Friday, November 22, 2013

The Brush Off: Crown Brush Syntho Set and Sonia Kashuk Brush Review

A recommendation request I constantly get is, “What are some good, affordable makeup brushes?” Most good brushes are, unfortunately, quite expensive. While high-quality brushes tend to be worth the money you pay for them, if you need an entirely new set, it can either blow your budget or be completely out of your price range. Never fearthere are alternatives!

Crown Brush Syntho Set makeup brushes


In conjunction with the HauteLook App Review I posted yesterday, one brand that regularly reappears on the site is CrownBrush. I kept seeing the brushes advertised, but I hesitated because of mixed online reviews. Some of my brushes needed to be put into retirement, or more like the morgue, so, I took the plunge. And…the results are in…the Crown Brush Syntho Set receives an A+, with special commendations. 

The first thing I liked, before even picking a brush up, was their general appearance: matte black & chrome-accented wooden handles and cream-colored bristles with a sort of dip-dyed tippretty and polished. Next, the second a brush touches your face you experience a sensation of complete luxury. I’d love a blanket to wrap my entire body in that mimics the sensation of these brushescreamy velvet comfort completely enveloping you. One thing I can’t stand is a brush that feels even slightly rough. Let’s leave exfoliation to products that are meant to do so. These Syntho brush are literally the softest I have ever experienced.

Next, the assortment of brushes provided in the set is quite good. This is a great set that goes a bit beyond your basic starter kit. You get:

Flat bronzer brush
Angle liner brush
Large foundation brush
Mini fan brush
Oval shadow brush
Crease brush
Eyeliner brush
Powder dome brush
Spoolie brush
Angle blush brush

Makeup application with these also proved excellent. Although it’s called a flat bronzer brush, this is also the perfect tool for applying liquid, cream, or powder foundation. My NYX Stay Matte but Not Flat Powder Foundation (a fave that I’ll review for you) went on quite smoothly with it over my L’oreal BB Cream. The angle blush brush was an excellent shape for double tasking with bronzer to contour my cheeks (currently use Lorac’s Wild Tantalizer Bronzer) and then applying blush (Too Faced Pink Leopard Blushing Bronzer).

These brushes normally sell for $148, but you can either wait for them to pop up on HauteLook for $50, or get them them now for $59 directly from Crown Brush. Additionally, you can get 10% off for following Crown Brush on one of their social media sites.
Sonia Kashuk Limited Edition "Lavish Luxe" 10 pc Brush Set


On a tight budget? Need some decent new brushes ASAP? Then run to Target for Sonia Kashuk brushes. Here’s the truth: a friend purchased a set of these for me eight years ago, and I only recently replaced them with some higher-end selections. Yes, they lasted that long. You seriously can’t go wrong with this brand. The sets are a better value than buying individual brushes. If you need an individual brush, I’d go ahead and splurge with MAC.

MAC's 227 brush is great for applying concealer and eyeshadow.


If you’re going to buy any MAC brush, make it the 227. I picked up a few products at a Nordstrom counter a few years ago and a MAC artist introduced me to this gem by using it to buff in concealer. The way the brush applied just the right amount of product under my eyes and gave it a beautifully soft, buffed finish really impressed me. It is $32, and I still own it. You can also use it to apply shadow and contour your nose. Note: don't let the term "large fluff brush" deceive you. I definitely would not describe it as large, unless you're comparing it to a small shadow brush.

Although I have not personally used them, Casey Holmes highly recommends Sigma Brushes, and I highly recommend Casey! She is my absolute favorite YouTube beauty guru, and everyone I tell about her falls in love with her reviews and tutorials.

Happy Friday!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

HauteLook App Review

HauteLook enables shopping well-known brands at lower prices.

A few months ago, my beautiful, highly fashionable friend Mari Witzel mentioned a cute item she purchased on the HauteLook app, and I said, “Wait—HauteLook, what is that?!” Had I been missing out on a crucial shopping app? Terror! When I discovered it’s a company owned by Nordstrom, I became even more excited. 

This app is definitely a gem that I recommend adding to your smart phone. But warn your wallet to be prepared! The deals can be quite good, and the little sale alerts that pop up on your phone send little bursts of adrenaline to your shopping soul. The categories cater to all ages and genders, and there are also home and beauty tabs. The last one is obviously my favorite.

HauteLook features sales on well-known beauty brands.
The app’s main selling point is offering popular brands at discounted prices. It’s sort of like having Nordstrom Rack at your fingertips. Just like The Rack, there are always new items and crazy steals flowing in, but great basics generally on hand. Some of the brands I’ve seen featured with greatly reduced prices include Clarisonic, Crownbrush, Steve Madden shoes, Stila, Betsey Johnson, T3 (on sale now!), and Laura Mercier.

One of the great things about HauteLook is that you can plan ahead; the app lists previews of upcoming brands that will go on sale with the specific date and time. They don’t list the specific items that will be offered, but there needs to be some element of excitement, right?

In addition to clothing and beauty items, you can shop for home goods on HauteLook.
You’ll need to sign up for a free HauteLook account in order to view items on the app. Another fabulous plus is that you can use PayPal to checkout. No need to spend precious extra time entering your credit card number when you could be shopping or perusing other blogs for delicious finds!

One of the few downsides I have discovered is shipping time, which can greatly vary depending on the product. The shipping charge is a reasonable flat $5.95, but items I ordered have arrived anywhere between a few days to two weeks later. This is a compromise I’m willing to make for a stellar deal.

Happy shopping!  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Only have Eyes for You: My Favorite Eye Creams

Ok, I have good news and bad news. First, the bad news. I’m 32 (stop screaming, it scares me enough already). Actually, that’s not bad at all. Thirty-two is young. Unless you’re a teenager. I’ve had students talk about someone being “old,” and when I’ve asked how old the person was they were referring to, I’ve heard (more than once, mind you), “In their thirties.” Ridiculous. But on to the good news! I have no wrinkles, a.k.a. crow’s feet, around my eyes. None. Nada. Good genes? It’s a possibility. But here’s something else I highly factor in: I’ve used eye cream since I was 14. Makeup and skincare intrigued me before then, but after reading (and I do mean reading…I scoured that book from cover to cover multiple times) Cindy Crawford’s Basic Face, I decided it was time to start really taking care of my skin. I’ll always remember the first eye product I ever bought—a de-puffing gel from Oil of Olay. These days, puffy eyes and dark circles are not really my concern. I’m quite certain for some of you they are, but I focus on preventative anti-aging. Here are some of my recommendations for that category:

Mary Kay's TimeWise Repair Eye Cream offers anti-aging benefits.

Mary Kay Timewise Repair Volu-Firm Eye Renewal Cream $40 for 0.5 oz. I’m not a “Mary Products only…or death” kind of person. I’m not a brand snob of any sort. But this eye cream is incredible. I just finished a tube that lasted me 11 months. Yes, I kid you not. That equates to about $3.65 a month. Completely doable. A little goes a long way with this potent cream. It’s intensely moisturizing and has hardcore wrinkle-fighting power. You can wear it day or night, but if you have super oily skin, I recommend going with something a bit lighter in the daytime. This receives my vote for all-around best anti-aging eye cream.
One of Kiehl's great anti-aging eye creams.

Kiehl’s Powerful Wrinkle Reducing Eye Cream $42 for 0.5 oz. I used to use their Abyssine Eye Cream, but it was unfortunately discontinued. However, this is comparable! This is a good anti-aging cream that contains caffeine, which will help if you have any puffiness issues. As with all Kiehl’s products, it is highly concentrated and will last you a long time.  I recommend this over the Mary Kay for daytime usage, as it absorbs quickly and works well under makeup. I can even use this on my upper eyelid during the day without any irritation. The fabulous thing about Kiehl’s is that they will give you loads of samples. Beware though; you’ll want to buy most of them.

Shiseido skincare offers some of the best anti-aging benefits around.
Shiseido Bio-Performance Super Corrective Eye Cream $60 for 0.52 oz. I had a positive experience working at Nordstrom as a Shiseido Counter Manager. I got to use their skincare, which I wish I could afford for my entire skincare routine. Never in my life has my skin been so calm, smooth, and glowing. I saw dramatic changes with the use of their products, which I’ll discuss in another post. For now, let me tell you about this eye cream. It’s marvelous. While a bit more expensive than the Mary Kay, it’s worth it. It is also highly concentrated and provides intense anti-aging benefits and results. This stuff truly packs a punch because it also really helps with dark circles and puffiness. Basically, regardless of your eye issue, you can turn to this cream. It’s worth the money.

Clinique's All About Eyes is a great eye cream at a lower price.

Clinique All About Eyes/All About Eyes Rich $30 for 0.5 oz. If you need something a tad bit cheaper, go with this all-around cult favorite by Clinique. If your skin is on the drier side, get the “Rich” version. This is a great eye cream that provides moisturizing, age-fighting, dark circle combatting, and bag de-puffing benefits without draining your wallet. Also, they have a juicy bonus at Nordstrom right now with a $30 purchase. Buy this and you’ll automatically get oodles of goodies in a pretty bag.

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