Friday, June 23, 2017

Kiko Velvet Passion Matte Lipstick in 319 Chocolate

My boyfriend recently left his job in the UK, which is great news relationship-wise: we met in my former graduate program and have been long-distance since I transferred to my current school seven (!) years ago, and now we'll actually be able to live together for more than a couple months at a time. On a shallower level, however, this will be my last transatlantic makeup review for a while. Before my boyfriend returned to the US earlier this month, I sent him to the Kiko store in the Birmingham train station, where he very kindly swatched a few shades of the Velvet Passion matte lipstick line. (Weirdly, there's another Kiko store five minutes away, in the enormous mall attached to the station.) Here's the full display of the lipsticks, which launched last year. Each one retails for £7 (about $9).

The shade I chose was 319 (Chocolate), a medium plummy brown that feels very Jazz-Age-casual to me. The Velvet Passion lipstick bullets have an odd squared-off tip that resembles a fountain pen; this review points out that they look identical to the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution lipsticks, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were made in the same factory. Overall, the lipstick looks and feels more luxe than I'd expect from a brand with drugstore pricing.

The lipstick has a mild vanilla scent reminiscent of the signature MAC fragrance.

The two-toned tube is (partly) real metal, with a magnetic cap. I associate magnetic tubes with higher-end brands like NARS and Marc Jacobs, so it was a thrill to find a magnet in my Kiko lipstick. It's a little weird that the cap overlaps the tube but doesn't extend to the bottom, but I appreciate the cyberpunk distinctiveness of the design. I can imagine Rachael in Blade Runner pulling this tube from her purse.

In the past, I've written about lipsticks with good formulas but subpar packaging. Kiko 319 has the opposite problem: the lipstick itself doesn't quite live up to its exterior. This isn't a bad lipstick by any means, but the pigmentation is lacking. Here's one swipe on my arm:

I feared that 319 would be a dupe for MAC Whirl, but it's much more purple, especially on my lips.

L-R: NYX Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn, Kiko 319, MAC Whirl.

I can get decent pigmentation if I build up the color on my lips, but the formula clings to dry spots instead of smoothing them over. Here's two coats:

Because of the slight sheerness of the formula, 319 seems to look different on everyone. I've seen reviews in which it pulls brown or greige; on me, though, it's a brown-tinged purple reminiscent of (but much warmer than) NYX Up the Bass. (Interestingly, the brown and nude shades in Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution formula seem to have the same translucency.) 319 isn't patchythe product applies pretty evenly, without a lot of slipbut it doesn't have the color payoff I'd expect from a MAC or Urban Decay matte lipstick. For that matter, its finish is closer to satin than true matte. It feels comfortable on my lips, but it transfers easily onto cups and straws and needs touch-ups almost hourly, which is a pain. I think I'll try layering it over a mauve lip liner and update this post if that helps.

For the look below, I used ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Dance Party all over my lids, blending out the crease with ABH Buon Fresco and adding some more Buon Fresco to the lower lashline. My blush is Urban Decay Rapture. The bluer purple of the eyeshadow clashes with the warm purple of the lipstick, but I don't really mind:

Dance Party is a sheer purplish black with fuchsia and blue glitter. I included it in my last ColourPop order because it was so pretty in the pan, but spent an entire month figuring out how to wear it. Glitter eyeshadows in lighter colors are easy to usepop them in the center of the lid or the inner cornersbut dark glitters are trickier. Initially, I tried a smoky look with a few more Modern Renaissance shadows, but it came out weird and muddy. Clearly, I was overthinking it.

In my next attempt, I used Dance Party as a sheer wash of color, and was pleased at how understated it looked. Let me know if you've come up with a better way to wear similar shadows, though, because I'm stymied.

Another full face:

I don't think I'd run out and buy another Velvet Passion shade (though the bolder colors do seem more pigmented overall), but I'm pretty happy with this one. I'm also happy that I haven't bought any new makeup in over a month! I'll write a low-buy update soon, but for now I'll say that since I stopped obsessively recording and planning my beauty purchases, I've found it much easier to resist temptation. Strange how the mind works, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Magenta Madness: MAC Rebel and Wet n Wild Nice to Fuchsia

Most makeup collectors have their color kryptonite, particularly when it comes to lipstick: pinky nudes, corals, blue-based reds. For me that color is, and has pretty much always been, magenta. Or whatever you want to call it: bright plum, dark fuchsia, anything that walks the line between purple and deep pink. I just did a lazy Google search for "magenta," and here's the image that comes closest to my Platonic ideal:

Magenta isn't a particularly trendy color these days. It evokes 1980s excess, and can read especially '80s if paired with blue or green. For proof, here's my own vintage '80s dress, which I can't wear in public because I'm a somewhat self-respecting adult, but also can't get rid of because look at it:

Detail of the pattern:

There is something tacky and hedonistic about magenta, but my natal decade was not the only tacky, hedonistic one in history (though it sure came close). In fact, magenta is a nineteenth-century color, a product of the Industrial Revolution. Created in 1859 from an aniline (i.e. synthetic) dye called fuchsine, it was subsequently renamed to celebrate the Battle of Magenta, in which the French and Sardinian armies defeated the Austrians near the town of Magenta in northern Italy. We have a natural tendency to imagine the nineteenth century in sepia or black and white, but check out this stunning dress from c. 1869-70. I've been lucky enough to see it in person at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, and yes, it really is this bright:


Back in April, I went to the Cooper Hewitt's Jazz Age exhibition (well worth visiting if you're in NYC before August 21) and spent a few minutes ogling this French sidewall pattern from the late 1920s:


Nor is magenta strictly a Western color. I've been following the world of geiko (Kyoto geisha) and maiko (apprentice geiko) for several years now, and I've seen a surprising number of magenta kimonos and obis. Here's maiko Masaki, one of my faves, in 2013:

The original source on Flickr has been deleted, sorry.

I like magenta not only because of the color's historical associations, but also because it's one of the most flattering shades for my cool-toned skin, dark hair, and green eyes. I currently own two lipsticks that could be described as "magenta": MAC Rebel, a gift from a friend last year, and Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nice to Fuchsia, which I bought last month.

The two shades look almost identical on my arm. Rebel on the left, Nice to Fuchsia on the right:

With a few other magenta- and plum-adjacent lipsticks:

L-R: MAC Eugenie, Rebel, Nice to Fuchsia, Revlon Balm Stain in Crush, Glossier Jam (one swipe each).

On the lips, however, it's another story. Obvious formula differences aside, Nice to Fuchsia (right) is brighter and pinker, while Rebel is closer to plum than to a true magenta. Excuse the laughably bad application, thx.

Since I've worn each of these lipsticks several times at this point, I thought I'd give a review of each, starting with the classic MAC shade Rebel. I'd been considering buying it for years, so when my friend offered to buy me a lipstick of my choice in exchange for my mailing her some books and papers, I didn't hesitate to request Rebel. Here it is in unspoiled condition, back in October:

I have an easier time using negatives than positives to describe the color of Rebel: it's lighter than plum, more purple than berry, yet redder than a true purple. I've categorized it as "berry/plum" in the record I keep of my lipstick usage (Nice to Fuchsia is in the "pink" category), but I'm not entirely happy with that. Here I am wearing Rebel outside last fall, just before the election. Happier times for sure, though I have more effective sunglasses now.

Before Rebel, I'd tried one other lipstick in MAC's Satin formula: Pink Nouveau, which had a semi-matte finish that I found quite comfortable. Unfortunately, Rebel is very different. As you can see from the two photos above, it has a fairly shiny finish. And like other magenta lipsticks I've tried (Revlon Crush, NARS Angela), it seems to separate into two layers on my lips. On top, there's the darker, glossier layer that lasts a couple of hours and transfers easily onto cups. Below that, there's a brighter fuchsia layer that sinks into my lips, dries them out a bit, and stains them for a disturbingly long time. In fact, Rebel might be the most staining lipstick I've ever worn. I can remove Rebel at the end of the day, wipe my lips with Vaseline (which I use to remove matte liquid lipsticks), exfoliate them with a washcloth, and go to sleep, and my mouth will still be bright pink when I wake up the next morning. There must be some specific magenta pigment that does this, because it doesn't happen with any other color of lipstick. In any case, it's annoying as hell and ensures that I wear Rebel less often than I'd like. Why doesn't magenta love me back? :(

Let's move to a slightly happier subject. Nice to Fuchsia is my third Liquid Catsuit shade, after Missy and Fierce and Nudist Peach, both of which I reviewed here. In terms of opacity and comfort level, I'd put NtF above Nudist Peach but below Missy and Fierce, still the best liquid lipstick I've ever tried. After one layer, NtF is a bit streaky if you look closely. I doubt anyone you encounter out and about would notice, but you will probably notice, and it will annoy you. Here it is after I've evened it out a bit:

Not bad, though the touched-up spots don't dry down as fully as the single layer. Otherwise, though, I have no complaints about the formula. It looks perfect until I eat a full meal (I always remove my lipstick before meals anyway), and it's not drying AT ALL. And if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have very dry, sensitive lips that react badly to formulas other people praise as moisturizing. I still can't comprehend how Wet n Wild has managed to produce a fully matte, non-drying liquid lipstick formula for $4.99 (and I got this particular shade for $2.99, score!). I can't guarantee that it will work so well for you, of course, but I continue to be deeply impressed.

In my experience, the best way to nudge a magenta lipstick out of '80s territory is to pair it with warmer tones on the eyes. Below, I'm wearing Seventeen Statuesque eyeshadow and Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner, along with ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter and a light application of NARS Mata Hari blush:

Side view (this is as close as I come to ~GLOWING FOR THE GODS~):

My one real problem with Nice to Fuchsia has nothing to do with the product and everything to do with me: after six years of wearing makeup, I still can't apply a liquid lipstick properly. My upper lip is on the thin side, so it's almost impossible to outline my Cupid's bow precisely with any applicator. My lower lip is fuller, so it should be easier to cover with lipstick, but somehow it's not. On my first attempt, I always draw the lower lip too small. Then I go over it and end up overlining my lips. Then, because the excess product has dried down and I can't simply remove it with a finger, I go back in with a twisted-up tissue dipped in Vaseline. Of course that takes off too much color, so I draw the outline again, and suddenly one side of my lower lip is larger than the other, as if I've been punched. Then I start wondering why the hell I have a blog about makeup. I suppose because I enjoy it, and because you keep reading it. (Thank you.)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

FOTD: Faked Heat

(You have to read "faked" with two syllables, as if this is a Donne poem, or the title won't make sense.)

In the past two days, swatches and reviews of Urban Decay's new Naked Heat palette have been making the social-media rounds. (Here's a sneak peek from Temptalia and a review from Makeup and Beauty Blog.) Like many people, I can't help feeling that the palette is doubly redundant: it's not only the eighth Urban Decay Naked palette in seven years, but also the 93,458th orangey-red eyeshadow palette since mid-2016. Plus, it shares a weakness with the ABH Modern Renaissance palette: several of the medium-saturation shades look very similar to each other, which will make it difficult to achieve any look that's higher-contrast than a smoky wash of orange. I do like that '80s-throwback packaging, though.


Since I already struggle to use the warmer, bolder colors in Modern Renaissance, I have no plans to buy Naked Heat. However, I can't deny that the shades look beautiful, as do the eye looks I've seen so far. Today I felt inspired to use the orange eyeshadows I already owned, and I was really pleased with the final look! I've fallen out of practice with eyeshadow in the past few months, and this was the first look in a while that I felt proud of.

Orange is much easier for me to wear on my eyes than on my lips, because I can blend out orange shadows and tone them down with browns. Though that hasn't stopped me from plotting to swatch Rituel de Fille's Bloodroot lipstick (reviewed by Kate here) at the earliest possible opportunity...

All but one of the shadows I used in this look came from Modern Renaissance. After applying primer, I used Burnt Orange (a sleeper favorite for me this spring) in the crease, followed by the richer, brighter Realgar in the outer part of the crease and blended out past the outer corner. I used Tempera to buff out the crease colors toward the eyebrow. For a halo-ish effect, I placed Antique Bronze on the inner and outer corners of my lid, with a metallic orange from my theBalm custom palette in the middle, and Antique Bronze again on the lower lashline.

L-R: Tempera, Burnt Orange, Realgar, Antique Bronze, theBalm #21

The rest of my face, entirely by chance, was ColourPop: Lunch Money highlighter, Shop eyeshadow as blush, and Blotted Lip in Drip.

And a library-carrel selfie:

I think this look has convinced me that I have quite enough orange eyeshadows to ride out this trend. Now back to refreshing the Guardian's liveblog of the UK election with increasing enthusiasm...

Monday, May 29, 2017

Real Techniques Mini Sponges

Something different today: a mini-review of something that isn't makeup! You've probably noticed that my obsession with color makeup is several orders of magnitude greater than my interest in skincare, brushes, haircare, or "boring makeup" (mascara, brow stuff, concealer, etc). But for variety's sake, I thought I'd write about a new tool that's been amusing me for the past month and a half. What's more, it's a tool that I use to apply "boring makeup"!

Since I don't wear foundation, I miss out on a whole category of beauty-world hype. Last year, the internet went crazy over Beauty Blenders (and knockoffs thereof), but I paid no attention until I became aware of the mini versions. Because, of course, I do wear base makeup: I apply NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla to my gruesome undereye circles almost every day. I'd never had much trouble blending it out with my fingers, but during my last trip to Ulta, I picked up a four-pack of mini "miracle complexion sponges" by Real Techniques. Above, I'm holding the two that are still pristine; I'm currently using the purple one, and the fuchsia one developed a huge crack when I washed it for the first time. Here's the purple sponge in my hand for scale:

It has a flat end for stamping on product...

..and a pointy end for getting into the inner corners of the eyes:

To cover my dark circles, I dab the concealer in a few little dots below my eye, spray the sponge with my Heritage Store glycerin and rosewater face mist until it's damp, and then blend in the product with a patting motion. A huge part of the hype around facial sponges must be that they're just plain fun to use. The damp sponge is soft, bouncy, and cooling. My skin feels like it's being pampered, not heartlessly spackled. And the pointy end of the sponge is a lot more efficient than my fingers at blending concealer up to the tear duct.

Novelty aside, though, do the sponges actually deliver better results? Let's take a closer look. Here are my unconcealed dark circles:

For my first attempt, I applied the same amount of concealer with the sponge (your left) and my fingers (your right). I also made up my eyes and brows: Glossier Boy Brow in Brown, Maybelline Bad to the Bronze cream shadow, Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner, and Revlon mascara.

As you can see, the sponge delivered less coverage, likely because some product disappeared into its crevices. So I applied another layer to that eye:

Better, but still not quite as good as the other eye.

Finally, my full face, with Illamasqua Zygomatic cream blush, ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter, and NYX Alabama lipstick. Today was overcast with very thick clouds, like almost every other day this May, so I look a bit washed out:

Oddly, the concealer applied with the sponge seemed to wear off faster. I glanced in the mirror two hours later and the circle under my right eye really jumped out at me. To be fair, I don't aim to cover my circles completely (I think I look a little uncanny-valley with thick undereye concealer), but I need some coverage. I also find that every few days, the sponge fails to blend the concealer over one particular spot under my left eye. The product sort of clumps up on itself and I have to go in with my finger and try to spread it around and ARGH.

I'm glad I decided to write this post, because my little experiment was enlightening. It turned out that I had to use almost twice as much product to get the same result with the sponge as I did with my fingers. And since NARS concealer ain't cheap, I may have to return to the old-fashioned application method and use my fingers like a goddamn peasant. But I do love how precisely the sponge delivers product to my inner corners, so I may use it for that specific purpose and pat in the rest of the concealer with a finger. In any case, I don't think I'd recommend these sponges for anything but their feeling on the skinbut some days that's enough for me. Introducing sponges to my routine has reminded me that makeup is about not only the finished result but also the process of application. Which should be fun!

What's your experience with beauty sponges? And is it possible that I could use my own sponges more effectively (by wetting them more, or not at all, or...)?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Life Update

Hey! I promise that my blog still exists and that I'm still alive. Look, I even have a pin to prove it:

Appropriately, I took this photo while waiting outside my therapist's office.

However, posts have been scarce this month for a few reasons:

  • I don't know where my money will come from after August, where I'll be living, or whether I'll even stay in academia, so most of my energy has been devoted to sorting that out
  • I'll probably be defending my dissertation in a few months and it needs a lot of editing plus an introduction, hahaha kill me
  • I've been revising an article that I want to send off again by the end of the month
  • The weather has been shitty and overcast for most of May, limiting my ability to take decent photos
  • Literally everything else in the world is awful??

I have a habit of announcing a blog hiatus only to write a post two days later, so I'm not going to do that now, but I think it's fair to say that posting may be slow over the next few months as I blunder toward a plan for this year slash the rest of my life. For now, I thought I'd share a little photo album of what I've been doing/seeing/buying/reading this month.

One of the nice things about living in the suburbs is that everyone competes to have a greener thumb than their neighbors:

I've been getting back into embroidery, an on-and-off hobby of mine since second grade. I started by embroidering a Jenny Holzer truism that seemed apt for this particular political moment. I fucked up the spacing, but hey, Trump is fucking up our entire democracy; IT'S ART, OKAY. I'll add some flowers or something eventually.

I just started Lara Elena Donnelly's novel Amberlough, and though I can't deliver a definitive verdict yet, I'm enjoying the hell out of it so far. I mean, what's not to like about queer speculative fiction full of political intrigue and cabaret? It reminds me of a less prolix Mieville novel. And since my main complaint about Mieville is that he uses 30 words when he could use five, that's a very good thing.

I went to Philadelphia last week to visit one of my grad-school friends before she moves back to the UK at the end of the month. I love the old houses along Baltimore Avenue in West Philly; they're an interesting mix of heavy Northeastern materials and quasi-Southern design. And those colors!

I escaped the 95-degree heat with a visit to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. They had a exhibit on magic in the ancient world, featuring all sorts of amulets and talismans, like this statuette of a soldier with a Medusa-head shield:

And Mesopotamian plaques with images of captured demons:

While in Philly, I bought a nail polish from the indie brand Philly Loves Lacquer, which sadly closed up shop last year:

This shade is Stinking Glitterveta, named after the Philly-based prog-metal trio Stinking Lizaveta, which itself is named after a character in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. That complexity of allusion (and glitter) is hard to find outside the indie world. I layered Stinking Glitterveta over two coats of Barry M Butterscotch Sundae, but it turned out to be one of those annoying glitter polishes that require you to pour a blob of product onto a piece of paper and use a tool to fish out the larger glitters one by one. Still, I think it turned out well, even if the points of the stars tend to detach from the nail:

That particular combination of fuchsia, lime, and black reminds me of my early childhood, when it seemed to be everywhere. I had a Barbie dress in that color combo, as well as a little fuchsia-and-lime wallet that I decorated with sparkly fabric paint and rhinestones. And speaking of fuchsia, I also bought a third Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nice to Fuchsia, which reminds me of my dear departed NARS Angela. Here's NtF next to a Revlon lipstick I've decided to return; I really need to stop buying warm brown nudes.

I think this shade of magenta-berry is one of my most flattering colors, though I don't wear it often.

I usually steer clear of Urban Outfitters polishes, which seem to be prone to chipping, but I couldn't resist this metallic rose shade, called (wait for it) Metallic Rose. It's quick-drying, opaque in two coats, and not particularly brushstrokey. Unfortunately, it does start chipping on me in a day or two, but it's so pretty that I really don't mind. I'm happy to wear it for as long as it consents to stay on my nails.

Amid all this buying, I finished my second lipstick of the year: Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak, which I took to layering over other shades for a more muted, brownish peach.

Here I am wearing Streak over Glossier Generation G in Cake, as well as some Modern Renaissance shades on my eyes. Sorry the photo is a little washed out.

I've been enjoying Burnt Orange as a crease color, with lighter peaches and beiges on the lid:

And that's all for now! I actually have quite a few products to review, but I have a weird hangup about writing review posts if I can't make them interesting in some other way. Still, better a straightforward review than nothing at all, I suppose.