Friday, 11 August 2017

Five Note Cosmetics Foundations - Review, Comparison, Before + After Pics

I think I was a bit late to the Note Cosmetics party (partly because I still to this day have not come across an actual physical Note Cosmetics display in a pharmacy - shame on me) but after trying out some products that were kindly sent to me by the Note Cosmetics PR team, I was bitten by the bug and I had to try more. I've heard glowing reports from many of my fellow beauty nuts on the various foundations in particular so that had to be my first foray into the brand. Long time readers of this here blog will know that I am a foundation fanatic - I have favourites but I am always searching for the next best foundation, it's the most important makeup step in my opinion and I will judge whole brands on their foundation offerings. Full disclosure first - I received one foundation as a PR sample and purchased the other four foundations myself from Cara Pharmacy.

On the brand, a little bit of investigative work informs me that this brand is the brainchild of former NYX Cosmetics and Cargo Cosmetics executives (and y'all know I was a big NYX fangirl back in the day). The brand pride themselves on infusing their products with botanicals and all of the products are manufactured in Europe. The packaging and finish of the products is more luxe than your average drugstore brand and they promise professional quality cosmetics yet the prices are still very reasonable across the board. 

 I don't know how to review five foundations in one post but when I asked on Instagram if there would be any appetite on a comparison post, y'all were hungry - so we will give it a try. I loved some of the foundations and was happy enough with others but (miraculously) I didn't dislike any of the foundations I tried and I am ridiculously picky and unforgiving when it comes to foundation testing. For reference, I have been using these foundations for weeks but I tested them out/photographed over five consecutive days. I did not use any concealers, primers or setting powders with them so the coverage and finish you see in the pictures is the actual raw unfiltered finish of the product taken in natural daylight. I used the exact same brush to apply all of the foundations (obvs washing it in between uses) and my brush of choice was the Zoeva Buffer brush #104.

All of the Note Cosmetics foundations are very affordable (between the €10-14 mark, however the shade range is not great in some (I will elaborate below). Whilst some of the shades were at least 2 shades too dark for me, I have to say I did not encounter any oxidation with any of the foundations. There is also a newer foundation out called Sun Glow which I have not yet tried - this is one I would like to test before forking out just because some of the others ran so dark on me. All of the foundations contain SPF 15 which is always greatly appreciated and each foundation comes with 35ml of product instead of the standard 30ml so you get another few applications for your dolla. On to the goods!

Note Cosmetics Mineral Foundation* 

This is the foundation that was sent to me by the Note Cosmetics PR team and they sent me the lightest shade of the three shades available, 401. This foundation retails for €12.95, has SPF 15 built in and is paraben free. This was the first Note Cosmetics foundation that I tried and the one that made me catch the bug. I have to self tan when I use this foundation as it is too dark to even blend down my neck - for reference, I take a MAC NW20 so I'm not the fairest of the fair but this is still far too dark for my natural skin shade. Literally, the only complaint that I have about this foundation is that I wish it came in a lighter shade. The coverage is amazing - definitely medium to full - and it lasts beautifully (even in this muggy summer weather) - in my experience, it looks the same in the evening as it did when it was first applied in the morning. I don't have oily skin but I have noticed in the summer months a lot of my foundations tend to evaporate off my face over the course of wear but this one lasts brilliantly even without powder and doesn't disappear from or gather up around my nose. The foundation is full of vitamins, calcium and zinc to both care for your skin and give your skin a nice glow. In terms of finish, it's quite a satin finish with a gentle sheen under the light as opposed to a shiny, glowy finish. There is also a concealer in this range which I will absolutely have to try out.

Note Cosmetics BB Cream

The BB Cream is definitely one of my favourite Note Cosmetics foundation offerings, I've been using this so much over the last 2+ months that I am nearly finished the tube. This foundation costs €11.95, comes in three shades and is labelled an 'Advanced Skin Corrector'. I don't know about you but I'm all about the BB cream life in the summer months - when you don't want too much coverage but would like an even canvas for the rest of your makeup - so I was more than happy to try this out. I went for the lightest shade 01 but it was still too dark for my natural skin tone so I have to wear this when I have self tanned. Again, like the Mineral Foundation, that is the only complaint that I have about this product - I really rate it other than that. It applies beautifully, you would not even feel it sitting on your skin, it lasts incredibly well and the finish is luminous enough without being too shiny and very unifying if you have any patches of pigmentation or redness (you can clearly see in the photo how the BB Cream concealed some old blemish marks around my jawline and chin area - this was just the BB Cream - no other concealers or products necessary. It lasted incredibly well without gathering around my nose or fading off in spots and I didn't feel like I had to powder it over the course of wear either (but remember I don't have oily skin so I can get away without powder). 

Note Cosmetics Luminizing Moisturising Foundation

The Note Cosmetics Luminous Moisture Foundation is another absolute gift of a product - this beaut has probably cemented it's place in my top 5 high street/pharmacy/drugstore foundations already. I purchased the palest shade 01 Beige and, thankfully, unlike the Mineral Foundation and BB Cream, I can get away with the palest shade in this one without having to self tan because it is that bit lighter (in fact, it was probably too light for me on this occasion as you can see from the picture above but it's easier to warm up a foundation than it is to cool one down!). This foundation costs €9.95 so it is the cheapest of all the Note Cosmetics foundations that I tried and comes in 6 shades so you have a far better chance of finding a shade to suit you. The finish of this is super luminous and radiant without being shiny and greasy looking, and it sits on the skin beautifully - you would not even feel like you have foundation on. It is medium to full in coverage - it was enough to cover the marks on my chin and jawline and my freckles without any other concealer. I love this and will undoubtedly repurchase.

Note Cosmetics Detox and Protect Foundation

I was curious to try this foundation as I would love to know how a foundation can detox and protect your skin. This foundation was €13.95 and comes in a sleek plastic bottle (very reminiscent of the Inglot HD Foundation) with a built in pump. I purchased the lightest shade 01 Beige which is light enough to wear without fake tan but I noticed that shade 01 in this foundation was quite a bit more yellow toned than the other foundations - not yellow enough to make me look like a Simpson though. There are 6 shades available in this range. This foundation is supposed to act as a shield against free radicals and whilst I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that no such free radicals were able to penetrate through this foundation, I can put my hand on my heart and say this is a brilliant foundation that wore beautifully over the course of a day - so much so that I was asked by three different people in one day about what foundation I was wearing. This foundation just looks like skin - you cannot feel it on your skin and it just blends in like a dream. I felt like when I had this one blended to my satisfaction that it set - not like cement obvs - but it just felt like it wouldn't budge and budge it does not. The finish is quite matte and it feels quite silky on the skin.

Note Cosmetics Mattifying Foundation

Lastly but not leastly, the Mattifying Extreme Wear Foundation is a foundation that I probably wouldn't have gravitated towards off my own bat because I'm not really an extreme matte kind of girl. I really wanted to try all of the Note Cosmetics foundations though so I purchased this one also and at €13.95 it hardly broke the bank. For a "mattifying extreme" foundation, this applied effortlessly with a flat top kabuki and didn't look powdery or chalky like I suspected it might. Again, like the Detox & Protect Foundation, this set quite quickly after applying which means you have to work quickly to blend like a boss before it sets down. A little bit of this product goes a long way and it is most definitely a full coverage foundation. If you have oily skin and are in the market for a new comfortable matte foundation that will last a full day on your face, I think you would love this one. It contains cedar wood oil and spiraea extract to balance the level of sebium in your skin which will not only help to keep the oil at bay but will also work to prevent breakouts. This lasted 16 hours on me with no primer, no powder and no setting spray and I'm sure any of these things would improve longevity for my oilier friends. I feel guilty for dismissing this at the beginning because whenever I've needed a foundation to last a really long time because of a long work day or extreme heat, this is the one I have turned to. It's one of the most comfortable, least cakey matte foundations I have ever tried. It comes in 6 different shades, I got the lightest shade of the bunch (01 Beige) and it also comes with a built in pump.

The Bottom Line

If you cannot tell from all you have read already, I am seriously impressed with every single one of the Note Cosmetics foundations that I have tried to date - like I am genuinely surprised at how impressed I honestly was, I can't lie to myself and I wouldn't lie to you. I've said I completely admit judging brands by their foundation offerings because I'm all about that base and, if I am to judge Note Cosmetics on the back of their foundations, I think they have much to offer and I look forward to trying more out of their products. My only gripe is that I wish the Mineral Foundation and BB Cream came in lighter shades - I won't be self tanning as much in the winter which means I will have to retire these soon and I don't want to have to retire them (first world problem I know). I will put my hat on the line and unequivocally state that these foundations collectively perform a heck of a lot better than many of my high end / luxe foundations and, maybe I should be bitter about that, but I'm not because I am just happy to have found these. If you are interested in purchasing these yourself, the list of stockists is available from the Note Cosmetics Ireland Facebook page and the full range is available online from Cara Pharmacy, Sam McCauley, CH Chemists Tralee and Meaghers Pharmacy to name a few that I am aware of.

Have you tried any Note Cosmetics foundations and, if so, what did you think? I would also be very grateful for any Note Cosmetics product suggestions or recommendations in the comments below.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture Palette - Review, Swatches

When I first saw a picture of the Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture palette, I was completely underwhelmed. ABH Modern Renaissance palette was one of my favourite makeup releases of 2016 and I have loads of the individual ABH eyeshadows that I absolutely cherish, but the colour selection in Subculture left me feeling a bit meh - a few teals, a mustard - I just wasn't gone on the colour lineup because it wasn't my beef. I didn't think I was going to purchase it but I couldn't stop myself from picking one up on the day that it was released because I just had such brilliant experiences with the other ABH shadows that I had tried that I thought that this might be the palette to make me come out of my brown eyeshadow comfort zone. On the back of the palette itself, it describes Subculture as "an essential eye shadow collection with fourteen shades featuring grungy mattes and bold metallics with an underground edge." Whilst I am not even remotely grungy, this palette screams Autumn to me and of course I feel like I can justify the purchase because not only do I love Autumn, I don't have a collection of colours like this in any of my other palettes. I ordered directly from Anastasia Beverly Hills UK website, it arrived in a few days and of course I did not have to pay any customs. The palette is now available on Cult Beauty and Beauty Bay if you are interested in purchasing it by the time you have finished reading this post.

I know that there has been controversy around this palette since it was released (my Youtube and Instagram feeds are full of ABH Subculture bashing or "honest" reviews) but I have not watched or read or followed up on this because I want to take the palette as I find it and not have my opinion swayed by others before I got a chance to give this palette a good try for myself. I've often been disappointed with products that other folks have raved about and vice versa - different folks, different strokes c'est la vie. It's very easy to come online and jump on a slating bandwagon, even where that criticism is totally deserved, but I wanted to provide a comprehensive review based on my own experience. Makeup is all subjective. I'm not going to lie - I forked out €50 for this so I wanted to like it.
The Basics : The packaging is pretty much identical to the Modern Renaissance palette expect there is a flocked dark teal velvet cover on the Subculture palette, they are the same size and both have a decent mirror. I am fully bracing myself for the fact that it will probably get filthy in time from use. Like the Modern Renaissance, the palette comes with a brush and I'm usually not a fan of brushes that come with eyeshadow palettes but this one is actually not bad (probably still won't use it though...). You get 14 colours in the palette - 11 mattes, 1 duochrome, 1 metallic and 1 duochrome metallic shades - in a variety of hues from warm, cool and neutral tones. It is an interesting combination of colours for sure - possibly not the most cohesive selection and not the kind of colours that I would reach for everyday but I don't reach for the same things every day anyway.

The Swatches : As you can see from the swatches below, the pigmentation is strong. Most of the matte shades have incredible pigmentation, but they are very soft, very powdery and leave a lot of fallout. One single finger swatch packs a mighty punch - that rich pigment also translates to the lids if you use the tiniest amount of product, a very light hand and pat it on very gently. In my opinion, the ABH Modern Renaissance palette leaves more fallout and kickback than the standard individual ABH eyeshadows that you can buy directly from ABH website or Sephora, but the fallout and kickback from Subculture can be something else altogether in comparison if you don't take care with these shadows. I spend an extra few minutes applying these colours and blending slowly and carefully and to be honest, I don't really feel too aggrieved by that.
Firstly, the low down on each of the shadows. I definitely have favourites and shades that I have been disappointed with for one reason or another, there is a difference not only between the matte and the shimmer shades but also between the shimmer shades themselves so it's not a completely consistent palette. Most of the matte shades needed two very light layers as the first layer applied quite patchily - again, I can't stress enough that light softly-softly is the way to go with this palette. The powders themselves are not packed tightly enough into the pans, so even if you didn't want to pick up loads of product, you cannot help it, and all that is needed is literally just to tap your brush into the product, to hover it over the pan even. The plus side is that once these shadows are applied to your spec, they last incredibly well, upwards of 10 hours over the MAC Paint Pot in Painterly, with no unforgiving creasing.
Cube is the only duochrome shade and this appeared to be the most poorly pigmented. In the pan this looks white with a pink/lilac pearl so you might expect it to swatch like that also but all I've ever been able to get from this shadow is a slight pink sheen. Very disappointing and a complete waste of  precious palette space.
Dawn is a gorgeous muted peach similar to one of my favourite Makeup Geek eyeshadows called Peach Smoothie. This colour is a brilliant transition shade because it just barely shows up on my crease when it is blended out. This blended out evenly.
Destiny is a dark matte khaki green brown shade that I probably would never ever pick up individually. It is very soft and smooth and pigmented and applied pretty well to the lid when packed on but looked a little messy once you started blending.
Adorn is one of my favourite looking shades in the palette, a rich metallic copper. This feels like cream eyeshadow but is a powder. It doesn't apply like a cream however unfortunately - I have to use either a small synthetic brush or my finger tip to place this on my eyelid and I feel like it applies like a ton of coppery glitter with no base shade binding it together.
All Star is a matte plum shade which looks incredible in the pan and incredible swatched but it applies patchily to the lids if you try to use a flat brush like the Blank Canvas E24 and when you try to blend it out, it just blends to nothingness. I was disappointed by the performance of this shadow because I adore burgundy shadow shades.
Mercury is one of the cooler shades in the palette and is a lovely cool taupe brown but I feel like this eyeshadow is actually too pigmented to be used as a crease colour or blended out.
Axis is a deep teal shade and possibly the shade my eye is always drawn to first when I look at the palette. I've found this shade difficult to work with because it is unbelievably pigmented - like crazily so - and I'm not a mad one for blue or green eyeshadows so it's a bit intimidating. You literally need to just hover your brush over this to pick up enough product to cover your entire face (I'm only kind of kidding). It is a very difficult shade to work with - it is just too pigmented. Also, I used this with a brush on my lids before taking a finger swatch for a blog photo and I realised that the texture of this powder seems drier and grainier than any of the other matte shades in the palette.
Roxy is a vivid matte apricot shade and one of my favourites in the palette, particularly against blue eyes. I love a little pop of coral crease and this colour is so bright and cheery. It applied and blended well.
Electric is a gold that flashes green under the light and looks green when applied to the eyes. This looks interesting in the pan - you can make out the duochrome effect from the pan itself. On the lids, this looks like green glitter particles. It is drier and less cream like than Adorn and it is most definitely not the bold metallic shade which ABH promise on the back of the palette!
Fudge is a medium warm red toned brown eyeshadow which should be right up my street but the massive pigment you pick up with this in the beginning just fades to mud on your eyes, it is difficult enough to work with.
New Wave is a matte orange shadow that looks yellowy in the pan but applies like a true orange. This applied well and blended well.
Untamed is a mid toned smokey green shade - I don't mind the shade in the pan but I am not at all enamoured by the way this looks on my eyelids with my skin tone - suffice to say, greens are not my thing. Also, like Axis, this is just too pigmented.
Edge is a dark warm matte yellow eyeshadow and the most intimidating eyeshadow of the bunch in my opinion - I still have not incorporated this into an eyeshadow look but I live in hope that one day I will grab life by the cojones and embrace the yellow. I think it might be nice as a transition shade with a shadow like Makeup Geek Cocoa Bear.
Rowdy is a deep matte purple-ish burgundy shade that looks gorgeous in the pan but applies and swatches patchily. I've tried to use this to line my upper lashline instead of eyeliner and it turned to fairy dust and disappeared.
Overall, this palette hasn't impressed me one hundredth as much as the Modern Renaissance palette but it's grand. Am I glad to have forked out €50 for it - not really, I don't have anything else like it in my collection and I look forward to trying to master this, but I wish it was just easier to use. It's not comparable to the ABH single eyeshadows or the Modern Renaissance palette but it's not completely unworkable either, it requires an alternative method of application to what I am used to and leaves an end result that I would not normally end up with. It might be unfair comparing it to Modern Renaissance but the Subculture palette was the eagerly anticipated follow up so I cannot help but compare the two. What I will say about Subculture - and this is really important if you are considering a purchase- I think this palette would work best for those of us who like to limit our eye looks to 2/3 colours, particularly complimentary colours that don't need a lot of blending. The more colours you use, the more work you are going to have to put in. I'm not one for mad eye looks really so I've gotten on ok-ish with this but when I have tried to use more than three colours in a look, it can look a little busy or muddy. I haven't been rushing out the door when I've applied this so I have had the time and patience to do what I need to do. I feel like this is the opposite of pretty much every other eyeshadow palette in the world in that usually you apply your eye colour, blend like a boss, apply some more to build it up to your desired intensity etc. This palette packs a mighty punch when you apply it first, it goes on super strong in the beginning and you have to work it down to the best of your ability. I don't think you necessarily have to be the most skilled makeup applicator in the world to use this palette but you do have to have patience and a vision.

The irony that the very reason I was not going to purchase this palette in the first place (the colour selection) became the thing I appreciate most about the palette is not lost on me. Even though it does take me longer to apply my eye makeup, I'm happy that it lasts a decent amount of time. I don't regret this purchase yet, I don't hate this palette but I don't certainly do not love it either - I'm in that middle place of meh. If ABH were to release another new palette in the morning, I will still probably be on it like a car bonnet. I understand that ABH were trying to bring us the most pigmented shadows ever but they went a step too far on that journey in my opinion in bringing us pigments so strong that some are borderline unworkable. Maybe Modern Renaissance was eyeshadow palette perfection that just cannot be replicated. I wouldn't really recommend purchasing this - not because I think it is all bad - but because I don't want to inflict that workload on anyone.

Have you tried Subculture yet or been dissuaded from trying it from all the negative press it has gotten?

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