Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chikuhodo Z-5 eyeshadow brush review & alternatives

Today's brush review is the Chikuhodo Z-5 100% gray squirrel large eyeshadow brush. As you would expect from the name, the Z-5 is from Chikuhodo's Z series, known for its high quality squirrel hair and shiny black ferrules and handles. The brush also bears the phrase "by Tesshyu", in acknowledgement of Chikuhodo Chairmain Tesshu Takmori. Tesshu Takmori is one of the most well known brush artisans globally and was the founder of Chikuhodo Co, ltd. You can read more about him and the history of Chikuhodo on their website and in this New York Times profile.

I purchased my Z-5 from CD Japan for about $33 (4,000 yen + 320 yen tax in Japan), but prices will vary based on retailer and current currency exchange to yen. You can also purchase the Chikuhodo Z-5 from Beautylish ($44) and Visage USA ($43).

Brush specifics:
  • 100% Gray Squirrel, extremely soft and supple
  • Full length: 135mm (short handle) 
  • Hair length: 16mm, hair thickness approx. 6mm
  • Ferrule width approx. 15mm
  • Large oval brush head footprint with rounded tips and a gentle taper
  • Excellent quality construction - I have used this almost daily for 3 months and washed it several times with no change to the shape and no shedding

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Urban Decay neutral eyeshadow singles: Sin, Half Baked, Suspect, and Freelove

Today's post is a showcase of my neutral shimmery Urban Decay eyeshadow singles. Singles aren't a great value compared to a palette, but I love the simplicity of having the the exact shade you want without the bulk of a palette or the waste of owning a bunch of shades you won't use. If you are an Ulta Platinum member, they occasionally run a 50% off Urban Decay eyshadow single sale, which is a great price if you are patient enough to wait for a sale.

These singles are .05 oz (1.5 grams) and retail for $19. Like everything on this blog, I bought all of these myself.
I decided to take a different approach with the swatches - Urban Decay shimmer eyeshadows get a bad rap for being fallout prone, loudly metallic, and generally inappropriate for work or school. Certainly some of the micro glitter shades have fallout and the brighter shades aren't corporate friendly, but the smooth shimmery metallic neutral shades are more wearable than you might think.

Seeing as you can find pigmented, opaque swatches of these shades all over the internet, I'm showing these as I wear them most - soft and subtle. For a work or school friendly eye look, I lay down a matte base that matches my skintone (Urban Decay Walk of Shame is a great option), define the crease with a matte cool toned brown (Urban Decay Naked2 rocks), sweep a sheer layer of a shimmery shade all over the lid, and gently pat a lighter shimmery shade on the inner corner. Most of the time I use my fingers for the shimmery shades out of laziness, but brushes also work well. Voila - corporate friendly AND shiny at the same time!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

PSA: Chikuhodo LE Noel Lumiere & Noel Rose holiday brush sets

Japanese brush brand Chikuhodo has recently released information about their limited edition 2015 holidays brush sets. This year they have two sets available - the Noel Collection Lumiere and the Noel Collection Rose. Chikuhodo makes limited quantities of their LE holiday sets, so if you are interested I recommend pre-ordering quickly. These sets are up on the CD Japan site and the Japanese Chikuhodo site, but I haven't seen them on Visage or Beautylish.

A guide to Sephora holiday 2015 makeup gift value sets (part 2)

photos of sets are from, compiled by me
Welcome to part 2 of my guide to Sephora holiday makeup value gift sets! Please read part 1 for an explanation of my methodology and the first part of the list.  I suspect this post might will be a tedious read, so please go ahead and skim to the sets you are most interested in.

Going from best to worst value, let's get started!

100% + value makeup sets

ARDENCY INN MODSTER Eyeliner Trio - retail $29
  • 3 x 0.04 oz Eyeliners in Black, Coffee, Gold (FS) - $19 value each
  • Stated value - $57
  • Value - $57 (197%) correct value!

Smashbox Try It Kit- Primer Authority - retail $28
  • 0.25 oz Iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer - $9 value
  • 0.25 oz Hydrating Under Eye Primer - $21.97 value
  • 0.14 oz Photo Finish 24-Hour Shadow Primer - $6.83 value
  • 1 oz Primer Water - $16 value
  • Stated value - $53
  • Value - $53.80 value (192%)

Kat Von D Mi Vida Loca Remix Studded Kiss Lip Set - retail $42
  • 0.10 oz Studded Kiss Lipstick in Gold Blooded (FS) - $21 value
  • 7x 0.04 oz Studded Kiss Lipstick in Noble, Halo, Bachelorette, Sexer, Wolvesmouth, Coven, NaYeon - $8.40 value each
  • Stated value - $91
  • Value - $79.80 (190%)

Monday, October 19, 2015

A guide to Sephora holiday 2015 makeup gift value sets (part 1)

photos of sets are from, compiled by me
I wait every year for holiday gift sets to pick up mini products at a more affordable price. Makeup shoppers know that there are killer deals to be had with holiday value kit releases, but it can be hard to tell which sets are a good deal and which sets feature crappily inflated numbers.

In years past, I have loved Robyn at Brightest Bulb In The Box's value set guides. I wish she would get back to blogging, but in the meantime I decided to pull together the Sephora 2015 holiday makeup value sets and do a Robyn-inspired hard look at the numbers. Not all of these are holiday-specific sets, but they are all available now at Sephora.

I suspect this post might will be a tedious read, so please go ahead and skim to the sets you are most interested in. I have also divided this post into two parts to help with the length- click here to read Part 2!

  • Sets currently available at Sephora (many are also available at other retailers like Ulta, Nordstorm, Macys, etc), pulled from the Sephora Makeup Gift Sets section of the website
  • Makeup value sets (no palettes, skincare, hair, or nails sets)
  • Sets contain items that I can price from products available in the brand's regular line and have the necessary data included in the description
  • I don't credit value for freebie mini brushes and makeup bags. I think most makeup addicts have a crap ton of little applicators, double ended brushes, and shedding glitter makeup bags. Feel free to mentally add value for these items if they would add value for you.
Going from best to worst value, let's get started!

300% + value makeup sets

Tarte Lips For Daze LipSurgence Set - retail $34
  • 3x 0.10 oz LipSurgence matte lip tints in Haze, Craze, Emblaze (FS) - $24 value each
  • 2x 0.10 oz LipSurgence lip tints in Glaze, Praise (FS)- $24 value each
  • Annoyingly rhyming names - -$24.00 value (jk)
  • Stated value - $120
  • Value - $120 (353%) nailed it on the stated value!

Sephora Favorites Superstars - retail $75
  • Beautyblender (FS) - $20 value
  • 0.1 oz Benefit They're Real Mascara - $8 value
  • 0.21 oz Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight (FS) - $22 value
  • 0.042 oz Lancome Drama Liqui-pencil Eyeliner in Noir Intense (FS) - $23 value
  • 0.06 oz Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Highlight - $9.23 value
  • 0.16 oz MUFE Step 1 Skin Equalizer Hydrating Primer - $5.76 value
  • 0.05 oz NARS Dual Intensity Eyeshadow in Himalia (FS) - $29 value
  • 1 oz Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water - $16 value
  • 0.016 oz Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Intense Black (FS) - $22 value
  • 0.06 oz Tarte the sculptor contouring face slenderizer in park ave princess - $16 value
  • 0.035 oz Tarte The slenderizer bamboo contouring brush (FS) - similar brushes retail for $34 (note: I don't give credit to mini freebie brushes, but I am counting this one because it is a full size real brush)
  • 0.24 oz Touch in Sol Stretchex Stretch Lash Effect Mascara (FS) - $22 value
  • 0.05 oz Urban Decay Eye shadow in Lounge (FS) - $18 value
  • Stated value - $207
  • Value -  $244.99 (326%) 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Nude matte cream eyeshadow base comparison

Matte cream eyeshadow bases are handy products to have on call - they act as an eyelid neutralizer, hiding redness and veins, while also serving as a primer. Today I have 4 options to compare for you: the Maybelline Color Tattoo in 250 Nude Pink (LE), MAC Painterly Paint Pot, NYX Eyeshadow Base in 03 Skin Tone, and Milani Shadow Eyez in 10 Almond Cream. Each shade works as a "nude" color on my fair skin, but the shades aren't universal - look for something that matches your skin color and undertone.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

iPhone 6s vs Samsung SL620 point and shoot camera photo test

As a beauty blogger, I spend weekend free time taking pictures of my arm. It's an odd hobby to be sure, but I have been beefing up swatch and product photos on my blog recently. You might have noticed that I have been slowly replacing photos on some of my oldest posts, trying to make sure I have color accurate and high quality photos.

This post is a combination photo test and behind the scenes look at macro and product photography on my blog. I usually use my old Samsung SL 620 point and shoot camera, but can the iPhone 6s replace it?

Taken with an iPhone 6s camera
The fine print: none of the pictures in this post have been edited, except to add a watermark. I took each of these photos in natural light on a windowsill and tried to keep the shots as similar as possible. Everything shown in this post was purchased by me and was not sponsored or sent for PR review.

The Contenders:

1 - iPhone 6s
I have the gold 16gb iPhone 6s, shown in a Speck Mightyshell lilac purple/raisin case. The Speck Mightyshell is the iPhone 6 version, but it fits well as promised. This phone is new to me - no photos from this phone have been shown in a blog post yet, but you can see a few examples on my Instagram.

2 - Samsung SL620
This old school Samsung was purchased by me when my nicer digital camera was stolen from my dorm room years ago. I think it is representative of what you can do with an entry level digital point and shoot. You can see examples of the Samsung in action in posts here and here for reference.

Photo test 1: basic benchmark

This one should be as easy as it gets - I chose three standard makeup brush shapes against a white wall. From left to right, the Koyudo BP010 tapered face brush, the Hakuhodo J5523 eyeshadow blending brush, and the Koyudo BP035 eyeshadow shader brush. Pay special attention to how each camera handles the texture of the brush bristles, the colors of the handles and ferrules, and the depth of focus.

Taken with an iPhone 6s camera
Taken with a Samsung SL620 point and shoot camera
Both cameras do well here, but the wall texture of the iPhone 6s shot is a little distracting. I think both pictures in this round are of sufficient quality to show the products well. A close one, but the Samsung SL620 wins this test.

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