Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Of 2013: My Beauty Picks

2013 felt somewhat less monumental than its predecessor when it comes to beauty products. It has something to do with the fact that my biggest skincare loves from 2012 still reign supreme for me, despite (or because) having tested many other options in the closing year. As I started working on this post I did it with less enthusiasm than last year, but going over my notes and files I realized that there's quite a bit to celebrate and acknowledge. Not 100% of my top picks are 2013 launches but I only discovered them this year, so they're part of the list.

My top 12 makeup discoveries:

  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder. This range of finishing powders is innovative, beautiful, and challenges Guerlain as best in category (perhaps why Guerlain felt compelled to reformulate their Meteorite Pearls).
  • Chanel Le Blush Creme de Chanel. An excellent cream-to-powder formula in gorgeous colors and superb longevity.
  • Ellis Faas Hot Lips. There were many great lipsticks this year, but nothing as innovative and beautiful as this velvet finish intense colors.
  • Pixi Beauty- Endless Silky Eye Pen. It's actually a range of pencils, but forget about the name. Rich and complex colors that perform beautifully and put to shame eyeliners from top luxury brands.
  • Urban Decay Vice 2 Palette. Probably the most fun item I got to play with this year. Some of the colors are a bit out there, but the concept was irresistible.
  • NARS Blkr 413 Multiple. There's a reason The Multiple has maintained its cult status for years, and this color is one of the best in the line.
  • Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencils. Quick, easy, and the colors are excellent. This brand deserves a lot more attention and hype.
  • Chanel Lash Curler. This was my last purchase of the year and I have to thank a sharp-eyed reader who alerted me that the curler was back in stock. Simply the best I've tried so far.
  • Dior Bonne Etoile eye shadow quint. The most beautiful palette this year, stunning colors, exquisite textures.
  • NARS Satin Lip Pencils.  The lab people at NARS have been doing some much needed work on new lip product formulas. These pencils were one of the best examples of their success.
  • Hourglass Femme Nude Lip Stylo. I used up the first one so quickly I had to buy my second within a couple of months, and I'm not even a nude lip person. It's become my base lip product under various glosses.
  • Lancome Black Lapis Le Crayon Khol. The classic formula in a new(ish) color that might just become my signature.
My top six skin and body care discoveries:

The last three items above seem to point towards an interesting trend: indie perfumers who start formulating high quality and all-natural cosmetic products. These oils smell heavenly, but it's the quality ingredients and visible effect that made them must-have for me.

Christmas shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, 1962, via myvintagevogue.com

Other points of interest:
  • The much-anticipated Marc Jacobs beauty line was perhaps the most significant new launch of 2013. There was a lot of media hype and a pre-sale that cleaned out the stock (Marc Jacobs is a Sephora exclusive). The packaging is very pretty, modern, and chic. The colors are dazzling. However, the formulas leave a lot to be desired and feel like stuff that could have been on the market ten years ago. I have a strong feeling that most of the investment in developing Marc Jacobs Beauty went into the packaging, so it's a case of style over substance. 
  • Fashion-inspired makeup collections are nothing new. The two major ones of 2013 were very different from each other: Alber Elbaz for Lancome turned out to be a simple repackaging of existing Lancome products and colors and some of the items looked a bit cheap. I see it as a missed opportunity for greatness. Elbaz is such a great talent and seems like a truly nice and inspiring man. I wish we had gotten his real and personal take on beauty and makeup. NARS Guy Bourdin collection brought us new lipstick formulas and a wide selection of colors. Not everyone was happy with NARS for choosing the controversial and ill-reputed fashion photographer as the inspiration. Bourdin was famous for objectifying women and his treatment of models and of the women in his personal life was questionable at best. However, the late photographer has always inspired Francois Nars (Exhibit A that was repromoted with the current collection has been part of the regular line for as long as I remember), so there's nothing really new about it. Bottom line is that the makeup was great, the packaging magnificent, and while I dearly wish Mr. Nars had some nicer icons to inspire him, I can't complain as I've been buying his stuff for the last 12 years or so.
  • My biggest on-going disappointment has been Bobbi Brown.  I wrote a full post about it back in May and it seemed to resonate with many of you. Subsequent collections and new releases from Bobbi Brown kept going in the same direction. I just bought a couple of items from the regular permanent line, but other than that every visit to the counter ended up with nothing in my shopping bag. Neither Katie Holmes nor Old Hollywood helped any, and no amount of shimmer can cover the fact that one of my favorite brands in the known universe has jumped the shark.
  • Let's end it on a positive note. Rouge Bunny Rouge has been expanding and is coming to New York. While there were some technical issues delaying the big day, Twisted Lily in Brooklyn expects to have a fully functioning RBR makeup counter in early February. 
How was your year? What did you discover and what disappointed you? Who and what inspired you?

Thank you for reading and being here year after year. I wish you a fresh start and all of the very best in the coming year- health, love, happiness, and kittens!

Top photo: Vogue Paris, December 1971.


  1. That RBR counter news is so exciting! Thank you!

  2. My year hasn't been too exciting makeup-wise, I did pick up some things that did unexpectedly make me look more alive like Chanel's Les Beiges powder. I've tried a number of things from your list and I do like them all. I like the Ambient powders but the Meteorites are still my favorite as they can make my skin look like porcelain with the lightest dusting. That's quite a feat since my skin has its troubles. I'm still working on exploring perfumes expanding my fragrance horizons. The most exciting thing you said though was about Rouge Bunny Rouge coming to the Twisted Lily! I have not been there yet, although I live a hop, skip & a jump away and take dance classes nearby, so now I have even more incentive to go there. 2014, I'm there! lol

  3. What a wonderful year we have had here! I want to wish you and yours the Best of the New Year, Gaia. May it be Happy, Healthy and Prosperous.

  4. I'm with you with the Hourglass products. I'm not even a fan of shimmer or nude lips, but these products made me a fan.

    I'm so excited by the RBR as it's a line I want to try.

    This year, I've been all about NARS again, mainly buying the new lip pencils and some old favorites. And this year as been the year of beauty oils for me as well.

  5. Have been reading your blog for many years for your perfume reviews and pictures of your cats (always a joy). Last year, however, my one new year's resolution was to start seriously switching up my beauty routines, both makeup and skincare, so I started reading all your reviews, not just the perfume ones. It's turned out that the vast majority of my new makeup (especially lip products) and skin care products this year were purchased as a result of reading your reviews of them. As far as outcomes of new year's resolutions goes, this one's been excellent. Every thing I got has lived up wonderfully to expectations and the fun factor of all this experimentation has been extremely high - much needed in an otherwise less that stellar year. Thanks!

  6. Now you mentioned it, I'm also leaning towards indie producers for my skincare routine (I discovered Burren's Rose Otto face oil that works as a serum and my face is thanking me every day).

    I see I'm not the only one having a problem with finding a good lash curler, thank you for pointing me towards Chanel. :)

  7. I discovered your blog this year. I've enjoyed learning about perfume and especially love those wonderful vintage photos you post. What a treat they are to look at! Thank you from a new loyal reader, Susan

  8. I totally agree with you about the Chanel cream blushes. They're perfect. The Hourglass powders, however, are too heavy for my skin; the Guerlain Meteorites Voyage compact remains the one and only powder that works for my very dry skin. As for what I missed out on this year, Aftelier Ancient Resins Hair & Body Elixir remains at the top of that list. Can't wait to try it at some point.

    Thanks for your wonderful reviews (and cat pix) throughout the past year(s). May 2014 bring you and your family--kitties included, of course!--much joy.

  9. I'm still no-committal on the Hourglass Lighting Palette. I've had it for more than a month, and am still on quandary of whether the effect is worth keeping it. Mostly it takes too much time to use it to max effect, something that I rarely have during the morning rush. I'm also non-committal on Les Blush Cremes de Chanel, mostly because the longevity sucks on me though the colors are pretty...
    We have the NARS pencil in common though, love that too.

  10. I had one of the Chanel cream blushes - I haven't been thrilled with it (I don't care for the texture - too dry) but I decided to give it another chance when the Spring '14 colors came out. Love the color, not thrilled with the product - I do love cream blush, but I guess I'm just not mad about cream-to-powder on my aging cheeks!

    Also - I love the Lancome Black Lapis too - just wanted to let you know it's been around a LONG time! I've used this since I was married to my first husband, and his mother sold cosmetics. Since I've been divorced from him for 10 years, and his mother retired probably 10 years prior to that, I know it's been around for at least 20 years, and probably longer. It's still a great color - obviously, if it's been around that long!


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