False Positive: What To Do When You Can’t Trust The Review

By now you’ve probably heard of the sordid Sunday Riley scandal.

As with most things sordid, the entire scandal began on Reddit. A disgruntled ex-employee shared one of Sunday Riley’s corporate memos, wherein employees were required to post a minimum of three positive reviews each to “generate … confidence in the products”.

It’s not like we didn’t know reviews could be fake, of course.

What makes this entire Sunday Riley affair so scandal-worthy is the fact that (a) we now finally have confirmation; and (b) it’s a major beauty brand behind the deception.

The question now is not “who can you trust”, because honestly the answer to that is “no one”. Reviews — whether they be paid for or not — are inherently biased. Individual idiosyncrasies affect everything — from the products you choose to review all the way to the criteria you use to review. You’ll never get 100% objectivity, and that’s that.

(In case you were wondering, yes — that’s Max Weber’s theory of objectivity applied to beauty reviews, and I’m not going to apologize for it.)

I’m  not saying you should just stop reading beauty blogs and watching Youtube beauty gurus altogether, because that won’t bode well for me and the future of this website. I’m just saying you’ll need a bigger grain of salt, moving forward.

Some things to consider:

Know your source.

In another lifetime I was a college professor, and being in the social sciences, research work was one of our major requirements. Apart from no plagiarism — which was a given, clearly — I had two strict rules where sources are concerned:

  • No Wikipedia
  • Know your source

All sources are flawed, to a degree. State-sponsored media, for example, will toe the line and most likely not write anything detrimental to the state. American or European historians writing about Chinese history, on the other hand, may be saddled with unchecked Orientalism or cultural short-sightedness.

Point is, no source is 100% objective, but this doesn’t mean you should dismiss them outright. It just means you have to be aware of certain factors that could affect their output.

The same is true with bloggers and beauty gurus. Certain factors like genetics, climate, culture, social norms, personal experiences, and individual preference can affect how one reviews specific products.

I have my own biases. There are brands that I don’t patronize because I don’t like their public image. I have sensory issues so there are products I dismiss outright because they don’t feel “right”. I hate fragrance. I’m very susceptible to K-drama marketing. The list goes on.

All bloggers have their personal set of biases, and that’s unavoidable. You have your own set of biases. It doesn’t mean that everything you say is automatically untrustworthy, and the same is true for beauty bloggers and Youtube gurus.

As long as you’re aware of your source’s biases, you can read any review and get the information you need.

Weird phrasing is a red flag.

In another, other lifetime I was a freelance writer.

When you look through the writing jobs available on sites like Upwork, it’s very common to see things like “writer for product reviews wanted”.

If you think the company provides the writer with the products for testing prior to review, I have a couple of bridges to sell you.

Usually, the writers are given the product copy with specific talking points already highlighted. Companies want you to focus on certain keywords so the product will appear higher on Google search. That’s SEO 101.

In the Sunday Riley email, they wanted employees to highlight keywords like “radiance” and “non-drying”. Given that most reviews on online review platforms are kept relatively short, you’ll easily notice weird phrasing that attempts to repetitively shoehorn specific keywords in.

The result is  a very unnatural review that reads more like an extension of the official product copy than a genuine evaluation. You might not have noticed it before, but now that you’re aware, spotting these awkwardly worded reviews will be second nature.

Skip the positive reviews.

Most people are bastards, and the negative reviews on various e-commerce sites reflect this reality. Have you seen those weird one-star reviews that complain about shipping rather than talk about the actual product?

People are so dumb they’ll get a recipe, tweak it till it no longer resembles the original, then complain that it tastes like shit. They’ll even go back to the recipe site to complain and leave a one-star review, because they’re dumb.

So why read the negative reviews? Aside from those one-star dicks being infuriatingly funny, there’s also the reality that no company will pay for negative reviews.

Don’t waste your time reading the four or five star ones. They might be genuine, but that doesn’t matter. Instead, you want to look into the 2 or 3 star reviews, because these are bound to be more balanced and will offer both the pros and cons.

Of course, this being the Internet, it’s perfectly understandable if you opt to not believe anything I wrote here in this post. I’m just a 35-year-old highlighter-obsessed woman… or am I? For all you know, I might be a 50-year-old man from Wisconsin living with 90 cats, or a dolphin with particularly good wi-fi under the sea.

No one knows.

Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Only 90s Kids Will Remember: Makeup Edition

There’s been a spate of 90s-inspired makeup lately, which I suppose shouldn’t really be surprising. The kids of the dial-up era are adults now, and the 90s is finally ripe for nostalgia.

Can you believe it’s been two whole decades?

I was 16 in 1999, trying desperately to look like I wasn’t trying. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be a teen in the 90s, look no further than Channing Tatum’s character in 21 Jump Street. Basically, to be a cool kid in the 90s:

Never let them see you try, and never two-strap your backpack.

That one-strap thing was so accurate I think I still have the uneven shoulders to prove it.

I wasn’t very into makeup as a teen, but what cosmetics I did use pretty much still fell into the “didn’t try” category. You want to be effortless like Cher in Clueless, because making an effort is, like, super tragic.

Johnson’s Baby Powder

Dewy who? The only “dewy” we knew back in the 90s was the Dewey Decimal System. Matte ruled the day, and I don’t think I moisturized till I was in my 20s. True story.

Pressed powder fell in the try-hard category, so everyone was pretty much toting bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder instead. Don’t ask me why; it just made sense at the time.

All we needed was the powder, a handkerchief, and a body young and strong enough to withstand clown lung. Hey, at least our noses weren’t shiny.

Clean and Clear Oil Control Sheets

Speaking of shine, the biggest challenge of our teenage years — aside from the impending end of the world on 01/01/2000 — was grease.

Oiliness is next to ugliness, we would all sagely agree, passing around the ubiquitous blue sheets. The Clean and Clear Oil Control Sheets were prime high school commodity, much like kisses and pad paper.

If you had friends in the 90s (fingers crossed) then you know that the ritual of sharing these blue sheets meant you had to compare the post-nose application results. Getting grossed out together by all the captured oil was pretty much a cornerstone of teenage social relations in the 90s.

The Body Shop Born Lippy

I went to a pretty strict school. So strict, in fact, that Santa Claus was banned from the premises lest he steal the spotlight from Baby Jesus. Harry Potter was public enemy number one, and back-masking cassette tapes of rock music to search for subliminal messages was an actual thing.

Makeup, obviously, was a no go so we all settled for the next best thing: tinted lip balm. I’m pretty sure there were a lot of brands available at the time, but there was none more coveted than The Body Shop’s Born Lippy.

Those tiny pots of tinted lip balm were pretty expensive for high school girls, but we found ways to buy them somehow because roughly 70% of the batch would be reapplying between classes and during recess.

I don’t remember Born Lippy being particularly good for chapped lips, but we weren’t exactly buying them for lip care, duh.

HerBench Pretty When Pinched Lip and Cheek Tint

This patchy, streaky mess was a rite of passage for teen girls in the 90s. We all remember the first time we carelessly dotted this lip and cheek tint on our faces, only to realize a few seconds later that it




Pretty When Pinched was our first brush with actual color payoff, I think, and what a lesson that little red purple gel stain was.

Maybelline Fruity Jelly Lip Gloss

Ah, lip gloss. It’s not practical, it gets all over your hair, and you have to re-apply every few minutes because the goop refuses to stay put.

Still love it, though.

The lip gloss of today is so much more sophisticated. Fenty Beauty’s Gloss Bomb is a masterclass in what lip gloss ought to be: high shine, great texture, non-sticky formula.

We didn’t have any of that back in the 90s, but we sure as hell didn’t care. It was all about the gloss all day every day.

I can’t remember all of the glosses that were available back then, but this tube of fruit-scented shiny goop was my personal favorite. Nobody is born with shiny lips, man, so clearly it was the Maybelline.

But enough with the nostalgia. I honestly don’t miss being a ball of angst at 16, and I’ve moved on to better cosmetics.

I’m 35 now, and 450 pesos is no longer my threshold for expensive. I still hate looking like I’m trying, though, so I guess some things just never change.

Featured image from Digital Spy

Treat Yo Self: What To Get From The Sephora Private Sale

We don’t have a physical Sephora in the Philippines but that hasn’t stopped me from getting a package from them at least once a week.

It’s an addiction and I’m not proud of it.

I made Black earlier this year without really meaning to, and every week I’m inching my way closer to Gold. I’m not there yet but let’s just say… I’m on track.

The good news is that being a Sephora member does have its perks. Gold members (heh) get 20% off on everything, and they get to shop one day early.

For the rest of us plebs, the sale starts tomorrow, October 4. Black members get 20% off, while White members get 15%. Not bad, all in all.

Except it can get a little overwhelming, especially with a lot of the hot items selling out at the speed of light. (It’s true; I’ve been trawling the site since yesterday.) You have to be quick if you want to get your hands on the popular products.

Here’s a tip: put the products you want on your wishlist now, so you can load them in your cart ASAP and checkout like a pro tomorrow.

To help you get started, I’ve got a few recommendations for you to check out. These are a bit pricey, I admit, but that’s why you should pick them up during a sale! Get on it, people!

HOURGLASS Ambient Lighting Powder

I spent a long time resisting the siren call of the HOURGLASS Ambient Lighting Powders, but I finally gave in.

To be honest, I was worried that the powders wouldn’t actually do anything obvious, like the infamous GUERLAIN Meteorites. Don’t get me wrong — I love Meteorites, but it’s just a tiny bit too subtle sometimes, and I think for the amount of money involved, I wanted some assurance that the Hourglass powders would be, well, more visible.

Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating (I don’t like pudding, so I don’t know why I went with that phrase, but whatever), and I can gladly vouch for these Ambient Lighting Powders.

I went from owning none to owning a palette. That’s how much I love this. I have Diffused Light, which gives a clean and bright finish to the face, but the winner for me, hands down, has to be Dim Light.

I wore Dim Light for a week straight, and in that span of time I had people complimenting my face non-stop. That right there’s the pudding, no?

These Ambient Lighting Powders blur out imperfections and make you look just a little bit more together. A light dusting over my foundation gives me that airbrushed, almost Photoshopped look and only a dummy would not fall head over heels for it.

MARC JACOBS BEAUTY Enamored Hydrating Gloss Stick

I have to be honest with you: the real reason why I bought this was because I thought the packaging was insane. The good news is that the product inside that packaging is pretty good, too, so still a win for magpie me.

The name says it all: it’s a lip gloss in stick form. Personally, I think of it as a glossy balm, since it’s pretty moisturizing, too. This is pretty sheer, especially for the nude-tone shades like Sugar, Sugar. For a pop of color, you’ll be better served by the bright and punchy Candy Bling.

Word of caution: this stick doesn’t twist back down. Don’t go twisting all the way up to check the amount available because you won’t be able to reverse the product back into the packaging. Just twist up however much you need.

URBAN DECAY Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid

When it comes to base, you want to work smart, not hard. The last thing you want is a thick layer of foundation. Nobody like’s cake face!

Color correctors can target discoloration so you don’t have to go overboard with the foundation and concealer. Use a green corrector to camouflage red spots, or peach to cover up brownish dark circles. (For blue or purple circles, go with pink.)

The URBAN DECAY correctors are lightweight but very pigmented, so you only need a little to cover up specific blemishes or discoloration. They’re also very easy to blend — I just dot it on my face and tap the product in with my ring finger.

Apply the correctors first (after primer) and you can get away with just a light layer of foundation and barely any concealer. No more cake face for you.


I’m a 90s kid, so obviously I spent a large chunk of my teenage years re-applying lip gloss. My aesthetic was lechon realness, and it was poppin’.

The FENTY BEAUTY Gloss Bomb is lip gloss 2.0. It’s moisturizing, it’s non-sticky, and it’s very, very, very shiny.

The original Fenty Glow is a universal rosy nude, while new contender Diamond Milk is straight up glitter. Both are beautiful and worth your coin.

SUNDAY RILEY Luna Sleeping Night Oil

I managed to get two (yes, two) deluxe samples of this face oil at 5ml each and I’m telling you: this stuff is bomb.

I was going through a rather unfortunate breakout earlier this year and by the time I received the samples, I felt like my face had pretty much calmed down but still wasn’t in its usual healthy state.

I didn’t have any new pimples (thank goodness) but I could still feel so many of them lurking under my skin. Big, cystic pimples that were just wasting for the right moment to surface. Ugh.

So I warmed up a couple of drops of the Luna Sleeping Night Oil on my palms and pat it all over my face. I swear: it took barely 60 seconds for everything to absorb. The next day I woke up and the cystic pimples were gone.


Many of those under-the-surface pimples became tiny whiteheads and disappeared from my face in two to three days. Now that’s magic.

Luna Sleeping Night Oil has a milder, less irritating form of retinol, which accounts for the results I got. I’ve used Differin for years and though I like the acne-clearing effect, I’ve always found retinol and its ilk very irritating. Luna is the solution to that very drying problem, and I’m glad to have found it.

The only reason I haven’t bought it yet is because the deluxe samples are going to last me a very, very long time. The minute those run dry, you can bet I’m scooping up a full-sized one.

To borrow from The Sound of Music, these are just a few of my favorite things. The reason I’ve gotten obsessed with Sephora in the last couple of years is because it offers a lot of new brands that we don’t get locally.

Your beauty options don’t have to be limited, and when sale season comes around, you better be ready to make the most of it. I know I am.

Featured image from Retail In Asia

How To Dig Yourself Out Of A Sallow Grave

I like to think that I’m teflon when it comes to most insults, but there is one word that cuts deep, deep, deep into my very soul:


The Chinese call it “黃臉婆”.

The literal translation is “yellow-faced woman”, though I will argue that replacing “woman” with “hag” is more accurate and better captures the biting essence of the phrase.

As a child I found the insult baffling, because us Chinese people are, as you know, yellow. But the “yellow” in 黃臉婆 isn’t about skin color — it refers to a pale, sickly tinge of yellow commonly associated with illness and aging, otherwise known as a sallow complexion.

Sallow skin is wan and lackluster. It is the absolute opposite of a radiant, healthy glow. Sallow skin is everything you do not want for your face, but frighteningly common among East Asians given our natural skin color.

[Side note: a sallow complexion can be the result of actual illness, but frankly I’m not qualified to discuss that. I’m pretty sure I flunked the science portion of NSAT; I have no business talking about serious medical stuff.]

If, like me, you sometimes wake up looking a little more pale and yellow than usual, here are a few things you can do:

Color Correction

Fixing your sallowness problem can be as simple as knowing your basic color wheel. I know, I know — we’ve all seen those Instagram people who took “paint with all the colors of the wind” a little too literally.

Color correcting doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though.

You just have to pick the color opposite the one you’re trying to camouflage. Green cancels out redness so it works for active pimples and rosacea. For brownish dark circles and old acne marks, go with peach.

If you want to get rid of that sickly yellow tone, you need purple.

No, it will not make you look like Grimace. (If it does, you’re probably using too much.)

One option is to color correct with a primer, giving you a more neutral canvas before you go in with the rest of your makeup. A lot of Korean brands offer purple primers, thanks to the aforementioned East Asian penchant for sallowness, but most mainstream Western brands now offer them as well. From ELF to Chanel, there’s a purple primer for every budget.

Another option is to use a tinted finishing powder, like HOURGLASS Ambient Lighting Powder in Mood Light.


Understand Undertones

If you’re looking a little sallow, the last thing you want is to enhance the yellow tinge even more.

You can neutralize that sallow complexion by using makeup with cool or blue undertones. A blue-based red lipstick like NARS Dragon Girl (my personal favorite), for example, can do wonders and brighten your sallow skin ASAP. It works so fast it’s like turning a light bulb on.

Avoid anything warm-toned or yellow-based like orange or peach lipstick. Same goes for blush. Opt for brighter pinks or lavenders to combat the sallowness.

I know it goes entirely against conventional wisdom. We’ve all seen the countless articles about sticking to yellow-based color makeup for warm undertones. When dealing with sallowness, however, going the reverse route is the best course.

Neutral Foundation

Here’s the thing: just because you’re Asian, doesn’t automatically mean you have warm undertones. I figured that out the hard way, after extensive and expensive trial and error.

A lot of makeup artists and sellers will automatically reach for the warmer shades when they get Asian customers. I had the great fortune to come across a much more astute sales associate, thank goodness, and finally learned that I had neutral undertones, leaning slightly warm.

All those years of using warm shades made me look either sallow or outright orange, and neither is a good look. Although I do still lean warm, choosing a foundation shade with neutral undertones made my skin look more balanced overall.

The next time you go foundation shopping, ask to try out both the warm and neutral shades. Don’t go a shade lighter or deeper; the key here is to focus on the undertones, not your surface color. More importantly, apply it on your face. Not your arm or neck or chest. Face.

Of course the best way to avoid sallowness — as long as it’s not the side effect or symptom of an actual illness — is to keep your skin healthy. Maintain a solid skin care routine, eat well, get enough sleep, and drink enough water.

But I will be the first to tell you that life happens, and you get stressed out, and you eat a lot of Royce chocolate, and you sometimes have to stay up till 2 AM watching Beastmaster on Netflix, and it’s okay. There’s always makeup.

Featured image by rawpixel on Unsplash

It’s Not Me, It’s Youth To The People

“I got good genes, and I’m aging well. Is the bitch 13? They can never tell.”

(Awkwafina. “Pockiez.” In Fina We Trust, 2018.)

I’m not saying people think I’m 13, because that would be absurd. I’m 35.

That being said, I do agree with Awkwafina’s assertion. Us Asians did luck out with the gene pool lottery, because we tend to look a lot younger than we really are. People think I’m in my early 20s and I haven’t been 20 in more than a decade.

(My sister has it even better — or worse, I guess, depending on how you look at it. People think she’s a pre-teen; she’s a high school math teacher.)

I think that’s why I’ve never really been that into anti-aging stuff. It’s also why I was hesitant to check out a brand called Youth to the People at first.

I’m not looking to recapture my youth, so I just assumed that the brand wasn’t meant for me. Besides, one of their primary ingredients is kale. Can you say hipster?

I know this sounds pretty mean, but I have this weird aversion to brands that harp on and on about how organic and natural their products are. It just reminds me way too much of that infamous Portlandia chicken sketch, and not in a good way.

But then people on the Into the Gloss Facebook group just wouldn’t stop talking about the brand, so I eventually gave in to peer pressure and decided to give them a shot.

I now own three of their products and will repurchase when I run out. I guess if I have to eat my words, I’m glad that they’re at least organic and pretty easy to swallow.

A little background before we proceed: my skin is generally cooperative, with a few blemishes here and there every now and then. I have dry, sensitive skin that reacts poorly to coconut oil and its derivatives, plus maybe a few other ingredients that I still haven’t quite sussed out.

Earlier this year I had the worst breakout of my life. My cheeks were red and inflamed, with huge cysts jostling for space. For the first time in my life, full coverage foundation was something I considered necessary just so I could get out of the house.

People with generally nice skin won’t understand, but your self-esteem really takes a hit. I know, acne isn’t life-threatening, but it’s not something I would wish on anyone.

My face is now in much better shape, though I still have to deal with the acne marks that are taking their sweet time before leaving my face for good. For all my aversion to kale, I do believe that Youth to the People played a huge part in calming my face down and getting it to a much healthier place.

Superberry Hydrate & Glow Oil

This is the first product I tried from the brand because strangers online just wouldn’t shut up about it.

It’s a very lightweight oil that absorbs lightning fast. You don’t even have to work it into your skin. I just pat four drops on my face and my skin laps it all up. It doesn’t feel oily or sticky at all, which is a major plus when you live in a country as hot and humid as the Philippines.

For an entire month, my skin care routine consisted of this oil and the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. On the first application alone — I kid you not — the stupid cysts on my face started shrinking. I swear on my entire makeup collection — the results were beyond fast.

The Superberry oil wasn’t as effective on the cysts underneath the surface, but it at least made them significantly less noticeable. The ones already out in the open shrank and healed quickly. That’s more than anyone can ask for, where skin care products are concerned.

This oil on its own isn’t moisturizing enough for me, although at that time I didn’t mind so much. I was all for dry patches if it meant the cystic acne would leave my face alone.

(It also smells really, really nice.)

Superfood Firm and Brighten Serum

I’m just gonna go ahead and address the hipster in the room: this has kale in it.

I do want to clarify and say that the good thing about Youth to the People is that they combine science and nature in their products. Your zodiac sign will not factor into the efficacy of these products, though you’ll still have to deal with the kale.

The serum has vitamin C, peptides, sodium hyaluronate, and vitamin B5 — ingredients that are tested and verified for their skin care benefits. You can side-eye the kale all you want, but this serum’s got the goods.

I picked this serum up (despite its rather hefty price tag) because I saw “vitamin C”. I needed something to help with the acne marks, and I figured this serum was a good fit.

The good news: it works. The marks are looking slightly less obvious and I can get away with a light layer of foundation now.

The bad news: it works… very slowly. I get that we shouldn’t rush things, especially topical skin care. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a petty and impatient child, though. Of course I want results, and I want them now!

I only use the serum in the morning, because I have a rather unfortunate history with vitamin C products. My skin is sensitive and can turn red and scaly at the drop of a hat, so I’m staying on the safe side and using the serum just once a day.

Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream

When you live in a humid country, “too much moisturizer” becomes a real problem, even for people with dry skin. You have to moisturize the parched landscape that you call your face, but applying just a tiny bit too much could straight up deliver you to pimple city. Not a good look.

The Adaptogen cream eliminates that concern, because I honestly don’t think you could ever over-moisturize with this cream. I’ve accidentally applied too much a few times, and I just massage it in a little more until the product’s absorbed.

It’s very rich but never heavy, and it sinks in quite easily without ever feeling like the product’s just sitting on top of your skin. Even with the shea butter it contains, the moisturizer doesn’t feel greasy at all.

Real talk: I’m not sure the mushrooms in this actually do anything. I haven’t tested it against inflammation or irritation, so I simply can’t testify to that yet. What I can tell you is that it’s a good moisturizer that handles dryness like a pro.

I know that Youth to the People isn’t cheap, but neither is my face so I don’t mind dropping the money. Besides, the products do exactly what they say on the tin and they work for me, so what’s not to love?

Featured Image by PHÚC LONG on Unsplash
Image from NARS Cosmetics

Highlighter? I Barely Know Her!

Listen, I get that highlighter can be intimidating.

The very idea of adding shine to your face is a tough sell, especially in a country as hot and humid as the Philippines. Shimmer doesn’t sound particularly attractive when standing outside for two minutes can leave you looking like a fried egg dipped in butter.

That said, highlighter isn’t supposed to make you look oily.

The keyword here is “highlight”. We’re talking strategic shine on the high points of your face, not unbridled greasiness. When it comes to highlighting, the goal is to look like a glorious glazed donut, not oily bicho-bicho.

So how exactly are you supposed to achieve that gorgeous glow without crossing over into disco ball territory?

Precision, precision, precision. Choosing the right makeup tool is the key to getting your highlighter exactly where you want it, how you want it.

I have a couple of personal favorites, but I’d like to talk about a few other options first, just to get them out of the way. When it comes to your highlighting technique, so much relies on the type of highlighter you’re using and the level of intensity you want to achieve.

For cream highlighters, for example, there’s really no reason to muck around with tools because your fingers are more than sufficient. The warmth from your fingers will make it easier to blend the highlighter into your skin, giving you a more natural and seamless finish.

Your fingers are precise and easy to work with, so what’s not to like? The problem is that they aren’t as efficient once you move away from creams, and picking up a brush becomes unavoidable.

(Quick note: some cream highlighters now come in stick form, and though brands will tell you to just swipe them on directly, I find that this isn’t a very good idea if you’re already wearing base makeup underneath. Swiping erases your carefully applied foundation, so it’s better to run your finger over the stick a few times and pat the highlighter gently on your face.)

I’m not a big fan of liquid highlighters but I have tried several over the years, like MAC’s famous Strobe Cream and the BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector. I don’t like the way they feel on my face and I find the application quite messy, so I avoid them now as much as I can.

If you really want to work with liquid highlighters, though, I suggest using a flat paddle brush (the same type normally used for foundation) or a very small stippling brush that’s precise enough to use over your cheekbones. These brushes will let you apply the highlighter in thin layers and help you build up slowly to the intensity you want. No mess, no fuss.

Where do sponges come in? They’re not ideal because they aren’t very precise and tend to soak up too much product, but you can use sponges to finesse your highlighter application. Use fingers or brushes to apply the highlighter and then go over it with a sponge to blend and make it look more natural.

Since I prefer powder highlighters, my weapon of choice is the makeup brush. I’ve tested several brushes and there are two I really like, but first let’s talk about the one I hate: the fan brush.

The fan brush is the clear fan favorite among Youtube gurus, so it was the brush I bought when I first started highlighting. Sure, it gives you a soft and diffused application thanks to the loosely packed bristles, so it seems great when you’re a rookie and afraid to get heavy-handed with the shimmer.

The problem is that fan brushes aren’t very good at blending, and they’re not very precise. The weird shape makes it less flexible than other makeup brushes and you’re essentially just pushing the highlighter around your face. You’re also wasting a lot of product for very little payoff.

Of course, if fan brushes work for you, great. I just think there are better options that are easier to work with and can give me the perfect highlight that I want.

ZOEVA 134 Luxe Powder Fusion


Image from ZOEVA Cosmetics

The 134 isn’t the “official” highlighting brush from the brand, but its smaller head makes it more precise and easier to use. It grabs a decent amount of product from the pan but because the bristles are fluffy and not too dense, the result is a softer, almost diffused application on the cheekbones.

If you have a highlighter that you think is just a little too intense for everyday use, try the ZOEVA 134. The soft and flexible brush head makes it easy to deposit just the right amount of intensity and then blend it into a more natural, seamless finish. You’ll never have to worry about that tin foil stripe when you use this one.

As good as the 134 is, though, it plays second fiddle to my one true love:




Ah, my beloved. Let me start by saying that I am the sort of person who loves, loves, loves an intense highlight. I want my face to look wet. That’s clearly a tall order when you’re using powder highlighters, but not impossible. The NARS Highlighting Powder in Fort de France does just that, but let’s leave that story for another day.

Now the ZOEVA 134 is very good, and I always get a good highlight when I use it. But the REAL TECHNIQUES Setting Brush gives me a finish that is just… beyond.

It’s a setting brush, as the name clearly states, but pretty much everyone uses it for highlighting. The bristles are just a tiny bit shorter than the 134’s and they are a little denser, so it packs on a much more intense shine.

The base is also flatter compared to the narrow 134, which to me makes it easier to control. The brush head is still soft (not scratchy at all) but it doesn’t have as much “give”, so I can really build up to the intensity I want.

The Setting Brush is just a little less flexible than the 134 so it takes a little more time to blend, but I don’t mind since it gives me my perfect highlight.

Both brushes are excellent and pretty affordable, so you can get them both and figure out which one works better for your specific preference. In fact, just go ahead and check out all the brushes ZOEVA has to offer.

I’ve tried a lot of brushes from different brands, ranging from the very cheap to the very expensive. I haven’t found any that are as good as ZOEVA, especially given the price. I’ve washed my brushes so many times since I got them and they’ve never shed on me. They also dry fast and don’t lose their shape even without a brush guard.

In fact, I’d like to talk about one more ZOEVA brush that I use for highlighting.

ZOEVA 230 Luxe Pencil


Image from ZOEVA Cosmetics

This tiny little brush was designed for precision work, which is exactly why I love it. I use the 230 to apply highlighter on my lower lash line and on my tear trough, just to brighten up my eye area without having to add more concealer. (I have allergic shiners so I always look like I either got beaten up or that I haven’t slept in five years.)

You can use the 230 for detailed highlighting under the brow bone, on the bridge of your nose, or on your cupid’s bow. This is controlled highlighting at its finest.

And that’s it! I hope you figure out the right tool for the job so you can get your perfect highlight. Go forth and be brighter than the sun.

Featured image from NARS Cosmetics
Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

Choose Your Fighter: Foundation Brush vs Makeup Sponge

There are many ways to apply foundation on your face, some of them completely unnecessary.

You have fingers, first of all, plus a plethora of brushes and sponges to choose from. Why anyone would blend their makeup with raw chicken breast and/or their boyfriend’s balls is beyond me.

As with most things in life, it’s impossible to say which application tool is better.

Some people swear by their Beauty Blenders, while others will take their beloved foundation brushes to the grave. That’s not even counting those who scoff at using any tool that isn’t already attached to their bodies.

The easiest way out is to say it’s entirely a matter of preference, but that’s not very accurate or efficient. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right application tool for the job, and preference is just one of them.

Suffice it to say that it’s not really a question of which one is better, but which one is better for you.

Today we focus on two of the best tools available: the foundation brush and the makeup sponge. Which one should you use? Let’s find out.

The Brush

Unlike sponges, your foundation brush won’t absorb any product so you get better coverage and less wastage. It also allows for more precise application, so there’s less bouncing and moving around of the makeup you’ve already laid down.

You can literally paint your face with a traditional paddle brush, or buff the foundation in with a flat-top kabuki. For a more “airbrushed” finish, you could use a stippling brush instead.

The application is really quick and efficient, once you get the hang of it. Makeup brushes are also easier to clean and maintain, plus they last a lot longer.

The problem with brushes is they can leave very obvious streaks on your face unless you spend a lot of time buffing and blending. This in turn will make your peach fuzz more visible, which ruins the smooth finish you’re going for.

Brushes also have a tendency to pull up flaky skin, so dry skin folks are better off sticking to sponges for foundation application.


Image from Beauty Blender

The Sponge

People have been applying makeup with sponges even before the iconic pink egg became a thing, but there’s no denying that the Beauty Blender has been a major game-changer.

Sponges are great for diffused foundation application, so you get a more natural finish. Makeup looks seamless and you don’t have to deal with annoying streaks.

They’re also a lot easier on the skin, so those who are prone to redness and sensitivity can apply makeup without causing any skin reactions.

The Beauty Blender and its ilk are designed specifically to cover multiple uses. The round base is great for bouncing foundation on the skin, for example, while the tip can be used for more precise application of concealer.

The problem with sponges is that they’re a lot more high maintenance than brushes. You have to wash them daily unless you’re looking to culture bacteria on your face. They also break down a lot faster, so you’ll have to replace them more often.

Sponges also eat up a lot of your product, so you’re using more foundation for less coverage. Even the Beauty Blender — despite its lofty claims — is guilty of this to some extent.

To sum up, let’s look at a few different scenarios and decide whether to go Team Brush or Team Sponge.

If your foundation is very liquid…

Go with the brush. Sponges will just soak the product up and leave you with nothing. (For very watery foundations like MAC Face and Body, there’s no point in using either. Just use your fingers.)

If your foundation is thick and cakey…

Use the sponge. A brush will leave obvious streaks and it’ll be very difficult to buff that foundation in. The sponge will give you a much more even and diffused finish with little to no tugging on the skin.

If your skin is very dry…

Spritz your sponge with a hydrating mist before you apply your foundation. Don’t even think about using a brush.

If you don’t have a lot of time to wash your tools…

Go with brushes. You still have to wash them (please, wash your brushes like a civilized person), but not as often as you would a sponge. They’re a lot easier to disinfect, too.

If you’re always in a rush…

It’s a wash. Some people find sponges more time-consuming because of the bouncing motion, while others think that blending and buffing with a brush can take longer. It honestly depends on which tool you’re more comfortable with, as practice makes your application faster over time.

If you have to take your makeup stuff with you…

Definitely go with the brush. You should never stick your damp sponge in a poorly ventilated container unless you’re trying to establish a bacteria colony or something.

If you want a more glowy finish…

Sponge all the way. Dampen before use to get a dewy, hydrated look.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t talk about the Silisponge…

Because that silicone nightmare is an abomination unto the Lord. You’re better off with the raw chicken breast.

Featured image by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash