Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why I Failed to Make a Dent

Back in November, I decided to participate in Project Make-a-Dent, the creation of Helen at Lola's Secret Beauty Blog. Quite a few people on my blogroll have joined in this project, which aims to curb excessive consumption by forcing us to pay attention to the products we already own. The idea is to choose a handful of makeup or skincare products we've been neglecting, then either use them up or "make a dent" in them. Since I have more lipsticks than any other kind of makeup, I chose seven that struck me as suitable for fall and winter. Here's the photo I took originally:

Left to right: Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer in Across the Universe, Revlon Plum Velour, NYX Perfect, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, Revlon Fire and Ice, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, and YSL Glossy Stain in Rouge Gouache.

Now that two and a half months have passed, it's high time I updated you on my progress--except that I haven't made much progress at all. Instead, I've achieved some insight into why I've kept neglecting most of these lipsticks, and why Project Make-a-Dent might be a poor fit for my temperament.
  • Rimmel Across the Universe: I've concluded that I just don't like liquid lipsticks. I love the color and staying power of Across the Universe, but the formula is so fussy. The spongy applicator deposits too much product and doesn't make a sharp enough outline, and the lipstick is so pigmented that if any of it strays outside my lip line during application, I have one hell of a time cleaning it off my skin. This isn't the kind of lipstick that encourages quick compact-mirror touch-ups, either. In fact, Across the Universe is so irritating to use that I've made a new rule for myself: no more liquid lipsticks, ever. Not even a Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet when I go back to the UK. Not even an OCC Lip Tar. Nothing!
  • Revlon Plum Velour: I planned to use this one up within a few weeks of writing my original post. Nearly three months later, it's still clinging to life. But I'm allowing myself to be fine with this. If I'd forced myself to use it up in November, I wouldn't have been able to wear it more recently, on days when I really wanted to.
  • NYX Perfect: Here's another rule for myself: no more NYX Round Lipsticks. The formula is too thick, too slippery, and too drying. My lips hate it. As soon as I find a better lipstick in a similar color (mauve-pink with a hint of brown), Perfect is going in the purge pile.
  • Revlon Sultry: This was the one lipstick that Project Make-a-Dent helped me appreciate again! Having put it aside during spring and summer, I'd forgotten how versatile it truly is. Sultry's dark berry-rose color can read either neutral or bold, depending on the makeup I pair it with, and its matte-yet-plush formula is perfect for hiding the perpetual winter dryness of my lips. Accordingly, this tube is showing definite attrition.

  • Revlon Fire and Ice: I've worn this exactly once since my first Make-a-Dent post. I think I'd reach for it more often if it were matte, but the glossy finish combined with the intense coral-red color is a lot of look. Project Make-a-Dent has really backfired here, because the very act of putting Fire and Ice on my list has made me want to seek out a matte version. I'm eyeing ColourPop's Lippie Stix (Stick?) in Frenchie, which is only $5, though I guess I could try blotting Fire and Ice to mattify it.
  • Revlon Cherries in the Snow: I've worn this only once, too. I don't know why! It flatters me! I just! Don't ask me to explain!
  • YSL Rouge Gouache: I still think my sole Glossy Stain outclasses me, to say nothing of the places where I spend most of my time. But I feel more motivated to finish Rouge Gouache than the others on this list, because glosses have shorter lifespans than lipsticks.
Now for a few conclusions. First, I don't like the idea of guilting myself into wearing certain items. I put enough pressure on myself in other areas of life; I want my makeup to be a safe haven from self-criticism. I want it to be fun. What's the point of makeup if it's not fun? I usually wake up with an idea of which lipstick I want to wear, and it gives me a little thrill to take that lipstick from one of my boxes and put it on. Why should I force myself to wear another? What's really at stake here? So long as I'm cycling through my stash and not constantly seeking out new lipsticks, I'm fulfilling the purpose of Project Make-a-Dent.

Second, I naturally do cycle through my stash. The best example of a lipstick that I repeatedly forget and rediscover is MAC Up the Amp, which I've owned since spring 2012. It's one of my most flattering colors: a medium mauve-purple with a hint of gray, which sounds less wearable than it is. It harmonizes well with both warm and cool eye makeup. It's subdued enough for fall and winter, but bright enough for spring and summer. Perhaps because it's so agreeable, I overlook it for long periods of time, but before six months have passed I find myself wearing it constantly again. I can't predict such whims with a Make-a-Dent list: they happen when they happen. That's how my brain works. I need to trust my brain to do its thing. Dents will be made whether or not I plan to make them. Or, in the words of John Donne:

The heavens rejoice in motion; why should I
Abjure my so much loved variety,
And not with many youth and love divide?
Pleasure is none, if not diversified.

The speaker of Elegy 18 is talking about lovers and not lipstick, but I think his point still holds. (Not Donne's finest moment, though: he sounds like a hedge-fund manager.)

Third, Project Make-a-Dent seems to overlook the idea of sunk cost. I can't return any of the makeup I have, and most of it is too cheap and/or too well-used to be desirable in a blog sale. If I don't want to use up a lipstick, and I make myself use it up anyway, am I not losing in pleasure more than I'm gaining in dollars and cents? NYX Perfect is a good example. I know I want to replace it with a lipstick in a similar color, and I know that continuing to use Perfect will bring me little if any gratification. I'll only be delaying the inevitable expense by a few months, and in the meantime, I'll be grumbling every time Perfect dries out my lips. I just don't think the annoyance is worth it, especially as I rarely spend more than $15 on a lipstick. Again: makeup should be a pleasure, not a burden.

So, no, I don't see the point in using Project Make-a-Dent to make myself finish lipsticks I don't feel like wearing; after all, I might return to loving them in a month or two. But I do value Project Make-a-Dent for reminding me why I originally fell in love with certain colors. Today, in preparation for writing this post, I wore YSL Rouge Gouache for the first time in months. And it made me so happy. The pinky red flattered my complexion, the color and shine lasted for hours, and the formula smoothed over my dry lips without irritating them.

On my eyes I have NARS Lhasa. One of my 2015 resolutions should have been to use Lhasa less often, but I just can't help it! It complements almost all of my lip colors, harmonizing beautifully with cool reds and plums and providing a subtle contrast with corals and oranges. No mascara because I forgot to put it on, as I do about half the time. A light dusting of NARS Coeur Battant blush on my cheeks, and two coats of Rouge Gouache on my lips. I love the long-lasting unnatural finish of the Glossy Stains: it makes me feel like a porcelain doll, or perhaps an Edwardian cyborg.

(By the way, I'm trying out a new hair product: DevaCurl B'Leave-In, a thin gel designed to emphasize "fine, delicate curls." I love it so far! It makes my hair feel full and bouncy.)

So, whither Project Make-a-Dent? I propose a modification. In the next month or two, I'll commit to using lip colors that might not be long for this world, either because they're glosses (which tend to spoil in a year or two) or because they're lipsticks that I bought a few years ago.  I can't promise that I'll hold myself to this resolution, but I might as well try. The concept of sunk cost applies here, too: if I end up not enjoying these colors at this particular point in my life, I won't make myself keep wearing them. For now, though, here are my choices:

Left to right: YSL Belle de Rose, Revlon Embellished, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Revlon Adorned, MAC Up the Amp, Revlon Fire, YSL Rouge Gouache.

Every time I take Adorned from my jar of glosses, I marvel that any human being could neglect this:

You're not even seeing it in its full glory, since I took this photo on a very overcast day. Am I a monster? I think I might be.

Lest you come away from this post with the wrong impression, let me say that I still believe Project Make-a-Dent is a great idea. I appreciate any exercise that makes people think critically about their consumption habits; I'm just not sure it's the best way for me, specifically, to approach my makeup collection. Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lipstick Chronology #32: Wet n Wild Stoplight Red and Purty Persimmon

Names: Wet n Wild MegaLast Lipsticks in Stoplight Red and Purty Persimmon

Dates of Purchase: September and October 2013

Grades: A-, A-

Notes: Wet n Wild's MegaLast lipsticks make me ask myself hard questions about my aesthetic threshold for makeup packaging. I'd like to believe that I'm the sort of person who cares more about the formula of a lipstick than the sleekness or uniqueness of its case. After all, we've all heard of lipsticks that look cool but perform badly (Kat von D's new Studded Kiss lipsticks come to mind). But what about the other extreme: a great lipstick in an ugly tube too short for the lipstick itself?

In other words, which is preferable: pure form or pure function? And if you chose the latter, would you enjoy carrying this around all day? Be honest.

Over a year after buying these lipsticks, I've come to accept that my tolerance for homely packaging is lower than I used to think. At first I was reluctant to confess this to myself, fearing that it would make me "shallow." Well, maybe it does, but lipstick is the sort of thing one likes for shallow reasons. There's no point in pretending otherwise. Stoplight Red and Purty Persimmon are long-lasting, pigmented, relatively non-drying satin-finish lipsticks, but I don't reach for them often because their appearance turns me off so much. When I wear a bold cherry red or red-orange lipstick, I want to think of myself as a bold bitch, and nothing destroys that feeling of boldness more quickly than touching up with a smeary, cheap-looking tube. A good quarter of the product juts out from the tube even when the lipstick is fully retracted, which makes it almost impossible to replace the cap without mashing lipstick all over it. And because the cap is clear, you can see the mess you've made. It's just kind of depressing. I mean, maybe it's cool in an I-don't-give-a-damn-I-just-want-red-lips way, but the fact is that I do give a damn. It's time I admitted it.

I cleaned them up before taking this photo, of course.

If you give less of a damn than I do, the MegaLast lipsticks are a great choice, especially for the price ($1.99 each, though I actually got Stoplight Red for $.99). Here are some swatches in natural light: Purty Persimmon on the left, Stoplight Red on the right. Check out that pigmentation!

Stoplight Red was part of my journey to find the perfect red lipstick, preferably matte. (I found it eventually in NARS Mysterious Red, which you already know because I wrote that installment of my Lipstick Chronology out of order.) Stoplight Red is a standard blue-based red, the sort of red that most of us own already. There's nothing truly special about it, but if you're missing this color in your collection and you're on a tight budget, you could do much worse.

I might have left Stoplight Red on the shelf had I not been drunk, but I was a couple of margaritas past caring whether it was too similar to Maybelline On Fire Red, which I'd bought a few months before. (This was also the CVS trip when I bought Wet n Wild Bare It All, a very unflattering nude: see this post for the full story.) Below, some comparison swatches:

Left to right: NARS Mysterious Red, NYX Bloody Mary, Wet n Wild Stoplight Red, Maybelline On Fire Red.

Stoplight Red seems closest to Bloody Mary, a matte pinky red. It's brighter than both Mysterious Red and On Fire Red; in fact, it's so bright and clear that I'm detecting some brown tones in On Fire Red, which in isolation doesn't look brown at all. Here's Stoplight Red on my lips (which are going through an especially dry phase right now, sorry). Freshly applied, it looks glossy; over time, it becomes semi-matte.

In the last couple of years, I've learned that I'm not crazy about most bright blue-based reds. I don't find them unflattering, but they always make me feel like I'm playing pinup. I've considered getting rid of Stoplight Red, but it has a tremendous amount of sentimental value: I wore it to a Janelle Monáe concert in Philadelphia in October 2013. Seeing the Electric Lady in person was overwhelming, especially as I'm not a concert-goer in general, and I don't want to lose my one physical memento of that night. As for digital mementos, I have quite a few blurry shots of the stage...

Her signature quiff came undone as she danced. It was adorable. well as a classic, and very classy, pre-concert bathroom selfie.

From today, a better photo of Stoplight Red on my face. Yes, I am aware that I desperately need a haircut.

Purty Persimmon was a more thoughtful purchase, as well as a sober one. I didn't have a full-coverage red-orange lipstick, and I didn't want to pay too much for a color that might not suit me. My experience with Stoplight Red had made me optimistic about Wet n Wild's brighter lipsticks, so I picked up Purty Persimmon when I was in Washington for my monthly dissertation seminar. I've spent many a post bitching about the shortcomings of my local CVS, and one of those shortcomings is that it doesn't carry Wet n Wild. During the year of my seminar, I ended up making a ritual of buying lipsticks at DC-area drugstores. The big CVS in Dupont Circle stocked all the new lipstick releases months before they showed up in my town; the small, dingy CVS near Eastern Market may have had a ceiling leak right above the Wet n Wild display, but at least I found Purty Persimmon.

This is as orange as I'm willing to go with lip color. I actually wore it quite often last summer (here, for instance). When I bought it, I was expecting more of an orange-red than a red-orange, but I don't find it completely unflattering (though it doesn't mesh perfectly with my skintone, either). Here it is with a few similar lipsticks:

Left to right: Milani Sweet Nectar, Wet n Wild Purty Persimmon, Revlon Candy Apple, Revlon Fire and Ice.
Swatched on my lips:

And on my face:

Purty Persimmon is more matte than Stoplight Red, and I find it to be slightly more drying, too. As for longevity...well. I'm honestly never sure how to report on lipstick wear time, since very few lipsticks last more than a few hours on me. These lipsticks also last a few hours, and I don't detect much staining as they fade. They're pretty comfortable to wear, though it's hard to forget you're wearing lipstick when you have them on.

I'm planning to keep both Purty Persimmon and Stoplight Red for the foreseeable future, though writing up this review has made me resolve never to buy another Wet n Wild lipstick. No matter how enticing the price or how pigmented the formula, those tubes will always make me sad. Do you find that you have an aesthetic cutoff point for packaging, too?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Happy Unbirthday to Me

Auxiliary Beauty turned one today!

I don't have any especially attractive baked goods lying around, so here's one of the peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies I made earlier this week.

I didn't start blogging regularly until February 2014, but my introductory post went up on January 18. Maintaining this blog has been one of the best parts of the past year: I've loved interacting with my readers, developing my makeup skills, and having a place to do some non-academic writing. Since I'm always fascinated when other bloggers reveal which of their posts have been the most popular, I thought I'd do the same in honor of my first anniversary. Below, the five posts that have received the most pageviews over the past year:

1. NARS Audacious Lipstick Swatches and the Allure of Audrey

Liv, Audrey, Grace, Vera, Annabella, Fanny, and Bette.

This post got about five times as many views as the second most popular post. The release of the Audacious lipsticks for NARS' 20th anniversary unleashed an online frenzy, the sort of frenzy that François Nars himself couldn't have anticipated back in 1994. I've looked up my share of Audacious reviews and swatches myself, so I understand the appeal of this post. There are just so damn many lipsticks in the line, with so many variations on berry and bubblegum pink and coral. You want someone to rank the half-dozen orange-reds from warm to cool so you don't have to do it yourself, you know?

For the record, I still haven't bought a lipstick from this range. The more swatches I examine, the more paralyzed I feel; the more paralyzed I feel, the more research I do. It's precisely this feedback loop that got me the pageviews, no doubt. Also, someone linked to my blog on a Polish beauty forum. I actually ran the post through Google Translate to see if the posters were saying something like "Can you believe this bitch and her half-assed swatching?" Thankfully, the discussion was all business (that is, lipstick).

2. Beauty Abroad, Part 13: Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Get Me Bodied

When I bought Get Me Bodied, I had no idea that the Matte Lip Bullets were new for fall 2014; but apparently they were, which I think explains the popularity of this post. I can still find them online, so I have hope that they're not limited edition--I'd love to try more colors when I go back to the UK. Get Me Bodied was one of my favorite purchases from 2014, so I hope my review persuaded other people to try it, too!

3. NYX Reviews, Part 1: The Bad 


This set of reviews also featured a new product: NYX's reformulated Hot Singles eyeshadows. (I'm sensing a pattern here.) I think people might also enjoy negative reviews, since my post about my least favorite purchases of 2014 received many more hits than my post about my favorites. I do appreciate a good snarky review myself, and they're getting hard to find in the increasingly monetized world of beauty blogging, so I'll endeavor to keep bringing the snark in 2015. Though, ideally, my purchases will be so wise and well-thought-out that I'll have no reason to do so!

4. Lipstick Chronology #7: MAC Capricious

This was one of my very first posts, and I'm a little embarrassed that it's my fourth most viewed, since the photos aren't great quality; I also have no idea what my hair is doing there. Incidentally, I took out my tube of Capricious yesterday and discovered that the lipstick had gone moldy after three and a half years of faithful service. A fitting end, perhaps, to my first year of blogging. Wishing to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, I sterilized my entire lipstick collection with paper towels and a bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol, producing this unexpectedly artistic mess:

I kind of want to hang it on my wall.

5. Lipstick Chronology #28: MAC Candy Yum-Yum, Maybelline Fuchsia Flash, and a Word about Dupes

People really love MAC lipsticks. This was the most introspective post of my top five--I blathered on for a few paragraphs about my objections to the practice of dupe-hunting--but I suspect that most readers showed up for the Candy Yum-Yum swatches and comparisons, not the navel-gazing.

I also thought about making a list of my most unpopular posts, but there wouldn't have been much use in that. It took a while for people to start reading my blog, so the posts with the fewest views are simply the ones I wrote earliest. But I will say that in general, my posts about nail polish receive relatively few hits. This makes me wonder if makeup blogs and nail blogs just have different audiences. They probably do, if my own behavior is any indication: I'll check out a few nail blogs if I'm looking for swatches of specific polishes, but there are none that I read regularly. Is this the case for anyone else?

I feel like I've done a couple of self-congratulatory stock-taking posts in the last few months, so I'll keep this one brief. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and comment over the past year! I'm excited to find out what year two of beauty blogging will bring.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

FOTD: Self-Medicating with '60s-Inspired Makeup

This look had a rather complicated genesis. I stayed up last night watching Lisa Eldridge videos in order to learn some new eyeshadow techniques. (This video was my favorite: I wish I'd known about it before attempting my Cindy Crawford face four months ago.) Then I went to bed and had a classic dissertation-anxiety dream: I was sitting in a dark, dingy Starbucks, scrambling to finish a chapter in advance of an urgent deadline that had crept up on me, while a creepy dude tried to strike up a conversation. Then I woke up and started mulling over all the academic tasks facing me in the next two weeks. Then I got some news that made me wonder, not for the first time, why great things so often happen to awful people. I dealt with all this frustration in a two-step process: a caps-locked rant on my private Twitter, followed by an attempt to cosplay my mother in 1967.

In my recent review of Maybelline Lilac Flush, I promised a '60s-inspired look centered on LF's stark white-based pinky lavender. Since I was wearing a turtleneck today ("feels like 7º" is not something you want to see on your weather app when you wake up), I couldn't resist the chance to go mod. I didn't have a specific image in mind, though I suppose I was envisioning something like Sun Fei Fei's pastelicious look on the cover of L'Officiel from June 2011.

Mostly, though, I was thinking of my mother's teenage love for pastels, and remembering her story about holding the point of her black Maybelline pencil liner over a flame because the formula was too dry. Hardcore.

I filled in my brows with theBalm Sleek eyeshadow, but didn't use gel for my brows or primer for my eyelids, because I wanted the overall effect to be smudgy and lived-in. I covered both mobile lids with NARS Lhasa; then, using a light hand, I brushed theBalm Serious, a matte black, along the upper and lower lashlines and into the creases and outer corners. I blended Serious into Lhasa, then smoked it out a bit. Serious is very pigmented, so a little goes a long way. My mascara, as always, was CoverGirl LashBlast Length.

For blush, I used a light dusting of NARS Coeur Battant, a bright fuchsia, followed by a heavier layer of Tony Moly Cristal Blusher in Milky Violet. I've found that although Milky Violet doesn't provide my longed-for pastel pop on its own, it works to pastelify other blushes.

As I'd hoped, taking ten minutes to play with makeup and try something outside my usual repertoire greatly decreased my stress. (I texted my mom a photo of my makeup and she dubbed it "groovy" and "very '60s," which was all the approval I needed.) Life might suck sometimes, but at least I looked cute--and if that's not a reason to wear lilac lipstick, I don't know what is. There are worse controlled substances to rely on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Makeup Addict Tag

I was tagged by the inimitable Bellyhead, whose makeup collection outclasses mine by several orders of magnitude. Here we go, nonetheless!

1. Which product do you still keep buying more of despite having plenty in your collection?

Lipstick! I'm so, so bad about this. I have no trouble resisting blush or eyeshadow or even lip gloss, but lipstick exercises a special spell over me. In my defense, I rotate through my lipsticks pretty regularly and don't neglect many of them, but there's no denying that I have too many for one person with one mouth.

I also have a tiny weakness for nail polishes...

2. What's the one product you can't live without?

Concealer. I've been wearing it since my early teen years, when I didn't own any other makeup but lip balm. A good friend of mine once told me that she has a moral objection to concealer, because "it creates an unrealistic standard of perfection in the world." I have no moral objection to anything that anyone does with their own body (aesthetic objections are another story), but I do wish I could sally forth occasionally with nothing covering my blemishes and dark circles.

3. Favorite makeup brand?

NARS, for sure. I don't own a lot of NARS products, yet I rarely go a day without wearing one of them! Many of the NARS products I've bought since discovering the brand three years ago have attained holy-grail status for me: Radiant Creamy Concealer, Dolce Vita sheer lipstick, Mysterious Red lip pencil, Lhasa eyeshadow, Mata Hari blush. The only NARS product that really disappointed me was the Cinematic lipstick in Last Tango, from 2013's holiday collection. I ordered it without trying it on first, and it turned out to be browner and more drying than I'd expected. At least it taught me not to order makeup sight unseen.

Here's my entire NARS collection:

Clockwise from top: Mata Hari blush, sheer lipsticks in Dolce Vita and Flamenco, Cinematic lipstick in Last Tango, Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red, Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla, Coeur Battant blush, Lhasa eyeshadow (I've finally hit pan!), and Habanera duo eyeshadow.

4. How big is your makeup collection?

This question makes me wish there were a specific unit of measurement for makeup collections. Kevyns instead of Kelvins, perhaps? Until a more math-minded beauty addict figures that out, I'll just have to list how many of each kind of product I have.

Nail polishes: 77, not counting clear topcoats and base coats. I KNOW.
Lipsticks: 55.
Lip glosses: 9.
Lip liners: 2.
Eyeliners: 5.
Eyeshadow palettes: 1.
Eyeshadow singles, duos, and sticks: 16. 
Brow gel: 1.
Blushes: 7.
Concealers: 2.
Mascaras: 2.

The only obscenely huge parts of my collection are the lip products and nail polishes; everything else is fairly sane, I think. It's a large collection for a civilian (i.e. non-blogger), but in the beauty-blogging world it's probably about average...except for the lipsticks.

5. And how do you store it?

I don't know what I'll do when I move to an apartment without built-in shelves! One set of shelves in my bedroom houses my nail polishes, organized along the color spectrum.

Another set of shelves contains my eyeshadows and blushes; lip products (stored in two Kate Spade jewelry boxes, an empty gelato container, and a couple of small jars); brushes and eyeliners (also in jars); and perfumes. Books above and below; it'll be a long time until I have as many beauty products as books.

The lipsticks are arranged roughly by color: plums, berries, mauves, and cool reds in one Kate Spade box (bottom); corals, warm reds, hot pinks, and nudes in the other box (left); lipliners, liquid lipsticks, glosses, and chubby pencils in the gelato container (right). In the smaller jars (one at top, another not shown), I keep both new acquisitions and stuff that I'm thinking about purging.

The upper of the two shelves is at eye level, so I keep my mirror there and use it as my vanity. Someday I'll have a space to sit while I apply my makeup, but for now I have to stand. I've decorated this area with my favorite art postcards, some of them dating back to college. I use a small Kate Spade jewelry box to store barrettes, bobby pins, and combs, and an empty mini Diptyque jar for perfume samples.

6. How many items of makeup have you got in your handbag at the moment?

Two concealers (one for dark circles and one for spot concealing), two lip balms (Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula and Vaseline Rosy Lips), two lipsticks (Revlon Plum Velour and a custom purple lipstick from the Bite Beauty Lab), and a tin of Burt's Bees cuticle balm. I'm pretty good about not carrying around makeup I don't need.

7. If you could raid another blogger's stash, who would it be?

Kate of More Like Space! Her coloring and color preferences are very similar to mine, she has impeccable taste in lipstick, and I'd love to look through some of her older MAC collections. 

8. How long does your usual makeup routine take and how many products do you use?

About ten minutes. I don't always use all of the products listed below, but I use each of them at least a few times a week (every day, in the case of sunscreen and concealer). Here's the order in which I apply them:

1. Regular moisturizer, if my skin feels especially dry
2. Sunscreen
3. Two different concealers, for spots and dark circles
4. Clear brow gel and/or brown eyeshadow for filling in brows
5. 1-2 colors of eyeshadow
6. Mascara
7. Blush
8. Lipstick or gloss

9. Have you ever bought any makeup knowing you wouldn't use it?

Never! I do have a Pinterest board dedicated to makeup that's too pretty to use, but that's as far as I'll go at this stage in my makeup addiction. Granted, I have bought makeup knowing I wouldn't use it often (NYX Castle comes to mind), but I try to avoid such purchases.

10. Tag a few other makeup addicts to do this tag!

I've lost track of who's done the tag and who hasn't, so please do it if you feel inclined! It's a lot of fun.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

On Being an "Old-Fashioned" Blogger

One lazy evening last year, I was reading an online forum devoted to snarking on beauty bloggers and YouTube gurus: know thy frenemy and all that. As someone who studies satire for a living, I have nothing against anonymous snark forums, at least in principle. Bloggers like to profess shock that such websites even exist—imagine, a place where nameless, faceless people can talk shit about other people!—as if anonymous snark hasn't played a role in public discourse since Martin Marprelate. Granted, I might feel less charitable if I'd ever been mocked on one of these forums. But I'd like to believe that even if I were, I'd be able to distinguish between sound criticism and malicious nitpicking, rolling my eyes at the latter and taking the former to heart. As I commented on Larie's excellent post on her resolution to "stop being a hater," the Internet encourages both excessive niceness and excessive meanness, creating a climate in which constructive criticism is often dismissed as "trolling." Honestly, I'm surprised there aren't more snark forums than there already are.
I'll admit, I don't derive much entertainment from this particular beauty-focused forum. I never watch YouTube beauty videos and am unfamiliar with more than a few of the blogs that regularly come under fire, which means that most of the threads are meaningless to me. Plus, I don't find the snark itself very interesting or witty: I've seen people lambasted for the unspeakable crimes of wearing too little mascara or failing to put eyeliner on their upper lashlines. But that particular evening, as I clicked through the various threads, one exchange about a popular blogger made me stop short. Someone dismissed her as a "dinosaur" who still wrote actual blog posts, even though "younger people go on IG and find swatches/info, they don't wait for [her] like it's 2009 lol."  

I'm going to ignore the voice in my head that's shrieking HOLY SHIT 2009 WAS BARELY SIX YEARS AGO ARE YOU PEOPLE TWELVE OR AM I JUST SUPER OLD and actually respond to this, because I think it's fascinating. The media often characterize millennials as people who "grew up with the Internet," but the Internet has changed so much in the last ten years that that phrase has no real meaning. My boyfriend (born in 1983), Tavi Gevinson (born in 1996), and I (born in 1987) all grew up using the Internet, but we didn't all grow up using the same Internet. I missed the glory days of AOL chatrooms, but I was in college before Facebook and Twitter took off, and I'd entered graduate school by the time Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest became popular. When I was in high school, the Internet was the place where you went to read erotic Harry Potter fanfiction, pour your heart into a LiveJournal post, or write long, pretentious book reviews on Amazon. People’s online personas were less specialized than they are now. The first big bloggers, like Dooce and Pioneer Woman, didn't have a focus narrower than their own lives. 

During my college years, from 2005 to 2009, I watched the blogosphere change with the rise of social media. (“Do you have a Facebook?” my roommate asked me early in our first semester of college. “What’s Facebook?” I replied.) Bloggers realized that they’d reach a larger audience if, paradoxically, they discussed a smaller range of subjects. Around 2007 or 2008, niche blogging seemed to overtake here’s-a-bunch-of-stuff-about-my-life blogging. Fashion bloggers began sitting in the front row at couture shows, to the disgust of established media types. Beauty blogs evolved out of makeup-focused LiveJournal communities. Indeed, the very existence of LiveJournal communities suggested that readers were looking for something more specialized, and that bloggers were looking to specialize. 

Around the same time, I noticed a shift in the general tenor of Facebook posts. When I first joined, Facebook was overflowing with feelings. One of my friends proclaimed herself "heartbroken" when her asshole boyfriend broke up with her. I suspect I posted some vague ("vague") yet damning statuses of my own when my asshole not-quite-boyfriend broke up with me, and I’m very glad I can’t remember what I said. A few years in, though, everyone seemed to become more careful and canny about what they shared publicly. Witty, trivial observations replaced introspection. I'm sure most of us can remember at least one time when something we'd carelessly posted on Facebook returned to us in an unexpected and unpleasant way. For me, the epiphany came when a professor who was not my friend on Facebook still managed to see my profile; he teased me about quoting another professor who’d told me that I’d written a final paper with "too much foreplay and not enough action." (That’s still my greatest academic weakness, as it happens.) This incident cured me forever of talking about professors on Facebook, and it also encouraged me to clamp down on my privacy settings. I'd learned that the Internet could never be private—not even the pages that I'd customized to be mine.

(Various professors also found the Amazon book reviews I’d written under my real name in 2000 and 2001. 13-year-old AB had no idea what she was doing when she wrote that lengthy, high-minded, spoiler-filled review of the latest Tamora Pierce novel. Lest you accuse the college faculty of taking an untoward interest in my online doings, let me remind you that I went to school in the middle of nowhere, and there was nothing to do but take an untoward interest in everyone else. There's a reason why Donna Tartt didn’t set The Secret History at NYU.)

I felt bad giving you an uninterrupted wall of text, so here's a photo of me in my first year of college, back when I still referred to blogs as "Web logs" and thought you were supposed to delete all the posts people left on your Facebook wall.
I felt bad giving you an uninterrupted wall of text, so here's a photo of me in my first year of college, when I still insisted on referring to blogs as "Web logs." I knew better, but I've never liked abbreviations.

I didn't start reading beauty blogs until 2010 or 2011, so I missed the early days when just a few bloggers were posting product photos and swatches. By 2011, there was a healthy variety of beauty blogs, most of them fairly personal: you got a sense of the person attached to the swatching arm and the disembodied lips. This state of affairs continued for a couple of years, but I noticed a shift around 2013, due to three factors: the popularity of Instagram, the fame and riches that a small handful of fashion and beauty bloggers had managed to achieve, and the rise of affiliate-linking programs like RewardStyle. This created an atmosphere in which some bloggers felt pressured to review hundreds of new collections per year and write shorter, more frequent posts filled with gratuitous affiliate links. New bloggers tried to break into this market for the sole purpose of becoming rich and famous, and peppered other bloggers’ comment sections with the classic “Great post!!! Check out my giveaway: [three links to the same page]!” Some of my favorite established bloggers chose to stop posting. The blogging landscape had become decidedly professionalized.

It's hard not to lament these changes, but I don't think the big, monetized blogs necessarily threaten the existence of the smaller, more thoughtful ones. I don't resent people who want to make a living from a hobby in which they've invested a lot of time and energy. Those people tend to create blogs that I'm not interested in reading, but I get around this problem by not reading them (a strategy that the denizens of snark forums might do well to adopt). What has changed, I think, is the patience that blog readers have for longform posts. I don't use Instagram, but I know that swatches of new collections show up there long before most bloggers have posted their reviews. If you originally started reading beauty blogs because you wanted to see a bunch of product photos and swatches, Instagram is perfect for your needs. And once you've grown accustomed to tracking the MAC hashtag and seeing dozens of images with only a few words of explanation, beauty blogs might well strike you as a bit retro--the uncool kind of retro, not the winged-eyeliner-and-Ruby-Woo retro so beloved of IG types.

Surely it's no coincidence that most of my favorite beauty bloggers are my age or older: we grew up with the idea that the Internet was for self-expression (well, that and porn). Over the past decade, the Internet in general has become less about self-expression and more about self-promotion. I know that sounds very Kids These Days, but I think it's true, and I also think it was inevitable. The professionalization of blogging has produced a culture in which some people genuinely don’t understand why a makeup junkie would read an entire blog post instead of searching for swatches on Instagram. Blogging is so 2009, you guys! I was vaguely aware of this when I started Auxiliary Beauty almost a year ago, but only recently did I come to understand how reactionary a blog like mine really is. I write long Blogspot posts; I don't own a proper camera; I haven't bothered to modify the template supplied by Blogger, because I don't really give a shit how sleek my blog looks. Maybe part of this is nostalgia, a desire to maintain the kind of blog I loved reading in college. Maybe I'm inescapably 2009 myself. My conclusion, as ever, is "I guess I'll keep doing what I'm doing until it stops being fun." Who knows: in five or ten years, Blogspot blogs with wall-of-text posts and clunky layouts might become the cool kind of retro.

The Internet is still a great mystery, and the more we come to rely on it, the deeper the mystery grows. What is the endgame of the Internet? How will it be regulated in a decade or two? How are we supposed to behave on it? I haven't heard the word "netiquette" in at least ten years: no great loss, to be sure, but also no surprise. At some point, we all collectively realized that there could be no universal standard of etiquette in a medium that guaranteed any degree of anonymity. Having just finished a dissertation chapter on Thomas Hobbes's own approach to snark, I can't help but think that the great theorist of human self-obsession would have found the blogosphere endlessly fascinating. The "signs of vainglory" in human beings, he wrote in 1640, "are imitation of others, counterfeiting affection to things they understand not, affectation of fashions, captation of honour from their dreams, and other little stories of themselves, from their country, their names, and the like." I have no doubt that beauty blogging will change as much in the next five years as it has in the last five; it might even disappear entirely. One impulse that will never fade, though, is our desire to tell little stories of ourselves. I suppose this one is mine.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Maybelline Color Sensational Rebel Bloom Lipstick in Lilac Flush

...or, How AB Flouted the Resolutions She Made Just Five Days Ago.

In my defense, I got this lipstick at the end of December. (Nor did I spend my own money: my mom bought it for me, if you must know.) But I had already planned out my resolutions for 2015, and one could argue, if one were determined to impugn my character, that I cannily squeezed in the lipstick before the new year began. This is not a purchase that represents quality over quantity; it's not a product from a new-to-me indie brand; I bought it in part because it was a new release; and I can tell you right now, it's not going to inspire a creative or introspective post. I just sort of lost my head when I saw those pink tubes lined up in their display at Target. And they were $5.49 each! I'm not made of stone.

With the well-deserved success of the Vivids line in 2012, Maybelline figured out that millennials have an endless appetite for lipsticks. We can't afford cars or houses (though the Atlantic believes that we just don't want them, because who would want shelter or transportation?), but we do have pocket change to spend on dozens of variations on pink, red, and nude. Accordingly, Maybelline released the Buffs at the beginning of last year and the Creamy Mattes in the fall, and Spring 2015 brings a more vernal lineup: the Rebel Blooms, housed in pretty peony-pink tubes. I'm not sure what's so rebellious about a collection of ten pastel and nude lipsticks, though I'll admit that their names--Orchid Ecstasy, Barely Bloomed, Lilac Flush--do sound like extracts from Georgia O'Keeffe's unpublished erotic fiction.

Lilac Flush is a white-based pinky lavender. In the tube, it looks decidedly purple...

...but when swatched on my arm, it turns into a cool, pale lavender-pink reminiscent of MAC Snob or Saint Germain.

Here it is swatched between two of my purple lipsticks: Maybelline Brazen Berry, left, and MAC Up the Amp, right. First photo in shade, second in direct sunlight, both indoors.

Lilac Flush has the standard Maybelline satin formula: not jelly-soft like the Vivids, but slick, shiny, and semi-opaque (I need to use two coats for full coverage on my pigmented lips). Like most milky pastels, Lilac Flush tends to emphasize imperfections in my lips, and I'd recommend exfoliating before putting it on. It looks more pink in some lights and more lavender in others, but this photo is a good approximation of how it usually appears on my lips:

 Lilac Flush is the sort of color that confused me in the days when I assumed that because I had cool-toned skin, I could wear any cool-toned lipstick. (She says, as if those days weren't last year.) I was lucky to find Kate's series of posts on seasonal colors, which taught me that I look much better in saturated cool colors than in muted ones: in seasonal terms, I'm a winter and not a summer. If I'm not mistaken, Lilac Flush is a summer color, and I honestly don't think it's the best shade for me. I'm having a hard time thinking of a skin tone that it would flatter; it might just be the sort of lipstick that looks a little jarring and unnatural on everyone. That's part of its charm.

Ideally, I'd pair this lipstick with a stronger eye, but I don't have the right materials here in San Francisco. I left most of my eye makeup back home and forgot to bring my travel staple, theBalm's Nude 'tude palette, which would come in handy for its matte black shadow. I don't even have access to a black eyeliner! So instead you get the most stereotypically me of all my looks: NARS Lhasa eyeshadow, CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara, NARS Mata Hari blush, and Lilac Flush on my lips.

I thought about passing on Lilac Flush to my mom, whose coloring is almost identical to mine and who loves purple lip colors, but I first wore it when I was coming down with a cold and I'd hate to be the Typhoid Mary of lipstick. (Which reminds me, I should sterilize the tube now that I'm feeling better.) So Lilac Flush stays with me, and I'm looking forward to putting together some '60s-inspired looks for spring! Something tells me that my lavender blush will be involved...

Update, Jan. 8: Today I wore Lilac Flush all day, to get a better sense of the formula. It's extremely comfortable on my lips; I find some of the Maybelline Color Sensational lipsticks to be drying, but Lilac Flush feels more like the Vivids. Unfortunately, the wear time isn't great--about two hours with no eating--and the formula has the repulsive tendency to congeal and form gooey balls and threads on the inner part of my lips. Gross, gross, gross. I've heard of lipsticks doing that, but this is the first time I've experienced it. Pastel lipsticks are often problematic, and Lilac Flush is no exception. If you're thinking about buying this one, I'd advise you against it: there are quite a few indie lipsticks in the same color, with what appear to be better formulas.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Review, Part 3: Beauty Resolutions for 2015

I meant to write this post on New Year's Eve, but I ended up falling asleep at 10:30, because--well, let's pretend it was because I'd partied so mind-blowingly hard before that, and not because I'd had one cocktail at dinner with my mother and one small glass of champagne once we got home. Still, I figure that January 2 is close enough to the beginning of the year for a list of resolutions to seem appropriate. I'm not a very superstitious person in general, but I put a lot of store in end-of-year rituals. I've always loved the feeling of looking ahead to a clean swath of time not yet marred by idiotic decisions, hangovers, and missed deadlines. It's an illusory feeling, but our concept of time is itself illusory, so whatever.

I wish I'd been awake to watch 2014 dwindle to nothing. It wasn't a great year for me overall, and it was an even worse year for some of my loved ones, to say nothing of the world at large. But it had some definite bright points, too. I traveled a lot (though I managed to get sick on almost every trip, including my current visit to San Francisco), I sent my first academic article to a journal, I became more confident in various areas of my life, and I started this blog and found a wonderful community of makeup and beauty lovers. My posting became a little less frequent toward the end of the year, due to some banal but time-consuming real-life nonsense, but I'm looking forward to resuming a more regular posting schedule this month. Accordingly, I've written up half a dozen navel-gazing beauty and blogging resolutions for 2015!

1. Choose quality over quantity.

I know, I know: this is the resolution we all make, and then there's a 2-for-1 Revlon sale. But my budget is going to be especially tight this year, and I can't afford to make impulse purchases or buy things "for the blog." I don't want to set an absolute limit to the number of beauty purchases I make per month, but I'm going to start out using two as a soft limit (not counting repurchases of skincare products). This will force me to choose things I really want, not just things that catch my eye in a blog post or an aisle of CVS.

2. Buy new products only to fill a real gap in my collection.

No dupes. No near-dupes. If I have a perfectly good fuchsia lipstick (and I have more than one), I'm not going to buy another just because it's in a new formula that has received universal acclaim or an A+ rating from Temptalia.

3. Use up at least five lipsticks.

I don't want to force myself to wear colors I'm not feeling excited about (more on that in my next Project Make-a-Dent post), but I'm hoping that if I stop buying new lipsticks, I'll use up a few organically.

4. Remove makeup, wash my face, and moisturize before falling asleep.

Since senior year of college, I've had the appalling habit of falling asleep without turning out my lights or washing my face or even, sometimes, changing into pajamas. It's hard for me to tell when I'm getting tired until I'm almost asleep, and by then it's too late. This year I need to start getting ready for bed much earlier than I usually do, so that if I happen to pass out with the lights on, I'll at least have a clean, moisturized face. (But I should turn the lights out, too.)

5. Try new beauty brands, favoring small, cruelty-free ones.

I don't think I'll abandon my NARS bias anytime soon, and I do shy away from ordering makeup that I haven't seen in person first, but there are so many indie and more-or-less-indie brands that I've never tried: Rituel de Fille, ColourPop, Portland Black Lipstick Company, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Rouge Bunny Rouge...

6. Write more creative posts. 

After almost a year as a beauty blogger, I've learned something disappointing but not entirely surprising: if you want a lot of pageviews, the best thing you can possibly do is post swatches of new releases. (Or MAC lipsticks. Or even better, I'd assume, new MAC lipstick releases.) My post about the NARS Audacious lipsticks, which went up two days after the lipstick range appeared in stores, has racked up almost 4,500 pageviews in the last four months. This is, let me be clear, many times the number of views that most of my posts receive. Very little time, effort, or abstract thought went into the Audacious post: I just swatched a few lipsticks on my hand, photographed the swatches in both shade and sun, and added a photo of myself wearing one of the colors. That turned out to be exactly the information that thousands of people wanted--and so cynicism is born.

The posts that I have the most fun writing, like my discussion of 17th-century beauty, tend to receive fewer hits than my straightforward product reviews. I get it: the average reader of a beauty blog wants product photos, swatches, and brief descriptions. Sometimes that's what I want, too. If I'm standing in the beauty section of a Target, using my phone to search for opinions on a lipstick, I don't want to scroll through someone's long-winded musings on the childhood memories evoked by that particular shade of lavender. Accordingly, when writing my own blog, I try to alternate between tl;dr introspection and quick, informative reviews; I also try to suit my style to the subject matter. But if I had to make a choice about the kind of blog I want Auxiliary Beauty to be, I'd choose the long-winded musings every time. I don't buy enough new products to maintain a constant stream of reviews, and there are only so many ways to praise or damn a lipstick. So prepare yourself for more cosmetic history and self-indulgent introspection in 2015! You've been warned. I'll also try to post every three days, give or take (more likely give), which was a realistic plan for much of this year.

Finally, because why not, here are my New Year's Eve nails: two coats of Zoya Neve under Topshop Brazil and a Revlon topcoat.

This manicure was astonishingly long-lasting! I took these pictures yesterday, four days after I painted my nails, and I removed the polish today, but only because I wanted to use a different color.

And here's my last FOTD of 2014, featuring a few of my favorite purchases of 2014, as well as some favorites from 2013 and earlier. I ended the year as I hope to continue in 2015: with screamingly bright red lipstick (this one is Revlon Fire and Ice). I also used NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, Milani clear brow gel, NARS Lhasa eyeshadow, the plum side of the NARS Habanera duo, CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara, and Illamasqua Zygomatic cream blush. Apologies for weird nighttime lighting.

Here's to a happy, healthy, fulfilling 2015 for all of us!