...Er. Sorry about the premature publication. Here's the post that's supposed to come next.
You've heard all about the individual colors, but I thought you might like to see how they look when depotted and placed into the larger custom palette. It holds six shadows, three blushes, or some other combination as shown here. In truth, these shadows would pair better with a cool pink blush (like Amazing) but I've got enough of those already.
It sometimes seems to me that with every passing year my skin becomes drier. My lips crack and bleed. My eyes develop fine lines. Flakes congregate on my nose—why my nose, I've no idea. Exfoliants that leave other skins smooth and bright bite into my sensitized, irritable skin. But I've gotten used to it. By the time February rolls around, the dehydration has become so entrenched that no balm nor unguent can shift it. I do the recommended things—humidifiers, reduce cleansing, sheet masks, liters of water, omega-3 supplements—but even after tonnes of moisturizer, I'm still bone dry.
My dehydration is seasonal. When the air is humid and warm, my paper-thin skin picks up moisture readily, so all that's required is a drop or two of face oil (low sebum year round). But as the weather cools, my skin starts to dehydrate, a steady accumulation of moisture loss that, by February, can be alleviated but never quite eliminated. I've accepted this as an inevitability.
Then, late in February, a box of Naruko goodies rolled in. Based in Taiwan, Naruko was developed by famed dermatologist Niu Er. Its popularity throughout Asia is grounded on solid formulations at modest prices. Like most Asian skincare, the products lean heavily on humectants and silicones. This means that the Naruko routine is complex, with multiple steps well beyond the Western norm: double cleansing, serums to address every concern, sheet masks, whisper-light sunscreens, massage peels, and sleeping gellys. Moisturizer is practically an afterthought. Even if you've long since graduated from the Clinique Three Step, you may still balk at the thought of such an elaborate routine. This is not a technique occasionally deployed, such as the deft application of false lashes, but a twice-daily commitment. But if you suffer from dehydration, layering is by far the most effective solution. For you, a single moisturizer isn't going to cut it.
The complete Rose & Snow Fungus range: meant to be layered.
Dehydration can affect any skin type. In order to combat it effectively, you need to saturate your skin with humectants, ingredients that bind moisture to your skin, then seal it in with emollients, ingredients that create a barrier to prevent moisture loss. If you are dry and skip the first step, thinking all you need are oils, then the emollients will sit on top of your skin, and underneath the grease the dehydration remains. If you are oily and skip the second step, because you hate the heavy feel of creams on your skin, your skin will not retain moisture for long. For that reason, skincare that's focused on hydration, typically most Asian skincare, tends to be layered: light-textured, readily absorbed layers are more effective than a single heavy cream.
Naruko's system features a number of important tweaks. Each layer has a cocktail of botanical extracts and actives that brighten the skin. The effect is temporary and lasts only a day, but the results are immediate: for that reason, I'd venture to say that Naruko's formulations cannot be dismissed as a mere gimmick (fermented sake?ten-year-old ginseng? puh-leese). On top of this instant luminosity, I've never had a brand so thoroughly, so effectively hydrate my skin.
That dead-o'-winter February dehydration—gone.
Like most Asian brands, the first step after cleansing is a "softener", the Rose & Snow Fungus Aqua Cubic Hydrator ($20), a humectant-rich solution that superficially resembles a toner but functionally acts as a pre-moisturizer. In Asian skincare, the softener (sometimes called "toner", "water", or "lotion", just to confuse things further) is considered fundamental, not optional. It looks and feels like thickened water, and if you're not used to them, can feel sticky on the skin. I recommend patting it into your skin with your hands: it saves on product and aids absorption. Naruko's offering is similar to the no-frills, alcohol-free basic, Hadalabo, but less sticky (hyaluronic acid but not glycerin). It has a strong but pleasant grassy-rose fragrance, like a fine rosewater, and, like all products in the Rose & Snow Fungus range, that little extra kick from the brighteners.
And here is Naruko's twist on the layered Asian skincare routine: instead of moving onto a serum, the emulsion step, the Rose & Snow Fungus Aqua Cubic Moisturizer ($21) comes next. The Asian "emulsion" is a thin fluid, analogous to a Western lotion (rather than a cream). Some brands call this step a "milk", which may describe its texture better, because it's designed to absorb very quickly into the skin without a greasy feel. Naruko takes advantage of the high-absorption of the Asian emulsion for a unique double-hydration step: together, the softener and emulsion take care of dehydration first, before serum, before cream, before sunscreen. Such a simple edit, and it works like a charm.
From here, it's up to you. If you are acne-prone, then the Tea Tree Oil Out Balancing Serum ($23) might be your speed, if you want extra brightening, the Magnolia Brightening & Firming Serum ($23.50), while the Rose & Snow Fungus Aqua Cubic Complex ($23.50) adds a boost of moisture. The brand is affordable enough that you can switch according to your skin's needs. Personally, I don't care for serums, because actives usually trigger sensitivities, so instead I move onto a cream, but you can be certain I'll be saving this trick for winters to come. I was already using a softener, but it wasn't quite cutting through my winter dehydration. The thin emulsion sandwiched between the softener and the cream is brilliant. Normally, balms and butter and oils and very thick, heavy barrier creams cannot be applied to dehydrated skin. The softener and emulsion take care of that for you.
At night, Naruko recommends applying their famous Night Gellys on top of your serum, which are silicone-based gels that seal in the moisture overnight, a hybrid between an overnight mask and a barrier cream. While I can see the appeal of silicones instead of oils as an emollient barrier—they slow moisture loss but with a lighter, more elegant texture—but my skin does not (it loves oils). If your skin is the other way around, you might have better luck. A more standard moisturizer, such as the lavender-scented, shea-butter based AM/PM Indoor Defense Cream ($25.50) better suited my preferences. Unlike most shea-butter barrier creams I've tried, the finish is matte, so though it's quick thick it does not feel greasy. Since Naruko takes care of dehydration so well, I did not need quite so heavy a cream as usual. Nevertheless, on dry skin, it serves better as a day cream; it's not quite rich enough for nighttime use.
Overall, my experience with Naruko has been positive: there is no real Western equivalent to Asian softeners and emulsions. Hydration may seem like a basic requirement; nevertheless severe dehydration can be difficult to treat. This layered system not only extremely effective, it offers flexibility that you can adjust to your skin's changing needs. The silicone-heavy serums and night gellys don't work with my skin, so I'll stick to my oil-rich barrier creams, but if your skin type is oilier then they might be perfect for you. The Naruko formulations are heavy on actives and botanical extracts; it's nice to be able to try these ingredients at such modest prices, but be careful if your skin is sensitive, there is a greater chance of a reaction. So be sure to check the ingredients on the Naruko website. I would suggest trying out the most popular line, Narcissus, first.
No sooner do I declare that I wear only candy pink blushes, an itch for red blushes—to pair with warm red and coral lipsticks, green-gold eye looks—kicks in. If there's one color from Addiction that's most coveted, it's got to be Revenge, available in Powder and Cheek Stick formulations. This was my first Addiction purchase; it whet my appetite for more.
Don't be fooled by the eye-searing intensity in the pan. It's tempered by a pink undertone, not to the point of a coral-red but so it stays dead neutral instead of veering off into orange or blue. It's as close to 'universally flattering' as a blush can get, though of course, it is not so ideally flattering as my aforementioned candy pinks would be, since my skin is not itself 'neutral'. On me, I find it very similar to Shiseido RD401 Orchid, though Orchid looks more muted in the pan. The texture, like the shadows, is silky smooth and tightly, tightly pressed, so no fallout of any kind: a softer hair like grey squirrel (I use the Chikuhodo Z2) has no difficulty controlling the intensity.
The pan is exactly twice the width of an eyeshadow pan, so you can fit it into an empty palette, rather on the small side for a blush.
Instead of a swatch, here's a look with the blush on the eyes (and very faintly on the cheeks). It's very on trend—blush shades like pink, coral, and orange on eyes—but red is the most aggressive variation. It's sufficient statement on its own, so I simplified the eye as much as possible by eschewing eyeliner completely. The lipstick is Julie Hewett Femme Noir, blotted down to temper its opacity.
Here I must make a confession: my eye for foundation sucks. Sometimes I'll fall under the spell of one, only to realize some months later that the match is off or its texture much too cakey. It is lucky I can do without, or I'd run around orange in hue, a proverbial warning against makeup. But now, like so many others before me, I've discovered the Beauty Blender. It's magic, I tell you. Whole new territories of have opened before me. So, with this newfound skill at hand, here are some Addiction bases (from samples), which my friend so thoughtfully included. I also got some of the primer, but I'm even more of a dunce there; I always wonder how the silicones in a primer are so appreciably different from the silicones in my sunscreen.
They were photographed under the same conditions: flash photography, applied with damp Beauty Blender, no other makeup but lipstick.
Contrary to its name, the Tinted Moisturizer is neither sheer (light to medium coverage) nor moisturizing (obvious alcohol): really, it is closer to a BB cream. It goes on very flat-matte, even without powdering, a finish that seems to obscure pores for a flawless effect, so is ideally suited to oilier types that are self-conscious about skin texture. It lasts well, picking up some dewiness over the course of a few hours without sliding off, but I'd guess oil-control is not really one of its features. On dehydrated skin, I'd be careful with this, not only because of the alcohol but because it doesn't have a lot of slip, so you do have work quickly.
#3 is a bit too dark for me. Under flash, perhaps in combination with the SPF, it tends to show up quite yellow rather than too dark. According to my friend, the shade range for the Tinted Moisturizer, from lightest to darkest, goes #1, #4, #3, then #2. You got me...
DEWY GLOW FOUNDATION
If you prefer a satin-finish foundation, the Dewy Glow Foundation is perhaps more your speed. It sits on my skin somewhat better, mainly because the match is much closer (#3 Biscuit), but also because this resembles the natural texture of my skin, with nothing other than moisturizer. In fact, it offers slightly more coverage than the Tinted Moisturizer. It does not blur over pores like the Tinted Moisturizer, so you'll need to rely on powder for that, but it feels quite hydrating—almost soothing—on the skin, with much more slip that glides across dry skin well.
Here's the second quartet of Addiction shadows for your perusal. These were in my hands briefly for swatching purposes. However, since these are not mine, I cannot describe with the same degree of detail how they wear: they never went on my eyes. Still, a picture is worth something, especially if you buy blind.
Browntones tend to go queer on my skin. This image, of all four swatched side by side, is the most accurate I could manage.
I'm not sure Addiction is really the brand to shop for browntones, though I am not of course a reliable judge. Nice though these are, tasteful neutrals are not hard to find. Even Rouge Bunny Rouge is more accessible, especially now that Beauty Habit carries the line. Addiction is really more a brand about color and glitter. Ayako trained with François Nars (some of the promotional images for NARS collections have been her handiwork) and inherited his sense of play in makeup.
Here you've got an olive with a subtly golden shimmer that elevates it from the flat, matte khaki of Guerlain Les Verts (the most troublesome shade in that quad). I find, however, it compares poorly against the dimensionality of Shiseido Opera, which has a smoky depth running beneath that leafy green shimmer. Considering how much easier it is to get Shiseido than Addiction, you can guess where my recommendation would lie.
I remember when the first glitter shadows came out. Urban Decay led the way, followed closely by NARS. Ever since, I think the makeup community has had a love-hate relationship with glitter: looks fabulous, but oh, the awful textures! I don't know what magic has been performed at Kanebo's factories, but Baghdad Cafe, at least, is a glitter shadow without fallout. Check my swatch above, on unprimed skin, you can see for yourself how well it adheres. Of course, it is grittier, choppier than a metallic would be, but surely this is an advancement for sparkle-lovers everywhere.
I cannot do a taupe eyeshadow justice. But both Pink Sith and Café Makeup compare Flash Back favorably to Shu 945, which is high praise indeed. To my eye, it's got mauve undertones and a high-reflection that is rendered tasteful by an incredible complexity of shimmer particles: all shapes and sizes and hues. It looks like expensive pigment.
I came close to getting Sandbar for myself. A peachy beige satin like so many others, ever so slightly mauve on my skin (not even noticeable in the first swatch), more golden on Drivel About Frivol's much paler complexion. Though basic, Sandbar seems to capture some of the complexity of human skin, which any painter can tell you, is a challenge to recreate out of pigment. Ultimately, I decided against it because it is an awkward medium depth on my NW18ish skin: not quite dark enough to contour, like Dior Aurora or Stila Latte, and yet not quite light enough to highlight, as with my mainstay Laura Mercier Stellar. It might be used to beautiful effect on NC25 or above, as on So Lonely In Gorgeous.
When I buy makeup, most foremost in my mind are the looks the pigment may yield*. I am of course limited by anatomy; eagle-eyed readers will remember my tendency to build eyeshadow into rounded shapes in the looks shown below, not exactly technical challenges. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to me when a color turns out to be versatile and invites invention within this most everyday of rituals. That's always fun.
Here are two looks base on Arabian Ruby, which I've already described and photographed in more minute detail, but you may recall that it provides the "smoky element" in my cool-toned palette.
The same base was used throughout: Addiction Tinted Moisturizer with Suqqu Nuancing Loose Powder, and Laura Mercier Heather Pink (the first look might possibly be NARS Gaiety) on the cheeks, with Majolica Majorca Lash Expander Frame Plus and Laura Mercier Brow Definer on lashes and brows. A comparison between the Tinted Moisturizer and Dewy Glow Foundation is forthcoming, as well as swatches of some of the brown-based eyeshadows I ended up passing onto a friend who kindly allowed me to swatch.
Here is a soft, everyday version of the smoky eye, using Arabian Ruby as a softer variation on black. I am wearing my favorite lipstick: Hourglass Nocturnal. Arabian Ruby was smoked at the lashline using a firmer detail brush, Shu Uemura 5R, to work with the harder texture, then blended into a softly winged shape at the outer corners. A wash of Concrete Jungle came next. The resulting blend, though the original shades are plum and lavender, is somehow taupe on my brown-tones enhancing skin. (An actual taupe would be mud.) As a finishing touch, the sparkly pink of Suqqu Mizuaoi was dabbed onto the center of the lid.
Applied with an aggressive hand, and paired with an equally unapologetic lipstick, Arabian Ruby takes on an entirely different tenor. If anything, this look is simpler than the everyday stylings of before: packed on, with the edges blended. As a large wash, the texture does not blend as smoothly as I would like, but precision isn't paramount in this look. For some shape and definition, I managed to scrounge a black kohl for the waterline. North Star, dabbed just at the center of the lower lashline (the inner-corner highlight does not flatter me), adds the perfect dose of chilly sparkle among all those vampy darks. Then, I built up a couple layers of Make Up For Ever #48, a darker-than-dark black cherry shade that leans more red-burgundy than purple-brown. A brown base running beneath both pigments ties the eyes and lips together; I've used what normally clashes with my pink undertones to attenuate the drama. For those interested, #48 also blots down into a beautiful berry stain, in its own way a versatile product.
* In a rough ordering of what I consider 'good makeup': the face must come first, followed by the pleasures of application, and only then the veneration of the commodity.
Before they were depotted: North Star, Arabian Ruby, Concrete Jungle, and Midnight Oasis.
I miss blogging, though I've determined not to take it up again until I can figure out another project (for better or for worse, this is not a shopping diary). However, one brand in particular is well worth spotlighting, for never was a brand more aptly named: Addiction. Beyond the unusual colors and textures, these pigments offer a high level of play through customizable palettes. There is an immense satisfaction in combining pigments in fresh, inspiring combinations; as you can imagine, premade palettes generally chafe on my minimalist tendencies and browntones-hating skin. Unfortunately, Addiction is currently sold only in Japan or Japan-based sites that ship internationally, such as ichibankao and mihokoshop. As much as I dislike blind buys, no other alternative was open to me, which makes the lack of clear and comprehensive swatches especially frustrating. Notable exceptions include Drivel About Frivol and So Lonely in Gorgeous.
So, to save you weeks of trawling google.co.jp for minute images of these shades, I hope this post will prove helpful. Keep in mind, I make a conscious effort to avoid dupes, my stash is limited for comparison purposes.
While I took my time deliberating the other three, I knew from the first I wanted Concrete Jungle. The market is inundated with an infinite variety of taupes. That is well and good, but those of us who look better in grey tones, because we are too pink for browns, are hard pressed for options that equal the complexity of a Shu 945. As a friend described it, Concrete Jungle is "our version of taupe", a dependable neutral that adds depth but still integrates into the tones of the skin. It swatches soft, picking up a slightly beigey tone on my skin, but it is satisfyingly nuanced all the same. There's a lavender kick to the delicate grey, just enough to subtly correct sallowness rather than the true purple-softened-by-grey effect of Chanel Lavande. A satiny pink sheen softens the pigment, so it does not veer into the harsh matteness of Laura Mercier Twilight Grey, but it stops shy of the visible sparkle of Suqqu Mizuaoi.
If every characteristic of Concrete Jungle cooperates with my undertones, Arabian Ruby deliberately goes against the grain. The smoky eye, if you stop to consider it, is a stylized representation of dirt. Here the clash works to my advantage: Arabian Ruby provides the smoky element to my palette, like MAC Teddy, which I've used for years to create that dirty, sooty, lived-in effect. Arabian Ruby is a complex blend that wears slightly differently on every skin tone (see Li Wen's obviously purple swatch), poised perfectly between a rich chocolate and plum smoke and a wearable degree of red. The red, in lieu of the copper shimmer of Teddy, simply adds warmth, only readily obvious when positioned next to the ashy expresso of Guerlain Les Verts or the blue-leaning dark purples of Suqqu Mizuaoi and MAC Rave.
Unable to pick a peachy-pink-beige-nude highlight that would compare favorably against my longstanding favorite Laura Mercier Stellar, I settled on the silver sparkle of North Star. After all, my stash is lacking in silvers, as shown by the poverty of swatches. It can be sheered down to a scattered sparkle topcoat, in the manner of Asian eyeshadows, or layered for full metallic intensity. It is a straight, uncomplicated silver, ever-so-slightly cool, depending on complexity of finish for most of its appeal. For a grey-on-grey look, North Star provides textural variation next to the delicacy of Concrete Jungle, though it proves equally useful to brighten the vampy warmth of Arabian Ruby or the bold blue of Midnight Oasis.
A blue, my favorite color of eyeshadow, provides a note of contrast. A true primary cobalt, when layered for intensity Midnight Oasis shifts into purple, hence the ombré swatch. Though not quite as electric as Rated R, it is brighter than KATE BU-1 (a gel liner), much less the blackened purple-blue of Laura Mercier Deep Night. These differences become minimal, however, when deployed as liner—they are all essentially navy. Probably the closest blue to Midnight Oasis is the awfully choppy NARS Outremer, but Addiction is far superior in texture: a smooth, silky matte with a few scattered flecks of bright blue, by no means the uniform shimmer of Guerlain 5, Place Vendôme, Midnight Oasis.