Friday, October 17, 2014

Hiatus (Notes from the Desk of Perfectionism)

I haven't posted in five days, I probably won't be able to compile a proper post until late next week, and I feel guiltier than I should. I've always tried to treat this blog as a hobby, but the fact is that it's hard for me to have casual hobbies. I'm an incorrigible perfectionist and I put tremendous pressure on myself, and this can leech the fun out of anything, even writing about makeup. When I go more than three days without posting, I beat myself up for being less prolific than other bloggers, less prolific than I myself was earlier this year. If I write a short post, I criticize myself for being too shallow, too lazy, not thoughtful or eloquent enough. And this month it's been especially hard for me to post regularly, due to a combination of academic deadlines and a general downturn in my mood. When I try drafting a post, I feel guilty for neglecting my scholarly work. When I try to concentrate on my scholarly work, I feel guilty for not achieving a proper work-life balance. When I read a funny, informative post on someone else's blog, I interpret it as a reprimand from the universe for my own failure to produce content.

I'm really type-A, guys. I'm sorry. This is why all my friends think I belong in Slytherin.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop a brief note to say that I'm going on hiatus for another week or so. If I'm inspired to post in that week, I will. If I want to take more time off, I will. I feel silly notifying the world of such a short break, as if I imagine that the Internet will collectively lose its shit in my absence. I don't, I promise. But I think that going on an "official" hiatus will take some of the pressure off and make me better able to focus on academics. This blog has turned into a deadline generator instead of a source of relaxation and fun, and I want to be able to read and comment on other people's blogs without chastising myself for posting too infrequently. Perfectionism can be a blessing, but it more often produces anxiety and mental paralysis. Having put all this into words, I hope I can push through the paralysis and start getting things done.

See you soon.

Yr. most obedient humble servant,
Auxiliary Beauty

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ulta Sale Haul: NYX and Revlon Swatches, Reviews, and FOTDs

It feels like I've been waiting forever to post these reviews. When Ulta had a 40%-off sale on NYX and Revlon two weeks ago, I seized the chance to order a few things I'd been wanting for a while. (I came in $.77 over the $25 free-shipping minimum, which made me inordinately proud.) My order arrived this past Tuesday, but I forced myself not to open the package until I'd submitted an article I'd been refusing to let go. I did that on Wednesday, but the next four days were cloudy and rainy, which meant that I had almost no natural light by which to photograph my new goodies. Long story short: the weather, my schedule, and my neuroses didn't line up until today. So today I present, from left to right: Revlon Lip Butter in Red Velvet, NYX Slide-On Eye Pencil in Golden Bronze, NYX Jumbo Pencil in Iced Mocha, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy, NYX Round Lipstick in Castle, Revlon Colorburst Lip Gloss in Embellished. Warning: embarrassment of photos ahead.

Revlon Lip Butter in Red Velvet is a repurchase: I bought a tube last winter, treasured it for about a month, then lost it somewhere between New York and Washington, D.C.  I decided to hold off on buying another until the fall, because I assumed (correctly, it turned out) that I wouldn't want a sheer dark berry-red during the warmer months. But now it's the season for all things berry and dark, so here's the replacement!

I love how smooth and rounded the Lip Butters look when new, even though that shape makes application trickier than it should be...

I find that the hydration levels of the Lip Butters vary from shade to shade, but Red Velvet is one of the more moisturizing shades I've tried. It's also one of the most pigmented, delivering semi-opaque color that gleams without glitter or shimmer. This is one swipe.

Red Velvet reminds me of NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco, another sheer berry red, so I thought I'd compare them. Just for fun, I threw in a matte lipstick in a similar color. Left to right: NYX Alabama, NARS Flamenco, Red Velvet. Flamenco looks to me like the pinkest of the three; Red Velvet is slightly browner than Flamenco (as well as more opaque), but less brown than Alabama.

On my lips, the color pulls cooler: more berry, less brown. Top, one layer; bottom, two layers.

Full face, with NYX Iced Mocha on eyes:

NYX Slide-On Pencil in Golden Bronze was a risk, as the reddish copper color looked like it would flatter my eyes but jar with my complexion. When I saw it in person, I was equally ambivalent. Golden Bronze is neither golden nor particularly bronze; I'd describe it as a reddish copper.

But on my lashlines, Golden Bronze softens into a pinkish copper that sets off my eyes nicely. The old saw is true: green eyes like red makeup.

 Golden Bronze's color is truly unique in my collection, but I did my best to dig up some eyeshadow comparisons. Left to right: theBalm Silly, Golden Bronze, Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, theBalm Seductive.

I've reviewed the NYX Slide-On formula here and here, so for the sake of your patience, I'll be brief. These eyeliners are very soft, which means that they do in fact slide on (they're a godsend for clumsy-handed people like yours truly), but they're not quite opaque on first swipe. I find that I have to draw my line, wait about a minute for the color to set, then go over the line. Golden Bronze wears fairly well, though I do notice some fading by the end of the day. If you have especially oily eyelids, you should probably avoid this formula.

Incidentally, Golden Bronze turns out to be a nice complement for & Other Stories' Droguet Purple, a lipstick I struggled to render wearable here and here. I actually felt comfortable wearing this combination in public!

NYX Jumbo Pencil in Iced Mocha was yet another attempt to find a replacement for my favorite shade in theBalm's Nude 'tude Palette. NYX's Jumbo Pencils are cream eyeshadows in pencil form. They require sharpening, which is annoying, though not exactly scandalous at this price point ($4.49). I wouldn't describe the pencils as "jumbo," per se, but they're wider than traditional eyeliners. Here's Iced Mocha (right) next to Golden Bronze, to give you some idea of the size.

Iced Mocha is a frosty cream eyeshadow that inhabits the mystical realm between bronze and taupe.

This is the closest I've ever come to a dupe for Selfish, my beloved warm taupe from Nude 'tude. Left to right: Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, Iced Mocha, theBalm Selfish, Milani Bella Taupe. The unevenness of Selfish is due only to the difficulty of swatching from a nearly empty eyeshadow pan. (The unevenness of Bella Taupe is due to the formula. Sorry, Milani.)

Iced Mocha's texture is thin and almost slippery; I get the best result by scribbling on my fingertip and smearing the color all over my lids. Unfortunately, the formula is so soft and emollient that it's prone to fading within a few hours. I suspect an eyeshadow primer would help with the fading, but who wants to wear a primer under a cream eyeshadow? Luckily, Iced Mocha's color is so unassertive on my skintone that the fading is almost indiscernible: a fade-prone shimmery taupe is less problematic than, say, a fade-prone teal. And since my everyday eye look is mascara and a monochrome wash of taupe, I think I'll get a decent amount of use out of Iced Mocha.

Revlon Coy is my first Lacquer Balm. I've always been wary of shimmer and glitter in lipsticks, and I didn't understand why a product that promised a lacquer finish needed to sparkle, too. For me, the word "lacquer" connotes a smooth, not sparkly, shine. In the end, though, the allure of those shiny tubes was impossible to resist. I tried to choose a color that was underrepresented in my stash, and settled on Coy, which I expected to be a deep reddish brown.

In fact, Coy is a medium rosy brown with a good helping of plum and a smattering of gold sparkles. It's cooler-toned and lighter than I was expecting from its appearance in the tube.

Comparisons, left to right: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, Coy, Revlon Lip Butter in Pink Truffle, NARS Cinematic Lipstick in Last Tango (LE). These are all brown-leaning MLBBs, but I detect a hint of purple in Coy that seems absent from the others.

Like the Revlon Matte Balms, Coy has a strong minty scent and taste. But unlike the three Matte Balms I've tried, Coy also produces a cooling, tingling sensation on the lips. I was worried that my sensitive lips might react badly, but the tingling faded after about ten minutes. I did find that my lips felt dry after an hour or so, but they're going through an exceptionally dry period right now, and very few lipstick formulas can do anything to help them. The Lacquer Balms are meant to be sheer, but Coy deposits a good amount of color, looking redder when worn than it does swatched on my arm. Top, one layer; bottom, two layers.

Yikes, the Lacquer Balm finish really emphasizes dryness. I think I'll put this one aside until my lips are in better shape (had we but world enough and time...). Here's how Coy looks in context, though; I'm surprised that it doesn't stand out more against my complexion.

Granted, this was taken in front of a window on a cloudy day, which makes the color look more washed-out than it might otherwise. Still, I think Coy reads more rose than brown when worn. This time I have Iced Mocha and Golden Bronze on my eyes--I blended them into each other a bit. And look, my hair is long enough now that I can pull it back with combs!

I was most excited about NYX Castle, the centerpiece of my Effie Trinket Halloween makeup (which will do double duty for the opening night of Mockingjay). Castle is a gray-toned lavender lipstick with silver pearl: very futuristic, very Capitol. It's also my very first pearlescent lipstick. Yes, I'm so devoted to the Hunger Games franchise that I'm willing to relax my lifelong anti-frost stance. I keep telling myself that it doesn't count as frost if it's an unconventional color like purple, but that way lies 1996. Though is that so bad? Castle reminds me of the photos I've seen of the weirder MAC lipsticks from the late '90s and early 2000s. Kate once mentioned an iridescent lavender called Grid, I think.

Like the other NYX Round Lipsticks I've tried, Castle has a mild soapy-floral smell. You really do get the sensation of washing your mouth out with soap. I don't find the scent unpleasant, and it dissipates quickly, but nota bene. Castle is a bit sheer on first swipe, but opaque in two swipes. It's hard to capture the finish in photos, but here are two attempts.

Here it is swatched on the left, with MAC Up the Amp (middle) and Revlon Berry Haute (right). Castle is certainly the grayest and palest purple lip color I have. For some reason, the cloudy light made all the purples look a bit redder than they are IRL.

Here are two views of Castle on my lips. I can see why frosted lipsticks were so popular for so long: at certain angles, the extra sheen makes me look like I've had lip injections.

And here's a full face. Castle looks surprisingly understated! Though my idea of "understated" has changed since I started my blog, and I'm not sure this is real-world understated so much as beauty-blogger understated. Let me know.

Finally, Revlon Embellished is a deep plum gloss with fuchsia sparkles. It looks very flashy in the tube, but the sparkles more or less disappear on the lips, leaving a smooth jellied finish. Here are a couple of closeups:

Embellished was released with Revlon's Evening Opulence collection last fall. Assuming that the collection was limited edition, I bought Adorned, a nearly opaque fuchsia gloss with matching glitter, back in February. (I posted about it here. I should wear it more often--it really is extraordinary.) Since then, though, I've seen both Embellished and Adorned on shelves across the country. I'm not sure whether the colors are permanent or whether Revlon is just trying to get rid of back stock, but Adorned is still available on Revlon's website, for what that's worth. I'm fairly certain that Revlon used the same fuchsia glitter in Embellished and Adorned, not that I'm complaining. The day I complain about fuchsia glitter is the day that (insert something laughably unlikely here).

Revlon's Colorburst glosses have garnered mixed reviews among beauty bloggers. Personally, I love them. The ones I've tried have been semi-sheer to opaque, non-sticky, and blessedly moisturizing. I can almost hear my lips sigh with relief when I slick on a layer of Revlon gloss instead of subjecting them to yet another matte formula. Embellished is more sheer than it looks in the tube, but that makes it a good choice for layering. Here's Embellished alone, then layered over Red Velvet:

And we're done! A gratifying haul, I think. I'm most pleased with Castle (of course) and Red Velvet (which I already knew I liked), but I'll be surprised if I don't wear the others often this fall and winter. And now that I have far more lip colors than I can use up before they expire, I'm thinking of going on a lipstick and lipgloss ban until the beginning of next year. My sparkle-loving id keeps reminding me of lipsticks that would fill a color or texture gap in my collection (don't you need a metallic blue? what about a duochrome pink and gold? what about the bronze from NYX's new Wicked collection?), but that's why one has a superego, right? Yes, even me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lipstick Chronology #26: Revlon Plum Velour

Name: Revlon Super Lustrous Shine Lipstick in Plum Velour

Date of Purchase: July 2013

Grade: A-

Notes: I'm usually indifferent to sheer lipsticks. No, let me phrase that another way: I like to think of myself as indifferent to sheer lipsticks. I've been wearing bold lip colors for over three years now, so putting on anything daintier can feel like a cop-out. But then I reach the bottom of another tube of sheer lipstick and realize that I have to reassess my loyalties.

I feel a missionary zeal building in my breast as I write this post. Plum Velour is one of my most beloved lip colors, but it's sadly underappreciated. In fact, I think Revlon's Shine lipsticks are sadly underappreciated in general. They came out in the spring of last year, but caused very little stir--nothing like the frenzy that greeted the Lip Butters or the Matte and Lacquer Balms. Part of the problem, I think, was that the Shine lipsticks didn't have a cute new design, which made them seem like an afterthought. They come in the same (dated-looking, in my opinion) black-and-gold tubes as Revlon's other Super Lustrous lipsticks, but the sticker on the bottom of each tube is shiny instead of matte. (As you can see, my tube of Plum Velour is well-loved indeed: during fall and winter, it rarely leaves my bag.)

I think it looks like a telescope here...

Revlon also did a bad job of communicating that the Shine lipsticks were meant to be sheer, so quite a few people complained about their lack of pigment and poor staying power. To avoid any further confusion, let's all acknowledge that these are in fact sheer lipsticks. They fade after a couple of hours. Don't expect a dramatic burst of color or a finish that stands up to food and drink. Plum Velour, for instance, stops looking like a vamptastic dark purple once you swatch it. Left, one layer; right, two layers.

Revlon has long distinguished itself in the field of muted plummy lip colors, and it turns out that I own two Super Lustrous lipsticks that are quite similar to Plum Velour. Mauvy Night (left) is a dustier plum with brown and pink undertones; Berry Haute (right) is a brighter, truer purple. Mauvy Night is more or less opaque, but Berry Haute is almost as sheer as Plum Velour.

Plum Velour's formula is thin, slippery, and emollient; it feels like a water-based gel. That doesn't sound terribly appealing, but the lipstick is comfortable, even hydrating, on my lips. Top to bottom: bare lips (so dry, so sorry), one coat of Plum Velour, two coats of Plum Velour.

The shine wears off within a couple of hours, leaving a berry-pink stain. Reapplying the lipstick over the stain will make the plum color even deeper and richer. It really is a product that gets better as the day goes on.

But what if you want something more opaque? Well, if you're me, you can reach for one of your 586,734 opaque plum lipsticks. Or, if you're not me, you can layer Plum Velour over a neutral lip liner like Milani Color Statement Lipliner in Nude, a dark pinkish mauve. The Milani liner glides on more easily than Barry M Plum, but its finish is still very matte, and its color and finish together are exceedingly '90s. Top, Nude alone; bottom, Plum Velour layered over Nude.

Despite my newfound interest in lip liner and color layering, I think I'll always prefer the messier look of lipstick, sheer or opaque, on its own. But it's nice to have another option.

Full face! Here's two coats of Plum Velour indoors, in morning light. Other makeup: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla, theBalm Sleek eyeshadow to define brows, NARS Lhasa eyeshadow, CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara, and NARS Coeur Battant blush. Yes, this is a rare appearance of my face's elusive bad side...

Same makeup, but outside, and with Milani Bella Charcoal in place of Lhasa. I am indeed carrying one bookbag on each shoulder.

 In short, Plum Velour is my cold-weather version of NARS Dolce Vita: comfortable, easy to apply, and suitable for all social situations. It's bold enough to perk up an otherwise neutral outfit, but subtle enough not to clash with brighter colors. Best of all, it never makes me look like I've tried too hard. And in academia, where women who put obvious effort into their appearance still attract the lofty side-eye of the patriarchy, a casual, unassuming lipstick is a nice thing to have. 

Plum Velour is not a perfect lipstick, but I still prefer it to many of my bolder and longer-wearing lip colors. You know those books and movies that have made such a huge emotional impact on you that you'll always defend them fiercely, despite knowing deep down that they have significant flaws? That's how I feel about Plum Velour. I'll admit that it could last longer, in the same way that I'll admit that Nabokov's Ada, or Ardor could be less disgustingly self-referential or that Velvet Goldmine could have a more discernible plot. But also, I really don't care. For what I want Plum Velour (or Ada, or Velvet Goldmine) to do, it's perfect.

I haven't tried any of the other Shine lipsticks, but I'll almost certainly buy another tube of Plum Velour once I run out. Do you have any experience with the Revlon Shine formula? And what imperfect book or movie or beauty product will you always stand up for?

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Autumn Tag and Pumpkin Cookies

...but first, some whining about the weather.

It's October, yet every morning is still oppressively humid. The sky has been choked with thick gray clouds for the past week. Today I woke up, showered, then realized that with the humidity at 90%, my hair would take hours to air-dry. I got out the blow-dryer, which I almost never do, and ended up looking like a Korean boy-band member, my hair simultaneously lank and feathered. Now for my makeup--but thanks to the film of moisture all over my face and neck, nothing would stick. Each product melted off before I'd finished putting the next one on. Finally I resigned myself to mascara and matte lipstick and headed out the door. After a fifteen-minute walk, every inch of my skin felt clammy. My hair was still wet. I tried to take off my blazer, but the cloth was clinging so closely to my bare forearms that the lining of one of the sleeves ripped loudly. To hell with this weather.

Because of the persistent cloud cover, I haven't been able to take photos for the next post I was planning to write. What better excuse to do the Autumn Tag, which I found on Liz's blog? When it's not humid as Satan's nostril, autumn is by far my favorite season. Because even when it is that humid, you can still see this sort of thing:

1. What's your favorite seasonal drink from Starbucks or another coffee shop? 
Every fall I buy one Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, take a sip, and think, "Ah, so this is why I buy only one a year." Despite my fierce sweet tooth, I don't like most sugary coffee drinks; I'd rather have a cupcake or something. I do love the occasional mocha, though.

2. Accessories--what do you opt for: scarves, boots, or gloves? 
Scarves are my favorite of these three! Since so much of my wardrobe is black or gray, I like brightening up my look with a scarf. As you can see, I've amassed more scarves than any one neck needs in a lifetime.

3. Music--What's your favorite music to listen to during autumn?
There are a few songs I find myself playing more often when the weather gets cooler, either because they mention autumn or because they remind me of autumns past. Chief among these are Beirut's "Vagabond," Belle & Sebastian's "Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie," Janelle Monáe's "Electric Lady," and David Garza's "Discoball World." I've also been exploring the vast, gleaming world of kpop this year, and have spent more of the last two days than I'd care to calculate listening to Ailee's "U&I" on repeat. (Though Spica is my first, last, and only true k-love.)

4. Perfume--what's your favorite scent for this time of year?
I don't own or wear enough perfume to have seasonal scents, but I think L'Artisan Safran Troublant is the perfect fall perfume. It smells like Indian ice cream: saffron, rose, and vanilla. I treasured every drop of a sample I got from Aedes de Venustas a couple of years ago.

5. Candles--what scents will you be burning this season?
Diptyque Feu de Bois is my favorite candle year-round (and one of two scented candles I own, the other being Diptyque Violette), but it feels particularly appropriate to fall and winter. This is one of the bb Diptyques; I might spring for a full-sized FdB eventually.

6. What do you love most about autumn?
Halloween, my birthday, plum and berry lipsticks, all things pumpkin, the golden light of early evening, the clatter of acorns on the sidewalk, a campus covered in fallen leaves, and a new semester in which I haven't yet committed any social blunders or deadline infractions.

7. Favorite makeup look?
Everything plum and gold and brick-red and bronze. I've lost the desire to wear any lipstick that isn't Topshop Get Me Bodied. Here it is today, with mascara and the traces of Sleek Flushed blush that managed to stick to my cheeks. Plus maple leaves!

8. What are you looking forward to most in autumn?
Traveling to Bloomington, IN, to visit a dear friend from college. We're going to see Mockingjay in costume because we're huge dorks. I'm dressing as Effie Trinket, obviously.

And now for a very autumnal recipe! The café in my undergrad library (an outpost of a popular Pioneer Valley coffee shop) sold dome-shaped pumpkin-walnut-chocolate-chip cookies that were the perfect little snack for a study break. There were many great things about my alma mater's library--lofty vaulted wooden ceilings, stained-glass windows bearing Renaissance printers' seals, comfortable chairs everywhere, my beloved thesis adviser downing triple espressos and scolding noisy first-years--but those cookies may have been the best thing of all. Two years ago, nostalgia prompted me to try and recreate them. I started from this recipe but adapted it significantly. The original calls for a full cup of sugar and two cups of chocolate chips; at that point, you might as well just make a pan of brownies.

I had no chocolate chips for the batch I made last night, so I substituted half a cup of chopped Green & Black's white chocolate, which was obviously a good life choice. Also, in typing up this recipe just now, I realized that I FORGOT THE BAKING POWDER. It's a testament to the forgiving nature of this recipe that the cookies turned out fine--just a bit softer and more cake-like than usual. Here's a photo, though I beg you not to let my poor food-photography skills (and the fact that I probably underbaked the cookies) bias you against the recipe. These cookies are absolutely delicious. And they stay moist forever, provided you store them in an airtight container.


1 cup plain canned pumpkin
Heaping 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 last time and I think the recipe could do with less)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1-2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Dissolve baking soda in milk and stir into pumpkin mixture. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture. Add vanilla and, if using, chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by spoonfuls (I used an ice cream scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet; bake at 350° until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Makes 15-20 cookies.