Tuesday, July 9, 2019

My New Moisturizing Duo

Greetings from San Francisco! My last apartment lease ended on June 20 and my new one doesn't start until August 1, so I'm bouncing around the country until then, which means limited time for photographing and writing about beauty products. My boyfriend and I took a road trip to his parents' house in Alabama and spent two weeks there; I'm staying with my mom in SF now; later this month I'll go to St. Louis to see my dad and stepmother and attend a family reunion (pray for me); and then we'll drive up to my new town and I'll move into an apartment I haven't seen in person yet. It's a lot.

Today, though, a rare skincare post! Cerave PM was my holy grail night moisturizer for almost three years, but CeraVe reformulated it last year, leaving me sadly adrift. The revamped CeraVe PM wasn't terrible, but it lacked the light jelly texture of the original and was too greasy for my taste. But after a six-month search, I can report that my moisturizing routine is better than ever. Introducing the new power couple on my skincare shelf: COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask and Trader Joe's Ultra Hydrating Gel Moisturizer, to which I'll refer hereafter as the UNROSM and the TJUHGM respectively. Just kidding, I'll call them the Rice Mask and the Gel Moisturizer.

Gel Moisturizer on the left, Rice Mask on the right:

A reminder about my skin type and preferences: I have normal-to-dry skin that's only getting drier with age (I'm 31). Dryness aside, my skin isn't particularly sensitive or breakout-prone, but I buy fragrance-free skincare products whenever possible. I also avoid thick moisturizer that doesn't absorb quickly--it makes my face feel like it's suffocating. Because I'm lazy and impatient, I keep my skincare routine as streamlined as possible. In addition to my two moisturizers, I use Bioré UV Aqua Rich Gel sunscreen, Caudalie Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil, and CeraVe hydrating cleanser daily; Glossier Solution whenever I remember it exists (so, once or twice a week), and Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Mask two or three times a month.

Let me also add the usual caveat that I don't know a lot about skincare and, frankly, find the subject kind of boring (hence my stripped-down regimen). I'm writing this post because these two products work well for me, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to speak objectively; this post should be read as a narrative of my own experience and nothing further.

Now for the reviews!

Rice Mask:

I discovered the Rice Mask in one of my beauty motherships, oo35mm in NYC's Chinatown. I can't remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was about $16 (it's cheaper on Amazon, of course). I'd previously been eyeing COSRX's honey overnight mask, but when I saw the brand also had a rice version, I asked one of the always-helpful salesladies about the difference between the two. It turns out that the honey mask is better for damaged skin and the rice mask for dry skin. Now, at this point I was envisioning using one of the masks as an occasional dose of extra hydration. But when I squeezed out a bit of the tester lotion, I was surprised at how light it felt. I bought a tube, and it wasn't long before I started using it every single night.

The Rice Mask is a little thicker and less jelly-like than the original CeraVe PM was, and it takes a little longer to absorb (maybe ten minutes), but it's still light as moisturizers go. Unlike many Korean skincare products I've tried, it's virtually fragrance-free. The ingredients include rice extract, glycerin, niacinamide, and sunflower seed oil; instead of pretending to be an expert on what those ingredients do, I'm going to direct you to an extremely thorough blog review by someone who knows much more about skincare than I do. The squeeze-tube packaging is functional and portable, and I like the minimalist graphics. While the moisturizer is absorbing, my skin feels wonderfully plump and dewy, and it's still soft when I wake up the next morning. In short, the Rice Mask does exactly what I want a night moisturizer to do, so my search for a CeraVe PM replacement is over for the foreseeable future!

Gel Moisturizer:

Trader Joe's has been stepping up its beauty offerings recently, and the new Gel Moisturizer has generated a fair amount of online buzz, including this Into the Gloss review. My understanding is that Trader Joe's doesn't have its own labs, but sells generic versions of products available elsewhere from more prestigious (and more expensive) brands. (The TJ's website mentions that they bought the formula from "one of our favorite high-end skincare producers.") I felt a little guilty buying the Gel Moisturizer when I was already satisfied with the Rice Mask, but for $8.99, I had to indulge my curiosity.

The moisturizer comes in a sturdy plastic tub. Under the screw-off lid is an extra lid that I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to keep or get rid of. The more squeamish among you will probably object to dipping your fingers into the tub. As a confirmed trash person, however, I don't really mind (and I apply my skincare with clean hands, not immediately after riding the L train or something).

The Gel Moisturizer has a pleasingly squishy lemon-curd texture and a delicate aloe scent. It contains humectants like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate, as well as various soothing ingredients such as aloe juice. Because it's water-based, it melts right into the skin with a delightful cooling sensation. It would probably feel even nicer if you stored it in the refrigerator during the summer.

I initially tried the Gel Moisturizer as a night moisturizer and felt disappointed: the hydration didn't seem to last until the morning. But one morning I patted on a layer of Gel Moisturizer before applying my sunscreen, Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel, and my life changed forever. Bioré sunscreens contain alcohol, which makes them less oily than most Western sunscreens but also, obviously, more drying. Without a layer of moisture, my Bioré sunscreen leaves my face matte and a little dull-looking. I've known for years that I should be applying moisturizer before my sunscreen, but I could never find one light enough for daily wear until now. Here's my face this morning, with nothing but Gel Moisturizer and sunscreen. Ignore the huge dark circles under my eyes and focus on the fact that I look like I'm wearing highlighter because my skin is just that hydrated:

I've been using this duo for about a month now, and my skin is looking great overall. Unfortunately, I'm about to move to a region of the country that has neither Trader Joe's nor Asian skincare stores, but I'm sure I'll manage. I'm nervous about starting my new job (I've been having nightly dreams about showing up to my first class late and completely unprepared), but at least I'll be starting it with a well-moisturized face, and that can't hurt.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

ColourPop Spring Haul, Part 2: Super Shock Cheek in Aphrodisiac and Super Shock Shadow in Truth

Now that I'm winding down my blog, I've entered a reminiscing frame of mind. I've been thinking about my favorite aspects of the beauty community, one of which is our appreciation for the nuances of color. I've always had a good eye for color, but following makeup and beauty for so many years has taught me that there's truly no such thing as a boring or ugly color. Take beige, for instance. The word is used casually as a synonym for "dull," but a judicious application of just the right shade of beige can completely change a makeup look. As proof of which, I present two beige products that I've been using constantly since they arrived at my door: ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Aphrodisiac and Super Shock Shadow in Truth.

Both of these products are as permanent as ColourPop products get: they've been around for a few years and, since they seem to be quite popular among customers, they probably won't be discontinued anytime soon. I ordered Truth after asking my Instagram followers for recommendations for a my-eyelids-but-better shade in the Super Shock formula. I'd been considering a few of ColourPop's more famous shadows, such as Wattles and Hanky Panky, but I was afraid they'd be too peachy or reddish for me. I'm so grateful to the person who suggested Truth, because I'd never heard of it or noticed it on the website, and it's perfect for my needs: a sheer light beige with a hint of shimmer but no glitter. As for Aphrodisiac, I ordered it hoping it would work as a subtle bronzer, which it does!

Aphrodisiac is a pinkish brown that seems to look different on every single person. (It came out in 2015, when there were significantly more beauty blogs than there are now, so it's easy to find reviews.) On warmer complexions than mine, Aphrodisiac can look almost mauve; on my fair, cool-toned skin, it's a soft warm brown. When I first saw Aphrodisiac in the pan, I worried that it would be too dark, but it's quite sheer. In general, I find the Super Shock blushes (I've also tried Rain) to be drier and less pigmented than the Super Shock Shadows. (This is not a criticism: I'd rather build up my blush color gradually than blend out a surprise clown cheek.)

Truth also misled me (ironically enough) when I first saw it in the box: it looked like a yellowish peach, not like the "neutral light beige" promised on the website.

But as they said in the Renaissance, veritas filia temporis: Truth is the daughter of Time. After I unboxed Truth and looked at it in natural light, it seemed closer to my ideal. (Writing about unboxing Truth with a capital T makes me feel like I'm crafting a Spenserian allegory or something.)

Truth is probably the smoothest, silkiest Super Shock Shadow I've ever tried, and I've owned quite a few in my time. Swiping my finger across its surface is a genuine pleasure: it feels almost as soft as clotted cream. Unsurprisingly, it spreads across my eyelid just as easily as clotted cream would if I tried to use it as an eyeshadow, which...let's just move on.

Swatches of Aphrodisiac (left) and Truth, in shade (top) and in sun:

And for a better sense of texture, here are the two pans in direct sunlight now that I've been using them for a couple of months. If you enlarge the photo, you can see some tiny flecks of shimmer in Aphrodisiac, but it reads as completely matte on my perpetually dry cheeks.

As a complete tyro in the world of bronzer, I'm not sure of the best placement for it. Should I use it on the tops of my cheekbones, where the sun would naturally bronze my skin, or should I blend it under my cheekbones for a contoured look? I've seen it used both ways and read passionate arguments in favor of one way or the other. In general, I like to wear darker blushes in an '80s-inspired placement under my cheekbones and lighter, brighter blushes on the apples of my cheeks, closer to the center of my face. Since Aphrodisiac certainly qualifies as a darker blush, I've been wearing it as I would a contour (not that I've used contour more than a couple times in my entire life), but I'm certainly willing to hear arguments for the other side!

I was also curious to try Aphrodisiac as an eyeshadow, which I'd seen a few people doing. I'm always wary of using not-intended-for-eyes products on my eye area, but I can report that my lids didn't experience any discomfort or staining at all. Here I am wearing Aphrodisiac on both eyes and cheeks, along with Becca liquid highlighter in Opal (my Sephora sample tube from 2017 is still going strong) and Urban Decay lipstick in Lawbreaker (just started my second tube!):

Closeup of the eye:

A more recent bronzey look: Aphrodisiac and ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter on my cheeks, Maybelline Bad to the Bronze on my eyes, and Bite Rose Pearl gloss on my lips. This photo makes me realize just how cool-toned my hair is: it looks almost gray against the warm browns on my face.

As for Truth, I've been wearing it either on its own or with brown eyeliner on my upper lashline. I've heard that some people use it as a base for other shadows, but I'm not sure how well that would work. Here's a closeup of Truth with Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner:

And here's the full face, with ColourPop Lux Lipstick in Dream Easy. It's finally coral season!

My third ColourPop haul post will review the pressed powder shadows in Bassline and Howlin'. Come to think of it, I might just make that post into a megapost with swatches of all my CP powder shadows, since I haven't reviewed most of the shades I own. We shall see!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

ColourPop Spring Haul, Part 1: Jelly Much Eyeshadow in Photosynth Sis and Lux Lipstick in 7 Springs

ColourPop released its Spring 2019 collection over two months ago, which is about two years in ColourPop time, and I've lost count of the number of new collections and product ranges and eyeshadow palettes that the brand has debuted since then. However, the spring collection is still available (and is on sale as I type this), so I hope my review helps at least a couple of people!

Fall is my favorite season for makeup, but I seem to patronize ColourPop in the spring more than in any other season. I suppose it makes sense: I wear neutral and "fall/winter" colors year-round, but I don't wear "spring/summer" colors except in the spring and summer, so I'm inclined to buy my coral lipstick and baby-blue eyeshadow from cheaper brands. (I put "fall/winter" and "spring/summer" in quotes because I know that not everyone is as neurotic about seasonal colors as I am.) But ColourPop also seems to come out with its best color collections in the spring. This year, I ordered six products, four from the permanent lineup (well, as "permanent" as ColourPop products get) and two from the Spring 2019 Sweet Talk collection. Clockwise from top left: Super Shock Shadow in Truth, Crème Lux Lipstick in 7 Springs, Pressed Powder Shadows in Howlin' and Bassline, Super Shock Cheek in Aphrodisiac, and Jelly Much Eyeshadow in Photosynth Sis.

Today we'll be looking at the two products from the Spring 2019 Sweet Talk collection: Photosynth Sis (groan), a metallic chartreuse, and 7 Springs, a dusty orange with a strong yellow base.

The packaging of the collection has a distinctive aesthetic that I'm not sure how to describe. Vintage Hollywood + '80s teen-girl scrapbook + ransom note? It's not quite to my taste, but as always, I appreciate the effort that ColourPop puts into its packaging for LE collections.

7 Springs (named after a ski resort in Pennsylvania, for some reason), was probably the least popular of the six Lux Lipstick shades in the spring collection. I had a hard time finding unfiltered swatches online, and every swatch looked different. (ColourPop's lazy description, "warm orange," certainly didn't help. Is there even such a thing as cool orange?) As my regular readers well know, orange is the riskiest lipstick color for me to order sight unseen, though I have decent luck with muted orangey shades like Marc Jacobs Rei of Light. 7 Springs looked muted and dusty in some photos, but almost neon in others. I knew ordering it was a risk, but I figured that if it was too bright, I could tone it down with a brown lipliner or lipstick.

When I finally saw 7 Springs in person, I understood why it looked so different in every photo: because its appearance changes dramatically based on lighting, and because the iPhone camera seems to make it look brighter than it is. 7 Springs is really a bitch to photograph, but I've done my best.

Here it is in indirect natural light, indoors:

In direct sunlight, outdoors:

In artificial light, indoors:

7 Springs is a very unusual orange lipstick. The phrase that comes to mind when I look at 7 Springs is "pumpkin orange." Not pumpkin spice (which I think of as redder, browner, and darker, like Rei of Light), but the sunny gourd itself. Most orange lipsticks on the market are bright and artificial-looking, like gummy candy or popsicles, but there's something very natural about 7 Springs. It doesn't have a white base, and though it's definitely not a rusty orange, it contains a bit of brown. 7 Springs is light and bright enough to suit spring and summer looks, but soft enough for fall ones. (And if you're less obsessive about seasonal colors than I am, you can wear it year-round and ignore my chromatic hang-ups.)

Out of curiosity, I swatched 7 Springs alongside all my vaguely orange-adjacent lipsticks. As you can see, it's the only true orange in my collection; the others lean much redder or browner. I was afraid that 7 Springs might be too close to MAC Smoked Almond, but they're completely different: Smoked Almond is a dirty peachy nude, while 7 Springs is much brighter. Here are the swatches first in direct sunlight outdoors, then in shade indoors:

L-R: Marc Jacobs Rei of Light, MAC Smoked Almond, 7 Springs, Topshop Rio Rio, ColourPop Dream Easy, Sephora Coral Sunset.

As you can probably tell from the arm swatches, 7 Springs is sheerer than my two other Lux Lipsticks (Dream Easy and Liquid Courage). It's maybe 75% opaque in one coat; this is two.

It looks brighter and a little redder in direct sunlight:

I actually don't mind the slight sheerness of 7 Springs. Dream Easy and Liquid Courage have insane pigmentation, but this means that the formula stains my lips and dries them out after an entire day of wear. 7 Springs needs to be touched up after a few hours, but I don't find it drying at all.

I couldn't resist trying on Photosynth Sis and 7 Springs together, though I thought the combination looked a bit clownish and swapped 7 Springs for Smoked Almond before I went out of the house.

Here's a combination I liked much better: 7 Springs with Glossier Play Colorslide in Early Girl and Glossier Cloud Paint in Dawn (I'm still feeling the mid-'70s vibes, as you can tell).

Now for Photosynth Sis, which is basically the eyeshadow version of Julianne Moore's 2019 Met Gala gown:

Source: Vanity Fair. I don't know if this fits the Met Gala's camp theme, but I still want it.

(For the record, Essie Million Mile Hues is the nail-polish version of Julianne Moore's gown. I'm throwing a photo up here because I know I'll never write a proper review.)

The Sweet Talk collection contains six new Jelly Much eyeshadow shades. Though I was tempted by almost all of them, I limited myself to one, since the Jelly Much shadow I bought last year (Half Moon) has shrunk to about half its original size in just six months. The formula still works fine, but it's obvious that the Jelly Much formula is even more short-lived than the Super Shock one, so buy at your own risk!

The containers for the spring Jelly Much shadows have lids that (sort of) correspond to the colors inside, which is cute.

Maybe it's just my chartreuse fetish talking, but Photosynth Sis is one of the most beautiful makeup products I've ever bought. I MEAN!!! It looks like a magical inkpot. Here it is in sunlight, with my hand for scale.


I've collected a few shadows in the chartreuse/old-gold color family over the years, but the others are all powders. L-R: ColourPop Deja Boo, Photosynth Sis, Inglot 433, theBalm Seductive.

I had high hopes for Photosynth Sis's formula because of my experience with Half Moon, which spreads across my eyelids evenly, sets quickly and thoroughly, and lasts all day. (I never reviewed Half Moon on my blog, but here's a mini-review I wrote on Instagram.) Unfortunately, Photosynth Sis is trickier to use and wear. Here's the best application method I've found so far:

1. Take a TINY DAB of eyeshadow on your finger and apply across your lid, using tapping motions instead of swiping motions (swiping will remove the product you just put down). Don't worry if this layer isn't completely opaque.

2. Working quickly (because this shit dries almost immediately), use a synthetic brush to blend out the edges, but ONLY the edges. Going over any other part of the shadow will make it patchy.

3. If you need another layer for opacity, wait until the first layer has dried before you add a second (again, using tapping motions). Placing fresh shadow over still-wet shadow will cause clumping and streaking.

4. Use half a tub of Vaseline to clean off the stray product that has inevitably made its way to your lower lashline and cheeks.

When a liquid eyeshadow dries down to a powdery finish, I expect it to be almost indelible, like the Glossier Lidstars. Unfortunately, Photosynth Sis is nowhere near waterproof. Here it is after a few minutes of crying (yes, even in the midst of emotional crisis I pay attention to the durability of my makeup):

If you don't cry, sweat heavily, or get caught in the rain, Photosynth Sis will last all day without much flaking or creasing. If you do any of those things...well, see the photo above.

Basically, Photosynth Sis is a giant pain in the ass to use. I wouldn't recommend it for a makeup beginner, and I'm not sure I'd recommend it for an experienced makeup user, either. However. When applied correctly, it produces the most brilliant chartreusey-gold foiled effect that I'm not sure any other product can replicate (though ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Telepathy looks close):

If you love chartreuse as much as I do, and don't mind a product that demands some extra effort, Photosynth Sis might be worth your hard-earned $8. Just don't expect to be able to slap it on in thirty seconds before work.

And that's that for the Sweet Talk products! I'll review my other new ColourPop makeup in due time.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Some Big News

First, the good news: I got an academic job!

Starting in August, I'm going to be a visiting assistant professor of English at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. It's a one-year appointment, so my job search will continue, but it's a pretty great offer that will give me cool stuff like a living wage and health insurance and smart, motivated students. I'm very, very happy and excited.

However, the coming year will probably be the busiest of my life to date. In addition to teaching and looking for a permanent job, I'll be pursuing my own research and writing; adjusting to a new town and workplace; and maybe maintaining some semblance of a social life. Something will have to give, and that something is blogging. In about three months, Auxiliary Beauty will come to an end.

I hate it when bloggers abruptly abandon their readers and go silent, so I wanted to give you all fair warning. Until August, I'll be posting as usual (about 2-3 times a month), in order to wrap up outstanding product reviews and other posts I've been meaning to write. After that, it will be adieu, but you'll still be able to find me on Instagram and elsewhere. And who knows: maybe I'll pop back in here occasionally to do a year-end roundup or something. I've always had a hard time saying goodbye for real.

In my final post, I'll write more about what this blog and my readers have meant to me (spoiler: quite a lot). Until then, just know that I am very grateful to everyone who has read my musings and ramblings over the past five and a half years. Stay in touch, stay out of trouble, and stan Loona!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Is This Weird? This Seems Weird.

So, I'm in a bit of a situation with Glossier. Allow me to explain.

As you might remember, when I first swatched my Glossier Play Colorslide in Nectar, the entire tip broke off. Annoyed, I posted an Instagram story and tagged Glossier Play's account. This was on March 30:

Exactly a month later, I got a message from Glossier Play's IG account, and we had the following exchange:

Since Glossier is known to replace broken products free of charge, I assumed I was being sent a replacement Nectar. That seemed very generous, considering the pencil had sharpened just fine after the initial break, but I wasn't going to say no to an extra eyeliner: it would make a nice gift, or I could have a giveaway on Instagram. I thought it was a little odd that I was being contacted an entire month after posting my story, but whateverGlossier must be busy with the new launch.

I didn't hear from Glossier again after that final IG message, and I more or less forgot about the whole thing. Then, two days ago, I received this email at the address I'd provided (sorry about the awkward screenshots; I've also transcribed the message below):

Hi there!  
Our gteam reached out on my behalf recently, so I hope you don't mind me getting in touch! My name is Amahlia and I manage community here at Glossier.
I wanted to reach out to, first and foremost, thank you for part of our Glossier community. As we continue to build the Glossier Play world it’s important to us to keep those who have been with us from the beginning closely integrated into the new experiences and initiatives we create. We want to build and grow the Glossier Play community with and for you. I hope you’re as excited as we are. Let me know if you’d like to continue to get updates + surprises (!) here and there from me or my team.
As you may already know, I’ve sent over some fun new shades of Colorslide (they should be arriving Monday!) to help build your Playground.
Colorslide is the highly pigmented, creamy gel eyeliner that doesn’t crease, smudge, tug, or skip and lasts for up to 12 hours. Think of it as your classic, everyday eyeliner—except in color.
The challenge? We hope you’ll join us next week in swapping out your go-to black/brown eyeliner for a shade you never knew could be so wearable.
Starting on Monday through to Friday, try out a new shade of Colorslide and tag @glossier and @glossierplay for a potential feature in our stories, as we round up some of the best eyeliner looks from our community.
See below for the day by day, so you can join in whenever you want to switch it up:  
Monday we're kicking off the challenge with Early Girl, an eggshell blue. Tuesday is all about Adult Swim, a deep indigo color. Wednesday is for Pretty Penny, a metallic copper to warm up any look and the middle of the week! Thursday we're featuring Critical Mass, a deep magenta. To finish off the week on Friday, we're featuring a fan favorite, Nectar: a rich mustard.
Colorslide can be worn how you want but our top 3 favorite looks are: a sharp wing/cat-eye, slightly smoked out, or a bold graphic eye. See some examples above and below for inspiration! 
We can’t wait to see the looks you create with Colorslide. Have an amazing weekend.
Amahlia + Glossier Community Team 
Yesterday evening, I got home to find a package containing two Colorslides in Adult Swim and Pretty Penny, plus the Glossier pencil sharpener. Clearly, someone at Glossier had checked out my order history and sent me only the products I didn't already have.

On one hand, I feel ridiculous objecting to any part of this situation: receiving surprise free makeup is a pretty sweet deal! On the other hand, I'm a bit weirded out by the whole thing.

First, the misleading IG messages: I was told only that I was receiving "another shade of Colorslide," with nothing expected from me in return. As I write this, I realize that the phrase "another shade" should have clued me in to the fact that I wasn't being sent another Nectar. But because I'd previously posted about Nectar being broken, I assumed that the Glossier representative was responding specifically to that post. And "another shade" is singular, not plural!

What I really object to, though, is the rhetorical situation constructed by the email. (Can you tell I just taught two semesters of freshman composition?) Glossier is clearly assuming that the free products will create a sense of obligation in their recipients: "Hey, we sent you these expensive products out of the blue; the least you can do in return is provide us with advertising content on Instagram." It feels slimy and dishonest. These products cost Glossier cents to make, and now I'm supposed to feel so grateful for Glossier's generosity that I'll agree to turn my Instagram account into a Glossier Play commercial for a week? Yeah, no. If they want me to do the job of their marketing team, they can pay me in real American currency, not in eyeliner.

It would have been a different story if the first IG message from Glossier Play had articulated the actual situation: "Would you like to try some new Colorslide shades with the expectation that you'll participate in a five-day 'Colorslide Challenge' on social media?" I would have declined, and we'd all have moved on with our lives. Instead, Glossier sent me the products and then tried to rope me into the challenge. Instead of framing it as a quid pro quo, they hoped I'd feel emotionally obligated to do them a favor in return for a gift. Women are socialized to feel obligation and do favors, and Glossier is absolutely capitalizing on that.

Of course, this is all part of Glossier's strategy of trying to make customers feel like friends or like members of an exclusive clique. If that strategy didn't work, Glossier wouldn't be as successful as it is today. The email I received on Friday uses the word "community" five times, because the point of the "Colorslide Challenge" is to strengthen its participants' sense that they belong both to the general community of Glossier users and to an even more exclusive community: the group of people selected to receive the email. But cui bonowho benefits in the end? Glossier, of course.

I don't know. Am I overreacting? Does this seem weird to anyone else? I freely admit that I'm a cynical, neurotic, glass-half-empty bitch, and I'm sure most people would just take the damned eyeliners without feeling compelled to write a whole blog post about them. Blame the Gen X teachers who made me read Adbusters magazine in sixth grade, I guess.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

In Pursuit of '70s Peach: MAC Amplified Creme Lipstick in Smoked Almond

I recently became obsessed with a very specific lipstick shade: the deep peachy brown often seen in mid-'70s fashion editorials. One of my favorite accounts on Instagram is that of bisexual icon Sandy Linter, a makeup artist best known for her 1979 book Disco Beauty and her editorial work with Gia Carangi in the late '70s and early '80s. The disco era is my favorite period of makeup, but since I started following Linter's account, I've become equally interested in the more muted (but still very bold) looks of the mid-'70s. Linter often posts photos of her early work, such as the makeup in this photo by Arthur Elgort:


And this 1975 Vogue cover:


And this photo, also from 1975, by Irving Penn:

It's such a coherent Look: the blown-out bob, the skinny eyebrows, the smoky gray or brown eyeshadow blended into a cat-eye shape, the orange blush applied at the very back of the cheekbones, and the slightly glossy dirty-peach lip set off with a warm brown lipliner. The combination of gray eyeshadow and warm brown lip is unheard of today, but it's so arresting. The outfits in these photos suggest that this was less a nighttime look than a businesswoman or lady-who-lunches look (perhaps even a Mommi look), though I doubt many women did themselves up like this to come into the office or host a luncheon. Whatever!

Maybe it's the Baader-Meinhof effect, but I feel like I've been seeing more peachy-brown lipstick in k-pop videos as well, like these two looks from the behind-the-scenes video for Blackpink's new MV:

However, finding the perfect mid-'70s lipstick presented a challenge. Both Linter's models and the Blackpink members have warm-toned skin (or at least have been photographed/filmed in warm-toned lighting), and I very much do not. In fact, I'd looked casually for a brownish peach or coral in the past, but but had failed: both Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nudist Peach and Maybelline Inti-Matte Nude in Naked Coral turned almost neon on my lips, while browner-leaning shades made me look ill. This time, though, I was determined to get it right.

First, I turned to Urban Decay and its overwhelming array of Vice lipsticks. There were no fewer than five that seemed to fit my basic requirements: Carnal, Uptight, Backseat, Fuel 2, and Hitch Hike, plus a couple more whose names I can't recall. On my face, though, all of these shades fell short. I took a poll on Instagram to see whether people preferred Carnal or Uptight on me; the score was about 60/40 Carnal/Uptight, but one person told me that she didn't think either one was particularly flattering. I appreciated her honest feedback, which encouraged me to keep looking instead of settling for something that fell short of my ideal.

Carnal on the left, Uptight on the right.

I didn't want to blind-order a shade from an online-only company, because I couldn't predict how it would look on my actual face, but I did swatch what felt like every remotely peachy shade from every cruelty-free brand in Sephora and Ulta. Several of these swatches looked promising on my hand but turned into something completely different on my lips:

I almost gave up and concluded that this entire color family wasn't for me, but I decided to try the local MAC store before throwing in the towel. As I've probably mentioned before, I have mixed feelings about giving my money to MAC. They make some of my all-time favorite lipsticks, but because they sell in China (which requires animal testing on imported cosmetics), they're not cruelty-free. However, I'd rather support MAC than other non-cruelty-free brands because of the Viva Glam Fund, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. All proceeds from the six Viva Glam lipsticks go toward HIV/AIDS research, a cause very close to my heart. I don't actively follow MAC's new releases or turn to them first when I'm looking for a new lipstick shade, but I don't feel terrible about buying a MAC lipstick once in a while.

I went to the MAC store with a list of well-known shades I wanted to swatch (including Mocha, Taupe, and Persistence), but I was immediately drawn to a lipstick I'd never heard of: Smoked Almond, in the Amplified Creme formula. It turned out that this lipstick was part of the new Strip Down collection, which had launched just a few days before. Strip Down purports to offer a "nude for every mood" with an assortment of new and re-released lipsticks, glosses, and liners. It seems that Smoked Almond was one of the most popular shades in the discontinued Liptensity line, though the original Smoked Almond looks to have been a bit pinker and cooler-toned than the new version. (For the record, I swatched Smoked Almond next to Mocha and they looked almost identical in color, though Smoked Almond was more glossy.)

The moment I tried on Smoked Almond, I knew this was the end of my quest. And just as well, tbh, since I have more important things to think about, such as what the hell I'm going to do with the rest of my life.

The spacing in the second line of type is really bothering me.

Continuing in its grand tradition of providing inaccurate shade descriptions, MAC characterizes Smoked Almond as a "bright rose brown." It might look like that on some skin tones, but in the tube, Smoked Almond is undeniably a soft brownish peachy coral.

In direct sunlight, it does (obviously) look brighter, but it retains a dusty, muted terracotta quality. It's the brightest new shade in the Strip Down collection, though: all the other shades are variations on beige, blush, and brown.

Here I've swatched Smoked Almond (bottom) alongside Wet n Wild Nudist Peach (top) and Maybelline Naked Coral (middle).

Both Naked Coral and Nudist Peach are quite a bit brighter than Smoked Almond, and both have an evident white base. Smoked Almond is the darkest and brownest of the three, as well as the glossiest and most moisturizing. The three shades may look similar in these arm swatches, but I promise they look very different on my lips! I like using Nudist Peach as a sheer matte lip stain, but I think I might end up destashing Naked Coral, despite having worn it often two years ago. Tastes change, alas.

And here's a lip swatch of Smoked Almond, with my usual caveat that my lips are perpetually dry:

I'm very impressed with this iteration of MAC's Amplified Creme formula. In the past (with the shades Up the Amp and Dubonnet), I've found the formula to be a little too thick and heavy-feeling for my taste. Smoked Almond feels lighter on my lips, but is still moisturizing and opaque. It lasts a few hours if I don't eat or drink.

For my first Smoked Almond look, I went monochrome-ish: Glossier Lidstar in Cub, Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Whiskey (smoked out with UD Cover eyeshadow from Naked2 Basics), Tarte Paaarty blush, and Glossier Haloscope in Quartz.

Smoked Almond is muted enough to look surprisingly natural against my cool-toned skin (it's not an MLBB, but it's closer than I expected!), but bold enough that it doesn't wash me out when paired with understated makeup elsewhere. As proof of which, here's a subtler look; I'm wearing ColourPop Glass Bull (a sheer red/blue duochrome) on my lids, though you can't really tell because it's been so damn overcast here.

And, of course, I had to attempt one of the mid-'70s Sandy Linter looks. I chose the third one, and I don't think I did a bad job! The hardest part, both technically and emotionally, was overlining my lips, which I never do. I was surprised at how nicely the cool-toned eyeshadow harmonized with the warm-toned lip, since I (and most people these days, I think) assume that cool and warm neutrals look awkward together. When I posted this photo on Instagram, Lena noted that both the gray and the brownish peach evoke pottery shards, which makes a lot of sense: there's a vaguely classical vibe to the look, at least color-wise.

For the eyes, I combined NYX Gunmetal eyeliner and several matte shades from ABH Modern Renaissance and UD Naked2 Basics. My blush is Glossier Dawn. On my lips, I used ColourPop Lippie Pencil in Taurus, a deep warm brown, and a couple coats of Smoked Almond, with a dab of Revlon Rosy Future gloss on top. No highlighter for this look, since I wanted to keep the matte effect of the original (though the model is wearing matte foundation and, I imagine, lots of powder).

Here are the three lip products I used (L-R): Rosy Future, Smoked Almond, and Taurus. I would never have picked out Taurus on my own, but it was a surprise freebie in a ColourPop order last year, and I've come to like it for toning down bright oranges and corals.

It had been a long time before I'd taken the better part of an hour to play with makeup and create something out of my comfort zone. I need to do that more: it was fun and calming, and it helped distract me from the sorry state of American academia. I doubt I'll ever wear that exact look out of the house, but it did inspire me to experiment further with combining warm and cool neutrals.

By the way, you should totally follow Sandy Linter on Instagram: she's a super cool lady who will actually show up and discuss her makeup techniques if you tag her in a post.


Ah, a lipstick quest concluded successfully. Is there a better feeling? Well, maybe finding a job that provides a living wage, health benefits, and a decent amount of intellectual stimulation, but the lipstick will do for now. (Wish me luck with the other thing, though.)