FOTD: My New Goodies by Kevyn Aucoin, Sleek, Wet n Wild

I recently got myself a few makeup gifts for my upcoming birthday, and decided to write up some first impression reviews. Here’s the full look:

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Kevyn Aucoin Volume Mascara

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Uh… you can’t really see the mascara in the FOTD photo. That’s because my lashes are naturally short, sparse, and not very visible in selfies, even with volumizing mascara on. However, I can say that Kevyn Aucoin Volume works just fine! I didn’t have time to take an eye pic, but hopefully, I will put one up on this blog soon.

In another post, I mentioned that I had sworn off expensive mascara after trying Essence’s cheapo volumizing mascara, I Love Extreme. However, since I learned that Kevyn Aucoin is cruelty-free, I’d been wanting to add something by this brand to my collection. (Who doesn’t love Kevyn Aucoin??) I needed a mascara the most, so… *shrugs*

Unlike I Love Extreme, the Aucoin mascara does not create that spidery effect. It’s actually surprisingly understated, producing a look that’s kind of a “middle road” between the Essence and my other mascara that just expired, Milk Makeup Ubame. Like the latter, the Aucoin mascara separates the lashes very well and makes them, um, “fluttery.” But it’s clearly a black mascara, whereas Ubame had hardly any color to it.

I also love that the Aucoin wand is really small and delicate, which allows me to cover my lashes fully. I had a hard time getting to the roots with the hammy Essence wand!

Sleek Hemisphere Highlighter

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Did you know that the British brand, Sleek is now sold at Walgreens? At least one Walgreens in San Francisco: the one on Fillmore, by SF Japantown. I actually entered that store to look for Royal Calyx, the new lavender highlighter by Wet n Wild. (I recently had my interest in highlighters rekindled by Russian blogger Elia Chaba’s bombastic posts.) Turns out Royal Calyx is only available on the Ulta website, but no problem–I got the legendary Sleek Solstice palette, which also has a lavender highlighter! It’s called Hemisphere, and Temptalia lists it as a Royal Calyx dupe.

On me, Hemisphere doesn’t read as “boom! lavender!”, but its super cool tone creates a strong contrast with my skin. I love it. Besides Hemisphere, I’ve tried one other Solstice highlighter so far: the creamy beige called Ecliptic, which is very subtle and translucent (like a plastic bag). From what I know, the Glossier stick highlighters have a similar effect.

Wet n Wild Video Vixen Liquid Lipstick

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I’d never heard the term Video Vixen before, and I assumed that Wet n Wild was just inspired by the 90s (“VHS era”) dark lipstick. But I now see that the term has a large and contentious cultural history.

As for the product itself–I’d long, long wanted to own a fully matte dark lipstick, and Wet n Wild had been a strong contender since the release of the Liquid Catsuit line. Video Vixen didn’t disappoint–just like the other Liquid Catsuits I’ve tried, it’s relatively light and not devastatingly dry. Which, to me, means it’s a good liquid lipstick. Here’s a post where I express all my thoughts on the whole genre of liquid-to-mattes).

However, Video Vixen has a large and glaring issue: with the way I apply liquid lipstick (in a light layer on top of a balm) it comes off easily, and it doesn’t look too hot when worn off. As in, Video Vixen completely disappears in the middle of the lips. And when you reapply, the finish gets uneven and clotty. I haven’t figured out how to deal with this yet. Maybe apply a more emollient lip product on top?..

The other problem (a small one, this time) is that Video Vixen, like other Liquid Catsuits, dries down really quickly. So, if you’re the one to blend your lipstick after application, that needs to be done swiftly, one lip at a time.

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Dragon Eyes: Battle of the Palettes

Since the warm tone eyeshadow trend started a few years ago, I’ve been following it closely. I have quite a few palettes in my collection that allow me to create “burn a hole through you” eyes, and I thought it would be interesting to compare them. I debated whether to include Too Faced Semi-Sweet and Viseart Petit Pro, but eventually decided against it, as they lack an important element: reds or reddish tones.

I have four quintessential fiery palettes: Sleek Sunset, Anastasia Modern Renaissance, Zoeva Cocoa Blend, and the newest addition to my collection, Urban Decay Naked Heat. I really like all of these, but if you’re of a mind to get only one, I know which one I would recommend. Read on till the end. I will list the palettes in order they were purchased–or, in fact, received as presents, as three of them were birthday gifts from various years. Thank you sister, husband, and best friend.

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Sleek Sunset

L-R: … (all shades are nameless). The #10-12 are also photographed with flash.

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It looks like the brand’s intention for the i-Divine series of palettes is to create exhaustive arrays of colors around specific themes. Sleek loves including a bunch of similar shades in their palettes, but with different undertones and/or finishes. Sunset is an ancient product by today’s standards (released around 2013), but it has all your bases covered when it comes to metallic reds, coppers, and rose golds. Sleek metallics are pigmented but thin and light, not like the rich and creamy formulas in newer palettes such as Modern Renaissance and Naked Heat.

The issue with Sunset is that it lacks matte eyeshadows, except for a black one for lining. This makes the palette seem very old-school–the OG Urban Decay Naked wasn’t big on mattes, either. But that’s ok. I suspect that eye looks with a bunch of mattes blended into a perfect ombre have hit their saturation point, and we will see much more messy all-shimmer and all-metallic looks. Same thought about Sunset’s lack of neutral shades. My crystal ball predicts more looks with statement colors, that are not “grounded” with browns, beiges, or mauves.

Sunset in action. Black (#1) as a smudgy eyeliner. Purple (#7) on the lid and in the crease, topped with translucent golden veil (#10) on the lid. Rose gold (#11) in the inner corner. 

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Zoeva Cocoa Blend

L-R: Top – Bitter Start, Sweeter End, Warm Notes, Subtle Blend, Beans Are White. Bottom – Pure Ganache, Substitute for Love, Freshly Toasted, Infusion, Delicate Acidity.

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What about those who like arid desert matte browns? Then Cocoa Blend is your buddy. I can’t get enough of the orange brown, Substitute for Love, and the reddish brown, Freshly Toasted. Something like Freshly Toasted is what I was missing with Too Faced’s OG and Semi-Sweet chocolate bars, which seem to have inspired Cocoa Blend. The other mattes in this palette, Bitter Start (light beige) and Beans are White (dark brown) are very common shades, but they’re executed very well in terms of saturation and blendability–something that (incredibly) not all brands have learned how to do. As for shiny lid shades, Cocoa Blend has a nice variety of those, with a red, a brown, a purple, and a gold.

The Cocoa Blend shadow texture is something… contentious, especially if one is used to stiffer formulas such as the Naked 3 and the chocolate bars. It’s similar to Lorac Pro and TheBalm eyeshadows: very soft and dusty, but kind of dry.

Cocoa Blend in action. Ombre from Sweeter End to Warm Notes to Freshly Toasted. Beans Are White as chubby liner.

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Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance

L-R: Top – Tempera, Golden Ochre, Vermeer, Buon Fresco, Antique Bronze, Love Letter, Cyprus Umber. Bottom – Raw Sienna, Burnt Orange, Primavera, Red Ochre, Venetian Red, Realgar. 

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Along with Too Faced Sweet Peach, last year’s Modern Renaissance is the most iconic palette release since the first UD Naked collections. It has totally eclipsed the original “red palette,” Lime Crime’s Venus. My theory is that Anastasia recognized the huge demand for a Venus-like palette by people who didn’t want to buy from a controversial brand like Lime Crime. (And now, Anastasia has released the Subculture palette–the one where the shadows are said to fall apart on first touch–which is its answer to Venus II).

The “heart” of Modern Renaissance are the juicy, super bold red, berry, and orange shades. The palette also boasts beautiful neutrals, such as the light purple Buon Fresco and the rosy brown Antique Bronze. I also like Vermeer and Primavera, the highlighter shades that look molten. The shadows are dusty and blendable like Zoeva’s, but the formula is exceedingly smooth, almost greasy. The new ColourPop pressed powder shadows are similar.

My main gripe with Modern Renaissance is specific to my own tastes and preferences. I like using all shades in my palettes, but I can’t figure out what to do with Golden Ochre and Burnt Orange. All of the looks I’ve tried with those two, I hated. So for me, Modern Renaissance is not the easiest product in terms of coming up with color combinations.

Modern Renaissance in action. Love Letter on the lid and in the crease. Warm Taupe as a blending shade. Antique Bronze on the lower lashline, with Cyprus Umber in the outer corner. 

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Urban Decay Naked Heat

L-R: Top – Ounce, Chaser (They are invisible in my swatches, but they make a damn good subtle highlight and blending shade, respectively), Sauced, Low Blow, Lumbre, He Devil. Bottom – Dirty Talk, Scorched, Cayenne, En Fuego, Ashes, Ember.

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Naked Heat came out very recently, and I bought it pretty much right away. Some of the colors I’ve used more than others, but I can already say that this palette is one of my favorite makeup toys of the year. I find it very easy to come up with looks. Yes, Naked Heat is really one-note in terms of color selection, more so than the other palettes I’ve reviewed here. But it all depends whether you like reddish browns or not, and I truly love them. I find it useful to have three of varying depths and undertones: He Devil, Cayenne, and En Fuego, plus an rosier brown, Sauced. All the colors in the palette are very well balanced–those are not the kind of reddish shades that would give one an infected/allergic look.

Of the classic trio of Naked palettes, I have Naked 3 (the rosy one), and its texture is much harder. As many reviewers have noted, Naked Heat is closer in formula to Modern Renaissance and ColourPop shadows, than to the older Nakeds. I like the richness of those shadows and how they “melt” into the skin–but hoo boy, holy DUST!! Especially when it comes to the mattes. In general, all of the palettes I’m reviewing except for Sleek Sunset, suffer from this issue.

Naked Heat in action. He Devil all over and all around. Chaser to soften He Devil in the crease. Scorched on top of He Devil on the lid. Ounce in the inner corner. Lumbre in the inner half of the lower lashline. Ember on top of En Fuego on the outer half of the lower lashline.

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Okay… so what’s the best one?!

I wouldn’t say the BEST one… but here’s what I would recommend to a novice:

ZOEVA COCOA BLEND!

Why? I think that Cocoa Blend simply has the broadest selection in terms of color and textures. There are both metallic and matte shades, and the metallics are sufficiently different from one another to allow for a wide variety of looks.

Sleek Blush in Flushed

Hooray! Sleek Makeup has just joined Ulta. The UK-based brand is renowned for its eyeshadow and highlighter palettes, “Matte Me” lipsticks, and blushes (blushers in British).

Sleek seems to be one of the more popular brands for American makeup lovers to buy in/order from Europe. My sister, who lives in Russia (I’m a Russki Amerikanski) sometimes sends me its palettes as birthday gifts. So when I visited Barcelona a few weeks ago, I was open to the idea of bringing some Sleek back home with me. When I spotted the brand’s display at a store called Julia, which is my name, I thought well damn, that’s a good sign. The eye palette I wanted the most, the moody plummy Goodnight Sweetheart, was sold out, but I’m really happy with the item I walked out with: the blush(er) in Flushed.

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Sleek calls this color “deep plum.” Okay I guess–I’m not the biggest color nerd out there. It’s kind of earthy… and yes, very deep. Here’s a swatch for y’all (applied to my arm and blended with a finger):

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I also have a Sleek blush palette, Pink Sprint (thank you sister), so I knew what I was working with from the outset. Sleek has a honorable history of catering to dark-skinned customers–it was founded in 1989 as Sleek Cosmetics, a line for women of color–so the blushes are HIGHLY pigmented. I apply Flushed by slightly tapping the pan with a fluffy powder brush by Real Techniques, and then swirling the color onto my cheeks in liberal motions.

Here is a look I did with Flushed. One of the first ones… but not the last, as I predict that Flushed is going to be used heavily in this house. I’m just that into earthy tones for blush. Other color makeup I’m wearing in the picture: Viseart Petit Pro eye palette and a light layer of Kiko Glossy Dream sheer lipstick in 205.

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