Friday, February 16, 2018

Wet n Wild MegaLength: The Only Mascara I've Ever Liked Enough to Review

My blog has existed for four years, but this is the first post I've ever devoted to mascara. I literally didn't have a "mascara" tag before today. You'd think I'd write more about mascara, seeing that I wear it almost daily, but there are two reasons why I avoid the subject. First, I just don't find mascara very interesting. It comes in a tiny range of colors, it doesn't lend itself to any kind of experimentation, and I resent having to throw it out after a few months (I often keep mine for six; don't @ me). Second, few mascaras actually give me what I want from a mascara, which is subtlety. So far as I can tell, my natural lashes are about average: not preternaturally long or thick, but not invisible. My main complaint is that they're dark at the root but the color stops halfway up the lash, making them look half as long as they really are:

That stray hair is annoying the hell out of me, but this was the best photo I got. This is why you read small independent bloggers, right?

What I've always wanted is a product one step up from a lash tint: something to darken the upper half of my lashes and add a tiny bit of length and volume. But for as long as I've been wearing mascara (about seven years now), that has been almost impossible to find at a drugstore price point. Judging by the varieties of mascara available at the average CVS or Target, most makeup-wearers these days want lashes as big and bold and reminiscent of falsies as possible. Before this month, the closest I ever came to a mascara holy grail was CoverGirl LashBlast Length, which got discontinued about a year after I discovered it. In the two-ish years after, I tried Maybelline and Revlon and more CoverGirl, and some samples of Bobbi Brown and MAC, but came up disappointed over and over. Every mascara turned out to be too wet, or too clumpy, or just too much. So when I finally got around to replacing my six-month-old tube of Maybelline LashSensational Full Fan Effect, I was cynical enough not to bother with exhaustive research on my next one. Instead, I wandered into Target and picked out Wet n Wild MegaLength almost at random, then did a quick search for it on MakeupAlley. It had an average score of 3.6, which is pretty damn good for a mascara on MakeupAlley, and even the complaints suggested that I might like it. "It made my lashes black, that's about it," wrote one user. "No length, no volume, no oomph." PERFECT.

And you know what? It is kind of perfect. This post was supposed to be the second installment in my Glossier review series, but I love MegaLength so much that I couldn't resist writing about it first. I don't know why this mascara doesn't get more hype. It's under $3, it's cruelty-free, and its tube is the freaking Pantone color of the year! What's not to like?

I really do love the tube, and not just for its color. It's slender and elegant, perfect for travel. Compare it to the Maybelline LashSensational tube, which is about the same length but far more bulky and bulbous:

The brushes are also very different. Though I liked the flared shape of the Maybelline brush (below, left), it pulled way too much product out of the tube and did almost nothing to separate my lashes. (Don't judge the Maybelline mascara on its clumpiness in the photo, though. That's only because I'm a dirtbag and waited too long to replace it.) The Wet n Wild brush has more bristles, meaning more lash separation, and pulls out only as much product as I need. It's a pretty firm brush, without much flexibility.

I have almost no complaints about the formula, which delivers a toned-down look that I'd describe as "my lashes but better." All the claims on the packaging are true. "Clump-free definition": check. "Visibly lifts lashes": check. "Up to 80% longer-looking lashes": well, that's meaningless because they covered their asses with "up to," but my lashes look unquestionably longer. This is a wetter formula, and it makes my lashes stick together if I apply a second coat without letting the first dry, but that's about it for negatives. I usually wear one coat, and it lifts and separates, just like a good bra. It doesn't flake off during the day. It doesn't run or smear on rainy days. It comes off easily with an oil cleanser. It's cheap enough that I won't feel guilty about replacing it after three months. This mascara is exactly what I wanted. How often can I say that about a beauty product?

Here are my eyes with mascara (left) and without. As you can see, I have fairly straight lashes, and the mascara helps them curl up a little. The only other products I'm wearing in these photos are Glossier Boy Brow in Clear, ABH eyeshadow in Antique Bronze, and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla.

And a full face, with mascara on both eyes (again, no eyeliner, just shadow). My blush is Tarte Paaarty, my highlight is Glossier Haloscope in Quartz, and my lipstick is Urban Decay Amulet.

Full face, eyes closed:

I can't remember the last time I felt so positive about a drugstore beauty product. I'm supposed to be a snarky bitch, but I have nothing but praise! Don't worry, though: my next Glossier review is coming soon enough.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

7 Days of Glossier, Day 1: Glossier You

When Glossier announced late last year that it was launching a perfume, I barely took notice. Fragrance is one of the few categories in my beauty stash that isn't ridiculously overpopulated. I wish I could attribute this to willpower, but the reason is more mundane: I dislike a vast majority of the perfumes I try on. I do wear fragrance a few times a week, but I'm content with my very small collection. I own just four full-sized perfumes: L'Artisan Verte Violette (which is seven years old and still 3/4 full), Diptyque Florabellio, Lush Tuca Tuca, and a rollerball of Fresh Citron de Vigne. There are a few other perfumes that I love but have owned only in sample form: Parfums Delrae Coup de Foudre, Maison Martin Margiela Lipstick On and Funfair Evening, Diptyque L'Ombre dans l'Eau, and L'Artisan Safran Troublant. That's, what, nine favorite perfumes total? Nine in seven years? I can fall in love with nine lipsticks in seven minutes.

If there's a common thread that runs through those fragrances, I have yet to isolate it. I gravitate toward high-end niche brands, but Fresh and Lush are both affordable. I like rose, violet, vanilla, salt, and incense notes, but I can think of several perfumes that contain at least one of those notes and still manage to put me off. In general, though, I like somewhat eccentric fragrances. I like sweetness tempered by strangeness. I like my perfume to tell its own story even as it interacts with my body chemistry. And Glossier You promised to be the opposite of all that: "a skin-smell enhancer first and foremost." So, like...boring? I would never have bought this perfume, not even with store credit, if the Glossier website hadn't offered a sample along with my order. But it did, and here we are.

The full-sized bottle, designed by a young Glossier employee, is as aesthetically pleasing as any other Glossier product: millennial-pink ombré with a red top and a generous dimple in the glass. (A cute touch: that dimple is echoed in the spray mechanism of the sample.) In describing the bottle, though, I'm reminded of a remark by my longtime idol Chandler Burr, former perfume critic for the New York Times: "I'm opposed to the photon. If you have to see it, I'm not interested." It's true: a perfume, perhaps more than any other beauty product, needs to stand on its own merits. So no more photos; let's talk about the merits (or lack thereof) of the fragrance itself.

Glossier has done with You what it always does with its new products: suggested that it's created something totally unprecedented. A perfume that's meant to enhance you instead of assert itself? Has any other brand ever attempted such a feat? Well, yes, actually. Here's Burr in a Times column from 2010: "Unlike the old masterpieces, which cloaked the wearer in scent, new fragrances are lighter and more transparent, engineered to show you off." Glossier didn't invent no-perfume perfume, just like it didn't invent no-makeup makeup, but you wouldn't know that from the hype surrounding You.

According to the Glossier website, Glossier You has base notes of musk, ambrette, and ambrox, with iris root and pink pepper on top. To me, that description sounds a bit gourmand. I'm often down for gourmand scents, even simple ones: I use Palmer's cocoa-butter lotion after every shower. So my first sniff of You was a surprise, and not a pleasant one. I smelled nothing but loud, powdery, generic white floral. I could have created something similar with five random testers from the rollerball display at Sephora. I've now worn You three times, and I can detect a hint of pepper if I sniff really hard, but that cheap, strident floral always dominates for the first 15 minutes.

On my first wear, I couldn't conjure an image from those top notes. Glossier You is recursive, self-referential; you catch a whiff and think, "Well, I sure am wearing perfume." The second day, I had a breakthrough. In middle school, the rich, popular girls exuded some unidentifiable fruity-floral chemical fragrance, probably from Bath & Body Works. (I, on the other hand, smelled like the almond Dr. Bronner's liquid soap that my dad insisted on buying.) The top notes of Glossier You smell like those girls. Like the girl who wouldn't let me borrow her pastel Gelly Roll pens, who vacationed in Aspen and Sun Valley, whose parents rented the entire California Academy of Sciences for her bat mitzvah. It smells like turn-of-the-millennium preteen class anxiety. Not Glossier You but Glossier Fuck You.

After the top notes wear down, You becomes more tolerable, though not what I'd call "good." The amber peeps through, as well as a faint lemon-vanilla note. Okay, there's the gourmand. This phase of Glossier You puts me in mind of an adorable pastry that you buy for $6 at an Instagram-famous bakery on the Lower East Side. You take a photo, then a bite. Flakes of viennoiserie explode onto your black jeans. Honestly, the pastry is a little dry and tough, but damned if it isn't cute. You post the photo on Instagram because isn't that what you're supposed to do?

After four or five hours, Glossier You is nearly undetectable, except for a bit of warmish musk. And that's it. Glossier's signature fragrance, over and out. (Very few perfumes outlast the five-hour mark on me, so I'm not counting this as a negative.)

I don't hate Glossier You. It's hard to feel any strong emotion, positive or negative, about such a basic scent. But I am disappointed. When a fragrance is promoted with a wacky "concept store" (red walls and windows, red-clad employees whispering compliments, disembodied hands offering red roses), I expect something offbeat and memorable. This, though? I don't know what to say. If you want to smell like you're wearing perfume, buy Glossier You. But I think it falls short of its most basic claim: it doesn't meld meaningfully with my skin. It never starts smelling like me. Which, for a perfume called You, is something of a problem.

Would I repurchase this product at full price? Hell, no. I doubt I'll use the sample again, either. (For the record, some reviews on the Glossier website complain that the full size and sample smell different.)

Grade: 2/5 Grammy product placements.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

7 Days of Glossier, Day 0: Introduction

Things have been quiet on the blog, due to my ongoing job applications and financial uncertainty. Until those situations resolve, I'll have to keep minimizing non-essential spending. Yet, miraculously, I also have eight new Glossier products in my life:

This haul was made possible entirely by readers who gave me Glossier store credit by shopping through my affiliate link. I'm tremendously grateful to those who did so, as I'd never have been able to afford all of these products (or even a few of them) otherwise. I decided last week to blow through my hoard of store credit and test some products I'd been wondering about for a while. It's difficult to find thorough Glossier reviews that aren't written by brand reps, and several people have told me that I'm one of the few bloggers they trust to give honest opinions about Glossier's products, which is gratifying to hear. So I'm planning a series of seven posts, each one spotlighting a different new-to-me product (the eighth one I bought is Boy Brow in Brown, a staple that I've already reviewed). I can't predict when any of those posts will appear, since I'm still sorting out my work schedule for the coming semester, but I hope I can write them all in the next few months. I'll be posting quick first impressions on Instagram in the meantime.

Is it just me or do the stickers look a bit weird this time? Kind of grainy?

Say what you will about Glossier (and I've said a lot), their customer service is impeccable: I placed my order last Thursday and it appeared at my door on Sunday morning! Here are the products I'll be trying out:

1. Boy Brow in Clear ($16)

This product sneaked onto the Glossier website last yearI don't remember an announcement of any kind. I was excited to discover it, though: my natural brows are quite full and dark and some days I just want the soft hold of Boy Brow without the added tint. I used to use Milani's clear brow gel daily, and I'm curious to see whether Glossier's version is an improvement. Unfortunately, it looks identical to the brown Boy Brow (though, weirdly, its box was bigger). That will no doubt cause confusion during groggy pre-coffee primping sessions, but I guess that's what the stickers are for.

2. Cloud Paint in Haze ($18)

As you know, I'm a big fan of Glossier's liquid-blush formula, which comes in four colors. The only one I've tried so far is Puff, a bright neutral pink, but Haze has intrigued me for a while. It's a dark purplish berry that's apparently more pigmented and liquidy than the other Cloud Paints, so I'll probably have to use a light hand, but I love plum and berry blushes in general and have high hopes for Haze. We'll see!

3. Glossier You Perfume (free sample; $60 for 50ml size)

Fair warning: I hate about 80% of the perfumes I try on, so if I hate Glossier You, don't take it as a definitive judgment. I'm already slightly biased against Glossier You because of the ridiculous pop-up shop that promoted it, which sounds like hell for cynical bitches with social anxiety (i.e. me), and because of Glossier's corny insistence that "the formula comes incomplete; You are the first ingredient." That would be cute if it weren't true of literally all perfume. Like, that's what perfume is. It interacts differently with everyone's body chemistry, which is why Le Labo Santal 33 is the choice of half the rich hipsters in Brooklyn but makes me want to vomit when I smell it on my own wrist.

4. Haloscope in Quartz ($22)

Last year's disappointing experience with Wet n Wild Precious Petals taught me that I should stick to cream and liquid highlighter formulas. Powders are too metallic for my tastes and too, well, powdery for my dry skin. Haloscope is supposed to add hydration as well as glow, which sounds perfect, though I'm a little worried that the coconut oil in the formula will break me out. The Haloscope packaging and texture remind me of Topshop's Glow Sticks, though the tube feels much sturdier, thank God. Quartz is a warmish rosé-wine pink, slightly cooler-toned than my two usual highlighters, ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Lunch Money and Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal.

5. Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18)

Desperately trying to prevent the bottle from rolling across my desk.

Milky Jelly was one of Glossier's earlier launches, debuting almost exactly two years ago. It has tempted me ever since, but until I'd accumulated enough store credit, I couldn't bring myself to abandon my perfectly good CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for something half the size and almost twice the price. I mean, the difference in value is comical:

From photos, I expected Milky Jelly to be similar to CeraVe in texture, but when I tried it this morning I found that it was firmer and more gelatinous. It smells heavenly, though I'm so brainwashed by r/SkincareAddiction accustomed to fragrance-free skincare that I can't help but wonder if the rose fragrance will DEVOUR MY SKIN FROM THE INSIDE or something. (It won't. I'm fine.)

6. Perfecting Skin Tint in Light ($26)

In some ways, I'm Glossier's ideal customer. Example: I've never worn foundation or tinted moisturizer. Never even tried it on. I promise this isn't a "not like other girls" thing; I'm just not comfortable with the idea of a layer of makeup sinking into every pore on my face. But my skin certainly isn't Barbie-smooth, and there are days when I do wish for a bit of coverage. Perfecting Skin Tint seems to have been formulated for my exact needs, so I'm looking forward to giving it a shot.

7. Solution ($24)

In other ways, I'm far from Glossier's ideal customer. Example: I know a fair bit about skincare. Someone on Reddit recently pointed out a strange paradox: the Glossier brand grew out of Into the Gloss, which attracts a beauty-savvy readership, yet Glossier skincare seems formulated for people who have never heard of sunscreen or chemical exfoliants. The average ITG commenter is probably around my age, but the Glossier target audience is (I assume) younger and less experienced with makeup and skincare. Hence ITG commenters' repeated pleas for less fragrance in your products, for the love of God, and Glossier's repeated decision to add fragrance to absolutely everything. The pattern plays out over and over: Glossier announces a new skincare product, commenters object to the presence of fragrance, and a Glossier minion responds to the complaints with "It's just a little essential oil!" or "It's all-natural!" It's obvious that Glossier's vaunted "crowdsourcing" of new products is (mostly) an illusion to make consumers feel involved in the creation process.

As a longtime devotee of the frills- and fragrance-free Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid, I'm probably not the Solution user that Glossier has in mind. But I'm still curious about it, particularly because it's advertised as moisturizing as well as exfoliating. I used Solution last night and was dismayed by the strong (though not unpleasant) herbal scent, but my skin looks fine today, neither better nor worse than it does after a Paula's Choice treatment. And there's no denying that the shimmery pink bottle is the most attractive thing on my skincare shelf! I think I'll spend about a month testing Solution on one side of my face and Paula's Choice on the other, then give my final verdict. That will have the additional benefit of making me more diligent about exfoliationI currently exfoliate only when I remember to do so, which is once or twice a week. The Solution bottle recommends daily use, but I think that will be a little intense for my dry skin, so I'll stick to every other day.

And now, because I've yet to develop an immunity to Glossier's minimalist pastel aesthetic, here's some packaging porn!

Isn't "Glossier" supposed to rhyme with "dossier"? Whatever.

Solution comes in this big foil package. You can also buy Glossier-branded cotton rounds at $4 for a pack of 60, but I'm not sure I could live with myself if I did that.

I used to live in that ugly building.

Finally, a caveat. It's harder to review a product honestly when you've received it for free, and thanks to the kindness of my readers, this was all free. That said, the rest of my beauty stash was purchased almost entirely out of my own pocket, so I think I'm capable of assessing whether I'd actually part with my own money for these products. Also, just to be clear: I am not and will never be a Glossier rep. The idea of becoming a "rep" for any brand is contrary to everything I want my blog to be and do. Frankly, it disturbs me how readily young women affiliate themselves with brands in exchange for below-minimum-wage commissions, a handful of freebies, and/or the nebulous feeling of coolness. Come on, you deserve better!

(I can't promise to make the ensuing reviews less salty than this post. I can but try.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Lipstick Megapost: Inventory, Pans, and Last Destash of 2017

Since the beginning of 2017, I've maintained a lipstick inventory, noting how often I wear each of my lipsticks, which ones are new to me, which I've destashed or finished, etc. Some people use a spreadsheet, but I prefer the humble Word document. As you can see, I place an asterisk next to a lipstick every time I wear it out of the house.

Keeping this record has given me a much clearer picture of which colors and finishes I actually wear. For instance, I think of myself as a bold-lipstick devotee, but these were my 10 most-worn lipsticks of 2017 (I was trying to pan Jam and Sultry):

  • Glossier Jam (18 wears)
  • Revlon Sultry (17)
  • Urban Decay Rapture (15)
  • Milani Matte Naked (12)
  • Urban Decay Amulet (11)
  • Urban Decay Backtalk (11)
  • Wet n Wild Rebel Rose (11)
  • Glossier Cake (10)
  • Maybelline Naked Coral (10)
  • NARS Dolce Vita (10)
L-R: Jam, Sultry, Rapture, Matte Naked, Amulet, Backtalk, Rebel Rose, Cake, Naked Coral, Dolce Vita.

Huh. Notice anything about these lipsticks? That's right: not a bold shade among them. They're all fairly muted, work-appropriate colors, even the metallic Amulet. And yet my largest shade category (with nine items) is red, not nude/MLBB. The colors that my heart lusts after are not the colors I wear on an everyday basis. This tells me that I need to be much pickier about the bold lipsticks I let into my collection. Had I not done this exercise, I might have bought a red or fuchsia from Pat McGrath's LuxeTrance line. As it was, I chose Madame Greige, knowing that I'd feel comfortable wearing it to professional events (or what pass for "professional events" in my postdoctoral funemployment).

Over the course of the year, I destashed a total of 30 lipsticks, which is a pretty sobering statistic. I don't regret getting rid of lipsticks I wasn't wearing (and I managed to give some away to internet/IRL friends), but damn, that's a lot of post-consumer waste. I did a big destash at the beginning of the year, but instead of appreciating the benefits of a smaller collection, I used its diminished size as an excuse to buy more lipsticks. UGH. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm doing a lipstick no-buy at least until the end of March, and that will help me get more use out of my current collection (and alleviate some of my guilt). Weirdly, I find no-buys much easier than low-buys. I like to think of a no-buy in positive terms: instead of denying myself new lipsticks, I'm allowing myself to appreciate the amazing lipsticks I already own! Maybe we need to find a more positive-sounding alternative for the term "no-buy."

Here are the lipsticks (plus one gloss) in my last destash of 2017. I'm sending the bullet lipsticks to Project Beauty Share, which distributes beauty products to nonprofit organizations that help women and families (here's a list of the items they do and don't accept). Clockwise-ish from top, we have Maybelline Deepest Cherry, Revlon Balm Stain in Crush, Bourjois Rouge Edition in Beige Trench (that overpowering floral fragrance was a dealbreaker after all), NYX Butter Gloss in Blackberry Pie, e.l.f. lip stain in Nude Nectar, NYX Midnight Muse, Tarte Birthday Suit, Milani Matte Fearless, Revlon Fire & Ice, Kat Von D Mercy, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, MAC Whirl, NYX Castle.

Bonus non-lipstick destashes (edit: I've decided to keep Coral Cove and destash Tony Moly Milky Violet blush):

NYX Faux Blacks Eyeliner in Blackberry, Wet n Wild Precious Petals highlighter, Milani Rose Blush in Coral Cove.

In addition to my destash, I finished four lipsticks this year: Glossier Generation G in Jam, MAC Amplified Lipstick in Up the Amp, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, and Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak. I must have thrown out my tube of Streak earlier in the year, but here's some #panporn of the other three tubes. Yes, I know I could scrape out the remaining lipstick and put it in a pot or whatever, but I consider a lipstick finished once I can no longer apply it from the tube.

L-R: Up the Amp, Sultry, Jam.

Finally, my lipstick inventory going into 2018! I've put asterisks next to the lipsticks that I bought or received as gifts in 2017.

Reds (9):

Clockwise from top: NARS Mysterious Red, Wet n Wild Missy and Fierce, ColourPop Let's Play, NYX Alabama, Marc Jacobs Rei of Light, NARS 413 BLKR, Maybelline Smoking Red, NARS Cruella, Bésame Noir Red.

Bésame Classic Color Lipstick in 1930 Noir Red (mini)*
ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème in Rei of Light
Maybelline ColorSensation Bold Lipstick in Smoking Red
NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella (mini)
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red
NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Missy and Fierce*

Pinks (7):

L-R: ColourPop Bee's Knees, MAC Candy Yum-Yum, Revlon Fuchsia, NARS Let's Go Crazy, Urban Decay Backtalk, Maybelline Lust for Blush, Wet n Wild Nice to Fuchsia.

ColourPop Blotted Lip in Bee's Knees*
MAC Matte Lipstick in Candy Yum-Yum
Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Lust for Blush*
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Let's Go Crazy*
Revlon Colorburst Lipstick in Fuchsia
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nice to Fuchsia*

Oranges and Corals (5):

L-R: Sephora Coral Sunset, Wet n Wild Nudist Peach, Topshop Rio Rio, NARS Orgasm, Maybelline Naked Coral.

Maybelline Inti-Matte Nude Lipstick in Naked Coral*
NARS Satin Lipstick in Orgasm (mini)*
Sephora Matte Cream Lip Stain in Coral Sunset
Topshop Matte Lipstick in Rio Rio
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nudist Peach*

Berries and Plums (7):

L-R: Urban Decay Amulet, Wet n Wild Goth Topic, MAC Rebel, Milani The Ultimatte, Topshop Let's Get Bodied, MAC Eugenie, Urban Decay Rapture.

MAC Matte Lipstick in Eugenie
MAC Satin Lipstick in Rebel
Milani Amore Matte Lip Cream in The Ultimatte*
Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Get Me Bodied
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Amulet*
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Goth Topic*

Purples (5):

L-R: NYX Amethyst, & Other Stories Droguet Purple, MAC Metal Head, MAC Men Love Mystery, Kiko Chocolate.

Kiko Velvet Passion Matte Lipstick in 319 Chocolate*
MAC Matte Lipstick in Men Love Mystery*
MAC Metallic Lipstick in Metal Head*
NYX Liquid Suede in Amethyst
& Other Stories Lipstick in Droguet Purple

Browns (6):

L-R: Revlon Fierce, Urban Decay Lawbreaker, UD Roach, MAC Antique Velvet, Maybelline Raging Raisin, NYX Brooklyn Thorn.

MAC Matte Lipstick in Antique Velvet
Maybelline ColorSensational Bold Lipstick in Raging Raisin*
NYX Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn
Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Lawbreaker*
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Roach

MLBBs and Nudes (7):

Top: Marc Jacobs Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. L-R: MAC Pale Rose, Glossier Cake, NARS Dolce Vita, Milani Matte Naked, Pat McGrath Madame Greige, Wet n Wild Rebel Rose.

Glossier Generation G in Cake
MAC Metallic Lipstick in Pale Rose*
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (mini)
Milani Moisture Matte Lipstick in Matte Naked
NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita
Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige*
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Rebel Rose*

Weird Colors (1):

NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox


L-R, top to bottom: Dior Ultradior, Urban Decay Scandal, OCC Dune, Revlon Rosy Future, NYX Tiramisu, NYX Gingersnap, Revlon Embellished.

Dior Addict Ultra-Gloss in Ultradior (mini)*
OCC Stained Gloss in Dune
NYX Butter Gloss in Tiramisu
NYX Butter Gloss in Gingersnap*
Revlon Colorburst Lipgloss in Embellished
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Rosy Future*
Urban Decay Revolution High-Color Lipgloss in Scandal (mini)

Total Lipsticks: 47
Total Glosses: 7
Total Lip Products: 54

I'm hoping to use up a few more lipsticks this year. Glossier Cake and Urban Decay Rapture are almost gone already, and I might be able to pan some minis as well, such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Noir Red. I wear lipstick every day and enjoy it more than any other category of makeup, so I'm not aiming for a truly minimalist collection. But if I can keep my stash around 45 shades, plus five or so glosses, I'll be happy.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Beauty Resolutions for 2018

Happy New Year, friends! It's 0°F outside (that's -18°C), so we are STAYING PUT. But I'm still wearing glitter and sequins, because 2017 only dies once. And we made prosecco-raspberry jello shots and put them in French 75s.

I'm still planning a post about my lipstick inventory, but before 2017 ends, let me write up my beauty-related resolutions!

1. Low-buy throughout 2018, with a maximum of two new products (excluding replacements) per month.

This was my main resolution for 2017, and as I mentioned in my last post, it seemed to make me more obsessive about researching and planning for my next purchases. But I do think it's wise to have a rough limit in mind, even if I don't adhere to it every single month. So I'm going to do my best to observe that limit, and to avoid following new releases closely or looking up dozens of swatches online. This will be much easier once the new semester starts!

2. Lipstick no-buy for at least the first quarter of 2018 (through March 31)

Now, this one I will observe strictly, with one exception. I'm hunting for a taupe lipstick, similar to NYX Minx but with packaging that actually works, and if I find my perfect taupe I will allow myself to buy it. Otherwise, no new lipsticks until the end of March. After my last destash, I have 47 lipsticks, and that's far more than I need to enjoy three months of healthy variety. The less I contribute to our society's insane overconsumption, the better! I might decide to extend this no-buy longer than three months, or take a break after March and do another one later in the year.

3. No liquid lipsticks.

Even after my no-buy ends, I won't buy any more liquid lipsticks. They go off more quickly than bullet lipsticks do, and they're less convenient to apply and touch up throughout the day. When I buy a new lipstick, I do so with the expectation that I'll use it for at least a few years. But I can't buy a liquid lipstick with that expectation, and that's a problem for someone with a lipstick collection as large as mine.

4. No cheap thrills, and especially no NYX.

I've gone off drugstore makeup in the past year. The low price point enables impulse purchases, and the products are almost never as good as I think they'll be. Maybe it's that I'm getting older, but I'm increasingly unwilling to pull a cheap-looking, shittily constructed lipstick out of my purse. There are quite a few drugstore products I love (Milani and Maybelline matte lipsticks, for instance), but I need to start exercising as much discrimination about drugstore makeup as I do about Sephora purchases.

This is especially true of NYX products. I haven't yet written a post about my least favorite products of 2017, but I've made a list, and NYX has a significant presence on that list. I've been buying NYX for at least five years, and have found just three reliably good formulas from the brand: the Butter Glosses, Slim Lip Pencils, and Slide-On Eye Pencils. Significantly, those are older formulas, developed before L'Oreal bought NYX and began churning out an endless wave of new products. Even formulas that were previously great (the matte lipsticks, for instance) have gone downhill. I'd rather avoid NYX altogether than try to guess which two of the 50 products released this week will be winners.

5. Try to publish my beauty writing.

It's no secret that the academic job market is a hot garbage fire, especially for people who specialize in 17th-century poetry and prose. I need to start thinking seriously about career options outside the academy, and though I'm under no illusion that this blog can ever become a job, I'm curious whether I can leverage my beauty writing into something semi-lucrative. Or not! We'll see.

6. Revamp my blog layout.

This is at the bottom of my list because I'm not sure how much of a pain it will be, but I'd like to drag my blog design out of 2007 if possible. Maybe even buy my own domain?

I have some more general life resolutions, too: I want to get a short story published, reduce my sugar intake significantly, and read at least two books for pleasure per month. (You'd be shocked at how little pleasure reading I do. When your job is reading and analyzing books, your hobbies tend to become more lowbrow.) No matter what, 2018 will be a year of big changes for me, and though I'm an inveterate pessimist, I'll try to keep a positive outlook about the future. I wish you all a wonderful year to come!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Auxiliary Beauty's 15 Best Products of 2017

Welcome to my annual roundup of my 15 favorite beauty products of the past year! (Here are my lists for 20162015, and 2014.) My 2017 can be summed up in this viral tumblr post:

Because I had so little time for blogging in the second half of 2017, this post will double as a collection of mini-reviews for products I didn't get around to reviewing when I first bought them. As usual, I'll be listing my favorites in chronological order of purchase. This post comprises both makeup and skincare, since I never try enough new skincare for a separate list. All products are shown in their current state, to give you a sense of how much they've been used.

Beauty-wise, my year was a little odd, with distinct ebbs and flows of interest. For the first few months, I restricted my spending heavily, recording every cent I spent on beauty products. I began to realize that this regimen made me obsess over makeup more, not less. Instead of just living my life and enjoying my existing collection, I was committing too much time and mental space to planning my purchases for the next month. I took stock and decided to continue my low-buy, but without posting a monthly update on my blog or imposing hard limits on my spending. The fact is, I don't have a shopping addiction. I'm frugal by instinct; I don't spend large amounts of money thoughtlessly. And my obsessive personality doesn't do well with restrictions: hello, former anorexic here! So why was I subjecting myself to an elaborate system of regulations? It felt unhealthy and unproductive.

For the rest of the year, I relaxed my rules. Overall, I bought roughly as much beauty stuff in 2017 as I did in 2016, though not at a steady pace. I more or less lost interest in makeup during the fall, due to my insane teaching/research/job-application schedule, the overwhelming pace of new beauty releases, andlet's be realmy newfound obsession with enamel pins. My beauty spending picked up again in December: I was in a celebratory mood following my PhD defense and wanted some glitter and fancy lipstick in my life, damn it. I've destashed quite a few things as well, especially old lipsticks (more on that in my next post), but my collection has grown a bit in 2017.

Some more scattered thoughts before we begin (feel free to scroll through; I know I'm verbose):
  • I didn't discover many new staples this year. Most of the products I used over and over in 2017Glossier Boy Brow, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, CeraVe moisturizer and cleanser, Urban Decay eyeliners in Whiskey and Demolition, the ABH Modern Renaissance palettewere favorites from previous years. A majority of my purchases in 2017 fell into the "meh" category, with a surprising number of outright disappointments. You'd think I'd grow more discriminating with time and age, not less!
  • We live in the golden era of eyeshadow palettes, yet I didn't buy a single palette this year. The only one that tempted me was Urban Decay Naked Heat, but after reflecting that I wear the orange shades in Modern Renaissance maybe twice a month, I decided that $54 for a dozen more of those shades would be a mistake. I hope Pantone Ultra Violet infiltrates the beauty industry in 2018 and we get some purple and plum palettes, because the current orange/red/sienna trend seems designed to make me look like ass.
  • 2017 was the year I rediscovered glitter and gloss. I think we all need a little extra sparkle in this cold, dark timeline.
  • Of the 15 products on this list, six were either gifts or samples, suggesting that I'm only slightly more skilled than online pals and Sephora algorithms at selecting makeup for myself. That's...sobering.
  • Each of the products on the list comes from a different brand. That wasn't deliberate, but it gives me a good deal of weird satisfaction.
  • Only two of these products are from the drugstore, even though my drugstore/high(er)-end ratio for 2017 was about 50/50. I'm considering making a no-drugstore rule for 2018, since I'm obviously not thrilled with the makeup I'm buying there. Thoughts?


1. Wet n Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick in Missy and Fierce (review)

I bought five Liquid Catsuits this yearGoth Topic, Missy and Fierce, Nice to Fuchsia, Nudist Peach,  and Rebel Rosebut this rich blue-based red is the shade that truly has my heart. It is, bar none, the best matte liquid lipstick I've ever tried. It's the only liquid lipstick that has ever made my chronically dry lips look better, not worse. It has largely replaced my former HG matte red, NARS Mysterious Red, in my rotation. And it's $4.99. I love this shit so much that I've begun to remind myself of a brainwashed LipSense lady, commenting "Missy and Fierce!" on every "best red lipstick?" or "best liquid lipstick?" Reddit post.

For the record, here's my quality ranking of the five Liquid Catsuits I've tried: M&F > Rebel Rose > Goth Topic > Nice to Fuchsia >>>> Nudist Peach, with Nudist Peach being the only shade I wouldn't recommend.

L-R: Missy and Fierce, Rebel Rose, Goth Topic, Nice to Fuchsia, Nudist Peach.

Swatches, same order.

2. Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff (review)

My dry skin has always appreciated cream formulas, but as I advance further into decrepitude, I feel more thankful than ever for cream blushes and highlighters. Puff isn't the k-beauty-inspired lavender-pink that the Glossier website led me to expect, but it blends beautifully into my cheeks, lasts all day, and bestows a surprisingly natural flush. It's nice for travel, too, because it's so compact (hence its current disreputable appearance). I'm planning to try the dark berry shade, Haze, in the near future.

3. COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

Speaking of dryness, my everyday sunscreen (Bioré Aqua Rich Watery Gel) has a high alcohol content, so I like to apply this essence for a light layer of moisture before my SPF step.  And now that winter has brought dry cold outside and dry heat inside, I just pat this on whenever I think about it. It has a very faint lemon-lime scent and a slightly slippery feel, but both of those vanish immediately after application. I love the weighty, frosted plastic bottle, the sturdy pump mechanism, and the cost-effectiveness: I paid about $30 for this product and it's going to last well over a year despite near-daily use. (While buying the Hydra Power Essence at oo35mm in NYC's Chinatown, I noticed that COSRX also makes a "White Power Essence," which I assume is Steve Bannon's secret to looking so young and fresh.)

4. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in So Quiche (review)

This was a gift from reader Melanie, who kindly sent me a few Super Shock Shadows she wasn't using. Prior to discovering So Quiche, I avoided sparkle-heavy shadows, but the unique color combination of this particular shade (brownish olive base, fine fuchsia glitter) won me over. This was the first glitter shadow I wore regularly, but it wouldn't be the last: more on that later.

5. Lush Gorilla Perfume in Tuca Tuca

I was of two minds whether to include this perfume on the list, as it wasn't completely new to me in 2017, but I've never properly reviewed it on my blog so what the hell. I had a cherished sample vial of Tuca Tuca a few years ago, but when I went online to buy a full-sized bottle, I realized that the perfume had been discontinued. Which was a bummer, because I'm very picky about fragrance: I'd estimate that I hate about 85% of the perfumes I try on. Earlier this year, though, I came upon some exciting news: Lush was bringing back Tuca Tuca for a limited time! The catch: it was available only in the UK, and shipping to the US was exorbitant (about $25, as I recall). A lovely Instagram friend offered to buy me a bottle and send it to me while she was visiting the US over the summer, so I Paypaled her the money and had my Tuca Tuca before I knew it. Thank you again, Chess!

Now for an overblown fragrance description: Tuca Tuca is a dark incensey violet, the sort of perfume I'd imagine a Victorian spirit medium wearing to a séance. I love violet-based perfumes but often find them cloying, and Tuca Tuca is a great example of what a violet can be if a brand bothers to get creative with that particular note (which almost never happens, in my experience). Tuca Tuca is heavier than most of my favorite perfumes, but a tiny spritz lasts all day, so no complaints there.

6. Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil

As I've mentioned ad nauseam on this blog, I find skincare boring. Unfortunately, that means I often take far longer than I should to introduce new steps and products into my routine. While my CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is perfectly functional as a morning or second cleanse, it's not the best at removing eye makeup. But for some reason, it took me well over a year to realize that I might need to double-cleanse with an oil cleanser. This one has a pleasant almond-oil scent, dissolves eyeliner in no time, and leaves my face feeling cleaner than CeraVe alone ever did. My two quibbles are with the dated-looking packaging (very '90s-Clinique-counter) and the cost per ounce. Has anyone tried the Trader Joe's oil cleanser? I might pick that up next time I'm buying kettle corn, mushroom Brie, and those amazing fig-and-olive crackers.

7. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Let's Go Crazy (mini)

This pencil was a 100-point perk at Sephora in August. I almost never wear pink lipstick, but I immediately fell in love with this vivid berry pink. It's a sophisticated pink, if such a thing exists. Lacking a white base, it's bright and luminous without neon gaudiness. And, of course, I've loved the lightweight, long-wearing Velvet Matte Lip Pencil formula for years. It's a shame that NARS is no longer cruelty-free, or I'd have bought quite a few of the new shades in the lineup. Here I am wearing Let's Go Crazy back in August:

8. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Amulet (review)

Just call me the poor man's Gelcream.

I've owned this goddamn lipstick for five months and I still can't decide how to describe the color. Rosy copper? Metallic spiced plum? Whatever: it's one of those offbeat neutrals I love, a true MLBW (My Lips But Weirder). It also has an outstandingly comfortable formula. Urban Decay's Vice Lipsticks have really impressed me this year: I also bought Lawbreaker, a sheer brown, and I suspect that Ravenswood will come home with me before long.

9. Cirque Colors Polish in Red Hook

I put myself on a nail-polish no-buy for the first half of the year and managed not to go completely crazy after it ended. I did, however, make my first purchase from Cirque Colors, a Brooklyn-based indie brand. Cirque is probably best known for its glitter and thermal color-change polishes, but I ended up with two creams: Urbanized, a perfect mustard yellow, and Red Hook, a complex muted brownish red. Urbanized didn't make this list because it chips too quickly (couldn't resist photographing the two bottles together, though!), but Red Hook lasts for several days without chipping. I need two coats for Urbanized and three for Red Hook.

Red Hook was the nail polish I wore on my 30th birthday! Autumn in a bottle.

Story time: The original Red Hook, a former industrial center, is (I believe) the only Brooklyn neighborhood without a subway stop. One sweltering evening in the summer of 2013, I had to travel from a birthday party in Red Hook to another birthday party in the Bronx, a few blocks away from Fordham University. I bought a coconut-pineapple cake at the Archway near the Red Hook IKEA, then balanced it on my lap for well over an hour of bus and subway travel. I was a sweaty, exhausted mess by the time I reached the Bronx, but that was one of the most memorable days of my twenties.

10. Bésame Classic Color Lipstick in Noir Red (mini)

Bésame is one of those brands that appeal to me more in theory than in practice. In theory, I would love to patronize a small, female-owned, vintage-inspired, historically accurate makeup brand. In practice, I already have too many red lipsticks and I'm not particularly into the '50s-pinup aesthetic that dominates Bésame's offerings. For vintage inspiration, I vastly prefer the '20s. So I was excited when Bésame debuted Noir Red, a deep, rich tobacco shade based on a lipstick from 1930. I mentioned wanting Noir Red in an Instagram story, and another Instagram friend sent me a mini tube! Fun fact: all lipsticks had this push-up lever mechanism before the invention of the twist-up tube.

My nail polish is Zoya Honor.

Noir Red has to be one of the most flattering lipsticks I've ever worn. While it contains a lot of brown, there's also enough purple in there that it's not quite a warm red, either. It's perfectly balanced in a way that I thought only NARS could manage, and it's remarkably opaque and long-wearing for such a dark shade.

Last day of my twenties! HAIR SO LONG.

Below, I've swatched it alongside three other beloved vamps: Maybelline Smoking Red and Raging Raisin and MAC Antique Velvet.

L-R: Smoking Red, Raging Raisin, Noir Red, Antique Velvet.

11. Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty (mini)

The obnoxiously named Paaarty was the Sephora birthday gift for 2017, along with a mini tube of Tarte's liquid lipstick in Birthday Suit. The lipstick was a flop: it's one of those "universally flattering nude" shades that pull too warm on me, and the powdery finish makes me feel like I've dipped my lips in flour. Paaarty, though, is a winner. It's not quite warm enough to be peach, but it's a little warmer-toned than my HG nude blush, Illamasqua Zygomatic. Here's Paaarty on the left and Zygomatic on the right:

Paaarty is pigmented yet almost impossible to overapply. I don't know if I'm old enough to claim that a beauty product makes me feel "youthful," but whatever: this blush is like youth in a pan. It doesn't quite read as blush on my cheeks; it just makes me look a little fresher and glowier. I've never been very interested in Tarte as a brand, but I'm deeply impressed with Paaarty (ugh, that NAME).

12. Pat McGrath LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige (review)

You knew this would make the list. I reviewed it in my last post, so I'll be brief: Madame Greige is my favorite beauty purchase of 2017. The end. Sorry, I've been working on this post for days and I'm running out of words.

13. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal (mini)

Yet another Sephora sample! They killed it with the deluxe samples and 100-point perks this year. It's fashionable on Reddit to praise Ulta over Sephora because the Ulta point system gives you actual dollars off purchases, but I'd rather try a generous sample of a high-end product than get a $2 discount on a lipstick. Maybe I'm weird.

I like cream and powder blushes equally, but I vastly prefer cream and liquid highlighters to powders. Powder highlighters tend to be too sparkly for my taste, and the sparkle emphasizes the fine lines around my eyes. It's just not a good look. This, though? This may be the best highlighter I've ever tried. I worried that Opal's base color would be too dark for me, but it blends seamlessly into my skin, creating a natural but noticeable glow. (Though, looking at the swatch above, I wonder if it isn't a little too dark. Moonstone might be a better match.) Opal pairs perfectly with Paaarty, and I've been wearing the two together constantly. When I use up this sample, I'll think seriously about buying the full size, or at least the $19 mini.

14. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Rosy Future (review)

Never did I imagine that my best-of list would feature a lip gloss. It was a close contest between Rosy Future and NYX Gingersnap, but the shimmer in Rosy Future makes me just a little happier than the smooth cream finish of Gingersnap. Rosy Future is also more versatile as a layering gloss: I wore it over Milani lip pencil in Nude for Christmas and loved the effect.

15. Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Shadow in Smoky Storm

Neutral glitter. Work-appropriate glitter. Christmas-dinner-with-your-partner's-preppy-relatives glitter. It exists. I credit Lena of Faceonomics for both this revelation and the encouragement I needed to drop $24 on a liquid glitter eyeshadow. I initially bought Smoldering Satin, but the glitter was chunkier and more silvery than I wanted, so I exchanged it for Smoky Storm, a warm taupe with pale gold glitter. Here it is swatched at full strength, then dabbed across my skin (as I prefer to wear it):

Smoky Storm dries down very quickly, wears all day, and has a lot less fallout than other glitters I've tried, though there is some. But that's just an occupational hazard of wearing glitter: it will inevitably creep outside the boundaries you've set for it. I don't really mind.

Runners-up: ColourPop Pressed Powder Shadow in Paper Tiger; Essie Nail Polish in Sorrento Yourself; Maybelline Inti-Matte Nudes Lipstick in Naked Coral; NYX Butter Gloss in Gingersnap; Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer in Tang Bang; Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Lawbreaker.

To close out this post, here's my Christmas makeup look, which incorporated four of the products on this list. On my eyes, in addition to mascara, I have Stila Smoky Storm and three Modern Renaissance shades: Warm Taupe in the crease and on the lower lashline, Antique Bronze on the lid (I wish I'd gone with a slightly cooler brown), and Cyprus Umber in the outer corner. I'm also wearing Tarte Paaarty, Becca Opal, and the aforementioned lip combo of Rosy Future and Milani Nude liner.

And we're done! In my next post, I'll update my lipstick inventory from almost a year ago and talk about the lipsticks I've panned and destashed this year. Until then, stay warm!