Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Hair, and Some Notes on Growing Out a Pixie Cut

I got a haircut yesterday!

My hair hasn't touched my shoulders since 2007. In the past seven years, I've had long bobs, short bobs, longer-in-front bobs, pixie cuts, and whatever was happening on my head during senior year of college, when I couldn't afford professional haircuts and had to take matters--and scissors--into my own hands.

All this means that I've learned a lot about managing short hair, and I thought I'd discuss some of my recent experiences in this post.

This past January, I got a pixie cut for the first time in almost two years. Enough time had passed since my last one that I'd forgotten something very important: a pixie is not a low-maintenance haircut. If you want to keep that perfect pixie shape, you need to get it touched up every month or two, which I can't afford to do right now. Maintaining a pixie is even harder when you don't have straight hair. My hair is fine and wavy, and on humid days it crosses the border into curly; it's like having a freaking barometer attached to my head. When hair like mine is very short, it doesn't grow straight down. Instead, it grows up and out, forming a forest of little tufts. I can't hop out of bed in the morning with my hair artfully tousled, run a comb through it, and race out the door. I'm more likely to wake up with a fauxhawk that can be conquered only with a full shower. During my pixie months, I gave up on washing my hair at any time of day but the morning, before I left the apartment. The potential for humiliation was just too strong. If I went to the gym in the afternoon and washed my hair afterward, I'd usually have to get it wet again the next morning. It was a monumental pain in the ass.

I got pixied again in March, because I really do love the look, but I decided soon after to grow out my hair into a bob. Here's a timeline from then to now:

Late March: freshly shorn!

By mid-May, it looked like this. Apologies that I have so few photos of my entire head; I wasn't specifically trying to chronicle my hair growth. (This photo was actually intended for my review of theBalm's Nude 'tude palette, though it didn't end up in that post.)

Four months of growth, a few days before my haircut. Yes, I have a depression in the middle of my skull. It's weird. I'd been trimming the back to prevent the encroaching mullet, but had left my hair alone otherwise.

To turn my grown-out pixie into a bob, the stylist cut my hair short in back but left the front and sides relatively untouched (save for a bit of shaping). This forms a bob shape that will become more pronounced as it grows out.

From the front, it looks pretty much the same as before. Alas, I couldn't take a decent head-on photo before the frizz set in. (If anyone knows of an anti-frizz product that won't weigh down fine hair, I'd love to hear about it...)

Finally, a few tips on growing out a pixie cut and maintaining short hair:

1. Go for haircuts as frequently as you normally would--for me, this is every few months. Your hair does need regular trims as it grows out, or it will end up looking shapeless. Maintaining a nice shape is more important than gaining length.

2. If your budget allows, spending a little extra money is worth it. It's a shame how many stylists don't know what to do with short hair, especially short curly hair. Last year, when I still had a longish bob, I went to a place in town for a trim. I asked the woman to take my hair up a little in back, so that it would be longer in front. I showed her pictures. I was very specific. She ignored everything I said and thinned out the back. Instead of making it shorter, she made it flatter. After she was done, she said, "What you were asking me to do was impossible." It was the only haircut that had ever made me cry. These days I go to a place in Brooklyn, recommended by a friend, and spend $70 (plus tip) per haircut. That's more money than I'd like, but I'm always pleased with the result.

3. Without exception, I've had better short cuts from women who have short hair themselves.

4. When my boyfriend still lived in North Carolina, I went to a talented woman at a shockingly affordable (compared to the Northeast) salon in Chapel Hill. After my boyfriend graduated from his program, I went to the salon one last time and asked the stylist how to find a good replacement. She told me to look for someone who could cut hair with a straight razor. Not only does that give a precise cut, it's also a relatively advanced skill that not everyone learns how to do. And lo and behold, my current stylist uses a straight razor, too.

I'll be in and out of airplanes for the next week, but will post when I can. Now to begin the excruciating task of choosing lipsticks for the next month.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lipstick Chronology #24: NARS Dolce Vita

Name: NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita

Date Purchased: Spring 2013 (and again on Monday!)

Grade: A

Notes: I did it! I repurchased NARS Dolce Vita after a few months spent trying to preserve the tiny nub that remained of my first tube.

I have a weird psychological hangup about repurchasing makeup. A second tube of a well-loved lipstick just doesn't give me the thrill of the new and unknown. And since no product is perfect, not even Dolce Vita, I can't help thinking that if I keep looking, I'll come upon something even better. But with Dolce Vita, my neurosis went too far. I found myself avoiding my favorite lipstick because I was afraid to use it up. Two days ago I decided that enough was enough, and $26 plus tax later, I have a shiny new tube of my trusty goes-with-everything lipstick. Just in time, too, since I can't in good conscience continue to use my old one. I mean, look at it.

I feel like I'm turning into my mother, who has used up and repurchased the same two L'Oreal berry lipsticks since I can remember. But most people still do that, even with the explosion of new colors and formulas (and blogs to review those colors and formulas). Most people find one or two lip colors that suit them, and return to those products over and over. There's something comforting about reaching into your purse for a lipstick that you know will flatter you and match all your outfits, a color that will never make you feel conspicuous or self-conscious. Sometimes you just want makeup to be easy, you know? Dolce Vita is easy, and there's no shame in that. Its name is appropriate, too: la dolce vita shouldn't involve wondering if your lipstick has faded unevenly or attracted disapproving glances.

NARS describes Dolce Vita as a "dusty rose," and that's exactly what it is: a neutral brownish pink in a sheer, glossy formula. Left, one swipe; right, two swipes.

Compared with other NARS sheer lipsticks I've bought or swatched, Dolce Vita has medium pigmentation. It's more opaque than pink-nude Cruising or pink-plum Damage, about the same as coral Manhunt and brown-plum Vendanges, and sheerer than cool red Flamenco. Dolce Vita's biggest flaw for me is its lack of pigmentation and its tendency to wear off after an hour or two. I've swatched Dolce Vita next to Flamenco so you can see the striking difference in opacity between two NARS sheer lipsticks:

And here's Dolce Vita with a few other MLBBs. Left to right: NYX Round Lipstick in Perfect, Dolce Vita,  Revlon Lip Butter in Pink Truffle, and NARS Cinematic Lipstick in Last Tango (limited edition for Holiday 2013).

Perfect is cooler and redder, though it looks similar on my lips. Pink Truffle is often mentioned as a dupe for Dolce Vita, but as you can see, it's darker, more pigmented, and warmer and browner. I bought Last Tango hoping it would be Dolce Vita's opaque cousin, but it turned out to be almost identical to Pink Truffle. It's also so drying that I can't wear it except when my lips are absolutely flawless, which is almost never. Isn't it strange how the creamiest lipsticks are often the most drying?

Speaking of which, I've decided not to post close-up lip swatches today. My lips have been nightmarishly dry for the last few days, and I've been putting off this post while waiting for them to heal, but it hasn't happened so far. It's high summer with drenching humidity, yet my lips are as parched and cracked as they were last winter. It's a shame, because arm swatches are an imperfect way to show off a lipstick--and this is doubly true of a sheer neutral lipstick like Dolce Vita. Suffice to say that my lips are quite pigmented, so I end up needing two layers of Dolce Vita. I see it as more of a lip-glow product than a full-on lipstick, but it's so versatile that I can put up with less opacity than I'd prefer. Plus, the formula is so plush and comfortable. The NARS sheer lipsticks aren't exactly hydrating (if they were, my lips would be in better condition right now), but they're not drying, either.

In lieu of lip swatches, have a FOTD featuring Dolce Vita, from two days ago. I think this is the first photo in which I've actually gotten Illamasqua Zygomatic to show up on my cheeks.

And some July flowers:

And a bus I saw yesterday morning. Something makes me doubt its university affiliation...

I'm not convinced it's a Mercedes-Benz, either.

Finally, I should mention that I'll be making myself scarce for the next week. I want to finish a draft of an article before I leave town next Wednesday, and that means less internet than I've become accustomed to. Though I am going for a haircut on Monday, so I probably won't be able to resist posting a couple of photos. The bedhead situation has been fun, but it really needs to end.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Only Tattoos I'll Ever Have: Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadows

All right, that title is a bit of an exaggeration. I'm not completely sure I'll never get a tattoo. But given my indecisiveness, fear of commitment, and habitual buyer's remorse, I can say the odds are very slim. I do, however, own five Maybelline Color Tattoo eyeshadows.

I'm not the first person to consider the Color Tattoos (with a couple of exceptions) some of the best beauty products at the drugstore. They're cream eyeshadows in adorable, satisfyingly heavy glass pots, and they can be used either on their own or as long-lasting bases for powder shadows. Most of us have heard that cream eyeshadows should be stored upside down (I trust this isn't a myth...?), but I'd probably never remember to do that if not for the ingenious design of the Color Tattoos. The glass "lid" is actually the pot that holds the product, while the black plastic "bottom" is the screw-off lid. I've never encountered another drugstore product packaged in real glass; it feels almost luxurious. The colors all have "edgy" names (tattoos = edgy, dontchaknow), because Maybelline hasn't realized that few things are more ridiculous than a major cosmetics brand pretending to be streetwise. See also their "Street Art" nail polishes.

The official name of this product is "Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24HR Cream Gel Eyeshadow," which...whatever. The 24-hour claim mystifies me, as most people wash their faces more than once every 24 hours. I have, however, fallen asleep in my makeup (I know, I know), and the color does stick around until the next morning. Do with that information what you will. I don't know what the phrase "cream gel" is supposed to signify, but the formula doesn't feel or look particularly gel-like to me. It's a cream eyeshadow, Maybelline. Get over yourselves.

Besides, there's nothing wrong with plain old cream eyeshadows. They're perfect for the hot, humid weather we've been having. My go-to summer eye makeup is Bad to the Bronze and mascara; boom, done. And because they're so user-friendly and versatile, the Color Tattoos are great starter eyeshadows for yours truly people who are still getting the hang of applying and blending eye makeup. I rarely use a brush with these; smearing them on with my fingers seems most effective, and can be accomplished in a few seconds. But alas, I can't recommend all the shades wholeheartedly. The five I own vary in quality from sublime (Bad to the Bronze, Tough as Taupe) to workable (Electric Blue, Pomegranate Punk) to utter shit (Audacious Asphalt).

Top row, from left: Pomegranate Punk, Electric Blue. Bottom row, from left: Audacious Asphalt, Tough as Taupe, Bad to the Bronze.

Here are some swatches to give you an idea of the significant textural differences. Left to right: Audacious Asphalt (audacious only in its resistance to blending), Tough as Taupe, Bad to the Bronze, Electric Blue, and Pomegranate Punk. Keep in mind that I bought Bad to the Bronze over a year ago, so it's not quite as smooth and buttery as it once was. Still going strong, though.

Indoors, indirect natural light:

 Indoors, artificial light:

 Outdoors, direct sunlight. Don't mind me, neighbors, I'm just photographing my inner arm.

Bad to the Bronze, which I bought last May to wear to a wedding, is my favorite of the five. Most bronze eyeshadows are too warm-toned for my complexion, but Bad to the Bronze is the coolest bronze I've ever seen; in fact, I'd say it verges on taupe. Look how much of it I've used!

Swatched with theBalm Seductive to illustrate how cool-toned it is for a bronze. Bad to the Bronze is the one on the right; it looks almost copper next to the yellow-bronze Seductive, which I rarely use.

Though it's a neutral, Bad to the Bronze is bold and metallic enough that I don't usually wear it with eyeliner or other eyeshadows. It does look great with purples, though, so I'll occasionally pair it with NYX Slide On eyeliner in Jewel on my lashlines. And of course, bronze is the perfect complement for a purple or berry lipstick. Here's a recent FOTD with Bad to the Bronze, Jewel, and MAC Up the Amp lipstick.

Electric Blue is a metallic navy blue that I bought last fall in order to quell my lemming for the NARS Mandchourie eyeshadow duo.

It's drier and less blendable than I'd like, but it works fine as an outer-corner accent. No comparison swatches for this one, because it's my only navy eyeshadow, but here's a FOTD from October, when I had a lot more hair! I'm wearing Electric Blue with theBalm Selfish (the taupe eyeshadow from the Nude 'tude palette), NARS Coeur Battant blush, and NARS Cinematic lipstick in Last Tango.

Audacious Asphalt is a sparkly gray with large silver glitter particles.

I bought this one in October while putting together my Halloween costume. I was dressing up as Rachel from Blade Runner, and this tutorial had recommended Audacious Asphalt for her '80s-meets-'40s smoky eye. I don't know why I went out and bought it when I had a beautifully formulated Wet n Wild silver eyeshadow that I'd never found an excuse to use, but there you are. Unfortunately, Audacious Asphalt turned out to be dry, stiff, clumpy, and nearly impossible to apply without cursing. But I kept it, for some reason, and it's occasionally come in handy as a sparkly accent. I'm not a cyborg full-time, after all, so I'm rarely in the mood for an eyelid completely coated in silver sparkles.

Here's Audacious Asphalt (left) next to the silver shade from the Wet n Wild Spoiled palette, which also contains a matte fuchsia and a sparkly black. Why did I choose that as my first-ever eyeshadow palette? Why not a nice neutral trio? Once an Edwardian cyborg, etc.

The palette recommends that I use the silver as a browbone shade. Gambit declined, Wet n Wild.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I wore Audacious Asphalt this Independence Day over a base of Tough as Taupe. Closeup for glitter:

 Pomegranate Punk is a reddish plum with gold shimmer.

I seem to be drawn repeatedly to red-based purples; I find that they bring out the green in my eyes. Left to right: NYX Jewel, right-hand shade of NARS Habanera duo, and Pomegranate Punk.

I don't know how to make this color read anything but "fall/winter," so I haven't worn it in several months. Here's a look from January, though. I'm wearing NARS Mata Hari blush and Maybelline Nude Lust lipstick (?), and I think I've used Bad to the Bronze on the inner two-thirds of the lid and Pomegranate Punk on the outer third.

Tough as Taupe is a matte gray-leaning taupe with a delightfully smooth, rich texture.

I almost never wear matte neutral eyeshadows on their own, since they tend to emphasize my dark undereye circles, but I love Tough as Taupe as a layering base for sheerer, lighter colors. It also tones down bright colors, making them more wearable. I bought it to use as a base for NARS Lhasa, but it works just as nicely with non-taupes. From left, here's Tough as Taupe on its own, then layered under Lhasa, Kiko Infinity Eyeshadow #251, and Topshop Chameleon Glow in Wax + Wane.

And some comparisons: from left, Tough as Taupe, Lhasa, and theBalm Selfish. I need a brownish taupe to replace the nearly extinct Selfish, and I've been hearing good things about the new Milani Bella eyeshadows, so I might hunt down Bella Taupe before long...

Here I am wearing Tough as Taupe with the mint green from NARS Habanera as a center-lid accent. Lip color is NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita, for which I also need a replacement--I'm down to the barest nub, and have been avoiding finishing it for months because, well, $24. For some reason I resent having to repurchase things, even things I really love.

Finally, an update from the desk of gravity-defying bedhead. This image is saved on my computer as "why.jpg":


What are your feelings on Color Tattoos, or tattoos in general? Do you have any of either?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lipstick Chronology #23: Milani Flamingo Pose and Sweet Nectar

Names: Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Flamingo Pose and Sweet Nectar

Date Purchased: Spring 2013

Grade: B

Notes: I wish I liked Milani more than I do. It's one of the only cruelty-free American drugstore brands left, and I mean entirely cruelty-free: it hasn't expanded into China or sold out to a larger company that tests on animals (looking at you, NYX). It has an impressive range of products, colors, and finishes. It occupies a nice mid-to-low price point for a drugstore brand: lower than big international brands like Revlon and Maybelline, but higher than Wet n Wild and e.l.f., whose implausible dirt-cheapness always makes me suspect their quality. In other words, Milani looks great on paper.

 (Literally on paper.)

In practice, though, the brand is annoyingly hit-and-miss, and nowhere is this clearer than in the Color Statement lipstick line. Milani reformulated the lipsticks last year, added dozens of new shades in six different finishes, and sent a full complement of colors to every beauty blogger in the universe. The lipsticks received overwhelmingly positive reviews, so I decided to try out a couple of "risky" colors that I didn't want to spend much money on. I chose two lipsticks in the cream finish: Flamingo Pose, a bright coral-pink, and Sweet Nectar, a true orange. (Remember how hard it used to be to find orange lipstick at the drugstore? Those days are long gone.)

So, the good: these lipsticks do make one hell of a color statement. They're opaque, richly pigmented, and long-lasting, with a satin finish. They feel a bit heavy on my lips; I prefer a lighter, more emollient formula like the Maybelline Vivids, but you might not care one way or the other.

If you're a stickler for pretty packaging, these lipsticks aren't for you. The plastic tube feels light and flimsy, and the gold paint will eventually start to wear off. Frankly, this doesn't much bother me, as I just want a lipstick to work. If it comes in a mirrored compact or is shaped like a heart, so much the better, but I don't demand immaculate design. Especially not from a $5.49 lipstick.

I fell in love with the color of Flamingo Pose the moment I put it on. It was the first flattering coral lipstick I'd ever found, and it remains one of my favorite coral shades ever. It's just warm enough to avoid fuchsia territory, yet cool enough that it never threatens to pull orange on me. Some have compared it to MAC Impassioned or Party Parrot, but I think it looks almost identical to the Revlon Matte Balm in Unapologetic (reviewed here by the lovely Sylirael).

Sweet Nectar is orange. Not red-orange, not blood orange, not coral, but straight-up orange-soda orange.

Sweet Nectar is, to put it mildly, not my best color. I keep it around mainly for the purpose of  comparison swatches, as it's the most yellow-based of my handful of oranges. Left to right: Revlon Orange Flip (redder), Sweet Nectar, Maybelline Vibrant Mandarin (sheerer, pinker, glossier), and Revlon Lip Butter in Candy Apple (sheerer, redder, darker).

Although Flamingo Pose is more flattering to my complexion than Sweet Nectar, I have fewer near-dupes for it; in fact, it's my only coral-pink. How have I amassed so many oranges? What self-defeating urge compels me to collect the worst mainstream lipstick shade for my skintone? Not the death drive, but maybe the ugliness drive. I don't know, man.

Left to right: Revlon Persian Melon, Maybelline Vivid Rose, Flamingo Pose, Urban Decay Streak.

As I hinted above, these lipsticks have their flaws. The most immediately noticeable is the scent, a strong synthetic watermelon. I don't mind it as much as, say, the old-lady floral of L'Oreal, but it's impossible to ignore, and it doesn't really fade. Robyn of Brightest Bulb in the Box describes the scent as "the breath of a seven-year-old at a birthday party," and I can't improve on that phrase at all. That's exactly it. You've been warned.

I also find the lipsticks very drying. "Yeah, yeah," I hear you say; "you find every lipstick 'very drying.'" No, these are really drying. I think I might be allergic to one of the ingredients, because my lips start peeling within an hour if I haven't applied the lipstick over lip balm (though lip balm does usually take care of the problem--I'm wearing it in these photos, by the way). Oddly, the drying effect doesn't seem consistent across all six finishes. I have another Color Statement lipstick in the matte formula (Sangria, a purplish berry), and it's quite comfortable to wear. In fact, it was one of my most-worn lipsticks last fall and winter.

Finally, two full-face looks. I wouldn't ordinarily pair lavender eyeshadow (Kiko Infinity eyeshadow in 251) with such bright lip colors, but I happened to be wearing it when I took these photos, and I decided to keep it on. I actually don't mind the end result; I feel like a tropical bird. Here's Sweet Nectar, which, for obvious reasons, I've worn in public only once:

And Flamingo Pose:

One more thing. Can we talk about how growing out a pixie cut when you have curly hair is utterly ego-destroying? On the left, what my hair usually looks like when I wake up; on the right, my hair yesterday after an attempt at brushing and styling. I had to stick my head into the shower to get rid of the devil horns.

My hair is at three and a half months of growth, almost long enough that I can get it cut and shaped into a very short bob. I plan to go for a haircut in two weeks, and the wait is agonizing. I've never been so grateful for headbands.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day FOTD + PSA for Polish Lovers

Happy Independence Day!

(I took that photo last year in Chapel Hill, NC. The South loves its fireworks.)

Now that I'm writing a dissertation on Renaissance English literature, few people know about my past life as an obsessive American-history nerd. Around the age of sixteen, I decided that I wanted to be a professor of history, specializing in the American Revolution and the early republic (roughly the last third of the eighteenth century). Alexander Hamilton was my particular preoccupation, and on July 11, 2004, the bicentennial of the Hamilton-Burr duel, I performed an elaborate predawn candlelight ritual to commemorate Hamilton's death. No, I didn't have many friends in high school, why do you ask?

(It still blows my mind that Burr committed murder while he was Jefferson's vice president, and escaped murder charges in New York and New Jersey by returning to Washington, D.C. to serve out his term. The next year, he began plotting to establish his own empire in the Southwest. Narrowly acquitted of treason, he fled to Europe, tried unsuccessfully to get hired as a British intelligence agent against the United States, and kept a diary detailing his many encounters with prostitutes. This is as good a time as any to recommend Gore Vidal's brilliant novel Burr.)

The Milton course I took in my first year of college won me over to seventeenth-century England, and I ended up majoring in English. But my fondness for American history and political thought has never entirely vanished, and July 4 always calls forth my 1776-loving teenage self.

So I thought it was only appropriate to put together an Independence Day FOTD (and NOTD, for that matter). Predictably red-lip-focused, but national holidays are about tradition, no?

On my eyes, two Maybelline Color Tattoo cream shadows: a base of Tough as Taupe (matte grayish taupe), with an overlayer of Audacious Asphalt (sparkly gray). Audacious Asphalt is very dry and stiff, but workable as an accent applied over a smooth base.

Illamasqua Zygomatic on cheeks; Maybelline On Fire Red on lips. I should wear this lipstick more; it's a perfect shiny cherry red. I think the last time I wore it was last July 4...

On my nails, one coat of Topshop Brazil over three of Zoya Storm (black with holographic shimmer).

I was going for a fireworks effect, but today is dreary and overcast and the glitter doesn't sparkle as fiercely as I'd hoped, while the holo shimmer is all but invisible. Still pretty, though!

Finally, in case you haven't heard, Zoya is offering three nail polishes for $12 until July 6. The official phrasing is “FREE…plus special shipping and handling,” but come on: it's three for $12. Despite the deceptive phrasing, this is a pretty great deal: Zoya polishes usually retail for $9 each. Plus, Zoya is cruelty-free! I own just three of their polishes (they're hard to come by in stores), but they've all impressed me with their quality.

Left to right: Storm, Gilda, Julie.

So, uh, there went my no-buy July. (It rhymed so nicely, too...) But I ordered some gorgeous-looking colors yesterday! Despite my usual preference for creme finishes, I always end up buying shimmers from Zoya. No mainstream brand does them quite as creatively, in my opinion. Here are some images of the ones I chose, from the Zoya website:







Go forth and sparkle!