mascara mondays: Maybelline volum’ express one by one

Another drugstore mascara today! But I can never resist a drugstore mascara; of all the different types of makeup, I find that mascaras from the drugstore can really hold their own against the higher-end brands.

I’ve had the Maybelline Volum’ Express One by One mascara for some time, but it took me a while to really give it any consideration. Pretty quickly I dismissed it as one of those “natural” mascara, and reserved it for weekend days when I wasn’t really doing much. But after really evaluating it, I have to say it’s pretty good.

Maybelline Volum' Express One by One

Why did I dismiss this? One reason: the spiky factor. This one just does not have any spikiness going on with the formula, and if you remember from my first mascara Monday, I love my spiky lashes.  Spiky factor aside though, this really can build up pretty voluminous lashes. If you’re looking for nice full lashes but want to keep them feeling soft and natural feeling, this one’s your guy.  The brush is plastic and is your standard shape, and the plastic bristles do a pretty good job of separating the lashes, so they don’t get clumpy.

Volum' Express One by One



formula: 6/10 (had to dock a mark for lack of spikiness! Them’s the rules ’round here)

brush: 7/10

overall look: 7/10



three ways to clean your brushes

Brush cleaning, the most loathed of all beauty tasks. I want to play with my brushes, not spend time cleaning them! But actually it’s quite important to do some regular maintenance on your brushes, to clean any bacteria that has built up and keep them functioning  at their best.  Ever feel like your brush just isn’t working as well as it used to? That’s because there’s a lot of product build-up in it, and it’s time for a wash.

I use three different methods to clean my brushes, and this is almost a cycle, starting from the quickest through to the heavy duty.

the cloth

This isn’t about actually cleaning the brush so much as removing product from the fibres so that it’s almost like new. I use this for my eyeshadow brushes, because after a few days they can get pretty dark with a build-up of eyeshadow.  I keep a micro fibre cloth beside my vanity, and I just swirl the brush around on the cloth to remove the excess eyeshadow. Then I’ve got an “almost” blank canvas and I can use the same brushes again on different eyeshadows without mixing colours. Note that this only works for powder build-up, not cream or liquid. I do this a few times a week as needed.

the spray

This is another fairly quick method of cleaning your brushes, and unlike the cloth, it actually does some cleaning, not just powder removal.  Tons of brands sell brush cleaner in spray form; right now I’m using Sephora’s Daily Makeup Brush Cleaner. I use this maybe once a week, sometimes less (woops). It’s super easy – just spray your brush enough to get all the bristles saturated, and wipe the brush against a paper towel or lint-free cloth until all the built-up product is gone. You’ll know because colour will stop coming out of the brush. The formulas are generally pretty heavily alcohol-based, meaning the brushes will dry super quickly.

the shampoo

Now for the big guns. Every few weeks, you should do a thorough wash of your brushes to truly clean out all the build of product and bacteria. You can buy brush shampoo from places like Sephora, but I actually just use baby shampoo, because it’s ultra gentle and cheap. Pour some of your shampoo into a small dish, dip your dirty brush in, wet it, and swirl the brush around in your palm until all traces of makeup and shampoo are gone.  This will happen fairly quickly for smaller eye brushes, but can take a few minutes for foundation brushes that are always used to apply liquid products. Keep repeating the process of dipping in shampoo and swirling around under running water until the brush is all clean. Be careful to keep all the water at the top end of the brush where all the bristles are, not at the base of the bristles where they connect to the handle, because that’s where the glue is that keeps the brush together, and we don’t want to start weakening the glue. When you’re done, leave the brushes to dry either upside down if you have a stand, or on a flat surface.  The drawback of this method? You need to plan when you’re going to do it, because it takes quite a few hours for the brushes to fully dry, and you don’t want to have to need to use them when they’re still wet!

Just like getting into a bed with freshly washed sheets, isn’t it nice to have sparkly clean makeup brushes?

let’s talk eyebrows

My eyebrows are the worst.  A nondescript brown colour, with almost no natural shape to them, and they like to grow backwards. You know how your eyebrow hairs should grow in the direction away from the centre of your face, so that the hairs in your right eyebrow should grow slightly up and towards the right, away from your nose? My little rebel brows sure missed that lesson in eyebrow school!  Therefore I must rely heavily on powders, pencils and other potions to coax those bad boys into shape on the daily.

look at those jerk eyebrows
awful eyebrows

I’m always on the lookout for a product that will fill my eyebrows in enough to make them a bit stronger and bolder, without going crazy; that can help teach them the ways of proper eyebrow hair direction, and ideally keep them in place for the duration of the day.  Powders or eyeshadows work well to fill them in and give them a nicer shape, but don’t do anything in the realm of eyebrow control. I’ll meticulously brush my brows towards the appropriate direction every morning, carefully apply the powder…and a few hours later they’re back where they started, as if somebody ran their finger along the length of my eyebrow from outer to inner edge.

And in case it crossed your mind,  no, I do not absent-mindedly run my fingers along the length of my eyebrow from outer to inner edge!

So while powders and pencils kind of fit my eyebrow needs, I need something with a little more control. I had tried Benefit’s Gimme Brow, which they describe as a “fiber gel” and comes in a mascara tube equipped with the perfectly-shaped little baby wand, and I was really quite happy with it.  But, that tiny little tube sure depletes quickly.  So I went into Sephora with the 100% intention of purchasing another tube, but I was swayed, as can so easily happen in that makeup haven.

I’d heard about Anastasia’s Dipbrow Pomade and was really intrigued by it, but something called a “pomade” for brows that is to be applied carefully with a brush just seemed a bit too…expert for me. I didn’t think I’d have what it takes to be able to apply it and not have Oscar the Grouch eyebrows.  But after trying it on my hand, the formula wasn’t as wet as I was expecting, and I was tempted.  Plus, I knew Gimme Brow would only last a month or so, and this is quite a sizeable little pot that I had a feeling would last ages. So I took the plunge, getting the shade Blonde, which is the lightest of the eight available shades.

Dipbrow Pomade


Let me just tell you – this stuff is awesome.  It’s really pigmented, is a really creamy formula without being too “slick” or wet, and is surprisingly easy to work with! I comb my brows and apply this with a little angled brush and it works beautifully.  You can start with just a little bit for more natural brows, but also built it up if you want to go thicker. The best part – not only does it colour in your brows, but it sticks to the hairs and provides great control! My rebel brows are staying put all day long.   I know it may seem like an intimidating product, but I promise it’s actually very user-friendly and easy to work with. I could not love this more.

well done, Dipbrow!
Well done, Dipbrow!

transitioning into fall

Living in a climate with four distinct seasons, as the end of one season nears I always find myself anxiously looking forward to the next. So even though summer will always remain my favourite season, and I will continue wearing my sandals until the bitter end, I am getting ready to welcome fall into my life. And I wouldn’t be a makeup addict if I wasn’t already planning what swaps I’ll be making to my makeup rotation.

fall swap #1: darker lips

Is it sad that I’m truly excited to finally being able to dust off my deeper, berry-toned lipsticks? Summer is all about the corals and pinky-peaches with the occasional hot pink thrown in, but one of my favourite looks is deep, dark lips. Sometimes I find myself absent-mindedly reapplying them until my lips are coated in the deepest hue and are stained until the next morning…and I love it. If something this bold isn’t your thing, go lightly by applying one light coat from the tube and patting it in with your finger to soften it out and make it more wearable. My absolutely faves are Mac’s Rebel and Diva, and I’m awaiting the days until it is appropriate to wear my newest acquisition, the Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss Lipstick in 107.

Fall Lipsticks


fall swap #2: warmer cheeks

In the past few months, I’ve been rocking bronzer and pretty pink shades of cream or powder blushes. While I certainly won’t deviate too far from this come fall, now is the time to warm things up. I’m going to swap my cool-toned, pale pinks and wear warmer, deeper shades of blush, like Mac Mineralize Blush in Warm Soul and Sleek blush in Pomegranate. On my wish list: a warmer-toned cream or liquid blush. Any suggestions?

Fall Blush

fall swap #3: darker eyes 

I love a full-on smoky eye look, and I ain’t afraid to wear it! But in the past few months I’ve been trying to go for a less heavy look, focusing the shadow on my eyelids and skipping the swipe of under-eye liner and shadow. I feel like in the summer, makeup just gets lighter, less intense, more natural. But as soon as the temp drops, I’m going back to my eyeliners and intensifying things. My favourite liner is Mac eye pencil in Coffee,  a brown that’s as dark as you can get without it being black. I’m also loving Julep’s Gel Eye Glider in Smoky Taupe Shimmer, and I’m looking forward to re-discovering my Clinique Cream Shaper for Eyes in Egyptian, which I’ve had for a long time but haven’t given it the attention it deserves.


I can’t wait to switch up my makeup for fall, but… I wouldn’t mind another few weeks of summer first. Please?




mascara mondays: Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara

My “mascara goal” is always the thickest, fullest, most voluminous lashes I can achieve,  but even when building up my top lashes, I can’t neglect the little guys – the bottom lashes!   I used to always use the same mascara on my bottom lashes as I was using on the top, and depending on the formula and brush I do sometimes still do this, but it’s definitely not foolproof.  Why? Your bottom lashes are teeny tiny, and mascara wands are usually pretty big, making it hard to grip those little hairs and deposit product without also coating your entire under eye area in mascara.  Not pretty. Cue Clinique’s Bottom Lash mascara.

Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara

This tiny little tube houses the smallest little brush that is perfectly sized to reach every last one of your bottom lashes, coating it in a nice, even layer of formula. I like my bottom lashes to be nicely separated and defined, but overall not to draw attention to themselves. Sometimes this formula can get a little bit clumpy, but if you are patient and don’t go too fast, you can achieve really nice bottom lashes.

This stuff also has amazing staying power.  Smudging is generally not a concern for me, but I know it can be an issue for a lot of people, because nobody likes raccoon eyes. The formula has really great staying power – it lasts all day on me with absolutely no flaking or smudging. Sometimes I even have to work a bit harder with my cleansing balm to get it all off! But if it means perfect bottom lashes, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.Bottom lashes

  •  formula: 8/10
  • brush: 9/10
  • overall look: 8/10

What mascara do you use on your bottom lashes?

when you need to look presentable in 5 minutes

As much as I love my daily routine of putting on my whole face of makeup, sometimes I just don’t have the time or energy, or sometimes it’s just truly not necessary (grocery shopping on the weekends, I’m looking at you!).   But, on these occasions I still don’t want to go out bare-faced – I need a little help to make myself look like a presentable human. Here’s where a 5-minute face comes in handy. This is also useful for those of you who don’t wear a lot of makeup, especially on a daily basis, and are looking for a little “introduction” into polishing things up a bit, face-wise.  The goal: minimal products, simple techniques, radiant and fresh-faced!

the dreaded “before”

Step 1: Base

If you have good skin, you might be able to skip this step, but a lot of us need a little help to get a nice, even base. Skip the full foundation because it can take a few minutes just to really buff it in. Instead, opt for something lighter like a tinted moisturizer or BB cream. If I’m feeling especially lazy, I’ll actually just use a light-weight concealer and buff it around all the parts of my face that need some coverage – under my eyes, around my nose, and my chin. Make sure it’s a light, creamy concealer though, that blends well, otherwise it might not blend out well and could be very visible.

Some of my picks: Stila Stay All Day 10-in-1 HD Illuminating Beauty Balm, Olay BB Cream Skin Perfecting Tinted Moisturizer, and Cover Girl Ready Set Gorgeous concealer.

Step 1B – Eyebrows

Skip this step if you have full, even brows that don’t need filling in. Personally my dinky, pathetic eyebrows need all the help they can get to look fuller and also to stay in place.  Use whatever you normally use – whether a pencil, powder, or gel. My picks: MAC eyeshadow in Omega or Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz.DSC_0015

Step 2: Brighten those eyes

Putting a swipe of a pale, shimmery shadow or cream across your lids says “I put effort into this” – with minimal effort required! Cream shadows are perfect because they are so quick to apply, almost foolproof, and last a really long time. Stick to champagne or pale golden colours for a universally flattering look. I like the MAC paint pot in Bare Study or Maybelline Colour Tattoo 24hr eyeshadows in Bold Gold. You can even use your fingers to apply – just keep the colour on your lids and don’t go too high up to your brow bone. If you don’t have cream products, not to worry – an eyeshadow works just fine.DSC_0019

Step 3: Mascara 

You know I love full lashes! A few swipes of mascara will open your eyes and make you look more awake. When I’m in a rush, I use my best, most voluminous mascaras, because I can get nice full lashes with just one or two coats – I don’t have to worry about messing around with drying between layers, building it up, etc.  I love my Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam for this, but your fave mascara will do the trick.


Step 4: Blush

A pop of pink on your cheeks pulls the look together, and shows that you made just a tiny bit more effort than the slick-of-mascara-and-out-the-door dash. Peach shades look good on everyone, and are neutral enough that you can apply it quickly and not worry about weird pink streaks. Smile to reveal the apples of your cheeks, apply a light dusting on blush on the roundest, and you’re done! Right now I’m really liking the Julep Glow Pore Minimizing Blush in Pink Bellini.


Step 5: Lips

A quick swipe of gloss or tinted balm completes the look, and can be done while running out the door! I love creamy lip products because they feel comfortable on your lips, so they’re easier to wear, and usually aren’t too pigmented so you can get away without using a mirror. The Revlon Lip Butters are incredible – such a huge shade selection, great colours and they feel like a creamy balm. I love the shade Juicy Papaya for a light, slightly coral shade. If you want to go more glam, Dior Addict LipGlow is a “self-adjusting” balm that goes on clear but develops a lovely pink colour as you wear it.

And that’s it – 5 steps, 5 products, 5 minutes! What do you think of my finished “look”?

makeup brushes: the essentials

Makeup brushes; they can be as fun as the makeup itself, but I think they can also cause some confusion when you’re staring at dozen of brushes in various shapes, sizes, and bristles – what do I do with all of these things?  And maybe even more importantly, which ones do I really need?  While you can certainly apply your makeup with your fingers, using makeup brushes elevates the whole experience and can really help you refine your makeup application.  And let’s be clear on one thing right now: the sponge-tipped applicators that come for free with your makeup are not makeup brushes.  Truthfully I think you’re better off using nothing than using those things! So, step away from the sponge tips, and let’s explore my essential brushes.

Because makeup brushes can be very expensive, let’s focus on the few essential, multi-tasking brushes that every girl should have in their kit.  Once you’ve built up your base collection, then you can start the impulsive brush buying to fill all the other “needs” in your brush collection. Not like I do not that or anything…. 

 Base/Foundation Brush

Sephora Foundation Brush

There are so many options on this one, but I don’t recommend being fooled by those “paint brush” shaped brushes that are sold as foundation brushes. While there can be a use for them, if you’re looking for an all-purpose brush to apply foundation or tinted moisturizer, a full-bristled brush is best. I like the Sephora Collection Pro Airbrush #55. You can use it to sheer out the product if you want less coverage, or really buff it in, with a circular motion, to build up more coverage. The general rule with foundation brushes is that the more dense the brushes, the fuller the coverage you can get. My other favourite use for a foundation brush is to use it to clean up mistakes or wipe off eyeshadow that has dropped down when I’m doing the rest of my makeup, using the leftover foundation remaining on the brush.

Multi-purpose face brush

Real Techniques Contour Brush

What a good name for a brush, eh? It’s definitely not the technical name, but it’s how I view this brush. My absolute favourite is the Real Techniques Contour Brush. I use this baby for blush (powder, cream, and liquid), contouring, highlighting, and even powder application – so basically all face uses aside from foundation! This is my fave for traveling because even though I’ll usually have one brush for each of these uses when I’m at home, this brush can easily replace all of them. The small, tapered shape is so good for multi-tasting.

Fluffy blending brush

Mac 217

If I had to pick one single favourite brush for eyeshadow, it’s hands-down the classic MAC 217. The natural bristles are slightly fluffy but tapered at the point. This means that you can use this brush to apply an all-over wash of colour, but it’s also perfectly shaped to apply darker colours along your crease, getting into smokey-eye territory. You want a more tapered point for applying eyeshadow in the crease because it gives you more control over where the product goes. I actually have two of these; I use one to apply my crease colour, and I always keep one clean, free of eyeshadow, to really get to work blending out the shadow, so that there’s no clear line between a base colour and your crease shadow.  When it comes to eyeshadow, blending is your best friend!

Flat shader brush

Real Techniques Shading Brush

This eye brush basically does the jobs my trusty Mac 217 can’t, and that’s because they’re so different in shape. This one, the Real Techniques Shading Brush, is quite small and has very dense bristles shaped into almost a square, ending in a flat, straight line, rather than a “tip” like the 217. This brush is great for pressing on darker eyeshadow along your crease and outer corner of the eye, especially when you want to build up the intensity of your smokey eye . Use this to really just get the colour down on your lids, and switch to a 217 for blending!  I also use this to apply eyeshadow along my lower lash line, and it works perfectly because it has a flat shape and is relatively small.

So there you have it – just four brushes can make a great starter set to cover most of your makeup brush needs! What makeup brush can you not live without?