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.)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2018

It's year-end-roundup time once again! I found it harder to compile a best-of list in 2018 than I did in 2017, which suggests that I got better at avoiding impulse buys and zeroing in on products that suited my tastes and needs. (I'll eventually get around to writing a snarky worst-of-2018 post, but it will be far short of 15 items.)

In the online makeup community, 2018 was characterized by a series of influencer scandals: Kat Von D's anti-vaxx sentiments and trash-fire husband, Laura Lee's racist tweets, and Jeffree Star's...honestly, I've lost track of all the bullshit he got up to this year. Some people interpret that turbulence as an indication that consumers are finally losing faith in influencers and the hype they create. I'm not quite that optimistic. Everyone loves drama, but I'm not sure whether the downfall of individual influencers has caused most people to question the premises of influencer culture. I certainly hope 2018 has generated more skepticism toward sponsored YouTube infomercials by people who "love you guys sooo much," but I don't think we can know that for sure until some more time has passed.

In terms of beauty trends, I'm struggling to pinpoint a particular aesthetic that characterized 2018. The year felt more transitional than anything else. The beauty industry seems to be leaving behind warm-toned eyeshadow, for instance, but it hasn't completely embraced cool tones. We reached peak Instaglam well over a year ago, but brands continue to release new shades of blinding highlight and matte liquid lipstick. I can think of specific looks that inspired me (Rodarte's Rococo-meets-'80s SS19 show was the aesthetic high point of 2018 for me), but most of those looks were one-off moments, not manifestations of larger trends.

Furthermore, it's hard to describe the "2018 look" when the one constant of this year was a surfeit of choice. While compiling my best-of-2018 list, I noticed that only seven brands were represented, and that I tried only one new-to-me brand (Dose of Colors) in 2018. By contrast, each of the products on my 2017 list came from a different brand! I don't think it's any coincidence that I've become more brand-loyal as the number and output of beauty brands have increased. I simply don't have the time, money, or inclination to keep up with the incessant deluge of new shit; I'd rather confine my purchases to brands I know and trust, and I'd wager I'm not alone in that.

My usual caveats apply to this list:
  • These products were new to me in 2018, though many were released earlier.
  • I've listed them in order of date purchased, not in order of preference.
  • I bought a few products in December, but most are not eligible for inclusion in this list because I haven't had enough time to test them exhaustively. They might appear on my 2019 list, however.
  • The list contains one exception to the above, because I make the rules in this house (and because nail polish is easier to deem good or bad than eyeshadow palettes are).
  • I bought all the Glossier products with store credit. The other products were either given to me by friends or purchased with my own money.
  • I've reviewed a few of these already, but I'd like to write full reviews of most of them eventually, so I'm keeping my descriptions short in this post.

Let's begin!

1. Glossier Haloscope in Quartz (reviewed here) - late January


I wasn't wild about Quartz when I first tried it: I'd been expecting a subtle gleam, but this was really subtle. However, Quartz soon became my favorite highlighter precisely because of that subtlety. Prior to Quartz, I hadn't owned a highlighter that I felt comfortable wearing in professional situations. But the Haloscope formula doesn't read as highlight except in direct sunlight; instead, it just makes me look a little more hydrated and well-rested than usual, and the very light gold color goes with every look. I've worn Quartz at least five times a week since I bought it (though I'm nowhere close to finishing it), and I hope Glossier comes out with more shades in the Haloscope formula; I'd love to see a peach or pale pink.

2. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Ravenswood - late February


I realized early in 2018, just before a job interview, that I didn't own a true MLBB lipstick. I had a subtle pinkish plum (Urban Decay Rapture, which I've since finished), a sheer nude (NARS Dolce Vita), and a matte nude (Milani Matte Naked), but not your standard pinkish brown. There was a good reason for this. I have cool-toned, high-contrast coloring (in sci-art terms, I'm a dark winter), but most pinkish brown lipsticks on the market are made for warmer, lower-contrast coloring than mine. It's hard to find lipsticks in that color family that don't wash me out or look muddy against my skin tone. Ravenswood, however, is just the ticket. It's a little darker and plummier than most MLBB shades, but it's still firmly in that "unimpeachably professional Adult Lady" category. And Urban Decay's Cream lipstick formula remains my favorite of the Vice formulas, being more comfortable and longer-wearing than most cream lipsticks.

3. ColourPop Lux Lipstick in Dream Easy (reviewed here) - late March


After a series of lackluster experiences with ColourPop lip products, I was hesitant to try the new Lux Lipstick formula, but it proved to be one of my better makeup discoveries in 2018. (My second Lux Lipstick, Liquid Courage, almost made it on this list, but it stains my lips and Dream Easy doesn't.) Coral is always a tricky color for me, particularly in lipstick, but Dream Easy is one of the few flattering coral lip colors I've found. It's darker and more muted than most corals I've tried, with no discernible white base. (It's also a great dupe for Marc Jacobs So Sofia, if you happen to be looking for one.)

4. MAC Matte Lipstick in D for Danger - early April


I bought my first MAC lipstick in the summer of 2012, and six years later I finally had six empty or unwanted MAC lipstick tubes to exchange for a free new lipstick through the Back 2 MAC program. After much swatching and cogitation, I settled on D for Danger, a deep, super-saturated raspberry red. MAC describes the shade as a "brick red," which isn't even close to true, though it does have a hint of brown that makes it more wearable for me than, say, Revlon Cherries in the Snow. The formula is rich and opaque, and a little drying but nothing too problematic. MAC matte lipsticks have been around forever and are still some of the best on the market, and D for Danger is probably my favorite new lipstick of 2018. It seems to work in every season: it feels most natural in fall and winter, of course, but I enjoyed wearing it in the spring and summer as well.

5. Glossier Lash Slick Mascara (reviewed here) - mid-May


This is the mascara I've wanted since I first started wearing mascara. It dries quickly, darkens and lengthens my lashes without adding too much volume, and lasts most of the day before it starts to flake. It's humidity- and tear-proof, which is a sine qua non when you're a certified crybaby living in central Jersey. Its packaging is much nicer than I've come to expect from Glossier. Honestly, I can't think of any drawbacks to Lash Slick, except its $16 price (but then I'm a trash person who uses my mascaras for six months, so).

6. Glossier Lidstar in Slip - mid-May 


I felt pretty neutral about the Glossier Lidstar liquid eyeshadows in the spring, but truly came to appreciate them during the summer, when the humidity index rose above 90% daily. I'd walk to work every weekday morning and arrive dripping with sweat, my hair so wet I'd have to wring it out in the bathroom sink. The Lidstars never budged, though! It's really the formula in general that deserves a place on this list, but I rate Slip slightly higher than my other Lidstars (Cub, Fawn, and Lily) because it's such a versatile shade: a slightly shimmery beige-pink that delivers a "my lids but better" look. My one big issue with the Lidstars is that the caps inevitably crack within a few weeks, which doesn't affect the performance of the product but does nothing to dispel my general impression that Glossier makes their packaging as cheap as they can possibly get away with.

7. ColourPop Ultra Glossy Lip in Finesse - late May

(There was more product in the tube when it was new. I took this photo fairly recently.)

I've always gravitated toward lip gloss in neutral colors, but this clear gloss with tiny blue and pink sparkles was too cute to pass up. It reminded me of the holographic spacegirl Y2K aesthetic of my middle-school years. I'd never tried ColourPop's gloss formula, so I was pleased to discover it was moisturizing, non-sticky, and relatively lightweight, with an almost undetectable lemon-lime scent. I was prepared for the shimmer to disappear on my lips, but it's actually quite noticeable, though not full-on glittery. I love wearing this gloss on (almost-)no-makeup days when I want just a little sparkle somewhere on my face. It adds just a little...finesse.

8. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Birthday Wish - late May


This eyeshadow was a freebie included with every order during ColourPop's four-year-anniversary celebration in May. Look at the cute packaging!


Birthday Wish has a practically clear base crammed with finely milled glitter. The glitter is mostly pale champagne gold, with flecks of pink and blue. It's an excellent sparkly topper for a range of eyeshadows: I wore it over Glossier Slip pretty often in the summer. But because the glitter is so fine, Birthday Wish also works as a neutral all-over lid color. Paradoxically, the more product you pack on your lid, the more subtle it looks, because sheering out the formula emphasizes the sparkle. Here's an out-of-focus swatch to show off the glitter:


9. Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Star Anise (reviewed here) - early June


Like many of us, I've been looking for the perfect nude lipstick for years. (To be clear, when I say "nude" I mean "close to my skin tone," not "close to my lip color.") Pale, cool-toned nude lipstick shades are few and far between, but I managed to find a few decent ones over the years, most notably L'Oreal Fairest Nude and Bourjois Beige Trench. However I ended up destashing both of those lipsticks because I couldn't stand their artificial floral fragrances. It wasn't until 2018 that I found a nude lipstick that matched my complexion and wasn't scented with headache-inducing old-lady perfume. That lipstick was Star Anise, which Lena sent me in June. I've complained before about the slipperiness of the Amuse Bouche formula, but that's less of a problem with a shade as subtle as Star Anise. I still don't think the formula is suited to bold shades, but it works nicely with neutral ones.

I admit, however, that the hint of lavender-gray in Star Anise can make me look sickly in certain lights. During the summer, the heat sometimes made me queasy, which led to the following exchange with my boyfriend one August afternoon:

Me: Ugh, I don't feel well.
BF: Oh, my God! Your lips are turning purple!
Me: ...no, that's just my lipstick.

10. Glossier Cloud Paint in Storm - mid-June


In the middle of the year, Glossier released their fifth and sixth Cloud Paint shades: Dawn, a bright, slightly burnt orange, and Storm, a deep brownish rose. I was already a fan of the Cloud Paint formula, having tried Puff in 2017 and Haze at the beginning of 2018, so I ordered both new shades. I wore Dawn a few times in the summer for a sunburn-but-make-it-fashion look, but it was Storm that truly stole my heart. It's deep enough for skin tones much darker than mine, but it works beautifully on my pale skin as well, whether applied lightly on the apples of my cheeks for a natural flush or more heavily under my cheekbones for an '80s-inspired look. It blends out flawlessly (unlike Dawn, which is more pigmented and watery), and it never looks patchy or blotchy when layered. It harmonizes perfectly with the plum, mauve, and berry tones I wear year-round. I've worn Storm several times a week since I bought it six months ago, and I have yet to tire of it. Glossier seriously killed it this year (with one unfortunate exception).

11. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Seismic - early July


Sheer plum lipstick has long been a mainstay of my makeup stash. Lipsticks in the plum family never fail to flatter me, and I love having a low-maintenance plum that I can apply without a mirror and trust to brighten an otherwise un-made-up face. I've gone through a few sheer plums over the years--MAC Capricious, Glossier Jam, Revlon Plum Velour--and Seismic is my latest discovery in that category. Urban Decay calls it a "Sheer Shimmer" shade, and it does indeed have very fine purple shimmer, but it looks like a straightforward sheer cream lipstick on my lips. Seismic is a little deeper and cooler-toned than most sheer plums I've tried (Jam, for instance, is brighter and pinker). It's moisturizing and unscented, it doesn't cling to the dry patches on my lips...it just works. Sometimes you just need a lipstick that fucking works. Seismic is that lipstick for me.

12. Bite Beauty Prismatic Pearl Crème Lip Gloss in Rose Pearl (reviewed here) - late July


I was going to write a paragraph about how 2018 was the Year of the Lip Gloss, with interesting shades and finishes popping up at every price point, and then I remembered that Bite's Prismatic Pearl glosses came out almost two years ago, in February 2017. I don't know how successful these glosses were at the time, but I don't remember hearing much about them. It seems they were one of those products that appear so early in a trend that they're forgotten by the time that trend reaches fruition. However, I'm reliably behind every trend, so here I am to give the Prismatic Pearl formula some well-deserved publicity. Rose Pearl is one of the most beautiful makeup products I've ever seen. That copper-fuchsia-chartreuse shift is absolutely magical, and it doesn't disappear on my lips, but it also doesn't make me look like I'm going to a rave in 1999. In fact, it looks semi-professional. How did Bite do that? The formula is nice, too: a little heavier than I prefer, but comfortable and pleasantly lemon-scented.

13. ColourPop Pressed Powder Eyeshadow in Tea Garden - early September


I don't own many duochrome eyeshadows. I love looking at them in stores and online, but they always give me trouble in practice. I prefer sheer, neutral colors on my eyes, and there aren't many sheer, neutral duochromes. The neutral-ish shades are often darker and more opaque than I'd like (e.g. that ubiquitous red-teal combo), while the sheer ones are too bright and flashy for my usual looks. But I had a feeling that Tea Garden would hit that sweet spot between boring and bold, and I was right. Tea Garden is a very distinctive shade, yet it has the magical ability to harmonize with a variety of colors. I usually wear it with a mustard or warm brown in the crease; below, I have ABH Golden Ochre in the crease and Tea Garden all over the lid, with no liner.


14. Essie Nail Polish in Say It Ain't Soho - early October


I don't pay much attention to nail polish releases, so I wasn't aware how massively popular this shade was until I went in search for it and discovered it was sold out almost everywhere. I can see why: metallic oranges are rare, and metallic oranges with formulas this smooth and luminous are even rarer. I wore Say It Ain't Soho constantly this fall: it's #pumpkinspiceeverything in a bottle.



15. Urban Outfitters Nail Polish in Scorpio - late December


I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to Urban Outfitters for a few Tony Moly sheet masks and fallen victim to their wily trick of arranging their cheap, sparkly own-brand nail polishes on shelves or in bins by the register. I've been buying UO polish since my early twenties and have almost always been disappointed in the formula. Yet there I was at the end of 2018, a grown-ass 31-year-old woman, sheepishly forking over $5 for a glittery duochrome shade that I might, might have left in the bin had it not been called Scorpio. But it was, and after the disappointment that was Bite's Scorpio lipstick, I couldn't resist a beauty product that seemed far better suited to my star sign.

And, surprise: it's gorgeous. Like, really fucking gorgeous. Can you imagine if Bite had made a Scorpio lipstick that looked like this?


The base is a deep magenta with a jelly-ish texture; the first coat looks a little streaky, but three coats will give you the perfection you see above. And unlike most other UO polishes I've tried, Scorpio stays on my nails for a few days without chipping. I hesitated before putting Scorpio on my best-of-2018 list, since I've owned it for just a week and a half and am still excited about its newness. But whatever: it's brought me a great deal of pleasure in that week and a half, and I can't imagine not wearing it often in the new year. And after my snarky Bite post, finding a great product called Scorpio feels like poetic justice.

Happy 2019!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Last Destash of 2018

(I started writing this as an Instagram post, but I can type only so much text with my thumbs on a tiny keyboard before I have to move to the laptop. I'm old.)

The end of the year has awakened the destashing impulse in quite a few makeup people I follow online. It makes sense: we're all sick of 2018's bullshit at this point, and we want to start the new year with as little bullshit as possible in our lives and on our makeup shelves. In that spirit, here's a quick no-frills post about five lip products that just aren't doing it for me anymore. As I did last year, I've been keeping a record of how often I wear each of my lipsticks, so I'll note the number of wears per shade as well. Excuse the not-great late-afternoon winter light in the photos.

L-R: Revlon Fierce, Milani The Ultimatte, NYX Oatmeal Raisin, Wet n Wild Rebel Rose, NYX Stone Fox.

L-R: Fierce, The Ultimatte, Oatmeal Raisin, Rebel Rose, Stone Fox.

1. Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce (reviewed here): 6 wears in 2018

This is a very '90s reddish brown that would look amazing on redheads, blue-eyed folks, and people of a warmer complexion than mine. On me, it looks...eh. Not hideous, but not great. In 2019, we're no longer going to settle for "not great." I've worn it six times this year, but I had to force myself to wear it and would rather have been wearing something else. If I want that mid-'90s earth-toned vibe, I have Sephora Coral Sunset and Urban Decay Lawbreaker, both of which suit me better.

2. Milani Amore Matte Lip Creme in The Ultimatte (reviewed here): 1 wear in 2018

This is a gorgeous, flattering dark metallic plum, but like Milani's other liquid lipsticks, it's so drying. In other words, it's practically unwearable in the winter, the season when I most often want a lip this dark.  I have plenty of vampy lipsticks that don't dry out my lips, so this one has to go.

3. NYX Intense Butter Gloss in Oatmeal Raisin: 0 wears in 2018

This is what I call a DRIP: a Depression-Related Impulse Purchase. I knew perfectly well from my experience with Spice Cake three and a half freaking years ago that the opaque Intense Butter Glosses didn't suit my tastes. I like sheer glosses in neutral colors, not opaque glosses in vivid colors. I don't like worrying that my gloss has migrated to my chin or hair. And yet, for some reason known only to the particular combination of chemicals in my brain on that particular day, I decided that ordering another Intense Butter Gloss in an even deeper shade was a great idea. It wasn't. To add insult to injury, the gloss came from the Macy's warehouse wrapped in a Geico ad. Classy.

4. Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Rebel Rose: 6 wears in 2018

This is a great shade and formula, but it's not drying down fully anymore, even when dabbed on in a very thin layer. And it's only about a year old! Thus have I learned for the nth time that liquid lipsticks go bad really quickly and I should probably stop buying them (but will I...?). My Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk is basically the same shade as Rebel Rose, and the Comfort Matte formula looks smoother on my lips than any liquid matte formula does.

5. NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox (reviewed here): 0 wears in 2018

This deep teal-gray is a weirdly flattering color for me, but I just don't wear colors this crazy except on Halloween, and my designated Halloween lipstick is now Wet n Wild Shady Witch. Most of us are guilty of purchasing makeup for our fantasy selves, and my fantasy self is apparently a sea witch, which is kind of ironic because I can barely swim.

That leaves me with 42 lipsticks and eight glosses, which is more than enough for healthy variety. My boyfriend's parents are giving me a Sephora gift card for Christmas, and I'm planning to use it on the NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dirty Mind. After that, though, I'm putting myself on a no-buy on lip products for at least the first few months of 2019.

Tomorrow I'm heading to San Francisco for the first time in a year and a half, and I'll be back to the blog before long with my favorite beauty products of 2018!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Three Generations of Glossier Generation G

Note: I purchased these products with store credit earned through my Glossier affiliate link. I am not a Glossier rep (and never will be), and these opinions are entirely my own.

Glossier's Generation G lipstick is aptly named, though that aptness is accidental: the sheer matte lipstick is now in its third generation, having been reformulated and repackaged twice since its debut in early 2016. The newest version of Gen G still costs $18 and still promises "the look and finish of just-blotted lipstick, without the blot," but Glossier claims that the revamped lipsticks boast "a smoother, softer, more cushion-y texture," a "truer matte finish," and "stronger, more luxurious packaging."

The thing is, Glossier has made these claims before: in October 2016, to be precise, when they advertised the second generation of Gen G as "more gliding and sleek" and "even more luxurious and comfortable over time," with "reworked packaging that keeps your Gen G fresher for longer." That version became notorious for its brittle packaging, with a cap that cracked when you looked at it a few seconds too long. The Gen G product page was flooded with negative reviews for over two years (kudos to Glossier for not deleting those reviews, I guess?), and I suspected it was only a matter of time before a re-revamped Gen G appeared. And so it did last month, just in time for Black Friday.

After some dithering (should I trust Glossier's claims when their first revamp flopped so hard?), I ordered two new Gen Gs: Jam, a bright plum that I'd owned in the first-generation formula, and Zip, a new-to-me orange-red.




I've now tried two shades from each of the three generations: Jam and Cake from the first, Like and Leo from the second, and Jam and Zip from the third. Generation G has never been my favorite Glossier product, but I liked Jam and Cake enough to use them up completely (it helped that they were tiny and I had to reapply them several times a day). I bought Like and Leo this past summer but never reviewed them: Leo was a warm-toned brown that looked awful on me, so I sent it to an Instagram pal, and Like just didn't make enough of an impression to get a full writeup on my blog, though I still wear it occasionally. But now that I own two of the new Gen Gs, I'll use this post to compare the three formulas. The obvious caveats apply: I no longer have the two shades from the first formula, and it's hard to compare a shade that's supposed to be sheer and natural (Like) with two shades that are meant to be bolder (Jam and Zip). But I'll do my best!


For my full assessment of the first-generation Gen G formula, check the blog posts I've linked above. The tl;dr version is that the formula was good: it faded quickly, which was only to be expected, but it gave an easy, attractive matte tint effect without drying out my lips. However, the size and price point were shameful. $18 for 1.1 grams? That's about 1/3 the size of a normal full-size lipstick! And the bullets of both Jam and Cake popped out of their tubes within a few weeks, so I had to be extra-careful when taking off the caps, lest the lipsticks fly onto the floor and get a dust bath.

I was less pleased with the second-generation formula. The first big change was the smell. The earliest generation had been basically scentless, with just the faintest hint of clay. The reworked Gen G smelled and tasted like cooking oil that had been used to fry donuts and then left in the pan all day. The formula didn't feel "more gliding and sleek," either: if anything, it felt more drying. And, of course, there was the problem of the fragile packaging. The one big improvement was the almost 100% size increase, though the price stayed the same at $18.

And now here we are two years later. A lot has happened in those two years. We're all more exhausted and cynical. The bubble of influencer hype is close to popping, if it hasn't popped already. As a culture, we are--I think, I hope--more reluctant to trust brands who act like our friends. (Can we talk about how Glossier's Instagram bio now describes the company as "a people-powered beauty ecosystem"? Vom.) At the same time, I can't deny that Glossier has released some killer makeup this year. Lidstar is the rare eyeshadow that can stand up to Jersey summer humidity; Lash Slick is my new holy grail mascara; and I've been wearing Cloud Paint in Storm almost every day since August. So, while I didn't fully believe the hype about the new Gen G, I was more willing to believe than I would have been at this time last year.


The most dramatic change, of course, is to the packaging. Glossier has finally coughed up a few extra cents per unit and introduced metal to the tube. I'm still not in love with the Gen G aesthetic: the new tube looks a bit MLM-y, a bit Beautycounteresque (though that might be my own bias against the Glossier rep program). But I can't deny that these tubes are superior to their predecessors. They're thicker and heavier; they finally look and feel like $18 lipsticks, not like factory prototypes or Sephora samples.




Here's a new tube (top) compared to a second-generation one (note the cracked cap of the latter):





There's also been a size increase of 50%, from 2 to 3 grams. Accordingly, the new bullets are wider, which I hope prevents the breakage that bedeviled the first and second generations.



A third big change: the fragrance. For Generation 3, Glossier added a strong rose scent that doesn't quite cover the stale-cooking-oil funk. I almost never like floral scents in makeup, and this one is no exception. The good news is that it dissipates about ten minutes after application, but I'm still disappointed that it's there.

The new Gen Gs seem to be the most pigmented of the three generations. My old Jam never got even close to opaque, no matter how many layers I swiped on. My new Jam delivers a respectable (though still sheer) amount of color after just one swipe. Below, Jam and Zip swatched with one, two, and three layers:


As you might be able to tell just from these arm swatches, the formula is quite dry, clinging to every unevenness on the skin of my inner forearm, which I promise is no more textured than the skin of the average human forearm. Generations 1 and 2 had a little more slip, but the new formula is very matte, exaggerating lip texture and forming tiny clumps of pigment. Here I am wearing one, two, and three layers of Jam. My lips were especially dry that day, and you can see that as I add more layers, the result looks drier and blotchier. This is far from the "smoother, softer, more cushiony texture" that Glossier promises.


Same deal with Zip, below:


Zip looks rougher and drier than Jam on my mouth; accordingly, it feels more drying than Jam as the hours pass. I struggle to make it cling to the inner portion of my lower lip, as you can see in the third lip swatch. Jam is marginally more comfortable, though still drying. For both shades, I'd recommend a thin layer of lip balm before application, especially in the winter months. The formula also feels tacky and waxy when I press my lips together. Both Jam and Zip last for a few hours before fading, which is what I would expect, but Jam fades more gracefully.

Unsurprisingly, I find Jam more flattering on my cool olive complexion. Here I am wearing three layers:


I was curious how Jam compared to my other sheer plum lipstick, Urban Decay Seismic. It turns out that Seismic is darker and cooler-toned than Jam. Needless to say, it's also shinier and more moisturizing (it has a very fine microshimmer that doesn't show up on the lips). Here's Seismic (above) and Jam (below), in direct sunlight:


Zip leans more orange on me than I expected, though I shouldn't have been surprised: many warm reds turn Cheeto orange on my lips. I don't hate Zip on me, but I wish it were a bit redder and darker.


To sum up, here are the pros and cons of the new Generation Gs compared to the first and second iterations:

Pros:
  • Larger size for the same price
  • Sturdier packaging
  • More pigmented (though still sheer)
Cons:
  • Strong rose fragrance
  • More drying and dry-looking

I'm afraid I can't recommend the new Generation Gs wholeheartedly. I can recommend them more enthusiastically than I could the previous versions, but they're still far from Glossier's best makeup product (that honor would go to Lash Slick or Cloud Paint). If there's a shade in the Gen G lineup that appeals to you (and your lips are generally in better condition than mine), I wouldn't dissuade you from buying it, but this product still has too many flaws to qualify as a must-have. Though the quality of the packaging has certainly improved, the quality of the formula has declined. And I'm not alone in that opinion: check out the reviews on Glossier's product page. Anyone want to take a bet on the launch date of the fourth version?