Friday, December 30, 2016

Hiatus and Happy New Year

There were so many posts I wanted to write before the end of this year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Trump. So many! I wanted to post a roundup of my 16 favorite beauty products of 2016, and a plan for my 2017 low-buy, and a review of two Urban Decay Vice Lipsticks, and a collection of the best k-pop makeup looks of the year. But what with jetlag and a cold and stupid family drama, I've had less energy than usual for writing, and I've had to spend what energy I do have on finishing a dissertation chapter and preparing for an upcoming interview. I'll be able to return to blogging after the first week of January, but for now, I think it's best to call this an official hiatus.

I can't let December end, however, without thanking you for your support in 2016 and wishing you a very happy new year. It's been one hell of a year, but it's almost over, and there's still a lot of good in the world. And a lot of makeupwhich means Auxiliary Beauty will be around for the foreseeable future.

Have a fun and safe holiday, and see you in 2017!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

FOTD: Game Face

The annual Academic Job Conference of Doom fast approaches (this is my second year preparing for it), and yesterday I had a dress-rehearsal practice interview with my advisor and another professor. This gave me an opportunity to test my interview makeup as well as my answers to questions like "But Machiavelli and Polydore Vergil are very different historians; why did you mention them in the same sentence?" I've written before about makeup in academia, and I still think there's a widespread prejudice against women who put obvious effort into their appearance. I know about the studies showing that women who wear neutral makeup come off as more competent in the workplace than women who wear no makeup at all, but I'm not sure that rule applies in academia, where both men and women often assume a negative correlation between femininity and intellectual seriousness.

But I also don't see the point in angsting over this until I get a job, you know? This isn't exactly the hill I want to die on, at least not yet. The job market in the humanities is horrible and I'd like to maximize my chances of making a living wage next year, thx. I'm not going to show up barefaced to an interview, but I'm not going to wear purple lipstick and my most metallic highlighter, either. I actually enjoy the challenge of making myself up for a specific role: in this case, the role of unimpeachably professional and competent young scholar. When putting on my job-market game face, I have three major concerns:
  • Appearance. I don't want my makeup to distract my interviewers from my answers, so I'm going for an overall effect instead of spotlighting one feature or product. However, I have high-contrast, cool-toned coloring that doesn't do well with toned-down shades all over. (See Kate's great post on "the workplace conundrum" for more on this issue.) A pale pink-brown lipstick will make me look washed-out and mousy; I need eye and lip colors that are neutral but saturated. (I realize, by the way, that many academics are completely oblivious to visual cues and won't notice any makeup short of glittery teal eyeshadow and black lipstick. Still.)
  • Comfort. I'd advise anyone preparing for an academic interview to stick to their usual level of made-up-ness. If you never wear makeup, the morning of your interview is not the time to start experimenting with eyeliner. Likewise, if you wear a full face every day, stripping it down for the interview will make you feel exposed and uneasy. I'd recommend tweaking the colors and finishes of your makeup instead of the amount. I'd also err on the side of simplicity: last year, my hands were shaking so badly before my interview that I could barely blend my eyeshadow. The look below contains three eyeshadows and an eyeliner, but I recognize that this may be ambitious.
  • Performance. This applies to lipstick more than anything else. An interview lipstick needs to stand up to an hour of talking. If it fades, it should fade gracefully, without leaving that awful ring around the lips. A liquid matte lipstick might seem like the obvious solution, but I suspect that the ultra-flat texture, even in a neutral color, could read as odd or unprofessional to some old-fashioned types. I wouldn't recommend a shiny or glossy finish, either. A matte or semi-matte bullet lipstick strikes me as the best choice.
For yesterday's look, I used my everyday base makeup, eyebrow goo, and mascara, plus this color makeup:

Clockwise from top left: Urban Decay Naked2 Basics palette, UD 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Whiskey, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, Seventeen Eyeshadow Mono in Statuesque, ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Lunch Money, UD Afterglow Blush in Rapture.

After putting down a layer of Urban Decay Primer Potion, I applied Seventeen Statuesque to the inner 2/3 of my upper lids and Urban Decay Primal to the outer third, then blended Urban Decay Cover into the crease, up to the browbone, and along the lower lashline, and tightlined with UD Whiskey eyeliner. I applied a very small amount of ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter, but might not use it at all for the actual interview. My interview lipstick last year was Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture, but this year I went for Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, which is more matte (hence longer-lasting) and a bit darker. The final look wasn't much different from my usual makeup, honestly:

Ignore the Bernie-esque lint on my dress.

I feel weird about wearing warm eyeshadow with silver earrings, but that's just a brain problem, right?

I was happy with how this turned out (less happy with my performance at the practice interview, but I guess that's why you practice), but let me know if you have any suggestions!

Also! My boyfriend's parents were kind enough to give me a $35 Sephora gift card as a holiday present. I'm thinking of using it toward the Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette, which I've been coveting on and off for months, but I'm not sure I can trust myself to use a 14-shadow palette when most of my eye "looks" feature one or two shadows. And I worry that the color scheme might be too warm for my complexion and/or go out of style within a year. Thoughts?

Monday, December 12, 2016

NYX Liquid Suede and Suede Matte Lip Liner in Brooklyn Thorn

One of the best lipstick formulas that I've discovered in 2016 is the NYX Liquid Suede formula. I generally prefer solid to liquid lipstick, but I've somehow collected three Liquid Suedes: Amethyst, Stone Fox, and most recently Brooklyn Thorn, one of the 12 new shades released this past spring. I have no idea what the name "Brooklyn Thorn" means—Googling the phrase brings up nothing more than the lipstick—but maybe one of you can enlighten me. During a visit to Ulta last month, I came upon a display of the new Suede Matte Lip Liners, which NYX debuted this year in shades that match the Liquid Suedes and some of the original matte lipsticks (e.g. Alabama, Aria, Maison). Out of curiosity, I picked up the Brooklyn Thorn lip liner as well. Here are the two together—I've already sharpened the lip liner twice:

The Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede is a very trendy amalgam of gray, brown, and purple, along the lines of ColourPop Kapow or Jeffree Star Scorpio. Accordingly, it seems to be the most popular of the new Liquid Suede releases. I looked for it at San Francisco's Ulta in the summer, but it had sold out almost immediately. Three months later, when I requested Brooklyn Thorn as a birthday gift from my mom, she reported that she had to comb three different Targets before she had any success: "I feel like I found a million dollars!" The color of the tube is significantly lighter and warmer than the color of the actual lipstick. Here are some comparisons:

L-R: ColourPop Trap, Topshop Boardroom, Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede, Brooklyn Thorn Suede Matte Lip Liner, NYX Up the Bass.

The Liquid Suede and lip liner don't match exactly (the liner is quite a bit warmer), though they look more similar on my lips:

When I put on a lip color, I usually manage to connect it to some era or pre-existing aesthetic, and that act of connection makes me feel safer in any risk I might be taking. Brooklyn Thorn, though, reminds me of nothing but the mid-2010s. I suspect I'll look back in five years and cringe at these photos—but honestly, who cares? There's no such thing as timeless makeup, so we might as well embrace trends if they appeal to us, and this one appeals to me. 

The Liquid Suede formula is somewhat contentious. In particular, I've read a lot of complaints that it doesn't dry down completely. It's true that the Liquid Suedes are never going to be completely matte—their full name is "Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick," after all, and you can see a slight sheen on my lips above—but in my experience, the formula dries down within a few minutes to a finish that's pretty damned close to matte. If I press my lips together, they do stick together a bit, but if I tap my lips lightly, my finger comes away dry. The Liquid Suedes will transfer a bit onto cups, but less than most bullet lipsticks do. 

They are, however, fiddly to apply. The applicator picks up a good amount of product, and it's easy to make the mistake of swiping on all that product in one go, which will produce a thick coat that never dries down (hence, I think, the complaints I've read online). As with nail polish, it's best to apply multiple thin coats instead of one thick, goopy layer. Of the three Liquid Suedes I own, Stone Fox is the most opaque, Amethyst is the patchiest, and Brooklyn Thorn is right in the middle. It's not opaque in one swipe like Stone Fox, but I don't have to work the first coat into my lips with a finger or lip brush, as I do with Amethyst. I apply one thin coat, wait a couple of minutes for it to dry, and then add a second. The real problem for me is the stiff paddle-shaped applicator, which makes it annoyingly easy to overdraw my top lip and fiendishly hard to fill in the outer corners of my lower lip:

I took the FOTD photos for this post almost a month ago and failed to write down what else I was wearing on my face, so...yeah, sorry. Here's another one; all I know for sure is that one of my eyeshadows is the plum half of the NARS Habanera duo. The front of my hair is not actually going gray, though after the past few months I wouldn't be surprised if it were.

Now for the lip liner, a far more disappointing product. The Suede Matte Lip Liners are (obviously) supposed to be more matte than NYX's original lip liners, but that's an odd distinction to make: almost every lip liner I've tried has been more or less matte. And does it really matter whether a lip liner is semi-matte or super-matte when it's just going to be covered by lipstick anyway? Here's a swatch of the Brooklyn Thorn liner (right) next to Cabaret, a lip liner in NYX's original formula:

I had no trouble getting Cabaret to cover that patch of skin, but I really had to work with Brooklyn Thorn, and the swatch is still patchy. If it's that hard to draw on the smooth underside of my arm with this liner, you can imagine how hard it is to line and cover my actual lips. In creating a "matte" lip liner, NYX has done nothing but resurrect the old-school liner formula that should have been left in the '90s. The only way I can come close to coloring in my lips with the Brooklyn Thorn liner is to scribble on my fingertip and then use my finger to spread the product around. And NYX has the nerve to charge $1 extra for these liners ($4 vs. $3)! I will say that when I washed off these swatches with soap and water, Cabaret came off immediately, but I really had to scrub to remove Brooklyn Thorn. Still, I know from experience that Cabaret lasts a long time on my lips, and it doesn't matter how long-lasting a lip liner is if I never wear it because it sucks in every other way.

I do like the Brooklyn Thorn liner for tidying up the edges of the Liquid Suede, though, and I've also tried it under two problematic lipsticks: Topshop Boardroom, a greige, and NYX Up the Bass, a grayish purple. Here's Boardroom alone (top) and over liner:

It turns out that you can get a pretty nice result from layering a patchy lipstick over a patchy liner. But that's not always the case—here's Up the Bass alone (top) and over liner:

My biggest issue with Up the Bass is that it almost never adheres to the inner part of my lower lip, and you can see that the liner did nothing to solve that problem. It also drained most of the purple from Up the Bass, turning it into a duller version of the Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede. This combination felt heavy and gummy on my lips, so I doubt I'll layer Up the Bass over the liner again. Honestly, I wish I'd never bought either one. It's frustrating that I know (or think I know) so much about lipstick and still end up with disappointing lip products now and then. 

The Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn is a winner, though, and the Liquid Suedes remain some of the best drugstore makeup I've tried. I'm not sure Brooklyn Thorn is my best color, but I'm enjoying the experiment.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Low-Buy Progress Report #11: November

Surfacing briefly from the dissertation abyss to give you my November update! I'm proud to say that I made only one beauty order on Black Friday—I bought some new clothes that I really needed, so I couldn't justify splurging on makeup too. And November was my birthday month, so I received a few makeup gifts, including a lipstick I'd wanted for a while. But I did yield to temptation a few times, and here are the results:

New Makeup & Polish:

L-R: NYX lip liner in Brooklyn Thorn, ColourPop Let's Play, Sinful Colors Nice Guise.

NYX Suede Matte Lip Liner in Brooklyn Thorn: $4
ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play: $5
Sinful Colors nail polish in Nice Guise: $2
Zoya nail polishes (not pictured) in Aubrey, Jules, Serenity, and Troy: $3 each plus $6.95 shipping = $18.95
Total: $29.95

NYX recently released a bunch of lip liners that match their Liquid Suede lipsticks. Since my mom sent me the Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn for my birthday (more on that later), I picked up the matching liner, though I really bought it to use with two other lipsticks: NYX Up the Bass, a gray-purple, and Topshop Boardroom, a greige, both of which apply patchily and fade quickly. The Suede Matte liners are (obviously) more matte than NYX's original lip liners, but that makes them harder to use. I'm going to write a review of the Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede and liner soon, but I should note that they're not actually the same color: the liner is lighter and warmer than the lipstick.

Let's Play is a lipstick from ColourPop's freaking ADORABLE Hello Kitty collection. I'm proud of myself for buying just one item, though there weren't many shades that appealed to me: the lip products were all red, pink, and nude, and the eyeshadows and blushes didn't look like anything special. Let's Play is a pinkish red with matching sparkles, but it's not so glittery that you can't wear it outside a drunken end-of-semester holiday party.

Brooklyn Thorn (top) and Let's Play.

I found Nice Guise at the supermarket where my boyfriend and I were stocking up on food and drink for election night, back when there was a good chance that an overgrown toddler in a Cheeto suit wouldn't become president. Since Nice Guise was a sparkly Democratic blue, I bought it as a special election-day polishand I haven't been able to wear it since. Which is a shame, because it's gorgeous:

Maybe in a month or two it will no longer be the polish of shattered dreams for me. We'll see.

Finally, I took advantage of Zoya's amazing Black Friday sale: 70% off the entire website! Zoya is my favorite nail polish brand, and their polishes normally cost $10, so I kind of lost it. I'd wanted Troy for a while, and I couldn't resist buying myself three more—Aubrey, Jules, and Serenity—plus a fifth as a Christmas gift for a friend. That was nine days ago, though, and my order still hasn't shipped. Its status on the Zoya website has been stuck at "Picking/Scan Verification" for a few days now. A helpful Redditor tells me that Zoya received 400,000 orders on Black Friday and hers shipped this past Friday, so I'm hoping it won't be too much longer now. 

New Skincare:

2 Innisfree sheet masks: $5 total


NB: My hand is on the large side.

 Urban Decay Primer Potion (mini tube): $12

I bought the NYX HD eyeshadow primer in March 2014, and though I never came close to running out, I did start to wonder if using the same doefoot tube of eyeshadow primer for two and a half years wasn't a little gross. Because it apparently takes me so long to go through primer, I bought a mini bottle of Primer Potion in that area near the Sephora cash register that's crammed with tantalizing minis. I was surprised to discover that the primer has a doefoot applicator, which is a bit awkward to pull out of the squeeze tube every time. But I've been liking the formula so far: it's a lot more effective than its NYX predecessor. (The NYX tube cracked dramatically right after I bought the Urban Decay replacement, as if it finally felt free to give up the ghost.)


L-R: Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone, Essie Udon Know Me, Sinful Colors Nirvana, NYX Brooklyn Thorn

Lyn very kindly sent me the Wet n Wild eyeshadow trio in Plaid to the Bone after I whined about not being able to find it. The lesson here: always whine. (Seriously, thanks so much.) The two nail polishes and Liquid Suede are gifts from my mom: I asked for Brooklyn Thorn, but she chose the polishes herself. I've worn them both already, and I'm especially impressed with Essie Udon Know Me (from that cringily named Japan-themed fall collection), which lasted several days without chipping. Sinful Colors Nirvana is much cooler-toned on the nails than it looks in the bottle: it comes out closer to taupe than to warm brown. The Sephora birthday gift, as everyone knows by now, consists of two minis from Marc Jacobs Beauty: a Le Marc Lip Creme in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and a pencil eyeliner in Blacquer. I haven't even used them yet, since I have a black eyeliner and a nearly identical rosy lipstick (Revlon Sultry), but it's nice to have backups for both of those much-loved products.

Swatches of all my new lip products, L-R: Let's Play, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Brooklyn Thorn Liquid Suede, Brooklyn Thorn lip liner.

Total for November: $46.95 (let's call it $47)

Overview: I think this is the lowest monthly total I've had so far! I didn't have to replace anything except my DevaCurl B'Leave-In hair goo, and I've stopped counting haircare in these posts because I never overbuy it. I own three hair productsLush solid shampoo and conditioner and B'Leave-Inand I repurchase them only when I run out. If I took the same approach to makeup that I do to hair, I wouldn't need to write these low-buy reports. Which reminds me: didn't I swear back in October that I wouldn't buy any more lipstick this year?

I've had a couple of epiphanies while contemplating my resolutions for 2017. The first is that my budget of $40 per month is too generous. Most of the products I buy are from the drugstore (or have drugstore price points), so the $40 limit isn't doing much, if anything, to reduce the volume of makeup that enters my life. I set a "$40 and/or two products per month" rule early in the year, but couldn't seem to adhere to both. Next year I'll do away with the monthly price limit and enforce the two-items-per-month limit, which will keep me well under $40 most months. I could also set myself a yearly budget, as Renee did recently. My second epiphany: it's too easy to feel virtuous by reminding myself that I buy only a small fraction of the products I covet. If I covet 15 things per month and buy just 1/5 of those things, that's still three new items! I don't receive promotional emails from any brand, but I still need to do more to curb my awareness of new releases. I've unfollowed some Instagram accounts that focus on swatching new products; let's hope that helps.

Wishlist for December:

1. Makeup Geek Duochrome Highlighter in Moon Phase ($20):

Yeah, speaking of new releases. Moon Phase is a white highlighter with blue and lavender reflects, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. It's also 2.5 times as expensive as my ColourPop highlighters, and it's a blue highlighter. I don't know, man.

2. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Tampered:

Tampered, a Sephora-exclusive shade, is a "deep mauve" in the Comfort Matte finish. The image I've used is really inaccurate: it's more of a plummy brown. I'll have to see this one in person, though: it looks different on everyone who swatches it, and I suspect I have at least one similar shade, possibly Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce. (My review of Fierce, written in February, is still one of my five most popular posts. I should really update it with better photos.)

And that's it! There's also a chance I might buy nothing in December, which would be a nice way to end this absolute shit cyclone of a year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mini Panning Project

(Not a panning project focused on minis: that would be a "mini-panning project." But now I want to do a "mini mini-panning project"...)

Despite my enjoyment of other bloggers' empties posts, I have a strange aversion to finishing my own lipsticks. I'll use a lipstick until there are just a few millimeters of product left, then set it aside for months and eventually forget I own it. Perhaps my real aversion is to repurchasing makeup. Finishing a lipstick forces me to choose between the satisfaction of having a slightly smaller collection and the satisfaction of owning that particular shade. I can take pleasure in having reduced my lipstick count by one or I can repurchase the lipstick, but not both. I've discussed why I don't often set panning challenges for myself, but this is one situation in which such a challenge makes sense for me. There's no reason why I shouldn't be using up lipsticks I like: I have dozens of others, and removing a couple of staple colors from my collection might force me to find new staples in neglected products.

I don't want to get overambitious, though, so I've chosen three lipsticks. Two of them are almost gone, and the third will probably expire within a year:

L-R: MAC Up the Amp, Revlon Coy, ColourPop Trap.

MAC Up the Amp has been in my collection since the spring of 2012, and though it still looks and smells perfectly fine, I should probably finish it as soon as I can. This is one of the most flattering lipsticks I've ever worn: something about that slightly grayish pinky purple lights up my complexion and eyes. I'm less fond of the Amplified Creme formula, which is too shiny, slippery, and fade-prone for my taste. After I finish Up the Amp, I'd like to find a matte lipstick in a similar color. MAC Men Love Mystery looks promising, though I fucking hate that name. What men love has nothing to do with my lipstick choices. (A lipstick compliment from a lady, though, will always make my day.)

Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy has been with me for only two years, but I've flown through the tube (by my standards, at least) because I have to reapply it every couple of hours. I may end up repurchasing this one: it's neutral and sheer without being boring, a combination that's very hard to find. The sheer plummy brown color is unusual enough, but the copper sparkles elevate it to something really special. I'm paranoid that it will be discontinued abruptly like many of its Lacquer Balm brethren, but I think I'll hold off on buying another...and keep a stern eye on the Revlon shelves.

ColourPop Ultra Matte Lip in Trap is my only liquid matte lipstick (the NYX Liquid Suedes set to a satin finish), and I tend to neglect it because I find bullet lipsticks so much easier to apply. I've used about half of it so far (the ColourPop tubes hold a deceptively small amount of product), and I'd like to use the rest before it goes bad. Once I finish this, I might search for a bullet lipstick in a similar shadeBite Thistle comes to mind, but I don't like the Amuse Bouche formula. Hmm.

My goals right now are to finish Up the Amp and Coy before I leave for winter vacation in two and a half weeks, and to wear Trap at least twice a week until it's done. I've placed the three lipsticks in a special jar at the front of my makeup shelf, so that they catch my eye every time I go over there:

Here I am wearing Trap two days ago, along with the duochrome from the Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone trio (thanks, Lyn!) with Urban Decay Frisk in the crease, Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, and ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter. Apologies to those of you who already saw this FOTD on Instagram, but at least this photo is taken at a slightly different angle?

Closeup of the brown/teal duochrome, just for fun:

...and back to dissertating, ugh.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kat Von D + Formula X Studded X Duo in Mercy

In general, I don't trust beauty brands, religious sects, or political movements with extremely charismatic figureheads. The kind of person who attracts fanatical devotees tends to be the kind of person who wants fanatical devotees, who lives for adulation and drama, who needs to be the center of attention at all timesa narcissist, in other words. Once you've known one narcissist you've known them all, and you become wary of anyone who displays the symptoms of narcissism, whether it's Donald Trump, Jeffree Star, or that professor who gave a talk in my department last week and unbuttoned his shirt a few inches too far.

Kat Von D is another charismatic figurehead who has always set off my narcissist detector. I've been hearing great things about her makeup for years, but I've also been hearing terrible things about her for years. (I don't feel like rehashing all her controversies here, though they're easy enough to find if you're interested.) What bothers me about brands like Kat Von D is that the founder's reputation and personality are so intimately bound up with the products. When I buy a lipstick, I don't want to have to think about whether Kat and Jeffree are friends or enemies this week. I simply don't give a shit. At Whole Foods a few months ago, I complimented the cashier's bright purple lipstick. Instead of just saying, "Thanks, it's by Kat Von D," she began gushing at length about how great Kat was. I'm not sure I trust any beauty brand that stirs up such passion. I just want some good makeup, you know? I'm too old and cynical to worship the person who makes it.

So I never bought anything from Kat Von D until this past summer, when Sephora reduced the price of their Studded X Duos from $15 to $7.50. Each duo contained two minis: a KVD Studded Kiss lipstick and a matching Formula X nail polish. I knew I liked Sephora's Formula X brand, and I'd long been curious about the Studded Kiss line, which had received mixed reviews but featured a range of unconventional matte and metallic shades. By the time I found out about the Studded X sale, there were four shades left: Coven (matte lavender), Slayer (matte black), Poe (metallic navy), and Mercy (metallic berry). For once in my life, I ordered the color I was most likely to wear:

It's cute that the drawings on each box match the shade inside! I'm not a huge fan of Kat Von D's 2EDGY4U aesthetic, but I do appreciate well-thought-out packaging.

What is this image tho.

Unfortunately, these Studded X duos are no longer available, but you can buy Mercy as a full-sized Studded Kiss lipstick for $21. Whether you should, well...keep reading.

I'm a total sucker for miniature beauty products, and these are done very well. Here are the Mercy lipstick (1.2g) and nail polish (4ml) next to a MAC lipstick (3g) and Essie polish (13.5ml) for scale:

When closed, Mercy doesn't look much smaller than a full-sized MAC, but the bullets tell a different story. I don't mind that the mini Studded Kiss tube is deceptively bulky: that makes it friendlier for a clumsy, large-handed person like yours truly. I love the stud pattern, by the way. If that makes me tacky, well, tell me something I don't know.

The Mercy lipstick has a rusty berry base with fuchsia shimmer. In an arm swatch, you can see the individual sparkles, but on the lips Mercy looks more like a berry/fuchsia duochrome. I detect a very faint vanilla smell, but no taste.

L-R: NYX Cabaret lip pencil (more on that in a second), MAC Eugenie, KVD Mercy, NARS 413 BLKR, Revlon Red Velvet. Essentially, Mercy is 413 BLKR with a fuchsia shift, but it reads much cooler on the lips because the shimmer is so pronounced.

After the first wear, I was forced to confront reality: I needed a lip liner. Now, I am the most anti-liner of lipstick addicts. I will go to incredible lengths to avoid scribbling all over my mouth, ingesting a woody taste that brings me back to second-grade art class, and inevitably drawing one side of my top lip larger than the other. So when I say a lipstick needs a liner, it really needs a liner. On its own, Mercy is a bit patchy and feathery. Like Poe, which I tried on in July, it doesn't want to adhere to the inner part of my lower lip. It doesn't look terrible from a normal distance, but it wears off more quickly than such a dark color should. Here's Mercy without liner, in direct artificial light (top) and indirect natural light (bottom):

Not terrible, but not great. Because of my anti-liner stance, the only lip liners I owned at the time were dark purple, mauve-brown, and metallic orange, so I checked out the NYX section at CVS and found a liner that looked similar to Mercy: Cabaret, a muted wine red. (I swear NYX meant to name this shade "Cabernet.") It turned out to be slightly warmer than Mercy, but no big deal: I just wanted a thin layer of a similar color. Here's Cabaret on its own, above, and under Mercy, below:

Layered over Cabaret, Mercy is surprisingly long-lasting. It barely transferred at all onto a cup of coffee, and it even stood up to an apple, though this might speak more to the efficacy of Cabaret in holding the lipstick in place. The NYX formula has a very slightly sticky finish that grabs lipstick well.

Here I am wearing the Mercy/Cabaret combo, along with Urban Decay Cover eyeshadow and Whiskey eyeliner, Sleek Flushed blush, and ColourPop Might Be highlighter. I assumed Mercy would look more dramatic than it actually did, hence the painfully boring eye makeup:

The nail polish is burgundy (less brown than the base color of the lipstick) with very fine burgundy shimmer. I'm disappointed that Formula X didn't make more of an effort to match the lipstick: a wine-red polish with fuchsia shimmer would have been beautiful. As it is, the Mercy nail polish is nice, but nothing more. It applies smoothly, dries quickly, and reaches opacity in two coats. Unfortunately, the shimmer gets lost on the nail unless it's in direct light (right). In the shade (left), Mercy just looks like a very shiny merlot:

I hate how short my nails are, but they've been breaking like crazy lately. :(

I could live with all this if the polish were not also very prone to chipping. The usual caveat appliesfew polishes stay pristine on my nails for longer than two daysbut I found myself with a couple of large chips before 24 hours had passed. And when I say "large chips," I mean that half the polish had somehow fallen off one of my nails.

That said, I'm happy with the Mercy duo overall. The nail polish is pretty, if not what I expected, and the lipstick alone is well worth the $7.50 I paid, though I doubt I'd drop $21 on a full-sized version. That beautiful fuchsia shift elevates Mercy above the "dark red lipstick for the holiday season" category. But with this experiment over, I'm back to avoiding the Kat Von D brand: her personality is radioactive enough that I wouldn't feel great about patronizing her further. Do you share my distaste for brands headed by big personalities?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Skincare Routine, Fall 2016

My archives tell me that I haven't written a comprehensive skincare post since February 2015 (!), and a lot has changed since then. When better to post my updated routine than on the coldest day of fall so far? Though I don't really alter my skincare regimen from season to season, perhaps you'll find something in here that will help you winter-proof your own face.

Before we start, a few words about my skin type and current routine. My skin is on the dry side of normal, and it's not particularly sensitive: I don't get hives or rashes from products, though some sunscreens and masks have been known to break me out. My skin is also quite thin, especially around my eyes. I've had a few fine lines there for several years, though regular moisturizing seems to have diminished them, at least for now. I used to have semi-regular eczema flare-ups around my eyes and ears, but that hasn't happened for a few years. I reliably get a couple of small pimples every month before my period, usually on my chin, but my face tends to be clear otherwise. I'm (obviously) very pale—my heritage is mostly Russian/Lithuanian Jewish and Englishand I sunburn and blush easily. Here's my post-shower face yesterday, before I prettied myself up to attend a Baroque concert on campus. I take my photos with an iPhone, so you can't see every pore and line, but I've done my best to give you an accurate image of my makeup-free skin. Say hello to my dark circles:

Why do I look like an extra in a bleak Soviet arthouse film?

Another day, another angle:

These photos would have looked very different if I'd written this post a year and a half ago. After 27 years of more or less acne-free skin, I started developing what seemed like a new pimple every day. Because I'd waltzed through my teens and twenties with very few skin woes, I had no idea what to do. What finally turned the tide was a laughably simple solution that originated in my misunderstanding of the phrase "double cleansing." I started to wash my face twice every evening with the same cleanser (instead of using an oil first, which is what "double cleansing" actually means), and my breakouts stopped almost overnight. After that, I began using a less oily sunscreen, changing my washcloth every few days, and experimenting with pore-clearing masks. A year later, my face is smoother, happier, and far less prone to breakouts.

Because of my ADHD, it's hard for me to stick to any routine that involves more than a few steps or products. I see bloggers with 15-step skincare routines, with serums and ampoules and AHAs and BHAs and retinoids, and here I am struggling to remember to moisturize before I go to sleep. As a result, the list of products I use daily is pretty short. I'd rather prioritize the things I really need (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen) than try to incorporate a dozen others and end up forgetting my essentials, which sometimes happens anyway.

To the best of my knowledge, almost all of the brands listed below are cruelty-free. (Vaseline and Burt's Bees are both owned by large corporations that test on animals, and I've heard conflicting reports about Skinfood and Innisfree.) As with makeup, I buy cruelty-free products whenever possible, but a brand's animal-testing status is less of a dealbreaker for skincare than it is for makeup. If I want a red lipstick, I have literally hundreds of cruelty-free options; if I want an affordable, lightweight sunscreen that provides SPF 50 coverage and doesn't break me out, my options are more limited.


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: I used Lush 9 to 5 cleanser for a few years, but I switched to CeraVe earlier this year because it was more cost-effective, and I ended up liking it more. 9 to 5 and CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser are both billed as moisturizing cleansers, but that's where the resemblance ends. 9 to 5 is thin and milky, with a pronounced fragrance and a slightly oily feel (it contains almond oil). CeraVe is clear, with a more jelly-like texture and no fragrance, and it leaves my skin feeling smoother than the Lush does. I wash my face with it once in the morning and twice at night, and I recommend it highly, with the caveat that it doesn't do a brilliant job of removing eye makeup: if I'm wearing eyeliner, I have to wipe off the last of it with petroleum jelly after I cleanse. By the way, my mom has very sensitive skin and is terrified of using new products on her face, but she's been using this cleanser for a year now with no ill effects.

Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence: I live and die by this sunscreen, guys. It's amazing. Why can't Western brands make such lightweight, non-greasy sunscreens? It doesn't feel even a little oily, it has a pleasant lemon scent and a thin, runny texture, and because it's made to be worn under makeup, it works like a primer, mattifying my skin slightly. Before discovering Bioré in the spring of this year, I was using a Eucerin facial sunscreen so heavy that in the warmer months, my face would start sweating profusely the second I went outside. And that was the best I could find in American drugstores! What the hell. 

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion: I use this fragrance-free lotion every night before bed. Unlike my previous moisturizer, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, CeraVe PM produces visible results: when I wake up the next morning, my skin is noticeably softer and plumper, no doubt because of the hyaluronic acid. If I'm feeling especially dry, I'll use a thin layer of the moisturizer in the morning before applying my sunscreen.

Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Spray: My bedroom is perpetually dry because of the heat in winter and the a/c window unit in summer, so I like having this on hand for some extra moisture after I wash my face or before I apply my makeup. I'm not sure it's actually improving my skin, but it smells and feels nice, and I can get a huge bottle for not much money. I prefer to decant the spray into a small travel bottle (adorned with Glossier stickers, of course), which dispenses a finer, more even mist.


Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: I bought this last month after spending a few months freaking out over the size of my pores. According to the Paula's Choice website, the salicyclic acid in this product "rapidly unclogs pores, diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, and improves skin tone for unbelievably smooth, radiant, firmer-looking skin." Because my skin leans dry, I use it every two or three nights: I pat it all over my face with a cotton pad, leave it on for 15-20 minutes (it gets sticky about five minutes in), then follow it with CeraVe PM. I'll be honest, I haven't noticed dramatic results, and it does make my nose peel a bit. My face feels smoother, and my pores look a little smaller (yes, I know they can't actually shrink), but I wouldn't say I'm breaking out less often. Still, it's early days yet, so I'll keep using this and see what happens.

Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil: I picked this up at Whole Foods because someone on Into the Gloss recommended it. In case you're wondering, it doesn't smell anything like roses; it has a not unpleasant dusty smell, like long-dried flowers. And it's orange! I use this as eye cream at night, dabbing a few drops around my eye area after I moisturize.

Freeman Avocado & Oatmeal Clay Mask: Lyn recommended this mask, and I trust her judgment implicitly, so I bought it at Ulta back in August. It's your standard oil-reducing clay mask—smear on a thin layer, wait for it to dry, rinse it off—but it's lightweight and non-drying and, goddamn, the price is right. I got this huge tube for under $5! It doesn't have the magical pore-clearing powers (or the tingling effect) of the Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, but it also doesn't have those weird chunks of citrus peel scattered throughout. And it's less than 1/4 the price for twice the product.

It does get caught in my eyebrows, though.

Skinfood Black Sugar Honey Mask: I bought this Korean mask as a gentler alternative to my previous physical exfoliant, Lush Angels on Bare Skin. It smells like honey and lemon and looks like a sinister potion sold on the Diagon Alley black market:

Since discovering the Paula's Choice BHA liquid, I've abandoned physical exfoliation and have started using this mask only to moisturize. I apply it in the shower, wait a few minutes for the steam to melt the sugar granules, then wash off the honey to reveal incredibly smooth skin. I can't stop stroking my own cheeks afterward. Also, my boyfriend testifies that the mask makes my face "smell like a bee's ass," and if that doesn't sell you on this product I don't know what will.


Sheet masks: In my experience, all sheet masks do pretty much the same thing: deliver a large hit of moisture in a short period of time. It's really about the experience: the scent, the design, the glorious passivity of lolling about while the mask works its magic. I don't buy a lot of sheet masks because they're not terribly cost-effective (at least here in the US) and I don't like the waste they create, but they're nice as an occasional treat. The only sheet mask I have right now is this Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask, which I bought for $3 at the Asian beauty store Ume Cosme in the East Village.


Burt's Bees Body Lotion for Dry Skin: I'm not married to this lotion: I bought it at the grocery store because I'd been out of body lotion for months and it seemed like a decent product at a low price point. It's not bad, and I use it every day after showering, but the fake vanilla scent bothers me. I'm almost done with this tube, though, and am looking forward to exploring more options. At the top of my list right now is the Palmer's cocoa butter lotion.

Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream: I am, however, married to this cuticle cream. I've lost count of the number of tins I've blown through in the two or three years since I discovered it. I have a nervous habit of picking and biting at my cuticles, and the drier they are the more likely I am to attack them, so I use this cream whenever I feel that urge.


Palmer's Cocoa Butter Swivel Stick: Another longtime staple. This is a clear, cocoa-scented balm in a comically large tube that looks like a glue stick. What more can I say? Lip balms either work or they don't, and this one works.

Vaseline Lip Therapy in Rosy Lips: I reviewed this way back in September 2014 (I'm now on my second tin). This rose-scented lip balm is even more effective than Palmer's, though I keep it at home because I don't like dipping my fingers into tins when I'm out and about. If I remember to put it on before bed, my lips look dramatically better in the morning. The balm is tinted, which makes me feel like I'm "wasting" it by not wearing it where people can see me, but that's just another neurosis of mine.

And that's it—let me know if you have any questions about my routine! Have you discovered any good skincare products recently?

Friday, November 11, 2016


Well, the impossible has happened. A racist, misogynist sociopath with nothing but contempt for the democratic process has been elevated by it to the most powerful office in the world. Hillary Clinton was not my ideal Democratic candidate, but I came to find her deeply inspiring over the course of this year's vicious, depressing campaign. And now millions of Americans have rejected her knowledge, experience, and tremendous ability for the whims of a con artist loyal only to himself. As a queer woman and someone who has endured sexual harassment from men in positions of power, I can't help but feel that Tuesday's election was a referendum on my humanity. And I'm not even one of the people threatened most by a Trump presidency; it's a sign of my privilege that I can still cling to optimism. I can only hope that this disaster will shake the Democratic Party out of its complacency and force it to listen to the progressive voices in its ranks. I can only hope that more and more of us will fight for social and economic justice. But with the Republicans poised to dominate all three branches of American government, it's going to be a long four (and possibly eight) years—and the effects of the legislation passed in those years will last much, much longer. 

So, uh, what makeup do you put on your face when your country is teetering on the edge of the abyss? Even in dark times, there's value in moving forward with our daily lives and daily rituals. I can't have been the only person craving a sense of normalcy after the fever dream of election night. The next day, I automatically reached for my favorite lipstick: NARS 413 BLKR, which I hadn't worn in a few weeks. There was something comforting about applying that familiar red-brown-plum color and feeling its familiar dryness on my lips. I wore that lipstick for two days, along with neutral, understated eye makeup. Today, though, I woke up wanting something a little more colorful. I almost never wear non-neutral shades on both my eyes and my lips, but this morning it felt right.

Clockwise from top left: Inglot custom eyeshadow duo (#08 and #433), Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light, ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Might Be, Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner in Whiskey.

And this was the result:

As you can probably see, ColourPop Might Be highlighter (at the tops of my cheekbones) is too warm and dark for my complexion: it looks positively yellow here, though it's a rosy copper in the pan. More on that in a future review. I can't return it, so I'm trying to make the best of it.

I always forget about my Inglot eyeshadow duo for some reason, but that antique gold-green, #433, is perfect for autumn. It also goes with the earrings I bought last month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

Those earrings are a souvenir not just of the museum but also of a wonderful visit with two dear friends. And in the wake of this election, our friendships and connections with other women are more important than ever. I don't know where we go from here. But we're still here. Still nasty. This is not the end.