eyeliner

Review: Make Up For Ever Aqua Liner in #3 (Emerald Green)

I never learn.

In spite of my avowed disaffection for liquid eyeliners, I have managed, somehow, to buy five of them in the last six weeks. Because, you know, this one will be different. This one won’t dry into a shrunken vinyl mess that clings to my lashline with more determination than Romeo to the corpse of Juliet.

(Unnecessarily macabre?)

And, I suppose, technically inaccurate to boot, since she’s actually still alive when he finds her in her tomb… but, as usual, I digress. The point, if there is one, is that like those of our star-crossed lovers, my hopes for joyful union with Make Up For Ever’s new Aqua Liners must perforce end in tragedy.

OK, I am being a little melodramatic. There’s really not much wrong with these liners, but unfortunately that’s as much rah-rah as I can muster.

Like many of the newer liquid liners, MUFE’s version has a tapered application tip that’s not actually a brush as much as … well, a sort of felt marker tip. It is relatively inflexible, so if you want a product with an actual applicator brush, one that you can really work with control-wise, this is not the product for you. Unfortunately, those kinds of brushes are becoming more and more endangered by the second. I should start a sanctuary.

The formulation is more-or-less the same as that of other liquid liners, although it does have a kind of nifty quick-fix feature that will allow you to correct a mistake in the few seconds before it dries. If you end up getting product where you don’t want it, it can be removed while still wet with a Q-tip — or, if necessary, a finger. And the removal (at this stage, at least) is easy and clean: it’ll actually brush away in a sort of powder residue, like eraser shavings or dry-erase marker fuzz. Once dry, it does shrink up against the lashline as many long-wearing waterproof formulas do.

It will, indeed, last all day. I didn’t try swimming with it on or putting my face in a puddle to test its waterproof-ness, but from the above-mentioned death grip it has on your lashline, I don’t think mere water could do it in. But now we come to the main problem — removal. It will come off with cleanser and water, or with makeup remover, but you have to be very persistent, which can cause a lot of eye irritation — and you will probably give up before you get all of it off. It comes off in rubbery (vinyl-y?) little strings, and you can easily take out an eyelash along with the liner while you’re at it, so I advise caution.

MUFE’s Aqua Liners come in 16 shades, of which only 15 are available in the US (#2 is missing). The colors range from standard (including three shades of black) to outrageous (red, hot pink, diamond white). Several colors are disappointingly muddy when applied to skin: the dark blue and the dark purple look so much like black that I didn’t bother with them. I picked #3, Emerald Green, because green is a color I don’t have in liquid liner form.

If you’re dead set on picking up a liquid liner for long-wear in hot summer days, I’d advise that you skip these unless there is a color in the lineup that you feel you absolutely have to have. I’ll have a review coming up later in the week of one of the other brands of liquid liners I’ve tried that I’d recommend over these, so stay tuned to find out which those are!

Swatch!

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MAKE UP FOR EVER Aqua Liner in #3 (Emerald Green): $23 at Sephora (exclusive retailer)

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (mid/high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. If you don’t really love the colors, skip ’em.

Purchase again? Nope.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Giorgio Armani Eye Pencil in Black and Brown

Yes, Giorgio Armani makes cosmetics. Yes, they are good. Yes, they are also overpriced.

That’s pretty much it.

I’ve wanted to pick up some things from the Armani line for quite awhile, but not being able to browse and swatch them where I live has made me hold off. But this spring they are bringing back an eye pencil that was All The Rage last spring, and it seemed like a good initial foray into the brand.

On the website these are called La Femme Bleue Long Wear Waterproof Eye Pencils, but on the box it just says Eye Pencils. (You miss that long business in front of it, don’t you? It at least needs a florid adjective: “Sublime!” or “Ineffable!” or “Pulchritudinous!”) They are, in keeping with their sadly unornamented name, not really much to look at. When I took them out of the box (more on that in a minute) there was no oohing or ahhing. I think I said, “Hm.”

So yeah, they don’t look like much — but this is one kick-ass eye pencil.

The texture is among the softest and smoothest of any pencil I’ve tried. This usually means you’re on the express train to Smudgeville, but these liners stay put remarkably well. You can blend them a bit when you’ve first applied them, but once they set, they’re set. For the swatches below, I had them on my hand for all of three minutes and they were difficult to get off. Cleanser and makeup remover work fine, but I was surprised that they stuck so well after just a few minutes. I would use a primer if you have oily lids, though.

I do wish the selection of colors were a little more interesting. Black is black (for the most part), so I didn’t have high expectations there, but the brown is not as rich as I’d hoped. They are also offering a green this year that I didn’t order. All the shades seem dark and muted — which does, I admit, allow you to use them in the workplace.

And speaking of the box — Armani is also the winner of this month’s Egregious Packaging Award! Below you can see the size of the products, and the size of the box that arrived at my house.

I’m sorry, but there is just no need at all for that much extra space and packaging. And let’s face it, it’s not like it’s a solid gold box or anything.

Close-up and swatch!

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Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleu Long Wear Waterproof Eye Pencils: $27

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. Quality of product is excellent, price is… well… Armani.

Purchase again? Yes, but please make some more interesting colors! Eyeliner and suits don’t need to draw from the same color palette.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

 

Review: Tarte emphasEYES Clay Eyeliner/Eyeshadow in Indigo

Blue eyeliner can be tricky to play subtly. I love my MAC Petrol Blue Pearlglide pencil liner, and I also like the intensity of the Buxom Stay-There shadow in Bull Dog if used as a liner, but these are both bright and vivid shades. The problem for me has always been that if you want a subtler blue that is still blue and that doesn’t pull gray or black, you are mostly out of luck. There’s not much in that middle area, and I’ve tried many. However, the Tarte emphasEYES clay liner in Indigo seems like it might fit that category.

Whenever I see the phrase “clay liner,” for some unknown reason my brain always turns it into “cake liner,” and so I am invariably a tiny bit surprised when I open up the container and see a cream there, not a cake. It’s the same consistency as MAC Fluidlines or Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner, though it is more smudgeable than either of those.

Application of these is just like with any other cream/gel eyeliner in a pot — you will need a skinny brush and a steady hand. Some people use a liner brush with a bent ferrule for this, but I prefer a plain old unbent eyeliner/eyebrow brush with a slanted cut to the bristles. And for eyeliner, the shorter the brush handle, the better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve narrowly avoided stabbing myself with the eye with a brush as I lean close to the mirror to see what I’m doing. My favorite brush for the purpose is one that came with a gel eyeliner from the drugstore brand Jane. It’s one of the only applicators that came with a product that I haven’t immediately tossed.

The nice thing about these liners is that they are more easily blended than some other gel/cream options. However, the flip side of that is that the intensity of the color sometimes doesn’t last as long as I wish it would. There’s little point having a blue liner that’s sophisticated but still blue if it has turned gray by lunchtime. Touch-ups are not difficult but shouldn’t be necessary.

The product comes with a dual-ended shadow/liner brush that is relatively nice; the wide end is good for blending.

Swatch and an eye look!

Like so many blue liners, it looks way different in the pot vs. on skin.

While thinking about the various blue eye looks I’ve done so far for the blog, I realized I hadn’t done a smoky blue eye. This kind of eye is what I call a “baby smoky eye” because it’s subtle enough for work. It’s basically a grey eye with a colored liner blended in at the lash line. You can use any color eyeliner you like; I did one the other day with a teal liner and it worked well — it gave me a way to incorporate the color in a subtle, darkened way, rather than having giant teal circles around my eyes.

First there’s just an otherwise undecorated eye with the Tarte Indigo liner:

Now with some other stuff:

So it’s just a tiny bit blue, and just a tiny bit smoky. To make this look:

1. Prep the eyelid with primer of choice (I used TFSI and my MAC Painterly paint pot). Line the upper and lower lashline with Tarte emphasEYES clay liner in Indigo. If you don’t like using a colored liner on the bottom lashline, substitute a gray or black liner instead. Gray blends better with the blue than black does, IMHO.

2. Using a shadow liner brush or other thin brush, apply a gray or blue-gray shadow in a stripe about 1/8″ thick starting at the lash line. I used UD Gunmetal from the Naked palette.

3. Using a blender brush or other clean eyeshadow brush, blend this out until you get a smooth transition from gray to skin-tone. For a “baby” smoky eye, you definitely do not want the dark color to get all up in the crease — this will make the look much heavier and more suited for clubbing than for work. When you’re happy with the blend, see if the liner needs reapplication (mine did) and blend it into the shadow at the lash line. The brightness of the color builds with layering and blending; the blue in the final shot looks more intense than it does in the shot where I’m just wearing one coat of the liner and nothing else. The nice thing about that is if you want it to be more intense, you can keep building; if you want a muted, subtle blue, stick with just one coat and a light hand in application.

4. Apply mascara (this is MAC Zoomlash) and brow color (this is Tarte emphasEYES brow mousse in Medium Brown).

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Tarte emphasEYES Clay Eyeliner/Eyeshadow in Indigo: $22

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. It’s more expensive than MAC (though it does come with a brush) but doesn’t do as good a job.

Purchase again? Probably not.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: MAC Superslick Eyeliners in Defiantly Feline, Signature Blue, Smoky Heir

Hot off the presses! (Literally — when my UPS guy delivered them, they were warm to the touch from sitting in the van all day in the sun.)

Superslick eyeliners are releasing as part of the MAC’s Fabulous Felines collection, but unlike some of the other items in the collection, these are permanent additions. Yay! They come in nine colors: Defiantly Feline (medium brown), Signature Blue (er, blue), Smoky Heir (deep purple), Nocturnal (silver), Pure Show (gold), Marked for Glamour (grey), On the Hunt (black), Desires & Devices (dirty olive), and Treat Me Nice (medium green). Most have a slight metallic luster. This review covers the first three mentioned above.

Liquid eyeliners always take a bit of patience. Pencil liners are easily smudgeable and you can get away with a little bit of imprecision. Even gel liners are more forgiving. Liquid requires (IMHO) the most control and the most precision. These are great for making sharp lines and for getting right down to the lashline, but they don’t smudge well. They remain wet for a few minutes, and once they’re dry these things do not move. That’s the advantage of liquid liners, so it all comes down to whether or not you’re willing to go through the hassle of precise application and then waiting for them to dry. When I use a liquid, I apply it before I do the rest of my eye makeup, because I don’t want to do a fabulous eye and then ruin it all by a jerky movement with the eyeliner. If I end up covering some of the liner when I apply shadow, I can always go over it again (and somehow it’s always easier to do it the second time, when you’re just tracing over what was there before!). This way if I need to remove it and start over, or edit the line with a Q-Tip dipped in makeup remover, I’m not ruining my shadow also.

The packaging is nice — pleasingly solid-feeling, with a screw-top lid (always nice for liquid products). I prefer brush tips that are really brush tips, not marker tips, but I have to say this one isn’t bad, though you do need a bit of skill to make sure it applies evenly. If you make the line too wide you may end up with some streakiness (you’ll see a little bit of this in the swatch photo). My only real criticism of the packaging is that I wish the brush housing were shorter — when you do your non-dominant side, the brush unit is slightly too long to work with comfortably. On the other hand, I’m particularly gifted in the nose department, so maybe if your schnozz is smaller than mine you won’t have such a hard time navigating.

If you’re new to liquid liner, let me offer some tips:

1. Start with the eye on your dominant side: i.e., if you’re right-handed, start with your right eye. Rest your pinky finger against your cheekbone to steady the hand. (And by the way, this should definitely be done before coffee!)

2. Start by laying the brush almost sideways against the upper lashline at the widest part of the eye, usually somewhere in the middle. Pull a little bit towards the outside of the eye, letting the brush rest against the lashline. Don’t go too fast. Let the knuckles of the hand flex so that your pinky finger stays on your cheekbone while your hand moves around it.

3. Overlap strokes until you get to the outside of the eye. Figure out what you want the end of the line to look like — if you’re doing a cat eye, you’ll want an upwards flick, for instance. I decided to do a less deliberate look below, and so I just brought the liner in at the outside corner.

4. Reposition the brush a little bit more towards the inside of the eye, and make a new stroke that overlaps where you started. Keep repeating this until you get as far towards the inner end of the eye as you want to go. With these strokes, always start as if you were bringing the liner up from underneath the eyelid — you can get a very nice, sharp line this way.

5. By changing where the thickest part of the line is, you can change the visual weight/proportion of your eye. If you want the eye to look rounder, make the line a little thicker from the center towards the outer end, and taper in at the outer end. If you want the eye to look longer, then make the outer edge the heaviest (and you’ll probably be doing some kind of flick here). Play around and see what works best for your face.

6. This is where I stop; I prefer a pencil liner on the bottom. But if you like a liquid liner there, you can follow the same procedure: start in the middle, bring it out to the outer edge, then fill in closer to the inner end gradually.

7. When you do the non-dominant side, if you’re able to turn the hand around so that you can again have the pinky resting against the cheekbone, more power to you. In that case, it’s the same as these directions. If that doesn’t work for you (and most of the time it doesn’t work for me), then you’ll end up resting your hand on your nose instead. Again, I start in the middle, but this time I pull towards the inner eye first, because it’s easier, and then I work my way to the outer edge.

Warning: These things are a bitch to remove. And when I say “bitch,” I’m talking Mommie Dearest level. Cleanser and water barely touch them. If you rub (not recommended), you will eventually loosen the liner enough that you can (no kidding) pinch one end of the liner between your fingers and peel it off your eyelid.

o_O

To get the swatches off my arm, I first tried regular makeup remover, to which they were impervious, and then waterproof makeup remover, which fared little better. After that I tried my Shu Uemura cleansing oil, and finally resorted to scraping the swatches off with my nails. Be warned.

Swatches and photos! (It was an allergy-riffic day, so I did take the liberty of Photoshopping out my bloodshot eyes. Nothing else was altered or corrected.)

Left to right: Smoky Heir, Defiantly Feline, Signature Blue

Below is Defiantly Feline just on its own. Other products used: TFSI, MAC Paint Pot in Painterly, Tarte emphasEYES brow pencil in Medium Brown.

Then I added shadow on top. Highlight: the gold shade from the Stila Goddess eyeshadow trio; Crease: the copper shade from the same compact. Lid: UD Toasted (in the Naked palette). Lower lashline: Neutrogena Spiced Chocolate pencil eyeliner. Mascara: MAC Zoomlash, which I’m currently testing.

Then I did a look on the other eye with Signature Blue. I wanted to smudge the liner a bit, but I think pencil liners are much easier to smudge than liquid, so I used MAC Pearlglide liner in Petrol Blue and smudged that. I also used the unnamed blue shade from the Smashbox Iconic Eyes palette on the lid, UD Gunmetal (from the Naked palette) at the top of the lid and into the crease, and ULTA Cocoa as a wash up to the browbone. Bottom liner is MUFE Aqua Eyes liner in Dark Grey 21L (from the Aqua Eyes kit). Mascara is again MAC Zoomlash.

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MAC Superslick Liquid Eyeliner: $17.50

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (midrange: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good.

Purchase again? Yes, I think so; they’re well-made and reasonably easy to use, and if I’m traveling and it’s a choice between this and a gel liner, I’ll take the pen just for ease and rapidity of application.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Make Up For Ever Aqua Essentials Kit (Sephora Beauty in a Box)

Since we are still in the Sweaty Glowy Summer Season and you may be in the market for sweatproof, waterproof, budgeproof cosmetics, I thought I’d review the rest of the products in the Make Up For Ever Aqua Essentials Set, available from Sephora for $69. This turned out to be a very mixed bag for me; some products perform excellently, others … not so much.

First of all you will remember that I am apparently the only person on the planet who didn’t like the long-awaited and much-lemminged Aqua Creams. I’m going to give them another chance, though, and will report back if I get better results.

The kit also comes with a lip pencil, two eye pencils, a waterproof mascara, and a small bottle of eye makeup remover for waterproof makeup. All except the eye makeup remover are full-size products. I can’t comment on the mascara because I’m still finishing up a tube of Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes and so I haven’t even opened it. (Since mascara goes bad so quickly, I really hate to have more than one open at a time.) I also try to stay away from waterproof mascara since my eyes are so sensitive to mascara flakes and it’s harder to remove waterproof mascara cleanly than it is to remove non-waterproof mascara.

Speaking of that, the makeup remover works perfectly well. I wish I could get more excited about it than that, but that’s about all the rah-rah I’ve got. It’s a lotion rather than a liquid; no shaking or mixing required. It works. It’s neither better nor worse than most other makeup removers I’ve tried. It’s no Lancome Bi-Facil, but it does the job.

The lip pencil, sadly, is not as good as I wanted it to be. I compared notes with Marigolds on the subject and she has the same opinion. The shade is nice, and is a neutral terracotta that should be good for a variety of skintones, but it just doesn’t last, even with TFLI underneath it. Sorry, MUFE, but Urban Decay has it all over you in the lip pencil department.

By way of redemption, though, the MUFE eye pencils are quite nice. The two that come in the kit are black and a kind of bluish-gray. Excellent for making smoky eyes, but just as capable (when sharpened) of very satisfactory tightlining. They stay put on the lashline (so long as you’ve got a good primer underneath) and hold their color for most of the day.

Is it worth purchasing? Well, if you like the Aqua Creams, which retail for $22 apiece, and you like the Aqua Eyes eye pencils, which retail for $17 apiece, then buying this kit will save you $9 over purchasing those products separately, and you get a full-size lip pencil, full-size mascara, and small bottle of makeup remover thrown in for good measure.

Swatches!

Left to right: Aqua Creams in #13 Warm Beige and #15 Taupe, Aqua Eyes pencils in Mat Black 0L and Dark Grey 21L, Aqua Lip in Nude Beige 1C (and by the way, “nude beige” absolutely does not describe this color).

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MUFE Aqua Essentials Kit: $69 at Sephora

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): For me, since I dislike the Aqua Creams, poor. However, if the products work for you, this could easily turn out to be an Excellent.

Purchase again? Not this one, but that’s not to say I won’t be suckered in by future offerings…

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette

Let’s hear it for nakedness!!!

Wait. Why am I the only one cheering?

::looks around in dismay::

::lowers pom-poms embarrassedly::

Ahem. Okay, let’s hear it for the Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette!

Although I know that I was one of the first to click the “buy” button on the UD website when the palette went live, my mailman seems to have interpreted the term “Priority Mail” as “bring it whenever the heck you want,” and so I only just received it. (Minor peeve: Dear UD, please send your Priority Mail packages with Delivery Confirmation so that we can continue to obsessively stalk our packages as they move across the country.) If my mailman were not a 65-year-old cigar-smoking Manly Man, I would have suspected that the package had taken a small detour.

But! Here it is, and here are photos and swatches.

I’ve long been a fan of UD eyeshadows. They are some of the nicest shadows you can get at this price point — smooth, well-pigmented, and blendable. Yes, you can beat their quality if you go really high-end, but frankly $84 for an eyeshadow palette is more than I want to pay (yes, Guerlain Fall 2010, I’m looking at you). And yes, there are a few UD shadows that don’t live up to the quality of the rest of the line: some are way too glittery for anyone but Lady Gaga to wear, some have a problem with fallout, and some are not quite as nice in texture. But for the most part, this is a very strong line and I recommend them to anyone who is looking to upgrade from a drugstore shadow. In addition to the regular shadows, which retail for $17 for 0.05 oz, UD also makes a smaller line of “deluxe” shadows that are $18 for 0.09 oz. Yes, those numbers are correct: the “deluxe” shadows are $1 more for almost twice as much product. Shh, don’t tell UD.

Also don’t tell UD that the creation of this Naked palette, which contains looks for neutral and smoky eyes, with twelve full-size shadows, a double-headed 24/7 eye pencil, and a deluxe sample size UDPP, all for $44, pretty much guarantees that no one will be buying any of those shades in single shadow pots for $17 each. For the life of me I cannot figure out why this is a permanent and not LE palette.

The shadows are a mix of matte and shimmer shades; one or two of them tip the needle all the way to “frosty,” but I think almost all of the shades would look good on almost all skin tones. From left to right:

Virgin: Slightly frosty vanilla
Sin: Shimmery light cocoa
Naked: Matte ecru
Sidecar: Shimmery light brown (this one is especially glittery)
Buck: Matte cocoa
Half Baked: Gold (very metallic)
Smog: Shimmery bronze
Darkhorse: Umber (some shimmer)
Toasted: Shimmery rose-copper, and one of my favorite UD shades ever
Hustle: Shimmery plummy-brown
Creep: Slightly shimmery dark grey
Gunmetal: Shimmery blue-grey, like … uh, gunmetal.

The double-headed 24/7 eyeliner pencil has Zero (black) on one end, and Whiskey (matte brown) on the other. Whiskey is a new shade created for this palette, as are Virgin, Buck, Darkhorse, Hustle, and Creep. Sidecar is, as far as I can determine, a repromote from UD’s first Book of Shadows collection.

Swatches!

L-R: Virgin, Sin, Naked, Sidecar

L-R: Buck, Half Baked, Smog, Darkhorse

L-R: Toasted, Hustle, Creep, Gunmetal

L-R: Zero, Whiskey, UDPP

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Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palette: $44 (also newly available at Sephora)

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent. Better than Excellent. They’re practically paying you to take it. In fact, you won’t have to give up the shirt off your back to get Naked. (Ha! Get it? Yeah, another one of those stupid puns no one else thinks is funny. Ow, stop throwing things.)

Purchase again? Assuredly.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Smashbox Iconic Eyes Kit

Dammit.

Dear Smashbox, I was *so* not going to get this kit. Really. Wasn’t gonna do it. Then you sucked me in with that gorgeous, gorgeous picture of the blue-and-brown smoky eye. And I admit it, I was tempted. Mostly because of the blue. That’s a really nice shade of blue. And then unfortunately I happened to stop by ULTA to pick up some facial cleanser (my brand of which they no longer appear to carry, WTF?) and there was the display/tester setup of the products in this kit. And because I was annoyed about not being able to get my facial cleanser, I decided that I would just test out that blue shadow, you know, just to see. Because the trip shouldn’t have been for nothing, right? And dammit AGAIN, that blue was a really nice shade on my hand. And the other colors in that palette were nice too. Crap. Smashbox, you suck.

Of course I bought it. What do you think I am made of, stone?

So. This little wonder-in-a-box contains the following: a mirrored eyeshadow quad (the shades seem, oddly, to be unnamed, but there’s a blue, a chocolate brown, and two highlighter shades, one peachy, one pinkish), a dual cream liner pot in “Infamous” (blue/brown), a deluxe sample size of Smashbox’s Photo Finish eyelid primer, a full-size Bionic Mascara, and two brushes (one shadow, one flat liner). Really, it’s quite a lot of product for $47, and it comes with instructions on how to create the various looks shown on the front of the box.

The four shades in the shadow quad are all quite nice; the darker shades are well-pigmented and the blue maintains its blue color and doesn’t go grey on skin (a pet peeve of mine about blue shadows). The highlighter colors are very light; it’s possible to blend the shadows to get a nice gradient from light to dark but you will need a bit of patience since they’re so far apart to start with.

I was excited to try the Photo Finish lid primer, and I used it instead of my regular TFSI. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a win for me, since I had some creasing and some color loss in the shadow as the day went on.

I haven’t had a huge amount of luck with Smashbox creme eyeliners; on me they have tended to smudge and fade. But, as with another recent review product, I haven’t tried them since I started wearing MAC paint pots as eyeshadow bases. So I’ll be trying them again, hopefully with better results. The brown half of the liner is a nice rich color; the blue half looks great in the pot but does that thing that I hate and turns to blue-grey on my skin. (I’ll be sticking with my MAC Petrol Blue Pearlglide eyeliner pencil for a blue liner.)

I haven’t broken out the mascara yet, only because I already have a mascara open and since they go bad more quickly than other cosmetics I like to only have one going at a time. In case you are curious, the “Bionic”-ness of it is explained by Smashbox as follows: “BIONIC is the first-ever ionic formula mascara. The primary ingredient in BIONIC is a chain molecule with a positive charge. The friction caused by sweeping the mascara brush across lashes causes a negative charge. Since opposites attract, the positively charged formula adheres to the negatively charged lashes for a dramatic effect that lasts all day.” (We will ignore the fact that the first listed ingredient in the mascara is, er, water.) Since the Bionic mascara is also sold on its own, I may review it when I get around to changing mascaras.

I like Smashbox brushes a lot, though I’d have preferred a slanted liner brush to a squared-off one, since I find these easier to use in applying cream liners. The shadow brush is nice: not too large, grabs product well, blends well, no prickly bristles on sensitive eyelid skin.

Products and swatches:

Liner shades on left, shadow on right. You can hardly even see the two highlighter shades on my skin; that’s how light they are.

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Smashbox Iconic Eyes Kit: $47

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. If all of the products were as good as the shadow, it’d be Excellent.

Purchase again? Yes; in general I like their kits though I rarely have 100% success with all the products in them.

(Have you used these products? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Want ’em? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Neutrogena Nourishing Eyeliner in Spiced Chocolate

Chocolate with cinnamon? Bring it on! Oh, wait — it’s not for eating? Drat. Are you sure?

As I’ve said before, eyeliner pencils are things that I am usually just as happy to get at the drugstore as at Sephora or a high-end counter. I’ve had both good and bad eyeliners from both low-end and luxury brands, and there really isn’t a huge difference in performance between a good drugstore liner and a good high-end liner. So I usually end up choosing eyeliner pencils based on three things: texture/softness (putting on eyeliner should not be a painful experience), how well it lasts, and uniqueness of color. This last criterion is the one that makes me most likely to buy a high-end product, and that’s usually because I can swatch them at Sephora.

The difficulty with brown eyeliner is that it can so often be boring. The advantage to it is that it looks good on every eye color. Which is to say, therefore, that it can look boring on anyone. Super.

The color of this eyeliner, however, is surprisingly un-boring. I can’t quite figure out why that is, since there is no shimmer or sparkle and it is a fairly neutral brown — neither too warm nor too cool, neither too light nor too dark. On the eye, though, it has a lot of life and brings out the green in my eyes in a way that a plain old brown liner usually doesn’t do. I have to say I’m impressed.

What I didn’t like about it when I first started using it, and why I’m only writing the review several months later, is that I would put it on in the morning and by the time I got to work it would have migrated down to my lower waterline (where I definitely didn’t want it). I was using TFSI as an eye primer and was disappointed that this wasn’t staying in place, since I wasn’t having trouble with other products. But I gave it another couple of shots after I started using MAC paint pots as eyeshadow bases in addition to my TFSI, and this seems to have done the trick. Now the liner stays in place and lasts all day. This turns it into a winner for me, but I’ll have to remember to always use a paint pot underneath it.

The other end of the pencil has a rubbery smudger tip, so you can smoke out the line a little (or a lot), and it pops out of the pencil to reveal a sharpener, so you can also go the other way and sharpen the tip to get a thinner, finer line. Is it “nourishing”? I don’t know. My eyelids have not been hungry since I started using it, so I suppose that’s something. :: eyeroll ::

If Spiced Chocolate isn’t your thing, there are five other shades: Cosmic Black, Plum Drop, Twilight Blue, Brown Sugar, and Brushed Pewter.

Swatch!

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Neutrogena Nourishing Eyeliner in Spiced Chocolate: $7.99 at drugstore.com

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good.

Purchase again? Yes, and in the meanwhile I’m off to make myself some hot cocoa with cinnamon. Yum.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Make Up For Ever Aqua Creams

I have held off on writing this review as long as I could, but the time has come.

Let’s say you have a really good student in class who, inexplicably, at the end of the term, turns in a surprisingly crappy final project. And so you send the following email:

Dear Make Up For Ever,

Ha ha! You seem to have inadvertently sent me the leftover crusty paints from your fifth grade art project in lieu of the fabulous Aqua Creams I was expecting. What a joker you are! The rest of your work is so consistently good that I am sure that this was some farcical error that we will laugh about someday. I can try to grade your product last so that you will have time to send me the utter fabulousness that I’m sure you meant to turn in.

Chortling heartily,

Voxy

::radio silence::

Uh… Oh. Really? Oh.

Huh.

All righty then.

I am going to go out on a limb as one of the few beauty bloggers who seems not to be gaga over these Make Up For Ever Aqua Creams. Seriously, everyone seems to be in love with them except me. Let me be perfectly frank — I wanted to be gaga. I anticipated gaga-ness. I positively dreamt of gagaliciousness. And it is only after several days’ testing that I have to admit defeat and say that I just can’t get my gaga on over these products.

There are, for me, three problems with these creams. First, they are not really creams. A cream should have the consistency of cake frosting. It should be, well, creamy. The texture of these “creams,” though, is more like — warning: strange comparison ahead — the baked meringue layer of a lemon meringue pie. If you tried to swirl a brush through a lemon meringue pie, which I am not suggesting that you do, you would end up with small gobs of meringue and a slightly wet brush — but you would not have a cream. Seriously, that’s what these remind me of.

Second, they are difficult to apply smoothly with either a brush or fingers. A cream should, IMHO, be more workable than these are, and no matter how careful I am, if I even approach the upper lash line, I get the cream equivalent of fallout beneath my lower lashes. And, since these are long-lasting and virtually waterproof, that fallout is extremely difficult to remove. So I can’t get the product where I want it, but it inevitably ends up where I don’t want it, and then I can’t get it off. Lovely.

Third, and I’m sorry to say this, since I have such respect for MUFE as a line, but the packaging just feels cheap. Something that costs $22 should come in a glass jar, not in a thin plastic jar with a lid that’s difficult to replace (the threads in the lid just don’t seem to want to catch — and this is true of all four of the colors I have). MAC has it all over MUFE in this regard.

I have three shades designated for eyes (#13 Warm Beige, #15 Taupe, and #22 Emerald Green) and one for cheeks and lips (#5 Peach). The peach looks gorgeous in the pot, but as soon as I dipped into it I found that immediately below the surface (which was relatively matte-looking) was a surprising amount of gold shimmer. The color is all wrong for a blush for me — and don’t even think of using it on your lips unless you are going for the Tin Man’s Girlfriend look. The #13 and #15 are OK shades, but given the problems with consistency and application, they are not going to ever be my go-to bases for neutral shadows. And while the #22 Emerald Green shade is a gorgeous color, it proved surprisingly difficult to work with in building a base for a look with green + blue, gold, or brown shadow. I also really wanted #19, which is a fabulous purple, but it’s not being sold in the US because apparently there is an ingredient that’s not cosmetically approved here.

I’ll keep them, and find ways to use them, but I confess myself greatly disappointed.

Maybe you’ve had better luck? I’m open to my mind being changed…

Swatches!

#5 Peach, #22 Emerald Green

#13 Warm Beige, #15 Taupe. Don’t ask me why my skin appears white in this one. I give up.

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Make Up For Ever Aqua Creams: $22 (Sephora exclusive at the moment)

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Oooh. Toughie. If I liked the product, I’d probably say Fair. (The packaging really does bother me.) Given that I don’t like the product, I’m going with Poor.

Purchase again? Doubtful.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips Custom Eye Enhancing Gel CreamLiner

Really, people, you don’t have to fill up all the space on the product packaging with buzzwords. Draw a flower in there instead, or write “blue, rhinoceros, triangle.” It would be just as useful, since there is a direct correlation between the length of a product name and my likeliness to respond with ::eyeroll:: and move on. (Actually, I think a good comparison could be drawn between cosmetic product names and MLA paper titles. I smell a future Foxy Voxy contest topic!)

I bought these when I was at the drugstore buying allergy medication and Kleenex. I admit that I only bought them because I was feeling sorry for myself, what with the sneezing and the runny nose and the whole miserable allergy thing. Yes, it was a self-pity cosmetics purchase. Didn’t I say I was going to try to stop self-medicating with cosmetics this year? That’s clearly going well.

I am somewhat redeemed by how surprisingly interesting this product is. The “Shimmer Strips” line started with their Shimmer Strips Custom Bronzer, Blush, and Eyeshadow, which is a clear drugstore dupe of the much more pricey Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick (Physicians Formula: $11.95; Bobbi Brown: $38). When these proved successful, they expanded the line to include shimmer strips of eyeshadow and a blush/highlighter combo. I was (and still am) skeptical of how successfully they could force these gel/cream liners to fit into the “Shimmer Strip” model, and I sort of wish they hadn’t bothered trying. There are three different colors of gel liner in the package, each of which is contained in an annoyingly shaped square brick of plastic. The bricks interlock, so if you wanted to (for some unknown reason), you could attach them to one another and carry them around that way, thus making them a “strip.” Yeah, I don’t buy it either.

Each package is designed for a different eye color, and Physicians Formula designates each of the three colors as useful for creating different looks. The top shade is for a “natural” look, the middle is “playful,” and the bottom one (which is pretty much always black) is “dramatic.” So, I bought the green eyes kit, for self-evident reasons, and was surprised to find that the top shade, the “natural” shade, is … green. Now I have never been one of those people who say you can’t match your shadow or liner color to your eye color, but I have never before seen a green eyeliner marketed as part of a “natural” look. Huh. As you will see from the swatch below, it’s a medium grassy green with a touch of moss to it. More yellow than blue. It’s surprisingly nice, but I still can’t say it’s really “natural” looking. The middle shade looked blue in the packaging, and even looks more blue than purple in the open container, but it turns out to be a warm purple. And the black is, well, black, so I didn’t swatch it.

These have excellent, excellent staying power. The swatches that I did on my arm lasted until the next day’s shower without smearing or smudging on clothes or bed linens. They looked exactly the same the next morning as they had the previous afternoon when I swatched them. On eyes they perform almost as well. They give you a brush with the packaging but as usual I said “thanks but no thanks” and used my own. Theirs is, I think, a touch too wide for doing anything but a thick line unless you have excellent brush technique (in which case you probably already have your own brush that you like.)

I would consider buying some of the other kits, even though I would be crossing the eye-color boundary and buying products not designed for green eyes (the horror!), because some of the other colors look quite nice, and at $10.95 for a three-pack it’s an inexpensive way to experiment with gel/creme liners that are of good quality.

Swatch!

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Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips Custom Eye Enhancing Gel CreamLiner: $10.95

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent.

Purchase again? Yes, I predict I will be getting a refill on this prescription.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holla in the comments!)