Friday, December 31, 2010

Jesse's Girl Cosmetics: Pure Pigment Eye Dusts - Review and Swatches

Jesse's Girl Cosmetics was one of those companies that I had heard about, was intrigued by, and then forgot about all together. That is, until I was wandering around a local Rite Aid near my college campus and noticed a huge display packed high with Jesse's Girl products. I hadn't grabbed a basket or anything because I wasn't planning on buying mush, so I ending carting up handfuls of makeup to the check out counter - and I probably would have gotten more if I could have carried it. They retail for $3.99, which is a fantastic price for a product like this.

I picked up four colors: Trouble Maker, Sunset BLVD, Kiwi Rose, and Blackstar Blue. The packaging is pretty simple but still very cute, and the little containers are packed pretty full (each one contains 2.5 grams of product). They're very shimmery and sheer, and they all have an amazing duo-chrome shimmer.

"Trouble Maker" is an extremely bright aqua blue color with a touch of a greenish gold shimmer. On its own it goes on pretty sheer and so it shows up lighter than in the container, but if you layer it up on top of an eyeshadow primer you can get some nice pigmentation out of it. It looks particularly stunning over the black, where the greenish shine comes out very nicely - so I would definitely recommend using a base of some sort with this one.

Sunset BLVD (Boulevard, I would assume) is a reddish pinky color with a hint of gold. I don't typically wear a lot of reds so this one hasn't gotten as much use, but I think it adds a nice gold glimmer to the black base. It was a little lackluster in the swatch photos, but it does look nice when wet, so definitely check it out if you like colors in the red/pink family.

Blackstar Blue is probably my second favorite out of the four I got - it's a dark black, with a really nice blue duochrome to it. It does get a little streaky on its own, but it shows up nicely over the Too Faced Shadow Insurance, and layering it over the black really makes the blue stand out. Of course, this particular shade isn't very conducive to layering over white, but I swatched it anyway for the sake of continuity.

Kiwi Rose is my absolute favorite of these four pigments, and it was the one that attracted me to the display of Eye Dusts in the first place. It's a white base, but with an incredible bright green duochrome. It's such a unique shade, and looks really nice in the inner corner to add a tiny pop of color to an otherwise typical look. I'm in love with the fact that it can go from looking almost white over the white base to looking like a pure green shadow over the black base. If you were going to go out and buy only one Eye Dust, it would have to be this one.

As a little bonus, I threw in a swatch of all four colors applied wet - they're all just applied on my bare hand, no base of any kind.

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommendation: No product is perfect - Jesse's Girl Eye Dusts have their flaws, just like any thing else out there. But I was very satisfied with the colors I picked up, especially when you consider the price. The thing that struck me the most was their unique niche; they're more sheer than a regular eyeshadow pigment, but not as dramatic as an actual glitter, and they can look drastically different depending on how they're applied. I can't see anyone not enjoying these - of course, I believe they're only available at Rite Aid and online, so actually getting a hold on them might be difficult. But in my honest opinion, these pigments might actually be worth the trouble.

XOXO, Ally

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The BEST Alternative to Sweatpants

Sweatpants are pretty much a staple in college - and that's fine, if you're the type that can pull off a tank top and cute baggy pair of sweats with your high school mascot across the butt. Personally, I've never been able to rock that look - and unfortunately, my Class of 2010 sweatpants are equipped with some extremely ill-placed pockets, which puff out right at my hips and make me look outrageously wide.

So instead of sweatpants, I stick with my favorite lazy-day pants: yoga pants. They're form fitting and usually come in flattering darker colors - my favorites are the classic black and the dark heather gray. Unlike sweatpants, you can throw on a pair of yoga pants with a sweater or a embellished tank, and you won't look like you just rolled out of bed to pick up some milk.

Hunt for a bargain: Old Navy yoga pants go for around $20 on their website, and you may even be able to find them in stores for less. I own a few pairs and they've lasted a really long time, and they have such cute designs on the waistbands! The fit has always been fantastic, and most Old Navy stores that I've been to have an entire sportswear section, so you're almost guaranteed to find these in stores. Another place to find great yoga pants is Victoria's Secret - I've never personally owned any of their yoga pants, but I've never had any issues with clothing that I've bought from them before, and they come in some seriously cute styles. VS yoga pants range from around $25-$30, so they're a little pricier than the Old Navy ones, but

Go for the splurge: If you're looking for something a little more unique, check out the apparel section of your favorite sports team or school. Yoga pants are joining sweatshirts and t-shirts in many college bookstores, and you can also find them emblazoned with your sorority, local sports team, or any other logo you can imagine. Licensed apparel is usually more expensive - my mom got me a pair of yoga pants from my college bookstore for Christmas which were around $45 - but if you're looking to splurge and want to go for something a little more meaningful (and maybe skip buying your ninth sweatshirt when you don't even wear the first eight), the $45 are well worth it.

XOXO, Ally

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Five Beauty Tips for College Students

... or for anyone else! No, of course you don't have to be a college student to utilize these beauty tips - but if you are in college, believe me when I say that they help.
  1. Practice, practice, practice - Ok, I'm not saying you need to devote hours a day to practicing every new look you want to try out. But if the opportunity presents itself, take it! If you're going to a friend's party on Saturday night and you want to look extra fabulous, use Friday night as a chance to practice the look you want and test it out in a situation where you're not so concerned about getting it right. Or play with your hair the night before - when you wake up, it may not look exactly the same, but the less you have to do to your hair in the morning, the better. Those drunk fraternity brothers probably don't care about how nicely you blended out your crease shade - so try out a new technique the next time you're going somewhere dimly lit with plenty of drunk people, and you'll be prepared the next time you need to wear that same look around people who are actually sober.
  2. Make your makeup go further - I'll admit it, there are days where I re-do my makeup three or four times, and not because it fades. It's because I have my 'I just woke up for my 9 AM class and I'm too tired to wrap my brain around makeup' look, my 'I'm back from class and I'm actually awake enough to apply mascara' look, my 'I'm going out and need to wear half of my makeup collection at once' look ... the list goes on. So finding looks that can easily transition from "morning" to "day" to "night," or any combination of the three, will save you time and frustration. Add some dark colors in the crease and go a little heavier on the eyeliner, and a neutral day eye can turn into a night look in no time. That's not to say that you can never experiment with different makeup styles, but if you're pressed for time, a quick fix may be all you need.
  3. Only splurge if you can convince yourself you love it - Everyone has their go-to, tried-and-true, expensive makeup products. I'm a sucker for MAC eyeliners and Bare Minerals foundation, even though I know that there are plenty of imitators available in drugstores for much less. But if I'm going to splurge on an expensive item, I make it something I can't live without, and something I know I love. If you don't have the money to impulse-buy gimmicky products, make it a rule to never buy anything on impulse.. Go for products you know and love, and give the new products a chance to stew in your mind. If you're trying out a nude lip or blue eyeshadow for the first time, go for the drugstore brands first before you shell out big money for an expensive product that may not work for you. And if you can convince yourself that it's a product you absolutely love, there's nothing wrong with splurging on something special every once in a while.
  4. Expand your makeup repertoire - All last semester, I had a class that started at 9 AM. On a good day, I would roll out of bed at around 8:30 - and trust me, I was never happy about it. After shuffling around my room in the dark and trying to get some half-assed skincare done in the bathroom (which usually included splashing my face with cold water and then falling asleep on my feet while staring at my reflection), I was never in the mood to drag out my entire makeup collection and create a immaculately blended look from scratch. Instead, I would just rock my go-to morning eye look, which mostly consisted of a plain nude lid, a touch of brown eyeliner, and some mascara. It was a look that I could do in a second and a half, as well as in very dim lighting (because waking up my roommate that early was not a good idea at all). The more makeup routines you have down - ones that you could do backwards and with your eyes closed - the easier and quicker your mornings will be.
  5. Don't be afraid to experiment - It's a scary thought, but for most people, college is the last four years before we all go out into the real world. That's not to say that you can't play around with your hair and makeup once you're in the real world, but the reality of the situation is that there are plenty of careers where blue and yellow eyeshadow may not be appropriate. So enjoy college while you can, and don't be afraid to express yourself through your makeup. Believe me when I say that now is the time that you can get away with anything.
XOXO, Ally

Wet N Wild Lust Palette - Review and Swatches

I picked up this palette a little while ago after hearing so many good things about it, and I'm definitely impressed by the quality of the shadows, especially considering the super low price that I got these for.

The packing is pretty typical on these. Six eyeshadows are stored in a black plastic container with a clear plastic flip-top lid. The palette does come with a mini sponge tip applicator and a mini eyeshadow brush, but both have long since been thrown away. Including the brush was a nice gesture, but we're already getting six beautiful eyeshadows here - there's no need to push our luck and assume the brush is going to be anything quality.

(Sorry that my camera washed out the lightest two shades, but they show up a lot better in the swatches below.)

Starting from the top left, which is essentially the bottom of the palette, we have a really nice dark plum color - it's a perfect crease color for a smokey purple look, and I also sometimes use it to line my eyes when I want something a little softer than black. It reminds me a tiny bit of MAC's Shadowy Lady, only brighter.

The middle matte color is a brighter purple, almost like a grape color. It has a more pinkish undertone to it, and it's definitely a nice shade of purple to have on hand. Nothing too exciting here, but it still does its job wonderfully.

The final matte color is a very pretty light pink, and is probably one of my most-used colors from this palette. It's an amazing brow-bone highlighter, but looks very very natural on the eye. I use it a lot to highlight or to blend out the edges of other eyeshadows, because it meshes with my skintone beautifully.

The bottom row contains all shimmery colors, and the left-most one is one of my personal favorite eyeshadows from this palette. It's a black with shimmery pink glitter in it, a combination which looks especially gorgeous in the crease or even lining the eyes. The pink glitter shows up really well in the swatches, and the color is a fun play on the traditional black eyeshadow.

The middle shimmer is a blue-ish gray color with plenty of shimmer to it; it's a wonderful color and blends really well, but I don't wear a lot of grays so I don't find myself reaching for this color as often. Even so, I do use it every so often and I've never been disappointed.

The last color is a shimmery white; I use this instead of the matte light pink color if I'm looking for a more obvious highlight, and it's also a nice white for the inner corner. I've found that sometimes it can show up a little sheer, but that's nothing an extra layer of shadow can't fix.

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommendation: If you're on a budget, this is definitely a palette to check out. The color payoff is fantastic for the price, the colors are all very true to their shades in the packaging, and they look gorgeous when applied. And if you're not closely monitoring your makeup spending, there's nothing stopping you from dropping a few dollars on this palette. It's easy to find a use for each of the six eyeshadows included, so you won't be stuck with an entire palette when you only want one or two colors. The only issue might be finding the product in stores; I bought this at a Rite Aid while at my college and I assumed my local CVS would also carry Wet N Wild products, but it turned out it didn't. I have found Wet N Wild products at other drugstores in my area, so you should have no problem finding them as long as you have a range of stores to check.

XOXO, Ally

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Take a stroll down the alleyway...

Hey guys! I just thought I'd do a little intro post before we got into the fun stuff. I'm Ally (and yes, The Alleyway is a play on my name) and I absolutely love makeup and beauty. That's not to say that I don't lounge around in yoga pants and a t-shirt half the time, because I do - but just because I'm having a comfy day, it doesn't mean I don't like to look pulled together. In fact, I think there's a special satisfaction that comes from finishing off an outfit that took you two seconds with a fantastic makeup look.

Now, I know I can't measure up to most of the makeup gurus out there right now. I practically live in the Howto & Style section of Youtube, so I know that there's some amazing talent out there right now. But what I can offer are tips, reviews, and tutorials that are useful for anyone, but specifically geared towards college students. Why? Obviously it's because I am a college student, and it's not always practical for me to cough up $50 for another shade of blush when I could be using that money for toothpaste or tissues ... or food. And we should all just admit it right now - college life is nothing like real life. If I didn't have class at 9 AM every day next semester, I would see nothing wrong with staying up until 2 or 3 AM and not waking up until 11 the next morning. Heck, sometimes I'm up until 2 AM anyway - and that's where my blog comes into play. How do you do your makeup when you're running on three hours of sleep and have class in ten minutes, what quick fixes do you use when you're seeing your parents on Sunday morning after a late Saturday night, and where are you going to find outfits that are both cute and warm for that trek across campus in the winter to get to the next party? I'm no expert, but I know what works for me - and there's a chance that it'll work for you.

That's not to say that The Alleyway is only for college students - instead, I'd say that it's simply a blog written from the perspective of a college student, one who thinks that you shouldn't have to chose between makeup that works and makeup that's cheap, and that it is possible to look flawless in under five minutes. And besides, college is all about finding yourself - and everyone can appreciate that.

So I hope you enjoy my blog, and get some use out of the things I'll be posting; I have plenty of reviews and swatches coming up, and I would love to start filming some tutorials if I ever find a decent camera setup that works for me. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture of my makeup look from today:

XOXO, Ally