey blush:

The collection includes a rose gold shimmering highlighting powder, the Pure FInish Highlighter in Rose Illumination ($34), which delivers very high shine. This pictures shows the new Elizabeth Arden All Over Face Powder Brush ($22):

A close of the shimmering powder–those who wear this will want a very reflective glow, keeping the application to the upper cheeks, and perhaps a touch to the brow bone. Like the bronzers, the highlighter includes Zin’cite, green tea, white tea and minerals.

My favorite piece of the collection was the Rose Aurora Ceramide Ultra Lipstick ($22.50). I loved the light, wearable rose with the rose gold shimmer.

The collection includes two liquid liners with felt tip applicators–these Elizabeth Arden Liquid Eyeliners come in both Black and Brown ($18 each).

You can see the tips of these liners are nicely defined:

Here are swatches of these items:

Elizabeth Arden sent a sample of a new fragrance, Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Cherry Blossom ($29/1.7 fl. oz. and $39/3.3 fl. oz., Honey Drops Cream is $29.50 for 8.4 oz.).

This scent is an extremely pleasant floral mix, well-named as it does have a lovely cherry blossom scent. Really, it evoked the beauty cherry trees that I remember from my East Coast childhood. This is tempered with a light green tea undertone..

Because the packaging is so lovely, I could easily see these appreciated as gifts for several women that I know in my life. This time of year seems to be a particularly heavy gift-shopping time for me–teachers, principals, coaches, Mother’s Day (which seems to include my many “mother-like” mentors), and birthdays. Depending on your recipient, I can imagine many would appreciate the beauty and usefulness of any one (or more) of these items in this collection.

The Elizabeth Arden Rose Gold Collection was sent to Cafe Makeup without charge or consideration for review.


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Sep 302011

With the release of Chanel’s new Perfection Lumiere Foundation (swatched here and here), Chanel released a single Foundation Brush ($45) (#6) (Chanel Brush/ Les Pinceaux de Chanel Pinceau Fond de Teint).  Some stores have not yet received these in stock, mine was purchased from Chanel.com.

According to some sales associates whom I’ve interrogated (yes, Cafe Makeup brings it when we visit a makeup counter, and sometimes we feel a little bad about that), Chanel’s brush redesign should be completely up for sale around Spring ’12.  Please note that “Spring ’12” in the makeup world means “late December ’11.”  We’ll have to see what actually happens, because none of this information is official and may have been obtained under duress.

The brush is just over 6 inches long.  As you can see, Chanel has dramatically changed the brush head into three colors, which if inspected closely have three different textures.

For lack of a better word, I’ve come to think of this as a “tri-fiber” brush  head.  Chanel’s former international (non-U.S.) foundation brush was somewhat similar.  The fiber closest to the ferrule is very stiff, so that the brush head holds its shape when wet with liquid foundation, and pressed against all of the different parts of the face.  The center portion (the dark brown) has more flexibility and seems quite absorbent to hold the liquid well.  The bristle tips are soft and feathery, which is a good brush texture for blending an airbrushed finish.  The ends taper to a very fine point.

The handle has the same feel as Chanel’s former international (non-U.S.) brushes–it feels like wood (or a wood composite), which is not too heavy but sufficiently substantial to give you a good grip.

The text on the back is simple–only the brush number (#6) and brush name (“Foundation”) are printed there.  Curiously, I did not see the country of origin stamped on the brush.  This is true even on the ferrule, where Chanel had previously stamped its country of origin.  Like Chanel’s now-discontinued brush, this new one is made in China:

Some of my former Chanel brusheswere made in China have held up very well for years, and perform extremely well.  I would not have noted this at all, except that I occasionally get questions.

Comparison of three foundation brushes–my well-worn Chanel now-discontinued foundation brush (#16), Shiseido’s new Perfect Foundation Brush (reviewed here) and Chanel’s new foundation brush:

I liked the brush head of the new Chanel Foundation Brush (#6), better than the discontinued Chanel foundation brush (#16).  The feathery tip helps me get a flawless look with fewer brushstrokes.  The finish that I can achieve with the new foundation brush and Perfection Lumiere has drawn compliments (it does look better, in my opinion).

If you are choosing between Shiseido’s Perfect Foundation Brush and Chanel’s new Foundation Brush #6, here are my thoughts:

  • As you can see, the brush head shape of either is remarkably different;
  • The Shiseido brush tends to be faster, because the flat head absorbs and deposits foundation very quickly;
  • If you are inexperienced or rushed, the Shiseido will give you a slightly heavier coverage (those with more experience or care can work well with either);
  • The Chanel brush shape is a classic shape used for layering foundation–it’s more intuitive for light coverage that is then “built up” only where needed;
  • Shiseido’s compact size is perfect for travel and less expensive;
  • Chanel’s seems to be easier and faster to clean (this isn’t really a performance issue I thought I’d point it out).
  • Bottom line, if you are choosing between them you cannot go “wrong” with either one–really, it’s going to come down to your personal foundation style and use preference.

Overall, the new Chanel Foundation Brush is a positive step forward.  I far prefer it to the older Chanel foundation brush–the smaller size, the feathery bristle ends, and the tapered top deliver a better product.  To get The Beauty Look Book’s views, see her review here.

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Aug 212011

Here is an overview of the items from Chanel’s recent collections, followed by a list of my personal favorites:

First, the Sophisticated Eye Collection:

Recourbe Cils de Chanel Precision Eyelash Curler ($36) is reviewed here.  Overall, it is a very good curler with logo appeal.  If Le Metier de Beaute’s is workable for you, it is a better value at $19.

Chanel Eyeshadow Quad in Lagons ($57) is reviewed here.  It is a beautiful palette of shimmery blues.

Chanel Eyeshadow Quad in Vanites ($57) is reviewed here.   This shimmery palette swatches with a strong purple/violet tone.  It is pigmented, pretty and can be very flattering.

Stylo Yeux Waterproof in Taupe is reviewed here ($29). This eyeliner is a softly pigmented cool plum Ebene has been previously released and it is reviewed here.  

Chanel Crayon Sourcils Sculpting Eyebrow Pencil in Blond Clair ($29) is reviewed here.  It’s a convenient, easy to use pencil that works well for light-toned brows.

Chanel released several new eyeshadow singles ($28.50 each).  Twilight is reviewed here.  Fauve is reviewed here.  Magic Night is reviewed here.

Chanel Inimintable Intense Mascara ($30), Lily single eyeshadow ($28.50) and Beaute de Cils Mascara Base ($30) are not reviewed.

Second, Les Aquarelles:

Ombres Tissees in Beiges ($75) is reviewed here.  This is a large, shimmery palette designed for eyes but can be used as a highlight for the rest of the face.

Joues Contraste Blush in Pink Cloud ($43) is reviewed here.  This is a very subtle, light color.

Ombre Essentielle Eyeshadow in Gris Exquis is reviewed here.  It is a beautifully pigmented matte neutral.

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Royallieu ($32) is re-promoted with this collection. It is a sheer light shimmery pink previously reviewed here.

Joues Contraste in Rose Petale ($43) is re-promoted with this collection.  It is reviewed here.


Stylo Yeux Eyeliner in Ebene is re-promoted with this collection ($29).  It was previously reviewed here.

Chanel Vernis in Tendresse is part of this collection, but is not reviewed.
My favorites from the two collections:

  • Gris Exquis single eyeshadow is an excellent basic that I will reach for again and again
  • I liked both eyeshadow quads, Lagons and Vanites
  • Ebene eyeliner is an excellent pencil, although you may already own this from the previous collection
  • For the real Chanel fans, Ombres Tissees and the Precision Eyelash Curler are musts.  These are both limited edition, signature products.
Which are your favorites?

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Aug 062011

Shiseido’s Perfect Foundation Brush ($30, available at Nordstrom and elsewhere soon) first came to my attention because I noticed several beauty editors twittering praise.  You really don’t see a lot of excitement about brushes in the makeup world.  When I saw the impression that this brush was making, I made a mental note.

The brush is small but mighty.  About 4 1/2 inches long, the head is very densely packed with bristles that feel synthetic.  The tip is slanted so that it can fit the contours of the face.  The upper edge fits nicely into small niches, such as around the nose.

The bristles are remarkably soft.  No scratchiness.  This picture shows the shape from the side:

To use it, I pumped some liquid foundation on the back of my hand.  I then dabbed the brush into the foundation, then dabbed it over the areas of my face.  Touch lightly for soft coverage, and more strongly for denser coverage.  Once you’ve dabbed some dots in each area, use the brush to smooth, distribute and cover the skin.

You can go back over problem areas to add coverage where needed.

The Shiseido Perfect Foundation brush works quite well.  My foundation was very even, it was fast and easy to use and it gave a flawless finish.  It is designed to work with all foundation formulas.

I find nearly all my foundation brushes challenging to clean, this one was no different.  I attribute this to the foundation formula, which usually must be removed with oil.  For that reason, I’ll sometimes use a drop of an oil cleanser to clean any foundation brush (including this one).

Also, I find that I use more foundation with a brush (1 1/2 to 2 pumps), perhaps because some of the liquid is lost to the brush.  In this respect, Shiseido’s Perfect Foundation Brush was no different.

The bigger question is how the Shiseido Perfect Foundation brush compares to more traditional foundation brushes, am I right?  When I first used it, I did not find the experience terribly different. After a few tries, I realized that there were some important differences.

First, Shiseido’s Perfect Foundation brush seems to grab foundation well, then lay it down quickly.  In other words, you can get medium-to-dense coverage in less time.  When I use a traditional paddle-shaped foundation brush, it takes more patience to build up coverage.  Shiseido’s Perfect “dab dab” technique and density allows me to quickly pick up and distribute more product more rapidly.  Second, for some inexplicable reason I really got no brush marks with it.  It really does give an airbrushed, smooth finish.

This brush really does seem designed by a makeup artist, in that coverage is quick, flawless and pleasant.  Believe me, it made my foundation look better.  Highly recommended.

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