Friday, October 31, 2014

OPI First Class Desires (Holiday 2014) and a Halloween FOTD

In the last year, my local supermarket has begun stocking the latest OPI and Essie releases, which is both an incentive to go grocery shopping and a severe test of my willpower. I've been disenchanted with Essie for a while now, but OPI has impressed me over and over with the quality of its formula and the creativity of its shades.

First Class Desires, whose bougie name cracks me up, is part of the 16-piece Holiday 2014 collection. The theme of this collection is rather mysterious. OPI reports that it's inspired by Gwen Stefani, but the shade names and colors are typically "holiday," and Stefani already lent her name to last year's holiday collection. Not that it really matters to me: I know almost nothing about Gwen Stefani except for that awkward Harajuku Girls phase in 2004. More important, from my magpie point of view, is that this polish is complex and sparkly and pretty much flawless.

First Class Desires is a deep plum packed with gold microglitter. This photo reminds me of an ink bottle, which makes me wish that the polish existed in ink form, too. It would be the perfect ink for composing magic spells.

In direct sunlight:

First Class Desires applies very smoothly and has an average drying time. It's a bit on the thin side, but is pretty much opaque in two coats. I used three for these photos anyway, because I'm obsessive about the opacity of my nail polish. I applied First Class Desires (plus base and top coat) on Monday night and it wore well for three days. In the first two days, I counted two minuscule chips, easily touched up; by the third day, there was some visible tipwear. I have a hard time making any polish last more than a day or two without chipping, so I count this a victory. And after removing the chipped polish, I reapplied First Class Desires because I couldn't stand the thought of having anything else on my nails during Halloween.

 In the shade, FCD looks almost black on the nail; in direct natural light, the purple blazes forth, along with a pinkish cast that's hard to capture on camera. FCD is festive but not gaudy, subdued but not somber. Perfect for a grown-up Halloween.

Indoors, natural light:

Outdoors, overcast:

Outdoors, sunny:

Macro shot, i.e. glitter porn:

 And here's today's FOTD! I'm saving my Effie Trinket costume for later, when I hand out candy to neighborhood kids; this is my daytime look for library visits and coffee-shop work and other #gradcore activities.

On brows, Milani Clear Brow Gel; on eyes, NARS Lhasa and theBalm Serious eyeshadows and CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara; on cheeks, tiny dabs of Illamasqua Zygomatic blush; on lips, & Other Stories Droguet Purple lipstick layered over Barry M Plum lip liner. I don't mind looking pale and severe today. Yesterday I blow-dried my hair, which I almost never do, so it's straighter than usual.

I'm also wearing an orange wool miniskirt and black tights that look like spiderwebs. I take this holiday fairly seriously. (I took it even more seriously as a child, because it was two days before my birthday, and birthday season was a time of great solemnity.) Happy Halloween, for those who celebrate it, and happy Friday, for those who don't!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lipstick Chronology #27: Back to 1996 with Cindy Crawford's Basic Face

In the summer of last year, while browsing the venerable Bookshop in Chapel Hill, NC, I made a curious find.

Published in 1996, long before "basic" became an insult, Cindy Crawford's Basic Face is a "makeup workbook" co-authored by Crawford, makeup artist Sonia Kashuk, and Kathleen Boyes. "What's a basic face? A five-minute confidence builder," the introduction explains. "It's how we all wish we looked when we woke up. Simple, finished--but not looking as though you tried too hard. The basic face appears natural. Other women may know you're wearing makeup, but guys probably won't. A basic face is like a white shirt or a black turtleneck. It's the best possible base you can have."

I came to pop-cultural awareness circa 1999, a few years after the all-natural look had given way to futuristic iridescence. I have a theory that our greatest fear, makeup- and fashion-wise, is the era that immediately preceded our own preteen years. For me, that era was the mid-'90s. For years and years, I avoided brown-based lip or cheek colors for fear that I would look "too '90s." Finding Cindy Crawford's Basic Face at the bookstore was my first step toward conquering my aversion. It was just so fascinating to read through a compendium of beauty advice from an era I barely remembered. That is, I remember many things that happened to me in 1996, but I wasn't part of the overall cultural zeitgeist. Eight-year-olds rarely are.

For this post, I thought it would be fun to recreate the "basic face" outlined in the book, using the colors, finishes, and techniques it recommends, and holding myself to the arbitrary time constraint it dictates. "Makeup should never take more than five minutes tops! Fifteen, if you're going to a black tie dinner,"writes Crawford (or Kashuk, or the mysterious Boyes, who I suspect had the greatest hand in the text). Since Cindy Crawford's Basic Face is organized neatly into categories, I'll transcribe bits of each one, adapting them for the products I already own. There will also be a lipstick review at some point, I promise.

  • "Less is always more. Less makeup is more attractive. Less can actually cover more. When applying any makeup, always begin with the least amount possible and add more only if you need to."
  • "There are no rules. Forget preconceived notions about makeup."
  • "Makeup is not cosmetic surgery. Don't try to seriously reshape your face with makeup. It almost always looks obvious. Even professional makeup artists hardly bother with contouring anymore." (Got that, Kardashiophiles?)
  • "Blend, blend, blend. Consider this a makeup mantra. Blending is the secret to successful application, whether foundation and concealer or blush and eyeshadow. Seek and destroy all telltale edges." 

Skin and Base Makeup:

  • "Stick with yellow-based foundations. Even if your skin has pink in it, the yellow will help to neutralize it. Remember, color should come from blush and lips, not foundation."
  • "Powder is major. More than makeup, it's a fundamental tool--and not just to buff noses. Powder blends. It protects. It sets makeup. It extends the life of a basic face. And, yes, it keeps shine in check. You need powder at every stage of the game, up to and including in your makeup bag."
  • "If you live in a humid climate, don't fight Mother Nature. Go with the glow; you won't be able [to] sustain a matte finish for more than five minutes anyway."

These tips were the hardest for me to follow, since I don't own foundation or powder. The stereotype is true: people in the '90s were obsessed with powder. There were times when I thought I was reading an 18th-century wigmaking manual.

I'm also getting some mixed messages here. Don't try too hard to achieve a matte complexion, but always use powder, whose principal purpose is to mattify your skin. Don't add unnatural color to your complexion, but use yellow-based foundation even if you're cool-toned. I threw up my hands in frustration and stuck to my normal base-makeup routine: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla for my undereye circles and CoverGirl concealer in Classic Ivory for spot concealing.


  • "Nobody blushes in orange, carnation pink or eggplant, so avoid them. Think in terms of pink-browns, apricot-browns and red-browns...And don't forget that it's more important for blush to complement your skin than your lipstick."
  •  "Essentially, blush comes in one of two ways: CREAM or POWDER...Use your foundation finish to decide which way to go. A moist face should use a cream blush and a powdered face should use powder blush. To mix finishes (i.e. [sic!] a powdered blush on a moist face) is to invite splotches and unevenness. So remember, cream to cream, powder to powder."
Do you know me, Cindy Crawford? Have you ever seen me when someone points out that I've made yet another accidental double entendre? I do not blush in muted shades of brown. That said, my only cream blush (since I assume my foundation-less face qualifies as "moist") is a Crawford-approved pink-brown, so the choice was a no-brainer. You saw this coming: Illamasqua Zygomatic.

  • "Don't try to radically redefine your brow. If you have very thick, dark brows, don't go pencil thin. The upkeep will drive you crazy. (Going pencil thin is iffy anyway since brows could grow back with bald patches.)"

The book was published a few years before the sperm-brow trend took hold (though the black brows above are clearly tending that way), and almost two decades before the advent of the opaque sharp-cornered "Instagram brow," so its brow advice is blessedly even-handed. I filled in my brows with theBalm Sleek, then used Milani's clear brow gel to hold stray hairs in place. (I bought it just two days ago and am liking it so far! Review to come, eventually.)


  • "Shadows are available in matte or shimmer finishes. Matte finishes offer a more natural look and therefore can be safer to work with."
  • "The basic face should be foolproof. No step challenges this more than eyeshadow...I avoid colors and stick with neutral tones in the brown family. Why? Because it's hard to mess up neutrals. Even if it's not perfect, no one will be able to tell. And that's foolproof enough for me."
  • "You may want to use your coloring as a guide. Redheads, for example, look great with brick-browns, while brunettes are flattered by mochas."
  • "Always set finished eyes with powder." 
Plus, three application techniques: "a wash of color on entire lid," "a medium tone worn in the crease," and "a dark color next to lashline." I'm not sure why the second item was the only one that got a definite article. Basic Face ain't winning no Pulitzers.

I get it, Crawford: you like brown eyeshadow, and you really like powder. (Had eyeshadow primer been invented yet? These days we have so many effective base products that I doubt anyone uses powder in the innumerable ways this book recommends.) Not trusting myself to apply more than two eyeshadows in five minutes, I opted for an all-over wash of color. I don't own many matte eyeshadows, so I used Sophisticated, a cool-toned medium brown from theBalm's Nude 'tude palette. Sophisticated has a slight shimmer, but it reads as matte when applied lightly.


  • "Take the time to make it look natural. For example, I do lots of thin coats, rather than one thick one."
  • "Dust loose powder on lashes as a thickening agent between mascara coats. Just be careful that all powder is covered with the final coat." 
Again with the powder. I suspect it would take me more than five minutes to dust my lashes with loose powder, wipe the powder off my cheekbones (though if my face were already powdered, surely a few more granules wouldn't hurt?), and reapply my mascara. I appreciate the emphasis on natural-looking lashes, though, and I think Crawford would approve of my favorite mascara, CoverGirl LashBlast Length.


  •  "Lip color is purely subjective--and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you think a color looks good, it probably does. The most flattering shades bear some resemblance to your natural lips--nudes, roses, berries and soft browns."
Despite Cindy's protestation that "trying on different colors is fun," most of the images in the book feature her in a dark nude or medium brown lipstick. Here's the back cover (this book cost $25 in 1996, and I paid $7.50 for it in 2013...):

Shortly after buying Basic Face, I went in search of a brown lipstick of my own, ending up with Maybelline Crazy for Coffee. Since I haven't featured it on the blog, I'll do a mini-review: call this Lipstick Chronology #27. CFC is a medium reddish brown, less yellow-based than Cindy's. Like all of Maybelline's brown lipsticks, it comes in a transparent brown tube the color of a chocolate Tootsie Roll pop.

The color is pinker than coffee; I'd describe it as a rosewood, and it could well be an MLBB or even a nude for someone with darker skin than mine. You can always tell which lipsticks I've neglected, because they haven't been worn down into a pointe-shoe shape.

I've swatched it first alone, then between Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy (left) and Revlon Lip Butter in Pink Truffle (right). Crazy for Coffee is redder than Coy, darker and browner than Pink Truffle, and more opaque than either. It also lacks the sparkle of Coy, but like all of Maybelline's Color Sensational lipsticks, it has a relatively shiny finish.

It's strange how much I love the formula of Maybelline's Color Sensational Vivid lipsticks, since the ordinary Color Sensational line has never impressed me. The Vivids have a shiny, moisturizing, almost jelly-like formula; the Color Sensationals range from satin to semi-matte and tend to dry out my lips. Crazy for Coffee doesn't last very long, either: just two hours, and I didn't eat more than a single cookie in that period.

With that out of the way, let's put together a basic face! Here are all the products I used (minus the brow gel, which I forgot to photograph):

Swatches of the color makeup, left to right: Sophisticated, Zygomatic, Crazy for Coffee. (Sometimes I want to play Mad Libs with makeup names.)

I laid out all my products and tools, including an eyeshadow brush by Sonia Kashuk herself, and got to work. The entire face took me six minutes, four of which were consumed with applying concealer and blending eyeshadow. This was the result:

I don't hate it, though I think Crazy for Coffee is too warm both for me and for my eyeshadow, and such a literal interpretation of a mid-'90s face can't help but look dated. I also tried to copy Cindy's open-mouthed expression on the back cover, but succeeded only in reminding myself why I'm an academic and not a supermodel.

I think I looked like this for the entirety of the talk I heard last week.

Some lessons I took away from this exercise:
  • Nothing looks worse with a warm brown than a cool brown. This is why I never wear more than one brown product on my face at a time, damn it. I also think, contra Crawford, that brown makeup is very difficult to get right. Teal, for instance, looks predictably artificial on everyone, but brown can go corpsey or muddy in a way that a fluorescent color never will.
  • I never want to see the color brown again. Thank goodness I'm putting together an Effie Trinket look in three days.
  • It's impossible for me to achieve this book's "basic face" in five minutes. I can't imagine how long it would have taken if I'd also used powder to set my makeup, thicken my mascara, and blend colors together. Sorry, Cindy. One of us failed.
  • Basic Face recommends "the new foundations or moisturizers with built-in SPF," which made me smile. It's strange to think that a product I take so much for granted has a very short history.
  • The book goes to great and awkward lengths to establish that there are "no rules," but of course there are rules. The writers know that; they even admit it. "Guard against time warp," they warn. "The passage of time necessitates change. On the fashion front, it may be rethinking blue eyeshadow or black nail polish...Always re-evaluate what you're wearing and how you're wearing it." It's refreshing to see this sentiment put into words. I don't believe in blindly following trends, of course, but I also don't believe that "timeless makeup" really exists. Makeup and beauty are always rooted in a specific time; that's what makes them so fascinating. Most of us obey conventions that render our makeup legible to the people we see every day. We won't even be conscious of some of those conventions until decades have passed and we can isolate what went into a "2014 face." But by looking at a 1996 face, we can put together a sort of negative image. It all comes back to history for me--but you knew that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Eyelid Thing

Or so I call it in my head, because I've been unable to find a clinical name for an extra fold in each eyelid. I'm talking about this:

Internet research has yielded almost no information. The closest I've come is a forum devoted to botched eyelid surgery: apparently, people who get plastic surgery to turn their monolids into creased eyelids can end up with multiple folds. But I have yet to find a discussion of the extra fold as a congenital issue. Essentially, I have too much lid per eye, so the skin folds over on itself when my eyes are open. This creates deep creases that are especially visible when I'm wearing powder eyeshadow:

Doing my eye makeup always means taking my extra lid folds into account. I have to wiggle my eyeshadow brush just so, or the powder won't make it into the creases. Any look involving a sharp, graphic shape is off the table. It's hard for me to experiment with new shapes and placements of shadow and liner, and I'm rarely satisfied with the looks I do manage to put together. There is no universe in which this is a real problem, but it's still annoying.

Until a few years ago, I'd never even noticed my extra eyelid folds. This changed when, in pursuit of the "retro" look beloved of Tumblr hipsters (black cat eye, matte red lipstick), I bought a liquid eyeliner and began experimenting. Tracing my upper lashline was relatively easy, but I ran into difficulty when I tried to flick the liner outward to make a wing. Because my extra folds extended below the outer corner of each eye, they halted the progress of the liner pen, creating a sad, smeary mess. Most people get their shitty-eyeliner phase over with in high school; for me, that phase belonged to early grad school. Initially I assumed that the problem was my own ineptitude, but reading cat-eye tutorial after cat-eye tutorial made me realize that most beauty bloggers didn't have the Eyelid Thing. For a couple of years I gave up on winged eyeliner entirely, feeling like Buster Bluth whenever I came across yet another perky "how to get the perfect wing" article.

Today, though, I picked up my liquid liner for the first time in at least six months. I'm determined to master the flick, damn it, no matter what hilariously awkward work-arounds I have to use. Please excuse my appalling technique; I'm out of practice, to say the least. My eyeliner is Maybelline Line Stiletto in Blackest Black, which glides on smoothly but tends to flake off after a few hours. It's good for experimenting, though, since it washes off easily.

The first look is the closest I can get to a conventional cat (kitten?) shape, but the flick is more horizontal than I'd like, and even at that angle I couldn't stop the folds from playing havoc with the line.

The second is the so-called "puppy eye," in which the flick extends downward instead of upward. This shape originated in East Asia and, according to the article in the link, is meant to make the eyes look "sweeter, rounder and bigger." But on my eyes, which are already big and round, the puppy eye has the unfortunate effect of making my eyelids look heavy and droopy.

For my third attempt I extended the puppy eye farther downward, then flicked it up, circumventing the extra fold. It looks awkward here, like a worm sprawling across the length of my lashline, but I think it has the most promise of the three. With practice, I could probably find a way to thicken the flick into a triangle with a cleaner point.

And here's the third look in context with the rest of my face. My other makeup is theBalm eyeshadow in Stubborn, a shimmery pink that matches my skintone almost exactly; CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara; NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla; NARS Coeur Battant blush; and Revlon Lip Butter in Red Velvet.

Am I the only one in the world with this problem? Please tell me I'm not.

And now, as an apology for so many closeups of my wonky eyelids, here's a shot of some glorious fall foliage.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

F(all)OTDs: An October Makeup Diary

I'm back! Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post: your kind words were much appreciated. I did what I needed to get done, and now I'm excited to return to blogging. I've missed it a lot! Missed it so much, in fact, that I kept a photographic record of all the makeup I wore during my hiatus. I had nowhere to be on a daily basis except the coffee shop closest to the library, where I chipped away at an application for a fellowship that I have a laughably small chance of winning. Somehow this made me treasure the ritual of putting on my makeup even more than I already had. I like these little reminders that I have an identity beyond my dissertation.

In the last few weeks, I've entered a nesting phase with my makeup. My urge to haul waxes and wanes, and right now it's at a very low point. At the risk of sounding deranged, I want to get to know the products I have. I want to use them to their full potential. My wishlist is as long as ever, but far less urgent. One day I'll choose a NARS Audacious lipstick. One day I'll go to the new Tony Moly store in New York and look for that lavender blush. One day I'll see for myself if the fuss over Tatcha is justified. For now, though, I'm content to rummage through my stash and find new uses for old favorites. I may not have an impressive collection by beauty-blogger standards, but I have more than enough makeup for one face--and I'm told that one is all I get.

With that, a compendium of FOTDs from the last week or so. In all of these looks, I'm wearing CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla to cover my undereye circles, and a bit of theBalm Sleek eyeshadow to fill in my brows. I'm so boringly monogamous where anything that isn't lips-cheeks-eyelids is concerned. 

Oct. 17:

After I read this article, I realized that I hadn't worn a hot-pink lipstick in quite a while. I used to be quite the fuchsia enthusiast, but this year I've favored purple and oranges and corals. And now that fall has arrived, fuchsia feels inappropriately coquettish. But why should it? Can't it be as deep and jewel-like as a burgundy? I place white-based fuchsias like MAC Candy Yum-Yum firmly in the spring/summer category, but Revlon Colorburst lipstick in Fuchsia (now discontinued, alas) is vivid without approaching neon brightness. I also used NARS Mata Hari blush and Lhasa eyeshadow.

I think the lavender undertone of Lhasa harmonizes nicely with the blue-based Fuchsia.

Oct. 18:

A more orthodox autumnal look, with some tonal play: different intensities and finishes of red-plum-brown. NYX Jumbo Pencil in Iced Mocha, Maybelline Color Tattoo in Pomegranate Punk, NYX Slide-On eyeliner in Golden Bronze, Sleek Flushed blush, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy.

Looking at this photo now, I wish I'd built up the colors for more definition, or at least lined my upper lashlines. As it is, the products blur together into a plummy brown haze. Though I can't get over how pink Coy looks on my lips!

Oct. 19:

After a week or two of neutral eyes, I felt like experimenting. I used Maybelline Color Tattoo in Tough as Taupe as a base, then blended Milani Bella Rouge, a metallic fuchsia, into the center of each mobile lid, and finished with theBalm Serious, a matte black, on my upper and lower lashlines. I added MAC Up the Amp lipstick and NARS Mata Hari blush. Now that fall has arrived and the humidity isn't above 85% every day, I've settled back into my Mata Hari rut. It's such a perfect cool pink.

Closeup of the eyes:

Because it's balanced between purple and pink, Up the Amp can look either vernal or autumnal; it all depends on what colors you use to set it off. The addition of Mata Hari and Bella Rouge gave the look a springier vibe than I'd intended. Oh, well.

Unfortunately, Bella Rouge began to fade within an hour, and looked horribly patchy after two--and it was layered over a cream eyeshadow that usually has no trouble securing powders to my lids. I've said it before, but I might as well reiterate: I am so done with drugstore eyeshadows. That is, until I finally make it to Japan and get my hands on some Visée.

Oct. 20:

I was going to attend an academic talk followed by dinner with the speaker, other graduate students, and a professor. I also wanted to wear red lipstick. In a perfect world, the desire for knowledge and the desire for red lips wouldn't come into conflict, but my department is rather, howyousay, buttoned up. And my specific subfield is even more buttoned up, and the men in my subfield vastly outnumber the women, and the few women who attend talks wear little to no makeup, because we're all Serious Scholars. With these restraints in mind, I chose the most subdued of my opaque red lipsticks: NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama. A brick-red matte lipstick isn't flirty or vampy or playful; it means business. I also used NYX Iced Mocha and theBalm Sleek on my eyes and Mata Hari on my cheeks.

All this was in the service of coordinating with my houndstooth skirt from J. Crew, the only new piece of clothing I've allowed myself this fall. Overexposed library-carrel selfies are so grad school. Gradcore, if you will.

Oct. 21:

I was wearing bright green jeans, which were a lot of look in themselves, and I didn't want my makeup to compete. I also feared that any lipstick close to red would make me look like Christmas. I used three colors that look very different in the tube/pan but harmonize surprisingly well on the face (purple is the key): NARS Coeur Battant, Revlon Coy, and NYX Slide-On liner in Jewel, a plum with pink sparkles. Since my eyes and lips were relatively subdued, I used more blush than I normally would.

These colors seem very different from one another in the pan/tube/stick, but swatches tell another story. Coeur Battant is very cool, Coy is warm, and Jewel bridges the two temperatures nicely.

Supercloseup to catch the blush on camera:

Jewel is a pretty color, but it fades quickly and produces a lot of glitter fallout. Let me rephrase my resolution of the 19th: I am so done with drugstore eye makeup in general. I need some higher-quality basics.

Oct. 22:

Whenever I wear my navy turtleneck, I try to make myself look as much like a '90s grad student as possible, which usually means dark brownish-red lipstick. This time I used Revlon Lip Butter in Red Velvet, along with Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze, NYX Golden Bronze liner, and Illamasqua cream blush in Zygomatic.

Bad lighting is bad: it was raining all day. This was the day I finally submitted my application. I made a celebratory drink, but fell asleep before I'd finished half of it.

It's still raining today, but I'm in a much better mood. It's good to be back.