Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Have Instagram (and Some Questions about Instagram)

After holding out for years, I finally joined Instagram! I was wary of giving myself yet another way to waste time online, but you all seemed to be having so much fun there that I couldn't resist. Plus, what kind of person writes an entire post about Instagram selfies and doesn't even have an account? My username is @dresspaintpatches @auxiliary_beauty (@auxiliarybeauty was taken, if you can believe it). (Update, 3/23: Yes, I'm so indecisive that I changed my Instagram handle within two days. I think it's less confusing this way. I promise I won't turn into the kind of person who changes it every week.)

I do, of course, have a couple of questions about this marvelous technology that all the kids are using:

1. How do you attach one of those little Instagram badges to your blog? I thought I could do it by copying and pasting the HTML code provided here into one of the sidebar "gadgets" available on Blogger, but Blogger tells me that I need to copy a URL instead. I feel the same combination of impotence, rage, bewilderment, and despair that my parents must feel when they try to attach a photo or document to an email. Please help.

2. When you post FOTDs or product photos, are you in the habit of tagging every brand you mention? Or is that something you do only when you're trying to get the brand's attention for some reason?

3. Does anyone else feel incredibly awkward when getting accustomed to a new social-media platform? Not just technologically awkward, but socially awkward as well? Like you've arrived alone and sober at a party where you know very few people, and everyone is having an uproariously good time without you, and you wonder if maybe you'd better just slip out again before someone notices you've arrived?

Anyway! Follow me if you feel inclined, and I'm sure I'll be posting painstakingly contoured selfies in no time at all.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Beauty Scenario Tag

Thanks to Liz for the tag! The person who came up with this meme clearly has a boundless capacity for suspension of disbelief, as well as a knack for writing questions that each provoke about five more questions. I've done my best.

1. You have to get rid of all of your foundations and only keep one high-end and one drugstore; which do you keep?

I don't actually own any foundations, so I'm going to take the liberty of replacing "foundations" with "lipsticks," which makes the choice much harder for me. Am I allowed to buy back any of the shades I've gotten rid of, though? Or am I allowed only two for the rest of my life? I need more information. But assuming I'd eventually get to repurchase the ones I lost, I'd go with one neutral and one bold lipstick. These days I've been enjoying Milani Matte Naked, and I guess I'd choose NARS Angela for my high-end lipstick: it's my most expensive one, and I've used so little of it.

2. You go for an interview, and the lady interviewing you has lipstick on her teeth. Do you approach the subject or ignore it completely?

I'd probably ignore it. I've seen other people answer this question with "I always appreciate being told if I have lipstick on my teeth," but I never like it when people I don't know well comment on my appearance. It feels invasive. If it were a friend or colleague, of course I'd tell her, but in an interview I'd just pretend not to notice, lest the interviewer interpret it as some kind of power play. Who knows, the lipstick might even be gone by the time she looked in a mirror again.

Basically, my theory is: if someone has more power than you, and especially if you want something from them, they don't have any flaws worth commenting on.

3. You're not feeling yourself and need a pick-me-up lipstick. Which do you go for?

If I were feeling sad, I'd go for a fuchsia or magenta: something like NARS Angela, Maybelline Vivid Rose, or MAC Candy Yum-Yum. If I wanted to feel more confident, I'd choose a matte blue-based red like NARS Mysterious Red.

I haven't worn Candy Yum-Yum in ages. Time to change that.

4. You go back in time for a day to your teenage years; how would you do your hair or makeup differently?

I didn't wear makeup until my twenties, but I wish I'd started wearing it earlier! I was a very stressed-out teenager, and playing with makeup would have been a good way to relieve my many anxieties. As for hair, I usually wore it loose or in a ponytail or bun, though I got it cut into a bob during my senior year of high school, which was okay. No real regrets hair-wise.

5. You ask your hairdresser for a shoulder length Pixie Lott haircut but they hear wrong and give you a pixie cut - what would you do?

A) Smile, say thank you, call your mum and cry hysterically
B) Cry in the chair and things get awkward
C) Complain to the manager and demand a refund

Who the hell is Pixie Lott? *Googles* Okay, so she has longish hair with lots of layers? I'd rather have a pixie cut. And why don't I notice that the hairdresser is cutting my hair a foot shorter than I requested? Did I pregame for this haircut? Am I passed out in the chair?

Anyway, if the haircut were radically different from what I'd asked for, I'd ask for a refund. If it were similar to what I'd asked for, just poorly executed, I'd probably swallow my losses and cry at home, then go to another stylist to get it fixed.

6. Your friend surprises you with a 4-day city break and you have one hour to pack. Which 'Do it all' palette do you pack in your makeup bag?

Does this question assume that we all own one of those giant eye/lip/cheek palettes? Those always look so messy to me. Or is this a question about eyeshadow palettes? I own only one eyeshadow palette, theBalm Nude 'tude, but I don't rely on it to "do it all." In fact, I rarely use it except for the matte black and dark brown shadows. For eye makeup, I'd probably throw in NARS Lhasa and Habanera and ColourPop Bill--two neutrals and a colorful duo. Yeah, you saw that coming. No photos because you've already seen a million photos of those eyeshadows on my blog.

7. Your house has been robbed. Don't worry, everyone is safe, but your beauty stash has been raided. What's the product you really hope is safe?

So the thief went for the makeup instead of the technology? I can draw two possible conclusions from this: 1) it's someone who knows me well, and thus knows I'd be sad at the loss of my makeup; 2) it's an evil scientist who wants to harvest my DNA for nefarious ends. If the latter, I'd definitely hope they'd grabbed the products I use least often. In either case, though, I'd hope for the safety of Illamasqua Zygomatic, since I had to buy it in the UK and it would be expensive and inconvenient to replace. Curse you for pulling out of North America, Illamasqua!

8. Your friend borrows makeup and returns it in awful condition. Do you:

A) Pretend you haven't noticed
B) Ask them to re-purchase it
C) Secretly do it back to their makeup

No one has ever asked to borrow my makeup, and I'm not sure I'd lend it if someone did ask. But assuming all that had taken place, I'd probably go with a). I agree with Liz that when you lend something out, you should accept the risk that it might return in less-than-perfect condition. That said, if the friend ever wanted to borrow something again, I'd ask her nicely to be more careful. I certainly wouldn't demand reimbursement. And who would choose c)? That's some sociopath-level behavior! Geez.

And a bonus question...

9. Butter London nail polishes are $9 each at Ulta today. Do you:
A) Virtuously ignore the sale entirely
B) Buy two
C) Buy two, plus one of those new NYX Intense Butter Glosses and two NYX lip liners because you "need more lip liners" even though you almost never wear them

You can imagine which one I chose.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

By Request: When Minimalism Isn't a Choice

In my 27 years on this earth, I've never lived in a space larger than a two-bedroom apartment. My current apartment measures 271 square feet (10 square feet per year of life, plus one to grow on), which is actually an upgrade in size from my previous place. It's fair to say that I'm used to coping with limited space. In the comments of her recent post about moving into a smaller apartment in New York, Monika asked me if I'd be willing to write my own post about how I organize my stuff in my miniature apartment, and I'm happy to oblige! This post would have gone up earlier, but I managed to delete the first draft entirely, ugh.

A couple of caveats here. First, I'm a bit of a slob. I try to keep my slobbish tendencies in control, but I'm never more than one step ahead of entropy. My preferred method of "tidying up" involves tossing more and more things onto the futon until there's almost no room for me to sit. Do you really want to take organization advice from someone who sleeps on a mattress on the floor? Maybe, but be aware that few people would describe my lifestyle as "aspirational." Second, I live on a graduate-student stipend in an area with a high cost of living, which means that I have very little disposable income. I'm not sure how much advice I can give about limiting the amount of new stuff you buy, since my own limits are imposed by my budget and not my living space, but I'll do my best.

Anyway, let's take a tour of my apartment!

Here's the living room, which contains my futon, my dresser, and my kitchen area.

The robot pillow presides over the "traveling pile": a heterogeneous and constantly changing assortment of objects that migrates from the futon to the bed to the floor to the top of the dresser.

My apartment was listed as a studio, but it has two rooms--I assume there's a law that prevents landlords from advertising an apartment under a certain size as a "one-bedroom." The bedroom contains my mattress totally legitimate bed, my desk, a tall bookshelf, a sort of nightstand/low table thingy that I use as a bookshelf, and two built-in shelves, one for my nail polish collection and one for my makeup and more books.

The bedroom also contains the only closet in my apartment. It's a really small closet; it extends farther to the right than you can see in this photo, but not much farther. The black Urban Outfitters tote bag is my "extras bag," which holds contains a jumble of toiletries and household stuff that I don't have room to store elsewhere.

In my previous apartment, I had three closets: one for my clothes, another for my coats, and a third where I stored my suitcases, my cleaning supplies, and the miscellaneous crap that follows me around from one residence to the next. When I moved to this apartment, I had to get rid of most of the stuff from the third closet: old notebooks and magazines, clothes that I hadn't worn in five years, etc. But what about the items that weren't miscellaneous crap? Well, I had to make do. My smaller suitcase fits in the closet, but my larger one now lives in the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and has itself become a shelf for my bag of bags (don't lie, you have one too).

I store my household tools and cleaning supplies in a dresser drawer, in the aforementioned UO bag, and under the bathroom sink. I donated the unworn clothes that were still in good condition and tossed the ones that were ripped or stained.

Finally, the bathroom. My previous apartment was in recently constructed graduate housing, and all of the apartments in the building conformed to modern disability codes, which meant that my bathroom occupied about a third of the interior space. My current building is much older (I'd guess that it was built in the '20s, but I can't find any solid information), and like many decades-old buildings, it seems to have been constructed as a giant fuck-you to people with disabilities. My bathroom is literally the smallest I've ever seen outside an airplane:

Notice how the door takes up a good portion of the bathroom when it's open? It's actually about half the width of a regular door.

Since Monika asked specifically about how I store toiletries, here's my medicine cabinet:

For the overflow of products, the top of the toilet has to suffice. Here are the rest of my lotions, plus a catch-all basket for bobby pins, earrings, combs, etc:

And now, a few general rules that have helped me live in my dollhouse:

1. Fuck Pinterest.

Pardon my language, but seriously, fuck it. Pinterest exists to make you feel bad about not having more money. Before I moved into this apartment, I spent hours on Pinterest looking at artfully cluttered interiors like this one:

Source--read it and weep (with envy)
There's nothing wrong with using Pinterest (or interior-design magazines, or whatever) for inspiration, but you also have to accept the reality that your own apartment will probably never be Pinterest-perfect. And honestly, have you ever been inside one that is?

2. Your minimalism may not look minimalist.

It's a cruel paradox: the smaller your space, the less "minimalist" that space will look. I probably have fewer material possessions than most people my age, but my apartment will always appear cluttered because of the lack of storage space. One way to remedy this is to designate one area--a drawer, the top of the dresser, whatever--as the place to toss things that don't have any obvious home. Establishing a sort of "nature preserve" for clutter will help you keep the other areas tidy; at least, it works for me.

3. Embrace the steampunk ethos.

Not necessarily the steampunk aesthetic (unless that's your thing), but the idea that the inner workings of your life might have to be out in the open, like the gears of a steampunk watch. I don't have enough storage space to hide all the unsightly but necessary objects that are always out of sight in Pinterest photos.

(That aspect of steampunk has always confused me, by the way. Surely the pseudo-Victorian societies imagined in steampunk fiction have the technology to develop a protective case for all those gears and tubes and screws? But I digress.)

4. Don't be afraid to put furniture to unaccustomed uses.

The most pertinent example in my own apartment is my dresser, which often turns into an extension of the kitchen counter when I'm making something that requires more space than usual--pizza, for instance:

Pizza with roasted asparagus and caramelized shallots, to be precise.

5. When buying new clothes, enter a store with a specific goal in mind (don't go shopping just to see what's new), and choose items that can serve as the basis for several different outfits.

I don't want to generalize too much here, because everyone's style is different, but I do think it's important to develop a kind of uniform. The components of my wardrobe can be grouped into two categories: versatile pieces that can blend into almost any outfit (don't ask me how many gray v-neck shirts I own) and statement pieces that can make those unassuming pieces interesting, like this floral blazer from Zara:

What you want to avoid are pieces that look like they should be basics but don't actually go with your other clothes. Case in point: this Anthropologie skirt that I've owned for, no joke, an entire decade. I've worn it once, to my high school graduation, but I've never been able to persuade myself to get rid of it because it's so pretty. Don't put yourself in this painful position.

In her post, Monika asks if people who consider themselves minimalists wear their clothes until they fall apart. In my case, the answer is yes, though I'd replace my clothes more regularly if I could afford it. But honestly? You should be buying clothes that you can imagine yourself wearing until they fall apart, even if you have no financial need to do so. We all buy makeup that we anticipate wearing only a few times, and in some cases, those few times are worth the money we spend. I've worn NYX Castle exactly twice--last Halloween and when I went to see the new Hunger Games movie--and I still think Castle was worth the $4 or whatever. But it's risky to apply the same principle to clothes, unless you're buying a wedding dress.

6. Avoid temptation.

To keep yourself from buying too much new clothing or makeup, stay away from company websites (unsubscribe from emails if you have to), from blogs that continually review new releases, and from forums that enable feeding frenzies over new collections. And don't buy backups of makeup, EVER, unless your very favorite product is about to be discontinued. You won't get through three tubes of that limited-edition metallic copper lipstick, I promise.

 Well, maybe you will.

I hope this was somewhat helpful! Do you have any tips for living happily in small spaces?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lipstick Chronology #33: Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak

Name: Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak

Date Purchased: January 2014

Grade: B+

Notes: This "chronology" has gotten so woefully out of order that it doesn't even deserve the name, but the weather is finally above freezing and the sun is out and I'm drinking an iced coffee, and I'm going to review my springiest lipstick, damn it, even if that means skipping over ten others. It's my blog and I can ignore the flow of linear time if I want to.

Streak is the only purchase I've ever made from Urban Decay; the brand just never grabbed my attention until it released its 22 new Revolution Lipsticks in the fall of 2013, and it hasn't grabbed my attention since. The reason, I think, has to do with the disconnect between UD's brand identity and its price point. If I'm going to pay $18 for a single eyeshadow or $22 for a lipstick, I want to buy into a slightly more refined aesthetic, you know? UD describes the Revolution Lipsticks as "creamy, badass luxury," but I'm not sure I like my luxury badass or my badassery luxurious.

Or maybe I do, because I was sorely tempted by the new lipsticks. Like the NARS Audacious lipsticks a year later, they received almost unanimous rave reviews; like the Audacious lipsticks, there were so many of them that I despaired of ever making a choice. As I did with the Audacious line, I vacillated between two or three berry-fuchsia-plum lipsticks for the entire fall season, then realized that I'd missed my chance and should really buy something suited to warmer weather. And so I ended up with Streak, a soft peachy pink.

 Like most of the Revolution lipsticks, it contains no shimmer, though it does have a shiny finish that settles into satin with time.

The Revolution packaging has garnered much praise and squee from reviewers, and it does look both badass and luxurious: a heavy silver-violet metal tube with a ripple design and "Urban Decay" engraved on the lid. And yes, it really is metal: a sack of Revolution lipsticks would probably do as much harm to an enemy's cranium as a sack of doorknobs. Keep this in mind for the zombie apocalypse.

Unfortunately, my tube of Streak has a structural problem. The lipstick isn't secured properly, so it rattles back and forth when I apply it, and it leaves streaks (ifyouwill) of lipstick inside the tube when I retract it. I assume that most of the Revolution Lipsticks don't suffer from this problem, but it doesn't exactly make me want to buy another one.

The lipstick itself is unscented, but I can smell the metal of the tube when I put the lipstick on, which really bothers me. I've always hated the smell of metal--it makes my teeth ache--but this might be my own personal neurosis. For what it's worth, no other review I've read has noted the metallic smell.

I own a truly disgraceful number of lipsticks, but Streak is my only peachy pink. Below, I've swatched it between Milani Flamingo Pose (left) and NYX Butter Gloss in Peach Cobbler (right). I couldn't find another lipstick or lip gloss to compare it to! I'm poor in corals and peaches.

As you can see from these swatches, Streak is semi-sheer. (Urban Decay just released a line of sheer Revolution Lipsticks, including "Sheer Streak," which looks almost identical to regular Streak.) Most of the Revolution lipsticks are more pigmented than Streak, but I don't mind the slight sheerness, especially in a color that would be less flattering to me if it didn't let my lip color peek through. Streak doesn't apply unevenly, though it does emphasize imperfections when my lips are especially dry, and I wish it lasted longer--its wear time is 2-3 hours with moderate drinking (of iced coffee, natch).

Full face. My other color makeup is ColourPop Krinkle eyeshadow applied as a liner, to harmonize with the blue-gray dots in my scarf, and Sleek Life's a Peach blush.

The ColourPop eyeshadows make great, long-lasting liners, but I'd caution against pressing your eyeliner brush directly into the pot, as the formula is too soft to provide much resistance and the brush slips right through. I found it easier to transfer some eyeshadow to the back of my hand and apply from there.

Here's a bonus Streak FOTD (that sounds wrong) from last May. I'm wearing Stubborn, Snobby, and Stand-offish from theBalm's Nude 'tude palette on my eyes, and Life's a Peach on my cheeks. This photo is a bit more color-accurate.

Despite my usual aversion to layering lip products (too much fuss, and I'm neurotic enough that I prefer to appreciate each color in its "pure" form), I applied NYX Peach Cobbler over Streak out of curiosity. (Thanks to Monika for the layering inspiration!) On its own, Peach Cobbler turns redder and darker on my lips than it looks in the tube, but an undercoat of Streak brought out Peach Cobbler's bright orange tones. I really like this combination!

Full face with Peach Cobbler layered over Streak, and a better view of Krinkle as liner. For some reason my skin looks a lot warmer in this photo than it does in real life (for reference, the wall behind me is white, not beige).

The UD/NYX combination reminds me of the lip color that Emma Stone wore to the Oscars: Revlon HD Tulip lipstick over Chanel Precision Lip Definer in Rouge Candy. The result was a muted orange peach that complemented her chartreuse gown perfectly. I'd caution against buying HD Tulip to achieve this look, though. When even the face of Revlon needs a Chanel lip liner under a Revlon lipstick, you have to wonder about the lipstick, and indeed I've seen reports that HD Tulip applies patchily. Streak looks very similar to HD Tulip, though, and I think you could get even closer to Emma's look by layering it over a peach or soft red-orange lip liner.


It's amazing how much more inspired I feel now that the worst of winter seems to have passed. I want to wear all my brights and pastels in celebration! And acquire more brights and pastels, but I've been adhering to a no-buy this month, so it's back to my stash I go. At least for now.

By the way, how warm does it have to be for you to order an iced coffee? At the beginning of grad school, my cutoff point was 70 degrees; now it's "above freezing, if the sun's out." For some people in my town, "below freezing, if the sun's out" seems to be standard. I wonder how many more East Coast winters it will take for me to reach that point.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Selfie-Consciousness: Some Thoughts on Instagram Beauty

I've been thinking recently about the so-called "effortless" look, but I've also been thinking about its opposite, or perhaps its obverse: the heavy, colorful, ombréd look popular on Instagram, Tumblr, and YouTube. At first I thought these two looks couldn't be further apart aesthetically, but I've come to believe that they're actually two sides of the same coin. While adherents of "effortlessness" scoff at the idea that anyone would spend an hour layering and blending color, both looks owe a good deal of their popularity to the Internet. Neither one began there, of course, but Instagram and other social media have helped to refine and codify the looks. Hence the phenomenon of making oneself up for selfies, as opposed to snapping a quick selfie before heading out for the day. (And hence my shorthand phrase of "Instagram beauty," though I'm aware that many of these techniques were popular in drag, for instance, long before the invention of Instagram.)

San Francisco, December 2013.

When I first began following fashion and style blogs, around 2008, bloggers tended to emphasize the purpose of each outfit; there was a general sense that getting dressed up just for one's blog was a little weird. I didn't read beauty blogs back then, but I assume that the same was true for beauty bloggers. Blogging wasn't yet a viable career for many people, and Instagram, founded in late 2010, was still two years away. By and large, the only people who wore clothes and makeup unsuited to real life were models in editorials. For almost everyone else, personal style grew out of lifestyle. You dressed and made up for your occupation, whether that occupation happened to be burlesque dancer or stay-at-home mom or graduate student. Blogs were appealing because they showed clothes and makeup on ordinary people with ordinary lives, not on Photoshopped models in lavish editorial settings.

At the same time, the Internet made editorials more widely available, which meant that more people could copy them. And as those imitations proliferated online, the fashion world turned toward the "effortless" look. Coincidence? I can't say for sure, though I do think the effortless ideal in its current form is a reaction against popular culture's adoption of the editorial look. But outside the fashion world, the stage for both of these looks is the Internet, which means they're more similar than they might seem. Both begin with smooth, flawless skin: not a new beauty ideal by any means, but an ideal that the availability of filters has heightened. You can be your own Photoshopped model now: real life imitates selfie life.

Predictably, the beauty industry has responded with products designed to make us resemble our Instagram photos in real life, to make us look good in our Instagram photos, or both. The most blatant example is Too Faced's new Selfie Powder, which promises to make the user "look filter-flawless in real life":


Finishing powders have existed for centuries, of course, but this is the first time I've heard of a powder marketed specifically to selfie-takers.

And it's not just about looking "filter-flawless in real life": note the #tfnofilter hashtag on the box and the "photo-enhancing" epithet in the description. In other words, you'll look filtered in real life, but you'll also have no need for a filter on Instagram, and you can brag about this with the #nofilter hashtag. The Instagram selfie has become an end in itself, and Too Faced wants to help you toward that end (and, presumably, repost your selfies on the company Instagram account).

See also Milani's description of its new Moisture Matte lipsticks:


And pretty much every product description on ColourPop's website ("Curated by @brittanysuleiman, inspired by the insta-famous Kylie lip"):


I admit, I used to find it weird that people would spend hours painting their faces for selfies. (Have you seen many people in real life wear that hyper-blended, hyper-stylized look? I've seen very few, though the fact that I socialize mainly with academics might have something to do with it...) The more I think about this phenomenon, though, the more I appreciate it. There's something very democratic about Instagram beauty. Editorial looks are no longer confined to editorials; makeup artists no longer have a monopoly on advanced techniques like contouring. The beauty world has fewer secrets these days. I also like that the Instagram look is a performance of effort--the same effort that proponents of effortless beauty try so hard to dissemble. Why not look like you've spent some time and energy putting yourself together? Why not honor others by making yourself up for their gaze?

I wanted to provide examples of the "Instagram look" in this post, but that would have meant using other people's personal photos without their permission. The best I can do is this promotional photo from CoverGirl's Hunger Games collection in late 2013. This is obviously more costumey than most Instagram looks, but the basic elements are there: heavy contouring and highlighting, bright eyeshadow blended up to the browbone, overdrawn lips.


It's a shame that CoverGirl didn't actually produce that metallic teal lipstick; that task fell to NYX. (I'm convinced that NYX's recent Wicked and Macaron lipstick releases, in colors like mint and metallic navy, are intended primarily for Instagram selfies.)

As an homage to Instagram's many innovators, I tried out a maximalist look of my own. It's far outside my usual repertoire (and could certainly be better), but I had fun creating it. I used these products...

Clockwise from top: NARS Lhasa, Maybelline Line Stiletto, Milani Color Statement lip pencil in Nude, Kiko 251, ColourPop Krinkle and Bae, NARS Mata Hari, Milani Bella Taupe.

...and got this result:

Because I lack quite a few staples of the Instagram look (foundation, bronzer, contour products, highlighter), this isn't as finished-looking as it could be, but I did my best with what I had on hand. I filled in my brows with theBalm Sleek eyeshadow, using much more than I normally would. I was already wearing NARS Lhasa on my eyes when I came home and put together this look, so I kept Lhasa as a base and layered Kiko 251 on the inner corners, ColourPop Krinkle on the middle of the lids, and ColourPop Bae on the outer corners, lower lashlines, and browbones. On my upper lashlines I used Maybelline Line Stiletto, winged out. For some reason my blush isn't showing up well in this photo, but it was NARS Mata Hari, with Milani Bella Taupe eyeshadow to contour. I lined outside my natural lip lines and filled in my lips with Milani's lip pencil in 03 Nude. It was surprisingly hard to overdraw my lips, partly because of my ingrained horror at the thought and partly because I have very well-defined lip lines.

And there we are. Have you ever tried a similar look? What are your thoughts on selfie-consciousness?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

FOTDs: My Makeup Is So Boring, Guys

As a beauty blogger, I often feel that I should be experimenting constantly with makeup, and that wearing the same lipstick two days in a row is tantamount to a creative slump, especially if that lipstick is a neutral shade. Since buying Milani's Matte Naked lipstick, I've worn it almost every other day, though nude lipstick usually feels like a waste of facial real estate. At first I justified my Matte Naked rut by telling myself that it would give me more leeway to experiment with eye makeup, but I ended up wearing the same neutral eyeshadows in roughly the same configurations as before. Then I told myself that my simple eye looks would inspire me to wear bold lipstick or gloss, but that didn't happen either. Finally, I was forced to conclude that my face was just going to be boring for a while.

Basically, I've hit a period of late-winter aesthetic fatigue. It takes so long to suit up before going outside that I don't feel like spending fifteen extra minutes playing with makeup. I'm tired of my fall/winter colors, but the house-sized snowbanks all over town don't put me in the mood for my springy pastels. And sometimes I just want to take a break from creating Looks, you know? Some weeks I'm more concerned with writing about Donne, meeting with professors, watching Derek Jarman's haunting adaptation of Marlowe's Edward II, and rekindling my longstanding crush on Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords. (Did you know that he just co-wrote and -directed a mockumentary about vampires?) Some weeks I don't want to stand out visually. This was one of those weeks.

(Or maybe I'm just a hypocrite: I can't pretend that those professor meetings had nothing to do with my neutral turn. I talk a big game about challenging the academic pressures to downplay one's femininity, but at this point in my career, I don't always want to be the challenger. Is this hypocrisy? I hope not.)

Anyway, I thought I'd do a little roundup of some of the looks I've worn in the last two weeks. Here are the three products I used most frequently in that period: Matte Naked on the left, and ColourPop eyeshadows in Bae (top) and Bill.

Bae and Bill pair nicely together, but I've also enjoyed blending Bill with the matte black shadow in theBalm's Nude 'tude palette.

This became the basis for an all-matte look, also featuring Sleek Flushed blush and Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry. I've only recently started wearing matte eyes and lips; one of my unwritten rules used to be that a matte finish on my lips demanded shimmer or sheen on my eyes, and vice versa. But I like how this turned out, even if it was quite subdued.

My two other ColourPop shadows, Krinkle and Sequin, have seen less use: their glitter particles are just so large. This was my first and only attempt to wear Sequin, a pinkish copper that turned very orange on my lids. I applied the plum shade of NARS Habanera all over the lids, then blended Sequin into the middle of each lid. Lipstick is Matte Naked; blush is probably Flushed again. The photo is a bit washed out, but you get the idea.

My eyes are quite deep-set, which means that there's no way to prevent the glitter in Sequin from migrating up to my browbone, as happened here:

I also saw some glitter migration with Krinkle a few days later: here it is with NARS Lhasa, Matte Naked again, and I think NARS Mata Hari blush. Yes, I'm wearing exactly the same earrings and scarf as in the previous FOTD, because I just don't care anymore. (Though I apparently care enough to photograph myself in the same outfit, and more or less the same makeup, day after day.)

Despite its glitter issues, Krinkle impressed me that day by clinging to my lids (and browbone, and undereye circles) even after an hour at the gym. Not a pretty sight, but worth documenting. That pigment stays and stays, especially compared with Lhasa. I wasn't even wearing primer!

Finally, yesterday I blended Bae into an old favorite, Maybelline Bad to the Bronze. I used Bae only on the outer half of the lid, but the glitter migrated all over. Blush, barely visible, is Sleek Flushed; lipstick is Matte Naked, of course. And, shit, I just realized that I'm wearing that scarf again.

My love for Matte Naked took me by surprise, but maybe it shouldn't have. After all, it happens so often: I wander into a drugstore with no idea what I want, and choose something at random that quickly becomes one of my favorite products. I should take it one step further and blindfold myself before setting foot in the CVS beauty aisle. One of the reasons for my (over-)reliance on Matte Naked is that it's so kind to my parched lips. It really does protect them from further dehydration. By contrast, I wore NARS Angela once this week and had to take it off after two hours. Yes, the Audacious formula is drying! There, I said it! At least this means I no longer feel compelled to amass half a dozen Audacious lipsticks.

By the way, I haven't forgotten about the post on Instagram beauty: it's coming next week, after I finish some urgent academic stuff. For now, though, a question: do you ever go through periods when your own makeup choices kind of bore you?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Should Beauty Be Effortless?

In the last few years, I've noticed two different beauty ideals emerging on the Internet, or at least in the corners of the Internet that I frequent. The first is "effortless beauty": glowing skin, almost no color makeup, and an overall air of having something better to do. The second is what we might call "Instagram beauty": the heavily contoured, shaded, and blended look exemplified by the Kardashians and their followers. It's odd to see the beauty world so polarized, and I've been wondering how these two very different aesthetics developed.

When I think of "effortless beauty," I think of Into the Gloss, a blog I've followed for about three years now. In ITG's most beloved feature, The Top Shelf, staff members interview celebrities, models, creative types, and otherwise unremarkable rich kids about their beauty routines. Product junkies like Lindsay Lohan and Dita Von Teese show up occasionally, but if you scrolled through the Top Shelf posts and took a shot every time a French fashionista or LA-based juice mogul proclaimed that "I don't wear much makeup," the room would be spinning before long. The Top Shelf interviewees often imply (or, in some cases, declare outright) that piling on the color is a bit vulgar. You can wear bright eyeliner or blush or a red lip, but more than two at once is just Too Much.

This take on beauty is everywhere. In contrast to the "heavy neutral" look of the '90s, the 2010s seem to be embracing "light neutral": endless refinements of textures and finishes in a limited color palette. The guiding idea of Glossier, ITG's recently launched product line, is "skincare as makeup." The NARS Spring 2015 collection is an assortment of nudes. Responding to the looks at last fall's Fashion Week, exhorted us to "ditch the makeup—or at least look like you did." And the no-makeup-makeup trend seems poised to continue throughout the year. The focal point of Rodarte's Fall 2015 makeup was a tiny strip of Swarovski crystals just below the lashline...

 ...while at Proenza Schouler, the models' faces looked almost bare, save for smudges of matte black pigment at the inner corners of the eyes and along the creases.


I can think of a few reasons for the emergence of this look, including developments in skincare technology; the influence of Asian beauty trends; the "French girl" ideal (bare face, red lipstick) that has held the American imagination captive for too many years; and the desire to make one's face as smooth and poreless as one's triple-filtered Instagram selfie. But underlying all these phenomena is the idea that not trying, or giving the impression of not trying, is cool. This is nothing new: effortlessness has been cool in Western culture since at least 1528, when Baldassare Castiglione described the Renaissance ideal of sprezzatura in The Book of the Courtier. The perfect courtier, writes Castiglione, must "seem whatsoever he doth and sayeth to do it without pain, and (as it were) not minding it...Therefore it may be said to be a very art that appeareth not to be art." Or, translating this to the current beauty ideal: put effort into your appearance, but dissemble that effort as much as possible.

What Castiglione doesn't mention is actual lack of effort. If you're at court, or attempting to become a courtier, you're already invested in your appearance, manners, and speech. You've eaten of the fruit of knowledge; you can't go back. Real effortlessness may have been yours once upon a time, but that door is closed to you now. Likewise, if you follow beauty trends closely enough to know about the effortless look, you can achieve only the semblance of effortlessness. Back in college, when I cut my own bangs and the only makeup I owned was concealer and lip balm, I wasn't cool--or if I was (I wasn't), it had nothing to do with my refusal to wear makeup. Because I neither knew nor cared about color makeup, my bare face won me no sprezzatura points. If I'd known perfectly well how to put together a smoky eye and matte purple lip but had confined myself to a slick of mascara, it would have been a different story. Perhaps sprezzatura consists in appearing to undervalue something you value greatly.

Oxford, 2008. There is an actual viscount in this picture.

But is this what the people want? Into the Gloss's focus on "natural" looks has caused some dissatisfaction recently. Every new Top Shelf featuring an artfully disheveled woman who "doesn't wear much makeup" is met with complaints from readers: Show us the lipstick hoarders! Show us people who use foundation and have imperfect skin! Meanwhile, on xoVain, readers are invited to post selfies in the "Look of the Week" thread; the looks that garner the most compliments and upvotes are inevitably the most offbeat and striking looks, the ones that betray the thought and effort behind them. It makes sense: the point of a LOTW is to show off a creation, not an unadorned face. The problem with the effortless look is that it can be, well, boring.

There's also something undemocratic about it. Good skincare is far pricier than good makeup, and it's cheaper to change your look with a new lipstick than with a new outfit. You may have worn that pilled Target blazer more times than it deserves (she wrote, glancing at the just-washed blazer hanging on her bedroom door to dry), but if you throw on a red lip, who will notice? The effortless look, bolstered by serums, essences, and moisturizers that run to hundreds of dollars each, is the province of the rich. Plus, the elaborate "Instagram look" evolved from traditionally marginalized subcultures--including drag, as Renee pointed out in her comment here--and the brands that cater to this look, like MAC, NYX, and ColourPop, tend to be mid- to low-end.

I've made a lot of generalizations in this post, but I'd wager that most people reading here fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes: not willing to spend an hour blending and contouring, but too attached to their color makeup to be content with a splash of micellar water. In a later post, I'll consider the evolution of Instagram-esque makeup, but for now I want to know: what are your thoughts on "effortless beauty"?