The Best of 2014: Everything Else + Honorable Mentions

The third and final installment of 'The Best of 2014' is dedicated to hair, nails, fragrance and brushes.

In terms of hair products, although I'm rarely ever loyal to a shampoo or conditioner, I'm fiercely loyal to two particular styling products: Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and Chi 44 Iron Guard. I like to spray the Oribe into my dry hair and fluff it around with my fingers, and I find it adds the most sexy, effortless texture through the lengths and volume at the crown that actually last. And it smells incredible. The Chi is a heat protectant that I use before straightening or curling, but my favorite part about it is the extra bit of hold it provides my hair (especially the curls!). It kind of doubles as a subtle hairspray, although it's used before styling.

For nails, the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover is the easiest and fastest product for dissolving overgrown cuticles, without actually having to snip them off. I just apply the gel to my cuticles, leave it on for 15-30 seconds before using a finger nail to gently push them back and washing it all off under warm water. My most worn polish this year was Nails Inc. Gel Effect in Porchester Square. It's the most chic grey with a hint of lavender that works in every season and for any occasion. After painting my nails, I always spray them with a coat of OPI RapiDry Spray, and it makes my polish dry noticeably quicker so that I can go with on with the rest of my day.

My fragrance picks of the year are Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black and White. I really like them separately as well, but my favorite way to wear them is layered (I personally wear Black over White, although it probably doesn't matter). The combined scent is sexy and slightly unusual, but so feminine and beautiful as well. I'm obsessed.

My favorite brushes this year, in general, are the Real Techniques brushes (shown is the Travel Essentials kit). I love the buffing brush, multi-task brush and expert face brush, just to name a few. I also love their Miracle Complexion Sponge. The quality of the Real Techniques brushes surpasses several brushes I own from pricier brands, and the affordability really can't be beat.

Lastly, I wanted to end this post with some honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut in this year's 'Best of 2014' posts, but they're still far too good not to give credit to. So, my 2014 Honorable Mentions include:
  • Make Up For Ever HD Blushes // the best cream blush formula ever
  • LancĂ´me Lip Lovers // a favorite lip gloss-lacquer hybrid of mine this year
  • NUDE Skincare ProGenius Treatment Oil // love it on its own or mixed with my moisturizer for extra cushiony hydration
  • Sephora Formula X in the shade X  Rouge // a VIB Rouge-exclusive shade, this has the most flawless application I've ever experienced with any polish - completely opaque and non-streaky in one coat
  • CHANEL Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Colour SPF15 Powder // love No30 for some added glow and subtle color 
  • Hourglass Immaculate Foundation // my go-to foundation when I need my makeup to last all day on my combination skin


The Best of 2014: Skincare

Part 2 of my 'Best of 2014' round-up posts is dedicated to the products I've loved and depended on this past year to keep my skin clean, radiant and as spot-free as possible. Again, you may recognize several of these favorites from last year's post as well. They really are that good.

After a long day, the last thing I want to do is struggle with removing ever last bit of makeup off my face. Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm dissolves every type of face, eye and lip makeup imaginable, and it does so gently and effortlessly. I use it either with a warm washcloth or simply rinse it off, although the second method can often leave a slight film on the skin, which I then remove during a second cleanse anyway. One Love Organics Vitamin B Active Moisture Cleansing Oil & Makeup Remover is another fantastic option I often reached for, and unlike the Clinique cleansing balm, which I only used for makeup removal or as a first cleanse, the OLO cleansing oil is a heavenly cleanser on its own as well. The fresh pineapple scent never gets old. The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel paired with a warm washcloth is my favorite duo for a refreshing morning cleanse or for a second cleanse at night. 

For exfoliation, I love NUDE Skincare Detox Brightening Fizzy Powder Wash for how incredibly soft and alive it makes my skin look. Apart from using it every other day or so, I still rely on Osmia Organics Detox Exfoliating Mask once a week for a more intensive skin detox experience. Although it can be mixed with water as well, my favorite way to use it is combined with a penny-sized amount of the luscious May Lindstrom The Honey Mud Cleansing Silk. Although it can also be used as a cleanser on its own, I far prefer using it as a mask, as I find it offers so much hydration and soothing properties, and it smells of a delicious cocoa and honey blend.

For any pesky spots, the Osmia Organics Spot Treatment is one of my go-to products to dab on before bed, as it truly works but never dries out my skin in the slightest. (Bonus points for not bleaching my clothes or pillowcases like my traditional benzoyl peroxide acne treatments!) Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil remained a favorite this year. I massage several drops into my skin before bed, with or without an additional night cream on top, and it plumps up and hydrates my skin, while also working to gently fade acne scars.

My holy grail overnight lip balm continues to be C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Night Balm. It's by far the best lip treatment I've tried, and it definitely lasts until the morning, if not longer. I can't imagine myself ever being without it! My favorite body moisturizer this year was Osmia Organics Body Oil. I've tried several different scents, but Light is my favorite. When applied on damp skin immediately post-shower, it absorbs quickly yet offers up incredible moisturization that truly lasts all day. Lastly, my favorite hand cream: L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream. It feels thick and luxurious but never leaves hands feeling greasy, it smells lovely, and I adore the packaging.


The Best of 2014: Beauty

Most of these will be of no surprise to those who frequent my blog, and several of these 2014 favorites are actually repeats from past years. Beauty bloggers are fickle creatures, often straying from supposed 'favorites' just to find new ones a short time later, so if a yearly favorite is also able to find its way onto next year's post, you know it's a good one.

My favorite foundation of 2014 was definitely Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, with its healthy, perfectly luminous finish. There were several months during the summer when my bottle of shade 3.5 was a bit too ghostly on my tanned complexion, but I'm happy to report that we are matching once again. For concealer, Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer continues to win my heart. I love the hydration and coverage it provides my under-eye area, and the fact that it works well on blemishes, too, is just an added bonus. Make Up For Ever Pro Finish Powder Foundation is my powder of choice, whether it's to set my foundation or to be used as a foundation itself. Its silky smooth texture just melts into the skin and never looks cakey.

Bronzer and blush were two of the most difficult categories for me to choose favorites in, and in the end, I was only able to narrow it down to a favorite bronzer (I just have too many blush loves!). Guerlain Terracotta Light Sheer Bronzing Powder in Sun Blondes provides gorgeous bronze color with just a hint of red to mimic a real suntan, and the texture makes it impossible to over-apply. The coral-red undertone means it can double as blush, too! For highlight, although Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Powder in By Candlelight was probably my true favorite for daily use, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer made the cut because it provides a more dramatic sheen for going-out looks, yet it can still be applied more sheerly for daytime as well. Its versatility made it a favorite this year, especially when it came time to do makeup for a couple weddings.

For the sake of keeping my list of favorites succint, the lone eyeshadow included this year is Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Intense Eyeshadow in 15 Copper/Black Grey. It's one of the best formulas I've ever tried, and the shade itself is stunning, to say the least. Physicians Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner is making a repeat appearance this year, as it continues to be my favorite tool for creating a winged line. Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eye Liner is new to this list, but it's quickly become a staple for me for tightlining. It has incredible jet black pigmentation that lasts all day on my waterline without transferring. In terms of mascara, Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Volumizing Mascara is still my product of choice after all these years. It gives me a voluminous and dramatic lash and holds a curl better than any mascara I've tried before. For eyebrows, Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil in Stone Gray performs the best on me, both in terms of color and staying power.

Lastly, my two lip favorites are the Bobbi Brown Creamy Matte Lip Colors and the Givenchy Le Rouge line. I love the former for its creamy formula that is never drying, soft matte finish and exceptional staying power. The latter boasts the most gorgeous shade selection, and the ultra-creamy, moisturizing and pigmented formula is quite frankly, faultless


Merry Christmas!

Just popping in to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas! Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I hope you enjoy today with your loved ones. 

In true beauty blogger fashion, I also wanted to give a little mention to my Christmas mani this year - OPI Red Fingers & Mistletoes, borrowed from my sister, and apparently, also a part of the Gwen Stefani Holiday 2014 Collection. It's a gorgeous ruby red with red micro-glitter. Certainly nothing revolutionary this year, but it's such a festive shade, I couldn't resist :)
OPI Red Fingers & Mistletoes
See you all back here soon for my 'Best of 2014' posts!
-Tiffany xo


The One Trick Pony

I'm a fan of products that can pull double-duty and be used in more ways than one, which is why it may seem odd that this one trick pony is a must-have in my makeup routine. You see, ever since I changed contact lens types about a year ago, all of my usual go-to tightlining pencils (Urban Decay 24/7 Liner Pencil in Perversion and Milani Liquif'Eye Pencil in Black) ceased to impress, i.e. they left horrendous oil smear marks all over my lenses that impaired my vision and could not be removed. And since switching contact lenses was not an option, I embarked on a journey of sorts to find a replacement product that could draw on my waterline with ease, stay put all day and leave my contact lenses alone in the process. I finally found what I was looking for in the Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eye Liner.
The Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eye Liner is waterproof and available in one shade, Obsidian, a rich, inky black. It's available as a single pencil ($16) or in packs of three ($45). It has an incredibly thin nib that fits perfectly on the waterline without smearing onto your eye or elsewhere during application. It's important to only have a tiny amount dispensed during use, because in addition to not being retractable, the pencil is so thin that it's prone to breaking if too much is exposed.

The liner applies and looks like a gel - it's smooth and extremely pigmented. On my waterline, it also wears like a gel. It stays on much longer than either of my previous tightlining pencils did, and I was elated to discover that it doesn't transfer on my contact lenses at all, nor does it transfer onto my lower waterline when I've only applied it to the top. The jet black pencil enhances your lashline and finishes off a smokey eye like nobody's business. One pass is all you need, as there is never a struggle to get the product to show up on the waterline. It's been my go-to tightlining product for the past several months, and I don't ever plan to be without it in my makeup bag. 

As you might have guessed based on the title of this post, yes, this product does have a downfall. As fantastic as it is on my waterline, when used on the lashline (I tried drawing a cat eye with it), I felt it didn't apply as smoothly as a typical pot gel liner with a brush, as the liner has a somewhat thicker consistency and seemed to skip a bit when drawing a line across the skin, and it started to disappear and smear quite badly after a couple hours, which never happens with my other gel or liquid liners.

L to R: Bare tightline // Liner used to tightline upper waterline // Finished product with mascara
Each pencil contains enough product for only 17-20 uses, according to Hourglass, however, I believe this is based on using it for more substantial lining on the lashline, as my pencil is still going strong after more than 20 uses, likely because I only use it to tightline. It's become such a staple for me that I already have a back-up.

I normally wouldn't rave about a product that can only do one part of what it claims to be capable of, however, when no other product can do what it does, I think that warrants considerable praise. If you've been looking for a pencil that can draw on the waterline with blacker than black pigment and stay put, give the Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eye Liner a try. For all other eyelining purposes, stick to your usual pot gel liner instead.


NARS Virtual Domination Cheek Palette

One of my favorite purchases in recent months is a limited edition piece from this year's NARS holiday collection, the Virtual Domination Cheek Palette. It is a carefully curated palette of one highlighter, three blushes and one bronzing powder that will make any blush fiend swoon. The packaging and design is chic and substantial, and it's a nice change from NARS' usual rubbery, matte black option.
Clockwise from top left: Miss Liberty, Deep Throat, Laguna, Final Cut, Sex Fantasy

:: Miss Liberty - a fleshy peach highlighter with silver micro-glitter
:: Deep Throat - a pinky coral with golden shimmer
:: Final Cut (LE) - a matte, warm peachy coral
:: Sex Fantasy (LE) - a matte, very cool-toned baby pink
:: Laguna - their cult-classic medium-toned bronzing powder with soft golden shimmer flecks

The highlighter and blushes are just under full-size each (0.15 oz versus 0.16 oz single blush), while the bronzing powder contains more product than its full-size counterpart (0.35 oz versus 0.28 oz single bronzing powders). Considering a single blush will set you back $30, paying just over the cost of two blushes for this palette is a fantastic deal.

In general, the blushes in this palette can tend to be a bit powdery, which is unlike any of the NARS single blushes I own. However, I still find them to be pigmented, blendable and long-wearing. In this palette, Laguna is a bit less pigmented than the one I own in the Orgasm/Laguna duo, but it's buildable and has more or less the same effect on the skin.

L to R: Miss Liberty, Deep Throat, Final Cut, Sex Fantasy and Laguna
While I already knew I liked Laguna bronzer and figured I would enjoy Deep Throat and Final Cut blushes as well, as the shades are right up my alley, I was pleasantly surprised by how wearable Sex Fantasy was on my warm complexion, and by how much I didn't mind the glitter from Miss Liberty (dare I say I actually liked it?). I've reached for Miss Liberty a lot lately, and I find that the glitter sets it apart from my other highlighters, which tend to be more shimmery or sheen-y, and it makes Miss Liberty a great option for when I want a more dramatic look. And let's be honest here - who doesn't love a bit of glitter every now and again?

Wearing Laguna bronzer, Final Cut blush and Miss Liberty highlighter
While the overall quality of the powders in this palette may be ever so slightly subpar to their single counterparts, I certainly would not classify any of them as duds. They still apply beautifully on the skin, and the limited edition packaging and compilation of shades cannot be beat. Any makeup lover would be thrilled to find this wrapped under the tree this holiday season. 

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