Where Did All The Opinions Go?

Back in 2010 when I started documenting my love of makeup online, bloggers were all about the opinions. We reveled in being able to share our loves and loathes, provide honest feedback on our purchases and discuss issues that were important to us; opinions were at the heart of the bloggersphere and absolutely what made it stand out amongst the run-of-the-mill and diluted glossiness of magazines. Collectively we had turned against mainstream media as we couldn’t necessarily trust the opinions and edits presented to us, especially when big brands and mega budgets were having an increasingly negative impact on the information between the covers. Bloggers were honest, transparent and not afraid to share exactly what they thought; a week didn’t go by without one of us getting a ‘cease and desist’ letter from a brand that didn’t like what we had to say, and were using their legal teams to scare us into censoring opinions. It was brilliant. It was wonderful. It was a turning point in time. Not everyone loved the same things or had the same opinions on a new launch, but that was ok – because that was a reflection of what was happening in the real world.

I like to refer to this as the ‘golden age’ of blogging: before it became as glossy, edited and mainstream as the media we were rebelling against. Over the last decade the bloggersphere has evolved (both positively and negatively) to the point that it’s almost unrecogniseable from where we started; the editorial style of writing, fashion magazine standard photography and beautifully curated social media feeds that make every 20-something look like their living the life of Gigi Hadid are just the tip of the iceberg. The big issue? As a veteran of the blogging world I’m increasingly aware and concerned about the lack of real opinion – it’s like the industry has become too scared to provide insight that’s not 100% positive, or to share thoughts that aren’t always ‘on brand’. You can find literally thousands of cookie cutter blogs out there, but very few of them offer insight or comment beyond ‘I love it!/It’s so pretty!/This is a must-have!’

With the growth of the blogging community I understand that we’re all in constant competition for the latest product sample, press trip or sponsored campaign (and that often playing it safe provides higher return in the short term.) I understand that brands want you to say nice things about their products, because their end objective is to make as many sales as possible. However, what I don’t understand is why so many within the bloggersphere are happy to ride the safe train at the expense of their reader. In the words of Caroline Hirons during a recent post: “God forbid you say you didn’t get on with something. God forbid you use your platform to give your readers genuine feedback on an experience, even when it’s done so constructively and without resorting to blanket negativity. Having an opinion does not make you a bitch, and it certainly should not make you ashamed.” Amen Hirons, amen.

The digital space has successfully evolved into something aspirational, motivational and incredibly curated, but in my opinion this has been at the expense of raw and unedited opinion – which is why we all started in the first place. We’re on very dangerous ground right now as blogs become increasingly fluffy and bland. I find myself continually fighting to be recognised as an intelligent woman with a well-rounded background and informed opinion, but when there are so many others out there focusing on the prettiness of their online space rather than what impact their words have, it becomes somewhat of a losing battle. Super styled beauty images, professionally shot outfits and hired locations that wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of Vogue are great, but it’s also important for us to use the power of the written (or spoken) word to make positive change or share valuable opinion.

As an example, recently a new beauty concept launched into the UK under the name of ‘Beauty Pie’; this subscription platform seemed great on the surface, but when you started to scratch away and look deeper there were a number of issues and problematic areas that needed addressing as part of a comprehensive review. (You can read my full feature here.) What concerned me was the number of features that praised the service as something revolutionary and overwhelmingly positive, without letting readers know about the potential pitfalls (of which there were many.) I’ve literally read hundreds of articles on the concept, but could probably count on my hands the number of sites that dared to say anything negative (or worse, even bothered to do their own research rather than just repeating what was on the press release.) Everyone is free to give their opinion and share their own thoughts (positive, negative or neutral) because that’s the whole point of the bloggersphere, but when there’s no opinion at all? That’s when it becomes worrying.

I feel incredibly uneasy about the future of blogging right now, because I think we’re in serious danger of becoming as edited and vacuous as the magazines that we’re supposed to be replacing. Too many are focused on whether everything is ‘on brand’ for them, rather than using their voice and influence to impart knowledge or advice; too many are worried about losing out on that next press trip or bundle of free lipsticks, rather than focusing on creating a strong persona that their readers can relate to. Too many of us are being shot down for having an opinion or told that we should just get back to talking about lipsticks, while the blogging elite are focused on their next big pay rather than whether they would genuinely recommend a product without it. I’ve always made it a priority to share my true thoughts and bring you an honest account of my experiences; a great brand will understand that not everyone will adore every product, and a reader won’t expect you to. Opinions are vital to the bloggersphere and how it operates, but they seem to now be as rare as a limited edition Mariah Carey lipstick. I think it’s about time we brought them back…
But you know, that’s just my opinion.

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The Iconic Lipliner Becomes a Lipstick

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk needs to introduction, it is the nude go-to lip liner for myself and many others for two very good reasons: the shade – the most wonderfully, flattering, lip plumping nude-come-blush pink, coupled with a silky, soft and easy to apply formulation. Now as wonderful as Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk is, due to the pencil format, constant application and of course all but daily sharpening of the pencil, it is not the most economical lip purchase – not that this is an expectation from a luxury brand. If like myself your Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk habit has somewhat become a situation of finical crisis, then the arrival of Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk will be something of a revelation.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk

What can I say about the Charlotte Tilbury copper, intricate and very much art deco inspired, lipsticks and compacts that hasn’t been uttered before? Truthfully not much but I do think it is worth noting that aesthetics aside, the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipsticks – regardless of what shade you choose – have been constructed for ease of use. From the weighted tube, to the chiselled lipstick bullet – everything is for convenience and precision, elements that you don’t see all that often within the world of lipstick and the hidden little extras, that enhance the overall application experience.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk

If you have yet to try the staple pink toned nude that is Charlotte Tilbury Pillowtalk, the applied shade will depend on the natural hue of your lips – there is a slight blue undertone which can optically brighten the teeth, but can also result in Pillowtalk leanings lightly mauve toned on certain complexions; best described it is a mid blue toned, pink based nude that in my opinion is universally flattering. A few have asked if Pillowtalk is in any way similar to Secret Salma and the answer is no: one is far more blue toned and deeper than the other which you can hopefully decipher from the above photos.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk

For those familiar with Pillowtalk and perhaps on their third or forth pencil, I can vouch that there is absolutely no differentiation nor discrepancies in terms of colour or tone, between the two forms of the now iconic lip shade – the main difference is the finish and comfort levels. Typically – and I do say typically as how you wear any beauty product is up to you – lip liners are not aimed at overall lip application and as such can be both a little firmer and drier, which can result in a less than enjoyable experience. With the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk, you have the same, pretty, everyday nude shade you have come to know and love, coupled with a by far more nourishing and dare I say slightly more matte finish.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillowtalk

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Is The Dupe & Copycat Beauty Market Waning? Are We Over Cheaper Copies Of Firm Favourites?

For the best part of the past five years, we’ve been collectively obsessed with the dupe. Us beauty bloggers have undoubtedly been fueling the trend, promising readers that the latest eyeshadow palette to land on our doorstep is a brilliant copy of something four times the price, but the market has also been driven by technological improvements that allow us to buy into the same quality for a fraction of the previous cost. When I was growing up the only ‘budget’ beauty brands were Collection 2000 and Boots 17, both offering a plethora of products to get experimental with but the quality wasn’t there; as soon as we could upgrade to something a touch more glamorous, we would. Skip forward a few decades and those (rebranded) names are not only offering far superior quality and in some instances competing with some of the most luxury cosmetics available, but our high streets have been somewhat revolutionised. Names including MUA, Makeup Revolution, Lottie London, NYX, Freedom, GOSH, Miss Sporty, Model’s Own and Sleek are proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to fill your makeup bag with greatness – but they’re also collectively providing us with dupes of everything from Urban Decay Naked palettes and Kylie liquid lipsticks, to NARS blushers and Bobbi Brown highlighters. For a moment there we got a bit excited, but are we over it? Is 2017 the year that we’re finally bored of the dupe and we start trading up for something we can treasure?

In my opinion the growth of our dupe fascination came with the rise in popularity of throwaway fashion and being able to snap up something on-trend for the price of your morning coffee. Primark allowed us to update last year’s jumper with the help of a £2.50 statement necklace, or pick up a pair of pumps for £4.00 during our lunchbreak; we became obsessed with buying all the fashion and always having something new to adorn our bodies with, as for the first time ever fashion became insanely affordable. It became the norm to buy a new outfit for every night out, because we didn’t have to break our backs to do so; it became pretty standardised to pick up a Mulberry or Chloe copy from New Look or Topshop as the high street tried to capture our attention in new and exciting ways. Unsurprisingly this filtered pretty quickly into the beauty industry, with consumers always wanting to hunt down that must-have product without having to fork out the full price.

Some brands have built their entire business models off the back of dupes, even taking the time to ensure their packaging is ‘inspired’ by their more expensive counterparts. Makeup Revolution, Barry M, Sleek, W7 and The Balm are some of the worst (or best) culprits, being able to turn around a new product and offer up a dupe sometimes within a few months of the original hitting shelves. Others take a softer approach, preferring to identify trends (nude eyeshadow palettes, liquid lipsticks and finely milled pigmented blushers) and create their own take without stepping on any toes. Up until this point they’ve benefited from a huge surge in consumer interest (fueled by bloggers knowing that anything considered a dupe will bring in those much needed hits!) but my gut feeling is that this is coming to an end. Although picking up a cut price item of makeup will give us a buzz, if it just doesn’t perform or feel like the original would we be better off saving our pennies and splurging on products we know we’ll thoroughly enjoy from beginning to end?

I love brands like Makeup Revolution, but I can’t help but feel like they need to step out of the dupe arena and create something new. Endless tweaks on the same product get a little dull, while a stand full of copycats makes me feel like they lack the creativity consumers are beginning to expect. Just as I’ve moved away from fast fashion, I’m also moving away from fast beauty; I would far prefer to spend £20.00 on something I know produces the results I need than impulsively chuck a few pounds on something ten times over that never gets used. Although the quality of affordable makeup is so much better than it ever has been, I do feel that as a society we’re moving towards more considered purchasing and are starting to make wise investments less often – rather than feeling the need to snap up anything and everything because it’s cheap.

Personally I adore affordable beauty and I know you do too; I know you love to find out what’s exciting and what bargain buys are worth snapping up, but it’s all about balance. I know you also want to know what’s worth spending your money on and making informed decisions about those purchases. Although I don’t think these affordable brands are going anywhere, I do feel that this year there will be a move away from creating copies and dupes – towards real innovation that stands on its own two feet. Brands including Kiko, NYX and Bourjois are creating covetable pieces (at affordable prices) without feeling the need to copy or imitate, to the point where they’re sure to become cult classics themselves; with the technological advances and birth of the internet allowing practically anyone to set up shop and ship worldwide, there’s no excuse to remain stagnant or just copy what everyone else is doing. Us consumers demand more, but brands are you listening?

What do you think about dupes and copycat brands? Do you love them and can’t get enough, or are you moving towards more considered investment purchases? Or are you just torn?

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Make Up Geek Warm Toned Eyeshadows Review

Make Up Geek Warm Toned Eyeshadows

The praise for Make Up Geek Eyeshadows is phenomenal and being the ever doubtful gal that I am, it took my pretty time to both read up on reviews and of course to finally splurge out on a few. I say splurge when really at just £6 a shade they are a complete steal and truly worthy of every word of admiration and then some; to try is to believe the hype but if you need a little further encouragement let me share no less than 21 shades, and of course more than a few thoughts.

Make Up Geek Warm Toned Eyeshadows
Make Up Geek Warm Toned Eyeshadows

To keep the cost low and of course to offer complete flexibility in terms of storage, the Make Up Geek Eyeshadows come presented in the typical re-fill pan style (a la MAC et al), a.k.a the eyeshadow has no additional packaging other than the outer cardboard sleeve so that it can be slotted into any palette or storage system you wish. I personally store my shadows in a large Z Palette (which you can find here) and find it works really well: I can have three rows of seven eyeshadows with space, or around 30 pans if I go for more ad hoc set up – either way it is a great investment and keeps everything safe and secure. On a related note, if you have a few empty spaces within an existing MAC Palette, the Make Up Geek Shadows will comfortably fit into the pre-cut slots – and of course any other magnetic eyeshadow palette you may have.

Make Up Geek Warm Toned Eyeshadows
Make Up Geek Warm Toned Eyeshadows

Before I share swatches and a general run down of the 21 shadows I have collected over the last few months, let’s discuss the formula. The good news is that regardless of what shade you decide to purchase, the Make Up Geek Eyeshadows are consistent: soft, beyond pigmented, easy to blend with moderate fall out – they give brands such as Urban Decay a run for their money. The down side of a soft formulation is that they are prone to easily shattering – take a quick look at my Crème Brulee pan, I accidentally dropped it onto a soft rug, the fall would have been no less than 3ft and it all but exploded all over the floor. Not great, especially if you plan on travelling with the pans – which I actively avoid for said reason. Other than that, I will go on record and say that this is the best eyeshadow formulation that you will find for £6. Continue reading

7 Budget Beauty Products You’ve Got to Try

7 Budget Beauty Products You've Got to Try

The say the thrill is the chase and for me that applies to budget beauty products. I enjoy nothing more than a quick trip to Boots or Superdrug, deciding what products to try next and often coming home with a handful of a handful of new launches with change in my pocket. Admittedly the budget beauty sector can be pretty hit and miss – I think as the years roll past (6 years of blogging and counting) there are more hits than misses- but when you do find that hidden gem, you can’t help but feel a little smug. Perhaps it has been a while since you last stopped by a budget beauty counter, or maybe you simply need a little encouragement? Either way, I have 7 products that will impress and don’t cost the earth…

MUA Skin Define Matte Perfect Primer £5 via Superdrug – link.

I have oily skin; I also have acne prone skin. This is not some beautiful equation, rather a nightmare of a combination for sourcing the perfect primer. I need – yes need – something that will not only sop up excess oil and gently blur my enlarged pores, but I also equally need – yes I am that demanding – something that won’t irritate my quick to blemish skin. Admittedly on a budget, up until recently this has been a fairly big task but so far I have been really enjoying MUA Skin Define Matte Perfect Primer. Yes this primer does contain silicones so that it is instantly mattifying and of course smoothing, yet it is oddly lightweight and so far (I’ve been using this daily for close to two weeks) it seems to agree with my quick to react complexion. If you are a fan of blurring type primers (think Benefit Porefessional et al) then this is one to definitely put on the to try this.

7 Budget Beauty Products You've Got to Try

Kiko Heart Shaped Lipstick £6.90 via Superdrug – link

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and as such you may be on the lookout for a red lipstick fit for the main event? Well they don’t come much more suited to such love themed day, than the Kiko Heart Shaped Lipsticks – no your eyes do not deceive you, that is indeed a novelty moulded lipstick. Don’t let the fun aspect of this lipstick fool you, as it is indeed a beautiful, moisturising matte formulation that will reached for, long after Valentine’s Day has passed. I have the shade 05 Lively Amaranth – a deep almost red based pink that is slightly vampy, unusual – in that it is not your classic, run of the mill classic red – and yet surprisingly easy to wear.

7 Budget Beauty Products You've Got to Try

Rimmel Exaggerate Full Colour Lip Liner in Call Me Crazy £3.19/$3.99 via ASOS – link.

If you are looking for a true red – Valentine’s Day related or not – I say skip lipsticks just this once and purchase Rimmel Exaggerate Full Colour Lip Liner in Call Me Crazy. This is the bright, slightly orange toned red that dreams are made of; it brings just about every complexion to life, is long wearing, entirely matte, long wearing and comfortable to wear. It is a complete bargain and your stash, make-up bag and/or coat pocket needs it.

7 Budget Beauty Products You've Got to Try

E.L.F Studio Blush Palette £7.50/$6 via E.L.F – link Continue reading