Sunday, December 4, 2016

Low-Buy Progress Report #11: November

Surfacing briefly from the dissertation abyss to give you my November update! I'm proud to say that I made only one beauty order on Black Friday—I bought some new clothes that I really needed, so I couldn't justify splurging on makeup too. And November was my birthday month, so I received a few makeup gifts, including a lipstick I'd wanted for a while. But I did yield to temptation a few times, and here are the results:

New Makeup & Polish:

L-R: NYX lip liner in Brooklyn Thorn, ColourPop Let's Play, Sinful Colors Nice Guise.

NYX Suede Matte Lip Liner in Brooklyn Thorn: $4
ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play: $5
Sinful Colors nail polish in Nice Guise: $2
Zoya nail polishes (not pictured) in Aubrey, Jules, Serenity, and Troy: $3 each plus $6.95 shipping = $18.95
Total: $29.95

NYX recently released a bunch of lip liners that match their Liquid Suede lipsticks. Since my mom sent me the Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn for my birthday (more on that later), I picked up the matching liner, though I really bought it to use with two other lipsticks: NYX Up the Bass, a gray-purple, and Topshop Boardroom, a greige, both of which apply patchily and fade quickly. The Suede Matte liners are (obviously) more matte than NYX's original lip liners, but that makes them harder to use. I'm going to write a review of the Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede and liner soon, but I should note that they're not actually the same color: the liner is lighter and warmer than the lipstick.

Let's Play is a lipstick from ColourPop's freaking ADORABLE Hello Kitty collection. I'm proud of myself for buying just one item, though there weren't many shades that appealed to me: the lip products were all red, pink, and nude, and the eyeshadows and blushes didn't look like anything special. Let's Play is a pinkish red with matching sparkles, but it's not so glittery that you can't wear it outside a drunken end-of-semester holiday party.

Brooklyn Thorn (top) and Let's Play.

I found Nice Guise at the supermarket where my boyfriend and I were stocking up on food and drink for election night, back when there was a good chance that an overgrown toddler in a Cheeto suit wouldn't become president. Since Nice Guise was a sparkly Democratic blue, I bought it as a special election-day polishand I haven't been able to wear it since. Which is a shame, because it's gorgeous:


Maybe in a month or two it will no longer be the polish of shattered dreams for me. We'll see.

Finally, I took advantage of Zoya's amazing Black Friday sale: 70% off the entire website! Zoya is my favorite nail polish brand, and their polishes normally cost $10, so I kind of lost it. I'd wanted Troy for a while, and I couldn't resist buying myself three more—Aubrey, Jules, and Serenity—plus a fifth as a Christmas gift for a friend. That was nine days ago, though, and my order still hasn't shipped. Its status on the Zoya website has been stuck at "Picking/Scan Verification" for a few days now. A helpful Redditor tells me that Zoya received 400,000 orders on Black Friday and hers shipped this past Friday, so I'm hoping it won't be too much longer now. 

New Skincare:

2 Innisfree sheet masks: $5 total

Replacements:

NB: My hand is on the large side.

 Urban Decay Primer Potion (mini tube): $12

I bought the NYX HD eyeshadow primer in March 2014, and though I never came close to running out, I did start to wonder if using the same doefoot tube of eyeshadow primer for two and a half years wasn't a little gross. Because it apparently takes me so long to go through primer, I bought a mini bottle of Primer Potion in that area near the Sephora cash register that's crammed with tantalizing minis. I was surprised to discover that the primer has a doefoot applicator, which is a bit awkward to pull out of the squeeze tube every time. But I've been liking the formula so far: it's a lot more effective than its NYX predecessor. (The NYX tube cracked dramatically right after I bought the Urban Decay replacement, as if it finally felt free to give up the ghost.)

Gifts:

L-R: Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone, Essie Udon Know Me, Sinful Colors Nirvana, NYX Brooklyn Thorn


Lyn very kindly sent me the Wet n Wild eyeshadow trio in Plaid to the Bone after I whined about not being able to find it. The lesson here: always whine. (Seriously, thanks so much.) The two nail polishes and Liquid Suede are gifts from my mom: I asked for Brooklyn Thorn, but she chose the polishes herself. I've worn them both already, and I'm especially impressed with Essie Udon Know Me (from that cringily named Japan-themed fall collection), which lasted several days without chipping. Sinful Colors Nirvana is much cooler-toned on the nails than it looks in the bottle: it comes out closer to taupe than to warm brown. The Sephora birthday gift, as everyone knows by now, consists of two minis from Marc Jacobs Beauty: a Le Marc Lip Creme in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and a pencil eyeliner in Blacquer. I haven't even used them yet, since I have a black eyeliner and a nearly identical rosy lipstick (Revlon Sultry), but it's nice to have backups for both of those much-loved products.


Swatches of all my new lip products, L-R: Let's Play, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede, Brooklyn Thorn lip liner.


Total for November: $46.95 (let's call it $47)

Overview: I think this is the lowest monthly total I've had so far! I didn't have to replace anything except my DevaCurl B'Leave-In hair goo, and I've stopped counting haircare in these posts because I never overbuy it. I own three hair productsLush solid shampoo and conditioner and B'Leave-Inand I repurchase them only when I run out. If I took the same approach to makeup that I do to hair, I wouldn't need to write these low-buy reports. Which reminds me: didn't I swear back in October that I wouldn't buy any more lipstick this year?

I've had a couple of epiphanies while contemplating my resolutions for 2017. The first is that my budget of $40 per month is too generous. Most of the products I buy are from the drugstore (or have drugstore price points), so the $40 limit isn't doing much, if anything, to reduce the volume of makeup that enters my life. I set a "$40 and/or two products per month" rule early in the year, but couldn't seem to adhere to both. Next year I'll do away with the monthly price limit and enforce the two-items-per-month limit, which would keep me well under $40 most months. I could also set myself a yearly budget, as Renee did recently. My second epiphany: it's too easy to feel virtuous by reminding myself that I buy only a small fraction of the products I covet. If I covet 15 things per month and buy just 1/5 of those things, that's still three new items! I don't receive promotional emails from any brand, but I still need to do more to curb my awareness of new releases. I've unfollowed some Instagram accounts that focus on swatching new products; let's hope that helps.

Wishlist for December:

1. Makeup Geek Duochrome Highlighter in Moon Phase ($20):


Yeah, speaking of new releases. Moon Phase is a white highlighter with blue and lavender reflects, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. It's also 2.5 times as expensive as my ColourPop highlighters, and it's a blue highlighter. I don't know, man.

2. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Tampered:


Tampered, a Sephora-exclusive shade, is a "deep mauve" in the Comfort Matte finish. The image I've used is really inaccurate: it's more of a plummy brown. I'll have to see this one in person, though: it looks different on everyone who swatches it, and I suspect I have at least one similar shade, possibly Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce. (My review of Fierce, written in February, is still one of my five most popular posts. I should really update it with better photos.)

And that's it! There's also a chance I might buy nothing in December, which would be a nice way to end this absolute shit cyclone of a year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mini Panning Project

(Not a panning project focused on minis: that would be a "mini-panning project." But now I want to do a "mini mini-panning project"...)

Despite my enjoyment of other bloggers' empties posts, I have a strange aversion to finishing my own lipsticks. I'll use a lipstick until there are just a few millimeters of product left, then set it aside for months and eventually forget I own it. Perhaps my real aversion is to repurchasing makeup. Finishing a lipstick forces me to choose between the satisfaction of having a slightly smaller collection and the satisfaction of owning that particular shade. I can take pleasure in having reduced my lipstick count by one or I can repurchase the lipstick, but not both. I've discussed why I don't often set panning challenges for myself, but this is one situation in which such a challenge makes sense for me. There's no reason why I shouldn't be using up lipsticks I like: I have dozens of others, and removing a couple of staple colors from my collection might force me to find new staples in neglected products.

I don't want to get overambitious, though, so I've chosen three lipsticks. Two of them are almost gone, and the third will probably expire within a year:

L-R: MAC Up the Amp, Revlon Coy, ColourPop Trap.

MAC Up the Amp has been in my collection since the spring of 2012, and though it still looks and smells perfectly fine, I should probably finish it as soon as I can. This is one of the most flattering lipsticks I've ever worn: something about that slightly grayish pinky purple lights up my complexion and eyes. I'm less fond of the Amplified Creme formula, which is too shiny, slippery, and fade-prone for my taste. After I finish Up the Amp, I'd like to find a matte lipstick in a similar color. MAC Men Love Mystery looks promising, though I fucking hate that name. What men love has nothing to do with my lipstick choices. (A lipstick compliment from a lady, though, will always make my day.)

Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy has been with me for only two years, but I've flown through the tube (by my standards, at least) because I have to reapply it every couple of hours. I may end up repurchasing this one: it's neutral and sheer without being boring, a combination that's very hard to find. The sheer plummy brown color is unusual enough, but the copper sparkles elevate it to something really special. I'm paranoid that it will be discontinued abruptly like many of its Lacquer Balm brethren, but I think I'll hold off on buying another...and keep a stern eye on the Revlon shelves.

ColourPop Ultra Matte Lip in Trap is my only liquid matte lipstick (the NYX Liquid Suedes set to a satin finish), and I tend to neglect it because I find bullet lipsticks so much easier to apply. I've used about half of it so far (the ColourPop tubes hold a deceptively small amount of product), and I'd like to use the rest before it goes bad. Once I finish this, I might search for a bullet lipstick in a similar shadeBite Thistle comes to mind, but I don't like the Amuse Bouche formula. Hmm.

My goals right now are to finish Up the Amp and Coy before I leave for winter vacation in two and a half weeks, and to wear Trap at least twice a week until it's done. I've placed the three lipsticks in a special jar at the front of my makeup shelf, so that they catch my eye every time I go over there:


Here I am wearing Trap two days ago, along with the duochrome from the Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone trio (thanks, Lyn!) with Urban Decay Frisk in the crease, Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, and ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter. Apologies to those of you who already saw this FOTD on Instagram, but at least this photo is taken at a slightly different angle?


Closeup of the brown/teal duochrome, just for fun:


...and back to dissertating, ugh.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kat Von D + Formula X Studded X Duo in Mercy

In general, I don't trust beauty brands, religious sects, or political movements with extremely charismatic figureheads. The kind of person who attracts fanatical devotees tends to be the kind of person who wants fanatical devotees, who lives for adulation and drama, who needs to be the center of attention at all timesa narcissist, in other words. Once you've known one narcissist you've known them all, and you become wary of anyone who displays the symptoms of narcissism, whether it's Donald Trump, Jeffree Star, or that professor who gave a talk in my department last week and unbuttoned his shirt a few inches too far.

Kat Von D is another charismatic figurehead who has always set off my narcissist detector. I've been hearing great things about her makeup for years, but I've also been hearing terrible things about her for years. (I don't feel like rehashing all her controversies here, though they're easy enough to find if you're interested.) What bothers me about brands like Kat Von D is that the founder's reputation and personality are so intimately bound up with the products. When I buy a lipstick, I don't want to have to think about whether Kat and Jeffree are friends or enemies this week. I simply don't give a shit. At Whole Foods a few months ago, I complimented the cashier's bright purple lipstick. Instead of just saying, "Thanks, it's by Kat Von D," she began gushing at length about how great Kat was. I'm not sure I trust any beauty brand that stirs up such passion. I just want some good makeup, you know? I'm too old and cynical to worship the person who makes it.

So I never bought anything from Kat Von D until this past summer, when Sephora reduced the price of their Studded X Duos from $15 to $7.50. Each duo contained two minis: a KVD Studded Kiss lipstick and a matching Formula X nail polish. I knew I liked Sephora's Formula X brand, and I'd long been curious about the Studded Kiss line, which had received mixed reviews but featured a range of unconventional matte and metallic shades. By the time I found out about the Studded X sale, there were four shades left: Coven (matte lavender), Slayer (matte black), Poe (metallic navy), and Mercy (metallic berry). For once in my life, I ordered the color I was most likely to wear:


It's cute that the drawings on each box match the shade inside! I'm not a huge fan of Kat Von D's 2EDGY4U aesthetic, but I do appreciate well-thought-out packaging.

What is this image tho.

Unfortunately, these Studded X duos are no longer available, but you can buy Mercy as a full-sized Studded Kiss lipstick for $21. Whether you should, well...keep reading.


I'm a total sucker for miniature beauty products, and these are done very well. Here are the Mercy lipstick (1.2g) and nail polish (4ml) next to a MAC lipstick (3g) and Essie polish (13.5ml) for scale:


When closed, Mercy doesn't look much smaller than a full-sized MAC, but the bullets tell a different story. I don't mind that the mini Studded Kiss tube is deceptively bulky: that makes it friendlier for a clumsy, large-handed person like yours truly. I love the stud pattern, by the way. If that makes me tacky, well, tell me something I don't know.


The Mercy lipstick has a rusty berry base with fuchsia shimmer. In an arm swatch, you can see the individual sparkles, but on the lips Mercy looks more like a berry/fuchsia duochrome. I detect a very faint vanilla smell, but no taste.


L-R: NYX Cabaret lip pencil (more on that in a second), MAC Eugenie, KVD Mercy, NARS 413 BLKR, Revlon Red Velvet. Essentially, Mercy is 413 BLKR with a fuchsia shift, but it reads much cooler on the lips because the shimmer is so pronounced.


After the first wear, I was forced to confront reality: I needed a lip liner. Now, I am the most anti-liner of lipstick addicts. I will go to incredible lengths to avoid scribbling all over my mouth, ingesting a woody taste that brings me back to second-grade art class, and inevitably drawing one side of my top lip larger than the other. So when I say a lipstick needs a liner, it really needs a liner. On its own, Mercy is a bit patchy and feathery. Like Poe, which I tried on in July, it doesn't want to adhere to the inner part of my lower lip. It doesn't look terrible from a normal distance, but it wears off more quickly than such a dark color should. Here's Mercy without liner, in direct artificial light (top) and indirect natural light (bottom):


Not terrible, but not great. Because of my anti-liner stance, the only lip liners I owned at the time were dark purple, mauve-brown, and metallic orange, so I checked out the NYX section at CVS and found a liner that looked similar to Mercy: Cabaret, a muted wine red. (I swear NYX meant to name this shade "Cabernet.") It turned out to be slightly warmer than Mercy, but no big deal: I just wanted a thin layer of a similar color. Here's Cabaret on its own, above, and under Mercy, below:


Layered over Cabaret, Mercy is surprisingly long-lasting. It barely transferred at all onto a cup of coffee, and it even stood up to an apple, though this might speak more to the efficacy of Cabaret in holding the lipstick in place. The NYX formula has a very slightly sticky finish that grabs lipstick well.

Here I am wearing the Mercy/Cabaret combo, along with Urban Decay Cover eyeshadow and Whiskey eyeliner, Sleek Flushed blush, and ColourPop Might Be highlighter. I assumed Mercy would look more dramatic than it actually did, hence the painfully boring eye makeup:


The nail polish is burgundy (less brown than the base color of the lipstick) with very fine burgundy shimmer. I'm disappointed that Formula X didn't make more of an effort to match the lipstick: a wine-red polish with fuchsia shimmer would have been beautiful. As it is, the Mercy nail polish is nice, but nothing more. It applies smoothly, dries quickly, and reaches opacity in two coats. Unfortunately, the shimmer gets lost on the nail unless it's in direct light (right). In the shade (left), Mercy just looks like a very shiny merlot:

I hate how short my nails are, but they've been breaking like crazy lately. :(

I could live with all this if the polish were not also very prone to chipping. The usual caveat appliesfew polishes stay pristine on my nails for longer than two daysbut I found myself with a couple of large chips before 24 hours had passed. And when I say "large chips," I mean that half the polish had somehow fallen off one of my nails.

That said, I'm happy with the Mercy duo overall. The nail polish is pretty, if not what I expected, and the lipstick alone is well worth the $7.50 I paid, though I doubt I'd drop $21 on a full-sized version. That beautiful fuchsia shift elevates Mercy above the "dark red lipstick for the holiday season" category. But with this experiment over, I'm back to avoiding the Kat Von D brand: her personality is radioactive enough that I wouldn't feel great about patronizing her further. Do you share my distaste for brands headed by big personalities?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Skincare Routine, Fall 2016

My archives tell me that I haven't written a comprehensive skincare post since February 2015 (!), and a lot has changed since then. When better to post my updated routine than on the coldest day of fall so far? Though I don't really alter my skincare regimen from season to season, perhaps you'll find something in here that will help you winter-proof your own face.

Before we start, a few words about my skin type and current routine. My skin is on the dry side of normal, and it's not particularly sensitive: I don't get hives or rashes from products, though some sunscreens and masks have been known to break me out. My skin is also quite thin, especially around my eyes. I've had a few fine lines there for several years, though regular moisturizing seems to have diminished them, at least for now. I used to have semi-regular eczema flare-ups around my eyes and ears, but that hasn't happened for a few years. I reliably get a couple of small pimples every month before my period, usually on my chin, but my face tends to be clear otherwise. I'm (obviously) very pale—my heritage is mostly Russian/Lithuanian Jewish and Englishand I sunburn and blush easily. Here's my post-shower face yesterday, before I prettied myself up to attend a Baroque concert on campus. I take my photos with an iPhone, so you can't see every pore and line, but I've done my best to give you an accurate image of my makeup-free skin. Say hello to my dark circles:

Why do I look like an extra in a bleak Soviet arthouse film?

Another day, another angle:


These photos would have looked very different if I'd written this post a year and a half ago. After 27 years of more or less acne-free skin, I started developing what seemed like a new pimple every day. Because I'd waltzed through my teens and twenties with very few skin woes, I had no idea what to do. What finally turned the tide was a laughably simple solution that originated in my misunderstanding of the phrase "double cleansing." I started to wash my face twice every evening with the same cleanser (instead of using an oil first, which is what "double cleansing" actually means), and my breakouts stopped almost overnight. After that, I began using a less oily sunscreen, changing my washcloth every few days, and experimenting with pore-clearing masks. A year later, my face is smoother, happier, and far less prone to breakouts.

Because of my ADHD, it's hard for me to stick to any routine that involves more than a few steps or products. I see bloggers with 15-step skincare routines, with serums and ampoules and AHAs and BHAs and retinoids, and here I am struggling to remember to moisturize before I go to sleep. As a result, the list of products I use daily is pretty short. I'd rather prioritize the things I really need (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen) than try to incorporate a dozen others and end up forgetting my essentials, which sometimes happens anyway.

To the best of my knowledge, almost all of the brands listed below are cruelty-free. (Vaseline and Burt's Bees are both owned by large corporations that test on animals, and I've heard conflicting reports about Skinfood and Innisfree.) As with makeup, I buy cruelty-free products whenever possible, but a brand's animal-testing status is less of a dealbreaker for skincare than it is for makeup. If I want a red lipstick, I have literally hundreds of cruelty-free options; if I want an affordable, lightweight sunscreen that provides SPF 50 coverage and doesn't break me out, my options are more limited.

DAILY:


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: I used Lush 9 to 5 cleanser for a few years, but I switched to CeraVe earlier this year because it was more cost-effective, and I ended up liking it more. 9 to 5 and CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser are both billed as moisturizing cleansers, but that's where the resemblance ends. 9 to 5 is thin and milky, with a pronounced fragrance and a slightly oily feel (it contains almond oil). CeraVe is clear, with a more jelly-like texture and no fragrance, and it leaves my skin feeling smoother than the Lush does. I wash my face with it once in the morning and twice at night, and I recommend it highly, with the caveat that it doesn't do a brilliant job of removing eye makeup: if I'm wearing eyeliner, I have to wipe off the last of it with petroleum jelly after I cleanse. By the way, my mom has very sensitive skin and is terrified of using new products on her face, but she's been using this cleanser for a year now with no ill effects.

Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence: I live and die by this sunscreen, guys. It's amazing. Why can't Western brands make such lightweight, non-greasy sunscreens? It doesn't feel even a little oily, it has a pleasant lemon scent and a thin, runny texture, and because it's made to be worn under makeup, it works like a primer, mattifying my skin slightly. Before discovering Bioré in the spring of this year, I was using a Eucerin facial sunscreen so heavy that in the warmer months, my face would start sweating profusely the second I went outside. And that was the best I could find in American drugstores! What the hell. 

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion: I use this fragrance-free lotion every night before bed. Unlike my previous moisturizer, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, CeraVe PM produces visible results: when I wake up the next morning, my skin is noticeably softer and plumper, no doubt because of the hyaluronic acid. If I'm feeling especially dry, I'll use a thin layer of the moisturizer in the morning before applying my sunscreen.

Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Spray: My bedroom is perpetually dry because of the heat in winter and the a/c window unit in summer, so I like having this on hand for some extra moisture after I wash my face or before I apply my makeup. I'm not sure it's actually improving my skin, but it smells and feels nice, and I can get a huge bottle for not much money. I prefer to decant the spray into a small travel bottle (adorned with Glossier stickers, of course), which dispenses a finer, more even mist.

2-3 TIMES WEEKLY:


Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: I bought this last month after spending a few months freaking out over the size of my pores. According to the Paula's Choice website, the salicyclic acid in this product "rapidly unclogs pores, diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, and improves skin tone for unbelievably smooth, radiant, firmer-looking skin." Because my skin leans dry, I use it every two or three nights: I pat it all over my face with a cotton pad, leave it on for 15-20 minutes (it gets sticky about five minutes in), then follow it with CeraVe PM. I'll be honest, I haven't noticed dramatic results, and it does make my nose peel a bit. My face feels smoother, and my pores look a little smaller (yes, I know they can't actually shrink), but I wouldn't say I'm breaking out less often. Still, it's early days yet, so I'll keep using this and see what happens.

Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil: I picked this up at Whole Foods because someone on Into the Gloss recommended it. In case you're wondering, it doesn't smell anything like roses; it has a not unpleasant dusty smell, like long-dried flowers. And it's orange! I use this as eye cream at night, dabbing a few drops around my eye area after I moisturize.

Freeman Avocado & Oatmeal Clay Mask: Lyn recommended this mask, and I trust her judgment implicitly, so I bought it at Ulta back in August. It's your standard oil-reducing clay mask—smear on a thin layer, wait for it to dry, rinse it off—but it's lightweight and non-drying and, goddamn, the price is right. I got this huge tube for under $5! It doesn't have the magical pore-clearing powers (or the tingling effect) of the Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, but it also doesn't have those weird chunks of citrus peel scattered throughout. And it's less than 1/4 the price for twice the product.


It does get caught in my eyebrows, though.

Skinfood Black Sugar Honey Mask: I bought this Korean mask as a gentler alternative to my previous physical exfoliant, Lush Angels on Bare Skin. It smells like honey and lemon and looks like a sinister potion sold on the Diagon Alley black market:


Since discovering the Paula's Choice BHA liquid, I've abandoned physical exfoliation and have started using this mask only to moisturize. I apply it in the shower, wait a few minutes for the steam to melt the sugar granules, then wash off the honey to reveal incredibly smooth skin. I can't stop stroking my own cheeks afterward. Also, my boyfriend testifies that the mask makes my face "smell like a bee's ass," and if that doesn't sell you on this product I don't know what will.

A FEW TIMES A MONTH:


Sheet masks: In my experience, all sheet masks do pretty much the same thing: deliver a large hit of moisture in a short period of time. It's really about the experience: the scent, the design, the glorious passivity of lolling about while the mask works its magic. I don't buy a lot of sheet masks because they're not terribly cost-effective (at least here in the US) and I don't like the waste they create, but they're nice as an occasional treat. The only sheet mask I have right now is this Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask, which I bought for $3 at the Asian beauty store Ume Cosme in the East Village.

BODY CARE:

 
Burt's Bees Body Lotion for Dry Skin: I'm not married to this lotion: I bought it at the grocery store because I'd been out of body lotion for months and it seemed like a decent product at a low price point. It's not bad, and I use it every day after showering, but the fake vanilla scent bothers me. I'm almost done with this tube, though, and am looking forward to exploring more options. At the top of my list right now is the Palmer's cocoa butter lotion.

Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream: I am, however, married to this cuticle cream. I've lost count of the number of tins I've blown through in the two or three years since I discovered it. I have a nervous habit of picking and biting at my cuticles, and the drier they are the more likely I am to attack them, so I use this cream whenever I feel that urge.

LIP BALM:


Palmer's Cocoa Butter Swivel Stick: Another longtime staple. This is a clear, cocoa-scented balm in a comically large tube that looks like a glue stick. What more can I say? Lip balms either work or they don't, and this one works.

Vaseline Lip Therapy in Rosy Lips: I reviewed this way back in September 2014 (I'm now on my second tin). This rose-scented lip balm is even more effective than Palmer's, though I keep it at home because I don't like dipping my fingers into tins when I'm out and about. If I remember to put it on before bed, my lips look dramatically better in the morning. The balm is tinted, which makes me feel like I'm "wasting" it by not wearing it where people can see me, but that's just another neurosis of mine.

And that's it—let me know if you have any questions about my routine! Have you discovered any good skincare products recently?

Friday, November 11, 2016

FOTDystopia

Well, the impossible has happened. A racist, misogynist sociopath with nothing but contempt for the democratic process has been elevated by it to the most powerful office in the world. Hillary Clinton was not my ideal Democratic candidate, but I came to find her deeply inspiring over the course of this year's vicious, depressing campaign. And now millions of Americans have rejected her knowledge, experience, and tremendous ability for the whims of a con artist loyal only to himself. As a queer woman and someone who has endured sexual harassment from men in positions of power, I can't help but feel that Tuesday's election was a referendum on my humanity. And I'm not even one of the people threatened most by a Trump presidency; it's a sign of my privilege that I can still cling to optimism. I can only hope that this disaster will shake the Democratic Party out of its complacency and force it to listen to the progressive voices in its ranks. I can only hope that more and more of us will fight for social and economic justice. But with the Republicans poised to dominate all three branches of American government, it's going to be a long four (and possibly eight) years—and the effects of the legislation passed in those years will last much, much longer. 

So, uh, what makeup do you put on your face when your country is teetering on the edge of the abyss? Even in dark times, there's value in moving forward with our daily lives and daily rituals. I can't have been the only person craving a sense of normalcy after the fever dream of election night. The next day, I automatically reached for my favorite lipstick: NARS 413 BLKR, which I hadn't worn in a few weeks. There was something comforting about applying that familiar red-brown-plum color and feeling its familiar dryness on my lips. I wore that lipstick for two days, along with neutral, understated eye makeup. Today, though, I woke up wanting something a little more colorful. I almost never wear non-neutral shades on both my eyes and my lips, but this morning it felt right.

Clockwise from top left: Inglot custom eyeshadow duo (#08 and #433), Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light, ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Might Be, Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Whiskey.

And this was the result:


As you can probably see, ColourPop Might Be highlighter (at the tops of my cheekbones) is too warm and dark for my complexion: it looks positively yellow here, though it's a rosy copper in the pan. More on that in a future review. I can't return it, so I'm trying to make the best of it.


I always forget about my Inglot eyeshadow duo for some reason, but that antique gold-green, #433, is perfect for autumn. It also goes with the earrings I bought last month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:


Those earrings are a souvenir not just of the museum but also of a wonderful visit with two dear friends. And in the wake of this election, our friendships and connections with other women are more important than ever. I don't know where we go from here. But we're still here. Still nasty. This is not the end.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sheer Black Lipsticks, Part 2: Estée Lauder, Givenchy, Urban Decay

After my disappointing experience with Lipstick Queen Black Lace Rabbit, I probably should have given up on finding my ideal sheer black lipstick. But I'm nothing if not perverse, so while I was in New York last month, I popped into the Upper West Side Sephora to do some fieldwork.

The first sheer black I swatched was Turn Down ($22), one of the two "Lip Flip Shade Transformers" in Estée Lauder's new Estée Edit (for The Youth). The other "transformer" is a more unusual shade: Turn Up, a sheer yellow. Turn Down was much more pigmented than Black Lace Rabbit; it was also the only sheer black I found that wasn't extremely shiny. I wish I'd thought to swatch it over another lipstick, because I have a hard time imagining how it would "transform" a color without blotting it out or making it muddy. I also wish I'd taken a photo of the lovely metallic blue tube.


My next quarry was Urban Decay Oil Slick, part of the Vintage Vice collection released for Urban Decay's 20th birthday this year. Here I've swatched Oil Slick next to another color from 1996: Asphyxia, an iridescent lavender with a blue shift. Given the photos I've seen online, I have a feeling that Oil Slick is less clumpy when it's not being swatched from an abused Sephora bullet:


Oil Slick from a different angle:


Like Turn Down, Oil Slick is more pigmented than Black Lace Rabbit; it's also packed with silver shimmer that's as evident on the lips as in a hand swatch. Yes, I had to try it on...


...and it made me look pretty rough (or maybe that was the Sephora lighting). Of all the sheer black lipsticks I tried, though, Oil Slick was the one that came closest to working well on its own. I think this was due to the large amount of shimmer, which made the black base look deliberately sheer instead of worn away from opaque. 

When I went to pay for my two sheet masks and my Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Whiskey, I was offered yet another sheer black lipstick as a 100-point perk: a deluxe sample of Givenchy Rouge Interdit in Noir Révélateur. Needless to say, I accepted. Believe it or not, this was the first time I ever got a lip product as a 100-point perk (maybe I should stop visiting this particular Sephora). The mini Noir Révélateur is a decent replica of the full-sized version, complete with a cute silver ribbon:


I know next to nothing about Givenchy's makeup, but some cursory research on the Sephora site (the difficulties I endure for this blog...) reveals that Givenchy has three lipstick lines: the opaque Le Rouge ($36); the sheer Le Rouge-À-Porter ($36); and Rouge Interdit ($33), billed as a "color-enhancing lipstick" with a "high shine finish." Noir Révélateur is basically an expensive mood lipstick that interacts with your personal pH or whatever (not sure if the other Rouge Interdits have the same property). How Givenchy gets away with charging $33 for this gimmick I have no idea, but at least I didn't have to drop $33 for the privilege of trying it.

Here's Noir Révélateur swatched on my arm, with one pass at left and four or five at right. As you can see, it swatches as a grayish plum instead of a true gray or black:


But swatching this lipstick on your arm won't reveal a whole lot about how it will behave on your lips, unless your arms and lips are the same color. It turns out that Noir Révélateur leaves a sheer gray-plum cast on my lips for about a minute, after which the color warms up to a berry pink. In the triptych below, you can see my bare lips at the top, followed by Noir Révélateur immediately after application (middle) and after five minutes (bottom):


Unlike most sheer black lipsticks, Noir Révélateur isn't marketed as a transformer or topper for other lip colors, but I tried it over two other lipsticks out of curiosity. Because of its sheer, slippery formula, it doesn't do much more than move the base color around. It's especially ineffective over lipsticks that are already somewhat dark, like MAC Rebel. Here's Rebel on its own (top) and under Noir Révélateur:


NR makes Rebel darker and more purple, but also patchier and more feathery. The amount of slip in the Givenchy formula makes any lipstick under it slippery, too. It did slightly better over a matte nude, Milani Matte Naked:


I actually like the effect of NR over Matte Naked: my lips look plumper and less parched in the second photo, and the sheer black adds a plummy cast to the pinkish beige base. Here's the Givenchy/Milani combo in context, with Kiko Rosy Brown eyeshadow, Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner, Urban Decay Rapture blush, and a rather grim expression because FUCK this election is stressing me out:


I'm glad I got a chance to try this lipstick for free, but I wouldn't be tempted to purchase the full size even at a more reasonable price point, because of one glaring flaw: the overpowering floral scent and taste. I don't know what it is about fancy Frawnch beauty brands, but their lipsticks always seem to be nauseatingly pungent. I don't mind YSL's wine-and-roses scent, but the Givenchy makes me feel like I've just eaten the bowl of potpourri on someone's toilet. I'm also not a sheer-lipstick person in general, and this lipstick reinforces all my prejudices: it feels too slippery, it doesn't change my natural lip color all that perceptibly, and it decreases the longevity of any lip color it's layered over. So, meh. At least it doesn't dry out my lips, which many sheer lipsticks do.

And so ends my experiment with sheer black lipstick, at least for now. I'm left with the suspicion that unless a sheer black has a good amount of shimmer, its sheerness will look less like a deliberate style choice than the result of an encounter with a Mission-style burrito. Beauty brands, feel free to prove me wrong.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Low-Buy Progress Report #10: October

It turns out that I have time for one more post before I head to New York tomorrow! A lot of new products entered my life in October, and though some of them were gifts, some were...definitely not. It's not exactly shocking that I bought more stuff than usual last month. October tends to be hard for me mental-health-wise, and I was applying for jobs for the second year in a row, and I couldn't help but keep up with upsetting election bullshit. And my neighbors' cat, whom I'd known for three years, died two weeks ago. Mr. B was the sweetest, friendliest cat I've ever met, and he used to come over so often that I almost thought of him as my cat. So October was a stressful month, and I'm not going to beat myself up for going a little over budget, though I will make some new resolutions at the end of this post. After all, I have more stressful months ahead of me, and the whole point of this low-buy is to learn how to manage stress without spending impulsively or irresponsibly.

I have a lot to cover, so let's get into it:

New Makeup and Polish:

Top: NYX Cabaret. From left: NYX Covet, Floss Gloss Donatella, UD Whiskey, ColourPop Might Be, CP Fast Lane.

NYX Nude Matte Shadow in Covet and Slim Lip Pencil in Cabaret: $2.25 total with CVS coupons (usually $4.50 and $3.50 respectively)
Floss Gloss Donatella: $8
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Whiskey: $20
ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Might Be: $8
ColourPop Creme Gel Liner in Fast Lane: $5
Total: $43.25

I bought NYX Cabaret to wear under Kat Von D Mercy, a glittery reddish berry that looks a bit patchy without liner. I had a $5 CVS coupon and knew from irritating experience that I couldn't use it on anything under $5, so I picked up Covet, a matte khaki green, as well. Covet is a lot better than I expected (especially given my terrible experience with NYX's Hot Singles shadows), but I wish I'd chosen another color. Floss Gloss Donatella was another impulse buy, from a little shop in Brooklyn. After my disappointment with Essie Playing Koi, I hoped that Donatella would be the pumpkin polish of my dreams—and it was, until it chipped FIVE HOURS after application. I'm not talking about some minor tip wear; I'm talking about this:


WTF? I didn't know nail polish was capable of chipping like this. I don't think I have the receipt anymore, either. I made a lot of regrettable purchases this month (Black Lace Rabbit chief among them), and I'm starting to wonder if I've lost my instinct for which products will be semi-decent. I do like my two new products from ColourPop, though: Might Be is an intensely pigmented copper highlighter that looks more like a bronzer on my fair, cool skin, and Fast Lane is a dark teal pencil eyeliner. I originally categorized Urban Decay Whiskey as a replacement because I bought it when I thought I was running low on Demolition, but it turns out that I have almost half of Demolition left! So I'm counting Whiskey as a new makeup product to remind myself that I can't be cavalier about "replacing" items that aren't gone yet.

Here's my soft-witch look for Halloween, using Rosy Brown on my eyes, Might Be (and no blush) on my cheeks, and NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox on my lips. I wore this to the library to work on job applications because I'm lamer than you.


Replacements:


Sally Hansen Hard as Nails base coat: $4
Revlon Super Lustrous Sheer lipstick in Pink Truffle: $4.25
Revlon Volume + Length mascara: $9.50
Total: $17.75

I swear Hard as Nails is usually more expensive than that, but the iPhone note in which I keep a running tab of my makeup purchases tells me I paid $4, so I guess I used a coupon or something? I feel bad that quite a few of my staples aren't cruelty-free (though Revlon is no longer selling in China), but yo, it's hard to find affordable, effective, cruelty-free base coat and mascara. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Skincare:



Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid: $23.20 (usually $29)
Too Cool for School Egg Cream sheet mask: $6
Sephora rose sheet mask (not pictured): $6
Total: $35.20

Thank you to everyone who recommended I try a chemical exfoliant! The Paula's Choice BHA liquid has been praised highly all over the internet, and I was lucky enough to get it for 20% off from Dermstore. I've been using it every two or three nights: I dab it all over my face with a cotton pad, let it sit for 20 minutes (it starts feeling tacky about 10 minutes in), and then apply my CeraVe PM moisturizer. I haven't been using the BHA liquid long enough to say definitively that it's made a change, but my pores do look smaller the next day. I haven't suffered any truly negative effects, but the top of my nose is prone to dryness and peeling, and the exfoliant does exacerbate that a bit.

Tools:

 
e.l.f. stippling brush: $4

I bought this to diffuse ColourPop Might Be across my cheekbones, but the highlighter's moussey, spongy consistency prevents it from sticking to synthetic bristles. So I've been using the brush for blush, and it's working well. I like how soft it is.

Gifts:


Left to right:
MAC Satin lipstick in Rebel
Diptyque eau de toilette in Florabellio
Kiko Long Lasting Shadow Stick in 05 Rosy Brown
Givenchy Rouge Interdit in Noir Révélateur (deluxe sample)

My roommate is subletting her room for the year, and she asked me to send her some books and papers she left here. She reimbursed me the shipping money and offered me a lipstick of my choice, which was so sweet. It's kind of unbelievable to me that I didn't have Rebel already: that dark berry-fuchsia is one of my most flattering colors, and Satin is my second-favorite MAC lipstick formula.

Diptyque Florabellio and Kiko Rosy Brown were birthday gifts from my lovely boyfriend. We aren't big on surprises, so we just tell each other what we want for our birthdays—why not get your partner something you know they'll like? I'd been wearing samples of Florabellio for months, eking out each one as long as possible, and felt ready to commit to the full-sized bottle. My boyfriend is a Tam Dao man himself, so now we're an insufferable Diptyque Couple. I'll try to write a review of Florabellio eventually, though I'm not sure I can make my thoughts on perfume coherent to anyone else. But what's the fun of writing if you don't set yourself some challenges, right? I'd wanted to buy Rosy Brown when I visited the Kiko store in Birmingham in June, but the shade had been out of stock. I love Kiko's cream shadow sticks for short overnight trips when I don't feel like fussing with brushes and powder shadows.

I got Noir Révélateur as a 100-point perk when I bought Whiskey at Sephora (man, now I wish Sephora sold actual booze). And yes, I know I still have to write that sequel to my Black Lace Rabbit post. Soon, I promise! In the meantime, have some swatches. You'll notice that Noir Révélateur, despite its name, is actually a sheer plum. I'm not crazy about it: the finish is very shiny and the floral scent is overpowering. At least it was free.

L-R: MAC Rebel, Kiko Rosy Brown, Givenchy Noir Révélateur.

Total for October: $100.20 (HOW) 

Overview:

I'm actually feeling a little overwhelmed by all the pretty new things I've accumulated since the summer. And I'm supposed to be on a low-buy! This is embarrassing. I'm going to limit myself to just two new products in November (plus my Sephora birthday gift, of course). AND I'm declaring a lipstick no-buy for the rest of 2016. I know my mom has sent me at least one lipstick for my birthday, and I have so many other new ones that deserve attention. I haven't even reviewed all the lipsticks I've bought this fall! I also need to save money for interview clothes and other necessities, so the less I spend on makeup the better.

I did make one good decision in October: I consciously put more effort into my friendships. One of the hardest things about being a grad student at my university is the lack of a sense of community. The town is tiny and expensive, and affordable housing that isn't literally someone's basement is hard to find, so most of the friends I've made here have moved elsewhere. Last month I visited a college friend in New York and two grad school friends in Philadelphia, and it was nice to get a change of scene and remind myself that I have some truly great people in my life. Experiences and relationships are better antidotes to depression than new lipstick: who knew?

Wishlist for November:

Zoya Troy ($10): I have nothing like this dirty silver shimmer. Ugh, so pretty:


Mustard or yellow-brown eyeshadow: Basically, I want a dupe for Mustard from Lime Crime's Venus 2 palette, but it's surprisingly hard to find a mustard-yellow eyeshadow single. I'm thinking of ordering Desert Sands from Makeup Geek, though it's not quite as yellow as I'd like:



And that's it, which is just as well. I don't feel an urgent need for anything new right now, but I know myself too well to assume that I'll never feel that need again. In the meantime, I'll experiment more with the makeup I already have, because it's high time I tried some new looks. And I'll get to work on that backlog of reviews. Promise.