Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AB Goes to Toronto (What I'm Bringing + What Should I Do/Buy?)

How's that for a convoluted title? Anyway, I'm going to Toronto for the first time at the end of this week! I'll be presenting at a conference and will be in the city for a mere 48 hours, so I won't have much time for sightseeing (though I have a couple of meals planned with friends who have ended up there over the years). However, I know I have a few Canadian readers, and I'd love some advice on what to do in Toronto--I'll be staying downtown in the theatre district, but I might have time to go elsewhere.

What I'll almost certainly have a chance to do, however, is duck into a drugstore and look at all the Canadian makeup, so let me know if you have any recommendations! I'm planning to check out the Joe Fresh lipsticks, and I've heard good things about Annabelle and Lise Watier makeup as well. Overall, though, I'm pretty ignorant about Canadian brands. Please enlighten me! What is not to be missed? What should I skip entirely?

Also, since I usually pack my makeup at the last possible second, I thought I'd use this post to do some planning for once. I'm not going to be too strict about limiting my makeup stash, since a couple of extra eyeshadows and lipsticks won't make much difference in terms of weight, but in terms of dignity...well. I hope that making a list beforehand will keep me accountable. I'm planning to bring enough makeup for one cool-toned look, one warm-toned look, and one neutral look.

Eyeshadow: I know by now that I almost never feel like putting together elaborate eye looks while traveling. NARS Lhasa, ColourPop Bill, and theBalm Nude 'tude Palette will be more than enough for neutrals (I also use one of the Nude 'tude colors for brow powder). For a point of interest in this expanse of taupe, I'll throw in Kiko Stick Eyeshadow #16, a shimmery dark purple that I've been enjoying wearing on my outer lids and lower lashlines recently.

Blush: One easy-to-apply neutral cream (Illamasqua Zygomatic) and one bright warm powder (Sleek Life's a Peach).

Lipstick: I like having options, so I'm resigned to bringing more lipsticks than I'll end up wearing. To lend some interest to the black-and-gray dress I'll be wearing to deliver my paper, I'll wear a bright, long-wearing lipstick, either NARS Mysterious Red or NARS Angela. I'll also bring a few spring favorites for variety's sake (subject to change, of course): NARS Dolce Vita, Urban Decay Streak, and Maybelline Vibrant Mandarin. These three are also comfortable to wear on dry lips, which I'm sure I'll appreciate after my two flights in three days. Damn it, I hate flying, so why am I always getting myself into transatlantic relationships and international conferences?

Counter-clockwise from top: Streak, Vibrant Mandarin, Mysterious Red, Angela, Dolce Vita. Not that you need a guide: you've seen all five far too often on my blog.

Other: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla, CoverGirl spot concealer, Vaseline Rosy Lips, Palmer's Cocoa Butter lip balm, Milani clear brow gel, Fresh Citron de Vigne rollerball, CoverGirl LashBlast Length mascara, and whatever nail polish I'm wearing when I leave on Friday, plus Seche Vite topcoat. Currently on my nails is Essie Play Date, a medium blue-toned purple, but I know that it's chip-prone--as in, I applied it last night and it's already begun to wear off. I'll probably replace it tomorrow with a longer-wearing polish like Formula X Enigma. Or OPI Ate Berries in the Canaries, which also matches NARS Angela. Decisions, decisions.

Finishing this post means I can no longer put off finishing my conference paper. Sigh.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Let Us Now Praise Formula X Enigma

Until recently, teal was one of my least favorite colors. It unsettled me in the same way that fuchsia used to: both are amphibious, ill-defined colors. But one swipe of fuchsia lipstick in the summer of 2011 banished my unease forever, and I've just experienced a similar conversion to teal. It started when I looked at swatch photos of Essie's Spring 2015 collection and found myself drawn to Garden Variety, a bright, blue-leaning teal creme. I almost bought it, but I decided to look for a cruelty-free version instead, despite my usual aversion to dupe-hunting. Serendipity, in the form of Teresa's Instagram, put Sephora Formula X Enigma on my radar, and I bought it during a brief trip to New York last weekend. As a bonus, it matched the dress I was wearing that day:

(FYI, though Sephora claims that the Formula X brand is cruelty-free, it does appear to be sold in China. Whether or not that destroys its cruelty-free status depends on your personal stance on the issue.)

I have no idea how this polish got its name, and I wouldn't be surprised if it resulted from an intern picking sexy-sounding nouns out of a hat, but there really is something enigmatic about Enigma. In some lights, it's a bright, juicy color; in others, it's more subdued. In natural light and in photos, it leans more blue; in artificial light, it leans more green. Like its owner, it's perpetually suspended between Ravenclaw and Slytherin.

I expected a color this bold to be powerfully pigmented, so I was dismayed when the first coat of Enigma revealed a semi-sheer jelly texture. It was a dream to apply, though: self-leveling and quick-drying. Two coats produced near-total coverage, but being a stickler for opacity, I applied three.

These photos make the color look a bit softer than it actually appears. Try as I might, I couldn't capture the brightness that Enigma takes on in natural light. Equally enigmatic was Enigma's ability to draw other teal objects into its orbit. R. C. Bald's biography of John Donne, for instance:

And the rental car that my friend Megan and I used to go grocery shopping:

I'm afraid I didn't think to take a classic fingers-wrapped-around-bottle blogger shot of Enigma, but I can testify that the color doesn't change from bottle to nails, as other polishes occasionally do.

What really impressed me about Enigma was its longevity. I applied it on Monday evening, and it didn't chip until Friday afternoon. There was some very minor tipwear before then, but nothing noticeable at a glance. By my standards, this is insanely good. I've mentioned before that polishes usually chip on me within two days, so wearing a polish that lasted twice as long was a revelation. Is this how normal people experience nail polish? Because it's pretty great. (By the way, I've noticed that my deep blue polishes tend to be longer-lasting: Zoya Neve and OPI Eurso Euro also have good wear time. I wonder if this is a coincidence, or if some component of the blue pigment contributes to the longevity of the formula?)

Enigma is my first Formula X polish, and I'm happy to report that it lived up to the brand's good reputation. Will I branch out into teal eyeshadow next? I confess, I'm tempted.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Empties and Near-Empties, Spring 2015

(I typed "Spring 2013" at first, then spent a few seconds wondering why that didn't look right.)

Not quite five months since my last empties post, I've accumulated another small collection of used-up products:

Herewith, some mini-reviews, in no particular order:

CoverGirl LashBlast Length Mascara

There's a reason why I never write posts about mascara: I find it really boring. I don't understand the obsession that some people have with attaining super-thick or super-long lashes. I like my mascara to look as natural and non-clumpy as possible, and I've been using LashBlast Length ever since Eva Chen recommended it on her tumblr, which must have been three years ago. The formula is on the thin side, and it coats my lashes evenly and doesn't smear or flake.

Until I find an affordable cruelty-free mascara that produces the same effect, I'll keep buying this one--and occasionally forgetting to put it on, because I truly could not be less interested in mascara.

Milani Brow Shaping Clear Gel

I really did mean to review this, but I used it up before I got a chance to write anything about it! This is the only dedicated brow product I've tried so far. I bought it in November, after reflecting that my brows could use some taming but were thick and dark enough not to need a colored gel. Milani's clear gel cost about $4.50, and it delivered pretty much what I'd expect from a product at that price point. The bristles of the applicator were too far apart, so they applied too much gel to each brow and were useless for actually combing the hairs. After blobbing on the gel, I had to go back in with a spoolie from a Revlon brow kit to remove the excess product. And because the applicator pulled out so much gel each time, I went through the tube in about five months. But the gel itself was satisfactory, holding the hairs in place without getting crunchy. Since I have that Revlon applicator, I'll probably repurchase this product.

NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita

Yes, a lipstick! It took me two years, but I used up a lipstick! Of course, this would be more exciting if I hadn't mentioned using it up back in July. What happened was, I used up most of the lipstick, repurchased it, and then opened the new tube. Sometime during the winter, I remembered that I still had a nubbin of the old tube left, so I put some effort into using that up. It's now at the point that I'd have to dig out the product with a lip brush if I wanted to keep using it, but all things considered, I'd rather not.

(Nail polish is Sephora Formula X Enigma, by the way. Review to come!)

Sephora Honey and Pomegranate Masks

My love for Sephora's rose-scented sheet mask is well documented, and on a February visit to Sephora I decided to branch out into other flavors. Unfortunately, I used these so long ago that I remember almost nothing about them, except that the "energizing" pomegranate mask had a cooling effect that might have been refreshing if it hadn't been -10° F outside when I used it. All sheet masks feel cool and clammy when you first put them on, but most adjust eventually to your skin temperature. Some witchery, however, ensured that the pomegranate mask felt as chilly 15 minutes after application as it had when I first stuck it to my face. I'll keep this one in mind for the summer.

Skinfood Green Tea and Broccoli Masks

While visiting my parents in San Francisco during winter vacation, I discovered that the Korean beauty brand Skinfood had opened a store in the mall down the street from my old high school. I bought these two masks there, and...sorry, I got nothing. They were entirely unremarkable. As I recall, they moisturized my face successfully, but did little else. I need to start making notes on the sheet masks I use, or I'll keep embarrassing myself like this.

(That picture of the green tea looks a bit suggestive, doesn't it? Skinfood seems to have taken a leaf, or petal, from Georgia O'Keeffe's book.)

DevaCurl Styling Cream

This lemon-lime-scented styling gel lasted for a year and a half. I find haircare almost as boring as mascara, so when I asked a stylist at my favorite hair salon what she'd recommend for fine, wavy/curly hair and she handed me this bottle, I felt like Molly Bloom considering Leopold's proposal of marriage: "I thought well as well him as another." And, indeed, this was a fine product. I used it on damp hair, scrunching a tiny bit into my curls for subtle definition. After using it up, I found another DevaCurl product I preferred: B'Leave-In, a lighter, runnier gel that works better with my hair texture but, alas, doesn't smell as good. That's right, I pulled a Molly Bloom and cheated on the Styling Cream with the haircare equivalent of Blazes Boylan. Let me note that I've just had a gin and tonic and I haven't read Ulysses since college. I should stop.

Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, Palmer's Cocoa Butter Lip Balm, and Carmex Lip Balm

I grouped these into one photo because they all provided moisture during our long winter. This is probably the third tin of Burt's Bees cuticle cream that I've owned, but the first that I've come close to finishing--I lost the others, of course. I was a Carmex devotee before I discovered Palmer's, which is the one product that actually seems to make a lasting difference for my perma-dry lips. I used up this comically large tube (peeling off the label at some point in the process), and now I'm using a tiny and far less satisfying Palmer's tube. I need to find another gargantuan one.

And a request for advice:

I finally tried on Bite Beauty's Cava lipstick in Sephora two days ago, and it was indeed the gray-lavender-nude I'd hoped it would be--the lipstick equivalent of NARS Lhasa, let's say. The problem is, I'm not sure a gray-lavender-nude is right for my complexion. Here's how it looks on:

I mean, this is an awkward Sephora selfie with less-than-ideal lighting, and I'm wearing less eye makeup than I normally would with a nude lipstick, but what do you think? Is it my perfect skin-matching nude, or does it make me look dead, or does a perfect skin-matching nude make one look dead by definition? Tough questions, all.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rantstagram? Instarant? Anyway, I Have Some Thoughts

I've been on Instagram for three weeks now, and it's brought me a lot of delight so far. I love posting snippets of my life and getting glimpses into other people's travels, lunches, and lipstick hauls. I also know that not everyone takes the same approach to Instagram that I do. Some people use it primarily to sell a product or promote a business, which is fine by me: I wasn't surprised to discover that Instagram was as commercialized as any other social-media site. What did surprise me, though, was the very hazy line between personal and professional accounts--but no, "professional" isn't the right word. I'm talking about this sort of thing:

All right, we can agree that this is probably a bot. But what about the person, or entity, leaving this comment on multiple people's accounts?

Surely just another spambot, right? No, actually. Further investigation revealed that the account belonged to a real person who had fallen for someone else's scheme--that person being the user @CLICK_HERE_FOR_386_FOLLOWS. @allachka999 had bought the story that if she spammed other people's accounts with a link to @CLICK_HERE_FOR_386_FOLLOWS, she would--you guessed it--acquire 386 new followers. Verdict: real person acting as mouthpiece for probable bot, and donning a bot costume in the process.

But what about the people who alternate inspirational quotes with plugs for pyramid-scheme mascara? What about the users who bombard others with "follow for follow" or "tags for likes" requests?

There are so many subtle gradations between "unequivocally a person" and "unequivocally a bot" that it can be hard to tell where sentience ends and bothood begins. At what point does a friendly social-media site become a William Gibson-esque dystopia? At what point does an individual become a content aggregator? And, you might well ask, at what point does healthy skepticism become wild-eyed paranoia?

I began mulling over these questions yesterday, when a sketchy-looking account commented on a selfie I'd posted, and I surprised myself by telling off said commenter:

Yes, I could easily have ignored this comment, but I felt simultaneously unnerved and violated. Unnerved because I didn't know whether the person who left the comment was a person at all; violated because this person (or algorithm) was using a photo of my face as a platform for self-promotion. Presumably, I was supposed to be so flattered by the lipstick compliment (NARS Angela, tyvm) that I would click on the mystery account and sign up for the service that she/it/whatever was offering. Gross.

But curiosity won over, and I actually did investigate the account, which represented a website that promoted bloggers somehow. This offended me even more. Did I really come off as the sort of person who would sign up for that service? Well, maybe, much as I hated to admit it. I had a blog, and I used my Instagram in part to draw attention to my blog. I tagged my makeup posts with #bbloggers and #nars and #pinklipstick. On the person-bot spectrum, I was far closer to "person," but hell if I didn't have bot inclinations. It was a sobering discovery.

Sobering, too, to reflect that the thrill I felt on gaining a new follower wasn't far removed from the impulse to spam other accounts with "f4f??" comments. (By the way, have these people never seen personal ads in which "f4f" means something very different?) When I first joined Instagram, I was appalled at how many users were willing to make themselves look desperate for the sake of collecting followers. I understood why a monetized account would need followers, but why, I wondered, should a normal lipstick-wearing latte-photographing civilian beg for likes and follows? Why choose to resemble a spambot so closely? Now, though, I see that these questions were a little disingenuous. I know perfectly well why people want thousands of followers: because, as Matthew Arnold wrote back in 1852, "we mortal millions live alone." Chalk it up to the agony of subjectivity, the hunger for connection. Yes, I am popular! Yes, people like my selfies! Ten more followers and I can forget about being teased in eighth grade! YES!!! Ironically, it's the desire to feel more human that leads us to act like bots.

That said, don't use my personal account as a billboard. Seriously.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Liner Notes: NYX Slim Lip Pencils in Dolly Pink and Pumpkin

Just a quick review of the final two items from last month's Ulta order: NYX Slim Lip Pencils in Dolly Pink, a pastel lavender-pink, and Pumpkin, a burnt orange with gold shimmer.

I keep protesting on this blog that I don't care much for lip liner, but I also keep buying more lip liners. I need to cut out one of those habits. I also need to figure out what I want lip liners to do for me, because I'm a bit hazy on that point right now. Do I want to increase the longevity of my lipsticks? Create sharper, clearer lines? Experiment with layering colors? Make sheer or patchy lipsticks opaque? Most importantly, do I care about any of these activities enough to spend extra time applying lip liner? Right now, I'm afraid, the answer seems to be no.

I did, however, have specific reasons for buying each of these colors. I wanted Dolly Pink as an underlayer for the not-quite-opaque-enough Maybelline Lilac Flush, and Pumpkin looked like a cool color that could be worn on its own. And because Ulta was having a sale on NYX lip products, I paid only $4.50 for both, which even I consider a small price to pay for two different lip colors. Plus, having a lip liner for Lilac Flush would make me less likely to go out and buy an opaque lavender lipstick, right? Right.

NYX's Slim Lip Pencils are standard wooden lip liners that need to be sharpened and come with plastic caps:

Swatched, with Dolly Pink on the left and Pumpkin on the right, obviously:

I was immediately impressed with Pumpkin. It has a soft texture (no furious scribbling to achieve full coverage), it's decently pigmented, and the gold shimmer is so fine that it creates a metallic effect. Pumpkin does emphasize dryness slightly, but I wouldn't hesitate to wear it alone--it looks just like a metallic orange lipstick once applied:

There's something very '70s about this color: I can imagine one of Roger Moore's Bond girls wearing it. She might even have worn it with a frosty seafoam green like the left-hand shade of NARS Habanera:

I was curious to see whether the shimmer would come through when a lipstick was layered over it, so I tested Pumpkin under two warmish lipsticks. The first was Urban Decay Streak, which looks like this on its own:

Pumpkin + Streak:

I wasn't terribly impressed with this combination: it looked like a slightly pinker Pumpkin with frost (shudder) instead of shimmer. Basically, the least flattering color I could possibly wear. On to the next: Pumpkin under Revlon Candy Apple, a sheer warm red.

I'm sensing a pattern here: Pumpkin drowns out any lipstick with which it's paired, and the metallic effect turns into a frosty one. Not a great layering partner, methinks, but I'm still excited to wear it by itself this summer and fall. Cyborg goes to the beach, or something.

The second lip liner, Dolly Pink, is the complete opposite of Pumpkin: it looks terrible on its own, but plays well with others. Dolly Pink has the same soft texture as Pumpkin, but it's also thick and waxy, and I had to exert a lot of effort and apply a lot of product to get full color coverage:

It felt as gross and cakey as it looked, and that feeling only increased when I tried layering a lipstick over it. I got better results from scribbling lightly on my lips with Dolly Pink, then using a finger to even out the pigment for coverage that was just shy of opaque. Still not a lip pencil I'd wear on its own--it makes my lips look hideously shriveled.

As you may recall, Lilac Flush looks like this without liner:

Lilac Flush over Dolly Pink:

Not bad! Still emphasizes dryness, but at least the color looks right. And my lips look less painfully dry when you're standing at a proper distance...

Verdict: I don't regret buying either of these lip pencils, but I also feel compelled to set a new rule for myself: NO MORE LIP LINERS. I'd rather live with a lipstick that's a bit sheer or uneven than apply a lip liner and carry it around all day so I can touch up both the lipstick and the liner constantly. We all have a few makeup habits we're appallingly lazy about, and this is one of mine. What are your thoughts on lip liner?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Eight Beauty Products I Didn't Buy in the Last Six Months

I made my stage debut in 1996 at the age of eight, in my elementary school's production of The Phantom Tollbooth. I had two roles: the Spelling Bee (marred by a wardrobe malfunction: part of my headband fell off and I pouted for the rest of the scene) and the Senses Taker. For the second role, I wore a severe bun, a prim, high-necked brown dress, and a pair of fake glasses, and asked Milo and his companions to tell me "when you were born, where you were born, why you were born, the schools you've attended, the schools you haven't attended..."

Years would pass before I understood that the name of my role was a pun on "census taker," and that the adult world didn't actually contain a career path based on taking people's senses, except perhaps anesthesiology. Years would pass, too, before I understood why asking someone which schools they hadn't attended and which people they hadn't met was so funny.

In the spirit of the Senses Taker, I thought I'd write up some negative reviews: not bad reviews of products I own, but musings on products that I decided to leave on the physical or virtual shelf. An anti-wishlist, if you will. I've assigned each item a "regret level" from 1 to 10, with 1 being "phew, dodged a bullet there," and 10 being "YOU PENNY-PINCHING FOOL." Any product with a rating over 6 warrants future reconsideration.

NYX Wicked Lippies in Wrath and Power


Date of non-purchase: Oct. 2014

Reason for non-purchase: At the end of last year, I decided to stop buying lipsticks that I couldn't see myself wearing often. Would a bronze metallic lipstick look really cool? For certain values of "cool," yes. Would I wear it more than a few times over the fall and winter? Probably not. Power seemed more traditionally wearable, but I couldn't decide whether it would read "cyborg grunge" or "Avon lady in 1992," so I gave it a pass. I have a strong suspicion I'll buy Wrath for next fall, though. (By which time I'll be consumed with teaching, grading, dissertating, and applying for jobs, and will probably feel like wearing a lipstick called Wrath all the goddamn time.)

Regret level: 6 for Wrath, 3 for Power

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Poe


Date of non-purchase: Oct. 2014

Reason for non-purchase: I've done a lot of silly things for my love of beauty, but not even I can bring myself to spend $21 on a sparkly navy-blue lipstick. Plus, the Studded Kiss formula has received terrible reviews (though Poe seems better than most), and Kat Von D herself kind of sucks.

Regret level: 1

OCC Lip Tar in Lydia


Date of non-purchase: Nov. 2014

Reason for non-purchase: I've never tried an OCC Lip Tar, but as I explained in my last post, a gap in my collection is not necessarily a gap that needs to be filled. Too often, beauty bloggers seem to think that if they don't own MAC Ruby Woo or NARS Orgasm or whatever cult product, they're not doing their job. I don't want to fall into that trap! I own just two liquid lipsticks and almost never wear them because they're so inconvenient to apply, and the Lip Tars look even fussier. I've also heard that they can be drying. Lydia looks beyond perfect on Xiao, but it probably wouldn't suit my needs, though I might eventually try it on at Sephora to see if the formula is comfortable.

Regret level: 3

ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Holiday

Date of non-purchase: Feb. 2015

Reason for non-purchase: Some of you blush fiends will consider this blasphemy, but I find that one warm pink looks much the same as another once blended out (granted, I think I blend more vigorously than necessary). Yes, Holiday is pinker than Sleek Life's a Peach, but it won't produce a dramatically different look. Not that I judge anyone for their blush collection, no matter how large it is! I've lost count of the number of plum/fuchsia lipsticks I've amassed because they're totally different okay.

Regret level: 2

Revlon Matte Balm in Unapologetic


Date of non-purchase: 500 BC, it feels like Mar. 2015, most recently

Reason for non-purchase: I first experienced a pang of desire for Unapologetic last summer, but I was wearing Maybelline Vibrant Mandarin so often that I convinced myself I didn't need another bright coral. Since then, I've managed to non-purchase Unapologetic on several occasions. I've walked into drugstores in three different cities, seen it on the shelf, and walked back out. I've added it to my online Ulta cart two different times, then deleted it before paying. The one time I did make up my mind to buy it, I couldn't find a pristine tube. Maybe the universe just doesn't want me to have Unapologetic. Or maybe the universe is testing my devotion, and Unapologetic will turn out to be the most flattering lipstick ever on me. Though it's a coral-pink, not my best color historically, so I doubt it. (Why does the Revlon product shot make it look fuchsia?)

Regret level: 6

OPI That's Hula-rious


Date of non-purchase: March 2015

Reason for non-purchase: "No near-dupes" was one of my New Year's resolutions, and I've done my best to stick to it. I have a mint nail polish, Essie Fashion Playground, which satisfies me perfectly when I'm in a minty mood. "Near-dupe" is a tricky concept, though, and That's Hula-rious is a noticeably different color: yellower and more muted, pistachio to Essie's seafoam. If I find myself in an Ulta in the next few months, I might have to surrender.

Regret level: 7

ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Rain


Date of non-purchase: March 2015

Reason for non-purchase: I got very excited when I heard that ColourPop was releasing a true purple blush in their limited-edition spring collection. If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I've wanted a purple or lavender blush for a while, but the purples available to me have so far been sneaky secret pinks (a problem I used to have with purple lipstick before it became popular), or nearly invisible on my skin, or sold in an inconvenient loose powder form. So I was certain that I was going to buy Rain, and then I just...didn't. The fact is, I never stand in front of the mirror in the morning and think, "Damn it, this look would be perfect with purple blush." I also knew that I couldn't make much of a dent in Rain's cream formula before it started drying up. Probably not worth the $8 plus shipping--though I do think I'll check out Urban Decay's new purple blush, Bittersweet, once it's released. If it can look nice on someone as warm-toned as Christine, it probably won't look hideous on me.

Regret level: 5

Believe me, this is not a complete list of all my non-purchases over the past half-year; these are just the ones that that managed to stimulate my organ of obsession (wherever that might be located). Sometimes I think the makeup obsessions I develop are more pleasurable than their fulfillment. The more I build up an item in my mind, the less impressive it turns out to be. Perhaps that explains why I get so attached to products that I buy on a total whim. In just the last two months, my favorite products have been Butter London Fruit Machine, Topshop Plastique, and Milani Matte Naked, all of which ended up in my life somewhat accidentally. By contrast, I spent months or even years longing for Butter London Trout Pout and Face Stockholm Paris, only to experience something of a letdown once they were finally in my hands. Does this happen to anyone else? And have you non-purchased anything interesting recently?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

So Vernal It Hurts: Butter London Fruit Machine and Trout Pout

Before starting this post, I spent a long time five minutes trying to come up with a good simile for the operation of material desire online. The Internet engenders small cravings, then quickly magnifies those cravings until you can't imagine a time when you didn't want X nail polish or Y lipstick, even if you first heard about it only three days ago. Could we call it a whirlpool of desire? A long street strewn with bits of grass that gradually form themselves into tumbleweed, and the tumbleweed is your longing for a certain product, and the wind is peer pressure or something, and--never mind.

Maybe I should illustrate this process with an example, instead. A few months ago, I read this article and became fixated on the lavender-pink nail polish in image 5, which turned out to be Chanel Sweet Lilac. This made me aware that I didn't own a light pink polish; the last one I'd bought was Essie French Affair in spring 2011, and that had long since turned gooey and gone to the Undying Lands of nail polish. Here I sternly reminded myself that I was slipping into a bad habit: identifying a color/texture/finish lacuna in my makeup collection and, instead of thinking, "Hmm, maybe I don't own that because I don't really like it," deciding that the gap must be filled immediately. I don't have a lot of pink or red nail polishes, but I rarely wear the ones I do have, gravitating instead to my purples and blues and greens. Pink or red nails make my hands feel like someone else's. Knowing this about myself, I waited a few weeks to see if the desire for a pale cool pink would subside, but it only got stronger. My brain loves undertaking quests for the Platonic ideal of a certain color: the pale pink polish, the fuchsia lipstick. I was doomed.

For a while, I was certain that I wanted OPI Mod About You, a white-based pastel pink. Then Ulta announced that as part of its 21 Days of Beauty sale, Butter London polishes would be marked down from $15 to $9 on a certain day in March. Butter London is one of my favorite polish brands, and it's unambiguously cruelty-free, so I decided to narrow my search to that brand. First I shifted my affections to Butter London Teddy Girl, which looked identical to Mod About You...but it had received mixed reviews. So I settled on Fruit Machine, a not-quite-pastel cool pink that was remarkably similar to Sweet Lilac, and suddenly I couldn't imagine ever having wanted another pink polish. This was it, this was the one, even though I'd never seen it in person. My brain terrifies me sometimes. I also tossed into my cart a polish that I really had wanted for years: Trout Pout, a soft coral. So here we are:

They look so pretty together, don't they? I like to arrange my nail polishes by color, but I can't bear to keep these two apart. I can't think of happier, springier colors. I also noticed that each one paired perfectly with a lipstick I've been enjoying this spring. Here's Fruit Machine with Topshop Plastique:

And Trout Pout with Urban Decay Streak:

The first one I applied was Trout Pout. The formula is on the thin side and went on a bit streaky, but it dried quickly and was opaque in three coats. Unfortunately, the color changed slightly on my nails: it looked like a faded melon shade in the bottle, but it became a brighter, deeper coral pink once applied. Still a lovely color, but not quite what I was expecting.

It didn't last long, either: I noticed chips after a day, though I should mention that almost no polish stays pristine on my nails for more than two days, which probably disqualifies me from nail blogging. If any polish lasts for three days or longer, it's a freaking miracle of cosmetic chemistry. I swear I'm doing everything right: making sure my nails are smooth and dry, applying base coat and topcoat, waiting for each layer of polish to dry completely before adding the next. I've even begun using Seche Vite topcoat, despite the revolting chemical smell, but I've seen no improvement except a quicker drying time. Short-lived manicures just seem to be my lot in life. Which would be fine, except that a review of nail polish really should include a note on longevity, and Trout Pout will almost certainly last more than a day on you even if it doesn't on me.

The lighting is a bit wonky here, but see how Trout Pout is juuust a bit more intense on the nails than it is in the bottle?

Next up: Fruit Machine. I love this one, guys. Why do I fall so hard for specific colors? I have no idea. I've been wearing Plastique almost every day for the past two weeks, too.

 Fruit Machine has a similar formula to Trout Pout: opaque in three coats (though it applies more smoothly) and quick-drying. I'm actually waiting for Essie Fashion Playground to dry as I type this, and I'm struck by how much longer it takes in comparison to the Butter Londons. Fruit Machine is slightly longer-lasting than Trout Pout, but I do find that it starts to chip within two days. Again, this is normal for me, which makes me think that it will probably wear normally on anyone else.

And if you care about dupes, Fruit Machine looks very close to Sweet Lilac--perhaps a bit less muted. Yeah, I have a lot of photos of my Fruit Machined hands on my phone. Here's how it looks outside, in indirect sunlight:

By the way, a "fruit machine" is a slot machine--so called because some of them have pictures of fruit. None of that fruit is pink, so far as I know. Go figure.