Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Guide to Brushes: Eye Brushes, Part 2: Blending Brushes 1

Part two of my comprehensive brush guide is blending brushes, which will be separated into two posts themselves.  This post features blending brushes with pinched ferrules, while the next post will feature round ferrules.  The pinched ferrule makes this set wider than they are thick, so they have two directions to use.  The pinched ferrule makes them similar to the previously featured flat shader brushes, but they are all fluffier and thicker, which makes them better suited to blending than the shaders are.

Fluffy Blending Brushes
Here we have three very large blending brushes: Hakuhodo Kokutan L, Paula Dorf Eye Blender, and Kokutan MLL.  They're pretty big; the Kokutan L is an inch long, 5/8 inch wide at the ferrule and 1/2 inch thick.  The two Hakuhodos are both blue squirrel, and the Paula Dorf is soft too.  I wish all brush purveyors would list the hair type on their website.  Of course, then they might face the wrath of PETA.  Heh.  I guess you've noticed these brush posts are not for vegans.
These brushes are all super soft and great for applying a soft wash of color over the whole lid area and for all over blending. Since they're so soft, they're great for heavy handed blenders, but since they're huge, they're terrible for detail blending. I like to use them "off-book" for applying cheek highlighter, blush, and powdering small areas.

Oval Blending Brushes
The be-all and end-all of blending brushes for a lot of people, here we have MAC's classic 217, also a Sephora Pro Oval Blending brush 27, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush, Sephora Classic blending 29, a Paula Dorf eye shadow brush (sorry; it's from a travel set I've had for forever), and a RT Domed Shadow brush.  The two white are goat hair, the two RT's are synthetic and the other two are soft hair of unknown origin.  MAC's 217 is a beloved brush by many people, for blending edges, for applying color to all parts of the mobile lid, and for applying to the crease.  I think they're great for both blending and applying to the lid, but I almost never use one for the crease.  I don't think it suits my own eye shape, but, honestly, I never use it for anyone else's crease either.  The goat is good for light touch blenders, a group to which I belong, but if you're heavy handed, you  might find the synthetics or a soft hair, like squirrel more suited to your technique.  The goat hair also holds up better to cream products.
These blenders are great for applying a smooth gradiant over the lid and into the crease, a feature lacking in flat shader brushes.  That makes these useful for smoky eyes and cat eyes (a cat eye, though often a mislabeled doe eye, which is eyeliner that flicks out at the end, is used here to mean eye shadow that emphasizes the outer corner in a point.  I suppose I could use the internet invention "outer v," but I think that would confuse you, as they're often first added with a detail brush.  Not to mention the fact that the "outer v" as a thing is both nonexistent and silly.).  An overall great blending brush and shadow brush, these are also good for concealer.

Pros and Cons
Pros:  These are  great all around blender brushes, good for both application and blending.  Very good for creating a gradiant; they work well in conjuction with flat shader brushes to create a wide variety of eye makeup styles.  The fluffy brushes will apply a sheer amount, and are good for all over blending on large eyes.  Oval blending brushes are denser and great for both applying and blending, and a lot of people use them for crease brushes too.  Look for hair types that suit your blending style; denser goat for light handed blenders, softer hairs like squirrel for heavy handed blenders.  Both types of blenders are great multi-taskers, being useful for face powder and blush/highlighter or concealer.  It's a good idea to have more than one blending brush in your collection, whether you need an assortment of sizes and shapes has a lot to do with your eye shape and what you want them for.
Cons:  I think oval blenders are ill-suited for creases, and people with small eyes or deep creases will likely agree with me.  When they are used for creases, it often results in a lack of precision.  The fluffy blending brushes are probably also too large for people with small eyes, too.  These sorts of brushes are a hit or miss; if they work for you, they are probably staples, and if you don't, you find yourself frustrated and confused why they seemingly work for everyone but you.

This post featured: Hakuhodo Kokutan Eye L, Paula Dorf Eye Blender (the eye blender currently on the website seems smaller), Hakuhodo Kokutan Eye MLL, MAC 217, Sephora Pro 27, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush (found in the Starter Set), Sephora Classic 29, Paula Dorf Eye Shadow (from travel set, dc'd), Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush (from Travel Essentials).  All brushes were purchased and I received no compensation for featuring them.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Guide to Brushes: Eye brushes, part 1: Flat Shader Brushes

This is part one of a comprehensive series on brushes. I decided to start with the ever handy flat shader brush, sometimes called a laydown brush.  It's the most basic of all the eyeshadow brushes, and I think when you're just getting into brushes, it's probably where you should begin.  The shader brush is available from nearly every brush line at every quality level, and in every possible fiber from synthetic to goat to super high quality kolinsky.  This post will cover three sizes: small, medium, and large (okay, kind of obvious, but I could have called them Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and then you'd be confused).  I will also discuss uses for each size, brush hair, and how you should pick a shader brush.

Small Shader Brushes
These brushes are both about 1/2 inch wide and are the smallest shader brushes in my collection.  The one on the left is a Sephora synthetic and the one on the right is a sable brush from a beauty store.  In this case, sable probably means blunt-cut, like a second from a higher quality brush.
This size is obviously good for smaller lid areas, so if you have small eyes, you might want to consider this size.  It's also good for detail work, applying eyeshadow to the inner third, highlighting the center, or darkening the outer third, as its small size ensures dense placement.  It applies a strong highlight to the brow bone and shadow under the eye to define.  This size also makes a terrific lip brush, especially for fuller lips.  I actually bought the Sephora one for that purpose.

Medium Shader Brushs
The medium shader brush is the most basic of all eyeshadow brushes.  This is the most versatile of all the sizes, and is what most people will be looking for.  This set is about 3/8ths of an inch wide, and vary in length between 3/8ths of an inch and 5/8ths of an inch. 
These are great for applying eye shadow to the lid, especially if you want to pack on color, for either a strong look or when using a sheerer shadow.  They can be turned on their side and the tip used to apply shadow in the crease or under the eye.  From left to right they are an unknown hair by Japonesque, a goat hair by MAC, Real Techniques shading brush which is synthetic, a mix of natural and synthetic by MAC, a beautiful weasel by Hakuhodo, and another sable by Brandon that I got at a beauty store more than a decade ago and was my first "real" brush.  The natural/synthetic mix is good for laying down either powders or cream, and the goat is especially good for dense applications, the weasel is amazing and applies eyeshadow super smoothly.  These are also likely going to be the brush to turn to for applying powder shadows wet for foiling or super-dense application.  They can also double as concealer brushes for applying under the eyes or on large areas for redness.

Large Shader Brushes
These large brushes are about 1/2 inch wide, and are synthetic MAC, mix of synthetic and natural by Paula Dorf, and sable by Brandon. 
These are good for applying a base, either cream or powder.  Even though they are very wide, they are still flat, so they apply more product to the lid than a fluffier brush would.  This makes them great for something like a MAC paint pot, when you want to apply a thin but very even layer.  They also work well, obviously, for someone with a large or flat eye area.

Pros and Cons
Pros:  The flat shader brush is easy to use and versatile.  It's good for basic looks or as a base or detail brush for more complicated makeup.  They work well for wet or dry application and, depending on the hair type, are appropriate for cream shadows. They can double as concealer brushes and lip brushes.  They are useful for applying shadow to nearly every part of the eye area.  A shader brush is likely available in every line and price range, is often the core of the line, such as the Shu Uemura Natural 10, or the MAC 242, 239 etc. 
Cons:  These are not blending brushes.  While they can soften the demarcation between two colors applied to the mobile lid, these won't work well to blend a gradiant, so you'll need to use another brush to blend (fortunately, blending brushes will be the next brush types featured).  While they make for surprisingly good crease brushes when the tip is used, most eye shapes will prefer to use a separate crease or blending brush there. 

I fully believe a flat shader brush should be everyone's first eyeshadow brush.  These three sizes were my first three brushes, and I still remember the pride that my eyeshadow finally looked the way I wanted it to.  Choose one that fits your eye size, your budget, and how you want to use, and you will likely find yourself using it every day, whether your eye makeup is subtle or exciting.

The brushes featured in this post are: Sephora Synthetic Eyeshadow 18 (dc'd), Brandon Mini Shading Brush, Japonesque Eye Detailer Medium, MAC 239, Real Techniques Shading Brush, MAC 242, Hakuhodo S132, Brandon Fluff Brush, MAC 249, Brandon Shading Brush, Paula Dorf Wet/Dry Eye Color.  All were purchased by me and I was not compensated for this post.  One caveat:  the Brandon brushes I own were bought more than a decade ago, while they still have brushes by the same name available, I make no promises that they are the same brushes featured here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tokyomilk Dark Lip Elixirs

Tokyomilk Dark's lip elixer is not only my favorite lip balm of the moment, it's also one of my favorite products of all time.  To say I'm obsessed is an understatement; just look at the picture above--I currently own six out of eight of them.  The only ones I don't currently have are Dead Sexy, which I've never tried, and La Vie en Rose, which I gave to my mother.  The scents and flavors of these beauties are unusual, delicious, practically made for me.  I will try to control the gushing as I review the six presented here.
They come packaged in a gorgeous, metal tin, with raised lettering and design.  They can be hard to open, especially after they've clattered aroudn in purse.  They are originally sealed with a plastic band around the edge and a paper label across the middle.  This label is the only place with the flavor written on it, so I suggest you cut it, as I did, instead of peeling it off.  I love pot lip balms, mostly because they tend to be softer than sticks.  I know a lot of people worry about hygiene, but I am careful to only stick clean fingers in and not double dip, so I'm not worried.
Just look at that thick, luscious balm!  Don't you  just want to stick your finger in that?!?
Okay, so it's not the prettiest picture, but nobody's perfect, even though this comes close. 

Lip Elixirs are thick, they're a petrolatum and microcystalline wax base.  I know a lot of people don't like petroleum jelly, but I have always loved balms based on it: Kiehl's, Rosebud Salve.  Waxy lipbalms, like Burt's Bee's have always sat on top of my lips and never spread well.  This stuff, however, balances both petrolatum and wax in the formula, so the texture is neither overly petrolatum-y nor waxy.  It's like if the Kiehl's lip balm and the Burt's Bee's lip balm had a baby that was raised by Jack Black's lip balm. 
The ingredients, as listed on Cherry Bourbon, are:  petrolatum, microcrystal wax, flavor, canola ooil and oil barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf extract, tocopherol (vitamin E), tocopheryl (Vitamin E) acetate, stevia rebaudiana (Stevia) leaf extract, organic camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) seed oil and jasminum officinale (jasmine) flower extract, monarda didyma (bee balm) leaf extract. 
I get a lot of moisture from them, and I do lean towards dry lips.  Actually, I ended up with most of them because my wonderful sister took pity on me and gifted me with five of them after my lip split open when I smiled.  They are also very protective; you can lip your lips--and you will want to--and they will still be on.  Now, on to the important stuff--how do they smell and taste.
No. 22 Smoked Salt
Flavor Notes: Smoked Sea Salt, Burnt Sugar, Molasses, Vanilla Bean (as per their website)
On first sniff, there is overwhelming smoke.  It's not a woody smoke, though.  After a few minutes, I start to get salt and a background of burnt sugar or molasses.  I never smell vanilla bean.  I think the smokiness would turn a lot of people away, but I kind of like it.
The flavor isn't really smoky at all.  The sweetness from the stevia dominates.  I get the burnt sugar and molasses notes and that's it.
This one is the most controversial, but it's unusual and if you like the smell of smoke, I think you will love it.  It's not my favorite, though.
No. 84 Absinthe
Flavor Notes: Anise, Mineral Salt, Citrus Peel, Crushed Herbs
How cool is it that there's an absinthe flavor!  The scent is the most waxy smelling at first, and I don't really get absinthe (though I keep meaning to smell my sister's bottle when I'm at her house).  I get some citrus, maybe a touch of the anise most associated with absinthe.  It's familiar, but I can't place it.  It's quite lovely, though, and probably one of the coolest scents/flavors in my opinion.
Flavorwise, I definitely get absinthe.  That licorice-y anise flavor and the sweetness reminiscent of a glass of absinthe with a sugar cube dominate.  It's damn awesome, and would be my favorite if it weren't for the fact that this flavor and this flavor alone makes my lips burn and itch.  Sad face.
No. 77 Cherry Bourbon
Flavor Notes: Cherry Brandy, Whiskey, Aged Wood, Clove
I smell cherry, whiskey, and that beautiful background of wood.  This one is very true to it's intended flavor notes.  Deep and rich and beautifully balanced.  I think cherry brandy is a great description of the cherry flavor, it's not candyish, nor overly fruity, and the whole thing if reminscent of a great glass of aged alcohol.
The flavor is really similar to the scent.  Rich and sweet with cherry notes and an aged bourbon whiskey. 
No. 36 Salted Caramel
Flavor Notes: Sweet Cream, Sea Salt, Caramelized Sugar, Toasted Vanilla Bean
The scent is instantly and recognizably buttery caramel.  More reminiscent of caramel popcorn than a fine candy, though.  After a few sniffs, the scent becomes deeper, more vanilla and more burnt sugar.
The taste is less buttery, more mellow caramely and salty.  It tastes like dessert, and I think it would be great if you want to try one and are scared of Smoked Salt or Clove Cigarette.  Delicious!
No. 60 Coco Noir
Flavor Notes: Dark Rum, Maraschino Cherry, Sweet Milk, Cacao Bean
The opening scent note is cocoa--super dark and kind of bitter--which is slightly artificial smelling and maraschino cherry.  It's a different scent of cherry than in the Cherry Bourbon, less alcoholic and more candy, which suits the note description of Maraschino cherry. 
It's tastes mostly of cherry, too, with the chocolate no longer strong nor artificial.  It seems there is less Stevia in the flavor, so it's not as sweet as the Salted Caramel or the absinthe.  This is definitely for the lover of chocolate covered cherries.
No. 18 Clove Cigarettes
Flavor Notes: Crushed Clove, Lavender Rose, Saigon Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean
Clove and cinnamon definitely dominate the scent, and I get just a hint of smokiness.  It's luscious and spicy.
The balance between the sweetness of the stevia and the flavor of the cloves is perfect.  It tastes nothing like sticking your head in the spice cabinet, fortunately.  This is undeniably my favorite flavor.  It's warm and sweet, but still super cool.  It's less your grandmother's cookies and more rebellious seventh grade smoking clove cigarettes in the girls' bathroom.  My imaginary junior high is much cooler than my real one was. 
Sephora sells three of them: La Vie En Rose, Salted Caramel and Clove Cigarette, and the rest are available from Tokyomilk's website.  All are seven dollars for .7 oz.