Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Medley: No-Buy Update and 2016 Wishlist

When I first declared my no-buy three weeks ago, I predicted that my willpower would be tested severely. Instead, I immediately felt a sense of unaccustomed freedom. I'd grown used to thinking of my beauty purchases as stress relievers, but I hadn't considered that they might actually be a source of stress. Every new purchase brought pleasure and excitement, but never without an undercurrent of guilt and worry: can I really afford this? do I really need it? will I really use it, or will it end up gathering dust? And now those anxious questions are gone. My no-buy has liberated me to play with the makeup I already own instead of constantly plotting to buy something new. I mean, ask me in a month whether I still feel this way, but for now? I'm pretty content, and I'm glad I caught an incipient problem before it became more serious. My plan for 2016 is to try a Monika-style low-buy (no more than two new items per month), but with a couple of no-buy months thrown in.

Stepping back from consumption has also given me a better sense of my actual makeup preferences and needs. Too often, we buy makeup because some alternate-reality version of us insists we'll use it all the time. Well, the alternate-reality AB may wear sparkly teal eyeshadow, but the real-life AB invariably reaches for matte or barely shimmery eyeshadow in taupe, gray, brown, and plum. I've been doing a lot of neutral looks in the last couple of months (sadly, my no-buy hasn't encouraged greater creativity!), and I've been noticing genuine gaps in my collection. At least half a dozen times this month, I've wished for a light matte brown eyeshadow for an all-over lid color, but the closest thing I have is ColourPop Bill, which is more pink than brown. I don't own a matte highlight shade, either. I mean, this is some pretty basic beginner-makeup shit that I overlooked in my pursuit of the eccentric and cyborgian. Before my no-buy, most of my makeup desires were sparked by blog posts about cool new stuff. I wouldn't feel the need for a lipstick like X before I saw the rave review by blogger Y, but after reading Y's post, I'd think of nothing but X until I bought it. Or I'd idly browse the Sephora website until something in particular caught my eye, and before long my mild interest would sharpen into an active desire. I haven't indulged in my online-browsing habit since my no-buy began, and I find reviews of new products less convincing because, well, I know I can't have them. Instead, I'm paying more attention to what I actually need (so far as one can "need" any beauty product).

Of course, this means that my makeup wishlist has been growing. And since it's Thanksgiving, a holiday all about spending time with loved ones manic consumption, I thought I'd give you a sense of the sort of thing I've put on the "buy in 2016" list recently, in order from most to least desired.

1. Urban Decay Naked2 Basics Palette ($29)


I'm on a real Urban Decay kick these days, aren't I? I never paid much attention to Urban Decay until this year, largely because I couldn't get into the Naked hype. Naked Palettes 1, 2, and 3 were too sparkly for my tastes, while the first Naked Basics palette was too warm-toned. Until last week, I had no idea that Urban Decay had released a cool-toned Basics palette in August 2014that gives you a sense of how little I used to care about the brand. But in a recent search for the aforementioned matte brown, I decided to take a second look at the original Basics palette, only to discover that it had acquired a taupier sibling. I guess Urban Decay will just keep throwing Naked palettes at us until the last stubborn holdout has found one that suits her. Come to think of it, the last holdout may have been me.

Serious question: would it be cheating to ask my boyfriend for this as a Christmas presentor early Christmas present, since the Urban Decay site is having a 20%-off sale tomorrow? (Edit: I decided that it wasn't cheating.)

2. NARS Audacious Lipstick in Dominique ($32)


Despite my ambivalence toward the Audacious formula (and for that price point, one really shouldn't feel ambivalent), I've been attracted to this color ever since the Audacious line came out. Dominique is one of the ten shades exclusive to NARS freestanding stores, the NARS website, and Barneys, so I didn't get to see it in person until this month, when I visited the NARS boutique in New York. I'd always assumed that Dominique was similar to MAC Up the Amp, since they're both midtone purples with a hint of gray. But it turns out that Up the Amp is brighter and pinker (that is, more wearable for most people), while Dominique has that zombie undertone I find oddly flattering:

The Audacious swatches above Dominique are (L-R) Silvia, Audrey, Bette, Deborah, and Anna. Sorry for the lumpy Dominique swatch. :P

I might wait to buy Dominique until I've finished my tube of Up the Amp, which is nearing its end. Or I might buy Dominique on Jan. 1, 2016. We'll just have to see.

3. ColourPop Super Shock Cheeks in Rain and Sticky Sweet ($8 each)

I've wanted a true purple blush for well over a year now, and it doesn't seem like I'll stop wanting one anytime soon. But I'm reluctant to spend too much on a wacky color that might prove unflattering, so instead of shelling out $26 for Urban Decay Bittersweet, I'm going to do the semi-responsible thing and order ColourPop Rain.


ColourPop also makes a metallic magenta-leaning purple blush called Sticky Sweet. The website classifies it as a highlighter, but it's way too opaque to deserve that name. It is, however, gorgeous. I like the two ColourPop highlighters I have, so I doubt I'll be disappointed here.


4.  NARS Blush in Gaiety ($30)

I want a pale candy-pink blush for spring, something lighter and cooler than NARS Mata Hari, maybe even with brows to match (yes, this is a kpop-inspired lemming):

Jiwon of Spica for BNT International (source).

The closest blush I've found to my Platonic ideal is Gaiety, NARS' lightest, coolest pink, but feel free to point me in other, preferably cruelty-free, directions! (I'm fairly certain that NARS' website photo of Gaiety leans too dark and warm.)

5. Smith & Cult Vegas Post Apocalyptic ($18; added 12/2)


I almost never wear glitter topcoats, so of course I want to drop $18 on a luxury glitter topcoat. The densely packed lavender holo glitter is magical, but it's the name I find most appealing. "Vegas Post Apocalyptic" might be my favorite polish name ever (another Smith & Cult offering, "Gay Ponies Dancing in the Snow," is a close second). The grammar stickler in me wants to point out that the name should be "Vegas Post-Apocalyptic," but am I really going to quibble over a compound-adjective fail? I am not.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, if you're celebrating! And many thanks to all of you for reading and commenting. <3 I wish I could give you some of the pumpkin-bourbon ice cream I made this morning, but alas, a photo is the best I can do:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Stress-Fueled Impulse Purchase #5: Urban Decay Rapture Blush

Three weeks into my no-buy, I'm not feeling any great temptation to get something new, but I do find myself adding a worrisome number of items to my "buy in 2016" wishlist. In the interest of self-distraction, I think I'd better get back to reviewing the stuff I picked up during my stress-shopping phase in September and October. Introducing my newest blush (and, to my credit, one of only two blushes that I bought this year): Urban Decay Rapture.

Despite my longtime devotion to all things plum, I didn't own a plum blush until Rapture. NARS Mata Hari is a medium cool pink with a slight plum tone, and Sleek Flushed is a warm berry red, but neither blush is quite purple enough to qualify for inclusion in my favorite makeup color category. So when Urban Decay had a sitewide 20%-off sale in October, I bought not only the Revolution Lipstick in 69, but also the blush version of Rapture, the lipstick I've been wearing constantly this fall. Rapture the lipstick has become such a necessity for me (dark enough to make an impression, neutral enough to look professional) that I couldn't imagine being disappointed in Rapture the blush.

Rapture is part of Urban Decay's long-awaited Afterglow 8-Hour Powder Blush line, which came out this past summer. The Afterglow (eyeroll) blush that appealed to me first was Bittersweet, a bright true purple. But I couldn't justify spending $26 on a novelty color, so I ignored the Urban Decay blushes until this fall, when I started looking for a shade deeper than Mata Hari and more purple than Flushed. I was deciding between Rapture and NARS Sin, and then UD had a sale and NARS didn't, so here we are.

Urban Decay certainly has more exciting packaging than NARS does—I love the metallic ombré box:

The blush compact itself walks the fine line between dystopian-kitschy-cool and (apologies to Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way) GOFFIK:

We're a long way from NARS, folks.

Honestly, though, I don't mind. So what if this blush looks like it comes straight from the set of the Divergent movies? I'm not of the faction that believes all adult makeup should be minimalist and tasteful. I love the look of Anna Sui's bird's-nest-topped nail polishes, Paul & Joe's cat-printed compacts, and YSL's gaudy '80s-tastic gold lipstick tubes. Too Faced's new heart-shaped blushes are really toeing the line between "foppish objet" and "toy makeup"—they look identical to some of the Polly Pocket sets I had in the '90sbut I'll give even them a pass. Sometimes I want to be sleek and fancy, but I also appreciate whimsical beauty products that capture a sense of play. We're literally drawing on our faces, people. We might as well admit it.

(What I don't love about Rapture's packaging is that the compact closes with a magnet instead of a clasp. This makes me uneasy: the magnet doesn't seem terribly strong, and I'll probably feel the need to secure the compact with a rubber band when I travel.)

When I ordered Rapture, I was hoping for a purple-leaning plum with visible gold shimmer. Instead, I got a brownish mauvey plum with extremely subtle shimmer. I was a little disappointed, but in Urban Decay's defense, the website does describe Rapture as "a deep mauve with a hint of shimmer." I should have held out for a blush closer to my ideal, but I find that stress makes me buy beauty products not for what they actually are but for what I want them to be, even if I know better. One more reason to continue my no-buy until the end of the year! Luckily, Rapture is still a beautiful blush:

It's also very different from Mata Hari and Flushed, at least in built-up arm swatches (L-R: Flushed, Rapture, Mata Hari):

Compared to Rapture, Flushed looks almost like a burnt coral!

Unfortunately, these differences aren't quite so apparent when I'm wearing the blush as it's meant to be worn. Blended out, Rapture looks more or less like a cool pink, and the shimmer diffuses into a soft sheen. I have a poor track record of applying blush so that it's actually visible in blog photos, but with Rapture you're in luck: yesterday I had a practice Skype interview (I have a real one in a week and a half, eep!), and I wore more blush than normal so that the webcam wouldn't wash me out. Here's a photo I took before putting on lipstick:

Rapture is a little darker than Mata Hari, but it's not dramatically different, and after trying it on for the first time I resolved to send it back. Except that I reached for it a few days later, and again the next day, and now a month has passed and I've worn Rapture almost every day of that month. I think it's fair to say that I'm keeping it.

Formula-wise, Rapture is pretty much perfect: finely milled, easy to blend, and long-wearing. Of course, the "8-Hour" moniker sets a hilariously low bar: most of us do in fact wear our makeup for at least eight hours at a time and would like our blush to last that long. For sheer self-effacing modesty, this blush falls right behind my coffee maker, which touts itself as "probably the best way to brew coffee."

(Taken with my old flip phone back in 2012.)

I do appreciate Urban Decay's frankness: it's better than the wacky "24-hour" claim that some beauty brands make. And for what it's worth, Rapture might be my longest-lasting blush. In fact, I'd venture to say it hangs on longer than 8 hours.

In case you were wondering, it also pairs perfectly with Rapture lipstick:

I still want a purple blush, though, and Bittersweet is still tempting me, but I might cheap out and order ColourPop Rain when my no-buy ends. For now, Rapture is a self-evident choice as the days get shorter and colder.

Have you tried any Urban Decay blushes? I'm very impressed with the formula and the shade range, though $26 still seems a bit steep to me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Official Lipstick of Fall 2015: NARS 413 BLKR

All right, technically the NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR has been around since Fall 2013. But it's my standout lipstick acquisition of this fall, so there. I've had it for two weeks and have worn it on almost half those days. I can't stop. It's just too good.

I forget how exactly I became fixated on this lipstick. Maybe it was when I was planning my birthday visit to New York and I remembered that the NARS flagship store was close to our hotel. Or maybe I just happened upon 413 BLKR during one of my many stress-relieving swatch explorations in October. Nothing soothes me more than emptying my mind, opening my browser, and clicking through image after image of cherry red, coral, plum, deep brown. I tell myself that I can sink into the swirling depths of material desire and emerge just as I was, but that rarely happens. More often I surface with a particular lipstick name clinging to my brain like a barnacle. In the spirit of my current no-buy, I'm going to give up this particular kind of meditation, but at least I don't have any regret about buying 413 BLKR.

The 413 BLKR collection was created two years ago, in honor of the global flagship store's relocation to 413 Bleecker Street in the West Village. The collection started with the semi-matte lipstick and an indigo nail polish, and has since expanded to include one of almost every kind of NARS product. (Luckily, the 413 products are available in more places than 413 Bleecker: you can buy them on the NARS website and at freestanding NARS stores.) It's hard to say what unifies the collection apart from the name. In addition to the semi-matte lipstick, there's a Pure Matte lipstick in warm medium brown, a Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in shimmery fuchsia (featured by Teresa here), a cool pink blush similar to Mata Hari...Like, what? I suppose most of the colors can be described as "deep yet subdued," but then there's the fuchsia lip pencil and the cherry-red lip gloss. Perhaps there's something quintessentially "New York" or "West Village" about these shades, but your guess is as good as mine.

When you hear "NARS flagship store," you might think of a cavernous gallery overflowing with every variety of Orgasm, but 413 Bleecker is quite small: space is at a premium in downtown Manhattan. Just for fun, I've included a few photos of the store. I took them not on my birthday but last weekend, when a dear college friend (that's her in the red plaid coat) visited NYC and asked me to help her buy a new lipstick. She has a warm-toned complexion and likes wearing tomato-red lipsticks, so I suggested a berry-toned red for fall. She settled on the Audacious lipstick in Audrey, which was smashing on her: much brighter and pinker than it looked on me a year ago. I love helping people choose makeup! I might love it more than buying makeup for myself, honestly. Sometimes I wonder if I missed my true calling as a Sephora SA, but I think I prefer doing my work pro bono.

On my birthday, I didn't linger long enough to take photos. I find that the size of a store is inversely proportional to the pressure to buy, especially when I come in alone. So I made a beeline for the 413 BLKR table, swatched the semi-matte lipstick, marveled at its exact resemblance to the color of dried blood, decided that it wasn't a dupe or near-dupe for anything in my collection, paid up, and got the F O.

The "413 BLKR" name is significant to me in more ways than one. Yes, I bought this lipstick at the 413 Bleecker store, but 413 was also the area code of my first cell phone, which I got just before starting college in Western Massachusetts. (I'm really dating myself here: my first year of college was 2005.) I kept the 413 number until I switched providers last year, so this lipstick's name is a nice reminder of my alma mater's area code. Also nice: the name is right there on the tube!

I can't help wishing NARS had released an entire collection in the same color as the semi-matte lipstick. It would make a beautiful blush and eyeshadow, don't you think?

NARS describes 413 BLKR as "warm rose brown," which doesn't seem quite right. I'd say the color is about 45% red, 35% brown, and 10% plum. It's more earthy than the usual brick-red, yet much redder and cooler than a true brown like MAC Whirl or Urban Decay 1993. Remember Marsala? It verges on that, but it's a little deeper and redder. Autumn distilled, basically.

This is the sort of lipstick color I've associated with NARS since I first got interested in the brand. Of course NARS makes some iconic fuchsias, nudes, and corals, but a "NARS color" to me is a dark off-red mixed with brown and/or plumsomething like Trans Siberian, Scarlet Empress, or Transeurope Express. It's no coincidence that the lipstick named for Charlotte Rampling, the face of the Audacious campaign, is a similarly complicated red (see Kate's review of Charlotte here). These are grown-up colors. I imagine them worn by intimidatingly sophisticated Russian ladies on their casual days: ladies like Nabokov's Ada Veen in her thirties, I'm thinking. Yr. humble narrator can never be more than a part-Russian lady and her name has never appeared in the same sentence as the phrase "intimidatingly sophisticated," but this is why we love makeup: it helps us embody our fantasies (or just conceals the fact that we haven't gotten a good night's sleep in ages).

Even as I swiped my card to buy 413 BLKR, I worried that I might have a couple of near-dupes at home: Revlon Sultry, maybe, or NYX Alabama. So imagine my surprise when I did comparison swatches for this post and found nothing even close to a match in my collection of 75-ish lipsticks. Here, I'll prove it. L-R: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama, 413 BLKR, Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Get Me Bodied, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, NYX Simply Vamp Lip Cream in Enamored.

There's not even a theme here, really: it looks like I swatched six different lipsticks at random. After photographing these swatches, I thought of two more lipsticks that might resemble 413 BLKR: Milani Matte Fearless (left) and Revlon Coy (right). But as before, no dice:

I thought I was good with color (I took this test a while ago and got an almost perfect score), but 413 BLKR has stymied all my attempts to find a match. François Nars is still the master of creating colors that look familiar but resist all comparisons. I don't normally develop attachments to beauty brands, but NARS is the brand that has come closest to making a fangirl of me.

413 BLKR, like most of NARS' non-Audacious lipsticks, comes in a "semi-matte" formula. But don't be fooled: NARS semi-mattes are mattes by another name. I suspect that NARS adopted the "semi-matte" label in the post-'90s era when people were afraid that matte lips would look dated, and now they're stuck. If they were a new company in 2015, they would almost certainly advertise their semi-matte lipsticks as matte, because that's what everyone is doing in 2015. Yes, 413 BLKR has a hint of sheen, but so do MAC's matte lipsticks and Topshop's Matte Lip Bullets. A photo of 413 BLKR in direct sunlight is revealing:

With the exception of Maybelline Crazy for Coffee (far left) and NYX Enamored (far right), all of the lipsticks I've swatched for comparison are advertised as "matte." And yet 413 BLKR is the matte-est of the six! It doesn't look much shinier on my lips, either. It has a dry (though not drying) formula, and it tends to drag if applied straight to the lips, so I like to put it on over a thin layer of lip balm. Over balm, it gets sheered out a bit to reveal the red tones; on its own, it pulls darker and more brown. Here are some lip swatches in two different lighting situations (both natural light, but different times of day):

Like most matte lipsticks, 413 BLKR doesn't really budge when I'm drinking, but it does need to be reapplied after eating. It also doesn't dry out my lips, which is more than I can say for the NARS Matte Lip Pencils, much as I love Mysterious Red.

I've worn 413 BLKR at least half a dozen times since buying it, but I've paired it with roughly the same makeup every time (my current schedule and mental state don't exactly enable creativity). I like to do a neutral taupey color on the eyes and either Sleek Flushed (red berry) or Urban Decay Rapture (mauve-plum) on the cheeks. Here's 413 with NARS Lhasa eyeshadow, some dark purple theBalm eyeshadow on my lashlines, and Sleek Flushed blush (I wore this look to teach and felt perfectly professional):

Not sure what eye makeup I'm wearing here, but I know my blush is Urban Decay Rapture:

Today, with a matte taupe theBalm shadow and Rapture blush:

UGH THIS LIPSTICK IS SO GOOD. I haven't even felt tempted to break my no-buy with any other lipsticks, because I just want to keep wearing this one. It's too deep to be considered a neutral, but I don't feel at all uncomfortable wearing it in professional situations. I have a Skype interview in two weeks and might actually wear 413 BLKR for it (please tell me if this is a terrible idea).

Speaking of professional situations, I lied: it turns out that I don't actually have the time to return to a regular blogging schedule this semester. I'll do my best to check in occasionally, though! I really wonder how people with full-time jobs find the energy to blog. Oh, and a quick administrative note: I've made the photos larger in this post. Is that better, or is it visually overwhelming? I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the hugeness of my face in the new format. D:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Long-Overdue No-Buy

I've bought a lot of makeup in the last two or three months, and I've bought it largely due to stress. I've alluded to this lightheartedly with my "Stress-Fueled Impulse Purchase" series, but it's time to acknowledge that I have to stop buying new stuff, at least for a while. Liz's last post as the Beauty Reductionista prompted some much-needed self-reflection. I'm not even close to being in debt, and I don't feel like my shopping habits are out of control, but I'm definitely guilty of emotional purchases.

I'd wager it's happened to most people reading this post: you become fixated on one product and tell yourself that this is it, the one thing that will complete your collection. After you buy this thing, you'll be spoiled for all other things ever after. Come to think of it, buying this thing is a wise preventative measure, because the thing will be so superlatively great that you'll never have to buy another thing like it. So you buy it, and for a few days you really do feel that it's the best thing ever and your makeup collection has acquired its capstone. Except, wait...what was that other thing you just saw out of the corner of your eye? And so the cycle begins again, and you become enthralled to a new thing that promises some grand transformation of your face or life or whatever. But nothing ever really changes, does it? It's just the same pattern of curiosity -> desire -> purchase -> pleasure -> boredom -> curiosity, over and over again.

And guess what: our society is engineered to perpetuate this cycle. Welcome to capitalism! So I'm not going to beat myself up over buying one too many lipsticks last month, but I am going to declare a makeup and polish no-buy for the rest of 2015, with the exception of boring products that I use up and need to repurchase (mascara, clear brow gel, etc). I've specified "makeup" instead of "beauty" because I don't have a problem with buying too much skincare and I really do need a better sunscreen. But do I need another lipstick? Absolutely not. And yet, as I write this, I can think of at least five lipsticks that some recalcitrant part of my brain is telling me I need. Here, I'll even list them: MAC Heroine and Antique Velvet, Portland Black Lipstick Company Bad Penny and Irony, Rituel de Fille Hex, Urban Decay 1993, Wet n Wild Mocha-licious. There you go: seven. I "need" seven new lipsticks, despite owning at least 75. This isn't healthy. And experience has taught me that if I hold out, my "need" will dwindle to nothing. So I'm going to hold outstarting now.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stress-Fueled Impulse Purchase #4: Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in 69

I don't wear much red lipstick. Is that a strange admission for a lipstick addict to make? Red is the iconic lip color, the color that we all think of when we hear the word "lipstick," yet it's rare that I reach for a true red: I prefer my reds sheer or burnt or plummy. When I wear bright red lipstick, I worry that I'm inadvertently advertising myself as a certain kind of person. In my mind, a red-lipped person is bold, friendly, outspoken. At a party, she's more likely to make conversation with strangers than to hide in the kitchen, her only companion a handful of pretzels. In other words, I've somehow gotten it into my head that red lipstick is reserved for extroverts and for introverts who can fake extroversion successfully. And, well, I can't always fake it. And if I can't fake it, I'd rather not be wearing a lipstick that suggests I can. I don't want my appearance to promise something that my personality can't deliver. Or maybe it's even sadder than that: I don't want my makeup to be disappointed in me.

Despite this neurosis, I recently developed a desire for a bright cherry-red lipstick with a glossy or satin finish. I've tried many pinkish-red lipsticks over the years: Revlon Certainly Red (the first lipstick I ever bought), MUFE Rouge Artist Intense #45, YSL Rouge Gouache, Wet n Wild Stoplight Red, NYX Bloody Mary and Chic Red. But the Revlon and MUFE went back to the store, the YSL got too little wear before it expired, and I gave the Wet n Wild and NYX lipsticks to friends. I probably should have concluded from all this that bright cool reds weren't for me. Instead, I concluded that I just hadn't found the right bright cool red. I was indulging in one of the worst delusions of the makeup junkie: Holy Grail thinking. But it's one thing to write a blog post decrying a certain delusion, and another thing to fend off said delusion when you're ill and tired and overworked and Urban Decay has taken 20% off its entire site for a Columbus Day sale. And so I ended up with Urban Decay's Revolution Lipstick in 69, a "bright red with pink undertone."

Prior to the sale, I'd spent a good deal of time vacillating between 69 and Bésame American Beauty, both $22. The Bésame lipsticks are nearly a gram larger than the UD Revolution lipsticks, but I'm so unlikely to finish any one lipstick that I tend to consider unit price instead of price per gram, and UD's sale price of $17.60 was certainly less than $22. (If you're more likely than I am to finish a lipstick, see Cheap as Fuck's latest post, which explains the sneaky tricks beauty brands play to make you think you're getting more lipstick per dollar.) Plus, I knew that I liked the Revolution formula, and 69 seemed closer than American Beauty to the Platonic red in my head. I had just two reservations about 69: the flatness of the bullet, which pretty much guaranteed I'd have to use a lip brush, and that fucking name.

Now, listen. I am neither a prude nor a philistine. I'm fine with most representations of libertinage. I didn't bat an eye at NARS' Guy Bourdin collection two years ago. But I don't like the name of this lipsticknot because it's offensive, but because it's juvenile and dumb. If you put a 12-year-old boy in charge of coming up with lipstick names, "69" is the first name he'd think of. Compare two of the lipsticks from the Guy Bourdin collection, "Goodbye Emmanuelle" and "Last Tango," which were named after erotic films from the '70s. Those names reward research; they take on a new meaning after you've done your homework. "69" is so crude by comparison. To quote This Is Spinal Tap: "it's such a fine line between stupid and clever." But it turns out that for a 20% discount, I'm willing to overlook a stupid name. It's a good thing in life to know your own price.

I love the lining of Urban Decay lipstick boxes. A minor detail, but such little touches really do help justify the higher cost for me.

Good news: 69 is just the color I was looking for! It's a very bright, very opaque pinkish red with a glossy finish that fades to semi-matte.

Comparison swatches, left to right: NARS Mysterious Red, Maybelline On Fire Red, Urban Decay 69, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Maybelline Vivid Rose.

69 is definitely a lipstick-lover's lipstick. Not only is it bright and opaque, but as I feared, it's nearly impossible to apply without a lip brush. You might have better luck if your lips are larger than mine, but the broad, flat top of the Urban Decay lipstick doesn't play well with my thin upper lip. (A few weeks ago, a random person on Instagram advised me to "overline" my upper lip to make it look bigger. Gambit declined, madam.) It's easy enough to lay down the color with the tube, but I need a brush to define the shape and ensure that the lipstick isn't sneaking outside the borders of my mouth. I can't figure out why Urban Decay gave its lipsticks this shape; I mean, there's a reason that most lipstick bullets are pointy on top instead of flat. I'm almost tempted to slice off the top of this bullet to get a pointy edge, because going in with a lip brush is such a pain. 

As with Streak, the bullet is a bit loose in the tube: I can feel it wobble when I pat it across my lips. This doesn't impact the lipstick's performance, but it's annoying—and considering that two of my three Revolution lipsticks have this flaw, it would seem to be a structural problem across the line. I actually considered returning 69 because of the wobbly bullet and the flat top, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to send it back. It's just so pretty and festive. Is there a more perfect holiday red?

The Revolution formula is comfortable to wear but not exactly lightweight. It reminds me of MAC's Amplified formula: thick and creamy, with a tendency to come off on cups. (If lipstick often feathers on you, a lip liner might be a good idea with 69—and, in a truly extraordinary coincidence, Urban Decay makes a matching lip pencil.) Of my three Revolution lipsticks, I find that 69 is the longest-lasting and the most comfortable. I wore the super-matte NARS Mysterious Red for most of my birthday but put on 69 before dinner, and it was like removing a pair of tight jeans and slipping into yoga pants. The color also fades evenly, dwindling to this after several hours:

While taking photos for this post, I realized that I don't actually know what my undertone is. Depending on the lighting and the time of day, my complexion can look pinkish or warm or very pale olive. Am I just so white that I take on the quality of whatever light happens to be shining on me?

I think I'll keep calling myself "neutral leaning cool" and leave it at that. My veins do look blue and not green, after all. Obviously this issue matters a great deal.

My makeup is almost identical in these two photos: concealer, mascara, Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, and a dark neutral color on my upper lashlines. In the second photo, I'm wearing Urban Decay 24/7 Velvet Glide-On Eye Pencil in Plushie, a dark purple. My package came with two samples of Plushie, which I think is being discontinued along with the other pencils in the Velvet range. I like the formula, though it could be a bit more opaque.

Will 69 turn me into a devoted wearer of red lipstick? I don't know, but I like it a lot. And writing this post has made me resolve never to feel outclassed by a lipstick again. Introverts can wear red lipstick too.

The theme song of this post is, of course, Hyuna's "Red."