Sunday, February 28, 2016

Low-Buy Progress Report #2: February

Welcome to my second low-buy progress report for 2016! I used up a few things this month and needed to buy replacements, but I did a much better job of staying under my $40 limit for brand-new items. Oh, and I've added two new categories to this series of posts. In addition to chronicling my new purchases every month, I'm going to record the makeup I destash and the items I'm thinking of buying in the near-ish future. Without further ado:

New makeup/polish:


ColourPop Super Shock Shadows in Shop (top) and Eye Candy: $5 each
ColourPop Ultra Matte Lip in Trap: $6
ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Rain: $8
Zoya Kristen: $9
Total: $33

I'm pretty happy with everything I bought this month! At the beginning of the month, I made a ColourPop order. CP has come under fire for their deceptively bulky packaging, but I'd rather pay $5 for a deluxe-sample size of a crazy eyeshadow color than $20 for a large size. My surprise favorites from my haul are Shop, an almost-matte coral eyeshadow, and Trap, a liquid lipstick that doesn't rip my poor lips to shreds. Rain and Eye Candy, the two products I expected to favor, are decent but not mindblowing.


Kristen, a faded gray-blue, was an impulse buy at Whole Foods. I love my blue polishes, and this is a perfect winter-to-spring transitional color. Unfortunately, the polish starts chipping within 48 hours, but that's not unusual for me. Here's Kristen with a layer of Floss Gloss Dimepiece on top:


Replacements:


Revlon Quick Dry Top Coat: $7.50
CeraVe PM: $14
Revlon Super Length Mascara in Black: $9
Milani Brow Shaping Gel: free with CVS coupons, bitches!
Total: $30.50

The only new-to-me product here is Revlon Super Length, a replacement for CoverGirl LashBlast Length, my discontinued standby. (If you're curious, Tynan at xoJane has reviewed all five mascaras in Revlon's newly reformulated range.) I like subtle mascaras that provide a bit of extra length and color without clumping, and Super Length fulfills all those criteria. I rarely get excited about mascara, but I'm very impressed with this one. And how cute is that bottle?

Here's an awkward photo that may or may not capture the effect of the mascara:


Total beauty spending for February: $63.50

Overview: My original resolution was to buy two new products per month. As you may have noticed by now, that's not a realistic goal for me. I don't have trouble staying within a monthly budget, but a strict limit on the number of items I can buy per month is less effective because it makes less obvious sense. This month I actually destashed more eyeshadows than I bought (more on that later), and I'm not going to run out of space on my makeup shelf anytime soon. But I don't want to do away with the limit altogetherit's helpful to have a benchmark in mind. For now, I'll raise the new-product limit from 2 to 3; however, I'll also institute a "one in, one out" rule, at least for the next few months. (No, this does not give me carte blanche to buy half a dozen new lipsticks if I happen to destash six. That's "one in, one out," not "one out, one in.")

Destashes:


(Links to earlier reviews where available.)

NYX Jumbo Pencils in Knight and Yogurt: Okay, guys, I need you to slap me if I ever so much as entertain the thought of buying another NYX eye product. Both of these are too, well, jumbo to use as eyeliners, but they're not great as cream shadows, either. Knight is stiff and hard to blend, while Yogurt is too sheer and slippery to have much lasting power, and I have better versions of both colors in different formulas.

Maybelline Line Stiletto in Blackest Black: I've accepted that I can't wear liquid liner. It doesn't look good on me and I can't get it to work with my eye shape and eyelid folds. Plus, this tube of Line Stiletto is 1-2 years old and it starts flaking off within minutes. Gross.

Maybelline Line Precision Eyeliner in Enoby Ebony Black: I have no memory of either buying or wearing this eyeliner, yet it's in my collection and shows signs of frequent use. Truly a mystery. I can only assume that I bought and wore this in my very early days of making up. Come to think of it, this is the kind of pencil my mom wears every day, and she may well have given it to me. In any case, it has to be at least three years old by now, and I rarely wear eyeliner anyway.

NYX Slim Lip Pencil in Dolly Pink: Remember that brief period of time last year when I decided I needed multiple lip liners for some reason? Yeah. I've worn this maybe twice since buying it, and it's thick and gummy and catches on all my dry spots. I bought Dolly Pink specifically to wear under Maybelline Lilac Flush, but I actually prefer Lilac Flush as a sheer color, and my other cool pinks aren't sheer enough to need a liner.

Perfume Samples: I think I got these with Ulta orders. One of them is Tocca Stella, which smells like my grandmother in 1992, and the other is an anonymous patchouli nightmare.

ColourPop Super Shock Shadows in Krinkle and Bae: Word to the wise: ColourPop eyeshadows last one measly year before drying out. And frankly, I never liked Krinkle or Bae much anyway: Krinkle's glitter is too large and too densely packed, and Bae isn't the duochrome promised on the website. Womp.

Milani Bella Eyes in Bella Taupe: This failed miserably as an eyeshadow, but I thought I might use it as a contour powder one day. That day has not arrived. And if I do wake up one morning wanting to contour (very unlikely), I have a similar matte gray in my custom theBalm palette.

Getting rid of these eye products was easy, but a far more daunting task awaits me. Over spring break, I plan to swatch all my lipsticks and glosses and do an epic round of LIPSTICK SURVIVOR (Liz's awesome coinage). I have way too many lip colors for one mouth. It's not even a large mouth.

And, finally...

Wishlist:

I know I'm not going to buy more than one of these next month. But which one, if any? No idea. Suspense!

1. Bite Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Pickled Ginger ($26)


Coral is a tricky shade for me to wear. Some coral lipsticks light up my face while others drain the life out of it, and it's impossible to predict which effect a coral will have. I've been hunting for a flattering coral-pink lipstick for a while now, and Pickled Ginger looks promising, but I'm certainly not going to buy it without seeing it in person. I hope I'll have a chance to visit Sephora during my trip to New York next month. I'm curious about Bite's new Amuse Bouche formula! (For what it's worth, Temptalia gave Pickled Ginger an A.)

2. NARS Sheer Lipstick in Roman Holiday ($28)


By contrast, I can be fairly confident that a sheer cool pink like Roman Holiday will suit me, and I know I love the NARS sheer lipstick formula. But I already have a couple of cool pinks, so I'm not sure I can justify buying this one.

3. NARS Blush in Gaiety ($30)



This is a beautiful pastel pink (much lighter and cooler than it looks in this product shot) and I've wanted it for a few months, but it's also thirty dollars and I already have ten blushes, three or four of which I probably wouldn't miss if they vanished from my shelf. TMO, as they say on Reddit.

And that's it! Two holdovers from last month's wishlist, plus one new item, and I might not even buy any of them. What's happening to me? Maturity? Surely not.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ColourPop Ultra Matte Lip in Trap

I had such a bad experience with Milani's liquid matte lipstick last year that I...ordered another liquid matte lipstick earlier this month. Luckily, the universe sometimes rewards our lapses of logic, and I'm pleased to report that ColourPop's Ultra Matte Lip in Trap surpassed my expectations by a little and Milani's version by a lot.


The Ultra Matte Lip collection debuted last June (Temptalia has swatches of the original 25 shades in one convenient collage). The lipsticks sold out almost immediately, and ColourPop took a few weeks to restock, which only intensified the buzz and demand. But some deep-rooted perversity in my psyche ensures that the more hype a new product receives, the less likely I'll be to buy it—well, to buy it right away, at least. I'm not immune to hype, but I like to wait for the gushing praise to die down and the negative reviews to emerge before I make a purchase. Though I was immediately drawn to Trap, I didn't mind waiting several months for the Internet to reach a consensus.

During this time, ColourPop released several new shades, but the Internet reached no consensus whatsoever. I read that the Ultra Matte Lip formula was the most comfortable on the market; that it was the most painfully drying on the market; that its flawless finish lasted for hours; that it started to flake and crumble almost immediately; that the lipsticks had been reformulated since their initial release, and were now far less drying than before; that some shades were more comfortable than others; that all of the shades had always been and would always be absolute shit. How could a liquid lipstick be so divisive? I had to know the truth, and $6 seemed like a reasonable price to pay for it. So when I made a ColourPop order three weeks ago, Trap found its way into my basket. (And then I waited an entire week for my order to ship.)


The packaging is sturdier than I expected: a thick plastic tube with a doefoot applicator attached to a screw-on metallic cap. I like the heft and sleekness of the tubes, though experience has taught me that ColourPop's cute holographic lettering wears off PDQ. The cap seems secure enough, but I've flown enough to know that this is just the kind of tube that will open up on an airplane, and I've heard of Ultra Mattes coming unscrewed in people's purses or when stored lying down instead of upright. I've carried Trap in my makeup bag a couple of times with no ill effect, but I wouldn't, like, fill a new Hermès with a dozen of these tubes. Luckily, my bag of choice is a beaten-to-hell canvas tote from the Strand Bookstore.

The applicator is small and slanted; the angled part hugs the lips and gives a lot of control over where the lipstick ends up. By contrast, the Milani doefoot has no slant at all.


The doefoot picks up a lot of product, as you can see from the swatch below (one dip in the tube, one swipe across my arm). I like to wipe the applicator on the rim of the tube before applying it to my lips. ColourPop describes Trap as "greige," but once swatched, the beige disappears and Trap becomes a cloudy grayish lavender:


Below, my feeble attempt at finding dupes in my collection. L-R: Milani Matte Naked, Topshop Motel, Trap, Topshop Boardroom, MAC Up the Amp. Boardroom is the closest to Trap color-wise, but it's sheerer and less saturated.


I've worn Trap on two different days now, and have had roughly the same experience both times. I find that I need to apply balm first and let it sink in for several minutes before using the lipstick (a good policy to follow with most liquid mattes). When I first tried Trap, I was stunned at how lightweight and smooth the formula felt on my lips, and how little product I needed for full coverage. Despite its light color, Trap is extremely pigmented. Unlike Milani Crush, which dried to matte almost immediately, Trap takes a minute or two to dry down; this allows me to fiddle with the placement and make sure one side of my mouth doesn't look much larger than the other. I'd advise doing your best Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel during the dry-down period, so as not to smear the product while it's still wet. Trap has a fairly thin and watery formula compared to other liquid lipsticks, and it's scentless unless you really sniff the applicator, which will give you a faint whiff of root beer (the scent of Milani's liquid mattes as well, oddly).

When first applied, Trap has an extremely smooth, super-matte finish. As I've mentioned ad nauseam on this blog, I have very dry lips with prominent lip lines, but a fresh application of Trap all but erases those flaws:

 

Four hours, a coffee, and a roll later, the dry bits of my lips are definitely apparent, but the color hasn't worn off at all (as you can see, it looks warmer and pinker in artificial light):


But how does Trap feel, you ask? For the first few hours, it really feels like nothing. (This is in stark contrast to Milani's formula, which becomes painful within an hour.) Though the lipstick is dry to the touch, it feels very slightly tacky if I press my lips together. After four hours, the sensation of dryness really sets in, but it's not unbearable: I'd compare it to the effect of my NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil. The absolute longest time I can wear Trap is five hours; after that, I feel a strong desire to wipe it off and smother my lips in balm. Cocoa-butter balm is also what I use to remove Trap, though any oil would work as well, as would plain old petroleum jelly. Just smooth it over the lipstick and wipe off with a tissue, no hard scrubbing required. The day after I wear Trap, I find that my lips are craving a gentler formula; I don't think I could wear it two days in a row.

As for longevity, Trap withstood the aforementioned coffee and roll with no problem; full meals posed more of a challenge, as the color came off the inner part of my lower lip. Most liquid matte lipsticks flake off instead of fading, and Trap is no exception. You might be able to avoid this fate if you eat your meals very daintily and avoid oily foods, but I prefer to remove Trap before eating and reapply later (my policy with all lipsticks, actually). Touch-ups aren't much of a hassle, though: just fill in the worn-off patches with more product, and it looks fine.

Finally, some FOTDs! Here's Trap with a matchy-matchy lavender-gray color scheme: ColourPop Eye Candy and NARS Lhasa eyeshadows and Tony Moly Milky Violet blush.


Eye Candy is a very sparkly pinkish lavender (review coming soon); I applied it to the inner third of each mobile lid and blended it into Lhasa in the middle. And, dude, I am loving this Revlon Super Length mascara. It's the first mascara that's evoked anything more than indifference in me.


For my second face, I used Urban Decay Cover (a pinkish beige) all over my lids, with theBalm Serious on the lashlines. Blush was another new CP purchase, the bright purple Rain.


I don't plan to buy any more of the Ultra Matte Lips: I wanted Trap mainly for the unusual color and the novelty factor, but the other colors in the line seem pretty dupable, and I can't imagine the super-matte trend will last much longer. (ColourPop itself is currently firing up the hype machine with a new line of satin-finish liquid lipsticks.) Still, I'm very impressed with Trap's performance! I don't know how much my (or anyone's) recommendation really means, given the wild diversity of opinion on the Ultra Matte formula, but at least I've added one voice to the online cacophony.

Have you tried any of ColourPop's Ultra Matte Lip shades?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Favorite Teaching Lipsticks

Now that a new semester is in full swing, I thought it would be fun to do a roundup of my favorite lipsticks to wear while teaching. Here are the basic criteria I have for a Teaching Lipstick:
  • not too brightno fuchsias, flaming reds, or white-based candy pinks
  • not too darkno blackened browns or gothtastic purples, though I'm the TA for a science fiction course this semester, so a vampy or otherwise uncanny lip might be appropriate...
  • either sheer or on the satin/matte side of opaque
  • able to withstand a 50-minute discussion during which I can't be trusted not to go on a tangent about the Kantian sublime, sorry not sorry
Like many aspects of grad school, the makeup I wear in the classroom is a low-stakes affair. Believe me, I wish the stakes were higher! It would make me feel more important! But they're really not. I'm not forbidden to wear certain colors or finishes of makeup in the classroom, and if I rolled in one morning with sparkly teal eyeshadow and vibrant coral lipstick, the world would carry on as it always has. My lipstick rules are more about personal comfort than anything else, and everyone's comfort levels are different. A good friend who's getting a PhD at another university often wears red lipstick to teach, and describes her professional aesthetic as "high performance femme." For my part, I feel a little self-conscious when my students see me with bold colors on my face. It's all about individual taste.

At the same time, I don't like wearing "no-makeup makeup" (or, you know, no makeup) while teaching. I've always looked fairly young for my age, and the less makeup I wear, the younger I look. I find that lipstick in particular helps me appear more mature, since none of my students wear it (some do wear eye makeup, however). So my favorite teaching lipsticks are not screaming fuchsias, but they're not sheer nudes, either. Anything in the plum/rose range works, and there are a couple of clear pinks that I'll wear in spring as well. Here's a sampling of the lipstick shades I'm most likely to wear in class:


Left to right: Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR, NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy, Topshop Lip Bullet in Motel, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture, MAC Satin Lipstick in Pink Nouveau, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see how well-loved these shades are.

Swatches, same order, in indirect natural light:


In direct sunlight:


Not all of these stay pristine through 50 minutes of conversation, but if they do fade, they fade evenly and unobtrusively. Note also that I'm a little more playful with my makeup when I'm not the one doing the instruction. If I'm attending an academic talk, I might wear a bright color like NARS Angela or a fairly vampy one like Topshop Get Me Bodied, or I might do something interesting with my eye makeup instead. There's something I like about having mild rules and restrictions placed on the makeup I wear every day; it makes me more attuned to shading and placement and less reliant on a simple bold lip or eye. Here's a characteristic teaching face from last semester, feat. Rapture:


Edit, 2/22: Here's a more spring-inflected face, featuring some of my oldest favorites: NARS Lhasa eyeshadow and Mata Hari blush along with MAC Pink Nouveau. I'm also wearing a new mascara, Revlon Super Length. I've been using it for just a few days, but so far it seems to be a good (possibly better!) substitute for my discontinued HG, CoverGirl LashBlast Length.


By the way, sorry I haven't been around much; the semester is already busy and we're only three weeks in. But I am playing with some new ColourPop makeup at the moment, so expect reviews soon! Here's my haul, arranged in a fashion that I only just realized might be a tad suggestive:


Yes, I finally own a true purple blush! Exciting.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fun with Glitter Topcoats: Essie, Floss Gloss, Urban Outfitters, Zoya

Like many of us, I go through polish phases. Sometimes I prefer neutral cremes, sometimes bright pastels, sometimes dark shimmers. The category I'm most fickle about, though, is the glitter topcoat. I've accumulated quite a few over the years (so pretty in the bottle!), but I usually find it hard to wear glitter on ordinary occasions without feeling either childish or inappropriately festive. Recently, though, I've entered something of a glitter phase.


Carolina and I have discussed the temptation to buy glitter during difficult emotional periods, and I think that's part of the reason I've worn so much sparkly nail polish since the late fall. It's brutally cold outside, I'm on the academic job market, I don't know where I'll even be living in six months—glitter makes it all a bit more tolerable. Yes, gross materialism and all that, but there's nothing wrong with making your aesthetic environment a little prettier to counteract whatever else is going on in your life. In that spirit, I thought I'd do a roundup post of the glitter topcoats and color combos I've been enjoying recently! Left to right: Floss Gloss Dimepiece, Urban Outfitters 11:59, Essie Summit of Style, Zoya FeiFei.


The polish that sparked my glitter phase was FeiFei (named after the stunning Chinese model Fei Fei Sun), which I picked up in October on a Whole Foods run. Nail polish counts as "groceries" if you're also buying carrots and almond milk, right? According to Zoya's website, FeiFei "can be best described as a medium steel blue base with heavy gold and blue iridescent metallic sparkle." I always get a chuckle from Zoya's unnecessary "[shade] can be best described as" phrase. Surely the mere fact that they're using that description indicates that they think it's the best one? For that matter, I don't think that is the best description for FeiFei, which also contains pink and green sparkle that creates a duochrome (trichrome? tetrachrome?) effect in sunlight. You can really see the pink shift here:


And the huge flecks of gold here:


FeiFei is not marketed as a topcoat: Zoya rates its coverage 5 on an opacity scale of 1 (sheer) to 5 (opaque). So you can imagine my disappointment when I applied three layers of FeiFei and ended up with this:



It's pretty enough, but I was expecting a deep jeweled effect, and this was sheer, watery, and practically pastel. Had I not been on my no-buy, I would probably have sought out a more opaque version of FeiFei; instead, I had to make do with layering, and I'm very glad I did. It turns out that FeiFei is the perfect topcoat for any dark, cool-toned creme-finish polish. Green, gray, blue, black—one coat of FeiFei transforms them all into a dark, complex blackened teal with a prominent gold shift. L-R: FeiFei, Essie Stylenomics, Topshop Wardrobe.


The first combo I tried was FeiFei over Stylenomics, a near-black forest green.


This combination lasted four or five days (a century by my standards), but full disclosure: it also stained my nails yellow. I was shocked: I'd used a base coat, and neither FeiFei on its own nor Stylenomics on its own had ever stained my nails. The only thing I can think of is that FeiFei made Stylenomics last longer than usual, and the duration caused the staining. Or maybe green nail polish stains more with age? Ugh.

A less ill-fated combination: FeiFei over Topshop Wardrobe, a dark navy. Surprise: it looks exactly the same as FeiFei + Stylenomics. Wardrobe applies nicely but also chips very quickly. I have yet to be truly impressed with a Topshop creme polish.



In more direct sunlight, the FeiFei + Wardrobe combo looks slightly bluer:


Next in my series of glitter discoveries was Floss Gloss Dimepiece, a fine silver holographic glitter. 


Despite its clear base, Dimepiece can be built up to near-opacity with three coats, but I tried that and hated the way it looked. I know, right? It was just a little too flashy, and the cool silver against my pinkish skin produced the dreaded lobster-hands effect. For my next attempt, I layered it over Essie Chinchilly, a medium gray with a hint of lavender:



I used one coat of Dimepiece on the outer half of each nail, and was delighted with the result:



In artificial light:


FeiFei and Dimepiece are both relatively fine glitters, but I've also developed a thing for chunkier glitter topcoats, especially over similar-colored creme bases. I don't wear them often now that the semester has started and I'm teaching again, but they're fun for the weekend (god I sound old), and I also like trying to make them as professionalesque as possible. The closest I've come is Essie Summit of Style, a cool-toned gold glitter, over Revlon Elegant, a taupe nude that I wear often in the winter. Essie's Luxeffects topcoats have a dense concentration of small and large glitter in a clear base; there's no need to fish in the bottle for extra glitter, but the tradeoff is that they do dry up more quickly than most glitters.



Finally, my most recent polish purchase: Urban Outfitters 11:59. It's $5 on the website, but it was marked down to $.99 when I bought it. I don't see many people talking about Urban Outfitters nail polishes, and I confess I haven't been impressed with their cremes, but I really like this glitter topcoat. It features different sizes of white, gold, and fuchsia glitter in a clear base; I have to do a bit of strategic dabbing to get decent coverage, but it's also relatively easy to build up the glitter to near-opacity, as shown here:


Chinchilly shows its versatility once again as a base for 11:59:



More recently, I made the happy discovery that the magenta glitters are an almost perfect match for the rich magenta of OPI Ate Berries in the Canaries...


...and layered the two for my Valentine's Day manicure:


Happy Valentine's Day to you all! I hope it's warmer than 3°F where you live.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Changes to Revlon Balm Stain, Lacquer Balm, and Matte Balm Lineups

After reviewing Revlon's newish Matte Balm in Fierce, I realized that I hadn't yet seen a comprehensive roundup of the recent changes to the popular Balm Stain, Lacquer Balm, and Matte Balm lines. So I returned to my local CVS today to do some reconnaissance, and here's what I discovered:


Revlon is now referring to its Colorburst Balm Stains, Lacquer Balms, and Matte Balms as the "Revlon Crayon Collection." Instead of being separated by finish, the three lipstick ranges are all jumbled together on the shelf and arranged roughly by color instead. There are now ten Matte Balms, eight Balm Stains, and just four Lacquer Balms. That "new shades" boast is hilariously misleading—far more shades have been discontinued than added, and the new additions are all in the Matte Balm line.

The current lineup of nudes and pinks (again, these are the Balm Stains, Lacquer Balms, and Matte Balms):

L-R: Enchanting, Demure, Elusive, Honey, Cherish, Sweetheart, Showy.

The current lineup of plums, oranges, reds, and browns:

L-R: Passionate, Smitten, Crush (though that's actually a tube of Unapologetic), Fiery, Sultry, Standout, Rendezvous, Unapologetic, Striking, Provocateur, Romantic, Enticing, Adore, Fierce, Coy.

The shades that have escaped the purge, listed by finish:

Balm Stains:
Adore
Cherish
Crush
Honey
Rendezvous
Romantic
Smitten
Sweetheart

Lacquer Balms:
Coy
Demure
Enticing
Provocateur

Matte Balms:
Elusive
Enchanting (new)
Fierce (new)
Fiery (new)
Passionate (new)
Showy
Standout
Striking
Sultry
Unapologetic

This means that Revlon has discontinued the following shades:

Balm Stains: Charm, Darling, Lovesick, Precious (I know some of these were discontinued less recently, but I'm not sure which ones)

Lacquer Balms: Coquette, Flirtatious, Ingenue, Tease, Vivacious, Whimsical

Matte Balms: Audacious, Complex, Mischievous, Shameless

Why the sudden changes? Well, here's a clue. Revlon has been struggling financially for years. The brand expanded into China in 2013 (thus losing its longtime cruelty-free status), but pulled out of the Chinese market by the end of the year. This Forbes article notes that Revlon reported revenues of $2 billion in 2014, as opposed to $10 billion for Estee Lauder and $30 billion for L'Oreal. Color cosmetics is not Revlon's only concern, but it's the most public, and we've seen Revlon introducing and discontinuing products like mad in the last year or two. The Matte and Lacquer Balms were only just released in the fall of 2013! Every beauty brand does this sort of thing occasionally (Bite Beauty has just discontinued its entire Luminous Creme line, for instance), but Revlon's products have seemed particularly prone to upheaval recently. I'm curious what will happen to the brand going forward, and whether we'll see more discontinuations this year. I'm not above stockpiling Sultry if I have to.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce

I kept reasonably good tabs on new makeup releases last fall (self-destructively good tabs, even), but there were a few that escaped my notice. One new development was the addition of four shades to Revlon's line of Colorburst Matte Balms. The new colors are Enchanting, a pinkish beige; Fierce, a warm cinnamon brown; Fiery, a reddish berry; and Passionate, a purplish berry. The new additions make sense to me, since the Matte Balm line has always been short on neutral shades, but Revlon also discontinued a few colors to make room for the new ones. Dark purple Shameless and bright orange Audacious are missing from the website, and I've heard that pastel orange Mischievous is gone too, along with a few of the Lacquer Balms (my beloved Coy is safe for now).

Though I much prefer brown and berry lipstick to orange, it's always bittersweet to see color trends change. Remember when orange and coral were the trendy lipstick colors? When I first started paying attention to makeup, in the spring of 2011, all the beauty sites were singing the praises of orange as a more playful alternative to red. One of the first lipsticks I ever bought was Revlon Orange Flip. The original Matte Balm lineup featured three shades of orange. And now all you hear about is taupe, greige, and mauve (and soon, no doubt, other muddy portmanteaus like "grauve" and "maupe"), and meanwhile 99% of the world goes on its way completely unaware of these revolutions in taste. "You told me that brown lipstick was back," said a friend recently, "but I have yet to see anyone actually wearing it." Frankly, I'm not sure I have, either. It's hard to argue that a color is "back" when your only evidence is in cyberspace. Well, here's yet more online evidence:


I was excited to hear about the new Matte Balms last month, because I'd had my eye out for a '90s reddish brown for some time. I couldn't find many swatches of Fierce, let alone full reviews, but I had reasonably high hopes for the formula: the best Matte Balms seemed to be the medium-saturation reddish shades like Sultry, Standout, and Unapologetic, and Fierce was another such color. So I searched in vain for my CVS coupon for $2 off a $10 Revlon purchase, cursed the forces of entropy that have always governed and will always govern my living space, and paid over $11 for a lipstick that goes for less than $7 at Target. Whatever.


Instagram types love to refer to their beloved greige lipstick as "'90s" or "grunge," but trendy grayish taupes like MAC Stone are very mid-2010s. Most brown lipsticks in the '90s had a healthy dose of red or rose. To quote Cindy Crawford's 1996 makeup book: "The most flattering lipsticks bear some resemblance to your natural lipsnudes, roses, berries, and soft browns." That's soft browns, not purplish-gray zombie browns or almost-black browns. But it's interesting that most of us have this impulse to situate our makeup within a historical tradition. We don't want to admit to making things up as we go; we describe our looks as "mod" or "vintage" or "grunge" even when we're being thoroughly 2016.

Writing this, I'm reminded of the historian D. R. Woolf's reflections on historical thought in 17th-century England. (Can you tell I just turned in a dissertation chapter and am trying to decompress by blogging about lipstick?) "To suggest that something was an improvement was, generally speaking, insufficient," Woolf writes; "it had to be shown as a manifest return to a socially sanctioned past whose authenticity was not in doubt." I think our culture still retains this impulse, whether in politics or in makeup. I know I do; there's something comforting about feeling connected to the past, if only by a lipstick color (see also Essie's "Retro Revival" collection in honor of its 35th anniversary). I was eight for most of 1996, so forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think Fierce is the most truly mid-'90s of all the brown lipsticks I've tried. And I've tried an embarrassing number in the past year.


It turns out that Fierce is not quite as opaque as Sultry. This is one swipe; I find that I need two for full lip coverage, but no big deal. And speaking of an embarrassing number of brown lipsticks...


...these are just my medium browns. L-R: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, Fierce, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy, Topshop Lip Bullet in Motel. Fierce and Crazy for Coffee look almost identical when swatched on my arm, but Fierce is much more of a statement lip for me (especially when built up with two coats), while Crazy for Coffee is a deep MLBB. I've never been crazy for Crazy for Coffee: it washes me out a bit, and I think I'll be destashing it now that Fierce has made it somewhat redundant.

Under artificial light, for differences in finish:


Fierce is the matte-est of the four, but like the other Matte Balms I've tried, it's not completely matte: it has a slight sheen when first applied, and it does transfer onto cups. If you're looking for a flat, transfer-proof matte brown, feel free to pick up one of the 938,574 brown liquid matte lipsticks released in the last year. Fierce isn't terribly long-wearing, either—maybe three hours before it needs to be touched up, which is about average for me.

Here's two coats applied over a bit of balm; as you can see, we're far outside MLBB territory. Fierce is one of those shades that just suit me; any lighter or warmer and it would look terrible, but through some trick of undertone, it escapes disaster.


And here it is in the context of my whole face. Three shades from theBalm Nude 'tude on my eyes: Stubborn (shimmery neutral pink) all over the lid, Sexy (matte burgundy) on the outer third and in the crease, and Sophisticated (shimmery cool brown) on the lower lashlines. I've been diligently wearing Nude 'tude several times a week but have yet to hit pan on any new shades, which feels unfair. My blush is Sleek Flushed; one day I'll wear enough blush that it will actually be visible in a photo, and then we'll all celebrate.


I rediscover cool pink makeup every February without fail, so I'm not sure how much more wear Fierce will get before spring sets in. In fact, I've already paid a visit to my local Bluemercury to swatch two NARS cool pinks: Gaiety blush (left) and Roman Holiday sheer lipstick.


Then again, I've been enjoying this brown-lipstick phase, so you might see Fierce in a few more FOTDs before the weather warms up. Brown lipstick is back, right? Or has the entire Internet pulled a massive prank on me?