Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Beauty Lately

In the pre-coronavirus days, I used to claimand, I think, believethat I wore makeup primarily for myself. Of course, it was nice to get a compliment on my lipstick or whatever, but for the most part, I wasn't wearing makeup to look more professional or more attractive; I was wearing it because I liked mixing colors and textures and finishes on my skin, or because I wanted to inhabit a certain aesthetic or persona. 

Since March, though, I've had to reconsider my motivations for painting my face. Now that I'm between jobs, I'm no longer appearing in virtual department meetings and Zoom lectures. My partner and I take an hourlong walk every day, but our town is so sparsely populated that we rarely pass more than two or three other people on the sidewalk. Whenever I do come in contact with strangers (mainly at the grocery store), I have a mask on, which means I'm not wearing lipstick, and if I'm not wearing lipstick, is there much point in making up the rest of my face? Apparently, my old reasons for wearing makeup were more dependent on the gaze of others than I thought. 

To be clear, I still love makeup. I still wear it on most days. I still buy it, even! (I really shouldn't.) But I always go for a light five-minute look: liquid or cream blush, a little highlight, a single eyeliner or eyeshadow, and a sheer lipstick or gloss. Putting on makeup lifts my mood, but it also makes me feel silly, as if I'm wasting products or wasting my face or...something. Today is the first day in over a month that I've worn a bold, opaque lipstick. Bold, opaque lipstick has always been my favorite category of makeup, but now it just reminds me of all the places where I could be wearing it if this country weren't teeming with dumbasses who think the virus is a hoax. (Ohio's governor finally imposed a mask mandate last week. At the grocery store the very next day, I saw a man wearing a mask printed with the slogan THIS MASK IS AS USELESS AS OUR GOVERNOR.)

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me, among other beauty goodies, an almost untouched tube of Lisa Eldridge Skyscraper Rose, a shade I'd coveted for an entire year. Since then, I've tried it on only once, and only for a few seconds before a shower. I just can't bring myself to wear it around the house, because I want to wear it to museums, restaurants, bookstores, conferences. I want to wear it while writing in now-shuttered coffee shops or chatting with colleagues in the halls of the college where I no longer teach. And who knows when those places and occasions will be available to me again?

Of the many problems facing us right now, a lack of occasions to wear lipstick ranks pretty low. But I think we're justified in mourning the evaporation of certain everyday pleasures. Five years ago, I wrote, "I like buying makeup to commemorate happy occasions. Lipsticks and nail polishes and eyeshadows function as little pins that secure my memories to the material world." I've come to realize that I wear makeup for much the same reason: to enhance my experiences in the world, and to help me remember those experiences. I may not be able to tell you where I put my keys five minutes ago, or what happened in a novel I read last year, but I can tell you which lip gloss I wore to my general exam in 2012, and which lipstick I ordered in the summer of 2015 while taking a break from my job in the university archives. But in 2020, such experiences occur either virtually or not at all, so what is there for makeup to enhance or to help me remember?

Clearly, I need to shift my perspective. I need to accept that for the time being, my virtual experiences and my solitary experiences are my experiences in the world, and that I have every right to make them as pleasurable as possible. I may feel a little silly wearing makeup to a writing session at my own table, but that's better than letting my collection expire in cabinets and drawers. And maybe reviving this blog (I say, posting for the first time in two months) will help me achieve that shift in perspective. I have quite a few ideas for posts, so we'll see.

Happy National Lipstick Day, by the way! Three years ago today, my mom and I went to the Nordstrom in San Francisco's Stonestown Galleria to try and score a free MAC lipstick. We got in line outside with an hour to spare, but when the store opened, it turned out that everyone in our line had been waiting at the wrong door and the lipsticks were already gone. That morning seems so far away now: the crowd, the chatter, the absence of fear. But I'm wearing Bésame Wild Orchid today, and that's some consolation. 

Review soon to come, I hope!

Monday, May 18, 2020

An Old-Fashioned Lipstick Destash Post

One of the reasons I decided to resurrect my blog is, frankly, nostalgia. I never thought I'd feel nostalgic for the second half of grad school (or the first half, for that matter), but 2020 has made me nostalgic for almost everything before it. When I started Auxiliary Beauty in 2014, Obama was president, I had a vague hope of someday obtaining a tenure-track job, and the population of good beauty blogs on the internet numbered in the double digits. I worry that my new enthusiasm for blogging is no more than regression, but if there's any moment when regression is permissible, it's this one. And if I can create some content for other people while I regress, all the better.

Remember destash posts? Remember the Platonic ideal of a perfectly edited lipstick collection, with no unwieldy tubes or oppressively floral fragrances or once-a-year metallic greige shades? I've grown a bit more cynical about destashing in the last few years, and before I remove anything from my lipstick box, I ask myself very sternly if I'm doing so merely for the excuse to buy another, similar lipstick. In the case of the four lipsticks in this post, though, the answer to that question is no. I think.

L-R: Matte Naked, Nice to Fuchsia, Rio Rio, Like.

Close-up of the tubes (note the beat-to-hell condition of Rio Rio):


L-R: Like (two swipes), Rio Rio, Matte Naked, Nice to Fuchsia.

And justifications for each destash, with links to my original reviews:

Glossier Generation G in Like (old formula):

This is the newest lipstick of the four, purchased two summers ago on my visit to the Glossier showroom. The second incarnation of the Generation G formula has a shatter-prone cap, a leap-onto-the-dusty-floor-prone bullet, and a formula that smells of old donut-frying oil. I could overlook all of those issues if Like were a flattering color, but the very sheer pink always makes me look sickly, no matter what other colors I'm wearing. I've tried wearing Like a few times this year and have switched it for a different lipstick every time, which is a pretty clear sign that I can do without it.

Milani Moisture Matte in Matte Naked (discontinued):

Oh man, I LOVED this lipstick when I first bought it...back in February of 2015. The advanced age of Matte Naked is one reason I'm letting it go, though I'd probably keep it if I still wore it often. I just don't care for a matte nude lip anymore, even in a formula as comfortable as this one; that look feels a bit dated in 2020. Also, Matte Naked is neither strongly warm-toned nor strongly cool-toned, and those shades (in any color family) always make me obsessive and fussy about how to incorporate them into a look. That's my own personal neurosis and no fault of Matte Naked's, but it is what it is.

Topshop Matte Lipstick in Rio Rio:

Another 2015 purchase. Rio Rio's most obvious problem is the gross-looking, slightly sticky tube, which is just a bummer to use, especially in public. The formula is nice (though not really matte), and the shade is the only bright orange-red that has ever looked semi-decent on me, but my records tell me that I've worn Rio Rio just once in the past two years. Clearly, I don't need a bright warm red in my life. This is an important lesson I've learned since I started my makeup journey: sometimes there are gaps in your collection for a good reason.

Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nice to Fuchsia:

Of the five Liquid Catsuit shades I own, Nice to Fuchsia has the patchiest formula, which certainly hasn't improved in the three years since I bought it. The color is great, but I have an almost identically colored matte lipstick in a formula I prefer (Maybelline Loaded Bold in Berry Bossy). Nice to Fuchsia performs better when sheered out, which is how I generally wear my Liquid Catsuits, but I also have an almost identically colored sheer lipstick in a formula I prefer (Maybelline Shine Compulsion in Berry Blackmail).

L-R: Berry Blackmail, Berry Bossy, Nice to Fuchsia.

This destash brings my lipstick collection to forty-nine, a number that makes me a little ashamed, since I spent a few years hovering around forty. I've bought five lipsticks this year, which I'm also not proud of, and writing this post has persuaded me that I need to go on a lipstick no-buy until the fall. (Remember no-buys?) A no-buy seems especially reasonable now that my lips are covered by a mask whenever I interact with people. (Remember displaying your entire face at the grocery store?)

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Partial Resurrection of Auxiliary Beauty

Last September, I wrote what I thought would be my final post on Auxiliary Beauty. I had a few reasons for ending the blog: my demanding schedule, my increasingly utilitarian approach to makeup, and my desire to focus on other kinds of writing. The next six months gave me no reason to regret my decision. I adjusted to my full-time teaching job and finished a long essay that I'd like to get published this year. I decided to leave academia (well, the job market decided for me), and I looked forward, sort of, to figuring out a new career path. I enjoyed trying out new makeup without photographing it extensively or coming up with a hot take for a blog post. I wrote occasional short reviews on Instagram, but I felt no need to make those reviews exhaustive.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which upended all my expectations for this year. As the weeks of lockdown passed, I found myself missing my blog and wondering if I could resurrect it while maintaining the mental freedom that its absence had produced. Beauty blogging hadn't taken time away from other creative writing, exactly, but it had occupied valuable mental space. It had become an unneeded source of (entirely internal) pressure and expectation, and I didn't know how to start blogging again without allowing the pressure and expectation to creep back in.

Last night, while mulling over these questions and absent-mindedly scrolling through '70s makeup looks on Pinterest, I came across this photo:

Barry Lategan for Vogue UK, June 1972.

I was struck by the unexpected combination of bright coral and deep rust. It made me want to pair my new coral blush, Fenty Strawberry Drip, with autumnal shades on my eyes and lips. But I wanted to do more than copy the look. I wanted to write about it. I wanted to analyze the Biba-meets-Baroque aesthetic of the photo. I wanted to review Strawberry Drip in the context of the photo. I wanted to discuss the other images and artworks that the bright watermelon coral of Strawberry Drip evokes for me. And I couldn't do all that in an Instagram post. So this morning, after submitting my final grades for the spring semester, I opened Blogger and started to write, just to see how it would feel. It felt good. I kept writing.

I don't know how long this incarnation of Auxiliary Beauty will last, or how frequently I'll post, but I'll try to keep it as low-key as possible. I'm curious whether blogging can coexist with the new habits of writing I've cultivated since last summer. If the answer turns out to be no, or if I catch myself feeling blog-related stress or guilt, I'll stop again. But for now, I think posting occasionally will bring me pleasure, which is in short supply these days. I hope my posts bring you pleasure, too.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The End of Auxiliary Beauty

Around this time last year, I was talking to one of my doctoral advisers about a short story I was struggling to finish writing. "I hate finishing things," I said, "because then they're done." It was one of the more ridiculous statements I've made in a lifetime of making ridiculous statements, and my adviser found it hilarious, but it summed up an essential part of my personality. By definition, finishing a project means abandoning it before it's perfect, because no project can ever be perfect. I've put off writing this farewell post because I kept thinking I'd squeeze in a couple more posts before it, posts that I'd always wanted to write but that had themselves been put off because I didn't feel that I could do justice to my ideas. But sometimes you just have to end things. So here it is: the end of Auxiliary Beauty.

I started this blog in early 2014, when I was a twenty-six-year-old doctoral candidate in need of an outlet for my non-academic writing. Five and a half years and 333 posts later, I'm a thirty-one-year-old visiting assistant professor at a small liberal arts college. The world of blogging has changed, too. The beauty blog was already a dying genre in 2014, but it's even less of a presence in 2019 than it was five years ago. Websites that once offered high-quality longform content are losing money, folding en masse, and being replaced by soulless content aggregators and listicle generators: Stylecaster, Hypebae, Bustle, Revelist. Influencer culture dominates beauty discourse. People keep saying the influencer bubble will burst soon, or is bursting, or has already burst, but I don't see much evidence of the dissipation of the cultural forces keeping the bubble afloat. And it's dispiriting to write longform pieces about beauty when the entire Internet seems to be working against your desire for nuance and context.

However, that's not the main reason I'm shutting down my blog; the main reason is that my relationship with beauty has shifted. I haven't lost interest in makeup: I still love researching the history of cosmetics (I'm currently reading this book), admiring editorial looks, using blush and eyeshadow to fine-tune my persona for the day, and, yes, buying new stuff. But my material circumstances have changed. I'm living in a rural Ohio town where Amish buggies are a more common sight than red lipstick (this is not hyperbole). I have a full-time job now, and adjusting to my new duties has left me feeling exhausted almost all the time. During the week, I don't have the time or energy to experiment with makeup, and I feel pressured to maintain a professional appearance (being mistaken for an undergrad is flattering only the first couple of times). And on the weekend, I'm not doing much more than preparing lessons for the next week, buying groceries, and working out at the local YMCA. Neon eyeshadow and '80s-style blush would just make me stand out, and standing out feels less safe in a largely conservative area than it did when I was teaching in Jersey City last year. I'm on a temporary contract, so I might well be living in more urban (or, at least, more liberal) environs next year. For now, though, I feel that I can get only so creative with my appearance.

When I was a grad student, this blog was an appealing outlet because there was no barrier to entry. I cared about the quality of my writing, of course, but blogging was free of the constant judgment from on high that characterized life in academia. I didn't have to put my blog posts through the peer-review process, read snarky reader reports, or subject my writing to repeated revisions. I didn't have to show drafts to a dissertation committee, or to a "friendly" working group of my grad-student peers. I didn't have to make advantageous connections through aggressive networking (a skill that continues to elude me). My years in grad school had taught me to associate writing with status anxiety, and beauty blogging allowed me a reprieve from that mentality, as I explained in this early post.

However, beauty blogging also took up time that I might have spent on other kinds of non-academic writing. Over the last year or so, I've realized that I want to get serious about writing fiction and essays; I want to participate in the kind of literary culture that does have barriers to entry. And blogging is a distraction from more labor-intensive writing. In her own farewell post, Renee of Bad Outfit, Great Lipstick reflects that "blogging has made [her] creatively lazy," and I can say the same for myself. I'm sure there are some brilliant people who can produce academic articles and short stories and blog posts without missing a beat, but I'm a slow, meticulous writer who can't multitask. For me, focusing on one kind of writing always means neglecting another kind of writing.

I'd also like to devote more time to my non-writing hobbies without feeling guilty about not posting on my blog. I'm not sure there's much point in maintaining a blog that I update once or twice a month. Honestly, I still have ideas for posts, but let's face it: if I haven't written them by now, I don't really want to. I'm looking forward to having more brainspace for embroidery, cooking, defining my personal aesthetic (my working description is "New Wave meets Charles II"), and being an annoying k-pop stan.

I'm going to copy this look for my Halloween costume! I have the perfect '80s dress for it.

Finally, I no longer feel comfortable maintaining a blog that promotes consumerism. None of us can afford to ignore that our planet is literally fucking dying, like right now. And while I've written several posts about low-buys and no-buys and sneaky marketing tactics, the fact remains that most people find my blog while searching for reviews of individual products. As Lena wrote in her Instagram stories recently, the beauty community has always justified its consumerism by emphasizing that we think critically about beauty, we reflect on it in articulately written posts, we use it as a creative outlet. But let's face it: we also buy shit. And while I'm not going to stop buying shit entirely (hell, I just ordered three Cirque Colors polishes over the weekend), I have to acknowledge that my beauty blogging encourages others' consumerism and celebrates my own. I used to feel proud when someone told me that I'd influenced them to buy a product; now I just feel guilty. If most of my posts were of the creative, introspective, critical type, I'd feel less guilty. But most of my posts are product reviews. I made some fun creative posts, especially in the early days of my blog; but those were time-consuming to write, and it was always easier to dash off a quick review.

However, I think I have more to be proud of than not. I never let blogging become anything but a hobby. I never set up ads. I never accepted PR (not that many brands were banging down my door to offer me PR, but I turned down a couple of offers). I called out bullshit marketing tactics where I saw them. I selected post topics based on my own whims and interests, not on what I thought would earn me clicks. I chronicled my late twenties and early thirties, creating an archive to which I can return in the future when I want to relive this period of my life. And in the process, I had some great times, connected with some great people, and bought some great makeup. No (well, few) regrets.

To end on a positive note, here are some of my favorite blog posts from the past five and a half years, in chronological order:

Back to 1996 with Cindy Crawford's Basic Face (Oct. 28, 2014)

A Discourse of Auxiliary Beauty, or Artificial Handsomeness (Nov. 19, 2014)

Toward an Ethnography of the Edwardian Cyborg (Nov. 30, 2014)

On Being an "Old-Fashioned" Blogger (Jan. 10, 2015)

I Have a Plum Problem: MAC x Giambattista Valli Lipstick in Eugenie (Jul. 15, 2015)

Unholy Grails (Sep. 25, 2015)

AB Insists on Antique Velvet (Jan. 24, 2016)

Beauty Abroad, Part 18: Ancient and Modern Beauty in London (Jun. 26, 2016)

Marc Jacobs Rei of Light and Bonus Super-Fun Class Anxiety (Sep. 10, 2016)

How Renaissance Is the ABH Modern Renaissance Palette? (Feb. 14, 2017)

Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom (Plus Another Rant) (Jun. 25, 2017)

Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige (Dec. 20, 2017)

7 Days of Glossier, Day 1: Glossier You (Jan. 30, 2018)

A Visit to the Glossier Showroom (Jun. 10, 2018)

My Best No-Buy Tips (Aug. 15, 2018)

In Pursuit of '70s Peach: MAC Amplified Creme Lipstick in Smoked Almond (Apr. 14, 2019)

I'm too egotistical to make my blog private, so it will remain accessible for the foreseeable future, and I'll keep posting FOTDs and writing mini-reviews on my Instagram. A million thanks to everyone who has read my ramblings and left thoughtful comments over the years; you truly made it all worthwhile. Goodbye, au revoir, adios!


Monday, August 12, 2019

Kitrinophiles Unite: The ColourPop Uh-Huh Honey Palette

I've always had an affinity for the color yellow. Maybe it's because my birthstone is topaz, or because yellow is one of the least popular colors and I love a polarizing underdog, or because mustard and chartreuse are surprisingly flattering to my cool-toned complexion, or because lemon bars are my favorite dessert and, fittingly, the official dessert of bisexuals. Whatever the cause, I've been drawn to yellow since childhood. I have a vivid memory of my dad, a classical guitarist, taking me to a music store on Haight Street when I was seven or eight and letting me pick out a slide flute. The color choices were red, blue, and yellow, and I went for yellow without a second thought. As an adult, I find it hard to resist yellow accessories, clothes, and makeup, and I always gravitate toward splashes of yellow in museums, as I did in the St. Louis Art Museum last month:

Paul Gauguin, Portrait of Two Children (Paul and Jean Schuffneker), c. 1889.

Sofa, c. 1815-1825.

Ben Nicholson, Half Moon, 1959.

So when ColourPop started releasing monochromatic nine-pan eyeshadow palettes for $12 each, I waited on tenterhooks for the yellow one, which finally materialized at the end of June.

When the first photos came out, I was disappointed. I'd been hoping for a palette that explored the warm, cool, light, and dark manifestations of yellow, but but the Uh-Huh Honey palette was overwhelmingly warm-toned, and most of the shades were neither light nor dark. ColourPop might as well have called it the Colonel Mustard palette. Where was the acid yellow? The pastel yellow? The chartreuse? There were other issues, too: ColourPop had made the environmentally irresponsible decision to switch its packaging from cardboard to plastic, and the corneally irresponsible decision to include a non-eye-safe body glitter in an eyeshadow palette. But as the weeks went on, I found myself more and more tempted by Uh-Huh Honey, especially as I had only a couple of eyeshadows that could be described as yellow. We all know what happened next:

I've now been using Uh-Huh Honey for over a month, so I feel comfortable delivering an overall verdict: it's good! It hasn't blown me away, but I'd give it a solid B (bee?) and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone whose eyeshadow stash is lacking in yellows, as mine was.

The packaging is nice: a solid plastic compact that closes securely with a click. Unfortunately, and predictably, the gold lettering on the lid does wear off. I've toted the palette to three different states now, and this is the result:

The compact has a very nice mirror that I didn't realize was a mirror until ten minutes ago, because it was covered by a peel-off plastic sheet and this is apparently the first eyeshadow palette I've ever bought?

When I first swatched the shadows, I was disappointed in the pigmentation of the mattes. Now that I've used all of them a few times, they're depositing more pigment on my brush, so I think I just had to get the top layer off. Still, they're a little less pigmented than the ColourPop matte singles I've tried (almost all of which have been very impressive). The three shimmers (Sunburst, Dandy, and Queen B) are unquestionably the stars of the show. Here are some finger swatches I made yesterday; I didn't bother swatching Palooza, the glitter, because I'm not going to risk my eyesight by putting it on my lids.

Some quick descriptions of the shades:

Stinger is a matte, light, slightly orangey yellow that reminds me of Gouda cheese.
Sunburst is a metallic, slightly sheer light yellow with blue duochrome.
Sweet Spot is a bright, matte true yellow.
Dandy (my favorite!) is a metallic true yellow.
Palooza is a chunky yellow glitter with shifts of orange and blue-green.
Queen B is a metallic, slightly yellow-toned bronze reminiscent of whiskey.
Totally Buggin' is a matte light butterscotch.
Oh Beehave is a matte mustard yellow; it looks much browner than Sweet Spot but isn't terribly different when swatched.
Buzz Kill is a matte medium brown that's slightly darker and cooler-toned than Totally Buggin', but fairly similar in action.

L-R: Stinger, Sunburst, Sweet Spot, Dandy, Queen B, Totally Buggin', Oh Beehave, Buzz Kill:

I was curious how the mattes compared to my other mustard matte, ColourPop Paper Tiger. L-R: Stinger, Totally Buggin', Paper Tiger, Oh Beehave, Buzz Kill:

The obvious weakness of this shade lineup is the lack of variety and contrast. I thought Buzz Kill would be effective for darkening my outer corner, but it's not much darker than Totally Buggin'. And I wish Stinger were a lighter yellow (more of a clotted-cream shade). I've put together a few looks using only this palette, but there's no use pretending they don't all look somewhat similar. However, all the shades show up nicely on my lids (over primer, of course) and blend out smoothly, so I can't complain too much.

I think I'll end up using Uh-Huh Honey mainly in conjunction with other palettes and with singles, but here are the looks I've created with Uh-Huh Honey alone. You'll notice that none of them feature color on the lower lashline; this is because any remotely yellow-toned shadow placed under my eyes makes them look infected. Trust me. Also, excuse the variety of selfie backgrounds and the general half-assedness of these photos. It's hard to take consistently good makeup selfies when you're in a different place every two weeks. (I'm now settled in my new place in Ohio, though!)

Dandy on the lid, Stinger on the browbone, Buzz Kill in the crease and outer corner, Sunburst in the inner corner:

Lipstick is MAC O.

Queen B on the lid, Totally Buggin' in the crease and outer corner, and Urban Decay Whiskey eye pencil smudged out with Totally Buggin' on the upper lashline. I've worn Queen B the most of all the shades in Uh-Huh Honey.

Lipstick is Maybelline Shine Compulsion in Scarlet Flame.

Sunburst on the lid, Oh Beehave (and maybe also Sweet Spot) in the crease and outer corner. I wasn't a huge fan of this look while I was wearing it, but now I appreciate that it actually has some color contrast!

Lipstick is Urban Decay Seismic.

Finally, Sweet Spot in the crease and Dandy on the lid, with Palooza on my cheekbones. I used Glossier Haloscope in Quartz as a short-term glitter adhesive, but I'd welcome suggestions for a longer-term one. Unfortunately, Palooza is chunky enough that when the light doesn't hit it just right, it looks like bits of dirt. ColourPop definitely took the lazy route by incorporating a pre-existing pressed glitter instead of formulating an eye-safe glitter topper with the same color scheme, which would have been a beautiful addition to the palette. (Note, too, that almost everyone who reviews the Palooza single mentions using it on their eyelids. ColourPop's warning that Palooza is "not intended for use in the immediate eye area" is hidden in the list of ingredients.)

Lip gloss is NYX Butter Gloss in Tiramisu.

I think Uh-Huh Honey is well worth $12, and I wouldn't be disappointed if I'd paid $18 or $20 for it. Honestly, I would have paid $12 for the three shimmers alone. The only shade I don't think I'll use semi-regularly is Palooza, though it is a beautiful glitter and might come in handy for Pride or Halloween or something. I look forward to creating more yellow-toned looks as we get into fall! Come to think of it, I've already bought my first case of pumpkin beer (Southern Tier Pumking, objectively the best), so let's just say we're there already.

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.