Thursday, September 22, 2016

Some Life Updates

It's that time again: time for eating candy corn and pumpkin spice Oreos, wearing dark lipstick and bronze nail polish, and applying for jobs and postdocs. In most industries, jobs come up year-round, but the process is very different in academia. In my field, English literature, universities advertise positions in mid-September, applications are due throughout the fall, and there's a hiring conference in January in a different city every year. Interviews are held in hotel rooms, which is exactly as weird as it sounds. If you 1) get interviews and 2) impress your interviewers (both tall orders in this difficult job market), you have campus visits in January and February, which means preparing a job talk and getting interviewed further by your prospective colleagues. Postdocs are equally (if not more) competitive, and each one generally requires its own set of materials. It's all very stressful and time-consuming, and it means that I can't promise regular blog posts for the next few months. I know better than to say anything definite, because I've been known to post during a self-declared hiatus or disappear for weeks after promising more frequent posts, but I thought I should give some sort of notice before starting my applications in earnest.

(Like interviews in hotel rooms, pumpkin spice Oreos are exactly as weird as they sound. Not bad-weird, exactly, but best in small quantities. I'm not sure how I'm going to get through this entire box, or semester.)


As those who follow me on Instagram will know, I spent a few days last week at an academic conference in Chicago. It was planned and executed as effectively as academic conferences usually are (in other words, it was a logistical nightmare), but I enjoyed the talks themselves, and I even managed a bit of sightseeing. Why did no one warn me how beautiful the University of Chicago is?




During our lunch break on Saturday, I visited the Oriental Institute, the university's museum of Middle Eastern archaeology. While working for my own university's manuscript library last summer, I archived a series of letters related to the founding of the Oriental Institute, so it was exciting to see the museum in person. Walking into a room dominated by a 16-foot-tall Assyrian man-bull hybrid was something of a sublime experience. The statue stood in the palace compound of King Sargon II in the city of Dur-Sharrukin (modern-day Khorsabad, Iraq), built between 717 and 707 BCE.


This collection of cosmetic containers from Egypt's Middle Kingdom (c. 2000-1000 BCE) was relevant to my interests. According to the plaque, the wooden container in the back row "has separate compartments for several colors of eye paint."


My makeup at the conference wasn't worth blogging about: it's hard to execute an artful look on a dried-out, jetlagged, sleep-deprived face under harsh hotel lighting, and I forgot my eyeshadow primer at home and tried to substitute concealer (protip: it doesn't work). But MAC Eugenie did get some wear:


Before returning to the airport on Sunday, I took the subway into downtown Chicago (something I quickly learned about the city: everything is at least 45 minutes from wherever you currently are)...


...and visited the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, devoted to the decorative arts of the Gilded Age. The museum is housed in a restored mansion from 1883:


The museum is $20 for adults and $10 for students, which was nice for me. Less nice was that I had to pay an extra $5 for the guided tour, even though I literally couldn't escape the tour except by climbing to another floor. I don't know, man: if your museum is so small that everyone inside it can hear the tour guide, then maybe the tour should be free. Just a thought.

That aside, I'm glad I went, if only to see this ridiculous Tiffany lamp made from nautilus shells:


In true Gilded Age fashion, every square inch of the house was carved, gilded, inlaid, tiled, parqueted, embossed, or bejeweled:



What really stood out to me was the bizarre melange of historical and cultural influences (19th-century Chicagoans had no concept of cultural appropriation). This medieval-inspired hanging lamp, engraved around the inner rim with a Bible verse in Gothic font, was one of my favorite pieces:


And then there were examples of pure Victorian decadence, like this immense skylight (the tour guide told us apologetically that it wasn't actually by Tiffany, but "in the Tiffany style"):


I left the Driehaus Museum simultaneously overwhelmed by beauty and convinced that I would have been a hardcore Communist or anarchist had I lived in the 19th century. Rich people, man.

O'Hare was an hour away on the subway, so I didn't have time to see anything else in the city that afternoon (I walked past a Sephora and didn't go in). Luckily I'd planned well and arrived at the airport two hours before my flight, which landed in Newark right on time at 9:30 pm. Then things got weird. I picked up my suitcase, took the little airport monorail to the train station, boarded New Jersey Transit around 10:30, and settled my bags around me—and we never left the station. 30 minutes passed, then an hour. The conductor told us that there was "police activity" in Elizabeth, the next stop on the route. After a few more updates along the lines of "there's only one restroom on this train," "I have no idea when we'll be allowed to move," and "if you have alternative ways of getting home, I suggest using those," I collected my luggage and got off the train. I live about an hour away from the airport, but paying more than I could really afford for a car seemed preferable to spending the night on the train. Luckily I found three other people who were heading my way; we shared the cost of an Uber, and I stumbled into my apartment at 12:45 am.

On the long drive home, I checked my phone and found confused reports of a "suspicious package" at the Elizabeth station. Two homemade bombs had gone off in the area that weekend, one in downtown Manhattan and one on the Jersey Shore, and I assumed that shutting down the Elizabeth station was a necessary but inconvenient precaution. The next morning, though, I read that the backpack found at Elizabeth had contained five pipe bombs probably planted by the same person, who has since been arrested. It was pure good luck that the guy had made some shitty, low-budget bombs that hadn't managed to kill anyone in any of the three locations. I don't want to exaggerate the danger I was in—listen, as a white person in this country, I'm doing fine—but I can't claim that episode wasn't unsettling. 

And that's been my life since I last posted, more or less! Wish me luck with my second year on the job market; I'll need it. And tell me—or don't—that it would be silly to buy ColourPop's new burnt-orange liquid lipstick. I'm still $8 under this month's budget for new makeup, but if I get the lipstick I'll be tempted to order this highlighter too, and I don't want to return to last fall's pattern of stress-induced makeup buying. Hmm.

(Edited to add one final note: I've changed my blog email address to the more descriptive auxiliarybeautyblog [at] gmail. Full disclosure: I created the new email address largely so I could avoid paying the shipping cost on my next ColourPop order, but it will also be nice to have an email address that corresponds more closely with the actual name of my blog. Yes, "auxiliarybeauty" and "auxiliary.beauty" were both taken.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Marc Jacobs Rei of Light and Bonus Super-Fun Class Anxiety

Earlier this year, I attended a department dinner in honor of a visiting speaker.  One professor decided that the best topic on which to engage the graduate students near him was opera. He held forth about the various operas he'd seen recently in New York, and it turned out that quite a few of my classmates also enjoyed opera. I sat there in unaccustomed silence until the professor turned to me: "Do you go?"

"Go?"

"To the opera?"

There was no polite way to say "I barely have enough money for groceries," so I spluttered something about an opera I'd seen years ago on a standing-room ticket. He asked me which opera. I couldn't remember the title. I wanted to disappear.

Ironically, I grew up surrounded by classical music. My father was a classical guitarist who performed almost every day in the Harvard Square subway station for close to a decade. If you passed through that station between 1986 and 1995, there's a good chance you saw him. But when the city of Cambridge abolished rent control, we could no longer afford to live there, and we moved to San Francisco (another irony, given how prohibitively expensive the Bay Area housing market has become). My dad spent a few years playing guitar at Ghirardelli Square before the money dried up and he went back to school. My mother worked as an assistant teacher in public schools. We weren't destitute—I had cute '90s Gap Kids clothes and a sizable Barbie collection and enough to eat—but money was always tight and the flow of income was never steady. Learning to buy nice things for myself without feeling racked by guilt has taken me a long time. During his last visit, my boyfriend couldn't believe that I'd been using a rusty old teakettle for years: "You've been drinking rust!" It had literally never occurred to me to buy a new one, because my old one still boiled water, and that was what I needed it to do.

I'm very privileged in some ways, especially where education is concerned. I graduated from college with less student debt than many millennials, and I'm finishing a PhD from a prestigious university. But growing up with financial instability has left its mark. Academia may promote (or think it promotes) liberal values, but it also attracts a lot of people from wealthy backgrounds, people who are often unaware of their own privilege. In the company of such people I often feel tense and guarded, afraid of committing some gross faux pas every time I open my mouth. This isn't a constant state of existence for me, but certain situations do bring it on—and so, it appears, do certain lipsticks. Enter Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light.


I bought Rei of Light almost a month ago, but I've worn it only a few times. Because I paid $30 for it, more than for any other lipstick I currently own, I feel a bit anxious every time I think about it. Is it really the precise color I wanted? Shouldn't I return it to Sephora if I have any quibbles about it whatsoever? Couldn't I have spent that $30 on something I needed more? Rei of Light has become a pumpkin-spice-colored albatross. Every time I pull it out of my box of lipsticks, some part of my brain says OH YOU THINK YOU'RE FANCY HUH and I cringe. The worst part is that I know designer makeup lines are marketed to people like me, people who can't afford a Marc Jacobs dress or coat but can drop $30 on a high-end lipstick. Which means that my $30 lipstick purchase is itself a marker of the aspirational consumerism that I claim to hate! Gah! Why can't I just enjoy things without overthinking them? I don't know, but I hope reviewing Rei of Light will persuade me that it really does belong to me and I deserve to wear it without guilt.


The Le Marc packaging is simple and elegant: a black-and-silver tube and a shiny black cap with raised silver lettering (a little too conspicuous for my taste) and a magnetic closure. I wish the lipstick bullet were sharper, but the rounded end isn't as hard to work with as Urban Decay's flattened Revolution bullets were. I find myself doing a bit of cleanup with my fingers after application, but it's not a huge problem.


I've now tried two Le Marc Lip Cremes, So Sofia (which I returned) and Rei of Light, and I've found them to have more or less the same formula: thick, extremely pigmented, and opaque in one swipe, with a semi-matte finish that sets to matte after an hour or two. The combination of thick formula and high pigmentation means that although Rei of Light will transfer onto cups and forks, there will still be a lot of color left on your lips after a drink or snack. Today I had an iced coffee and a small salad and my lipstick looked perfect (though I can't guarantee that it would have looked perfect had a burrito been involved). I hate to get all YouTube-guru on you, but THAT PIGMENTATION:


Here I've swatched Rei of Light alongside a neutral red, a red-orange, a brick red, and a warm brown. Check out the difference in opacity!

L-R: NARS Mysterious Red, Topshop Rio Rio, MJ Rei of Light, NYX Alabama, Revlon Fierce.

Of the four other lipsticks above, Rei of Light is closest to NYX Alabama, but Alabama leans noticeably cooler. Like other grungy hybrid shades (Revlon Sultry, NARS 413 BLKR), Rei of Light looks different depending on lighting—appropriate, given its name. Sometimes it looks brick red, sometimes coral, sometimes the rusty orange I want it to be. I think that's part of my ambivalence: 2/3 of the time, it's not the color I bought it for. But it's beautiful 100% of the time, so I think I'll live.

Despite being on the heavy side, Rei of Light is comfortable to wear. I do find, though, that the formula becomes slightly drying after the shine wears off. I had this problem with the NARS Audacious formula too, but so far the Le Marc formula doesn't seem as bad. I'll update this post if I change my mind.

I wore Rei of Light today, but since this nightmarish heat wave has yet to break (the heat index hit 100°F this afternoon), I went light on the rest of my makeup. As always, I'm wearing Glossier Boy Brow in Brown and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla. On my eyes, I've got Maybelline Bad to the Bronze (the only eyeshadow I own that truly stands up to this humidity), Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Demolition, and Revlon Volume + Length mascara. My blush is actually an eyeshadow: ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Shop, a rusty coral that works perfectly on my cheeks. No highlighter: that's my natural, uh, glow.


A better view of Shop—I'm geekily excited to have repurposed it this way, especially because it's not easy to find a rusty orange blush:


Outside on campus; the day was slightly overcast. I promise I'm deluging you with selfies not for vanity's sake (well, not only), but for the sake of capturing Rei of Light's dramatic color shifts.


Finally, an indoor-lighting photo from last month. Here I am wearing a matching Goorin Bros. hat (which I regret not buying, tbh) at the Coit Tower gift shop:


I'm still on the fence about keeping Rei of Light, because of the drying effect when I wear it too long, and because it's not quite my ideal burnt orange. (Neither is Essie Playing Koi, for the record: it's darker and browner than it appears in the bottle.) I suppose this is a lesson in the dangers of hunting for the perfect iteration of a given color. It's mentally exhausting, and it leaves you dissatisfied with excellent products that don't correspond exactly to the image in your head. Maybe that's a manifestation of class anxiety, too: I don't feel justified in spending X amount of money unless the product is flawless in every way, even though I know rationally that nothing is flawless.
 
Playing Koi: not flawless, still pretty.

Does your upbringing influence how you approach and consume makeup? I'm curious about other people's experiences!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

NYX Matte Lipstick in Up the Bass

NYX expanded its matte lipstick line at the beginning of this year, adding some trendier colors to its extensive but mundane collection of reds, pinks, and nudes. The new shade that immediately caught my eye was Up the Bass, a medium purple with a large dose of gray. Because we were heading into spring at that point, I decided to wait and see if I still wanted it in the fall. It turned out that I did (of course I did: it's a purple lipstick), so I picked it up at Ulta last week.


Like other '90s lip colors, this shade of grayish lavender is having a moment right now. I believe its first 2010s iteration was the NARS Audacious lipstick in Dominique, but other brands have since produced variations on the theme. True gray lipsticks are also becoming more popular (MAC Halsey comes to mind), and as someone with cool grayish undertones, I couldn't be happier. Up the Bass is poised exactly midway between gray and purple, making it a flattering color for me, but I have a feeling that people with warmer complexions may find it a bit tricky.

Most people think of brown lipstick when they hear "'90s makeup," but as proof of just how '90s Up the Bass is, here's an old Revlon ad (I'm guessing 1998-ish?) for a matching lipstick and nail polish in a shade called LavenDare:


I found this image on the tumblr Fuck Yeah Nostalgic Beauty Products just a few days after buying Up the Bass: nice coincidence, no? LavenDare has a frost finish, but the two shades are very similar in color. You can still find LavenDare on Amazontwo reviewers, seemingly ignorant of how old the tubes are, mention an "odd odor" and "nasty taste"but if you prefer lipsticks manufactured after the Clinton presidency, Up the Bass will fulfill all your '90s cyborg dreams.

Here's a swatch of Up the Bass on its own. It's not quite opaque in one pass, and it's closer to semi-matte than true matte:


As these comparisons will show, the last thing I needed was another purple lipstick. Well, maybe the second-to-last thing.

L-R: ColourPop Trap, NYX Castle, NYX Up the Bass, Milani Matte Fearless, & Other Stories Droguet Purple, MAC Up the Amp.

Unfortunately, Up the Bass has a less satisfactory formula than my other NYX matte lipstick, brick-red Alabama. I have to apply a couple coats of Up the Bass for full opacity: below, you can see where the color is a bit uneven at the edges of my lips, and this is right after application! The formula is comfortable to wear and even slightly hydrating, but it transfers like crazy after just a sip of water. And it wears off first at the inside of my lips, leaving a pinkish stain, so I have to be vigilant about touching it up throughout the day. If you have a lip liner that would go with Up the Bass, I'd recommend using it.


It's been pretty hot here, so I haven't felt like recreating the smoky purple eye look from the Revlon LavenDare ad (later this fall, I promise!). Instead, here's Up the Bass with NARS Lhasa and both sides of Habanera on my eyes, and Illamasqua Zygomatic on my cheeks:


By the way, I just picked up RealTechniques' starter set of eyeshadow brushes and am relishing being able to use more than one brush to apply multiple eyeshadows. I should have done this ages ago.


Overall, I'm fairly happy with Up the Bass. The formula could be more pigmented and longer-lasting, but the color is retro-cool without looking dated. That said, I bought Urban Decay in Backtalk on the same day, and the difference between a $7 lipstick and a $17 one is very evident. I'll be wearing Backtalk a lot more often than Up the Bass, though, so no harm done.

Because I have such a terrifying backlog of products to review, I'm planning to write shorter posts like this one in an attempt to save a little time and still, you know, actually blog. I'm also continuing the process of testing and destashing lipsticks I haven't worn in a while, so expect another post about that fairly soon. Wish me luck!

P.S. Is it me or should the phrase "up the" stay out of lipstick names? I've mentioned before that my mom once misheard "Up the Amp" as "Up the Ass," and "Up the Bass" is even closer to that orthographically if not phonetically. I almost admire Urban Decay for cutting out the linguistic middleman and naming a shimmery brown lipstick "Backdoor."

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Destashed 15 Lipsticks

...oh, and two eyeshadows, but who cares about those?

I took a lipstick inventory six months ago and got rid of six products. But that didn't come close to eliminating all the lip colors I no longer wore, and I returned from my travels last month with a clearer sense of what I could trust myself to wear and what I could live without. Today being Labor Day, I put aside my academic work to clean the house, including my makeup shelf. For some reason, I found destashing much easier than I had in March, and I ended up with a pile of 15 lipsticks and glosses to toss or give away:


The warmer colors:

L-R: Topshop Wink, Revlon Mischievous, NYX Peach Cobbler, Rimmel Across the Universe, NARS Flamenco, NARS Last Tango, NARS Rikugien, Maybelline Nude Lust.

Swatches, same order:

L-R: Wink, Mischievous, Peach Cobbler, Across the Universe, Flamenco, Last Tango, Rikugien, Nude Lust.

And the cooler colors:
 
L-R: Topshop Plastique, Revlon Raspberry Pie, Maybelline Lilac Flush, NYX Raspberry Tart, Revlon Violet Frenzy, Maybelline Brazen Berry, NARS Angela.



Swatches, same order:

L-R: Plastique, Raspberry Pie, Lilac Flush, Raspberry Tart, Violet Frenzy, Brazen Berry, Angela.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a makeup minimalist, especially not where lipstick is concerned. I like to have variety in my collection. I savor the ritual of choosing a lip color every morning. I think there's a perceptible difference between a matte lipstick in shade X and a satin lipstick in the same shade. And I don't see anything wrong with keeping a lipstick that I wear just a few times a year, provided I enjoy the hell out of those times. (MAC Candy Yum-Yum comes to mind.) But I do have a few dealbreakers:
  • an unflattering color, or one I just don't like wearing anymore
  • tragically ugly packaging (looking at you, Wet n Wild)
  • a shape or consistency that makes application difficult
  • a very drying or very slippery formula 
  • a noticeably patchy or streaky finish
I know myself. More specifically, I know I'm lazy. I'm not going to work extensively with a lipstick. I'm not going to use a lip brush, layer a patchy lipstick over primer or liner, or mix an unflattering color with a better one. I don't ask for much, but I need a lipstick to apply smoothly straight from the tube, look decent on its own, and fade without sucking all the moisture from my lips. Each of these 15 lip colors has failed in at least one category. I tossed the older ones in the trash, but I'm going to see if anyone wants the others; if not, I'll have to throw those away, too. Little by little, I'm conquering my guilt about throwing out makeup (more on that later).

Without further ado, a short blurb about each lipstick and gloss I've destashed, in alphabetical order by brand. I've linked to my own reviews where they exist.

Maybelline Brazen Berry

I actually used up a tube of this lipstick, a bright semi-sheer pinky purple. I even got my mom addicted to it: it's now her daily color, which she layers with Revlon Berry Haute for a more toned-down purple. But after I acquired my second tube (that is, stole it from my mom), I lost interest. There's nothing objectively wrong with this lipstick; it's just brighter, sheerer, and shinier than I prefer these days. I started using it in the summer of 2013, and my tastes have changed since then. I know my mom will be happy to have this back, especially since I haven't used much of it.

Maybelline Lilac Flush:

By contrast, there's a lot wrong with this lipstick. It's a white-based lavender-pink, a color that looks good on very few people and certainly not on me. It's not opaque, but not truly sheer eitherit just looks streaky and weird, and it fades quickly, and I can't wear it when my lips are dry because it catches on the dry bits. Worst of all, it's not the true lavender it appears to be in the tube! Come on. I'm going to offer Lilac Flush to my mom because she likes mixing her lipsticks and might be able to do something with it, but if she doesn't like it, it's going in the trash.

Maybelline Nude Lust

This was an okay nude for me until I found a better one: Bourjois Rouge Edition in Beige Trench, which is pinker and grayer than Nude Lust (and which I still have to review, sorry). I wear nude lipstick so rarely that I can't justify keeping both, and I know that if I want a true concealer nude, I'm going to reach for Beige Trench. Plus, my tube of Nude Lust has gross-looking wax bloom all over it.

NARS Audacious Lipstick in Angela:

Ugh, this breaks my heart. Angela is one of my very favorite lipsticks color-wise and I was so excited when I first bought it, but the Audacious formula dries out my lips really badly. I can't keep a lipstick that necessitates a weeklong recovery period after every wear, so I'm going to take advantage of Nordstrom's generous return policy and see if I can get my money back. I may eventually have to seek out a color dupe of Angela in a more lip-friendly formula, because that bright magenta lights up my complexion and my heart. </3

NARS Cinematic Lipstick in Last Tango (LE):

This was one of the five Cinematic lipsticks in the Guy Bourdin collection for Holiday 2013. Everyone praised the Cinematic formula for being more moisturizing than NARS' other formulas, but that certainly wasn't the case for me. The color is also a bit off: warmer than a MLBB for my complexion, but not warm enough to be a statement lipstick. I've been trying for three years to integrate this lipstick into my regular rotation, but it's just not happening.

NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien (mini):

Yet another NARS lipstick formula that my lips reject. This was one of the Sephora birthday gifts last year (I'm keeping my mini Cruella), and as excited as I was to receive a NARS birthday gift, everything about Rikugien turned out to be a bummer. I hate the frost (why??), the "universal" peachy color that clashes with my undertones, and the fact that NARS' satin formula is mysteriously more drying on me than the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil formula.

NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco:

I bought this ages ago (four and a half years!), used up almost all of it, lost it, bought a replacement, and eventually found my first tube again. If I were being honest with myself, I'd probably get rid of both tubes because I barely wear Flamenco anymore, but I do think there's a place in my collection for a sheer neutral red. Just not two of the same sheer neutral red. I'm keeping the newer one, but the older one is just a nubbin and it can go.

NYX Butter Gloss in Peach Cobbler:

I don't wear lip gloss. I'm not a gloss person, period. Why do I keep trying to convince myself otherwise? Why am I keeping this gloss just in case my tastes change overnight? They won't, and this gloss is two and a half years old anyway.

NYX Butter Gloss in Raspberry Tart:

See above.

Revlon Lip Butter in Raspberry Pie (discontinued)

Every few months I dig this lipstick out, wonder why I've been neglecting such a pretty color, wear it for a few hours, and remember: oh, right, that's why. It's too moist and slippery to be as opaque as it is. I don't mind some transfer from my lipstick, but a color this pigmented needs to last at least a few hours without leaving traces of itself all over the universe.

Revlon Matte Balm in Mischievous (d/c):

Surprise: a stark, white-based pastel orange has a streaky, clumpy formula and looks weird as fuck on my face. Who'd have thought? I put it on a few days ago, just to make sure it deserved destashing, and I couldn't bring myself to wear it out of the house. I even used peachy blush and eyeshadow so that Mischievous would look less awkward on my face, but lol nope:


Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Violet Frenzy: 

Meh. I have so many purple lipsticks that I don't feel the need to keep such a mediocre one. An opaque purple lipstick with silver pearl would look cool, but Violet Frenzy is far from opaque, and it's as slippery as most of its Super Lustrous siblings.

Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer in Across the Universe:

This is one of those old-school liquid lipsticks that don't dry down even a little. Non-matte liquid lipsticks fell rapidly out of favor a few months after I bought Across the Universe, but have since returned as "liquid satin lipsticks." People are hailing the formula as a revolutionary new alternative to liquid matte lipstick, as if it weren't just what liquid lipstick was for decades. In any case, I didn't like liquid satin lipstick before 2015, and I don't like it now. Across the Universe's deep bricky red is flattering on me, but the phrase "on me" implies that I can actually get it onto my face without making a mess, and I can't. When I want a dark autumnal red, I always choose NYX Alabama or NARS 413 BLKR, both bullet lipsticks, over Across the Universe.

Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Plastique:

Not quite as bad as Lilac Flush, but suffers from the same problems: streaky formula, white-based pastel color that makes me look a bit sick. Honestly, though, I'm not sure I'll destash this: I wore it so often in the spring of 2015 that I think there's a chance I'll fall in love with it again.

Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Wink: 

I'm so annoyed at myself for ordering this sight unseen from a website that doesn't allow makeup returns. It's a washed-out sheerish coral with big gold sparkles. I don't know why it exists. Ugh.

And just for fun, those eyeshadows I mentioned earlier: Kiko Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 16 Purple and ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Cowboy. Both of these have been dry, patchy, and generally shitty for their entire existence, and I'm tired of allowing them a place on my shelf.


And here's my lipstick collection now, filling three containers instead of four. The only two lipsticks not shown are NARS Dolce Vita, still MIA after my trip to LA, and two minis: Bite Radish and Kat Von D Mercy.


I now own 50 lipsticks (including liquid lipsticks and lip crayons), 5 glosses, and 2 lip tints, for a grand total of 57 lip colors (60 if you count my lip liners). If you do the math, you'll realize that my lipstick count hasn't budged: I've collected as many lipsticks since March as I destashed today. But at least I'm enforcing a "one in, one out" policy, and eliminating the lipsticks I never wore has made my favorites easier to find. I wasn't running out of physical space, but the extraneous lipsticks were contributing to visual clutter and distracting me from appreciating the others. Nor am I done culling: there are several lipsticks that will be put to the test and possibly destashed in the coming weeks.

I've never read Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but her arguments are so prevalent in the beauty world these days that I feel as if I have. Kondo spent five years as a miko, or Shinto shrine attendant, and her approach to objects is inspired by the animist nature of Shinto. She encourages us to acknowledge the joy that each object has brought us by thanking it as we throw it away. I tried this today, whispering "thank you" to each lipstick and taking a moment to conjure my favorite memory of it. I remembered wearing Raspberry Tart and Peach Cobbler during my dissertation seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library. I remembered wearing Raspberry Pie to the Jefferson Memorial on an impossibly sticky day in the summer of 2012. And sure enough, it became easier and easier to open my hand and drop the lipsticks one by one into the garbage can. (To Cowboy, I whispered "Thanks for nothing.")

I hope to revisit this destashing project soon, but for now I'm pretty satisfied with the progress I've made. Here's to a lipstick collection comprising nothing but the stuff I love!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Low-Buy Progress Report #8: August

A lot of stuff here! Let's get into it:

New Makeup/Polish:



Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light: $30
Studded X mini duo (Kat Von D Studded Kiss + Formula X) in Mercy: $7.50
NYX Velvet Matte Lipstick in Midnight Muse: gift from my mom
NYX Jumbo Pencil in Black Bean: ditto
Total: $37.50

Rei of Light was my big-ticket planned purchase for this month. Having worn it a few times, I'm not sure it's my Platonic rusty orange, as it pulls darker and redder than I thought it would. But I really like it and think I'll wear it a lot this fall, so no harm done. By contrast, the Kat Von D/Formula X duo was a total impulse purchase. After I finished rewriting my third dissertation chapter, I slipped back into the habit of checking all my procrastination sites, including Temptalia. Christine posted about the Sephora end-of-summer sale, and I just couldn't resist the Mercy duo. I wish every lipstick came in a mini version: I don't need a full-sized metallic berry lipstick with pink glitter, but I'm pretty sure I'll use up the sample size (which is actually quite generous: at ~1g, it's almost as large as a Glossier Generation G). I've worn Mercy once now, and it's such a cool witchy color for these liminal summer/autumn days. I've discussed Midnight Muse in detail here. Finally, Black Bean wasn't exactly a gift from my mom so much as an ill-advised purchase that I appropriated for my own use. She bought this as an eyebrow pencil, guys. To her credit, she realized immediately that it wouldn't work, but she never bothered to return it. So Black Bean hung out in the bathroom until I arrived in August and decided I'd try it as a primer for those smoky eye looks I wear so very often...oh, wait. I do plan to use it for that purpose, though! Eventually.

Clockwise from top: Midnight Muse, Mercy, Rei of Light.

New Skincare:


Pure Smile royal jelly sheet mask: $3
Sephora rose sheet mask: $6
Freeman avocado/oatmeal clay mask: $4.29 (gift from my mom, recommendation from Lyn—thanks!)
Total: $9

After the recent Racked article about the inhumane and unhygienic conditions in some Korean sheet-mask factories, I feel a bit apprehensive about using my Pure Smile mask (made in Korea, though the brand is Japanese), and I certainly won't rush to buy any new sheet masks. I think this scandal is a salutary wake-up call for beauty lovers in general. If you're buying something cheaply, there's a good chance that someone somewhere in the line of production is getting shafted. We hear a lot about animal testing and "cruelty-free beauty," but a product isn't cruelty-free if it was made by an exploited human. Just saying.

Beauty Tools:


Star-shaped nail glitter: $1.50
Nail dotting tool: $1.50
Total: $3

Replacements:
Glossier Boy Brow in Brown: $16
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: $13.50
CeraVe PM moisturizer: $6 (I had a $6 CVS coupon, score)
Total: $35.50

I've been scraping out the last of my Boy Brow for about a month, so when Glossier offered free shipping on August 31, I pounced. I do wish the tube were larger for that price point: I got about five months of daily use from my Boy Brow, and I used it pretty sparingly. But it's revolutionized my brow routine (if you'd told me a decade ago that I'd one day have a "brow routine"...), so I'm not that mad. What I am mad about is paying what I call the "ADHD tax" for new cleanser and moisturizer during our three-day road trip to LA. I don't think I've ever mentioned this particular brain problem on my blog (like many girls, I escaped diagnosis until adulthood), but it affects my daily life in a number of infuriating ways. For instance, I almost always leave something essential at home when I travel and end up having to repurchase it. I suppose I could have lived without cleanser and moisturizer for three days, but LA was hot and dry and dusty and I wanted a clean, moisturized face at the end of the day, damn it. At least I had that coupon.

Total for August: $85

Reflections:

After my July low-buy ended, I sank into a pit of lipstick lust out of which I have yet to clamber. I did stay under my monthly limit of $40 for new makeup and polish, but I still acquired three lipsticks in August and two more yesterday (more on that in a bit). Five new lipsticks in the space of a month! That's not a great showing for a low-buy. To distract myself from pining after shiny new things, I'm currently trying on older lipsticks that I don't wear often and deciding whether I want to destash them or reintroduce them to my regular rotation. So far, I've made the painful decision that two of my priciest lipsticks—NARS Last Tango and Angela—are too drying to deserve a place in my collection. I asked a lipstick-loving friend of mine if she would adopt Angela, but she said she hated the Audacious formula, too! Do you think Nordstrom would take back a 1.5-year-old lipstick? God, I'm turning into my mom.

I anticipate working pretty hard this month (applying for academic jobs, writing my final dissertation chapter, turning an earlier chapter into an article), and I'm hoping that will distract me from checking out new makeup releases and idly Googling swatches. But I'll inevitably have some free time, and I need to make the conscious decision not to misspend that free time. How about this for a plan: every time I feel tempted to look up new products or add something to my wishlist, I'll work on a blog post instead. That will engage my makeup-loving side and help me appreciate the stuff I already own. Plus, I've been thinking a lot about the environmental costs of consumption, and I'd like to shrink my carbon footprint as much as possible.

Wishlist for September:

I've already bought two of the three items on my September wishlist: Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk ($17) and NYX Matte Lipstick in Up the Bass ($6). That's what I get for writing my August roundup in September! Backtalk is the '60s-inspired matte dusty rose shade I've spent at least a year searching for. Here I am wearing it yesterday:


Up the Bass is a grayish purple along the lines of NARS Dominique and ColourPop Marshmallow. When NARS expanded its matte-lipstick offerings in January, Up the Bass was the shade that immediately caught my eye, but I convinced myself that it was more of a fall shade. Well, it's fall now, bitches. Not technically, but certainly by beauty-industry standards.


The third and final item on my list is a burnt-orange nail polish, and the closest thing I've found to my ideal is Playing Koi ($9) from Essie's Fall 2016 collection:



The collection is inspired by "the number one street style destination in the world: Tokyo. Japan’s electric capital boasts taste, flair and an uncanny aptitude for mixing fashion metaphors." Sounds promising, but of course Essie had to cheapen the whole thing with clich├ęd shade names like "Go Go Geisha" and "Now and Zen." I would have loved to see a collection of shades named after specific locations or events in Tokyo, but instead we get a grab bag of stupid puns on the most generic Japan-themed concepts. So that turns me off, as does the fact that Essie isn't cruelty-free. Rusty orange is a hard color to find, though! If you know of any non-Essie variations on this color, do let me know.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Guess I Wear Eyeliner Now: Urban Decay 24/7 in Demolition and Kiko Intense Colour in Black

Longtime readers of my blog will know that I've struggled with eyeliner for my entire makeup-wearing career, which now spans six years. One of my first ventures into makeup involved a black Maybelline pencil eyeliner, with which I drew awkward, thick lines across my upper lashline. To my credit, I soon figured out that this looked terrible, but my second attempt wasn't much better: I spent a good three years trying on and off to perfect a cat eye with a black liquid liner, Maybelline Line Stiletto in Blackest Black. I was eventually forced to conclude that the outer folds of my eyelids would always foil my attempts to wing out my liner. Cat eyes were just not going to happen for me, no matter how many articles and YouTube tutorials swore that everyone—yes, everyonecould achieve Elizabeth-Taylor-in-Cleopatra perfection. Finally, I settled on black or dark brown eyeshadow smudged along my lashlines with a narrow brush. That gave me a bit of definition without the challenges of a pencil or a felt-tip applicator, and I resigned myself to not being an eyeliner person at all.

But the existence of bona fide eyeliner was a constant thorn in my side. Here was a whole category of makeup that, along with crop tops and empire-waist dresses, I'd decided I simply couldn't wear. Would my eyeshadow looks always seem unfinished due to my avoidance of eyeliner? Would I never know the joy of swiping on a simple black liner to set off a red lipstick? I was a beauty blogger, for fuck's sake: wasn't it was my duty to master a product as basic as eyeliner? So last November, I bought Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Demolition, a cool-toned dark brown...and then avoided it for seven months, as if it were That One Guy in my graduate program whom I always pretend not to see in the local coffee shop. (There's more than one That One Guy.)

I swear I photographed Demolition when it was new, but of course I can't find the photo now. This is what happens when you wait nine months to review a product, kids. Here's Demolition today—it's about half gone after two months of frequent use (3-4 times a week):


I didn't start wearing Demolition regularly until my visit to London in June, when I came to appreciate it as a crucial component of a quick semi-smoky eye. Because the 24/7 formula is so soft, it's easy to finger-blend Demolition into a shimmery eyeshadow like Seventeen Statuesque and deepen the crease with a matte brown like Cover from the Urban Decay Naked2 Basics palette:


After coming to terms with Demolition, I found myself wanting a black liner to go with cool-toned eye looks. The cruelty-free Italian brand Kiko Milano recently opened a store in Birmingham's Bullring mall, so of course I paid it a visit. After sorting through what felt like dozens of options (Italian ladies must love their black pencil eyeliner), I settled on the Intense Colour Long Lasting Eyeliner in #16 Black:


 Demolition on the left, Black on the right—they haven't been sharpened in a few days:


Though I started out smudging these two pencils along my upper lashline, I've since worked out a technique that I think approximates tightlining. Maybe it really is tightlining? I don't know. My understanding is that tightlining involves the upper waterline and, as a contacts-wearer, I shudder at the thought of putting pigment there. Instead, I pull my mobile lid taut and draw the thinnest line possible along my lashline, making a series of little dashes and working the color into the spaces between my lashes. This was very difficult at first (unsteady hands, uncontrollable blinking), but after a month of practice, I'm getting it right almost every time. Ironically, I've returned after all these years to a refined version of the first eyeliner technique I ever tried.

Now for a couple of mini-reviews of the two liners I've been wearing almost every day since June:


Demolition ($20 at Sephora) has a very soft and pigmented formula. The texture presents challenges as well as advantages. When I smudge Demolition along my upper lashline, some color always leaps with ninja-like stealth to my lower lashline, if not immediately then in a couple of hours. I'll be congratulating myself for executing a decent eye look for once in my goddamn life, and then I'll notice that half the pigment has managed to transfer itself to the already-dark spaces below my eyes. This was the problem that forced me to work out my tightlining technique, and when I don't smudge the liner, it stays in place almost all day. But I think $20 is a high price to pay for an eyeliner that disappears as quickly as Demolition does (soft formula = more frequent sharpening), and after I use up Demolition, I might cast around for a cheaper alternative.

Here's a quick look from last week's trip to LA: Seventeen eyeshadow in Statuesque, an unsmudged line of Demolition, Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter, MAC Antique Velvet lipstick, and a seatbelt because sitting in a car is a huge part of any visit to LA and you might as well take selfies while stuck in the inevitable traffic (and no, I still can't drive):


Black ($8 on the Kiko website) is similarly pigmented but less soft, despite coming with a sponge tip meant for smudging the pigment:


I was excited about this nifty little feature until the first time I used it, at which point I realized that the sponge is too firm and rough to do more than chafe my eyelid and remove the product that's already there. Sometimes I smudge the liner with my finger, but more often I just draw a thin line and go on my way. Here's a swatch of Black smudged with the sponge, to give you a sense of how ineffective it is (and this is on my arm, a much firmer surface than my eyelid):


Here's an unsmudged line of Black with theBalm Selfish, the taupe in the Nude 'tude palette:



Full face, with Sleek Life's a Peach blush and Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick (I'd just seen Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief and was captivated by Grace Kelly's taupe and coral makeup). As you can see, Black doesn't read as EYELINER! here so much as a bit of extra definition. Since my eyes are large and quite deep-set, too much definition can throw off the balance of my face.


Black has a more impressive wear time than Demolition: I wore it to the gym on a very hot afternoon two days ago, and though some color had transferred below my eye by the end of my workout, my upper lashline was as dark as ever. Below, I've used a cotton pad to rub my swatches of Black (top) and Demolition a few times; the difference is obvious:


I can remove Demolition with my usual cleanser, Lush 9 to 5, but I need bigger guns for Kiko: namely, Vaseline on a tissue. Forget micellar water, coconut oil, whatever you kids are using these days: there's no more effective eye-makeup remover than plain old petroleum jelly (I don't even buy the name brand).

And there you have my adventures in eyeliner for the last nine months or so. I'm still a bit sad that cat eyes continue to elude me, but I'm glad to have found an eyeliner method that works for my eye shape and aesthetic preferences and doesn't slow me down when I have somewhere to go. What are your favorite pencil eyeliners?