For all its emphasis on inclusivity, this has been a pretty divisive year for the beauty industry in general. Love Fenty makeup? Hate Fenty makeup? Should women put on makeup in public? Is armpit hair acceptable? Is it all right for men to wear makeup?
In a more microcosmic sphere, my own beauty closet has also been full of contradictions this year. Products that I looked forward to for months turned out to be a total letdown. And stuff that I swore never to touch in a lifetime has become my staple. Reminds me to never say never!
Fenty Stunna Lip Paint
This absolutely has to be my most loved beauty product of the year. Which is ironic, since after my experience with Fenty Part One, I had very little expectations of the Stunna Lip Paint. Particularly since it’s touted as the “perfect universal red”. A red lipstick that suits everyone? All skin tones? Seriously? Despite being firmly rooted within the global beauty industry, I am still hard pressed to find the perfect red lipstick for my own fairly middle-of-the-road skin tone. That’s why I rarely wear red lips.
Not Stunna. One slightly careful swipe to color within the lines (it is an opaque red, after all!) and your face simply seems to light up. And, somehow, it’s both vivid and not in-your-face at the same time. I still don’t understand how this can happen (expect further investigation on the blog soon).
And. It. Lasts. Four Bloody Marys, one Champagne, six slices of pizza over eight-and-a-half hours and here is what it looked like well past midnight. Without the need for a single touch up.
Chanel Sublimage Le Teint Foundation
Another brand that can’t usually count me as a fan. I love Chanel handbags but find a lot of their beauty offerings overrated. So, when I grabbed the Chanel Sublimage Le Teint Foundation at the Dubai Duty Free because my desert-dry skin desperately needed a creamy foundation, it wasn’t with much hope. One month later, I am in love.
Sublimage Le Teint goes on like butter, and it literally makes my face GLOW. Every time I wear it, people ask what I’ve been doing to make my skin look so beautiful. My super-dry complexion is transformed to luminous, with just the right amount of medium coverage to cover imperfections without seeming mask-like.
One thing, though: Ignore the brush that comes with it and just use your fingers to blend the foundation. This particular formula works better with the supple heat of bare fingers. And the brush itself is rubbish!
Tatcha The Water Cream
Unlike Fenty and Chanel, I have had a love affair with Tatcha since first getting to know Victoria Tsai, the super-charismatic founder of this Geisha-inspired brand. The Classic Rice Enzyme Powder literally lives with me every day, wherever in the world I might be.
So, when The Water Cream hit the market, it was a no-brainer for my complexion, which tends to get super-oily yet dehydrated in the summer months (yes, this happens!). The gel-like formula just feels like a sprinkler for bare skin, thanks to the encapsulated water droplets. And it hydrates like nothing else!
If there is any one-size-fits-all ingredient in skincare, it’s honey. Among other things, it busts acne, deflates bumps, lightens scars, sloughs away dead skin cells, promotes the growth of collagen and works as a strong antibacterial. But only if you pick the right kind of honey: the processed version resembles sugar syrup more than anything the bees have produced – and is more likely to increase acne and other infections.
What you need is raw honey. Or even better, Manuka honey, with a minimum UMF of 14. It’s pricier than the other version. But the one jar that I picked up 10 months back is still just half over, even though I use it at least twice a week. And if it’s real, unprocessed honey, you’ll be surprised how easily it emulsifies and slips off with just a bit of water, sans any stickiness or residue.
I am such a fan that jars of honey get piled onto any suspecting friends who even hint that their skin needs help. Here’s my poor vegan mother sitting with Manuka honey that’s been forcibly plastered on her face to deal with dry and sensitive skin!
Pat McGrath Highlighter + Balm Duo
I love glow-y and dewy. I am not a fan of shimmery and glittery. Unfortunately, almost every highlighter falls into the latter category. Which is why I never really wore highlighter till Pat McGrath’s Nude Shiny Stick Highlighter + Balm Duo stick (part of the Skin Fetish 003 kit) hit the market. The “Balm” is a clear, slick gloss that just looks like pure light on skin. Not metallic, not shimmery… just pure, incandescent light.
It’s really hard to lay your hands on this one though, so stock up if you find it!
Pat McGrath Lust: MatteTrance Lipstick
Matte lipstick usually doesn’t play well with dry or chapped lips. Unless it’s Pat McGrath’s Lust: MatteTrance, whose formula contains optical diffusers to blur imperfections and spherical particles for the softest, creamiest texture imaginable. It’s almost like a balm in its lightweight feel and ability to erase any dryness or flakiness, but actually has highly saturated pigmentation for a strong matte finish that lasts and lasts. My fave? Omi, the mid-tone rose that goes from day to night in a heartbeat.
Saffron is the unicorn of the beauty world: pricey (it’s the most expensive natural beauty ingredient), hard to find (too many adulterations) and potent. I’ve grown up surrounded by saffron-infused beauty recipes but it was only this year that I brought home a small tin. And IT WORKS. Thankfully, all you need are 2-3 strands, so my 14-gram tin will last me a long time.
My favorite saffron skincare recipe: Boil freshly grated coconut with a pinch of saffron and a little turmeric powder. The resulting oil makes an excellent hydrator when rubbed into the body.
WelleCo The Super Elixir
I have chronic problems with acidity, largely thanks to the constant travelling and eating out. And not only does acidity cause heartburn, it also results in fatigue, sluggishness, lacklustre skin, poor digestion and weight gain.
This year I came upon cult model Elle McPherson’s WelleCo The Super Elixir, which combines 45 cold pressed bio-live ingredients (including kelp, turmeric, aloe vera, shiitake mushrooms, barley grass, psyllium husk, and grape seed extract) into a water soluble green powder that’s full of alkalising vitamins, minerals and probiotics.
There are zero synthetics in the formula, and the proof in the pudding is that when I skip the Super Elixir, my body immediately knows the difference. It’s possibly the best investment that I’ve made in my health for a long time.
Fenty Beauty The Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Remember what I said about not having much hope from Fenty Beauty? This is the main reason. The Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation was possibly the most awaited beauty launch of the year. But despite the shout out for inclusivity, the foundation was a complete let down.
There are few products that can both dry out your skin and make it break out simultaneously, but Pro Filt’r manages this with seeming effortlessness. Add in the oxidisation, patchy coverage, poor staying power and difficulty in blending, and you will see why I am no longer touching the bottle.
Also a letdown: the Pro-Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer, Match Stix Matte Skinsticks and the brushes from Fenty Beauty. You can read my full review here.
MAC Rollerwheel Liquid Liner
The “pizza-cutter liner” was quite the trend du jour and I was pretty excited to try it… right up till the first time I jabbed the spinning plastic disc in my eye. It was sharp and it HURT! And then it happened again, and again, and again. And again.
I like to think that I’m pretty good at applying eyeliner, considering that it’s been my daily beauty staple since the past 15 years or so. But I just couldn’t get it right with the Rollerwheel. While it drew razor sharp lines when swatched on the hand, the eyes were a different matter altogether. On the lash line, the lines were ragged (partly I guess because a wheel prefers straight lines, which makes it difficult to follow the eye’s curvature) and it’s pretty hard to get the inner corners.
And that’s just the application… I wasn’t much impressed by the juice itself either. As the liner dries, it sort of shrinks and makes the lash line feel tight. Plus, it starts getting flaky by midday, which is never a good look.
Clarins Skin Illusion Blush
I’ve always held that Clarins is much better at skincare than makeup. And the Skin Illusion Blush proves the point. The cushion sponge applicator is terrible at blending, making for seriously patchy application. And the actual blush formula itself is a little too powdery, making cheeks look too dry for comfort.
Clinique Pop Lip Shadow
In theory this seemed like a great idea. But in actuality, it didn’t work for me. At all. Instead of a liquid, cream or gel lip colour you have highly pigmented powder that goes on lips with a sponge tip. But while the sponge tip makes it easy to get a precise lip line, you have to keep re-dipping into the powder well to get adequate coverage.
And it’s difficult to make it go on evenly… I keep getting patchiness and variations however much I try. If there is a way to get consistent results with the Clinique Pop Lip Shadow, I haven’t found it yet.