Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Protect Me From What I Want: Lipstick and Non-Lipstick Wishlists, Fall 2015

(Apologies to Jenny Holzer, of course.)

The stress of the job market has me feeling extra-acquisitive, as witness my latest impulse purchases:

L-R: KBShimmer Open Toad Shoes, Zoya Fei Fei, Essie Leggy Legend, Milani Matte Fearless.

But that's not enough, oh no. I want still more, because when I'm trying to relax I tend to immerse myself in the online beautysphere, and I have the bad habit of using Google to hunt down my Platonic ideals of color, formula, and finish. In a perfect world, I'd spend that time experimenting with new techniques using the products I already have, but this is far from a perfect world. I'm hoping that writing out my wishlist in a blog post will be just as cathartic as actually buying the stuff. If not, well, I just got my September paycheck.


1. Pinkish-red satin

This is one of those dangerous Platonic ideals. I've spent a lot of time putting off my actual responsibilities by scouring the Internet for the epitome of cherry-red gorgeousness. Basically, I want a non-matte lipstick redder than Revlon Cherries in the Snow but pinker than Maybelline On Fire Red, which looks like this on me:

The most promising candidate I've found is Bésame American Beauty, a reproduction of a shade from 1945. It looks very pink in this photo, but redder in the swatches I've seen online. My only reservation is that I've never tried the Bésame formula and I don't think Sephora sells Bésame in its physical stores, just online. And I really don't like ordering makeup blind, no matter how many rave reviews it's received. Thoughts?

Of course, there are a few other candidates. Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in 69 comes in a formula I know I like, though I do wonder whether the flat, wide bullet will make it hard to apply such a bold color precisely. And I don't want to be in the unfortunate situation of answering "Ooh, what lipstick is that?" with "Oh, yeah, it's called 69." Especially if it's my mom asking the question.

My third candidate is Bite Luminous Creme lipstick in Pomegranate, though my one Bite lipstick (a custom purple in the "matte," i.e. totally non-matte, formula) fades very quickly and sinks into my lip lines. Pomegranate also comes in the High Pigment Pencil formula, which seems longer-lasting, but that version of Pomegranate looks darker.

Finally, there's NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Luxembourg. When the Satin Lip Pencils came out two and a half years ago (!), Luxembourg was the first one that caught my eye. I just don't like having to sharpen my lip products, though. It makes me grumpy and resentful to waste so much product.

Any others you'd recommend?

2. Topshop Boardroom

Browsing Topshop's lip offerings the other day, I came upon this intriguing purple-gray-brown color in Topshop's "matte" (i.e. satin) formula. I wish this color came in the Matte Lip Bullet formula, because I wasn't impressed with the lasting power of Rio Rio, but at least a neutral color will look less gruesome as it fades.

I think I'm so attracted to Boardroom (which I'd never wear in an actual boardroom, ironically) because I have a hunch that it's the lipstick version of one of my favorite fall/winter nail polishes, Zoya Normani:

3. NARS 413 BLKR

Deep warm rosy plummy brown. Can you tell I'm going through a brown-lips phase this fall? Never mind that the NARS semi-matte formula has dried out my lips in the past; my stress-induced delusion assures me that this lipstick won't fail me. Help me help myself, guys.


I know far more about lipstick than I do about any other beauty product, so I'd welcome suggestions on all of these!

1. Black liquid eyeliner

After several years of struggling to create a decent cat eye with Maybelline Line Stiletto, I've come to the conclusion that my clumsiness is less to blame than the watery, smeary, flaky Maybelline formula. Of course, there's also my extra eyelid fold, which prevents any uptilted wing from getting longer than a millimeter or two:

But I still think my cat-eye game could be vastly improved with a better liner. The one I'm leaning toward is Kat Von D's Tattoo Liner, recommended to me by an Instagrammer with impeccable cat eyes. Part of me wants to patronize a brand owned by someone who's slightly less of an asshole, but another part of me concedes that there are assholes and asshole behaviors at every level of capitalism.

2. Yoga mat

Not a beauty product, but there's some overlap between exercise and beauty, so whatever. I've been using a cheap-ass mat from Target for almost two years, and it's actually starting to disintegrate: after my last practice, my entire body was covered with little bits of plastic. I want a mat that doesn't do this. I hope that's not too much to ask.

3. Lightweight facial sunscreen

My current sunscreen, Eucerin's SPF 30 moisturizer, works when the outdoor temperature is below 70° and the humidity is below 70%, i.e. pretty much never. At all other times, I sweat it off minutes after stepping outside. It never quite absorbs into my skin, and it almost seems to be making me sweat more (granted, I'm a sweaty person in general). I need something lighter and longer-lasting, for sure. Thoughts? I'm not even going to insist on cruelty-free brands here, I'm so desperate. I've heard good things about Shiseido's Urban Environment sunscreen, but it's a little pricey.

4. Fancy bath stuff

After two years of scrubbing myself in a shower stall so tiny I could barely move my arms, I'm living in an apartment with a bathtub, and I'd like to start turning my bathwater glittery magenta as soon as possible kthx. My favorite Lush bath bombs, Spacegirl and Phoenix Rising, have been discontinued, but how cute is the new Sparkly Pumpkin bath melt? I can't believe Lush missed the opportunity to make it smell like pumpkin, though. A pumpkin-shaped, citrus-scented bath melt is a recipe for cognitive dissonance.

I also want to try Haus of Gloi's butterbombs (unlike Lush, HoG has come through for me with a pumpkin-scented one!), but they're sold out right now.

And this isn't even counting the less interesting things I actually need, like a black blazer, a pair of blue jeans, and two bras. I keep putting off those purchases and focusing on makeup and skincare instead, because clothes are expensive and lipstick has never made me cry in a dressing room, you know? Lipstick is so nice that way.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Unholy Grails

"Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left!"

If you frequent the company of middle-aged male professors who specialize in Renaissance history or literature, chances are good you'll hear a lot of Monty Python references. A few years ago, after too much time spent laughing politely at allusions that went over my head, I got around to watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I found it mildly amusing but not uproariously funny (except for the Black Knight scene, above), so maybe you need to have been a teenage British boy in the 1970s to truly understand its hilarity.

This is a very roundabout way of introducing something I've been pondering: the concept of beauty "holy grails." In recent procrastinatory moments, I've been searching for better versions of a few things I already own: a cherry-red lipstick, a black liquid liner, a lightweight facial sunscreen, and a yoga mat. I began this post intending to ask your opinion on some candidates I've found online (and I'll get there in my next post, don't worry), but right now I'm more interested in how and why we talk about holy-grail products. I don't mean to suggest it isn't natural to look for the best possible version of everything we buy, because of course it is. Who doesn't go to Sephora with platonic ideals of The Fuchsia Lipstick and The Emerald Eyeliner floating somewhere in her consciousness? My problem is with the assumption that the holy-grail idea comes entirely from a place of virtuous minimalism. The desire for minimalism is part of it, but it's not the whole story.

It's easy to believe that once you find the perfect matte lipstick formula or the perfect moisturizer, you'll never need to look for another one. You'll live a streamlined, downsized, KonMari-approved life, take just five minutes to put on your makeup each morning, achieve a healthy work-life balance, and stop dipping candy corn in peanut butter whenever you're stressed (or maybe that's just me). But whenever I've set out to find the perfect X or Y, I've ended up buying a series of products that disappointed me. They disappointed me not because they were necessarily bad, but because I put the pressure of perfection on them. The products that have achieved holy-grail status for meTopshop Get Me Bodied, for example—were almost inevitably not the results of a grail quest. They were chance discoveries, impulse buys, happy accidents. Nor has my appreciation of these products eliminated my desire for more of the same: I've bought at least four other plum lipsticks since I wrote my review of Get Me Bodied.

Some of my HG colors and formulas. Clockwise from top left: Zoya Neve, Topshop Matte Lip Bullets in Plastique and Get Me Bodied, Zoya Normani, Illamasqua Zygomatic, NARS Lhasa, NARS Mata Hari.

The ideal of the holy grail fosters consumerism as much as it fosters minimalism. If you're determined to get your hands on ~*~the best~*~ peach blush, you'll probably go through quite a few inferior peach blushes in the process. Inferior to what? Well, to the Platonic peach blush in your head. One of the blushes you try will be too yellow; another will be too pink. One will fade too quickly; another will be too pigmented, or too shimmery, or too coarsely milled. Instead of focusing on the virtues of the products you've already bought, you'll find yourself focusing on their shortcomings in order to justify the purchase of yet another peach blush. And you'll lose quite a bit of time and money in the process, even if you don't lose any limbs.

Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing what you want and looking for products that match your criteria. If a sunscreen makes me break out, I won't force myself to keep using it. If a warm-toned red lipstick doesn't suit me, I'll exchange it for a cooler-toned one. I just wish that the beauty blogosphere would stop fetishizing HG products (and that YouTubers would stop announcing a different, inevitably sponsored, "holy grail" every week). Not everything has to be an HG to be functional and delightful. As proof of which, here are some products that are flawed but still bring me joy—unholy grails, let's call them:

Tony Moly Milky Violet is less pigmented than I'd like, the plum half of NARS Habanera is a bit patchy, and NARS Angela is as drying as every other opaque NARS lipstick I've tried (that is: very). But I still use all of them semi-regularly and don't feel compelled to search for a superior lavender blush or magenta lipstick, at least not now. (I've bought a few more plum eyeshadows, but only because I really like plum, guys.) Amid the stress of this semester, I'm trying to appreciate what I have, even if it could be better. Everything could be better. Except, perhaps, the vanilla ice cream I made last week with my new ice cream maker and this recipe:

Holy grail achieved.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Stress-Fueled Impulse Purchase #2: Milani Matte Fearless

Prior to this year, I felt ambivalent about Milani. It was the only cruelty-free brand with a decent selection in my local CVS (no NYX or Wet n Wild for this backwater), but its offerings included malodorous, drying lipstick, sticky lip gloss, liquid lipstick that refused to set, coarsely milled eyeshadow, and too-shimmery baked blush. 2015 has changed all that. I don't know what changes took place behind the scenes at Milani HQ, but my purchases in the past year have turned me into, if not an ardent fangirl, at least someone who appreciates the brand's presence in the beauty aisle. Matte Naked lipstick and Coral Cove blush are two of my favorite beauty buys of 2015, and Milani's clear eyebrow gel has become a daily staple despite its too-large applicator. The matte liquid lipstick I reviewed a few weeks ago was a letdown, but I'd recommend it for anyone who likes that sort of thing; it just turns out that I don't.

So I had high hopes for my latest Milani purchase, one of this fall's new additions to the matte-lipstick line launched early this year. Matte Fearless is a very dark purple that looks fearsome in the tube:

Colors like this, especially in matte or semi-matte formulas, have been everywhere in the last few years. NARS has Liv (swatched here) and Train Bleu; MAC has Instigator (swatched here) and Smoked Purple; YSL has its Glossy Stain in Violet Edition; & Other Stories has Droguet Purple, which I bought at exactly this time last year. But it's rare that a deep, gothy purple makes it to the drugstore: the only comparable drugstore lipsticks I can think of are Wet n Wild Vamp It Up and NYX Simply Vamp Lip Creme in Temptress. Since I hate the packaging of the Wet n Wild Megalast lipsticks and the formula of the NYX Simply Vamps, I'm glad I ended up with Matte Fearless.

MF has the same chunky gold packaging (not my favorite, but I don't hate it) and vanilla scent of the other lipsticks in the matte line:

Swatched on my arm—you can see that it suffers from the slight patchiness of most lipsticks in this color family, no matter their price points:

Swatched between MAC Eugenie (right) and & Other Stories Droguet Purple:

Eugenie looks similar to Matte Fearless in the tube, but it's much brighter and redder. Matte Fearless is browner and darker than Droguet Purple: goth plum as opposed to goth violet. Ah, these fine distinctions we make to justify our hoarding.

Out of curiosity, I swatched Droguet Purple and Matte Fearless side by side on my lips; that's DP on your left and MF on your right. I was glad to discover that the color difference held up here too. Droguet Purple is a brighter, bluer, clearer purple, while Matte Fearless is a smokier, more subdued color.

Matte Fearless by itself on my lips, which have been rather dry this past week; I'm blaming the powerful a/c unit in my bedroom and my failure to apply lip balm every single night before bed. Despite the dryness, I think Matte Fearless looks pretty damn even, especially for a dark purple.

As with Droguet Purple, I've had a hard time figuring out how to wear a lipstick this dark. I should also warn you that the photos in which I got the best lighting and the most accurate colors were the ones in which I was making the most insipidly coy expressions. Isn't that always the way? For my first attempt, I used a matte gray eyeshadow from my new theBalm palette and layered the mint green from NARS Habanera on the center of my lids. I think my blush was Illamasqua Zygomatic.

I wore this out of the house but felt a little awkward about it, especially as it was the day when everyone flooded back into town for the new semester and I ran into a couple of people I hadn't seen in a while. By this point, though, everyone in my department has seen me wearing weird lipstick at least a few times. It's part of my persona, for better or worse. I wore Matte Fearless for a few hours with no touch-ups, and it felt comfortable, thought slightly drier than Matte Naked. I'm afraid I can't speak to longevity, since drafting job materials makes me bite my lower lip nervously, which is death to any lipstick. At least my eyeshadow looked nice.

My second attempt was for my own eyes, and yours, alone. I came back this afternoon from a meeting with my advisor, at which I'd been wearing toned-down makeup: bronze and brown eyeshadow, a bit of ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter, and Urban Decay Rapture lipstick. To make my face more hospitable to Matte Fearless, I added more highlighter and darkened my eyeshadow for a slightly Jazz Age effect. By this point the sun was low enough in the sky that I got very few color-accurate photos, of which this, alas, was the best one:

I look like I'm on my way to a My Chemical Romance concert in 2007. Whatever, I can't keep putting off this post in hopes of getting a perfect photo. This will have to do for now.

Overall, Matte Fearless is fine. Not as stellar as Matte Naked, but a perfectly decent drugstore vamp; hell, a perfectly decent vamp for any price point. I'd like to thank casual weekend black magic for coining the term "Gothademic" on Instagram; it's the aesthetic I'm pursuing as summer shades too slowly into fall and freedom shades too quickly into responsibility.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Stress-Fueled Impulse Purchase #1: Essie Leggy Legend

Guys, I miss beauty blogging. I miss it so much that in the week since I announced my semi-hiatus, I've worked on four different draft posts. I'll open an empty post, add a title, write a few sentences just to give myself the feeling of blogging, then save the post to my draft folder and go about my business. Pretty sad, I know.

I've noticed that in the last year or so, I've fallen into the trap of believing that my posts have to be a certain length, and that if they don't contain introspection, digression, and meta-wank, they're unworthy of a place on my blog. Well, screw that. Sometimes I just want to write a few words about something pretty, and sometimes a few words are all I have time for. I'd rather pop in now and then with a brief post than go a month between elaborate, long-winded essays. Digression is one of my worst writing habits, anyway: it's not something I should indulge regularly, even if a blog is more digressive by nature than a dissertation abstract for the academic job market (seriously, kill me). So let's see how this dashed-off, short-winded thing goes. I've finished most of my tasks for today, and now I want to introduce you to a gorgeous nail polish I ordered from Nordstrom in a particularly dark moment last week: Essie Leggy Legend.

Note to self: never order a single nail polish from Nordstrom again, because it will come in a gargantuan cardboard box packed with sheet upon sheet of paper, making you feel terrible about your environment-wrecking consumption habits. Look at this atrocity:

Leggy Legend is the namesake of Essie's Fall 2015 collection, created in collaboration with Rebecca Minkoff. The collection, with names like "Bell-Bottom Blues" and "With the Band," is meant to evoke the "iconic rock 'n' roll royalty" of the '70s. To me, though, Leggy Legend looks more 1670s than 1970s. If nail polish had existed in Restoration England, this is the shade Nell Gwynne would have worn.

The color shifts depending on the light, but I feel safe describing it as a dark orange-brown copper with tiny red flecks: very Baroque-courtesan chic, and very autumnal. Looking at it on my nails, I can almost forget that it was over 90° yesterday.

It's metallic, but it goes on smoothly without visible brushstrokes, and it's fully opaque in two coats. I do wish it dried more quickly and wore slightly longer—I've been wearing it for two days now, and have started to notice some minor tipwear—but I'm willing to put up with a lot for the sake of this color. Here it is on my nails in artificial light, and yes, that's one of Andrew Marvell's political satires from the 1660s in the background. No wonder I have royal mistresses on the brain.

In natural (slightly cloudy) light:

And a closeup to show the tiny red flecks:

Leggy Legend's only real drawback is that its beauty often distracts me from typing my job materials. Not bad for a stress-fueled impulse purchase.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Hiatus of a Kind

It's fair to say that shit just got real. In the last few days, I've been coming to terms with everything I need to do this semester (primarily applying for academic jobs, but also teaching and dissertating), and I'm not sure how much time I'll be able to spend on this blog in the near futureI don't want to declare myself on hiatus, but I also know that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, and I'd like to have as few distractions as possible. I'm writing this in a post not because I think you'll die of worry if I don't blog every few days, but because I want to blog every few days and I can't afford to do so right now, and putting that fact in writing will hold me accountable to it. At least, I hope so.

Anyway, this is just to say that I'll be posting less frequently, and at less self-indulgent length, for the next few months. Wish me luck on the job market! I've been working toward this since I graduated college in 2009, and now it's here and real and, honestly, kind of terrifying.

I leave you with the color scheme I want to adopt this season, courtesy of some hippie knockoff M&Ms in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. Sage green, rust, dusty gray-blue, deep plum, lavender, and mustard yellow: an odd palette for candy, but a perfect one for autumn.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Now for a Crush Worth Crushing On: Revlon Balm Stain in...You Guessed It

What were the odds that I'd review two lipsticks named "Crush" in three days? Pretty good, actually, since drugstore beauty brands love to name their lip products "Crush." There doesn't seem to be any color theme linking them together, either. Milani's Amore Matte Lip Creme in Crush is dark brown; Maybelline's Coral Crush lipstick is, well, coral; Rimmel's Crush lipstick is a peachy nude; and my most recent beauty purchase, Revlon's ColorBurst Balm Stain in Crush, is a vivid magenta plum. I swear each brand has a hat full of names evoking positive and vaguely romantic/sexual emotions—"crush," "flirt," "kiss," "embrace," "tease"—and a bored-to-hell intern assigns each new product one of those names at random, then goes back to posting on Kik or whatever the kiddos use in 2015. We're a long way from NARS' Goodbye Emmanuelle lipstick.

Whatever induced me to buy this particular Crush last week, it wasn't personal experience. I'd tried two Revlon Balm Stains previously: lavender Darling, which was almost invisible on my pigmented lips, and fuchsia Smitten, which I found horribly drying. I'll be honest: the primary reason for my purchase was a $3 CVS coupon for Revlon. But the secondary reason was legitimate: I'm heading into a semester in which I might not be able to touch up my lipstick every hour (that is, a semester with actual responsibilities). I've always valued comfort over longevity in my lipsticks, but recently I've found myself gravitating toward formulas that promise longer wear. I don't expect my lipstick to look pristine for an entire day, but I do like to feel confident that it hasn't smeared onto my chin or faded into the Ring of Doom on the outer edges of my lips.

Oh, and there was a third reason. Nearly two years of k-pop fandom have brainwashed me into wanting a lip tint for the gradient look, as seen here on one of my favorite k-pop ladies, Hani of EXID:

On a recent visit to San Francisco's Japantown, I was stunned to find three new Asian beauty stores: Tony Moly, The Face Shop, and a third shop that sold both Korean and Japanese brands. I came very close to buying a Peripera lip tint at the third place, but I couldn't find a salesperson to ring me up, and so they lost the sale. I think I'll wear Crush more often than the bright pink tint I almost bought, anyway.

You know the drill, but I'll go through it anyway: the Revlon Balm Stains, like the Matte and Lacquer Balms, are housed in chubby twist-up tubes that match the color of their contents. I know that some people find the crayon format childish, but I quite like it. I don't have the steadiest hands or the most patient approach to lipstick application, and I welcome any product that caters to these weaknesses. All of Revlon's crayon balms ("balms," rather) are mint-scented, but Crush smells less strongly of mint than the matte and lacquer balms I've tried. It applies very smoothly and evenly, with a lightweight, almost waxy feel; the shine lingers for a couple of hours (less, if you happen to eat during that time), and the stain for a couple more.

Beauty bloggers can't seem to agree on Crush's exact color. I've seen Crush described variously as "deep, berry wine," "pinky-red...cranberry or burgundy," "darkish purple-y pink," and "deep berry red." To my eye, Crush is nowhere near red. It looks like a dark purplish plum in the tube and a brighter pinkish plum, almost magenta, on my lips. I have lipsticks in many different shades of fuchsia, purple, and plum, but I swear they all seem to verge on magenta when I wear them. Luckily I like magenta.

There is a fine shimmer visible in the tube and in arm swatches, but it completely vanishes on the lips, so the sparkle-averse need not avoid Crush. I don't know why Revlon bothered adding shimmer to some of the balm stains if they look identical to their shimmer-free siblings when worn.

Left, one pass; right, two passes. I wanted to make the arm swatches wider than usual so you could see the tiny sparkles and the difference in color opacity, but they just look sloppy. Oh, well.

Now for lip swatches! One layer, freshly applied:

Two layers:

Two layers three hours later, after salad and iced coffee:

Six hours later; by this point, I'd had some water and used a clear lip balm.

As you can see from the last two photos, Crush is a bit drying. All stains are, though; it's just their nature. The nice thing about the Revlon stains (as opposed to, say, matte liquid lipsticks) is that you can apply some clear lip balm over the stain after the shine has worn off. And despite being drying, Crush doesn't emphasize my vertical lip lines or cling to dry spots. The color does shift to a brighter pink as it fades, but I don't think the change is as dramatic as some have claimed.

Here's Crush with no other makeup except concealer; I love how this shade of pinkish plum brightens up my face. By the way, my skin has been a lot better recently. After reading Monika's recent skincare post, I've begun double cleansing at night, and I think it's made a difference! (The light in my new apartment is also better, I'll admit.)

And here's Crush with two shades from the custom palette I made at theBalm's San Francisco store (review to come!). I'm also wearing ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter.

This is more color than I usually wear on my face at one time, but I just couldn't wait to try that duochrome blue/purple.

I also tried out a gradient lip with Crush, but couldn't get it quite right. I need practice!

In other news, I've been feeling so acquisitive recently. I've bought four lipsticks, two nail polishes, and an eyeshadow palette in just the last five weeks, and I still want MAC Antique Velvet and Essie Leggy Legend. I need to reread Liz's excellent post about her no-buy, or just gaze meditatively at this Jenny Holzer installation piece:


Friday, August 28, 2015

Brown Is Back, Bitches: Milani Amore Matte Lip Creme in Crush

If you distilled all of 2015's lip-color trends into a single product, you'd come up with Milani Amore Matte Lip Creme in Crush.

Crush ticks all the boxes: it's a dark brown (check) liquid lipstick (check) that dries to a flat matte finish (check). Interestingly, it's also a marriage of high-end and low-end trends. Matte liquid lipsticks have been everywhere in the last couple of years, but the brands popularizing them have been largely indie or drugstore brands: NYX, Lime Crime, ColourPop, Kat Von D, Jeffree Star, LA Splash, and now Milani. Kat Von D is the obvious outlier in that listher Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks go for $19 at Sephorabut as befits a former tattoo artist, she pays more attention to street style and Instagram than to runways. The trend is trickling upward, though: MAC is releasing its own line of Retro Matte Liquid Lipsticks this fall, and who knows what other brands will launch their boats on the liquid matte river?

I'm not sure how I feel about the super-matte look. I love matte lipstick, as any reader of this blog is well aware. But there's a difference between the look of conventional matte lipstick, which usually has a hint of shine to give it depth, and the powdery look of liquid mattes. The flatter the finish of a lipstick, the more saturated the color appears. This is fine if your base makeup is also super-matte, but I never wear foundation and prefer a dewy look for my skin, so I don't necessarily want a lip color that reflects no light at all. I wonder if this is yet another trend designed to look better in Instagram selfies than in real life.

Brown, on the other hand, has gained a following outside Instagram. Brown lip color has been creeping back into fashion for a few years, softened by sheer formulas or artfully disguised in brick reds and plums. This year, though, it feels no need to hide. Since late 2014, almost every new lipstick range, high- or low-end, has included at least one true brown. NARS Audacious has Deborah; the recent MAC matte collection has Antique Velvet; Chanel's fall collection has Mélancolie [and the Infinite Sadness]; Urban Decay Matte Revolution has 1993, which I swatched out of curiosity at the San Francisco Ulta a few weeks ago:

Top to bottom: Bittersweet, 1993, Rapture.

1993 is a true '90s brown, midtone and warm, but my own tastes run to deeper, vampier browns. Beyoncé's presence at the 2014 Met Gala was overshadowed by her sister's elevator attack on Jay-Z, but her gorgeous makeup deserves to be remembered:

Looking back over press reports from the 2014 gala, I notice an odd reluctance to describe Beyoncé's lipstick as "brown" instead of "aubergine" or "burgundy." Yes, the color has hints of red and plum, but it's brown, people. Nor is it "goth," to quote one source; it's meant to evoke the '20s or '30s, in line with the 2014 Met Gala's Charles James theme. This is the kind of brown lipstick I favor. I don't mind lighter browns if they're a bit sheer, like Revlon Coy; but if I'm going to wear an opaque brown, I want it to be more Beyoncé than Cindy Crawford.

This is not to say that no one wore dark brown lipstick in the '90s: I know that MAC's Film Noir was a popular color back then. My sense is that lighter browns were everyday shades and dark browns like Film Noir were suitable for evening. The very name of the lipstick suggests that the '90s saw the color as slightly other: a retro, not modern, brown. Even after picking up Crush in New York, I toyed with buying Film Noir or Antique Velvet, going so far as to swatch them at the MAC store next to the cable-car turnaround in downtown San Francisco:

L-R: Instigator, Antique Velvet, Film Noir, Heroine, Matte Royal.

But thrift and common sense prevailed: I felt sure I wouldn't wear a dark brown lipstick more than a handful of times, so I contented myself with Crush.

So, a bit about Milani's Amore Matte Lip Cremes. There are eight shades in the limited-edition line: three nude/mauve pinks, one bright red, and three vamps. They're available on Milani's website and at Walgreens and Duane Reade stores; my understanding is that they're not sold anywhere else, though I could be wrong about this. (Update, 10/5: I just saw a display of them at my local CVS, so yes, I was wrong.) Milani charges $8.99 for them, but I paid less than that at Duane Reade: not more than $7, as I recall. Also, on a pedantic note: I heard about these lipsticks back in July, when very few bloggers had reviewed them. The scarcity of written reviews led me into a territory I usually avoid: the dark realm of YouTube vloggers. The first thing I noticed about the video reviews was that almost no one pronounced "Amore Matte" correctly. Milani claims to be "inspired by Milan," and the Italian amore has three syllables. But almost without exception, the YouTube reviewers pronounced the word "a-moor," like the French amour. Come on, people! If a brand has sent you an entire range of lipsticks for free, the least you can do is pronounce the name correctly!

But I digress.

The Amore Matte packaging is sturdy, almost bulky, with Milani's signature gold accents and a stiff doe-foot applicator.

Crush has a thin formula, not watery but not exactly creamy, either. There's a strong, sweet scent that reminds me of a root beer float, of all things. The brown color may have contributed to this impression, but I can't un-smell it now, even if I close my eyes and think of fuchsia. The scent fades quickly after application, and I don't dislike it, but it certainly makes itself known when I open the tube.

Milani describes Crush as a "warm brick brown," which is about right: it's a very dark brown with a bit of red and plum. It's a very close dupe for Antique Velvet, actually, though I think AV is a touch cooler. For comparison's sake, I've swatched my entire collection of brown lipsticks, first in shade, then in direct sunlight. Left to right: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, Milani Crush, NYX Enamored, Revlon Coy.

Crazy for Coffee and Coy fall into the subtle "rosewood" category. Crush is just about as dark as Enamored, but it's much redder. One coat gives me near-total opacity with just a bit of streakiness; I find that I need two coats to make the color look even. This arm swatch is a single pass:

One layer of Crush on my lips—my front-facing camera didn't manage to pick up the slight patchiness, but I promise it's there:

Two layers:

Two layers, different lighting:

As I'm sure you can tell from these photos, I have some difficulty applying Crush (hence my oft-broken rule: no liquid lipsticks, damn it). The color is very dark, the formula dries down to matte in just a minute or two, and the applicator doesn't produce the most precise of lines. I always find myself doing a bit of hasty finger-smoothing to ensure that the color doesn't creep outside my lips and the shape doesn't look wonky as hell; my upper lip is especially challenging because it's so small. For me, the best technique is applying one coat, letting it dry, then brushing on another. If you're used to liquid lipsticks, applying Crush might not be a problem for you, but it certainly is for me.

I'd heard a lot about the longevity of liquid matte lipsticks, so I was eager to put Crush to the test. I wore it to my mom's birthday dinner at the Slanted Doorcan you believe she's lived in San Francisco since 1995 and had never been there until this month? Since I was wearing a vaguely '70s-esque dress on our outing (high neck, flowing sleeves, big floral pattern), I went a bit '70s with my eye makeup, using Maybelline Bad to the Bronze and one of the deep browns (Silly, I believe) in theBalm's Nude 'tude palette. In retrospect, I think I could have done a more colorful eye to complement Crush: plum and green would both look nice with the deep brown.

Like Enamored, this color is challenging for me to wear because it makes me look incredibly pale. I mean, I am pale, and I don't mind being pale, but the pure dark brown can give an ashen cast to my skin if I'm not careful. That said, I put it on today with no other makeup (I'm in the process of moving into a new apartment, so Looks have fallen by the wayside), and I was surprised that it didn't look horrible. Maybe the light was good or something.

At the Slanted Door, Crush stood up to my water and cocktail: there wasn't the slightest trace of lipstick on either glass. After a few bites of food, though, I could tell that the color was coming off. I glanced in the mirror after the appetizer and noticed that quite a lot of the lipstick had disappeared from the center of my mouth. It wasn't pretty, and I was forced to wipe off the rest, which was a task in itself; I feel sorry for the person who had to wash my napkin after that dinner. Crush is also not terribly comfortable to wear. It's not as drying as Enamored, but it's not a lightweight product, either. When I retested it today, I had to take it off after a couple of hours because my lips felt so dry. Dabbing my mouth with a tissue did nothing, and I discovered that Crush really needs to be removed with an oil or balm (I ended up using Palmer's cocoa-butter lip balm).

My verdict: meh. I'm certainly not tempted to buy another liquid-matte lipstick, and I'd return this one if I still had the receipt. My biggest issue with Crush is that it doesn't fade naturally. It seems to come off in chunks, so it needs to be removed before eating—fine, except that the removal process requires as much time as the application process. Another problem with the formula, and with liquid matte formulas in general, is the lack of versatility. A traditional lipstick can be sheered out, used as a blush, blended with other colors, or worked into the lips as a stain. Even a liquid lipstick with a satin finish leaves some room for experimentation. But there's only one way to wear Crush: on its own, on the lips, at full opacity. I usually wear my lipsticks at full opacity anyway, but it's nice to feel like I have some control over the color saturation, and Crush seems to have a mind of its own. Maybe it's just too scientifically advanced for me. Will the AI takeover begin with liquid lipstick? I shudder to think.

By the way, I still want Antique Velvet.