What I’m Loving Right Now: February 2017 Favorites
Y’know how sometimes after you go through a rut with your beauty products, you come out of the rut with like 30 new loves? Well, that’s what happened here. I haven’t done a favorites post in several months because there just wasn’t anything making me excited enough to call it a favorite. There are a few exceptions to that, things I’ve been loving for a while, but just forgot to talk about for one reason or another. Psshh, how rude of me. I’m making up for it now by sharing the goods, including a few product combos that I think are really stellar. Are you ready for this jelly? Good, then I’ll stop blabbing and get into it!
Disclosure: This post does not contain affiliate links. This post is not sponsored. This post does not contain paid/sponsored product mentions. This post does include a product received as a PR sample, clearly labeled as such.
Yeah… so maybe grab a snack or something. We might be here a while. I only have a few skincare favorites this month, so let’s start there.
Erborian Yuza Double Lotion
Why I love it:
Smells like sweet, citrusy heaven, a fun bi-phase concept, ingredients that are great for dry skin, with a lightweight feel and velvety effect that even non-dry skin types might love. I wouldn’t recommend this for sensitive skin because it does contain added fragrance, but otherwise, I think this is a pretty universal product. I shake it up and apply it with a cotton pad, and after it dries down my skin feels super soft and hydrated without feeling suffocated. My skin is quite dry at the moment thanks to Differin gel, so I’ve been using a lot of hydrating layers. This is usually the first of my hydrating layers, but I think oily skin could stop with just this and be happy, especially in the summer when layering products can feel super heavy. I have a full review of this, as well as Erborian’s Eau Ginseng and Bamboo Matte Lotion here if you’d like to know more.
*Disclosure: This product was sent to me, but I was not asked to include it in a blog post. This is not a sponsored post or a sponsored product mention. I’m including it because I genuinely love it and I think you might love it too.
Y’know what you shouldn’t do? Go in hard with the Differin gel just because the packaging tells you to. That, coupled with using the horribly formulated cleanser that accompanies the gel has basically fried my face off (I’ve since stop using the cleanser because it was making my skin extremely irritated and sensitive). Enter Stratia’s Velvet Cleansing Milk. Developed by fellow skincare blogger Alli of The Acid Queen, this is a gentle, non-foaming cleanser that is formulated to avoid damaging the skin’s natural moisture barrier. I was at a point where my skin had become so hypersensitive that literally anything I put on it, even makeup, was making my face sting. I desperately needed a new cleanser because even the more gentle options in my skincare arsenal weren’t cutting it. In general, I prefer gentle, low-pH cleansers because even when my skin is in its normal state, which is combo/oily, cleansing can make my skin feel stripped and uncomfortable.
Velvet Cleansing Milk was exactly what I needed to help my skin recover. It’s creamy, gentle, it doesn’t leave a film, and it leaves my skin feeling more hydrated than any other cleanser I’ve ever used. Despite being a hydrating cleanser, I still feel like my skin is completely clean, and this cleanser rinses away easily. I’m completely addicted to this stuff and highly recommend it for all but the oiliest skin types, who may not feel like this takes away enough of the oil. I think just about everyone else will love this, though. This is my favorite cleanser I’ve ever used, and truth be told, nothing else even compares to this. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Alli had made a deal with the devil to formulate this magical cleanser and sprinkled in some pixie dust for good measure, but that would undermine the intelligence, talent, and hard work she put in to formulating this cleanser. It’s not magic, it’s science, but it sure as hell feels a little bit like magic after the damage I had done to my skin.
*note: Velvet Cleansing Milk now comes packaged in a pump instead of a squeezy tube.
I was so not expecting to love this because I’m super picky about lip balm. The only one I’ve loved enough to repurchase in the last five years is Tokyo Milk Dark Lip Balm (I love all of the flavors I’ve tried, but my top three are Salted Caramel, Coco Noir, and Cherry Bourbon in that order). My only complaint about those is that they’re in a pot, which can sometimes be too fussy for my liking, especially when I’m super tired and just want to go to bed. I had been looking for a lip balm in stick form, but everything I had tried either had a nasty taste or was a really thin, greasy formula that wore off in approximately 3.2 seconds. I ended up receiving this Rimmel lip balm in an Ipsy bag and fell in love almost immediately. It’s a thinner formula than what I usually prefer, but it doesn’t slide around too much and it stays on through the night. It also has a light fruity scent, and doesn’t taste funky. Most importantly, my lips feel softer and more hydrated after using this. I’m already over half way done with this and planning to repurchase. So glad I finally found a stick balm to love!
What is this magic in a bottle? 😍 Everything I’ve smelled so far from Margiela has been the stuff dreams are made of. Margiela’s Beach Walk is one of my favorite fragrances of all time, but today we’re talking about her darker, smokier counterpart. The femme fatale with a soft spot, so to speak. Replica: By The Fireplace is one of the most unique fragrances I’ve ever smelled. This fragrance is smoky, sweet, and woody in a way that is both calming and intriguing. Have you ever had that moment where you meet someone and they feel instantly familiar, but also a little bit mysterious? That’s totally what this fragrance is. It takes familiar smells such as roasted chestnuts, smoky wood, and vanilla and twists them into something darker and sexier. I’m not usually a fan of vanilla as I find it can be too simplistic, sweet, or juvenile, but the vanilla in By The Fireplace borders on a rich, deep caramel. It’s also balanced by the smokier notes, which help to make this an outstanding unisex fragrance. I couldn’t be more in love with this, it’s truly something special. The only downside is that, in my opinion, it’s a distinctly fall/winter fragrance. We’re already into spring here in Vegas, so rather than purchase it and risk it expiring before I got enough use out of it, I’ll have to wait until next fall to purchase it. Maybe that sounds silly, but I know I won’t wear it in the next few months. I’d rather have a fresh bottle next fall so I can douse myself in it everyday.
The “lippie stix” name still makes me cringe, but this is the best lip primer I’ve ever used so I’ll let it slide. I’m pretty sure I’ve included this in a favorites post before, maybe even a year-end favorites, but I recently repurchased it and wanted to talk about this again because it so doesn’t get the love it deserves in the beauty community.
It’s a clear balm that fills in lip lines, improves longevity, and makes matte liquid lipsticks more comfortable without altering the finish. It doesn’t drag on the lips during application, and it can actually help to keep small bits of dry skin from poking up under your lipstick. A little gross, true, but some days a lip scrub just can’t make lips smooth enough. If you wear lipstick, whether it’s a liquid lipstick or a traditional bullet, you need this, and I don’t say that often.
*tip: be sure to let this set for a minute or two after application. It should have a slight tacky feeling when you apply your lipstick, this is what helps it work its magic!
I received a set of Urban Decay brushes for Christmas (thanks mom!) and I think they’re all wonderful, high-quality brushes, but this one is my absolute favorite. The Finger Brush is a small round shape, with tightly packed short bristles cut in a dome shape. Not only is this brush soft, the firm bristles are excellent for helping to soften lines or apply eye shadow to the outer corner. The small round shape also makes it fit easily into corners and to quickly blend out the crease. The dome shape really helps to create a soft focus effect without having to reach for multiple brushes. I’ve tried it with cream concealer and didn’t really like it for that purpose, but for powder eye shadows, this has become one of my go-to brushes. It’s also a high quality, well-designed, durable brush for a very reasonable price. Love it!
Whyyy did it take me so long to try this brush?! I have several other Real Techniques brushes that I love, but this was one I hadn’t tried yet despite all of the positive reviews. After finally ordering one, I fell in love almost immediately after taking it out of the packaging. It’s not the world’s softest brush, but I would still consider it soft, and definitely not scratchy at all. The bristles are perfectly cut into a soft, fanned-out dome shape. The brush, just like all of the other Real Techniques brushes, is durable, holds up well to washing, and doesn’t shed. What I love most about this brush is how versatile it is. It’s the perfect size and shape for setting concealer under the eyes, applying highlighter, and contouring cheekbones. It applies just the right amount of product and creates a soft diffused look without having to spend forever blending. I desperately need to buy more of these because I’ve been beating this poor brush to death wiping it off on a paper towel so I can use it for highlight, contour, and setting every time I do my makeup!
Marc Jacobs (P)outliner in Primrose, Highliner in Earthquake and Blacquer
Top: Poutliner in Primrose. Center: Highliner in Earthquake. Bottom: Highliner in Blacquer.
Why I love it:
I have super watery eyes that can also be sensitive, so I’m very picky about eye liner. Getting my eye liner to stay on is a daily battle, even more so if I apply it to the water line. Most liners don’t even last long enough for me to get out the door in my waterline. A few exceptions I’ve found to this are Julep’s gel pencil liners and Rimmel’s lasting finish eye liner, but I can now count these Marc Jacobs liners among those, and even as my favorite of all of them. The Julep liners are very creamy, the kind you barely have to touch to your hand or eye to get payoff, and I didn’t think there was anything else as creamy and long-lasting. I was wrong, these Marc Jacobs Highliners are everything. Super creamy, bold, one-swipe pigment that is long-lasting and durable. The range of shades is also outstanding, with a mix of everyday colors and unique hues for more creative looks. I have the shades Blacquer, a cream finish, and Earthquake, a matte finish. These are both samples sizes, btw. The fact that they’re a twist-up liner means you never have to worry about rummaging around for a sharpener. The downside to that is that you can’t make the tip of these any finer, but they have a more thin-tipped version of these that are near the top of my wishlist. One thing I’ve noticed is that the matte formula seems to be a bit longer lasting than the cream formula, but both have impressive longevity. I absolutely adore these and want every shade!
The Poutliner is another favorite, but I’ve actually been loving this pencil for months now, just forgot to mention it. I usually don’t spend a lot of money on lip liners because I think there are great options at the drugstore, but this lip liner is so exceptional it may have actually converted me into a high-end lip liner kind of girl (sorry bank account). It goes on creamy and opaque, but after a few seconds it sets to a soft but firm finish that does an amazing job of prolonging the wear of my lipstick. It doesn’t slide around at all, which is a problem I have with a lot of other liners. It also doesn’t dry my lips out, which is great because I wear this pretty often on its own. The color is a gorgeous muted rose that I think would look great on a variety of skin tones. This may come as a surprise to you (/sarcasm), but I totally want all of the shades. These lip liners hit all the right marks for me, and I absolutely think they’re worth the money.
Product Cocktail: Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer + Kat Von D Lock It Concealer Creme
Top: Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer in Light Warm, Bottom: Kat Von D Lock It Concealer Creme in L9, Middle: KVD and UD mixed in 1:1 ratio
Why I love it:
This combo was born out of my inability to find a concealer that both matches my skin tone and conceals my under eye circles that are so dark they’d make Dracula look well-rested. I’d applied the Kat Von D concealer and felt like it looked too peachy (it does) so I applied a bit of the Urban Decay concealer over top to even it out some. Not only did the color match me much better, it thinned out the KVD a little bit without sacrificing coverage. I never really fell in love with either of these concealers on their own. The UD is lightweight, but not enough coverage for me. The KVD is pretty high coverage, but it can also get a little cakey and it creases more dramatically than other concealers do. Both of these colors are also wrong for me on their own, which is the downside of buying makeup online. Since one is too yellow and the other is too red, they end up canceling each other out and forming a more neutral color that works waaay better for my skin tone. When I was using each of them separately, they just weren’t wowing me, but together these are amazing. I get the coverage of the KVD with the comfort and blendability of the UD. Perfect!
I apply one swipe of the KVD first, concentrating on the area where my dark circles are. Then I apply the UD over top of that, sweeping toward the outer corner of my eyes and the corner where my nose meets my cheek bone to keep my concealer from looking too obvious. I use the Real Techniques Mini Miracle Complexion sponge (something else that easily could have been in this favorites post!) to blend them both out at the same time, and voila! Perfect concealer! I usually set it with the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder to keep it looking fresh all day.
Product Cocktail: Urban Decay Afterglow Highlighter in Sin + Josie Maran Argan Enlightment Illuminizer
Urban Decay Afterglow Highlighter in Sin and Jose Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminator (sample size)
Top: Josie Maran Argan Englightment Illuminator, Bottom: Urban Decay Afterglow Highlighter in Sin, Center: UD over JM Illuminator
Why I love it:
The Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminator and the Urban Decay Afterglow Highlighter in Sin are each nice highlighters with good formulas, but neither one of them has really excited me on their own. I use them and like them, sure, but I don’t look at them longingly or get distracted by the glow of my own cheekbones when I wear them. The JM doesn’t disrupt my foundation at all, and I’m able to wear it on its own as a more natural highlight, but the shade is a bit too pinky/coppery for me to mix in with my foundation as it changes the color and makes it a little too pink. One day I decided to layer them for increased longevity since the JM highlighter is a liquid and the UD is a powder. Little did I know it would produce such a bangin’ combination. This pairing is what I’ve been wearing most days because I love the shade they create, the increased vibrancy and longevity, and the way they blend into my skin, creating a bright, skinlike highlight. I hate it when highlighter looks like it’s sitting on top of my skin, but this combo never gets cakey or heavy looking. As a total highlighter junkie, this is the perfect amount of everyday glow.
Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Top: MUFE HD in Y215 Bottom: MUFE HD Y215 mixed with Y225
Why I love it:
This is my most frequently worn foundation at the moment, and it has been for a few months now, so I knew I needed to mention this. I like my foundations lightweight, buildable, easily blended, and most importantly skin-like. I hate looking or feeling like I have a mask on top of my face. This foundation is all of those things, and just looks so beautiful whether it’s in real life or in photos. I can apply it with a brush, Beauty Blender, or my fingers and be happy with the result (the BB does sheer it out quite a bit though, I prefer to use it as a finishing product after I’ve applied it with my fingers for max coverage and a perfect blend). It just melts into the skin and creates a seamless finish with enough coverage to satisfy my everyday needs. I don’t have perfect skin, far from it, but I don’t mind if my blemishes still peek through just a little bit, so the amount of coverage this gives is perfect for me. It has a satin finish that looks natural and doesn’t slide around or transfer. If I were to travel right now, this is the foundation I would take with me because I know I can depend on it.
I only have two complaints about this foundation. One, it’s not quite as long-lasting as I would like it to be. Sure, I can wear it for eight-ish hours and still feel ok about it, but I can tell it’s broken up a little bit around my chin and it looks a little more worn than I’d like it to. I accept this about it because it’s so perfect in many other ways, but I do reach for different foundations if I know it’s going to be a really long day. Second, they don’t make a shade that’s quite right for me. I have light skin with warm/neutral olive undertones (hard to capture on camera, but the skin on the far right side of my arm is a more accurate representation of my skin tone). The shade I have is Y215, which is a little too light and too yellow for my skin. Quite possibly the most widely loved olive undertoned shade is Y225, but it’s a cool-toned olive and a little too dark for me. I have a sample of it that I’ve been mixing with Y215 to make a shade that suits me better, but it’s a hassle and it looks off if I don’t get the ratio just right. Make Up For Ever, if you’re reading this, please make more olive shades! I’ll even let you guys test whatever you want on my weird skin tone, just please make something that finally matches me and my fellow warm/neutral olives! I know a lot of us with olive undertones really struggle to find a match, it’s not just me!
I’m not even sucking up when I say that few brands understand color as well as MUFE does. Take a look at their foundation range and look at not just the number of shades they have (40!!), but the distinct undertones in each shade and how well those suit the majority of people within the shade range. The colors tend to match people more perfectly than most other brands. I remember seeing a video MUFE did with LusterLux a year or two ago teaching her to mix her perfect foundation shade from cream pigments and the in-depth instruction on color theory was just completely amazing to me. MUFE just gets color on a higher level, which is why I believe that if anyone can come out with a foundation to match me, it’s them.
Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip & Cheek Color Sticks: Hollywood & Highlight, Silverlake Sunset
Sample sizes of the Smashbox L.A. Lights color sticks
Top: Hollywood & Highlight Bottom: Silverlake Sunset Left: unblended, Right: blended with finger
Why I love it:
Easy, blendable cream highlight and blush. Cream products aren’t for everyone, but I happen to love the natural, skin-like finish they create. When it comes to makeup, I’m a total skin junkie, I like everything to look soft and light. If my skin looks overdone, I’m pissed and desperately trying to tone some of it down with a Beauty Blender and some powder. The color sticks from Smashbox are perfect for giving me that easy-going natural look. They’re ultra creamy balms that glide on, blend like a dream, and leave a healthy glow behind. I do tend to powder these to increase their longevity, but other than that I have no complaints. I know a common complaint about cream products, blush especially, it that they’re difficult to blend or they set too quickly. You can leave these for a few seconds and come back to them without worrying that you’re going to have a patchy looking blush because it started to set and stick to some spots more than others. I actually love all four of the Smashbox color sticks I’ve tried (I use the bronzer shade as a blush because it’s too warm and shimmery for me as a bronzer, but it’s beautiful as a blush), but these two are my favorite. Silverlake Sunset is a perfect everyday blush for me, and you know it’s serious if I’m wearing blush everyday. I’m so not a blush person, I think most shades tend to look funky on my skin tone, but this soft peachy coral is so flattering. Hollywood & Highlight is such an underrated highlighter, it really packs a punch and these photos don’t do it justice at all. It’s a very pale gold that doesn’t look too icy on my skin, and has some major luminosity to it. This is what I reach for when I want a wet look, or a ‘model off-duty’ vibe. So stunning.
Too Faced Sweet Peach Creamy Peach Oil Lip Gloss in Tickle Me Peach
Why I love it:
Smells like peach candy, totally non-sticky, pigmented, hydrating gloss that feels plush and buttery on the lips. This has become one of my favorite glosses ever, it’s an excellent formulation and I now need every color. I have a full review on this here, so I’ll leave it at that.
Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Lipstick in Queen B
Sample size of the Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Lipstick in Queen B
Why I love it:
This particular color isn’t my jam, I don’t really like the way these mauvey shades look on me, but I got it as part of a set and I like it enough to wear it. The formula, however… yeah, I’m ’bout that. I have very high standards when it comes to liquid lipstick. It has to be long-wearing and comfortable above all else. For reference my top formulas are Ofra, Ciate, and NYX Liquid Suede, in that order. (This list also used to include Jeffrey Star’s liquid lipsticks, but I no longer support him or his brand because, y’know, #voldemort. But seriously, I just can’t excuse his behavior.) This has a sort of strange chocolate cupcake smell that’s just ok (it doesn’t linger), but what I really love is the thin, creamy, comfortable formula. I can wear this for hours without feeling like my lips are going to shrivel off of my face, and without the color flaking off. It goes on so smooth and sets to a flat matte finish. It’s not completely transfer-proof, but I’m ok with that because it doesn’t come off of the lips easily, just leaves a tiny bit behind here and there on cups, etc. To compare, this dries down more than Ofra’s formula and doesn’t feel as heavy. It also doesn’t make my lips stick together at all like the NYX Liquid Suede sometimes can. Plus, the formula is just the right thickness to help it glide onto the lips in one super pigmented layer, and it’s not overly liquidy, which can cause the pigment to bleed into lip lines. This is by far one of the best matte liquid lipsticks on the market right now. I’m truly impressed by this formula, and that doesn’t happen very often for me when it comes to liquid lipsticks.
This formula is great, but I’m really in it for the color. This is such a perfect nude for me, with just enough brown. The pinky neutrals that most people find flattering look utterly terrible on me, so I always try to find colors with more brown in them. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a light brown lipstick. Honeycomb has some apricot tones in it that I also find goes very well with my complexion. This is the first one of the Amuse Bouche lipsticks I’ve tried, and comparing it to the old Luminous Creme lipsticks, which I own several of, I feel like they corrected all of the flaws when they reformulated these and released them as the Amuse Bouche line. My two major complaints about the LCs was that they slid around too much on the lips because they were so emollient, and the lipsticks were unflavored, leaving a nasty taste of raw ingredients behind if you happened to get any in your mouth, which happened often because they were so freaking slippery. Don’t get me wrong, I did love the LCs, but they were flawed. These have a very subtle, light, sweet taste to them, basically just enough to keep the raw ingredient taste from coming through. They also are a tiny bit thicker, so they stay in place better. They’re still super hydrating and comfortable to wear, but now I don’t have to worry that it’s smeared all over my face. I’m really looking forward to buying more of these because I think Bite Beauty has truly perfected the formula. They’ve also released some beautiful, detailed shades that I think stand apart from a lot of the other lipsticks at Sephora right now. I definitely recommend trying these if you haven’t already.
Top: finger swatch Bottom: brush swatch. Both swatches were done without primer.
Why I love it:
So preeetty😍 I love super warm, red-orange/copper shades like this and this is an excellent formula. It goes on super pigmented and smooth, with a gorgeous sheen. It blends nicely, is long lasting, and doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes. I have nothing bad to say about this, I think this is one of NYX’s best products and I look forward to buying more shades from this range. I mean, look at that brush swatch! With no primer! Yeah, this is stellar.