Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 in Review, Part 1: My 14 Most Disappointing Beauty Purchases

Well, I guess that was an eight-day hiatus! It crept up on me, as such things do. First the weather was gloomy for days on end, so I couldn't take decent photos. Then I took an overnight trip to visit a friend in another city. Then I spent a couple of days in DC for research, which was very pleasant until Wednesday afternoon, when I tripped over a curb in Capitol Hill, face-planted on the sidewalk, slammed my knee against the concrete, shattered my phone screen, and started sobbing, mostly from embarrassment. Now I'm back home, nursing my various bruises and preparing to leave for winter break tomorrow.

In addition to the physical clouds that have interfered with my photography, I've had a cloud of writer's block hanging over me for at least a month now. The writer's block is mostly academic, but it's also cast a shadow over my beauty blogging. In both cases, it's not so much that I don't know what to write; in fact, I have all too many ideas. The problem is that I don't trust myself to put those ideas into words. I write a sentence, think, "There must be a better way to say that," delete the sentence, and never write a new one. I start a post, save it as a draft, start yet another post, save that one as a draft, and never finish either draft. With regard to my academic work, my impostor syndrome is nothing new; but it's strange how I slip into that mentality even while blogging, given how low-stakes the process is. I don't know whether the solution is to take a break and hope for inspiration, or to plug away sentence by sentence and force myself not to hit the delete key, no matter how my writing sounds to my inner critic. At the moment, I'm opting for the latter. Let's see how this goes.

I've had a series of year-in-review posts planned for a while now. To ensure that I end the series on a high note, I'm starting my retrospective with a bit of a downer: 14 beauty purchases that disappointed me in some way or, indeed, in all ways.


Not all of the items on my list are pictured above, because I've returned or given away a few. Most of the things I've kept have at least some redeeming qualities (and I'm not sure why I still have the ones that don't...). I can't find a clear pattern to my disappointing purchases, unless it's that I didn't have a chance to test most of them in person. But there are plenty of great products that I bought this year without swatching, so I don't know what to tell you. No more drugstore eyeshadows, is the only rule I can take away from this.

Below, I've listed the items in the order in which I bought them throughout the year, and linked to my own reviews where possible. Let's begin with my second beauty purchase of 2014...

1. Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak 


Am I the only lipstick fiend in the world to have been disappointed by Urban Decay's wildly popular Revolution Lipstick? I think I might be. Streak is a beautiful peachy pink, but it's more sheer than I was expecting, it clings to dry patches on my lips, it wears off within an hour or two, and despite its creaminess, it's drying over time. The lipstick rattles around within the metal tube when I apply it, and I detect a half-musty, half-metallic scent and taste every time I put it on.

What really frustrates me is that I actually tested Streak in Sephora before buying it. I wore it around the city! I gave myself a whole week to contemplate the purchase! And yet, somehow, I struck out. My experience with Streak has dissuaded me from buying any of the other Revolution Lipsticks, even though I've been tempted by Jilted for over a year now.

2. Maybelline Color Elixir in Vision in Violet 


Maybelline's Color Elixirs are trendy lipstick/gloss hybrids along the lines of Dior's Fluid Sticks and Revlon's HD Lip Lacquers. I actually like the Color Elixir formula, which is opaque, non-sticky, and hydrating, though I could do without the strong floral scent. The problem with Vision in Violet is the color. It's my own damn fault: I wanted an opaque blue-toned purple gloss, and I got it. I just don't look very good in it.


Vision in Violet gave me my first inkling that I might not be unambiguously cool-toned. I kept it in case I ever needed a vaguely science-fiction-y makeup look for a costume party, but so far I've used it solely to scare my boyfriend.

3. NYX Hot Singles eyeshadows in Dayclub, Burlesque, and After Party



I've maligned these eyeshadows ad nauseam over the past nine months, so I'll keep this short. The Hot Singles are a recent reformulation of NYX's eyeshadow line, which meant that I couldn't find any detailed reviews of them back in March. I decided to take a chance and order three. Not only did the colors not match their descriptions on the NYX website (go on, tell me the middle one looks like an "iridescent dark purple"), but all three shadows were coarsely milled and practically invisible on my skin. I missed the return deadline and had to toss them. So it goes.

4. Milani Brilliant Shine Lip Gloss in Sweet Grapefruit 


Returned this without a second thought. I don't like thick, sticky glosses, and this one was the thickest and stickiest I'd ever tried. When I wore it, I could actually feel my lips gumming together (ew ew ew I'm cringing as I write this). Sweet Grapefruit was one of my first Milani disappointments, but it would not be my last. FORESHADOWING.

5. Boots No. 7 Poppy King Lip Gloss in Seduction


Earlier this year, my school store abruptly stopped selling Clinique makeup and started selling Boots No. 7, an odd choice for an American university. I bought Seduction in May, when the Poppy King glosses were on sale. What could go wrong, I thought, with a gloss bearing the imprimatur of the Lipstick Queen herself?

Quite a lot, it turned out. I couldn't bring myself to wear Seduction for more than a few minutes, due to its strong orange-spice scent. It was also much sheerer than it had looked in the tube, and it barely darkened my lip color.


This one goes on the purge list, I'm afraid.

6. Barry M Nail Paint in Shocking Pink


Having tried a few Barry M polishes during my stay in England, I confess that I don't get the hype. Yes, Barry M is a very cheap brand with a wide range of colors, but some of its formulas straight-up suck, and it's impossible to predict which ones will disappoint. Shocking Pink is an unexceptional fuchsia creme that chipped within a day.

7. Rimmel ScandalEyes Eyeshadow Stick in Blamed Blue 


This wasn't technically a purchase, since I got it for free in a 3-for-2 sale at Superdrug, but I still regret choosing it over, I don't know, ANYTHING ELSE. It's a beautiful shimmery teal, but it's too thick to use as eyeliner and too stiff to use as eyeshadow, and it will. not. wash. off. It tints your skin turquoise for a whole day. If you make a mistake with it--which, due to the uncooperative formula, you almost certainly will--there's no way to erase that mistake. Plus, it turns out that I don't like how teal looks against my complexion. Another future purge, since I can't in good conscience give Blamed Blue to anyone I care about. Or, for that matter, anyone I don't.

8. Topshop Nail Varnish in Clique 


This creamy avocado green looked so pretty in the bottle, but it turned more yellow than green on my nails. Every time I glanced down at my hands, I half-thought I had a fungal infection. Luckily I have a friend who likes ugly-pretty polish colors more than I do, and she was happy to adopt Clique.

9. Revlon Matte Balm in Mischievous 


As I commented on Liz's recent review of MAC's silver-taupe Viva Glam Rihanna 2, "I've been seeking out strangeness in my lipsticks recently, too. I think it might be that I have every normal color at this point, and now there's nowhere to go but weird." This was certainly the impulse behind my purchase of Mischievous, a pale creamsicle orange. Instead of listening to the reviews that panned Mischievous for its unevenness and tendency to settle into lip lines, I decided I had to have it. Surprise: it applied unevenly and settled into my lip lines. It looks all right when my lips are perfectly smooth, but that happens about twice a year. What is it with pale orangey lipsticks and weird formulas? Is it just my luck, or is it some indelible pattern in the tapestry of the universe?

10. Milani Bella Eyes Eyeshadows


When you have a beauty blog, you sometimes feel a responsibility to test new makeup releases "as a favor to your readers," i.e. "because you have an addiction and can't justify it any other way." Such was my reasoning when Milani released Bella Eyes, a range of 30 eyeshadows in three different finishes. (I guess 2014 was the year of mediocre eyeshadow reformulations or something.) The Bella Eyes shadows are much better than the NYX Hot Singles, but they're still coarser and less blendable than I'd like. Even worse, the domed bit is prone to breaking off in transit, as evidenced by the cratered remains of Bella Charcoal above.

11. & Other Stories Lip Colour in Droguet Purple


It pains me to put Droguet Purple on my worst-of-2014 list, because I think the color suits me and I feel nostalgic for the day I visited & Other Stories in London. But the lipstick is just too patchy and slippery to wear without a liner underneath, and even then it fades quickly--and longevity is essential when you're wearing a just-shy-of-black purple.

12. Tony Moly Cristal Blusher in Milky Violet


Where on earth can I find a purple blush that is 1) actually purple, not cool pink, and 2) not practically invisible? Tony Moly Milky Violet fulfills the first criterion but not the second. Having seen it worn by another pale person here, I assumed it would show up just as clearly on my own face, but Alyssa's warm complexion seems to provide a sharper contrast to the white-based lavender than my cool-neutral skintone does.

13. Revlon Lip Butter in Lollipop


A million times meh. This sheer, shimmery fuchsia just wasn't special enough to keep. It did feel quite moisturizing, though, and I might have held on to it if I didn't already have several superior fuchsias. ("Superior Fuchsias" will be the name of my glam-rock band, which I will found once I teach myself to carry a tune and play an instrument.)

14. Revlon Moisture Stain in Barcelona Nights


It's moist, but it's not really a stain. It's a very pretty color, though, so I've kept it. That might turn out to be a mistake. It's the end of the post and I'm running out of words. I should probably stop typing.

I'll try to post regularly from now on, though I can't count on having reliable Internet access for the next few days, and it's not easy to take photos with a phone whose screen is shattered to hell. Luckily I'm due for a new phone soon! In the meantime, let me know, because I'm curious: what was your most disappointing beauty purchase this year? Indulge my schadenfreude! It's almost Christmas, after all.

21 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if I've had any terrible disappointments this year! That Maybelline Color Elixir might be one of my favourites actually.

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    1. No disappointments? That's amazing! I hope I can say the same of myself at the end of 2015. You must have impeccable taste.

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  2. A nude shade from the L'oreal Color Riche Extraordinaire gloss line - it was a goopy mess. And it gave me the dreaded concealer lips effect. Though that's my fault, what was I thinking with that colour?
    Oh, and not one, but TWO terracotta blushes. I already knew the shade makes me look scorched, but bought the second one anyway. Because it had a cute embossing. So I guess that, for me, 2014 wasn't a year of dissapointing products. It was a year of bad colour choices.

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    1. It's funny how we can keep buying colors that we know don't suit us. That happened to me with orange lipstick. I can wear orange-reds, but not bright yellow-toned oranges, and it took me ages to accept it! I kept thinking that the next one would be the perfect one. I feel lucky that I didn't make too many bad color choices this year, just a lot of bad formula choices.

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  3. Sorry to hear about the incident! :(
    Hope you are feeling much better now, AB.

    I myself don't have many that I regret buying, but it is true I didn't buy much this year. I am struggling to post more often, but it's been too busy and stressful with work lately.

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    1. Thanks! :) I'm feeling much better, but the bruises on my knee and hip are going to take a while to fade. I'm grateful I didn't break anything! And I've been missing your posts, but I understand that life gets in the way sometimes. I hope your work gets less stressful in the new year!

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  4. HEY! I'm actually trying to get rid of a shu uemura blush that's purplish. I'm just too dark and olive for it to work without looking like an ashy layer of powder. It's M225 in this pic: http://karlasugar.net/2011/12/guest-swatcher-shu-uemura-glow-on-blush/

    Let me know if you want it! Alternately, you can check out Makeup Geek's Secret Admirer also: http://www.makeupgeek.com/store/face-products/blushes/makeup-geek-blush-pan/makeup-geek-blush-pan-secret-admirer.html though I haven't swatched it m'self!

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    1. Hmmm, that Shu Uemura blush is very tempting. Let me think about it--I'm avoiding any purchases until the new year, but I might email you at some point. Thanks for the offer!

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    2. Oh, I was just gonna mail it over. :)

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    3. Ahhh, really? That's incredibly nice of you! In that case, a million times yes. :)

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  5. Sorry to hear about your fall :( I hate when stuff like that happens. Just embarrassing and sore and ugh.

    I don't think I had many busts this year, either, but like Lena, I don't think I actually bought a lot. (Ha. Wishful thinking, maybe).

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    1. Ugh, it was humiliating. A lady actually asked if I needed an ambulance! I was more in need of a wahmbulance, I'm afraid. I'm kind of a crybaby.

      Next year I'm definitely going to strive for quality over quantity (yeah, I know we all say that, but). Before I wrote this post, I didn't feel like I'd bought a lot of stuff this year, but doing a retrospective showed me the truth! I certainly hope I won't have 15 disappointing products at the end of 2015...

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  6. You may have gotten a one-off dud UD Revolution lipstick. I have heaps of them (but not streak) and nine are like you describe. Don't be put off, they're amazing lipsticks!

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    1. Then maybe I'll try again! I do recall that Temptalia gave Streak a lower grade than most of the other Revolution lipsticks, due to its slight sheerness.

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  7. Oh dear. So sorry to hear about your accident. I'm sympathetic with the problems of pathetic light days. At the moment I have a window of maybe an hour or two when I can get decent shots.
    I look forward to reading your thoughts on the rest of 2014 and to hearing the debut album of The Superior Fuchsias

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    1. Pathetic light days are the worst! Sometimes there will be a rare hour of sunshine when I'm out of the house and can't possibly take photos, and I'll feel the purest frustration. ARGH. Thoughts on the rest of 2014 to come today, I hope!

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  8. I'm so happy I didn't buy Revlon Mischievous, but I really wanted the color. It's one of the few oranges that look good on me. I braved and swatched a tester on my lips. In my defense, the tester was new-ish and I sanitized the hell out of it. In one swipe, I knew it wouldn't work, it's just too uneven and chalky looking

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    1. Have you tried the NARS Audacious lipstick in Catherine? I've never seen it in person, but it looks similar to Mischievous, and I'm sure the formula is much better. I don't think I'll get rid of Mischievous, because the color is so unique to my collection, but I wish I'd held out for a better formula.

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  9. Ouch! >_< I hope you're feeling better by now!! Despite my DEX rating, *cough* I, too, had a shameful faceplant incident this year T_T The worst part for me was, oddly, that the people around me (I managed it upon reaching the pavement at a huge four way interesction and crossing) just sort of walked past/stepped over me. No-one asked if I were OK, or helped me gather the contents of my bag, which were decorating about 5 metres of the pavement in either direction. To be honest, I would have said 'I'm fine!' and picked up the stuff myself anyway (not wanting to trouble anyone), but it just shocked me that absolutely zero fucks were given. Zero eyelids were batted. My dignity was kind of relieved, but my humanity was miffed ;-) I didn't need a wahmbulance when I fell, but felt like I might need one later when I was trying to remove my leggings, which had dried into the pulpy grazes on my knees. Not recommended. :-/

    Also, I totally understand the writing thing. I don't even have to describe what happens to me, because you already said it. Impostor syndrome sucks. You have my sympathies.

    As for the makeup...I'm sorry to hear that the UD lipstick was such an epic fail :-( I love the one I have (Venom), but that's just it - I have one. I remember reviews saying the darkest one in the line was pretty 'meh', and it kind of doesn't surprise me that something in the light pink line has issues too. Jilted is on my 'list' for the Revolution lipsticks, but I feel I should probably use up another bright pink/fuchsia first. I also want Lovelight, but the reviews have shrugged a little over that one too, and so, I hesitate. I think it's a line that has *overall* really high quality, but a few misses. My wallet is happy, I guess? ;-)

    As for the Revlon Matte Balms...I kind of wish I hadn't gotten Unapologetic? On the one had, as you say, the uniqueness in the collection is a thing, and it applies just fine, but there is no way to make NEON EFFING CORALPINKWHATEVER look in any way truly appealing on my complexion. I just can't do it. The best I get is 'striking', which is a polite way of saying 'people try to look slightly to the side of your face when talking to you to avoid your lips. They may also have to squint their eyes slightly in the glare'.

    My equivalent for your Droguet purple is probably the Clinique Chubby Stick Intense in Grandest Grape. It's a standard deep purple/burgundy colour, and the formula is nice in terms of the way it feels, but MY GOD. Getting that thing even and straight and inside the lines is nearly impossible. It's just too much work for what should really be a 'toss it on and go' type of lipstick. I will finish it, because of sheer bloody-mindedness, and it isn't horrible or anything, but I wish I'd gotten the melon one instead...

    Overall, I haven't really had too many duds. Maybe that blue polish I bitched about on the blog? Even that wasn't horrible, it was just the wrong colour. I guess, really, I should be happy. But then, I don't really live in a place where impulse purchases are a thing you can make, beauty-wise, so I may be buffered slightly!

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    1. Ugh, I can't believe no one stopped to help you! That's really appalling. I guess one could blame it on the colonial legacy of British stiffness and reserve, but still. The people in DC tend to be very nice: one middle-aged woman asked if she should call an ambulance and assured me, "Your phone can be replaced. All that matters is that you're ok." So sweet.

      I'm still thinking about getting Unapologetic, but I have the same reservations that you do: neon coral pink-red isn't the most flattering lipstick color for me. At least Unapologetic appears to have a great formula! And it's funny, I actually considered Grandest Grape a year or two ago, when my school still had a Clinique counter in the student store. I'm glad now that I restrained myself! Droguet Purple does work nicely as a stain, but applied full-on, it's a little too patchy without lipliner and a little too high-maintenance with it. Sigh. I haven't given up on it, though.

      By the way, never apologize for your long comments, as you did in another post! I always love reading them. <3

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    2. Heh, I love reading long comments myself, so I'm not quite sure why I feel embarrassed about leaving them. Probably it's just how startled I am when I see it posted, and realise that it starts to look like I'm blogging on your blog or something :-P

      As to the people, I have to admit that it was unusual - Kiwis are a pretty friendly bunch, as a rule, and on another, similar occasion, the three girls who were the only passersby were all like OMG ARE YOU OKAY!!?!?. Perhaps I just happened upon a particularly Parisian day in Auckland... ;-)

      I'll say this about Unapologetic: if you take the trouble to use it as a stain, or thin it with balm, it can be a very summery, happy colour. It will never be precisely sophisticated, however, and the same effect you get by carefully thinning it can be achieved in one swipe by probably 1823723576 other products! :-P

      Something from Clinique I really ended up loving and, in fact, finishing was the Voluptuous Violet Chubby Stick. I mean, it swatches nearly clear despite the exciting purple packaging, but it deepens, reddens and ... purplens? my natural lip colour really effortlessly when I apply it, and combined with the balmy texture... Basically, that's what I want from a Chubby Stick-type product. Effortless, pretty, moisturising, no mirror required. The only thing that's kept me from repurchasing the full size is that they're $40 each here, and there's a part of me (Scottish ancestry?) that just can't pay $40 for what is basically a minimally tinted lip balm.

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