Sep 192010

Chanel’s Soho Story includes their star product Soho de Chanel Highlighting Powder and Blush – Natural Finish ($65 for 0.45 oz.) (Poudres et Blush Lumiere Fini Naturel), which celebrates the opening of the redesigned Soho Boutique.  In my own view, star products are intended to sweep you away, to illuminate your imagination and transport you to their destination.  If these photographs are any guide, this particular destination is imbued with red burgundy bricks, black metal and cool toned asphalt.  As re-interpreted by Chanel, these colors become a beautiful mix that retains its elegance as it interacts with the colors and textures of the street.

Some of the fashion exclusive available for the Soho opening echo this same brick-and-street theme, again with a twist of elegance, for example (photo from

Here is the interior of the redesigned Soho store (photo from

Elegant, yes?  I can imagine how refreshing this space is compared to the crowded street outside… (photo from

The Soho de Chanel powder fits beautifully within this theme of white-on-brick elegance, surrounded by the iconic black Chanel case.  A large section of brown-brick-red occupies a significant bit of palette real estate, providing the primary blush shade.  The creamy white highlighter section occupies the other large section.  The pink bottom strip allow one to soften the other two colors.

Thankfully, rather than the distressingly temporary overspray that so many products were plagued with over the past few years, Chanel chose to decorate the palette with the “Soho” imprint.  Although the logo will wear down, I far prefer the “what you see is what you get” imprint.

I’m really enjoying this blush/highlighter combination.  The highlighting shade is subtle enough to wear during day.  The blush shade is a deep red–almost brickish–a modern take on Chanel’s iconic Vamp reconfigured in this deconstructed palette.

The blush is a more manageable version of Nars Mounia, which I found far too pigmented to manage even with a skunk brush on pale skin.  I find that the Soho blush applies very softly using a standard powder brush.  For more color, I reach for the denser, compact head of my MAC 165–the brush head is compact enough to reach just the highlighter or blush, and allow for good, precise placement on the cheek without streaks.  Another brush to consider is Chanel’s own contour blush brush.

I’ve included a swatch that mixes the three colors together, but I strongly prefer to use them separately.  First off, swirling the colors creates a bit of a mess if you love the palette’s deconstructed pattern.  Fortunately, a few quick swipes of your brush cleans that up nicely.  I am glad to have the option of swirling the colors together (it increases the versatility of the product), but if I were to use the palette primarily in that way, I’d probably just buy a Joues Contraste blush instead.

More importantly, I love the ability to use the separate the dark blush color from the highlighter, and the effect is quite nice.   The pink shade is essentially a highlighter, or can be used to (slightly) lighten the dark shade.   The small size of the pink highlighter strip does not provide much room for using this with a blush brush.

I love this palette.  The design is good–you really can get a medium-sized brush in there to use the products separately.   The amount of product generous, and the color fits very well with the rest of the Soho Story.  It also fits nicely with Chanel Fall 2010, as it will harmonize with the Vert Khaki single eyeshadow, and of course Les Khaki de Chanel nail polish.

Personally, the Soho Story blush and highlighter works really well on my warm, fair skin for the Fall through Winter seasons.  I find that the addition of the highlighter is a thoughtful way to add luminosity to my skin (no glitter, this is a toned-downed, day-friendly highlighter).  Highly recommended.

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Jul 292010

Edward Bess makes a beautiful deep toned highlighter called All Over Seduction in Afterglow ($38).  Although I’ve gone most of my life with a few, for some reason I’ve bought more highlighters since I started this blog than I ever imagined.  Why?  I’ve noticed what a huge (yet subtle) difference they make.  The compact is small–again, an easy throw-in-your-bag size that gives your skin a beautiful glow.  Also, some of my summer makeup mattes my skin down too much (physical sunscreens, particularly).  Adding highlighter brings it back to life.

Since I originally reviewed Edward Bess’ All Over Seduction in Sunlight, I’ve found that I love the effect on my upper cheeks.  (Yes, you can dab it on your shoulders and anywhere else too).  The slightly warm tone and texture looks so natural and pretty, catching the light in a way that makes my skin look ultra-healthy.  As we move into later summer, I wanted to try Afterglow for a deeper, near-gold color that works well with bronzers.

This picture shows the color and texture difference with some of my other cream and liquid highlighters.  RMS Beauty’s Living Luminizer glows like a soft white pearl.  Edward Bess’ Sunlight brings has creamier tones.  Afterglow is shimmery light gold.  By comparison, the Soliel Tan de Chanel liquid highlighter is gold-toned, but has a brighter shimmer than Afterglow.  At least two Chanel’s makeup artists have recommended to me that Soleil Tan de Chanel can be used under foundation (or powder) to tone the texture down.  In contrast, Afterglow has a natural looking luminosity right out of the compact.  However, you can see that Afterglow is not too dark for my pale MAC NC15/Chanel Cameo – Ivoire (Intensity 1.o) skin.

To me, high end makeup is worth the price if you use it up, it looks pretty, natural and sophisticated.  Afterglow is definitely in that category.

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Jul 092010

My choice from MAC’s recent In the Groove collection was the Mineralized Skin Finish in By Candlelight ($28).

I though this was the prettiest piece in this rather enormous release.  Sadly, it’s limited edition but hopefully you will be able to find this for a few more days. As this story at The Beauty Look Book explains, Stereo Rose sold out quickly.  Many makeup lovers were very upset, there were apparently backorders, cancelled orders and general frustration.  The product was out of stock less than two hours after it went online at Mac’s online site.  Lucky for me, I found Stereo Rose too orange and shimmery for my pale skintone back when I bought it in 2005.  I no longer even know where it went; I may have given it to Liz but even she isn’t sure where it could be.  In any event, if you are in our skintone range, I personally do not believe that you missed out if you were not able to get Stereo Rose.

On to happier things!  By Candlelight is beautiful.  It was released about six months ago with the Warm and Cozy collection, but I missed it then. This time, I tried it in my local MAC store and loved the effect.  By Candlelight is a luminous, pink-peach baked powder that gives my NC15 skin a glow.

Swatches of the rosy-peachy-pearliness, which I find to be really lovely…

I did a comparison with Les Tissages Lamés de Chanel, Physician’s Shimmer Strips in Malibu (the full palette, and then just the peachier shade) and Estee Lauder’s recent Pure Color Luminous Powder (designed by Tom Pecheux):

  • By Candlelight is the pinkest of all.
  • Estee Lauder Pure Color Luminous Powder is the least obvious–it seems to become part of the skin leaving only light-reflection behind.
  • The Chanel adds a gold color to the skin, but doesn’t seem to emphasize the tiny lines in my skin
  • Physician’s Formula had the most color (center), and seems to emphasize lines I didn’t even realize I had.

Same swatches, different angle:

MAC’s By Candlelight is sometimes compared to Dior’s Amber Diamond. As you can see, By Candlelight has more pink tones:

I’m pleased with By Candlelight, although it will be very difficult me to give up Estee Lauder’s Pure Color Luminous Powder as my #1 favorite.  Nonetheless, I’ll get plenty of use out of MAC’s By Candlelight.

As an aside, I passed on the rest of the In the Groove Collection.  I found the other mineralized skin finishes seemed too shimmery/metallic for my personal preferences.  The eyeshadows and lip products seemed very nice, but I’m more interested in exploring other lines products currently.

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Jun 102010

Tom Pecheux, Genius (photo from Estee Lauder)

Tom Pecheux is a makeup artist who is a new Creative Director at Estée Lauder, and is charged with introducing new visual and technological elements to Estée Lauder’s line.  Says Pecheux,

My role is to work with various departments including Creative, Product Development and Marketing to help create new cosmetics. Technology is always moving forward, and women are always looking for the best and the latest in their products. Now we refer to beauty as a fashion accessory, and fashion is moving very fast. If a cosmetics company doesn’t move fast, it can get lost in the shuffle. It is essential that a company specializing in beauty is up to speed with the current trends in fashion, and that is precisely why my collaboration with Estée Lauder is such an ideal fit. I’m working with Estée Lauder to help create the very latest in beauty products that are fun, playful, sexy and beautiful.

I must admit that, as large as my makeup collection is, I owned no Estée Lauder products.  Pecheux changed my opinion of the line completely.  While in Paris, I was able to see his Pure Color Night collection, which includes three limited edition products.  Although the line was originally intended only for release in Paris, this source discloses that Estée Lauder has since decided to release the products on a very limited basis in London and New York.

For the Pure Color Night line, Pecheux attempted to recreate Parisian beauty for evening:  “I am known for making women look beautiful, sensual and sexy. When given the challenge to create a collection exclusively for Paris, I thought it would be perfect to create a nighttime look, because this is when every French woman wants to look her most beautiful. I wanted to translate the seductiveness and femininity of French women into makeup,” says Pecheux.

I purchased two products–the Luminous Highlighter (roughly $40 U.S.) and the Naughty Black eyeshadows (roughly $20 U.S.).  I skipped the third piece of Pure Color Night, a neutral toned lipgloss. It is difficult to describe the quality of these products because they are unlike anything that I have encountered before.  The words “finely milled,” “soft” and “pigmented” are words that have a meaning to me from Chanel, Shu Uemura and other high quality lines.  These Tom Pecheux pieces are on an entirely new level.  I literally gasped when I saw the these powders interact with skin.

The Luminous Powder comes in a luxurious blue-black translucent case, embossed with the Estée Lauder logo:

Inside is a large pan of a golden-peachy toned highlighter, mirror and a large sponge applicator (why a sponge? I’m not sure):

Although this looks rather unremarkable in the pan, the texture, transparency and luminosity of this powder is unbelievable.  It is the most finely milled of the finely-milled powders.  It adds an effect that adds a sheer wash of light only, without the color or texture of other highlighting powders.  The texture is so soft that a soft brush seems to tear up the surface of the pan–like a delicate petal of a flower.  It gives a nearly-transparent wash on my cheek, I wore it with a soft peach blush (but it would look amazing with a nude blush or contour powder).  It gave my cheek a beautiful, natural-but-better sheen.

Sheer, luminous powders are notoriously difficult to photograph.  Their magic lies in the fact that they look entirely natural, and impart a lit-from-within glow.  I gave it my best attempt, applied heavily next to two other popular highlighting powders, Nars Albatross and Bobbi Brown Shimmerbrick in Nude. You can see that Tom Pecheux heavily applied seems transparent, adding glow while melting into the skin.  There’s no obvious sparkle that appears with most highlighting powders–rather, the soft gold sheen is so beautiful.  It does not have any metallic look that sometimes occurs with liquid highlighters.

I will say this as simply as I can–I am going to take very seriously anything that Tom Pecheux does from now on. If this product is any guide, he is the next makeup formulation genius to watch.

Tomorrow, I’ll review his Pure Color Night eyeshadow in Naughty Black.

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May 242010

The Galeries Lafayette, is one of the department stores on the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris France.  If you are visiting there, it is a few blocks from the Opera (the big Neo-Baroque Opera Garnier that is the foundation of the legend of the Phantom of the Opera).  Printemps, another large department store (or Grand Magasin, as they would say in French) is right next door.

I was going in at the end of a very long day, fortunately the store was open until 8:00 p.m., which didn’t give me enough time to fully explore but at least a moment.

The first floor is lined with small versions of the high end boutiques–Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Dior and others, as well as a niche for Longchamps.  These are mostly purses and accessories. The clothing boutiques for these and other high end brands are on the second floor.  The upper floors are similar in configuration to most U.S. department stores, except several of the brands are pretty hard to find outside of France.

The makeup area is in the center of the first floor and  crowded with people from all over the world, who walk among the maze of Armani, Guerlain, Chanel, Serge Lutens, Kenzo, Dior and even Bobbi Brown and Clinique. Unlike counters at the typical U.S. department store, each line has its own kiosk that allows them several displays each.  In the center is a featured product or brand, which changes frequently.  When I was there, it was a Nina Ricci perfume, Ricci Ricci.

The roof has an incredible glass ceiling, and the building is quite ornate and lovely.  Click for a larger view:

I wanted to focus on finding things that I cannot locate in the U.S., which was hard to do since there were so many distracting beautiful items (including the new Chanel duo eyeshadows, Lancome and so many more items).  I settled on these two items from Tom Pecheux’s Color Pure Color Night–the powder highlighter (43 euros) and the smoky grey-taupe trio (23 euros) –you can see details about this on The British Beauty Blogger. (Together with a neutral gloss, all three of these will be releasing in London and New York in limited quantities).  I literally gasped when I saw the sales associate use the eye palette on a customer-it was very polished yet dramatic.

After I already committed to buy the highlighter, the sales associate gave me a detailed demonstration of how to use it, so that I could see her apply it while watching in a mirror.  Highlighter on the upper cheek, browbone, chin and a touch of nude blush in the contour area of the cheek.  I was glowing (in a good way).  It could be just me, but I always get the feeling that the sales associates here would rather lose a sale entirely than to see their product applied wrong.  They always seem relieved when I choose the product that they recommend, rather than one that might be less right.

I only have a small travel camera, so no swatches:

These are both beautiful, and are literally the first Estee Lauder products that I have ever bought.  The Estee Lauer sales associated loaded up my bag with several generous samples. Welcome to Paris, where they understand makeup.

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May 212010

When is a bronzer, not a bronzer?  Answer–> When it is a Bobbi Brown Illuminating Bronzing Powder!  Both Maui and Antigua ($33 each) are two “bronzers” in Bobbi Brown’s bronzer line that are indisputably more like a highlighter/blush than anything that will give a tan effect.  Nonetheless, I find that I’ve fallen hard for one of them, and can’t wait to dig into the other.

The typical bronzer comes in shades from beige, gold, dusty browns and pink-tans that usually darken the skin.  Both Maui and Antigua are lighter colors that add a pop of natural blush that can be worn over a bronzer to keep you looking alive and pretty.  Sometimes wearing a bronzer can deaden the skin, adding a veil of tan-brown.  You can add a touch of blush for a pop of color, then a highlighter for added illumination.  Bobbi Brown’s Maui and Antigua combine the last two steps–pop of color and highlighter–into one.  And both colors are beautiful choices that seem to work well with bronzers.  Also, you get a good size pan of color for $33–this is about the diameter of a Cargo blush, which is certainly very reasonable for the quality and look.

As you can see, my Antigua pan has that “well-loved” look. If you looked very close you’d see the concentric circles that signify that I’m getting close to hitting the pan on this one.  I absolutely love this pink on my MAC NC15 skintone.  I’ll be replacing that soon.  The coral-pink Maui is new and unused in this picture:

Comparison swatches:

If you are considering Antigua keep in mind that Bobbi Brown is releasing an Antigua palette this summer at Bloomingdale’s.  You can see reviews and swatches of the palette at The Beauty Look Book at this link.

I’m going to pass on getting the Antigua palette, although it’s probably time for me to think about replacing my Antigua.  First, I do not enjoy palettes with lip products exposed to powder products.  Second, I’m not sure Antigua is pigmented enough to wear as a stand-alone blush unless heavily applied.  So I’m not sure that the Antigua palette will work as a go-to travel palette for me.

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May 202010

During the summer months –and yes, they are almost here– I love to wear an illuminator.  Here are few different ways to try them:

  • Mix a few drops with your foundation to add some glow
  • Place some on the upper cheek, bridge of nose and in a “C” shape around the eye area, touch a bit on the brow bone
  • Put some under foundation, if you don’t like too much shimmer, to add just a touch of light

I pooled a few from samples and a friend’s stash to give some comparisons.  As you can see from the swatches, almost every liquid illuminator has a color cast that make all of them quite distinct.  Here, I look at the following:

  1. Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer #2 ($59) in a shimmering sandy gold
  2. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecter in Opal ($41) in a light gold
  3. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecter in Topaz ($41) in a deep gold tan
  4. Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer #10 ($59) in a shimmering gold-beige
  5. Benefit High Beam ($ 24) in a sheer pearlized cool pink
  6. Soliel Tan de Chanel Illuminating Fluid ($ 48) in a shimmering multi-dimensional gold


Of the ones that I own, I get the most use from the Chanel and Becca’s Topaz.  They are really distinct in their look–the Chanel adds a glow, while Becca’s Topaz adds a little bronzing effect.  Both seem to last all day, and neither has broken me out.  On the other hand, my friend who has the same skin tone as I do (MAC NC15/Chanel Cameo Intensity 1.0), prefers Benefit’s High Beam.  The High Beam gives a more dramatic look, the shimmer is easier to see and she prefers that look.

Another set of swatches (slightly different light):

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L’Occitane Peony – Etoile des Neiges Face Powder and Jolie Thérèse Eyeshadow Duo

 Eyeshadow, Highlighter  Comments Off on L’Occitane Peony – Etoile des Neiges Face Powder and Jolie Thérèse Eyeshadow Duo
May 022010

L’Occitane’s Peony Collection includes Etoile des Neiges (Snow Star) Peony Illuminating Face Powder ($28 for .35 oz.) and Jolie Thérèse Eyeshadow Duo ($16, called the Jolie Thérèse Peony Face Color Powder Duo for .12 oz.).  As with the Peony Lip Balm, these are packaged in sealed paper bags which ensure that the product that you receive has not been tested and tried by others and has a nice side-effect of being very gift-able.  Each is very well-priced, neither approaches the high end price point that I’m used to paying for a finely-milled quality product.  However, these press powders are placed in paper containers without mirror, brush or the sturdy, packable qualities of high end lines.   Have you ever had a liquid inexplicably explode in your suitcase?  If you ever have, you learn two things–first, you tape the lids of your liquids and sometimes even then accidents happen.  Second, don’t pack any makeup packaged in paper.

The Etoile des Neige face powder is an absolutely gorgeous product.  It is smaller in diameter than a standard MAC compact, but contains the same amount of product by weight as a MAC beauty powder.  The diameter is roughly larger than a typical MAC blush.  The L’Occitane bag includes a little cultural touch of the story behind the product (click to enlarge):

The pretty lid design, the black-brown accents all make me want to move to the French countryside even more than I usually do.  There is a satin and velour puff in the bag (hygienically sealed in plastic), which can be stored in the compact once opened.

The powder is a shimmer light veil that adds a nice subtle sheen:

The effect was too subtle to photograph in a swatch. If it helps, I found this similar to Chanel’s Poudre Douce’s in effect.  You should note that this product has a slight Peony scent, which I found pleasant but those who are scent-sensitive might not enjoy.

My expectations for the eyeshadow duo were not high.  I chose Jolie Thérèse, which is an almost-white shimmery pink and a shimmery burgundy.  Note that this is called a “facecolor powder” on the packaging, so I suppose that the larger pink area can be used as a highlighter.  It’s not practical to use the burgundy for a blush, because the pan area is so small that getting a brush in there is going to be a challenge.

Another story:

Here are some swatches (dry, no base):

Here are some swatches using the product wet:

A review of L’Occitane’s Peony Lip Balm from this collection is here.

Note:  L’Occitane’s U.S. website has free shipping for purchases over $25 through tomorrow 5/3/10.

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Apr 302010

The weather is slowly turning from spring to summer on the West Coast.  To get us all in the mood for summer, here’s a look at two drugstore bronzer items that I’ve been playing with for the past few weeks.

First, Physician’s Formula has a line of Bronze Booster Powder Bronzers ($10 to 15) that I found difficult to resist based on the packaging.  The tortoise shell coloring and gold lettering seemed to evoke the Guerlain Terracotta line.  The box promises a “glow activator” and I really like Physician’s Formula’s baked bronzers so I thought that I would give the Light-Medium one a try.  For reference, my skin tone is NC15/ Chanel Cameo (Intensity .5 or 1.0 depending on the foundation).

You really cannot get a more convenient, all-in-one for this price.  This has a multi-layered package with a built-in mirror and a pretty decent brush is pretty usable.   That makes this a real value.  Plus, if you do travel in rough conditions, this would be a great bronzer to throw into a bag.   Sand or squirt of sunscreen, plus some juice spilled all over?  No worries, the price point makes the bronzer relatively replaceable.

After some experimentation, I found the following:

  • Near-matte finish (if you are looking for a sheen or shimmer finish, try Physician’s Formula Baked Bronzers)
  • Adds some coverage–you will not need as much foundation in areas where you apply this bronzer
  • Seemed to last well throughout the day
  • I did not notice any skincare benefits from using the product. However,  this did not cause any breakouts or adverse skin reaction either.

Tip:  Buy the right shade for your coloring. When I tried to build up more coverage to get a darker look, I got a decidedly orange color begin to show.

Bottom line: Not my favorite bronzer and I will probably donate this to a friend.  This will work well if you are looking for an almost-matte bronzer that you will use lightly applied.  I find it worrisome that this turned a bit orange on my skin, and it didn’t seem as flattering as some of the other bronzers that I use.

The other product that I tried was Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips in Malibu Strip/Pink Sand Bronzer ($11).  Of all of the choices on the pegboard, this one had the rosiest tones and so I thought this had the least chance of turning orange on my warm skintone.

This product resembles the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Bricks in many respects.  However, the packaging is clear and minimal.  On the upside, this clear acrylic seems significantly stronger than the average Shu Uemura package.  This is a BYOB (“bring your own brush”) product, but so is Bobbi’s.

This is really pretty…

I found Physician’s Formula’s Shimmer Strips excellent for the price.  I had a very difficult time telling much of a difference between the texture of the Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strip from the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick when applied–with one important exception.  To my eye, the Physician’s Formula seemed warmer–more gold and in some light slightly more orange–than the Bobbi Brown Nude Shimmer Brick that I used as a my primary point of comparison.

Physician’s Formula’s packaging advertises the Shimmer Strips as capable of being used on the eye.  I’m reading this as saying that the product is eye-safe.  Do you want to wear this as an eyeshadow?  Because this is designed as a highlighter, you will find that using the product on the eye will give you a very shimmery look.  Also, I found that the lightest shade didn’t seem to have very rich pigmentation for a highlighter shade.  Here are some swatches of the individual bars.  I loaded up the lightest shade for the swatch with several layers:

Bottom line: Despite the warm cast, I liked the product and will keep this in my stash.  I found the performance impressive for the price point.  The package seems like it will travel well, it’s slimmer than Bobbi’s Shimmer Bricks.  I like that I can use it as an eyeshadow in an emergency.  The texture and look was very nice for the price.

Here are swatches of the Bronze Booster and Shimmer Strip side-by-side:

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Apr 022010

Every once in while, makeup talk turns to a discussion of whether high end makeup is really worth it.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m overspending by getting products that sell for $35 or more when drugstore items claim to do the same thing for less.  Recently at my hair salon, I paged through a magazine and saw an amazing ad for Revlon’s face illuminator.  Gazing at the model’s pore-less, gleaming skin I had to wonder if this one was worth a try.

On my way home, I picked up a few tubes to find out–one in Base Light and another in Gold Light (approximately $13.50 each).  There are two more shades in the line, one called Pink Light and another called Bronze Light.  Each includes a full fluid ounce and is packaged in a flexible plastic tube that ends in a white brush applicator.

The brush includes both a plastic cap to prevent spilling.  Even better, the brush can be twisted from an “off” to an “on” position (and back again).  When in “off”, the product cannot leak out.

Here is a color comparison of the two shades that I purchased, applied heavily:

As I was going out for a evening, I declined to use the attached brush directly on my face because it would apply very heavily.  Instead, I used a very light finger application on my cheeks, a touch on the forehead and a bit on the chin.  Despite my efforts at light application, when I looked in the mirror, I saw pores that I didn’t know that I had.  Also, the sheen was too metallic and aging.

Although I was in a hurry headed out to dinner with friends, I took all of my makeup off and started again.  Instead of Revlon Face Illuminator, I used Edward Bess’ All Over Seduction in Sunlight and his powder blush.  After doing so, I felt glowy and beautiful, like a picture in a magazine.  No more large pores, no more metallic sheen –just my normal skin but better.

I’m not sure what I will do with these tubes (maybe use on my shoulders or mix with lotion?), but I won’t be purchasing any more.

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