Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Diorskin nude liquid and compact foundations

Natural Glow Hydrating Makeup (left), Natural Glow Sculpting Powder (right)
As I've just reached the bottom of my Diorskin Nude liquid foundation I've realised such an excellent product calls for a review. I've decided to pair it with its sister product, the powder foundation.

Natural Glow Hydrating Makeup

I don't have much experience with liquid foundations, until now I used them very rarely, only during winter. Now I must admit something's changed and I've been using Diorskin Nude on daily basis since Christmas. I don't want to say that this foundation brought about this change, it's rather I grew up to be a foundation user. Diorskin Nude definitely is a pleasure to use. First of all the consistency is just right for me, not too thick, not too watery either, also the shade suits me (020), it's kind of neutral beige without yellow undertones. The coverage is buildable, for me one layer is absolutely sufficient to even out the tone. When I read 'glow' on the packaging I usually expect shimmer. In this case the finish is indeed glowy, but not in a shimmery way. It's more of this  dewy glow from the inside, there are no sparkles of any kind. You may wear it alone or matify with some kind of setting powder. The foundation is truly moisturising, I've never experienced any dryness or tugging. Now that I've reached the bottom of the bottle I'm considering what foundation to buy next and I would definitely repurchase if it hadn't been for the inqiusitive nature of mine, perhaps there's a better product out there. I must say , however, that it will be very difficult to satisfy me, the stakes having been raised so high by Diorskin Nude Natural Glow Hydrating Makeup.

Natural Glow Sculpting Powder

Being so satisfied with my Nude foundation I decided to explore the line further and got myself the compact foundation for the summer season. The packaging is classy silver case, a bit large for travelling, and it contains the powder and a large, flat brush. I personally do not use it, but it's not that bad. This powder consists of 3 stripes: powder, contour powder/bronzer and a highlighter.

At first I tried to use it as instructed, trying to apply each shade according to their function. when I used the powder to my surprise my face turned ghostly pale, I didn't expect that cause I'd bought exactly the same shade as the liquid foundation. Applying the dark contour shade was a pain,  the stripe being so narrow and actually it did nothing in particular to me. I also couldn't figure out how to use the highlight on my cheekbones. So I gave it a swirl with a kabuki brush and that was it. All the shades mixed together create a lovely glowy look, the shade is just right, and the coverage surprisingly good as for a mineral foundation. This definitely is a perfect alternative for liquid foundation for hot summer days and the best mineral foundation I've used so far.

 What is more I've found an alternative use for the highlighter, this is the only part of the product I use separately. This makes an excellent eyeshadow to discreetely accentuate browbones. The colour is very light, natural pinky beige and marvellously highlights the browbones without being noticeable at all.

This is the product I will definitely keep repurchasing as long as it's in production and the good news is that you may simply get a refill at about 25% off.

Disclaimer: I bought the products myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.

Lancome eyeshadow quad: Ultra Lavandes Cool Harmony

This is a review of 2011 spring collection "Ultra Lavandes" eyeshadow quad. First of all I must say that I love the packaging. It is a slim, black glossy case with gold butterflies and matte ribbon and Lancome logo imprinted on it. Looks really stylish and classy. But as far as the content is concerned I am safisfied a bit less. The quad consists of 4 eyeshadows, each in different hue and texture. Let me start from the bottom left and go anti clockwise. No 1 is a golden yellow with a lot of shimmer, intended to function as a highlighter, no 2 is the lightest shade of lavender, matte with the Lancome rose embedded on it, no 3 is the middle tone pearl, and no 4 is the darkest one, sheer with a lot of shimmer. When I was buying the product I loved the different shades of lavender and I knew I would never use the golden yellow. But it turned out it was the other way round. It actually looks just natural and nude, not yellow, but the problem is it is far too sparkly for everyday use. And unfortunately this is not the only sparkly eyeshadow in the box. So I'm about to come to my point. The problem with this quad is that while the colours are gorgeous and I absolutely love them the textures are totally wrong. I think that someone who designed this quad wanted to include too much in one box, and the effect is just the oposite. What I mean is that it is hard to give yourself a nice daytime look.

The lightest shade is a bit chalky, serves as a sort of highlighter, if used alone gives this nice blueish aura, used over the darker shades helps to smudge and soften any sharp lines. I love the middle tone most, it's got nice creamy texture, pearly finish, applies smoothly, so I use it as my base colour. The last one is intended for contouring or alone, the colour is gorgeous, but it's glittery so it kind of doesn't match the pearly one, and it is impossible to achieve a nice daytime look with it. I've got chunky glitter all over my face, what is more it makes the box messy and gets into the other shades, so actually all of them are now shimmery. Everything would be fine if this had the same pearly finish and if I wanted glitter I could always apply the golden shadow over the lavender. Eyeshadow quads are supposed to be versatile, and with this one here there are 2 solutions: either you use each eyeshadow separately (no blending, contouring etc) or the only look you can achieve is the glittery party look.

Disclaimer: I bought the products myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

E.L.F. hit or miss

This post is going to be about E.L.F. products which turned out to be hits or misses in my personal case. There are many more E.L.F. goodies I managed to come into possession of, but I'm not gonna mention them as they are sort of inbetween, quite good, but, on the other hand, nothing to write home about.

 So let's start with the HITS:

1. Cream eyeliner in black

cream eyeliner in black
This is the product thanks to which I actually discovered E.L.F. I was looking for a gel or cream eyeliner and I read a number of enthusiastic reviews, then I traced the website, my jaws dropped when I saw the price, then to my surprise it turned out they shipped to my country (which unfortunately they no longer do) and a week later 3 eyeliners (mignight, purple and gunmetal) and arrived at my door. Gunmetal turned out to be quite sheer, I would rather call it an eyeshadow than a liner, gave it to my mum, who is perfectly happy with it as she doesn't use dark liners. The midnight and purple stayed with me and have been in constant use ever since. Later I added black, coffee to my collection and metallic olive to my mum's. I absolutely love the liners. They can be worn all day long without any touch ups, they don't smudge or crease, the colour pay off is excellent. The liners are sold with a decent brush, but I prefer my Inglot angled brush. I also like the consistency, the product is easy to apply, although I wouldn't be able to make the kind of line you can make with a liquid eyeliner with a thin brush applicator. In fact I hardly ever wear a pin-up make-up, rather line my eye under or over dark eyeshadow and the E.L.F. eyeliner performs this function really well. As far as the individual colours are concerned black must have been the freshest one and it applies most smoothly, midnight is a bit too dark, almost black, but when paired with a nice blue shadow you can see it's softer than just black, purple is slightly metallic, but you can see it more in the pan than on the lid. And last but not least what I really like about the product is that it's really easy to remove using a simple cleansing gel.

2. HD Powder
HD Powder
Some time ago a make-up consultant tried to persuade me to get Kanebo white powder, this seemed quite risky, considering the price. So when I saw a similar product at £6.00 I deciced to try it out and I  must say I was pleasantly surprised. This thing will last for ever as you need to use only tiny amount, the skin feels soft and looks nice and even. I was afraid I'd look like a miller's daughter, but no. Just got it for my mum and she loves it just as much.

3. Kabuki brush

kabuki brushes
The kabuki brushes are nice and soft, excellent tool to apply loose powders. Although their sizes and shapes can differ substantially (look at the picture! they are the same brush theoretically) they still work very well.

4. Eyebrow Kit in Light

eyebrow kit

There are a lot of similar products on the market (eg. Benefiit Brow Zings), but none can beat the price and I cannot imagine how this could be better. You use the sheer gel to shape your brows and the powder to fill in the sparse areas and generally to set the gel. Good lasting power, the brows stay shaped all day. I have albino-like, almost invisible brows and it's hard to obtain a natural look. With the brow kit it's possible.

EDIT: the packaging snaps shut with such a vibrant click that the vibrations made the powder crack really badly, I never dropped the product or anything. I guess this is an individual case and this does not change my mind. I stil think I will repurchase.

5. Under Eye Concealer & Highlighter in Fair: the concealer

under eye concealer & highlighter
This product literally consists of 2 sides, one good one bad. The concealer is the good one, the highlighter is described below. I didn't expect much of the product and it was a pleasant surprise for me. Dark circles under my eyes are not my issue, I use concealers only to even out the tone, therefore I do not look for full coverage. For me a good concealer is the one that doesn't leave my undereye area dry and sink into fine lines. This concealer works for me in both respects.

6. Studio complexion brush (glitter)

studio complexion brush (glitter)
A very nice, soft and fluffy all over the face powder brush. I've also got the non-glitter one and it's not even close. It seems I was lucky to get this one.

7. Studio powder brush

studio powder brush
 I haven't tried this one for liquid foundation and I hear it's excellent for the purpose. I use it for mineral foundation and blush of almost no pigmentation (NARS Sex Appeal) and it works. Cheap and effective.

8. Mineral Booster in Sheer

mineral booster
Mineral setting powder. Finely milled, blends well, the colour is sheer without any yellowish tint. I don't use it very often now, but in the summer I'm sure this will help me control shine without feeling I'm wearing a lot of make-up.

9. Concealer Pencil & Brush in Fair

concealer pencil & brush

My skin is not acne prone, I do not have many blemishes to conceal so this product was on the bottom of my wish list. When I got it I was pleasantly surprised how soft it was and how well it worked (the brush is really helpful for blending). As I've said I'm not very demanding as far as concealing is concerned, but I simply like the product. Of course the sharpener is just a gimmick, and a very uncomfortable one. It's hard to store the pencil, the sharpener always gets in the way. If you need a good sharpener get yourself one from a stationery store and throw this cap-sharpener away ( but then you have nothing to cover the pencil with, huh?)


And now for the MISSES.
These can be basically divided into bad quality products, products which don't work or products which got such excellent reviews that I'd almost expected a miracle and they failed to posess any magic powers ;)

1. Studio Waterproof Lengthening And Volumising Mascara

waterproof lengthening and volumising mascara

I bought it because I thought a waterproof mascara might be handy sometimes, and by a waterproof mascara I understand a mascara that would not budge no matter what and can be removed only with some emolient-based eye make-up remover. This one is not waterproof at all, had no problem removing it with my daily cleanser and what is worse it smeared horribly leaving a sort of photocopy of my lashes below my eyes. I don't really fancy the Joker (from the Batman movie) look. Pity cause the brush is actually quite nice and separates the lashes perfectly, it's possible to achieve a very discreet daytime look with it. And the packaging is very elegant...

2. Duo Eye Shadow Cream in Blueberry and Black Licorice

duo eye shadow cream
This is the worst ELF product in my opinion. There's nothing good I can say about it apart from the fact that the packaging is decent. First of all the pigmentation of the light colours is quite low, whereas the black was really pitch black. There's not much difference between the light blue in Blueberry and silver in Black Licorice. The consistency of the product is sticky cream that never dries out, it travels into the creases and disappears completely from other areas. The cream is rather thick, therefore hard to blend. I really wanted to like the product so I experimented a lot with it without success. I always use a good primer (Urban Decay Primer Potion) and this doesn't help the shadow stay in place. I used them as a colour base for powder eyeshadow, set the base with powder well, the result was that the lids felt heavy with make-up but the oiliness of the cream shadow protruded ruining all make-up. There are so many better products in the market that it's not worth fussing about this one. Down the bin it went.

3. Studio Under Eye Concealer & Highlighter - the highlighter

under eye concealer & highlighter
The highlighter is just white. It's supposed to be sort of shimmery, but you need to really struggle hard to see and shimmer or glow in it. When applied as highlighter on cheekbones it leaves white, unnatural looking patches. The outcome is a bit better on the browbone, but still the whiteness is a bit too bright. Of course you can struggle to make it work somehow, but is it really the point?

4. Mineral Concealer in Fair

For me it simply doesn't work. Even if it does cover some imperfections in the very moment of application, this does not mean it's gonna work for an hour or two. I guess I prefer creamy concealers.

5. Studio eyelash curlers

eyelash curlers
This simply does not work. It's bent at such an angle that it doesn't pick all my lashes and those that it picks are not curled at all. Highly disappointing.

6. Bamboo brushes

bamboo brushes

These brushes are OK, but in fact they are not much different from the studio ones. Obviously the colour is different, but the hair is the same soft, the same shape etc. so why pay more? For the price I expected something better.

7. Complexion perfection
complexion perfection
Again, this is a very nice powder, but having read many enthusiastic reviews, having seen people mention it among the best E.L.F. products I really expected god knows what. I tried using the green to control my redness, it didn't work in that respect at all. So now I just swirl a kabuki brush around, the powder is a decent setting powder with a bit whitish tone. I was afraid the HD powder would make me look white, but in fact it's complexion perfection that does. I think I would like this product much more if I hadn't been led to believe its magic power.

EDIT: What is more there's so little product in the pan, I've been using it occassionally with the ELF kabuki brush and I managed to hit the pan after something like 15 uses, I couldn't believe my eyes.  On the other hand, this is good, cause I'll use this one up and I'll allow myself to try out some other pressed powder!

8. Studio Blush in Peachy Keen

Peechy / Peachy keen blushes: left to right Dior, MAC, E.L.F.

Studio Blush in Peachy Keen was one of my first blushes and I kind of liked it at first. Now I'm not so happy about it. First of all the colour: it's supposed to be peachy (hence the name, duh), but actually it isn't. I guess you can see in the picture what I mean. It's more brownish beige. I could try to use it as a highlighter or bronzer if it hadn't been for this tiny little hiccup: the pigmentation is very low. Some girls say it's buildable, of course it is, every sheer blush is buildable, the thing is that instead of building up some nice peachy colour dark gold patches appear on your cheeks. I could recommend this to the mimes in Covent Garden instead of their gold paint. Not really the result I wanted.

These are my personal opinions, the products simply worked or didn't work for me. I believe many people may have different experience with the products, do feel free to comment. I hope this helps you make reasonable choices.

Disclaimer: I bought the products myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Body Shop Nutriganics Smoothing Eye Cream

I'm extremely sentimental about The Body Shop. This was my first favourite cosmetic shop, I always brought home some body or make-up products from my travels to London, White Musk being my favourite. So, I gladly welcomed the opening of their shop in my city and declared myself their loyal customer. But I must admit that soon after the wave of enthusiasm I felt some sort of disappointment, the products somehow failed to meet the high standards I'd set for them. I guess nothing's changed about their quality, it's rather that some years have passed since my fascination with The Body Shop, I've tried a number of more upmarket products, also Polish companies started producing perfect dupes for TBS body butters and scrubs. What is more the pricing is wrong, the products are 20-30% more expensive than in the UK, such high price tag definitely makes my expectations difficult to satisfy.

Nonetheless I'm always tempted to try out a thing or two, this time, when I discovered their stall at Luton Airport I couldn't resist myself and got the Nutriganics Smoothing Eye Cream sort of by mistake, because I thought it was their Aloe Eye Defence (the packaging being so similar). I discovered my mistake, there was nothing to be done but to start using the cream.

Well, what can I say. This might be a good product, but unfortunately it's not for me. After my second pregnancy I started suffering from severe dryness in my undereye area and my previously favourite undereye creams and moisturisers stopped working for me. The Smoothing Eye Cream will definitely not replace any of them. For some women this could be a wonderful cream to be used under make-up as it dries up quickly leaving no sticky film, but for me it is not moisturising enough. Using it produces more discomfort than beneficial effect, in fact I can see no effect at all except the unpleasant feeling of tension in my undereye area. I suppose you've already guessed I'm not going to repurchase. But this does not put me off buying The Body Shop products, actually I'm thinking of giving their SPF 30 moisturiser a chance!

Disclaimer: I bought the product myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

COOKING: Beef cobbler and Adam's birthday cake

Today I felt like sharing some receipes for delicious festive meals.

Beef cobbler


900g beef steak
3 tbsp plain flour
sea salt + black pepper
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove finely crushed
4 bacon rashers chopped
600ml red wine
2 carrots chopped
2 leeks chopped
2 celery sticks chopped
600 ml beef stock
2 bay leaves
few thyme sprigs

Scone topping
250g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
50g butter diced
150g cheddar, grated
150ml milk + extra to glaze

Cut the beef steak into bite-sized chunks, lightly coat the meat with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown the meat in batches on olive oil (2-3 min on each side). Transfer the beef to a plate.
Add more oil to the casserole and fry the onions, garlic and bacon until golden brown. Tip in any remaining seasoned flour and stir well. Pour in the wine and let it boil until reduced by a third. Add the carrots, leeks and celery and pour in the stock. Return the beef and add the herbs with some salt and pepper.
Bring to a low simmer, put the lid on and cook for abour 2 hours, until the meat is tender. If the sauce is a little too thin, strain the liquor into a pan and boil until reduced and thickened, then pour the liquor over the meat.
Preheat the oven to 200degreec C. To make the scone topping, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add all but 2 tbsp of the cheese. Make a well in the centre, pour most of the milk and mix lightly to a dough, adding more milk if necessary. Knead gently until just smooth. Press the dough out to a 2 cm thickness and stamp out rounds using a glass. Put the dough rounds on top of the stew, brush them lightly with milk, sprinkle with the  remaining cheese. Bake for 20 min, until well risen and golden brown. 

Adam's birthday cake


4 eggs
1 tsp wanilla essence
125g sugar
60g flour
1tsp baking powder
60g maize flour
2 tbsp raspberry jam
200g mascarpone
50g icing sugar
100ml yoghurt
2 baking tins (20cm)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Beat the eggs together with the sugar and vanilla essence. Gently fold in the flour together with the baking powder. Divide the batter evenly into the 2 tins and bake for 20 min. Leave too cool. Mix the mascarpone cheese with the icing sugar and some yoghurt (to make the cream a bit less thick). Spread the jam over the base and follow with a coat of mascarpone cream. Cover with the remaining round. Sprinkle some icing sugar on top of the cake. This makes an ideal cake for young children as it contains no artificial or highly allergenic ingredients.

Friday, 15 April 2011

My springtime look

Rambling around a Zara store I somehow stumbled across these gorgeous shoes and I knew at once I needed to have them. Especially that they would justify the need for an orange lipstick, which had arisen in my head much earlier but I couldn't find any excuse for yet another lipstick. So I got the shoes and completed the look with a Chanel lipstick. But still something was missing, it took me several days to figure out that I needed a scarf! Got one from H&M et voila! That was it!

And here are the quick reviews:

I've got some problem with Zara shoes, each time I try their shoes on one of them fits perfectly while the other is too big, which after some period of wearing the shoes leads to serious problems like shoes slipping off your feet (not very comfortable when you're wearing 10 cm high heels). For some time I believed that my feet are actually of different length, but this situation occurs only with Zara. This time I decided to squeeze my feet into a smaller size ( again one foot perfectly all right, the other one suffering some discomfort) but it turns out this was a good decision. When walking the shoes are comfortable enough and thay do not slip off my feet. Also it needs to be said that the inner sole is nicely padded so you can survive long hours without pain:).

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Sari d'eau
My intention was to get a Lancome lipstick but that one was sold out so I satisfied myself with the Rouge Coco and I must say I'm satisfied with the choice. I'd been tempted to get an orange lipstick for a long time but I didn't feel bold enough. Orange lipsticks (especially the non-transparent ones) sometimes look like wall paint on lips, the effect which is absolutely justified on a catwalk, whereas for everyday look... hmmm... too daring for me. Rouge Coco Shine made an excellent choice because this line of lipsticks is transparent and subtle, but the colour is definitely visible. The lipsticks offer a sheer wash of colour with wet, gloss-like look. They're highly moisturising, conditioning lips like a balm. The staying power is decent, lasts an hour or two unless you eat or drink (then of course it's gone)

H&M orange-red flowery scarf
There's not much to say, nice and soft, lovely colour, adorable pattern, excellent value for money.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

MUSIC - The Soft Moon: "The Soft Moon" (2010)

It's been years since I felt so sentimental about music (and my life, since music has always been guiding me through the meanders of life) as after discovering The Soft Moon. Their debut album brought in so many nice recollections of my early youth. The band, like so many other groups nowadays, reaches back to the music of the 80's, but instead of playing (with) the catchy tunes of electro pop they made an attempt at recreating the spirit of the darker face of the decade. In their songs you can hear countless influences ranging from the sound of The Cure from the Faith/Pornography period via echoes of Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Cabaret Voltaire, The Danse Society to such forgotten names as X-mal Deutschland (to name but a few). This record makes a particularly tasteful hotchpotch of all of my beloved music styles: gothic rock, industrial, post industrial, post rock, neo folk, post punk, shoegaze, I would even risk adding tribal trance to this list, consciously arranged to bring back the dark atmosphere of the times some thirty years past. There's no weak moment on the record. The rhythmical, trance-like songs with whispered vocals gradually build up tension which is to culminate like in some pagan ritual in the fabulous final number "Tiny Spiders". Hey, that's nothing new - I can already hear some critical voices. Yes, I do agree, but I don't perceive this band as imitative at all. They consciously play with the convention while maintaining ironic distance towards their own music, for example their songs eg. "Breathe the Fire" and "When it's over" end clumsily with fading, the device which was once popular when disguising lack of concept and nowadays lays this lack of concept bare. Also the length or rather the quintessential shortness of the album alludes to the times when the amount of material was limited by technical constraints, namely vinyl size.  I definitely have a lot of fun listening to the album, involuntarily tapping my foot, it always makes me want to go wild and dance. Dark as it is, paradoxically "The Soft Moon" infuses me with a powerful dose of energy. Hope to hear more of you guys soon!!!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Adam's first birthday: reflections upon being a mother (again)

Adam on his first birthday
One year has passed since we welcomed Adam into this world. Since he is our second son before he was born we were absolutely sure he wouldn't manage to surprise us with anything. We believed we'd received a proper training from our firstborn, Mikolaj, who'd taught us patience, discipline, manners, art of negotiation, timing, logistics, polite conversation, abstract thinking, respect for his hobbies, dynamic planning and God knows what else. Thanks to Mikolaj we saw the sunrise for the first time (and continued seeing it regularly everyday for over a year), learned not to get distracted by matchbox cars being thrusted  from the back seat towards the windscreen, mastered the art of smiling politely with your teeth clenched when lovely elderly ladies enlightened us on methods of teaching children obedience. We've seen it all, we thought, being a parent holds nothing in store for us. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Brothers in action

 During my pregnancy we sometimes wondered what Adam would be like and it never occured to us that he might be any different than Mikolaj. And indeed he wasn't. Even the boys' doctor said it is rare for non-twins to look so alike. Clones. But that's mainly where the similarities end. Unlike Mikolaj, for the first few months of his life Adam was an ideal baby. I used to call him a wonderbaby, he was so quiet, so sweet, so easy to cope with. Thanks to him we were able to devote enough time to our elder son so never for a moment did he feel neglected or left out. This definitely allowed us to sort out the issue of brotherly jealousy.

Then, one day he decided to take over the control of the family ( the position held up to that moment by his brother). His first step was to voice his opinions really loud, then he invaded his parents' bed (finally his invasion was unsuccessful cause I fought my own comfort in bed), then he started waking up in the middle of the night with the intention of starting a brand new day and had to be lulled to sleep in sort of extreme ways like dancing, jumping, shaking otherwise he cried like mad. Having finally fallen asleep I guess he expected me to stay in upright position with him in my arms till the night was over and woke up whenever I tried to put him back to bed. Mikolaj had never put us to such tests, so sleepless nights were a novelty to us, but I must admit that after a few months we're getting used to the situation and almost expect to be woken up by his dramatic sobs.
His next step was to start walking at the age of 10 months, the skill turned out to be particularly useful in the situations when he needed to change his position quickly ( grab and run kind of thing), or when he wanted to access some areas and touch objects formerly out of reach (computer keyboard, cosmetics on the dressing table, his brother's sandwich, my telephone, the remote). If he thinks he's too short to explore some area above his head he'll definitely find something he can climb onto. I guess what I'm saying is that I've ran out of places where I can hide my stuff from him, all our cupboards are sealed with some sort of police tape which protects their contents from him as well as from us. I find it hard to do my chores if he's not asleep, when I busy myself with one thing he brings havoc somewhere else. For me this is the most difficult moment of motherhood, this "moment" will last for about a year, later new problems will arise...
But on the bright side when he's not crying Adam is the sweetest creature. Adorable, loved by all grannies and young mothers, never fails to surprise us with how clever he is. We thought Mikolaj was an exceptional child, at the age of 1 1/2 he took up a hobby (trains and trams, this hobby countinues in a much more professional way until today), at the age of 2 he knew the alphabet, street signs, all car brands (including those produced in communist Germany in the 1970s), started to speak fluently and clearly almost in a day short after his second birthday, learned the rudiments of computer skills quicker than his grandmother,  accepted fundamental changes in his life like appearance of his small brother or going to the kindergarten without panic or histeria. It seems too us that Adam will follow suit, but much faster despite the fact that we spend less time literally teaching him things. By observing and imitating his brother he learns surprisingly quickly, plays with toys in a much more mature way than Mikolaj did, uses a much wider variety of sounds and tries much harder to imitate what we say, is able to communicate his needs by leading you by the hand and showing what he wants. I'm really proud of him.
There was a time when we wanted to have 3 kids, now I'm not sure I can cope. I feel I really need a holiday from both my little boys. But who knows? Maybe one day I'll want to hold such a tiny, lovely creature again, watch him or her grow, dismantle my flat, play with kitchen utensils, scratch my CDs, wash teeth with my toothbrush, munch on my shoes, tear my magazines...
In the meanwhile I'd do anything to prevent myself from going insane by taking up countless hobbies like prams and strollers, fitness and diet, make-up and beauty, planting herbs, cooking (British and oriental cuisine) and now I'm turning myself into a blogger. I hope I will survive until October when my maternity leave ends and everything will be back to normal.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

What may surprise you about E.L.F. brushes

Buying products you see only on pictures always carries the risk that the goods don't match their descriptions or the photos are inaccurate. That's why, to avoid unpleasant surprises, I always watch YouTube films presenting the products, read the reviews and look for swatches. However, no matter how hard I try to prepare myself before I make my decisions it often happens that when I open the package I hardly recognize the products I ordered.

That's why I thought I would write about E.L.F. brushes, about which all has been said before, but try a slightly different angle. So, what may surprise you about E.L.F. brushes?

Contour brushes from the £1.50 line

1. First of all no two brushes from the regular line are exactly the same.

I don't mind actually, the brushes being so cheap, but they simply may not serve their purpose. If you look at the picture above you will see that the bristles of every brush are different length and shape. This is the contour brush and only the one on top has rather long, dome-shaped bristles. The other two, each being about 1mm shorter than the other are not rounded at all, the bristle shape is rather rectangular, the tip is cut flat.  I've bought 5 of these and only the top one has the right shape.

Blending brushes from the £1.50 line
The same comment applies to the blending brushes, as you can see their size differs, but I must admit that this time it does not affect their performance. Also in spite of the fact that they quite look cheap and tacky, are too light (some things need to be quite heavy to work properly eg. fountain pens or cameras), the handles are too short, they generally lack any design  I must say I like them very much. For me these are the perfect contour brushes, with the right shape, length, stiffness. As blending brushes they are not soft enough.

2. The brushes may serve other purposes than stated on the website.

Of course everybody has different preferences, face shapes, complexions, eye shapes etc. so sometimes it turns out that some brushes may be useless for the purpose you ordered them for, but may do excellent job elsewhere. So, as I have already said I use Professional Blending brushes as contour brushes, stipple brushes for cream blush instead of liquid foundation (you may check my review of the stipple brush for reference). Both Professional and Studio eyeshadow brushes turned out to be too dense and too big for my eyelids so I actually can't use them to apply shadow, but they are perfect for applying highlight to my brow bone.

3. The size

This is a longer story, the size of the brushes never fails to surprise me. I'm gonna list the most spectacular examples.

Studio Complexion brushes: regular (top), Christmas glitter edition (bottom)
the brushes lying horizontally

Studio Complexion brushes: regular (left), Christmas glitter edition (right)

Studio Complexion brushes: regular (left), Christmas glitter edition (right)
the brushes lying vertically 
After Christmas I bought a set of Studio line brushes, the glitter edition. These were supposed to be the same brushes as the regular line with sparkly, glittery handles. I particularly loved a huge, fluffy complexion brush, so I deciced to order one more for a different loose powder. Imagine my surprise at what I got. The regular brush is a third of the size of the glitter one. It's not full and fluffy at all, it's rather flat and resembles the blush brush much more than an all-over face brush. So I actually use it as a blush brush, might also be good for contouring. I think you can see the difference between these two quite clearly in the pictures. What is more some bristles of the regular one were glued together, they had to be trimmed so as not to scratch my face and now the brush has a rather uneven shape.

left to right: Studio Contour Brush, Studio C-brush, Studio Small Precision Brush, Studio Smudge Brush, Professional Defining Eye Brush, Professional Eyeshadow Brush, Bamboo Smudge Brush (from the 4-piece set)

The picture above illustrates a number of issues commected with the size of the brushes. Some of them will not be discussed, I placed them together with other brushes for reference.
For reason unknown brushes of the same line are of different length, it's hard to store them in the same container. 
Although I had read the info about the 4-piece set of bamboo brushes I sort of didn't realise how tiny they are. As you can see they are half the size of any Studio line brush. If it had said on the website that this was a travel set I would have taken such small size for granted.
Now for the bristles:

the same brushes, vertical view
Eyeshadow C- brush: it's extremely thick, I've put the contour brush next to it for reference. The flat side of the C-brush is almost as thick as the contour brush. The hairs are so dense they loose any elasticity. The brush is too big for my eyelids.

Precision brush and smudge brush are tiny. Just a few milimetres wide and less than a milimetre thick. The precision brush is a little bit thicker. I use one of them for my E.L.F. eyebrow kit and still haven't found any use for the other one. Might be useful for lining the lower lid, which I don't do.

Defining eye brush: the angled shape is nice but this time the hairs are too thin and flimsy. This kind of brush is usually used to cover the whole eyelid with shadow or to highlight the brow bone and this one is simply too small for the purpose. So even though it's soft and nice in touch I hardly ever use it.

4. Density

kabuki brushes: E.L.F. bamboo mini, The Body Shop, E.L.F. Studio

My first kabuki brush was the Body Shop's kabuki, so this was my point of reference. It is an excellent brush for applying mineral foundation, both pressed and loose. Its hairs are densely packed, standing upright, carefully cut to form a dome shape. When I received my E.L.F. brushes I was surprised at how soft they were. Being used to The Body Shop kabuki I think they are too soft for foundation, I guess they simply apply too little. I use them for setting powders like the HD powder or Mineral Booster and they are excellent. Their softnes is pleasure to the senses, also they pick the right amount of powder never letting you overdo. The Bamboo kabuki is really small but this is the best match for small mineral powder containers eg. Mineral Booster in shimmer, the diametres of the container and the brush are almost the same.

Disclaimer: I bought the products myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Superior quality, reasonably priced make-up brushes: introducing Kozlowski

Surprisingly enough I learned about the existence of Kozlowski brushes from... my husband. He's known the brand since his schooldays when he used their brushes for artists to glue and paint his models and it was him who recommended m to check out their website when he observed my increased interest in brushes and their number in the bathroom started to grow slowly but noticeably ;). Apparently Kozlowski is a family run company with 50-year experience in business, make-up brushes being a relatively new addition to the range comprising brushes for artists, craftsmen of all kinds, beauticians, nail artists, dentists, and even the police for taking down fingerprints. Wow I thought. So I made an order and this is what I got:

All brushes presented over 1cm x 1 cm grid
From left to right, all prices are approximate:
E - CB 635 Blush brush, £ 8.70 natural bristles
R - CB 635 Blush brush, £ 10.50 racoon bristles

Both brushes are superior quality with soft but dense hair, long, wooden, ergonomically shaped handles. Relatively heavy, without any cheap, tacky, plasticky feel. When you touch them you really see the difference between professional tools and the cheaper brands. They pick just the right amount of product and distribute it nicely on my cheeks. I love them both, but I must admit I see practically no difference between them two except the price. Next time I make a purchase of a blush brush I'll definitely go for the cheaper one or try out a CB635 at £ 7.50 (looks really similar on the website and is much cheaper).

CB 631 Eyeshadow brush, size 8, £3.80, pony hair
A rather thick brush, too thick to use to apply eyeshadow. Not very soft, good for blending shadows that are hard to blend. Good quality brush, but if I were to order again I'd skip this one.

CB  329 Eyeshadow brush, size 6 - £4.60, marten hair
                    size 8 - £6.60
                    size 10 - £8.50
These are my favourite brushes to apply shadows. I personally prefer this shape of brush, they are flat, densely packed with relatively long and soft bristles. They are easy to manipulate with, suitable for both application and contouring. You can use them vertically and horizontally to cover the whole lid or to paint a narrow line. There's no fallout when using these brushes. What I love about them most is the possibility to choose the size which suits your purposes and eye shape. For me size 8 seems the most appropriate, size 10 is too wide, size 6 is perfect for those hard to reach areas like the corners of your eyes or the lower lid. There are actually many more sizes that may suit individual preferences. I must say that other popular brands like MAC, Sigma or E.L.F. do not offer such variety of choice.

CB 633 Contour brush, size 6 - £5.70, marten hair
                   size 8 - £6.80

These are the two dome-shaped brushes on offer. Size 8 is a very nice, soft brush, perfect for contouring. Retains its shape after washing, picks the right amount of shadow, distributes it evenly. The hairs are quite loosely packed, and relatively short, I definitely would not recommend it for blending. Size 6 is the only brush I'm dissatisfied with. It's much too small, there are so few hairs that it hardly resembles a dome. Also the whole handle, both the wooden and the metal parts, are simply too big and too heavy for such a tiny brush. I often end up scratching my eyelids with the metal. I wish there was a larger brush than size 8, I think this would be a perfect brush for me.
The brushes are available online:
They have underwent several washes and never lost a hair and always returned to their original shape.

Disclaimer: I bought the products myself for my personal use and I am not affiliated with any company. I am not paid to do this review and everything I said here is my genuine opinion.