Sunday, November 30, 2014

FOTD: Toward an Ethnography of the Edwardian Cyborg

In the last year, I've become obsessed with an aesthetic that I like to call "Edwardian cyborg": futuristic sleekness coupled with windswept Gibson-girl glamour. This is the image that started it all:

 

You've already seen this photo in an earlier post, wherein I experimented with theBalm's Nude 'tude palette. "Edwardian cyborg" was the name I gave to my (much inferior) interpretation of this look: glassy lips, touches of frost and metal on the eyes, unnaturally rosy cheeks, hair elaborately piled and carefully mussed. Makeup artist Troy Jensen based this look on the '80s-meets-'40s glamour of the cyborg Rachael from Blade Runner (1982), but I see a few differences between the original and Jensen's rendition. (For my previous post, I traced the image to Jensen's website, but I can't find it there now. Apologies.)


Compared to Jensen's cotton-candy cyborg, Rachael, played by notorious Hollywood nutcase Sean Young, has a smoother, sleeker coiffure and a darker color palette for both clothes and makeup. Her wardrobe--let's call it "post-apocalyptic '80s businesswoman"--is entirely black, with sharp angles and formidable shoulder pads. Her red lipstick is the only hint of unnatural color on her face. It's a compelling look, but a rather severe and heavy one. By contrast, when I look at Jensen's model, I think of the young women drawn by Charles Dana Gibson between the 1890s and 1910s. Gibson set out to represent the quintessential American girl, and his "Gibson girls" were athletic social butterflies with airy frocks, towers of curls, and a passion for the outdoors.


"The Weaker Sex: The young man imagines himself the latest victim of some fair entomologist."

But for all their high-spirited, independent-minded brio, there's something cyborg-like about these women, especially when Gibson depicts them in groups. They're just rumpled enough to give the lie to their artificiality, at least at first glance. But at second glance, it's easy to imagine them fresh from an assembly line, like the cyborgs up for auction in Janelle Monáe's "Many Moons" video.


Monáe is one of my central inspirations for this aesthetic, and some of the other cyborgs she impersonates in "Many Moons" wear markedly old-fashioned looks: a corset, a ruffled cravat. I suspect that these details allude to American antebellum culture, given that "Many Moons" depicts a cyborg slave auction. Monáe's alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, is the protagonist of all of her albums to date: an "ArchAndroid" determined to lead her people to freedom.



Below, some editorial looks that have shaped my Edwardian-cyborg concept (which has a dedicated Pinterest board, of course).

Martha Hunt by Jamie Nelson for bmm.

 Promo image for MAC's Matte Lip collection, fall 2014.


Yumi Lambert by Kenneth Willardt for Vogue China, June 2014

 
 The faithless femme fatale from The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" video (2004).

There are a few threads connecting all of these images. The looks are doll-like and conventionally futuristic (metallic eyes, glowing skin, bright cheeks), but with a hint of dishevelment. In the first and last looks, it's the hair that's unruly; in the middle two, it's the makeup (lips in the second, eyes in the third). Compare this aesthetic with the image below, from Elle Vietnam:

 Elle Vietnam, Feb. 2013.

The individual makeup elements are similar to those in the images above (metallic eyeshadow, clear bright lips), but they're applied to the model more neatly and symmetrically, with a more delicate hand. Her glow is subtle, not glossy or plasticine. Her hair is perfectly smooth, almost helmetlike. The overall effect is beautiful, but I see it as straight-up cyborg, not Edwardian cyborg.

A big caveat here. "Edwardian" is not the right adjective for all of the looks I file into this category; it's just my personal shorthand for "old-timey fanciful with blurred edges and sharp colors." Some of the images that have inspired the concept skew more Elizabethan or Baroque or Rococo than Edwardian (technically, Charles Dana Gibson himself was not an Edwardian either, but "illustrator active during the Taft presidency" doesn't have the same ring). Take this photo by Alfa Castaldi from Vogue Italia, 1970:


This look has a little of everything: hair-thin '30s brows, a pseudo-Jacobean ruff, an 18th-century mouche (beauty patch), roughly applied silver eyeshadow, and proto-Leia braided buns. In fact, none of these details could really be called "Edwardian." I should really think of a better adjective to pair with "cyborg," shouldn't I? But I can't, so it stays for now. And no, I haven't forgotten about steampunk, another aesthetic that injects gleaming futurism into the catchall "vintage" category. But I see steampunk as darker, grittier, and busier, with more brown and gold tones, more ruffles and ornaments. The Edwardian cyborg is cold, bright, and usually minimalist, with one or two arresting points of interest. Sartorially, steampunk borrows from the stiffness of Victorian costume; Edwardian women's clothing has looser, more flowing lines, often with metallic sequined accents. My Edwardian cyborg translates some of this flow and sparkle into her makeup.

Image via Augusta Auctions.

Below, I've arranged some products that fall into the Edwardian-cyborg color palette. I've chosen both traditionally "girly" colors and more natural ones, most of them pushed to extreme saturation points or rendered unnatural with shimmer or frost. Roughly clockwise from top left: NARS Habanera eyeshadow duo, Revlon Colorburst lip gloss in Embellished, NYX Round Lipstick in Castle, Revlon Colorburst lip gloss in Adorned, NARS Coeur Battant blush, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy, Tony Moly Cristal Blusher in Milky Violet, Milani Bella Rouge eyeshadow, Maybelline Color Elixir in Vision in Violet, Topshop Chameleon Glow in Wax + Wane, Kiko Stick Eyeshadow in 16.


Yesterday I put together a look inspired by the images above, but far less editorial (and far less skilled, but let that pass). Unfortunately, there was so little natural light that I had to use the overhead light, and the colors look warmer and more muted than they would otherwise. Still, I hope you can get some sense of the shades and textures I used. On eyes, Milani Bella Rouge, NARS Lhasa, and Kiko #16; on cheeks, NARS Coeur Battant; on lips, Revlon Embellished.


Better view of the eyes: I applied Lhasa all over the lid, then blended Bella Rouge into the inner corner and applied Kiko #16 to the outer third and the lower lashline.


And because I never posted about my Effie Trinket Halloween costume, this seems as good a time as any to show you a photo of the makeup, which also fits squarely into the aesthetic I'm trying to describe.


To achieve Effie's pallid glow, I brushed theBalm Sassy eyeshadow, a frosty white, all over my face. I tried to make my eyebrows gleam with theBalm Snobby, a metallic yellow-gold, but didn't quite pull that off. Over eyeshadow primer, I used Kiko Infinity Eyeshadow #251, a sparkly lavender, and Milani Bella Rouge, blending Bella Rouge outward to meet up with NARS Coeur Battant, which I applied high on my cheekbones and up to my temples. Lipstick was NYX Castle, of course. I failed to acquire a curly wig before Halloween, so let's call this look "broke Effie." As the Capitol escort assigned to District 12, she probably didn't get much in the way of income or prep teams, anyway. I imagine her as a bit of an enterprising DIYer.

I've been asking myself why I'm so attracted to this aesthetic. Part of it, I think, is that I've long since despaired of ever looking flawlessly polished. The cyborg fantasy is the fantasy of superhuman perfection, but I like thinking about those moments when the perfection slips to reveal the screws beneath the skin. We learn about makeup and beauty largely through still images, but our own attempts are always subject to entropy. Eyeshadow creases, lipstick fades, nail polish chips, mascara flakes off and peppers the cheekbones. Makeup is one of the most ephemeral things we interact with, yet it exists in part to make us look ageless and flawless--the opposite of ephemeral. I appreciate being reminded of that paradox. If the Edwardian-cyborg look had an epigraph, it would be Robert Herrick's poem "Delight in Disorder" (1648), published almost exactly 250 years before Edward VII's accession in 1901 but no less relevant for that:

A Sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in cloathes a wantonnesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A carelesse shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, then when Art
Is too precise in every part. 

A sweet disorder in the dress Kindles in clothes a wantonness; A lawn about the shoulders thrown Into a fine distraction; An erring lace, which here and there Enthrals the crimson stomacher; A cuff neglectful, and thereby Ribands to flow confusedly; A winning wave, deserving note, In the tempestuous petticoat; A careless shoe-string, in whose tie I see a wild civility: Do more bewitch me, than when art Is too precise in every part. - See more at: http://shenandoahliterary.org/blog/2012/02/delight-in-disorder-by-robert-herrick/#sthash.wDpMlU1l.dpuf
A sweet disorder in the dress Kindles in clothes a wantonness; A lawn about the shoulders thrown Into a fine distraction; An erring lace, which here and there Enthrals the crimson stomacher; A cuff neglectful, and thereby Ribands to flow confusedly; A winning wave, deserving note, In the tempestuous petticoat; A careless shoe-string, in whose tie I see a wild civility: Do more bewitch me, than when art Is too precise in every part. - See more at: http://shenandoahliterary.org/blog/2012/02/delight-in-disorder-by-robert-herrick/#sthash.wDpMlU1l.dpuf
P.S. My Black Friday haul, if you can call it that, ended up comprising just two things: Face Stockholm Crème Blush in Paris and a bottle of Philosophy Cinnamon Buns shower gel. The blush should arrive tomorrow,  so expect a review soon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Before Black Friday, There's Wishlist Tuesday

I've been particularly short on funds this month, hence the plethora of tl;dr meditative posts and the absence of product reviews. Luckily, I just received my latest stipend check, so I'm planning to do a bit of damage during the High Holy Days of consumerism. (Only online: I can't stand the crush of people at brick-and-mortar sales.) Here are some of the products I've been coveting for the past month, listed in rough order of desire.

1. Face Stockholm Crème Blush in Paris

Image via Anthropologie.

Putting together my 17th-century look reminded me that I don't own a warm pink blush. I have most color categories covered--cool medium pink, psychedelic magenta, neutral pink-nude, reddish plum, soft orange, even lavender--but I'd like a pink that's warmer than NARS Mata Hari. I've heard great things about Face Stockholm's cream blushes; I even swatched a few of them back in March, but couldn't decide which one to buy and left empty- if not clean-handed.

 Left to right: Shanghai, Paris, Milan, London.

 It took me eight months, but I've finally settled on Paris, a bright reddish pink. It's available on Anthropologie's website, and I'm hoping that Anthro's Black Friday sale will include beauty products. (Update, 11/27: The entire Anthropologie website is 25% off today and tomorrow! I pounced, of course.)

2. OCC Lip Tar in Lydia


As I learned in this helpful roundup of 65 (!) Black Friday and Cyber Monday makeup sales, OCC is taking 20% off all products on their website from Friday through Monday. I think it might be time to buy my first OCC lip tar, and recent reviews by Xiao and Carina have swayed me toward Lydia, described by OCC as a "darkroom plum." To me, it looks like a grayed mauve-plum, a decidedly eccentric neutral. I still feel some trepidation about carrying around a lip brush for reapplications, but if every other beauty blogger can do it, why can't I?

I might also buy a nail polish from OCC: Isherwood, a "metallic tobacco ebony," looks promising. I have only one brown nail polish, a now-discontinued creme from Milani, and there's something alluringly steampunk about metallic brown (though Butter London is the brand doing steampunk this year, of course). I don't know why Isherwood has a greenish cast in the image below, since it doesn't look at all green in the swatches I've seen.


3. NYX Wicked Lippies in Power and Wrath


Images via Ulta.

Despite my great distaste for the word "lippie," I've had my eye on these metallic lipsticks since they first came out a month ago. The darker shades have received mixed reviews and look somewhat patchy in swatches, but Lucia's comprehensive review convinced me that I need bronze Wrath and dirty-rose Power. I can't believe how squeamish I used to be about lipsticks with the faintest hint of shimmer; these days, I think the absence of a metallic bronze lipstick from my collection is a great tragedy.

4. theBalm shadyLady Vol. 2 Eyeshadow Palette

Image via Nordstrom.

My love for theBalm's Nude 'tude palette is well documented. I like some of the shades in Nude 'tude more than others, but I can't deny that they're all superbly formulated. I think the time has come to expand my collection of theBalm shadows, especially because theBalm is a cruelty-free brand from my hometown of San Francisco! What really attracts me to this palette is Just This Once Jamie (middle row, far right), a lavender taupe, but I can see myself using all of the shades except the bottom left two.

5. NYX Simply Vamp Lip Cream in Enamored

I couldn't find a decent product shot of this lip pencil, but NYX describes Enamored as a "deep brown with burgundy pearl." (Pang has swatched four of the Simply Vamp Lip Creams here.) NYX has released so many new lip products this year that I completely missed the Simply Vamp debut, but I've been catching up on swatches and, my dear Enamored, the passion is mutual.

6. Hada Labo Ultimate Anti-Aging Facial Masks


Image via Ulta.

If I order the NYX lipsticks from Ulta, I might throw in these sheet masks as well. I've never tried the Japanese skincare brand Hada Labo (lit. "skin lab"), but I've heard good things about it, and my passion for sheet masks shows no signs of abating.

And that's that! I doubt I'll buy all the items on my wishlist, but something tells me I'll end up with at least a couple. Do you plan to take advantage of the upcoming sales?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lipstick Chronology #29: NYX Perfect

Name: NYX Round Lipstick in Perfect

Date Purchased: August 2013 

Grade: B

Notes: The blunt self-congratulation of the name "Perfect" makes me want to start a line of self-deprecating lipsticks: "Good Enough." "Decent Pigmentation for the Price." "Let's Be Real, This Is a Half-Assed Knockoff of a MAC Limited Edition Lipstick." A name like "Perfect" begs for either confirmation or deflation, and in this case, I'm afraid I'll have to go with the latter. It's not perfect. But it is, perhaps, good enough.


Perfect is the very embodiment of the phrase "work-appropriate": a pinkish mauve-ish MLBB color. I bought it hoping for an opaque version of NARS Dolce Vita, and I do think the two are quite similar color-wise.


This photo makes Perfect look slightly warmer than it is, but the swatch below is more color-accurate:


Like the other NYX Round Lipsticks I've tried, Perfect has a creamy, heavy, slippery formula. It goes on completely opaque (the swatch above is just one pass), but wears off quickly and is somewhat drying. The Round Lipsticks are proof that creamy lipsticks aren't always hydrating, no matter how easily they glide onto your lips. They remind me very much of MAC's Amplified Cremes, though less soothing to dry lips. I can really feel a Round Lipstick when I have it on, which I don't like. Despite their thickness, the Round Lipsticks don't do much to disguise dryness, either--you can see that in the lip swatch below.


The closest color match I have for Perfect is Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, though Sultry is darker and plummier, and Perfect is browner. Here's Perfect on the left, Sultry on the right:


It's a shame that I'm not more satisfied with Perfect's formula, because I think the color suits me nicely. I especially like wearing mauve lip colors with camel-colored tops.


I've been trying to wear Perfect more often because it's part of my Project Make-a-Dent, but with my lips in their current condition, I'll have to hold off for a few days. Writing this review has made me resolve never to buy another Round Lipstick unless it's a truly unique color like Castle. Maybe "good for the price" is no longer good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FOTD: A Discourse of Auxiliary Beauty, or Artificial Handsomeness

Toiling in the knowledge mines, one occasionally comes upon some fascinating gems. Or, more prosaically: I typed the phrase "auxiliary beauty" into Early English Books Online to see what would pop up. For those of you who aren't pursuing graduate degrees in early modern literature, EEBO is a database containing almost every work printed in English between 1423 and 1700. Let me impress the coolness of this upon you: you can download facsimiles of entire Renaissance books (provided you or your institution has a subscription). You can also search for words or phrases throughout a given period: I'd originally found the phrase "auxiliary beauty" in a slang dictionary from 1699, but I wanted to see if any other writer had used it. As it turned out, the earliest printed text in which it appeared was John Gauden's A Discourse of Auxiliary Beauty. Or Artificiall Hansomeness, from 1656.


What was happening in 1656? Quick history lesson: England had been intermittently at war for fourteen years. Parliament had deposed King Charles I in 1642 and executed him in 1649; after four years of parliamentary government (the first departure from monarchy in English history), Oliver Cromwell took power as Lord Protector of England in 1653. He died in 1658, leaving a power vacuum imperfectly filled by his son Richard. The English had had enough of political experiments, and two years later, Charles I's son returned from exile in France to claim the throne. The reign of Charles II, known as the Restoration period, lasted from 1660 to 1685.

All this turmoil had a profound effect on popular culture. Parliament was controlled by radical Puritans who disliked the ostentation of the established Church of England and the splendor of Charles I's court. (They closed London's playhouses in 1642, believing that the contemporary theater, featuring plays with titles like 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, posed a danger to public morality.) The period between 1642 and 1660 has a reputation for drab austerity, especially compared with the decadence and libertinism of the Restoration, but A Discourse of Auxiliary Beauty reveals that self-adornment was alive and well.

The book is written as an exchange of letters between two fictional ladies, one of whom is scandalized that the other uses "some colour or tincture to advance your Complexion; which indeed I take to be no better, than that odious and infamous way of Painting; every where in all ages so much, and so justly spoken against by God, and good men." Given the tone of other early modern discussions of makeup (such as The Character of a Painted Woman, which I mentioned in an earlier post), you might assume, as I did, that the dialogue ends with the rouge-loving lady vowing never to tincture her face again. Far from it! Instead, her high-minded friend is forced to admit that cosmetics "may (no doubt) be as easily kept in all sober, civill, and harmlesse bounds, as any other things, by which art assists nature." John Gauden was a clergyman who later became Bishop of Worcester, so it's even more remarkable that he took such a levelheaded view of auxiliary beauty. Good on you, sir.


"I cannot but observe, the self confuting severity of these men…who put such strict restraints on womens beauties and adornings; when yet they allow the spiceries and curiosities, which marchandizing brings from farre, rather to gratifie luxury, than relief necessity…nor do they froun to see women wear rich Jewels of all colours as Cornelians, Rubies, Saphirs, Emeralds, and Dimonds, on their brests, necks, eares, wrists and fingers…As these fixed gemms have their aptitudes for our use on other parts of our bodies; so truely have other diffusive tinctures, and colourings, their fitness and almost propriety for the face; if they bee discreetly applied."

What did "artificial handsomeness" look like circa 1656? For our case studies, let's examine portraits of three notable women from the mid-17th century. First we have Henrietta Maria (1609-1669), queen consort of Charles I. Reviled by Parliamentary sympathizers and almost deified by royalists, Henrietta Maria was a French Catholic; she fled to Paris in 1644 and established a court in exile, where her son Charles II came of age. Henrietta Maria was a renowned beauty, and her portraits depict her dressed and adorned in the height of fashion, her lips and lower cheeks reddened slightly. John Gauden would approve: this, surely, is makeup "discreetly applied."

Portrait by Anthony van Dyck, c. 1636-38.

In the next portrait of Henrietta Maria, the colors are brighter, but the effect is the same: lots of warm pigment concentrated on the lower half of her face, as if a flame is burning just below her chin and the warmth hasn't yet reached her cheekbones.

Portrait by school of Anthony van Dyck, c. 1640.

Our next lady is also connected to the English royal family, but in a less savory way: she's the mistress of Charles II. Louise de Kéroualle (1649-1734), daughter of a Breton noble family, attracted Charles's attention in 1670 when she came to England as a lady-in-waiting to his sister Henrietta. After Henrietta's death that year, Charles, acting entirely from the disinterested goodness of his heart, made Louise a lady-in-waiting to his wife Catherine.

Portrait by Peter Lely, 1671.

This portrait was painted a few decades after that of Henrietta Maria, but Louise's makeup is similar: orangey-red lip pomade, warm pink pigment on the lower cheeks. The only difference is that the cheek color suffuses a larger part of her face, creeping downward toward her chin.

Finally, we have Louise's rival: Nell Gwyn or Gwynne (1650-1687), another royal mistress. Born to a humble family in London, she sold oranges in the flourishing playhouses of the 1660s before becoming an actress. A series of liaisons with Restoration rakes and wits ended in her installment as Charles's mistress in 1668. With her colorful past and her bawdy sense of humor, she enjoyed great popularity both at court and in the popular imagination. (Rumor has it that when a crowd of people jeered her, believing her to be the Catholic Louise de Kéroualle, she replied: "Nay, good people, I am the Protestant whore.")

Here she is dressed as a shepherdess in a vaguely classical setting:

Portrait by Peter Lely, c. 1675.

A less skillful portrait, an early example of the "tits or GTFO" motif:

 Portrait by Simon Verelst, c. 1680.

I think it's fair to say that Nell knew which was her good side.

All of these portraits display similar placements and colors: brows softly defined, lips stained coral-red, bright pink rouge applied low on the cheeks (though the size of the area covered seems to vary), and no eye makeup to speak of. I'm sure there's also some white face makeup in play, but surely my own winter pallor will suffice.

It's hard to find contemporary analogues for this makeup look. Low-placed blush is generally considered a faux pas, the rage for contouring has pushed the smooth baby-faced look out of fashion, and most women cling fiercely to their mascara. Still, I was able to find a couple of images for inspiration. I've been driving myself mad trying to locate their original sources (I found them on Pinterest, of course), but not even reverse-searching Google Images has helped. Ugh, I hate the Internet's tendency to make us all lazy about citing sources. I hate it!

Anyway, here's a peachy W cheek paired with a glossy gradient lip in a similar shade. Eyes relatively bare, except for black liner, mascara, and some particularly dead-looking circle lenses.


Subtler colors than queens and royal mistresses were accustomed to using, but similar placement, with a similarly bare eye:


For my own attempt at Baroque beautification, I used concealer to achieve skin as smooth and shadowless as possible, then smudged theBalm Sleek eyeshadow into my brows and set them with Milani Clear Brow Gel. I don't have a warm pink blush in the shade that Nell and Louise seem to have favored, so I layered NARS Mata Hari, a cool plum-pink, over Sleek Life's a Peach, a soft orange. I used a lip brush to stain my lips with Revlon Fire and Ice, then patted the tube all over my mouth for a slightly shiny finish.


 The final look:


I like it! My brows provide some balance to the busy lower half of my face. Who knew that blush applied so heavily over such a wide territory could be somewhat flattering? Clearly I need to get more adventurous and liberal with my everyday blush application.


Best of all, no time wasted dabbing and blending eyeshadow. When you're the power behind the throne, you don't have an eternity to spend on your auxiliary beauty.


By the way, this is my 100th post on Auxiliary Beauty. Thank you all for reading and leaving such thoughtful comments over the past nine months! Writing this blog has been a great source of pleasure for me, as I hope reading it has been for you. <3

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Best Lipstick Formulas for Chronically Dry Lips

I have dry lips. Like, really dry. No matter the weather, no matter the season, there's always a possibility that I'll wake up with my lower lip chapped or cracked or even bleeding. This has been the state of things for as long as I can remember, and I have yet to find a solution more effective than sleeping with thick lip balm, replenishing it as soon as I wake up, and wearing it under almost every lip color. (My favorite lip balm these days is Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula.) This routine usually ensures that I don't walk around with open wounds on my mouth, but with the recent chill and winds on the East Coast, the situation has become critical. I've had to be choosier about the lipsticks I wear, and since winter brings dry lips to many of us, I thought a post about my favorite lipstick formulas would be timely.

Literature scholars love pretending to be scientists or mathematicians, so bear with me while I explain the rubric I worked out after several false starts. I've ranked my lipstick formulas from 1 to 5 on each of three criteria: soothing, concealing, and long-wearing. When my lips are especially dry, I look for two qualities in a lipstick: a soothing formula and enough pigment and opacity to conceal flaws (flaking skin, healing cuts, vertical lines). I use the word "soothing" instead of "moisturizing" or "hydrating" because, in my experience, few if any lipsticks actually impart moisture to the lips. The most I can hope for is comfort. (Glosses are another matter, but they're also matter for another post.) I don't expect any of my lipsticks to wear especially long, but I've found that "long-wearing" is not always code for "hellishly drying," which makes me wonder how closely those two qualities correspond across lipstick formulas. Hence the third criterion. I considered applying my rubric to all of my lipsticks, but decided for sanity's sake (yours and mine) to focus on the nine formulas I find most comfortable. I've alphabetized them by brand because I can't think of a better way to do it.

A big caveat here: lip comfort is subjective, as are chemical sensitivities and allergies. You can't always predict how your skin will react to one chemical or another. I'm recommending the formulas that make my lips feel less like death of a winter morning, but as ever in the beauty world, ymmv.

Bite Matte Lipstick

Shade tried: Custom shade from Bite Lipstick Lab in NYC! I named it "Aviation," in honor of its purple color and violet scent (Aviations are made with crème de violette) and Bite's usual boozy nomenclature.


Soothing: 5
Concealing: 4
Long-Wearing: 2

Note: I think Bite must be phasing out its conventional matte lipsticks in favor of the new matte lip crayons, because I can't find the lipsticks anywhere online. Just as well: Bite's "matte" lipstick formula is not really matte. This is a standard satin lipstick, just a bit more opaque than the Luminous Creme formula. I wish it were longer-wearing: I love the color but hate leaving purple lip prints everywhere. Still, it's very comfortable for dry lips, and it makes me want to try more Bite products in the future.

MAC Amplified Creme Lipstick

Shades tried: Up the Amp, Vegas Volt (returned)


Soothing: 4
Concealing: 5
Long-Lasting: 2

Note: I find MAC's Amplified Creme formula to be very comfortable, but when I sent a tube of Up the Amp to my mother, she wore it for a single day and developed a rash that took weeks to fade. She still gives me grief about it! I've never heard of MAC lipsticks doing this to anyone else, but if you have especially sensitive skin, it may be something to keep in mind. 

Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Lipstick

Shades tried (from left): On Fire Red, Vibrant Mandarin, Vivid Rose, Brazen Berry, Fuchsia Flash



Soothing: 5
Concealing: 4-5
Long-Wearing: 4

Note: Of these five, On Fire Red and Vivid Rose are very opaque; the others have a slight translucency that might not cover all imperfections, but the squishy, shiny finish does help to fill in lip lines.

NARS Sheer Lipstick 

Shades tried: Dolce Vita (l), Flamenco (r)


Soothing: 4
Concealing: 2 (Dolce Vita), 4 (Flamenco)
Long-Wearing: 1

Revlon Lip Butter

Shades tried (from left): Raspberry Pie, Candy Apple, Red Velvet, Pink Truffle


Soothing: 1-4
Concealing: 3-4
Long-Wearing: 2

Note: There's a frustrating amount of variation between Lip Butter shades. Pink Truffle earned the 1 for soothing, but the others work fine on dry lips, with Candy Apple and Red Velvet both deserving 4s. Concealment factor differs from shade to shade, but all of the above are more opaque than you'd expect a sheer lipstick to be.

Revlon Matte Balm

Shades tried: Sultry (l), Mischievous (r)


Soothing: 3
Concealing: 1 (Mischievous), 5 (Sultry)
Long-Wearing: 3

Note: Sultry is one of my favorite lipsticks for concealing dryness and other flaws, because rosy mauve color + non-cakey soft matte finish = flaws, what flaws? I assume the same is true of the other deep shades in the Matte Balm line, like berry-red Standout. Mischievous, on the other hand, is suitable only for the smoothest of lips. I can wear it without issues maybe twice a year. Avoid.

Revlon Super Lustrous Crème Lipstick

Shades tried (from left): Fire and Ice, Cherries in the Snow, Primrose, Mauvy Night, Berry Haute


Soothing: 5
Concealing: 3-5
Long-Wearing: 3-5

Note: All of these lipsticks feel great on my lips, but Cherries in the Snow and Fire and Ice are by far the most pigmented (thus concealing) and long-lasting. Here I am wearing Cherries in the Snow yesterday, with particularly desiccated lips:


Revlon Super Lustrous Shine Lipstick

Shade tried: Plum Velour


Soothing: 4
Concealing: 2
Long-Wearing: 2

Topshop Matte Lip Bullet 

Shade tried: Get Me Bodied


Soothing: 3
Concealing: 5
Long-Wearing: 4

And a few conclusions:
  • High-end lipsticks don't seem more or less likely to suit my lips than drugstore lipsticks. (YSL's Rouge Pur Couture and Glossy Stain formulas didn't make the list; neither did NARS' Velvet Matte Lip Pencils, despite my undying love for Mysterious Red.) I do think you often get what you pay for in terms of evenness, finish, and pigmentation. But in terms of comfort? Not always.
  • "Matte" doesn't necessarily mean "drying"; "shiny" or "creamy" doesn't necessarily mean "hydrating." This took me a long time to figure out. In my experience, all true flat mattes (e.g. NARS lip pencils) will be somewhat drying, but there are lots of modern mattes (e.g. Topshop Lip Bullets) that don't have that effect.
  • None of the formulas I've mentioned have shimmer. Granted, I don't buy many shimmery lipsticks, but I do find that shimmer or glitter or frost tends to decrease the soothing power of a lipstick.
I hope this has helped those of you who suffer from dry lips in cold weather or year-round. If you have any suggestions for lip-friendly lipstick formulas, or for miracle lip balms, please let me know! I promise that my next post will not be about lipstick. Well, not entirely.