Top Beauty Picks of 2013: 13 Products to Pretty

A new year brings new hopes, new opportunities and new beginnings. And along with it, the much awaited blog post of the year: The Best of Beauty. I don't know about you but I've spent the last two weeks reading blog posts after blog posts and watching all my favourite beauty vloggers, sharing and discussing their top beauty picks of 2013. And I can't get enough. It's partly down to my nosy nature but it's also due to my obsession with all things beauty. This is my third time compiling my favourite beauty finds of the past year and it is by far my favourite post to write.

Unlike other bloggers, I didn't have any difficulty narrowing down my choices and deciding which products truly deserved a spot on my list. I knew exactly what products to include and I think it's a clear testament to how much I love each and everyone of them. 2013 has been a great year for beauty. I tried my fair share of new beauty products, discovered and fell in love with several brands (mainly Bourjois) and I had such a blast while I was at it. But 13 products stood out among the pool of prettiness. (Three are repeats from last year and I counted the make-up brushes as one) So without further ado, here are the winners- the crème de la crème of my make-up stash.

To kick things off, we have Bourjois Happy Light Luminous Serum Primer. Prior to purchasing this, I only had one primer in my collection- the wonder that is the Benefit POREfessional. To be honest with you, I never understood the need for primers. With my current lifestyle right now, I don't need my foundation to last me more than 8 hours. The only reason why I use POREfessional is because it helps to minimize the appearance of my pores. But I completely understand the fuss with primers now and boy, it's all thanks to this offering from Bourjois. This skincare/make-up hybrid instantly hydrates my skin, leaving it looking and feeling a lot more smoother and softer. Although it's not the mattifying version, this complexion enhancing primer leaves a semi-matte finish while still delivering the most subtle natural looking radiant glow, without leaving my skin shimmery in the slightest. It creates the perfect smooth canvas for my foundation to adhere to, resulting in a smoother and easier application. Smooth, hydrated, radiant looking skin- for my dull dry skin, this has been a life-saver. 

When it came to nailing the no make-up I just woke up looking quite the bombshell with flawless skin look, I opted for light coverage foundations.When it comes to bases, I always prefer a light coverage because I don't have any major imperfections that requires covering up. (Not a day goes by when I don't thank my lucky stars). Apart from the occasional minimal redness, a few spots that are few and far between, I only have my terrible permanent under-eye circles to deal with. So with that said, the two foundations I relied on were: Revlon Nearly Naked Foundation in 150 Nude and Maybelline Fit Me Foundation in 210 Sandy Beige. I spent the majority of 2013 going back and forth between them. Why? They both offer a natural finish to the skin. Their coverage is light- just how I like it but still very buildable (especially the Fit Me foundation) without leaving me in a cakey mess. I can layer on their formula but they will still leave me with a second layer of perfect, natural looking skin. Their lightweight formulas blends seamlessly into the skin, blurring out my minimal imperfections and covers redness with great ease. As for the finish, it's a cross between matte and dewy. It sits perfectly in between, leaving me with a subtle natural luminous finish. They add a subtle dewy, glow-y veil without the unwanted shine. Flawless, fresh complexion with lightweight,easy to buff in formulas? Me gusta :)

The only face make-up product, lucky enough to appear twice in a row in my annual Best of Beauty post, Nars Casino Bronzer rightfully deserved the nickname I've given it The Bombshell Tool (quite creative no?) This highly pigmented chocolate brown bronzer with its soft, finely milled texture creates cheekbones like no other. While it consists of micro golden shimmers, they're subtle enough and it has more of a matte finish than shimmery, making it the ideal contour shade for my complexion. If I wanted to channel my inner Kardashian for a day, I called my trusted and ultimate bronzer BFF to lend me a helping hand. Swept under or on my cheekbones, it instantly slims down my round face and sculpts- giving my face the much needed definition. It made my dreams of having it's all down to genes chiseled cheekbones a reality. Lightly dusted all over my face where the sun naturally shines(forehead, cheeks, nose and chin), it warms up my complexion, offering the most natural looking sun kissed glow. Casino+Me= LOVE.

My most used (shall I say abused?) eyeshadow palette the Urban Decay Naked Palette was a favourite in 2012 and it was still a firm favourite in 2013. It has certainly earned its holy grail status because it served me well.... time and time again. What's not to love? Do I even need to elaborate? A beautiful palette with a wide selection of all needs are met shades from bronzes, golds and taupes- it's heaven. It has always been about Smog, Darkhorse and Toasted but the 2 buttery soft matte shades- Buck and Naked captured my heart last year. All shades are super blendable and incredibly pigmented. Surprise pick? Definitely not.

2013 has been quite the year for cream blushes. Cream blushes dominated my cheeks in full force. I developed a massive crush on them and rightly so. For a gal who considers dry skin as her annoying relative that she has to put up with on a regular basis, they are far more forgiving than powder blushes. As long as I prep my skin with plenty of hydration in the form of a moisturizer, they don't accentuate nor do they cling onto dry patches as much. Plus as long as I blend them correctly into my skin, they look a lot more natural. The cream blush that ignited my love and served as the catalyst for my newly found obsession with the stuff was Revlon PhotoReady Cream Blush in Pinched. I spent the first half of 2013 abusing this blush. Not a day went by without me layering this beaut of a blush. Then summer came and Bourjois released their line of cream blushes. Bourjois Cream Blush in 02 Healthy Glow quickly found a permanent residence inside my make-up bag. Pinched is a lovely light soft peach that I reached for when I wanted to add a pop of freshness to my cheeks. Its faint pinkish peach hue is beautiful and irresistible as it is softly and quietly pretty. Healthy Glow is a deep peachy coral. For a healthy flush, this was my blush of choice. Both shades are actually very similar in terms of their colour, once applied to my cheeks. Pinched is just a tad lighter and due to its thinner formula, I do need to layer it on to achieve the same colour payoff as Healthy Glow but it was  the perfect choice, on the days when all I wanted was a minimal color on my cheeks. Their silky soft consistency makes them a dream to apply. They're so easy to blend and once blended into the skin, they both transform to a semi-matte powder finish while still injecting such a beautiful, natural looking glow.

The Real Techniques Contour Brush with its densely packed but not rigid bristles is perfect for applying my cream blushes to the apples of my cheeks. The bristles always pick up just the right amount of product and blends them in beautifully. Its small size is so ideal for blush application.

To keep my lips nicely smooth and soft, all year round- Elemis Fresh Skin Loving Lips Quenching Lip Balm (phew! What a mouthful) stepped up to the challenge. Formulated with sweet almond oil, Vitamin E and passion flower oil, it moisturizes, soothes and softens my lips. It has such a nice, refreshing peppermint candy scent (think Polo and Mentos) It also leaves a noticeable subdued glossy finish which is similar to a lipgloss but it's non sticky and I love it.

Lipstick wise, one thing is crystal clear to me. I love me some glossy lipstick/lipgloss/lipbalm hybrids with plenty of shine. 2013 saw the addition of 2 beloved lipsticks to my everyday make-up bag. Maybelline Color Whisper in Orange Attitude and Bourjois Color Boost Glossy Lipstick/Lip Crayon in Orange Punch were the clear winners in their category. They both look quite a vibrant orange in their respective packaging but they apply less orange, more coral to the lips. In terms of their colour, texture and finish- they're so identical, in so many ways. Hydrating, sheer but buildable wash of juicy orange toned muted coral made them the perfect candidates for perking up my complexion. Once applied to the lips, I honestly cannot tell the difference between them. Swatched side by side, it's easy to spot the difference between the shades. Orange Attitude significantly pulls a little bit more orange, whereas Orange Punch has more of a pink undertone thus, making it a pink toned coral. Due to their glossy nature, they don't stick around for too long (1 1/2 hrs max). Do I wish for them to hang around a lot longer? Yes. Does it bother me that they don't? Not in the slightest.

For a subtle nod to the bold lip trend trend, I enlisted the help of my Burberry Lip Glow in Pink Sweet Pea during the latter part of 2013 (thanks to Nic for her very generous giveaway :) ) With its great I can't believe it's not a lipstick pigmentation, it fits the bill every.single.time. 1 swipe and you'll have yourself a semi-opaque coverage, double it up and you'll have yourself some serious pigmentation for a lipgloss. Pink Sweet Pea is a stunning rich, highly pigmented vibrant fuchsia pink. The nourishing oils and ceramides (with its excellent moisturizing properties) cushion the lips with impressive hydration. My lips look so hydrated and plump every time I've reached for it because the formula imparts such a lovely luscious shine to the lips. Longwearing (lasts up to 3 hours on me) but non-sticky formula that also feels cushion-y when worn? Give me some more shades please.

Dry patches didn't stand a chance with Origins Drink Up 10 min mask by my side. This is a skin care saviour in a tube. As mentioned above, I tend to suffer from dry patches especially on my cheeks. I tend to get them all year round, but they were particularly bad last year especially during the last couple of weeks. (In the run-up to Christmas, how typical) For a quick boost of hydration, I didn't have to look far. The cocktail of moisture boosting and thirst- quenching ingredients such as Algae Extracts and Apricot Kernel Oil truly helped with replenishing the needed moisture back into my skin. Prior to the onslaught of the dreaded evil, sadistic dry patches at the start of November last year, I used this once a week and it kept my dry patches at bay. Applied as a weekly treat, my skin just drinks it up. It sinks in really quickly. I find it incredibly hydrating and soothing, leaving my entire face feeling so smooth and soft. Leave it on for 10-15 mins then tissue/rinse off (I tend to use a soft face cloth to remove it) and hey presto, nourished, softer skin with no sign of greasiness is mine! Applied twice weekly, whenever my skin  required more hydration for example during November, it immediately solved my dry skin woes and showed my dry patches the door. Regular use results in fewer dry patches. Fewer dry patches= HAPPY DIANE. Did I mention that it also has such a nice peachy fruity scent?

For achieving a natural looking, my skin but a whole lot better, fresh faced finish and to achieve a seamless and flawless foundation application ( or any other liquid/cream products for that matter) the Real Techniques Buffing Brush was still THE ONE. This brush is to me, what Chuck is to Blair. A love pairing so powerful, they should always be inseparable. Match made in heaven? YES!

As for the Real Techniques Blush Brush , it's slightly too fluffy and large for applying blush onto the apples of my cheeks but where it fails in blush application, it makes it up during bronzer application. It contours and defines my cheeks perfectly. The tapered end makes it ideal for applying a contour shade into the hollows of my cheeks.

No 7 Blend and Contour Brush has been my partner in crime for the last 3 years. The love is still going strong. After countless washes, not once did it shed a single hair and it serves me well as far as blending is concerned. 

So there we have it, my beauty favourites of 2013. If my experience with beauty in 2013 is anything to go by, I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for me. Needless to say, I'm going to take you on the journey with me. :)


Chic Caviar Manicure with Ciate

 How did you spend New Year's Eve? How did you welcome the next 365 days of our lives? Perhaps you attended a party? Wore your highest heels and headed to the hottest nightclub for a crazy night out with your closest girlfriends? A quiet dinner with your loved ones and maybe you even busted out the odd champagne? OR maybe you just decided to lounge around in your pyjamas and watch the firework display, right in the comfort of your own home? Hey, I'm not judging because I spent my night, exactly like that but with a beauty related activity added to the mix. With my beauty obsession in full gear, I couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year than sporting a new nail design.

The mini Ciate nail polish and Caviar Kit which I got free with the July 2013 issue of Marie Claire UK, came out to play because it was perfect for creating the look that I had in mind. The kit contains two mini polishes: Cookies and Cream paint pot and the fabulous Shooting Star Caviar Pearls. I opted for a nude shade paired with an accent nail, done up with micro beads because is there an easier way to spice up a regular manicure than painting an accent nail? Now I know the whole accent and caviar manicure trends are certainly not new but for this nail art virgin and amateur (yup that's me), they certainly are.

Cookies and Cream  is a suits everyone light grey toned nude cream. It's such a gorgeous neutral shade. As for Shooting Star , it consists of tiny gold, silver, lilac and light blue micro beads. Perfect for adding the special touch to your manicure. Upon initial application of the first coat, Cookies and Cream has the tendency to apply slightly streaky and sheer but come the application of the second and third coat , all is forgotten as they apply smoothly and evenly. It requires 3 coats to achieve a full, smooth coverage and each coat dries within minutes. Pairing Cookies and Cream and Shooting Star Caviar Pearls together was pure genius. They complement each other so well and work so beautifully together to create such a sophisticated chic mannequin look with a nice pop of golden sparkle to liven up an otherwise quite boring shade.

Steps for creating the beautiful look: 
1.) Paint all the nails with the exception of the ring fingers using 3 coats of Cookies and Cream.
2.) Paint the ring fingers with 1 coat of polish then leave them to dry.
3.) One ring finger at a time, apply a second coat of polish and while still wet (don't let it dry- the beads won't stick) sprinkle the caviar pearls onto each nail above a deep rectangular acrylic box (this helps to control the mess as the box catches the excess beads. A paper plate will also suffice or any other deep container you have lying around your house. Because you've collected the remaining unattached beads, you can easily pour them back into the bottle using a paper funnel. I made my own. It's super easy to make.
4.) Straight after you've sprinkled the beads onto the nails, very gently press down on the beads. This helps to secure them firmly in place to the nail and it also removes the excess beads that are simply sitting on top of the other beads, unattached.
And say hello to glam nails, done oh so right!

 Isn't the finished look so pretty?The pearls won't stick around forever and a day, because they do start to fall off within a couple of hours but for a quick way to add a little somethin' somethin' to your manicure- look no further. The Ciate Caviar kits are quite expensive because they would normally set you back £18 each but right now they're only £5 here so if you want to give this trend a go, do it now. :) Alternatively, you can try to hunt down some micro beads at your local craft/supplies store. I bet they would be a lot cheaper too :)

Who knew nail art could be SO easy? And that by simply painting and designing my ring finger a different way, it can make such a massive difference without requiring too much effort? Accent nail trend? Consider me SOLD. I think it's best to save Caviar manicure for special occasions but I'm totally behind the accent nail. 

Now that my interest in nail art is alive and kicking, can you recommend some EASY designs for a newbie like me? Note the emphasis on easy. Those tiny polka dots look rather nice eh? Guess I just need to get my hands on some nail dotting tools. Here's to 2014 and trying out new beauty trends. 


Food for Thy Hands

Winter= dry, cracked hands. FACT. We all know the cold winter weather can wreck all sorts of havoc on our hands. It's our biggest enemy in combating dry and chapped hands. The not so favourable weather combined with  dry air (courtesy of indoor heating) has the tendency to remove the natural protective oils found in our skin, leaving our skin dehydrated thus, it leads us to the common weather associated complaint. We can't do anything about Mother Nature but we can certainly use products that can make putting up with HER that much easier. Enter Soap and Glory Hand Food.

You know when everyone raves about a product and you can't help but try it yourself, just to see what all the fuss is about? That's Hand Food for me. There is no shortage of reviews when it comes to this hand cream , but when it meets expectations and performs greatly, it's only fitting that I share my thoughts right? The more, the merrier?

I tend to suffer from chronic red and itchy hands all year round, thanks to my inherited and long term battle with eczema. It's not so bad that I always suffer from cracked hands as such but my hands is often dry. Before trying Hand Food, I had my reservations. I had my worries about possible allergic reactions and irritations because I have quite sensitive skin (thanks Dad). But so far, so good.

The lightweight formula infused with shea butter and macadamia oil and thin consistency (albeit just a tad watery) allows it to melt easily into my hands. It sinks in immediately, quickly replenishing the much needed moisture back into my hands. After absorbing the cream, my hands have the tendency to feel greasy as it often leaves a trail of slight grease in its wake, not too greasy that I'm running towards the nearest sink to wash it off, it's definitely noticeable but nothing that cannot be overcome. I've managed to find a way around it. My tip? Quickly work and rub the cream gently into your hands until it vanishes completely. I find that the the quicker I massage the cream, the less greasy it feels. Once it is fully absorbed, it restores life back into my hands leaving it silky soft, supple, soothe and smooth. I apply it twice daily. Once during the day and again, just before I catch up on my beauty sleep. And that's my moisturizing needs all sorted.

When it comes down to it, the scent is the only possible deal breaker. You either love it or hate it . There is no in between with this one. With notes of bergamot, mandarin, floral, musk and amber, it can be quite overwhelming at times. I remember when I first tried this, it caught me off guard. I found it so heavily scented that I stopped using it for a good while. But then one day, I decided to give it a second chance and I'm so glad I did because the benefits it offers my hands outweigh the scent. To me it's a sweet floral scent. Hand Food also includes notes of strawberries and warm vanilla but to me, it's definitely more floral than fruity. Its strong floral aroma is attributable to the fennel and lotus flower extracts. I'm never going to be the biggest fan of the scent because it lingers for a good while post application, as it doesn't dissipate quickly but I find the more that I use it, the less that it bothers me.

To sum it up, its quick absorbing, lightweight with a not too greasy/sticky formula that truly hydrates, soothes,nourishes and softens the hands makes this a hand bag staple for many gals including me. Is it the best hand cream ever? Not quite but that's only because I haven't tried that many to hail it as the ultimate champion but if I come across another great hand cream, trust me-you'll know about it ASAP. Now where did I put my tube of Hand Food because my hands are crying out for another serving of the stuff. ;)