Lipsticks in Rotation – January 2017

Hi everyone!

In order to help me along with my goal of not buying any lipsticks this year, I, of course, have to shop my own stash a little. I wanted to wear more of the lipsticks down below and for some of them, also figure out if I like them enough against my other offerings before I decide to de-stash them. It’s also a fast chance to review ones I’ve never mentioned here before…

Without further ado, these are the lipsticks in rotation this month!

NARS Velvet Satin Lip Pencil – Rikugien (Mini)

This is sheer nude pink shimmer. I do like it, and it’s very pretty, but since I normally want noticeable colour, I just don’t reach for it a lot. I have a feeling this might be one of the first lipsticks to go but it might be worth experimenting with lip liners underneath. Maybe.

Wet n Wild Megalast Lipstick – Bare It All

I actually quite like this for its rather long wear and cheap price (£2.99 on Amazon as an add-on item!). I bought this particular shade because it’s an apparent dupe for MAC’s Velvet Teddy and I wasn’t sure how that would suit me. The plastic packaging also quickly got shattered after that holiday to Vietnam in my travel bag. I didn’t even wear it there much after discovering how much they love reds over there!

I wouldn’t repurchase this colour as I think it’s just a smidgen too light for my personal taste (although it doesn’t wash me out), but I’d consider similar darker shade like In The Flesh another time. Or maybe I should look for similar shades in less breakable packaging… Or maybe I just shouldn’t travel with it!

My favourite way to wear this shade is actually with a layer of NYX’s Butter Gloss in Praline on top for a lovely glossy nude lip, which is why it has joined my rotation. It’s also great on top of a muted red liner like Rimmel’s 1000 Kisses in Spice or Kiko Smart lipliner 103.

Rimmel Lasting Finish Kate – 08

I like this but haven’t been reaching for it much recently. It’s a mauve nude with a satin finish. I don’t think I’ll repurchase it once it’s used up, though. Sometimes I also like to layer it with Rimmel’s 1000 Kisses Lipliner in Spice which is clearly my go-to to warm up a lip colour.

Burberry Lip Cover Soft Satin – 04 Rosewood (mini, discontinued)

I LOVE this but haven’t been reaching for it much, probably as it’s so precious. It’s a brown with a hint of pink, and it’s not too sheer on me (unlike Rikugien) and can also be built up, making it a fabulous nude MLBB shade. In true Burberry fashion, even their casing and bullet are plaid patterned. I think this particular line of satin shades was discontinued, but from what I’ve seen of the Lip Velvet bullets, they still seem vaguely similar (they also have a Rosewood shade!) So I might check them out in future.

Lancome L’absolu Rouge 06 Rose Nu (mini)

I got this as a mini from my mom. In fact, I think this is the oldest lipstick of the lot and it shows as it has the biggest dent out of my stash. I am hoping to finally finish it up this month or next… This is a classy, rosy pink that isn’t super opaque but can be built up well. It has a satin finish and is so comfortable to wear. I’ve had no problem reaching for this daily, and I’m not a girl who wears the same lipstick two days in a row! In fact, if it weren’t for the rapid expansion of my lipstick stash it would probably have been finished all those years ago…

Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick – Brown Sugar

This is a cool brown shade and is true to its name in that it’s super creamy. This actually hasn’t had more than a couple of wears since its review last year, so it simply needs a bit more love. I particularly wanted to try it out with different coloured lip liners, and I really like it over MaxFactor’s lipliner in Red Rush for that extra red tone. It’s quite opaque so I couldn’t apply too much and lose that tone, though.

Colourpop Ultra Matte Liquid Lipstick – Wild Nothing (limited edition)

This is a medium mauve toned lipstick that I find best described as a lighter version of the infamous Tulle shade from the original line of Ultra Matte lipsticks. It’s not the most flattering on me, though. This is another one that I want to experiment mixing with a coloured lipliner but Colourpop’s colours are so opaque I wonder if it would work. Maybe a lip topper? I’m not sure if this is still available on their site as it was from their Christmas collection in 2015.

I realised as I took swatch photos that all of these picks are neutrals in one way or another! Although Rose Nu is stretching it a bit towards the pink side, it’s still a great choice that suits anything. I think it just goes to show what a wide range of shades neutrals can encompass. On top of that, only two of these shades have separate reviews because beyond what I’ve said here, as I’ve not had much to say about these shades!

Fingers crossed I make a dent in these or finally decide which ones have to go…

Until next time,


My Photography Process

As another one of the Twenty Swans’ 3 year specials, I am including my current process for taking photos as my draft got long enough that I thought I should separate it from the main process post. Again, this is with a focus on beauty blogging.

I’m not gonna lie – my camera does so much of the work it’s insane but there are options less bank-breaking to explore! In particular, a light box for £20 can do SO MUCH.

My approach to writing posts and taking photos is very ‘grab-n-go’. As in, as soon as I notice the sun is out, I grab a shiny new product or whatever I need photos of, and I grab an item of clothing to use as the background, and I go.

My entire setup is on top of my bed, or my parents’ bed as the lighting in their room is usually better! I prop a pillow up or an A3 board I have lying around and cover the pillow in my chosen scarf or another clothing item.

The photos below are from previous posts (apart from one which is from a review that never went up, and another which is from an upcoming post) and all have an item from my wardrobe (or mom’s…) as the backdrop. I also think it adds the ‘at home blogger’ kind of touch without being overly put-together.


Some pointers:

  • pick interesting textures like faux fur coats, knits, satins or lace.
  • make sure it doesn’t make the photo too busy or clash with the product. This means you have to be careful with bold leopard print or overly flowery patterns.
  • It also goes without saying that you should avoid using anything with major pilling unless your background is going to be very blurred.

If my product can stand well upright, I would prefer to take a picture of it that way instead of on a flat lay. It also avoids the problem of having to find blu-tack to stop bottles rolling around and such, and for me, this also solves the problem of having my own shadow cast on my flat-lay photos all the time.)


I also like to use an object with a flat top as a display podium of sorts for my items. I stick it under the bit of clothing I’m also using as a backdrop, or I find something else that matches. What I use depends on the product. I have grabbed money tins, flat glasses cases and pots of body butter stacked up for this purpose.

Be aware of the colours you use for your background. On my DSLR the colours can change how the image registers, as well as the level of sunlight. Whilst I used a gorgeous white dress for a time, I found that it sometimes washed out the colours of the product a little. I can’t say if this will be helpful for you as I am still experimenting but so far that’s what I’ve noticed.


That said, sometimes white works super well and that dress remains a fail-safe if I ever need it.

So… that’s my current photography process. It’s changed a lot in the last year and I have been experimenting more since getting my new camera but all the things I learnt, I think can still apply to photography with my phone.

[I then went and attempted to recreate a shoot for an upcoming Lipsticks in Rotation post using my phone camera, and failed massively… ]
Here are some old photos from the blog in 2016 and even 2015 when I first started adding skin care to the blog, just so we can all compare them to the (even if I do say so myself) amazing shots above. The best photos were taken just inches from my window because that’s how hard it was to get nice lighting…

I think back then I was using either the family iPad or my current Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. Probably more of the family iPad.


Anyhow I hope that you learned something, however small, when reading this. Even if you didn’t, perhaps it was fun to read and look at my old photography!

Until next time,


[Makeup and Chatter] Paramore in Birmingham

Despite the makeup I have, I don’t do a base and eyes all that often. A full face is reserved only for special days, like a concert. I took out a lot of items I hadn’t been using for a while and got to play around with my look a bit. Today’s chatter / extra post is basically about what I wore and how it wore throughout the day! Also, some extra gushing for obvious reasons.

Before we begin, I obviously have to mention that my skin is oily and I wore all of this for 12 hours straight, with only a minor top up at about the 6 hour mark for some items.

(The cat ears, earrings AND the comfy grey turtleneck are all from New Look. What is it with me and my attempts to look cool? I TRIED, OKAY? Also, what do you think of the hair?? I’m still undecided!!)


Etude House Proof 10 Eye Primer – all over the lid and under the outer corner too.

Makeup Revolution Neutrals VS New-trals Eye Palette – shades Trend on the inner half, Suit on the outer half, Strong in the outer corner) (Speaking of which, I want to re-take the photos from that review soon. Sure, my palette is less than perfect now but I’m not entirely satisfied with the photos of that palette…)

Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye Contour Palette (Laetus as a base, Saleos under the outer corner, Shax right at the corner and to help smoke out the eyeliner just a teeny bit.) (Note to self to re-take photos for this post too!)

CLIO Kill Black Brush Pen Liner – Forever my love.

CLIO Salon de Cara Back Comb Long and Curl MascaraHeld my curls all freaking day, although I think my tube is getting a bit old and dry. I guess I should re-buy it soon if it’s still available.

Notes – My eye makeup looked EXACTLY the same as it did when I applied it. The shadow does rub off a bit but the CLIO liner is still steadfast. There is only one (1) minor crease on my right eyelid where some darker product migrated. My eyelid doesn’t even look shiny. You wouldn’t think they were oily at all. What is this magic??

I even teared up a bit when Paramore played Ain’t It Fun (and nothing smudged). That song is essentially my happy anthem, my hype anthem. I don’t know why I always cry at concerts. Maybe it’s because I just never thought I’d get to go to any.

(Here is your obligatory crappy gig photo from my phone. Taken during Hate To See Your Heart Break)


The Ordinary High-Adherance Silicone Primer

Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer in Light – All over the centre area of my face! It used to be too light for my skintone (and thus, a highlight shade) but now it’s pretty much a perfect match.

Innisfree No Sebum Powder (to set) – using a powder brush

Jolse Blotting Sheets (to top up later) – Often given out as a freebie when purchasing from them, I like these as they aren’t powdery. However I find myself using more than one to blot my face. More like two or three.

Soap and Glory One Heck of a Blot Powder (to top up later) – using a powder brush

Notes – I used to have issues with the primer as it often would go patchy and cause my makeup to pat off instead of staying on my face. This time, I had new cushion puffs (my preferred way of application) to replace my old ones. I spread a very thin layer of the primer on (I used to do thick layers), sprayed a little of La Roche Posay Serozinc on the puff (I’m just trying to use it up) and tapped the concealer out very very gently.

I was obviously very shiny at the 6 hour mark despite Innisfree’s No Sebum being my favourite powder to date (the record is about 3 or 4 hours before I get shiny) so this was inevitable. At the end of the 12 hours, there were noticeable breakdowns on my inner cheek and nose and a bit on my upper lip. Estee Lauder Double Wear does not break down below my nose as gracefully. Just sayin.


New Look Pure Colour Lip Liner – this liner is from just before New Look revamped their makeup line, so I don’t think you can find it anymore.

P.S. Black Lip Liner – Primark makeup was (well, it sort of still is…) quite inconsistent in its lineup. Either they had the colour you needed, or they didn’t. It was hard to find a black lipliner back then so I snapped this fast.

NARS Train Bleu – I love the NARS Velvet matte lip pencil range, although if I had to say there were duds, this might be one of them. But look – if you’re okay with wearing this dark lip for no longer than a few hours it’s fine. It showed noticeable gaps in my lip lines by the 6 hour mark and I had to reapply with a lip brush.

This photo above was taken by my friend, Nicole. As you might be able to tell I’m not exactly a fan of trying to stand at a concert with my height…

Actually, now that I am thinking about it, I don’t really have much to say about the concert itself! Hayley Williams is a total sweetheart (nothing new) and I had an amazing night and really enjoyed myself. If I’m going to be super honest, After Laughter is not my favourite album of Paramore’s (although I adore Told You So TO BITS!) but it’s an album I just like to play as a whole for the mood and jam and be happy to. Most of the songs from the set were from the album so it was just a happy night and really lifted my mood!

Until next time,


Days since last buying lipstick: 22

[Chatter] Re: Exams

Hi everyone!

If you’re doing A-Level mocks or modular university exams, then exam weeks are upon us and I wish you all luck! Some of you have probably even finished now so I hope they all went well. My own exams start just as this post goes up and end on Friday.

Exams have never been my strong point – let me point you to the gap year that resulted – but I think I have ways to manage now. I tried to put in a little extra effort as soon as possible to account for the inevitable week-long slump (which happened. I think it’s passed. I sure hope so). Luckily my course is assessed through a variety of methods (compared to exams I love a good essay) and although these exams are still 75-85% of their respective modules it’s still a bit of weight off.

I’ve been sleeping less well recently. Some nights I just struggled lying awake, other nights I genuinely had to chant ‘bed, bed, bed’ to myself whilst still scribbling down a couple (okay, another paragraph) of words. It’s revision guilt. It happens. I never feel like I’ve done enough. I never really feel ‘stressed’ in the same way that others do as I feel so calm even now, but then I worry about not being worried.

The only way I have found to help combat that a bit is to go do a chore or something I’ve been putting off. Shake things up. Move around. But I’m even struggling to get my skincare routine done. I’m still scribbling down notes for some reason. But anyway… I usually get to bed in the belief that the next day will be better. That’s the mindset to keep.

But it’s so, so important for me to get nine/ten hours sleep and I’ve only been managing 7 on average. I would say 7 is recommended for a barely functioning Swanna, but nobody wants that. 8 is pretty good because I feel less like crap. If I only have 6 my immune system also doesn’t do too well and I will suddenly catch a cold (which I am generally pretty resilient to. I used to be that kid that was never ill.)

As a result of all that, I think my general mood took a hit but when I think about it my mood does do a bit of a consistent dive before my period starts anyway… Since getting treated for depression I’ve remained hyper-aware of how I am feeling and what contributes to major or concerning changes in my mood and I have been putting things in place to help with that.

So, if you have an exam, have you planned an after-exam treat yet? It was actually meant to be the Paramore Birmingham concert, for me, but due to timings that ended up being actually right before my exam week (!!) but my current treat is Pierce Brown’s book signing at the end of the month. No doubt I’ll find a way to get food or buy something nice immediately after my last exam too! But yeah, I always plan some kind of event and keep it there, set in stone. Make it a lil special.

Remember to look after yourselves and prioritise your mental health over your mental ability. There’s nothing that worries me more than people who survive off three hours of sleep (if you’re reading this, you know who you are!).

Until next time,


Days since last buying lipstick: 21
Lipstick worn today: Maybelline Creamy Matte in Brown Sugar over MaxFactor lipliner in Red Rush.

My Blogging Process

Hi everyone!

For Twenty Swans’ third anniversary I thought I would put up an extra post or two to celebrate it, about how I go about putting together something for the blog. This will mostly focus on my beauty posts since that is the only type of post with a tangible routine to it, and there will be two parts for my writing and photography. Today, I’ll be writing about… well, my writing.

Draft out an idea in my Evernote.

For me, Evernote is pretty fantastic because I have it as a smartphone and a desktop app, and when I am using it at uni I use it in the web browser. My notes are always synced across so I can shut down and continue drafting in bed when inspiration strikes! In Evernote, notes can be sorted into ‘notebooks’ and even ‘notebook stacks’ and all my blog stuff and beauty inventory is part of one stack. If I have something new on trial, this is where my initial thoughts go.

To be honest, this is where everything goes. Uni notes, story ideas, all there, all the time. Did I mention I’m only on the free plan? On premium, you can download whole notebooks for offline use! (It’s my major motivation for finishing NaNoWriMo because you get three months free as a reward!) I’m not sponsored – I rely on it so much it deserves this promo.

(Oh, but sometimes things like checklists get lost in Evernote because I have a lot of them, so I put them in Google Keep where I keep a lot less notes. I use it only for things that need chasing up on and can be deleted soon after.)

I make sure to think about what I want to see in a review when I write one, for example for lipsticks, I think the lip swatches are very important and sometimes colour comparisons, too, so I include a note to include them. For lip balms and skincare I don’t mind not including it but I make sure to mention standout ingredients and what they do. I used to include ingredients lists but I’m no cosmetic chemist… what are your thoughts on including ingredients lists? Is that helpful?

Recently I have tried to [remember to] include information for people looking out for vegan or cruelty-free products as I realised that just because it’s not a deal-breaker for me, I shouldn’t forget about it. Especially when a few of my friends find that important and I may want to buy gifts for them!

Take photos.

Unless stated otherwise [or maybe I’ve forgotten one somewhere], all the images on the blog are my own snaps!

When a draft is being written I also include notes and positions for possible photos I want to take. Recently I have also included theme colours as well so I know what to reach for when looking for background items.

Most times, I have a little photo session every time the sun is good. Sometimes, the sun is out before I even have had a chance to draft ideas but I hurry and take some snaps anyway even if it is not all the ones I need, by grabbing my most recent purchases, for example. My actual photography process is getting a separate post after this as it’s a bit long, looking at my draft…

For posts that don’t need product photos and are just chatty, like this one, I keep a backlog of background-type photos that aren’t busy-looking, and actively seek out patterns and gradients just to keep it from being boring.

Move and edit photos.

One of the best features of the Canon 750d is the addition of wi-fi and its own mobile app, which is my favourite method of moving my photos to my phone. I haven’t developed a process for editing photos on my laptop yet because it’s old and sometimes the colours are inconsistent based on the angle of the screen, so I prefer to use my phone where the colours appear consistently making it easier for me to edit.

I like to use Snapseed on my phone to adjust small things like brightness and contrast, although as I adjust my camera settings manually whilst shooting, I often don’t need to. Many phones now also have the option to increase exposure and other light settings, too. I also add a Twenty Swans mark in the bottom corner of my images.

For some posts that don’t need product shots but perhaps just a title image, I use the in-app options for text. It’s not a unique idea and I’ve seen similar title cards being used a lot, but they’re quick and easy and pleasant-looking.

Put everything together.

I use the WordPress mobile app to upload the photos. It’s also good for checking up on my daily stats and reading other WordPress blogs on the go. Then I switch to my desktop to paste over my draft and edit the whole post so that everything is in order with tags and categories and the scheduled date. That said it’s not unusual for me to just leave a post and forget about it before scheduling it! Like… I’m sure there are sheet mask photos just buried in my computer somewhere!

That’s it! I’m missing a whole section on promoting my own blog because I tend to slack off in that department. At most, there’ll be a tweet. I used to use Buffer, but recently I quite like Tweetdeck for this. Instagrams are once in a blue moon (the official twitter and insta handle is @twentyswans. Please follow me ^-^)

I hope you got some ideas from this and found this interesting! I personally love this type of post once in a while.

Until next time,


Days since buying lipstick: 20
Lipstick last worn: NARS Velvet Matte Pencil in Train Bleu over Primark’s Black lipliner and New Look’s [discontinued] Pure Colour Dark Purple lipliner.

Three Years of Twenty Swans!

I could say something like ‘oh, I’m so surprised Twenty Swans lasted so long’ but I’m not. Amazingly it has been something I regularly go back to without complaining or finding it boring for too long. I still love it for making me feel like people want to hear what I want to say, and for letting me say things without too much of the spazzing and stuttering and holding back when I speak about things in person.

My hypes over skincare and makeup blogging have recently dwindled but it’s definitely more of a routine that I enjoy now (rather than a momentary love), and I’ve found that I’m purchasing less and less, and hoarding less and destashing more often.

Following on from last year, here are some stats from WordPress. (I wish I could use Google Analytics with but I’m not paying £20 a month for that..)

  • The total amount of views for the blog in 2017 was over quadruple the amount in 2016, with almost twenty times the count for 2015. Average views per day was 54 (which I want to get to 100!). My WordPress followers hit 200, as well – in fact it’s shot past 250 now. Hello, friends!
  • I’ve posted twice as much in 2017 compared to 2016, largely beauty things. I do want to go back to branching out this year, though. More books. More knitting. More trips to cafes and more of myself, too!
  • My most viewed post in 2016 is STILL this sheet mask review and the views for it have increased as well with the total view count, although it only accounts for under a third of this year’s views compared to over a half of last year’s!

I haven’t actually prepared a Blog Gift this year. Previous ones have included the lovely blog header you see above (made that myself!) and better photos since getting the camera. This year, I am fussing about dropping some of my Xmas season earnings on moving to WordPress’ Personal plan and getting a domain name, more image space and maybe even changing the theme, but that isn’t a priority. It could probably wait another year. I get paid just as this post goes up, so you’ll know when it happens, LOL.
However, I’ve at least updated my social media icons and my about page (check it out!) and am working on getting a small logo sorted to match the header.

[Edit: I did it! I’m now!! SO EXCITING.]

(It’s funny how I adore makeup yet am always too lazy to do my face for a mini-shoot like this. All I’m wearing is the discontinued Burberry Satin Lip Cover in 06 Rosewood, my current love. The cat ears were on sale from River Island.)

On that note, I am wondering what else I can do to make this blog better. Maybe I should finally start kicking up the social media more? It’s not really part of what I enjoy about blogging and actually, my experience with it is that it hasn’t helped *that* much with my stats. But perhaps as a person, I could try engaging more with the community. A part of me hadn’t realised how social blogging really is and would rather I continue talking to myself. Thoughts?

After last year’s mindful things, did I do anything about them? Well…

  • I haven’t finished that novel.
  • I improved with to-do lists. I make small list items and I usually don’t limit myself to a day with them. However, I only use them when I have lots to do and my time has been better organised this year so I haven’t needed the to-do lists as much!
  • I still suck at keeping in mind my goals throughout the year.
  • I’ve been knitting more! I finished a cowl, and made two hats!
  • I’ve been reading about the same amount, if not less, but I’m proud that I’ve kept it up. I’ve been to some book signings for the first time this year, so that’s one thing – I want to go to more bookish events. I have one lined up this month!
  • There’s been a lot of personal spending, but since starting uni, my budget is better managed at the moment and more money is going into my savings. Hopefully, that will improve into the new year.

Here are the things I want to be mindful of this year:

  • Just write a little every day. A scene idea, a character profile, something. Every. Day.
  • Do more cardio. More than usual. By ‘usual’, I mean I don’t exercise so it is literally better than nothing. I mean, I walk 40 minutes to my Saturday job and, once a week, I do short leg workouts in my bedroom but that’s not enough, is it?? Maybe dig out the skipping rope?
  • Spend less money on snacks. Eat fewer snacks in general. Prepare more of my own food for when I’m at uni during the day. Or visit more cafes.
  • Just accept the fact that manga and k-pop are still the two things that will set me off talking forever and not feel self-conscious or utterly dorky for it. I spent a while being the weird kid for it and that kind of mindset still hasn’t left me.
  • Whittle down my wardrobe to the basics, by being more reasonable about what I will and won’t wear. Compared to makeup, I don’t spend anywhere near as much on clothes anyway, but I want to make it all basic items that I know will last and not be afraid to spend a little more on quality. No more coral. No more sleeveless tops.

Here’s to another year, and last of all, THANKS FOR READING, EVERYONE.

Until next time,


Days since last buying lipstick: 17
Lipstick worn most recently: [discontinued] Burberry Satin Lip Cover 06 Rosewood (I’ve been at home and not doing anything, so this carries over from last time!)

[Chatter] A homage to the discontinued Burberry Lip Cover in Rosewood, and about spontaneity… 

Whyyyyy oh whyyyyyyyy can’t I buyyyy this anymoreeeee

In case you couldn’t tell I suddenly missed being spontaneous here. Seeing as my blog literally started out with a post about a fallen tree I’m sure this isn’t surprising. This was supposed to be a place for me to talk to myself and I think I’m getting caught up in ‘official’ blogging which isn’t the same.

Anyway, so back to just spilling some thoughts. I mean, it’s still makeup thoughts but it’s either that or exam chatter (which I’m sure will happen eventually but that I don’t want to chat about just now!!)

Look at this (worn) bullet. This slightly damaged casing. This is the mini version, y’all, and it’s just as delectable as the full size.

This SHADE. omg. This lipstick shade is literally throwing shade at me but I don’t mind because it’s gorgeous. It’s a brown with a hint of pink, and it applies sheer at first but builds up really well to a gorgeous, creamy satin nude tone. It wears well and is very comfortable throughout the whole day.

(I was really worried that these lip swatches turned out too warm but on my laptop they’re appearing fine and true enough to colour. I hope you can see the difference in Rikugien and Rosewood! I also hope they’re not appearing too pink. On an added note, urgh lighting in my room in the winter… the worst…)

Rosewood is also very MLBB, but less sheer and shimmery compared to Rikugien and more noticeable. For me, it’s the better Rikugien. The problem is that it’s also discontinued and I’ll never be able to buy it again unless I resort to Ebay, which I can’t because I’m currently on a lipstick NO-BUY. Sob.

Let me love the hell out of this, first.



Days since I last bought lipstick: 15
Last worn lipstick: Rosewood (duh).
Added to wishlist: Also Rosewood…