Monday, March 11, 2019

Glossier Play Reviews: Colorslide Eyeliner in Early Girl, Glitter Gelée in Phantasm, and Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up

Disclaimer: I purchased these products with store credit earned through my Glossier affiliate link. Thank you to everyone who has clicked on it and allowed me to buy products to review! I am not a Glossier rep. 

Update, 3/12/19: This post discusses Glossier Play's excessive plastic packaging and non-biodegradable glitter. In the ten hours since I finished my post, Glossier has stated that they're going to phase out the foil packets and replace the plastic glitter with biodegradable glitter. Kudos to them for taking criticism on board, but I hope they eventually make the announcement on a more visible platform than an Instagram comment reply.


Last month, Glossier's Instagram began teasing something called "Glossier Play." True to form, Glossier provided no specific information, just a few GIFs of the Glossier G spinning around or dissolving into water droplets. Cue rampant speculation on social media! The most popular theory, to which I also subscribed, was that Glossier was finally branching into bolder makeup after four years of barely-there pigment. (Anothermercifully incorrecttheory was that "Play" implied hipster sex stuff. I can imagine few things less sexy than Glossier-branded millennial-pink lube.) Last week, we finally got our answer: Glossier Play is a "brand of dialed-up beauty extras" exploding with color, glitter, and shine. The collection comprises four new products, each in multiple shades: Colorslide ($15), a "technogel eye pencil"; Glitter Gelée ($14), a gel containing "multigrade paillettes" (the most pretentious possible way of saying "irregularly sized glitter"); Niteshine ($20), a liquid "highlighter concentrate"; and Vinylic Lip ($16), an opaque gloss in a click-pen dispenser. There's also Blade ($4), a pencil sharpener, and The Detailer ($6), a silicone glitter applicator.

Reactions on social media have been very mixed; in fact, this is probably Glossier's most polarizing launch to date. Quite a few commenters on Glossier's Instagram have complained that the new products aren't "Glossier" enough: too bright, too sparkly, too loud. Others have wondered why Glossier didn't release normal makeup staples, like an eyeshadow palette or a set of opaque bullet lipsticks. Personally, I feel that the Glossier Play products fit well with the overall Glossier aesthetic, which is carefree and a little messy. However, I did feel disappointed when I first saw Glossier Play, because I didn't have much use for these particular products: I prefer neutral eyeliner to colorful, matte lip products to glossy, and cream highlighter to liquid, and I associate chunky body glitter with my middle school days. (You know what they say: if you're old enough to have worn it the first time around...) Glossier Play is clearly inspired by Into the Gloss's Top Shelf After Dark series, which is my favorite ITG feature because it's so far removed from my own lifestyle. A normal Saturday night chez Auxiliary Beauty involves embroidery, k-pop videos, and maybe a gin and tonic if I'm feeling naughty. These are not activities that demand blinding highlighter or holographic face glitter.

My real objections to the launch, though, have less to do with the products themselves and more with their rollout. Petty quibbles all, but what's a Glossier review on this blog without petty quibbles? First, it's weird to describe Glossier Play as a "new brand" when it shares the Glossier name. A sub-brand, sure, but calling it a separate brand is just confusing. Second, the name "Glossier Play" automatically makes people think of the Sephora Play beauty box, which has existed for a few years now. I realize that "play" rhymes with "Glossier," but could they seriously not come up with a more original name? "Glossier After Dark," maybe? Finally, the Glossier Play website is suspiciously devoid of swatches, relying instead on blurry art shots and mood-lit videos of gyrating models. They've since posted some swatches in their Instagram stories; it's nice that they've used a variety of skin tones, but not all the photos are of the highest quality. When I was trying to choose a shade of Vinylic Lip, I would have appreciated better pale-skin swatches than these:

As usual, the white guy gets away with totally phoning it in.

Despite my misgivings, I decided to use my Glossier store credit to buy a few items to review. I almost ordered a "Playground" set, which allows you to choose one of each product for $60 total; but I was almost positive I wouldn't use the Niteshine highlighter after blogging about it, and I'm a beauty consumer before I'm a beauty reviewer. So I ended up ordering the Colorslide in Early Girl, an "eggshell blue"; the Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up, a "candy pink"; and the Glitter Gelée in Phantasm, "opalescent with holographic specks," which comes in a set with The Detailer for $16. I'll review each product individually, then put them all together for some appropriately playful looks!

First, though, let's talk about the branding and overall aesthetic of the new brand (or sub-brand, or whatever). Glossier Play's packaging is recognizably "Glossier," i.e. minimalist, but with notable differences: cream plastic instead of white; a '70s-esque serif font instead of the usual sloping sans-serif one. (You can see both fonts in action on the sticker above.) The font's evocation of the '70s is no mistake: Glossier Play's aesthetic is clearly influenced by the era of Guy Bourdin and Studio 54, as the promotional images make clear:


One of the most frequent complaints about Glossier Play is that it's similar to other brands: Lemonhead and ColourPop both make popular glitter gels, CoverFX sells liquid highlighter in glass bottles, and Milk Makeup has long marketed fun, sparkly colors and textures to Gen Z club kids. I do think Glossier brings some of these complaints on itself by insisting that all of its new products are revolutionary, when there aren't many ways to innovate on lip gloss, liquid highlighter, or chunky glitter. But that aside...guys, there aren't many ways to innovate on lip gloss, liquid highlighter, or chunky glitter. I even saw an Instagram post accusing Glossier Play of copying Urban Decay's 24/7 eye pencils, never mind that most of Glossier Play's shades are completely different. Since when does Urban Decay have a monopoly on interesting eyeliner shades? Shouldn't people be happy that there are more such shades on the market now? As you well know, I'm happy to snark on Glossier when I think snark is warranted, but it's silly to criticize Glossier Play for releasing products that aren't 100% original. All brands and trends constantly feed on and borrow from each other. That's literally how popular culture works.

Anyway! The Glossier Play products come in a standard Glossier pink pouch; I wish they'd allow customers to opt out of the pouch, since anyone who has made a few Glossier orders has more pouches than they need. I also think it's odd that they're using the pink pouch for Glossier Play, which is supposed to be an entirely separate brand or whatever. Glossier no longer includes sticker sheets with each order (which I don't mind at all), but at least for now, all the Glossier Play orders come with a very deluxe sticker. I like that the font color is different on each box: blue for Colorslide, green for The Detailer, red for Vinylic Lip, and holographic for Glitter Gelée.

But that's not the end of the packaging. Far from it! Inside the boxes, the products are ensconced in colorful foil plastic pouches, giving them the look of giant candies. It's a cute effect, and the plastic crinkles satisfyingly when opened, but come on: it's 2019, and Glossier should know better than to add needless packaging, especially non-biodegradable packaging. They've received some well-deserved criticism for this, so let's hope they change the Glossier Play packaging before long. It bums me out that my small order produced so much trash.

Glossier Play has the same price point as Glossier, but its packaging looks and feels slightly higher-quality overall, with one exception: who approved the cheap-looking clear plastic caps for $15 eyeliners? My only other eyeliner with a clear cap is my £3 Barry M one.

Swatches, left to right: Phantasm, Early Girl, Blow-Up.

The grand unboxing is complete; now for the individual reviews!

1. Colorslide Technogel Eyeliner in Early Girl

Glossier's claims: "Colorslide is the eyeliner where what you see on the pencil is exactly what you get. [AB's note: WHAT IS THIS SENTENCE. Hire a copyeditor, please.] Plus, a waterproof formula that dreams are made of: a highly pigmented, smooth gel eyeliner that doesn’t crease, smudge, tug, or skip and lasts for 12 hours (matte shades last in the waterline for 8 hours), leaving you to create freely....Draw a precise line to define the eye, or smudge and blend out for a diffused, smoky effect."

My experience: Early Girl is easily the most impressive of my Glossier Play purchases. Glossier describes it as an "eggshell blue"; it's actually a very light turquoise, though it looks bluer on the lid. The "Colorslide" moniker is accurate: the pencil really does slide smoothly across the skin. Pastel makeup is notoriously hard to perfect, so I worried that Early Girl's formula might be patchy or sheer, but it's nearly opaque in one pass and completely opaque in two. It also has serious lasting power: I wore it to the gym for a workout and it looked flawless afterward, though of course the real test will be the humidity of a New Jersey summer! Glossier really wants you to buy their "German-engineered" pencil sharpener to go with Colorslide, but I can attest that Early Girl sharpens perfectly with my NARS sharpener.

The only Glossier claim I'd dispute is that the formula is easy to "smudge and blend out for a diffused, smoky effect." I can't speak for any of the other shades, but Early Girl sets very quickly (in about a minute), and even before it's completely dry, I can't smudge it with a brush or my finger without rubbing off color. I was hoping to be able to use it as a cream shadow, but that's just not going to happen. I'm thrilled with Early Girl's performance otherwise, though, and I want to buy about six more colors of Colorslide.

2. Glitter Gelée in Phantasm + The Detailer

Glossier's claims (Glitter Gelée): "The multi-dimensional paillettes mirror everything as you move, changing and reflecting color everywhere you look. Comfortable, wearable, and long-lasting, thanks to a transparent gel base, this is an instant mood boost that stays shiny and stays put for 12 hours. No fall out, no flaking."

Glossier's claims (The Detailer): "[C]ustom-built for controlled application. With an angled silicone tip and a wand that fits comfortably in your hand, The Detailer scoops up a perfect portion of glitter to spread across the eye or dot anywhere with precision."

My experience: My earliest experience with chunky glitter was at a Shakespeare Camp performance in the summer of 1999, when I was eleven. I was playing Ariel in The Tempest, and a cool older girl dabbed glitter all over my cheekbones for an ethereal effect (promptly ruined by my wire-rimmed glasses and overall geeky affect). All this is to say that, having worn face glitter during the Clinton administration, I couldn't help but wonder if I was too old for its current incarnation. My misgivings weren't allayed by Glossier Play's advertising, which boasts race and gender diversity but zero age diversity: I doubt any of their models has reached their mid-twenties.

On the other hand, I fucking love glitter, so whatever. 

The gel in which the glitter is suspended is thicker than I expected. The amount of product you get is quite small (here's Phantasm in my hand for scale), but a little goes a long way, at least for my preferred glitter looks.

The Detailer is a tiny silicone spatula that's supposed to make it easier to apply the glitter precisely. I find it easiest to pick up one or two flecks of glitter at a time; try to get much more than that and you'll end up with an unwieldy clump. I think it's worth ordering the Gelée/Detailer duo if you don't already have a similar tool, but you could just as easily apply the Gelée with a (clean!) nail-polish dotting tool or the handle of an eyeshadow brush.

I haven't worn Phantasm for longer than six hours, so I can't substantiate Glossier's twelve-hour-wear claim, but I can say that there's remarkably little fallout after six hours. There is some fallout (I mean, if you're not comfortable with a few specks of glitter ending up in your hair or on your shirt, maybe you shouldn't be wearing glitter at all), but I'm impressed with how firmly the glitter stays affixed to my face. The gel feels cool and tacky when first applied, and tight once it dries. After an hour, I stop noticing the tightness, but around the five-hour mark, my skin starts itching and I feel the need to take the glitter off. I certainly wouldn't try to wear Phantasm for an entire twelve hours, but it's a fun product for an evening out.

By the way, it's worth noting that the glitter in the Gelées is non-biodegradable. This has provoked a good deal of social-media outrage, about which I have mixed feelings. There's no denying that microplastics are a serious environmental issue, but so is literally every other form of capitalist consumption. (Consider that most biodegradable glitter is made of mica, which is often mined by child slaves.) Of course it's better to focus on one issue than to throw up your hands and do nothing, but the only way to be a truly responsible consumer is to consume less overall. It's not like forgoing the Glitter Gelée makes your purchase of the Vinylic Lip a great decision for the planet, you know? Social media distracts its users from huge systemic problems by obsessing over the relatively minor symptoms of those problems. Glossier's use of plastic glitter is the current object of Instagram's obsession, but the bigger problem is our overconsumption of everything. In fact, I shouldn't even have this blog and encourage others to buy more makeup. Rant over.

3. Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up

Glossier's claims: "Meet your newest obsession: Vinylic Lip. This lip vinyl comes in six essential colors with an addictive high-shine finish. A cushiony, never-sticky, never-goopy formula gives you the gloss you want with the shades you need to go with anything. The easy-to-use click-pen allows for precise application so you can build up to the full, lacquered look—and once you get there, keep going."

My experience: Vinylic Lip has elicited snarky comparisons to Milk Makeup's Lip Vinyl, though that gloss has completely different packaging (a squeeze tube with a doefoot applicator), as well as a more muted color range. I think Glossier could have avoided the Milk comparisons if it had simply chosen a different name. Honestly, "Vinylic Lip" isn't even a good name. It sounds pretentious and faux-scientific, and how the hell do you pronounce it? (I've been saying "vy-NIL-ic," but who knows.)

Despite my extensive experience with lip products, I'd never used a click-pen product before Blow-Up. When you press the pink button on the bottom, the gloss oozes out of six holes embedded in the small, fluffy applicator:

What struck me most about Blow-Up, after I'd opened the box and ripped off the foil and admired the font and clicked the pen 32 times (yes, I counted) to start the flow of gloss, was how unremarkable the formula really was. Which is not to say I don't like Blow-Up: I do, and I think I'll wear it often this spring and summer. But Glossier Play's copy led me to expect something more than a standard sheer gloss that fades to nothing after an hour or two (less if you dare to eat or drink anything). This is two-ish coats:

The formula has a faint strawberry-candy scent and taste. I'm sensitive to fragrance in my lip products (see my review of the reformulated Generation G lipsticks), but I don't mind this scent, though I wish the gloss were unscented. Blow-Up is as non-sticky as promised, and I suppose it's "cushiony" when first applied, but no more so than any other gloss. I don't find it to be at all hydrating, which is unusual for a lip gloss.

My main complaint, though, is with the packaging. Who asked for this? Who buys a lip gloss and thinks, "Gosh, this is almost perfect, but I wish it came in a clicky pen with a fuzzy applicator"? It seems like Glossier was trying to be original for the sake of originality (in a desperate effort to set themselves apart from Milk, maybe?), and I don't think they quite pulled it off. First, it's hard to build up the color to the "full, lacquered look" that Glossier promises, because with each pass, the applicator rubs off some of the product it just put down. Second, after I carried Blow-Up in my makeup bag for a day, I noticed that some gloss had been pushed out of the six holes. This suggests either that the tube has a problem with leakage or that the clicky end was depressed while the tube was jostling around in my bag. That certainly makes me wary of traveling with Blow-Up in the future. Finally, I tend to close lipsticks by pressing the lid with one finger and the base with the other, and I have to try so hard not to do that with Blow-Up, or more gloss gets extruded from the applicator.

4. Looks!

My insatiable perfectly normal daily consumption of k-pop makes me aware not only of cool new songs but also of microtrends in the k-beauty world. Over the past year, I've noticed the presence of chunky holographic glitter in a number of k-pop looks, so I was excited to use Phantasm to copy a couple of them. In her most recent music video, soloist Sunmi (formerly of the Wonder Girls) wears glitter in a freckle pattern under her eyes:

I placed Phantasm in a similar pattern, adding a thin line of Early Girl on my upper lashline and a few coats of Blow-Up on my lips. I confess, I hadn't felt so cute in a very long time.

My second look was mod-inspired: a much thicker line of Early Girl, with Phantasm dabbed above the inner corner. Blow-Up looked a bit clownish with the bold pastel liner, so I wore my subtlest lipstick, NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita. Since my eyes are deep-set, Phantasm looked fairly subtle when I was looking straight-on, and showed its true splendor only when I blinked or looked down.

The thick formula emphasizes the crinkly texture of my eyelids, but that's inevitable with light-colored eyeliner, I think.

Finally, I copied a look from the music video for one of the best k-pop songs of 2018, Apink's "I'm So Sick." Like Sunmi's video, "I'm So Sick" uses glitter as a tool of dramatic irony, highlighting just how not fine a seemingly festive and glamorous situation is.

For my version of Hayoung's look above, I used Glossier Lidstar in Slip all over the lid, followed by a layer of ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Ladybird, a fine silver glitter. I smudged Urban Decay Cover onto the upper lashline, and added more Ladybird and some flecks of Phantasm on the lower lashline. Hayoung is clearly wearing a brown eyeliner with a baby wing, but my eyelids just don't allow for wings of any kind. Hayoung's gloss is a sheer cool pink, so I added two thin coats of Blow-Up. Excuse my dry lips: this winter has been rough on them.

And now for the real question: if I had no Glossier store credit, would I purchase these products with my own money?

Colorslide in Early Girl: Absolutely. This was the standout product for me. It's so hard to find decent colorful eyeliners at an affordable price point, and I fully intend to pick up a couple more Colorslide shades eventually--maybe Critical Mass, a magenta purple, or Nectar, a mustard yellow.

Glitter Gelée in Phantasm: Maybe. It's a lot of fun to play with, but ColourPop has an almost identical glitter gel for $8, so...meh.

Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up: Nope. It's a nice, non-sticky lip gloss, but so is NYX's Butter Gloss, which is more user-friendly, more moisturizing, and less than 1/3 the price. You're paying for the sleek Glossier branding, which might be worth it for you, and no judgment if so. But I doubt the Vinylic Lip is going to become anyone's "newest obsession."

Overall, though, I'm pleased with Glossier Play: I'd give it a solid B/B+ so far. I'm excited to try more of the Colorslide eyeliners, though I probably won't order more Vinylic Lips or Glitter Gelées. Let me know your thoughts on this launch!

Friday, March 8, 2019

MAC Lotus Light (Lucky Red Collection)

Welcome to my first makeup review of 2019! Unfortunately, it's a review of a sold-out limited-edition product, but I just had to show you all the pretty photos I took of it. I mean, I ventured out after a blizzard for this one:

In the past few years, Western beauty brands have begun catering to the burgeoning Chinese market with Chinese New Year makeup collections. I'm not of Chinese descent, but Lunar New Year festivities always make me nostalgic: I grew up in San Francisco and have many fond memories of watching lion dancers and eating creamy strawberry candies with red-and-gold wrappers. I'd never paid much attention to Chinese New Year makeup releases, though, until MAC began advertising its Lucky Red collection late last year. One glance at the promotional images and I was in love:

Source: Temptalia. Who is this model? I swear I know her face.

Source: Temptalia

I was especially excited about the lipsticks, which had metallic red tubes with kaleidoscopic images of peonies, the character for "good fortune" (), and...lipsticks! Some Temptalia commenters took umbrage at the idea of a lipstick decorated with lipsticks, but I loved how cheekily recursive it was. I even knew which lipstick shade I wanted: Lotus Light, a shiny cherry red in the Amplified formula. (Three of the five shades were permanentRuby Woo, Lady Danger, and Russian Redand the other new shade was Lucky in Love, a warm coral pink.)

There was just one problem: I'd resolved on a no-buy for the first three months of 2019. But as February wore on and the stock of Lucky Red lipsticks dwindled online, I decided to break my no-buy and order Lotus Light. I'd been thinking about it for almost two months at this point, and I knew I'd regret passing it up: it was so exquisite, such an objet. I try to avoid the collector mentality with makeup, but once in a while something really special comes along and I can't take a strictly utilitarian view. Plus, I didn't own a blue-based red in a non-matte formula, so I could justify the purchase on semi-practical grounds. (Very semi-.)

I'm happy to say that I haven't regretted the purchase for a second. MAC is still one of the best brands in the lipstick game, and though many of their LE releases in recent years have been half-assed at best (Trolls, Star Trek, that weird bowling collection), Lotus Light is even more beautiful in person than it looked online. From the box to the tube to the color and texture of the lipstick itself, Lotus Light is clearly the result of careful thought and execution. Honestly, this post is just going to be a bunch of product porn with the barest smattering of text. I even bought special paper at PaperSource for the backgrounds!

First, the box! I ordered Lotus Light from Macy's and picked it up in-store. It had been shipped in an unpadded cardboard mailer and one end of the box was crushed (hmm, there might be a reason why Macy's is struggling financially). That was irritating, but I'm still going to keep the box until the end of my days and pass it down through the generations.

It occurs to me as I post these pictures that I've bought only two lipsticks from MAC special collections, and both of those (the other was Eugenie, from the Giambattista Valli collection) have had a monochromatic color scheme. Of the five Lucky Red lipstick shades, Lotus Light is the closest match for the red packaging, which pleases me greatly.

The tube is a shiny, foiled-looking red plastic with matte printed images of lipsticks, compacts, peonies, and vines. I worried that the tube would get scuffed or scraped if I carried it around for a day in my makeup bag, but I've done so three times now and it still looks pristine. I don't plan to put it too stringently to the test, though!

Now for the lipstick itself. Historically, I haven't had great luck with bright pinky reds, especially in non-matte formulas. They're not unflattering on me, exactly, but they always feel a bit gaudy and attention-seeking compared to my favorite dark reds. So I knew I was taking a risk by ordering Lotus Light sight unseen, but I was fine with the possibility that it might not be my ideal red, because that tube and that packaging.

Having owned two Amplified lipsticks in the past, I knew what to expect from the formula: intense pigmentation, a shiny finish, and a slightly greasy but not unpleasant lipfeel. I do have to wear a lipliner with Lotus Light to prevent feathering; in the photos below, I've lined my lips with Milani True Red, a perfect color match. Unlike most Amplified shades, Lotus Light has tiny flecks of pearl, which you can see in the tube under bright artificial light. On the lips, though, the pearl translates into nothing more than a little extra shine.

This is one swipe:

Left to right: MAC D for Danger, Lotus Light, NARS Mysterious Red, and Wet n Wild Missy and Fierce. Lotus Light is closest in color to Missy and Fierce, but lighter, brighter, and pinker (and, obviously, not a liquid matte lipstick).

And a lip swatch--you can see how the pearl makes my lips look a bit fuller than normal:

Unsurprisingly, Lotus Light is prone to transferring onto cups and sandwiches; that's just the price of wearing a lipstick with this finish. People have criticized the Amplified formula for its old-school heaviness, but I find that lighter-weight lipsticks can be drying; when I wear Lotus Light, my lips feel comfortable and cushioned, though the formula isn't exactly hydrating. The shine wears off eventually, but the color lasts several hours without needing touch-ups.

I belong to the "play up eyes or lips unless you're on a red carpet" school, so these FOTDs feature subdued makeup on eyes and cheeks; I believe my eyeshadow in both looks is Glossier Lidstar in Slip. I do not, however, belong to the "pair your gaudy '80s rhinestone sweater with a neutral lip" school, and thank goodness for that.

In direct sunlight, you can see how shiny Lotus Light is when first applied:

Even without the beautiful packaging, I'd be very satisfied with Lotus Light: it's a gorgeous, high-quality red lipstick. Is it unique? Of course notalmost every brand makes a similar red lipstick. But it's unique to my collection, and it's been a nice pick-me-up during these last excruciating weeks of winter.

In my next review, I'll take a look at some items from Glossier Play, Glossier's new "brand of dialed-up beauty extras." My order should be arriving tomorrow, and my spring break is next week, so I'll have plenty of time to test the products and write up my thoughts. See you then!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2019 Beauty & Blogging Resolutions

We're already halfway through January, but here are my beauty-related resolutions (and some other resolutions) for 2019!

1. Maintain a replacement-only makeup no-buy through March (and possibly longer).

It seems like everyone on the Internet is undertaking a year-long no-buy in 2019. While I admire that level of dedication, I don't think it's the right plan for me. However, there's no denying that my finances are precarious and that I have enough makeup to adorn my face well into my dotage. So I'm starting the year with a three-month no-buy on makeup and nail polish. If I'm still feeling good at the end of March, I'll keep going for another three months; if there's something I really want by then, I'll buy it without feeling guilty.

So far, I've fought off one serious temptation: a lipstick in MAC's beautiful Lunar New Year collection. It's a bright pinky red, and I don't wear bright reds enough to justify owning more than a couple. Other than that, I've had no problems sticking to my no-buy and avoiding blogs and subreddits that post about new releases. I'm actually looking forward to putting my familiar makeup to new uses! And I'm starting to see my no-buy as a source of FREEDOM, not of deprivation. Freedom from the stress of purchasing decisions; freedom from worrying about how a lipstick will fit into my budget; freedom to buy things I actually need; freedom to experiment with new techniques and color combinations without having to learn how to use new products.

2. Revamp my blog and buy my own domain.

I'm pretty sure I resolved to do this last year. This time, though, I'm serious. If I leave academia after this semester, my blog will be a good addition to my résumé, but not if it looks like a time capsule from 2007. Blogger has also been malfunctioning recently, inserting random line breaks into my posts and preventing me from logging in to leave comments on my blog or anyone else's. Time for a change.

3. Lose my fear of writing short reviews.

You know how sometimes you want a recipe for a specific thing--say, chocolate pudding--so you Google it, and you find a blog with a likely-looking recipe, but you have to scroll through six long-winded, saccharine paragraphs about the blogger's grandmother's chocolate pudding? Sometimes I wonder if readers have the same experience with my reviews: "Damn it, I just want to know if the Birthday Balm Dotcom is any good! I don't care about this bitch's opinions on Glossier's marketing strategy!" I certainly won't stop writing long, introspective posts, but I'll try to keep my product reviews short and incisive. This will also serve the practical function of letting me post more frequently.

4. Keep my lipstick stash at 45 shades or below.

I've found that when my collection grows past 45, I start losing track of what I actually have and feeling anxious about not using everything often enough. I now have 41 lipsticks, which is just manageable. I want to get to the point where I truly enjoy all the lipsticks I own, and I'm almost at that point. I have a feeling that 35-40 is the true sweet spot for me: I love variety and could never winnow down my stash to, say, 10, but I also want to feel like I'm wearing everything on my shelf semi-regularly. (Interestingly, it seems that 40 has always been my sweet spot: almost five years ago, I wrote that I owned 49 lipsticks but planned to get rid of about 10.)

And just for fun, I'll post a few of my non-beauty resolutions:

1. Read at least two books for pleasure per month.

This was a 2018 resolution as well, and though I stopped keeping track of the books I read, I'm fairly sure I averaged about two a month. (Several of them were very long, so they took me a while.) I didn't do much pleasure reading while writing my dissertation, and though I defended over a year ago, it's taken me some time to convince myself that reading doesn't have to be serious, stressful work. (Seriously, guys, don't do a PhD in English because you "love literature.")

Here's the big problem for me: I don't encounter many books that I enjoy enough to finish. I see people on Instagram who read more than a dozen books a month, and I always wonder whether they simply have more tolerance for writerly quirks and tics than I do. In high school and college, I made myself finish books I wasn't enjoying. I stopped doing that in grad school, because I felt that I no longer had anything to prove, and because I had to force myself through thousands of pages of unenjoyable reading for my courses and research. But now I've progressed to the other extreme: if I don't like a book after two chapters or so, I'll abandon it. And there are so many things that can turn me off a book: self-consciously literary prose, bad copyediting, sloppy plotting, unsympathetic characters, or just a general feeling that the author is probably a pretentious asshole. I think I'd finish more books if I were a nicer, more positive person who always assumed the best of others. If you're one of those amazing people who finish most of the books they start, let me know how you do it.

All that said, here are five books I read for the first time in 2018 and truly enjoyed (yes, I read a lot about the AIDS crisis; that's a topic for another post, maybe):

  • Alysia Abbott, Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father
  • David France, How to Survive a Plague
  • Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties
  • Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On
  • Jeff VanderMeer, Borne

2. Get a short story published.

Last year I resolved to finish a short story and submit it for publication, which I did! It was rejected by two SF/F magazines, but the main thing was to get my work out there, and I'm proud that I managed to do that. This year, I want to try harder to get published, which means actually finishing more fiction, which is hard to do because of my aforementioned ridiculously high standards for writing, which I apply to my own work as well. If you have any tips for getting over paralyzing self-doubt, hit me up.

3. Do more embroidery.

I've been embroidering on and off for most of my life, but I took it up seriously last year, and it was one of the best things I did for my mental health in 2018. Here's the piece I gave my friend Lucy for Christmas, based on a weird 17th-century engraving of Prince Rupert's dog Boy, who was rumored to have occult powers:

However, I go through periods of paralyzing self-doubt with this hobby, too. I'll start a project multiple times, then put it aside, convinced I can't do justice to the image in my head. I can occasionally stick with something long enough to complete it, but not before fighting off impulse after impulse to toss it aside because it looks like shit (because, duh, it's not finished yet). Isn't it weird how you can observe your own brain doing irrational and self-destructive things, yet you can't make it stop without tremendous effort, and sometimes not even then? In case you're wondering, yes, I do in fact have clinically diagnosed anxiety! Anyway, if you want to see my infrequent embroidery updates, follow me on Instagram @glumdalstitch.

I'm also giving up added sugars for the second half of January; it's been less than two days and I already have a withdrawal headache. Wish me luck, and best of luck with your own resolutions for 2019!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

My Most Disappointing Beauty Products of 2018

It's time for my second year-end roundup post: the ten worst beauty products I encountered in 2018! As in my previous post, I've listed all these products in the order in which I bought them.

1. Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser (reviewed here)

I loved the squishy texture and light almond-rose scent of Milky Jelly, but I'm almost positive this cleanser was responsible for my worst breakout of 2018. I eventually repurposed it as shaving gel, though, so it wasn't a total loss. I wish Glossier would release the Milky Jelly scent as its second perfume!

2. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint in Fair

I've worn makeup for most of my adult life, but the Perfecting Skin Tint was the first base product (other than concealer) I'd ever tried. It's just a matter of personal taste: I like seeing my skin even when I'm wearing a bold eye or lip, and I can't stand the thought of a layer of makeup sinking into every pore on my face as the day wears on. So I was intrigued by Glossier's description of the Skin Tint as an "imperceptible wash of color" that won't "hide your freckles [or] spackle your pores." Since my skin leans dry and the Skin Tint isn't a tinted moisturizer, I was aware that this might not be my ideal base product, but I was willing to give it a chance.

Immediately after application, the Skin Tint did exactly what it promised: gave my face a soft-focus filtered effect that didn't look unnatural. I was suffering a particularly bad breakout at the time (thanks to Milky Jelly), and the Skin Tint did almost nothing to disguise my spots or my usual undereye circles: I'm wearing concealer in the photo below. However, it did seem to even out my skin overall.

Unfortunately, this effect didn't last long. Within a few hours, I was noticing fine lines that had been completely unknown to me before I applied Skin Tint. Thanks, Glossier! I think this would be a great product for people with skin less dry than mine, but it just didn't work for me. Luckily, my friend Lucy adores Skin Tint, so I was able to unload my bottle on her.

3. Maybelline Color Sensational Matte Metallics Lipstick in Gunmetal (swatched and briefly reviewed here)

This is perhaps the first lipstick I could justifiably describe as looking "chunky" on my lips. Let's hope it's also the last.

4. Glossier Lidstar in Moon (reviewed here)

Moon is on the right.

There's a lot of Glossier on both my best-of-2018 and worst-of-2018 lists because, well, I had a lot of Glossier store credit in 2018. I like the Lidstar formula in general (and even put Slip on my best-of list), but Moon just didn't work for me. It was too sheer, it clumped up in my eyelid creases, and I couldn't get a smooth-looking application even with the thinnest layer. I should mention, though, that I gave away Moon before I figured out the trick of blending the Lidstars with a synthetic brush, so it could be that Moon would have performed better with that method.

5. ColourPop Face Duo in Winging It (reviewed here)

The lavender blush and highlighter in this duo are actually pretty good. I wish the blush were less pigmented and more finely milled, but I can still wear it with no problem, and the highlighter is all-around great. The real issue with this product is the packaging. The duo is housed in a homely black-and-white cardboard compact that became grimy in about ten seconds. Most ColourPop packaging is very good for the price, so I'm baffled that the spring 2018 face duos were pricier than most CP products and significantly uglier and less functional. It almost seems like there was a manufacturing error and they couldn't produce the real compacts on time, so they thought "whatever, let's just use the factory prototypes." The sticker that I've placed on the lid is an accurate expression of my feelings:

6. e.l.f. Lip Exfoliator (couldn't find a good photo, sorry!)

This didn't perform terribly, but the scent was absolutely nauseating: an overpowering soapy fake vanilla. I also went through the tube in about ten uses, which made me understand why it showed up so frequently in r/panporn. It seems wasteful to buy an exfoliator in a plastic tube when a scrub of oil and fine sugar works just as well, if not better.

7. Cirque Colors Nail Polish in Hustle

The shade on the right is Pebble, which I recommend highly.

Chartreuse is one of my favorite colors (second only to magenta), so I was thrilled to discover that one of my favorite nail polish brands, Cirque Colors, offered a true chartreuse shade. But, since yellow polishes often have formula issues, I wasn't shocked when Hustle turned out to be short of perfect. It's a bit streaky (though it looks fine after three coats), but the real problem is its longevity: it starts chipping within a day.

8. ColourPop Pressed Powder Shadow in Deja Boo

It may be that chartreuse beauty products perform badly across the board and I'll have to limit my chartreuse abuse to clothes, because this eyeshadow is very sheer and patchy. I can get it to show up if I pack on multiple layers with my finger, but it's never totally opaque:

(Side note: there's definitely a k-pop fan on the ColourPop team. "Déjà Boo" is a song by the late Jonghyun of boy group SHINee, who died a few months before the eyeshadow was released. And among the new Velvet Blur lipsticks, there are two arguably k-pop-related names: Fake Love, a hit song by BTS last year, and K Bop, which could be a reference to EXO's 2017 song "Ko Ko Bop," or just to k-pop in general.)

9. CeraVe PM Moisturizer (new formula)

Old formula on the left, new formula on the right.

Yes, you read that right. L'Oreal acquired CeraVe in 2017 and reformulated its iconic products, including the moisturizer I've been using for several years. The reformulation must have been fairly recent, since I didn't become aware of it until I bought a new bottle of CeraVe PM around Thanksgiving. At first I thought I must have gotten a bad batch: the moisturizer had lost its translucent jelly look and become opaque white, and it felt greasier on my face. But no, this is just what it's like now, apparently. I'm still using the new bottle and it's not bad (thank God L'Oreal didn't add fragrance), but there's an uncanny-valley feeling about it now: the bottle looks exactly the same as before, but the contents are different. It's as if I woke up one morning to discover that my boyfriend of almost a decade had been replaced by a nearly identical replicant.

10. Glossier Generation G Lipsticks in Jam and Zip (new formula; reviewed here)

Everyone complained for two years about the Generation G packaging, so Glossier revamped it to be sturdier and prettier. Approximately three people complained about the formula, so Glossier revamped it to be drier and more heavily scented. Isn't it nice when beauty brands listen to their customers?

Seriously, I have no idea why Glossier felt the need to reformulate the Gen Gs. The new formula is SO FUCKING DRY. Granted, I have dry lips in general, but there are dozens of lipstick formulas that I can wear without issue, including the first two iterations of Gen G. The new Gen G formula is so dry that there are unblended clumps of pigment throughout the bullets! I sincerely hope the Instagram friend to whom I sent Jam and Zip enjoys them more than I did, because they were the most disappointing products of 2018 for me.

In my next post, I'll discuss my beauty resolutions and plans for the blog this year! And a small housekeeping note: For about a month now, Blogger hasn't let me reply to comments on my blog, so please forgive me if your comments go unanswered. (For the record, ditching Blogger is my biggest plan for my blog in 2019.)