Friday, May 6, 2016

Glossier Grab Bag: Generation G in Cake, Balm Dotcom, Face Mask Duo, and Priming Moisturizer

At this time two months ago, I had no firsthand knowledge of Glossier. I've now tried seven different Glossier products, at no cost to myself and with no affiliation with the brand, because I'm lucky and people are nice. I've already reviewed two of those products, Generation G in Jam and Boy Brow in Brown; today I'm going to give you mini-reviews of all the other products.

First, though, a caveat. I rarely blog (or read) about skincare for the same reason that I rarely blog or read about perfume: everyone's experience of these things is so personal that I'm not sure how much my opinion on a moisturizer or mask will benefit anyone else. Yes, I can specify that my skin is on the dry side of normal, but that doesn't mean that other dry-skinned people will love my skincare staples. There are so many other factors at work: climate, allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients, etc. I just don't want to give anyone hives, you know? Plus, I'm not the most informed source. I don't know a lot about skincare because I don't do a lot of research on skincare because, honestly, I find it kind of boring unless it's a Korean sheet mask with a cat face on it. There, I said it. Either a product works for me or it doesn't, and if it works for me, it may or may not work for you. I also don't like the magical thinking encouraged by skincare brands (omg antioxidants!), or the fearmongering that happens in certain skincare-focused circles, as if your entire epidermis will melt if your face comes within two feet of a lavender plant. I'd rather just think about lipstick.

So here's a compromise: a skincare post because most beauty junkies don't share my weird distaste for reading about skincare, plus a lipstick review to keep me happy. Today we're looking at Glossier's Balm Dotcom, Priming Moisturizer, mask duo (Mega Greens Galaxy Pack and Moisturizing Moon Mask), and Generation G lipstick in Cake. The moisturizer was a sample that came with Cake and Boy Brow, and the masks were the mini pods from last year's holiday set: mythofmirth sent me three of each kind. The pods are supposed to be single-use, but I got about two and a half uses from each (granted, I have a pretty small face).


L-R: Generation G in Cake, Moisturizing Moon Mask, Balm Dotcom.

 Generation G Lipstick in Cake ($18 for 0.04 oz/1.14 g):


Glossier describes its two lighter Generation G lipsticks, Cake and Like, as shades that "subtly enhance your natural lip tone." Cake, however, is a warm peachy beige that's a far cry from my natural pink-mauve lip color. There's almost no pink in it at all. On my lips, Cake is not a nude or an MLBB but a muted, toasty peach that contrasts with my coolish undertones and feels very '60s. I'm into it.


One layer of Cake on the left, three on the right—not much difference, as you can see:


L-R: Milani Matte Naked, Maybelline Nude Lust, Cake x 1, Cake x 3, NYX Butter Gloss in Tiramisu:


Top, my natural lips; bottom, my lips with a few coats of Cake. Honestly, I don't apply discrete layers of the Generation Gs so much as I rub them back and forth across my lips until the opacity is to my liking. 


In my review of Jam, I shared my detailed thoughts about the Generation G lipstick formula, but here's the concise version: it's a sheer matte formula that looks like a lip tint (it won't hide the texture of your lips at all) but fades as quickly as your average sheer lipstick. With a few coats, even Cake can be built up to a fairly intense color (see above), but it's never going to be fully opaque. I don't find the Generation Gs to be either drying or moisturizing, despite Glossier's comparison of the lipstick to "a tinted balm." There's a faint smell/taste that reminds me of clay, but I don't find it unpleasant.

Here's how it looks in context. I'm wearing my Inglot eyeshadow duo here, plus Sleek Life's a Peach blush to warm up my complexion:


A more recent look, with theBalm Stubborn (frosty pink) and Sexy (matte burgundy) on my eyes, NARS Mata Hari blush and ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter on my cheeks—if you're going to act like winter, May, I'm going to wear my winter makeup:


Cake hasn't altered my overall opinion of the Generation G lipsticks: they're not for everyone, but I quite like them, despite the ridiculous pricing per ounce. I hope Glossier expands the shade range eventually: I'd love to see a true brown, a bright purple, or a coral.

Balm Dotcom ($12 for 0.5 fl oz/15 ml)


Glossier markets this balm as a "universal skin salve" that moisturizes lips, cuticles, and elbows and can even work as a luminizer for cheekbones. I have very dry lips and cuticles, so I was excited to try Balm Dotcom, but it wasn't at all what I expected. BDC is an extremely thick balm containing petrolatum (good old Vaseline), lanolin (sheep wax, basically), castor oil, and some extracts that supposedly have antioxidant powers. It's hard to squeeze this balm out of the tube, let alone persuade it to absorb into my lips. It sits on top of my mouth instead, imparting a whitish cast, and it doesn't seem to have much longevity: it vanishes when I eat or drink. Balm Dotcom is unscented, but it does have a distinct petrolatum smell (though there's also a coconut variety for which Glossier had to do a photoshoot in Tulum because of course).

Balm Dotcom isn't the worst lip balm I've ever tried—it doesn't dry out my lips further, for instance—but it's much thicker than I prefer. It works well to moisturize my cuticles, but leaves my fingers feeling greasier than my trusty Burt's Bees cuticle cream does. I haven't tried using BDC as a luminizer, but it seems too dense for that; I'd rather smear some rose Vaseline on my cheeks and be done with it.
 
Mega Greens Galaxy Pack

Yes, you've seen this photo before.

This light clay-based mask is one of my favorite Glossier products. Unlike other clay masks I've tried, the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack has the fluffy texture of whipped cream cheese, and some of it gets absorbed into the skin as it's worn. Here it is freshly applied, right, and after 20 minutes, left:




Glossier describes this mask as "a juice cleanse for your face," which...whatever, I kind of tune out Glossier's marketing claims at this point. The Galaxy Pack contains a "superfruit antioxidant blend," because the benefits of putting antioxidant-rich foods on your skin for 20 minutes have been demonstrated in multiple peer-reviewed journals, OH WAIT. But even if you're a snarky bitch like me and you roll your eyes at Glossier's mentions of açaí and bilberry extracts, you might end up liking Mega Greens. Because it's lighter than most kaolin-based masks, it doesn't dry out my face, but it does minimize the look of my pores (no, there's no product that can "shrink" your pores), and it leaves my skin feeling softer and cleaner than before. It has a pale green color and a light herbal scent, and there's a pronounced tingling, cooling sensation when the mask goes on, though that fades after a few minutes. As an adherent of the "hurts so good" school, I quite like that sensation, but I know it's not for everyone.

My one major objection to this mask: the random bits of orange peel scattered throughout. Glossier claims that they exfoliate the face, but they're too big to be effective exfoliating particles, and citrus is a known skin irritant. I'm considering buying a full-sized tub of the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, but I'd welcome any other suggestions for clay masks that aren't too drying.

Moisturizing Moon Mask:


I'll be honest, this mask confuses me. The website copy implies that it's a 20-minute wash-off mask just like the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, but it looks, feels, and acts like a thick moisturizer. Its key ingredients include hyaluronic acid, shea butter, honey, and aloe; it also contains lemon extract for "brightening," though I've heard from multiple sources that lemon should never go near the face. I've used this mask all of five times, so I'm not worried, but I'd think twice before using it as a nightly moisturizer, which some people seem to do. The Moon Mask has the consistency of yogurt, and most of it absorbs into the skin soon after application. This suggests to me that it's closer to a "sleeping pack" than it is to your typical wash-off mask. For curiosity's sake, I've used it both ways: a light layer as a night moisturizer and a slightly heavier layer as a 20-minute mask. As a leave-on moisturizer, it left my skin hydrated, but no more so than my usual CeraVe PM does. Applied more heavily, it had a pronounced cooling effect, but felt uncomfortably greasy until I removed it. I did like how my skin felt once I'd washed off the mask, but eh, I could say the same about most masks I've tried.

Overall, I feel lukewarm about the Moon Mask. Since I'm satisfied with my current moisturizing products, it doesn't really have a place in my skincare routine, and the presence of lemon in the ingredients list doesn't thrill me.

Priming Moisturizer (sample size):
 
You've seen this photo, too.

This sample packet of moisturizer came with my Boy Brow and Cake lipstick. It's a thin, runny moisturizer that's supposed to prime skin for makeup, specifically Glossier's Perfecting Skin Tint or another kind of base makeup. Since I don't wear base makeup, I just slapped on the Priming Moisturizer a few minutes before applying my sunscreen. Honestly, I don't have much to say about it, positive or negative. Yes, it gave my skin that dewy Glossier finish, but so would any light moisturizer. It also made my skin feel a bit greasy, and I have fairly dry skin. Damn, writing about moisturizer is boring.

By the way, I discovered on my trip to New York last month that Glossier has absolutely plastered the downtown subway trains with ads. I wonder how much those ads cost and why they couldn't have used some of that money to make better lipstick tubes, but if I knew anything about marketing I wouldn't be a literature grad student.



Finally, a word about the snarky tone of my Glossier reviews. Most of the Glossier products I've tried are solid, and I have no judgment for people who love the brand and the aesthetic it puts forth. Hell, I like that aesthetic myself. But I can't help but roll my eyes when Glossier touts itself as "the beauty brand that wants to be friends with you—mostly because we’re not so much a brand as we are real people over here just trying to rethink the beauty industry and have a good time doing it." That is such obvious pandering, guys. They're not your friends; they're trying to sell you stuff. We live in a culture that conflates commerce with friendship and corporations with people, and that's a real problem. It cheapens the idea of friendship and makes brands less accountable to their customers. You shouldn't feel obligated to be as nice and considerate to Glossier as you are to your loved ones. If Emily Weiss is your friend, she's that long-lost high-school friend who shills Younique mascara on Facebook, not someone who will go for a bubble tea with you and listen to your relationship problems.

If this aspect of Glossier's brand identity weren't so strongly articulated, I wouldn't mention it or poke fun at it. But Glossier grew out of a blog, and now Into the Gloss wants to have it both ways: the profit margins of a successful beauty brand and the goodwill of a community of loyal blog readers. Hence ITG's habit of deleting polite but critical comments or delaying posting them for several days. If ITG were a personal blog, I wouldn't care about that; but it's not just a blog anymore, or even a beauty site. It's a vehicle for Glossier, which means that its readers are now potential consumers, not potential friends. There's a difference, and we need to keep that difference in mind, because we're more than what we buy. That's all.

24 comments:

  1. I love everything about this review, but I especially like that you separate the brand's packaging and marketing from the products and their performance/quality. Admittedly, I enjoy Glossier's packaging and aesthetic, but I think it's important to take a critical look at the products and their actual value, which you've done really well (and objectively).

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    1. I think it's especially important to make that distinction for a brand like Glossier, which relies so heavily on the aura it's created. I mean, every brand has (or tries to have) a distinct identity, but the powers that be at Glossier seem to devote an unusual amount of energy to brand identity and coherence. Which isn't a bad thing, necessarily! But a strong aesthetic can obscure the actual faults and merits of the products. (Milk Makeup is another good example of this.)

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    2. Yes! I think so much of Glossier and Milk Makeup's value or appeal is based on its identity and its image, rather than how the product performs or the value in terms of the amount of product you get. So, if a person feels like paying more (at least compared to comparable products from other brands) for Glossier/Milk/etc products, then that's totally cool! But it's important to remember that this is a brand whose selling point is the aura/identity.

      Also, somewhat of a tangent, but my favorite clay mask is from Kiehl's (the Rare Earth mask). It's not overly thick, and even when it dries down it doesn't fully set or become plaster-like or anything. Bentonite clay is one of the main ingredients, and I find that bentonite clay does wonders for my skin (my main skin issue is clogged pores though, so YMMV).

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  2. I'll refrain from chiming in with the Glossier peanut gallery this time.

    RE: clay masks, I really like Freeman's Avocado and Oatmeal mask, which I know Lyn loves as well because I bought it on her recommendation. It's a more standard grey clay mask, and it is designed for oilier rather than drier skin, but I don't personally find it drying. Have you ever tried Boscia masks? They're the peely variety rather than clay, but I really, really like the green tea one, and it has a nice cooling effect.

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    1. Ooh, I haven't tried either of those, but I'll check them out! I vaguely remember considering buying a Freeman mask from Ulta, but I didn't for some reason.

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  3. Conflating custom with friendship is a huge problem in the indie world. I don't want to be friends with the people who make my cosmetics. I pay them, they give me highlighter in exchange. The end. And while I might even be friendly with some brand owners because I used to be more into the reddit indie community, at the end of the day, we have a business relationship and that's all.

    I was kind of mildly interested in the universal skin salve, but I think I'll stick with my pawpaw ointment. Cake is super pretty, though. I was skeptical of it when I first saw it, but it looks quite nice.

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    1. It does seem that the smaller the company, the more blurry the boundaries. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather support small companies than huge conglomerates like L'Oreal, but at least L'Oreal doesn't pretend to be my BFF.

      I was surprised by how much I liked Cake, since those peachy beige nudes rarely look good on me! It helps that it's sheer.

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  4. I'm so glad one of the masks worked out for you! There's something in it that made my face get really angry for a few hours after using it (likely the orange peel, but a lot of things irritate my skin...)

    I have so many (mostly) unorganized thoughts about their whole marketing gimmick and companies that conflate commerce with friendship as you said. I guess It's good that they seem to listen to their readership and create products that people actually want, but it's also cynical/creepy that in hindsight ITG seems to have been created in order to have a built-in customer base/market research group for Glossier when it was time to launch. I tell myself that as long as I recognize I'm being played, then it's okay since I'm in on it, but... it still feels kinda gross. (When I met Emily Weiss at an event in Atlanta a few months ago, I told her how poorly my skin reacted to the Galaxy Greens mask. I wasn't an ass about it since it was just my experience, but I thought if she's really wanting to hear what we think about the line, she needs to hear the bad stuff, too.)

    I think in general the products are mostly pretty good, but if I lost all my makeup/skincare in a horrible accident or whatever insane scenario I could dream up, I doubt I would be rushing out to repurchase any of them. They're great as supplements, but they don't do the heavy lifting for me.

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    1. I'd say both of the masks worked for me, just one worked better than the other! Thanks so much for sending them. :)

      I'd actually be surprised if Emily had had Glossier in mind when she launched ITG, given that social-media-driven beauty brands just weren't a thing in 2010 the way they are now. That said, I do find it disturbing that ITG's readership has become a market research group for Glossier, and that so many readers seem to love giving their opinions on their ideal cleanser or SPF moisturizer. I get that there's something cool about feeling like you have input on the development of a product, but like...most companies PAY for this sort of input, don't they? Last year I got an email from ITG to the effect that because I was a regular commenter, they'd like to talk to me on the phone for 30 minutes about the website. No compensation, not even a bit of Glossier store credit, for 30 minutes of my time. They've brainwashed people into thinking it's a privilege to give them free ideas for product development. It's kind of gross.

      I have the same overall opinion of the brand: it's not all hype, to be sure, but I can't see any of the Glossier products I've tried becoming an absolute staple for me. I'm curious about Milky Jelly, though!

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    2. I got an email last week from Glossier asking me to post about my natural beauty routine (?) and mention the brand and link to them. Just because? They are my close friends asking me for a favor? I don't even use their products! So not just free product development--they are trying to get free advertising from people too.

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    3. OH WAIT I forgot about Boy Brow. I do love Boy Brow and will probably repurchase it when it's gone.

      What the fuck, dude, that is really bizarre. And insulting. What blogger would actually do that?!

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  5. I'm having a tricky time quantifying why I find Glossier so irritating, but I really do. I'm sure it's a combination of factors like their natural/messy aesthetic combined with pricing combined with packaging... overall, something feels very insincere to me.
    But on the other hand, Colourpop makes up a significant portion of my makeup collection, and the brands do share some similarities (like you've mentioned in past posts). I think the difference for me is that none of Glossier's products stand out, while CP has stuff I actively want for a better price point, which allows me to look past some of their more annoying attributes.
    On a slightly more topical note, though, Cake is cute and I like that you brought up the lines between friendship and consumership that can be so easily blurred by things like social media. I'll have to give that some more thought as I scroll though Instagram tonight.

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    1. Yeah, I tend to give CP more of a pass because of their price point and interesting selection, which is weird because Glossier's aesthetic appeals more to me than CP's does! And makeup is a lot easier to produce than skincare, so I respect Glossier for taking on skincare first. I think I've just had more time to get sick of Glossier because I've read ITG for so many years! And because Glossier likes to market itself as a complete skincare/makeup regimen, when we all know perfectly well that people like Emily Weiss supplement Glossier with products and treatments out of most people's budgets. Maybe that's where the insincerity you've detected is coming from?

      I'm kind of delighted that my posts have brought so many Glossier skeptics out of the woodwork! It's nice to know I wasn't the only one. I don't hate the brand, but I think it's important to strip away the hype and assess the actual products.

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  6. Don't care enough about Glossier to comment about it but I do want to comment that you look great with the Inglot + Cake combo. In fact, I think you ought to use your Inglot eyeshadows more often.

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    1. Thanks! I do tend to neglect my Inglot duo for whatever reason, even though I love both of the colors.

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  7. This post and many of the comments hit the nail on the head for me when it comes to how I feel about Glossier. I think they have provided something unique for the Millenial set (which I am apparently a part of but don't feel like it) that thinks everything in Sephora or the department store is for old ladies. Which might explain why at the end of the day, the products, in my opinion, are not particularly stand out or revolutionary. I like the Skin Tint - but there are multiple tinted moisturizers out there that do the same thing (and arguably, more). Milky Jelly is interesting, but not where-has-this-been-my-entire-life. I guess you could say the same about most products out there. However, as an avid beauty consumer, the marketing on those products doesn't bother me much - Glossier's does. Maybe it just seems to trying too hard or maybe for this aging Millenial, it's a little been-there-done-that - not very game-changing or revolutionary at all.

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    1. I'm told I'm a millennial too, but stuff like Glossier simply didn't exist when I was growing up, which means I'm more skeptical of it now. Beauty brands have always tried to create hype around their products, but the hype is so much more pervasive now because of social media, and that really blurs the boundaries between friendship and commerce. No matter how tempting a magazine ad is, it's obviously an ad, whereas a brand's Instagram or Snapchat account occupies a gray area. I follow real-life friends AND beauty brands on Instagram: that's weird, when you think about it. If Glossier is game-changing, the game it's changing is the game of beauty marketing; the game of product development and innovation is secondary.

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  8. I was looking for Glossier reviews and this is the best I've read so far. So honest and also funny! :) I like the way you write and tell things. I agree with you 100%, and I didn't know that ITG deletes negative comments, now I understaund why it was impossible to find a bad thing about Glossier on the net!

    Btw, following you right now :))))

    Kisses from Spain!

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  9. Found myself nodding through the whole intro and the last two paragraphs. But sometimes I wish I could just lap up all these marketing stunts, and not think that there's trickery about them. Maybe that would make me a happier beauty product-loving person. Unfortunately, I just can't not think that way.

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  10. Great reviews, thank you. I too am fascinated by the transition from blog to beauty corporation. What I do think is problematic is that often their Facebook ads and other ads target young women only. ("Stop raiding you mom's serum.) They seem not to be interested in those of us who are not 25. Which is a challenge because women over 25 generally have more money to spend. And want things like better packaging, etc

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    1. It's especially weird because ITG has done so many amazing interviews with older women, even after launching Glossier. And yet their advertising inevitably features dewy 19-year-olds. Which is fine, but I'd love to see some dewy 30- and 60-somethings too, you know?

      I've actually been assuming that Glossier's target audience is mid-20s to early 30s, in the age range of Emily Weiss and her colleagues (and me). Old enough to worry about things like anti-aging, but mostly not affluent enough to afford the really luxurious stuff. In any case, your point still stands: they're fetishizing youth in a creepy, problematic way (their models certainly aren't in their 30s) and overlooking lots of potential customers.

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  11. I drink their koolaid so bad even though I know it's marketing. What speaks to me is not so much the BFF vibe though but the more minimalist look. I'm so sick of contouring and caked on foundation and Instagram brows and find it refreshing to see a more "natural" look promoted even though I know that cake is a lie too. But I've been pretty disappointed with the products of theirs I've tried other than the brow stuff. The generation g has been reformulated and I kinda want to give cake a try again because I did love the color but found it drying on my lips.

    Anyway, I found your snark delightful and spot on.

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    1. Glad you didn't think the snark was out of line! For what it's worth, I'm also sick of Instagram makeup, and my personal makeup style leans closer to Glossier than, say, Jeffree Star. I love makeup that looks a little messy and lived-in. But I don't want everything on my face to be sheer and dewy, either. I suppose that's one of the reasons NARS is my favorite brand: it promotes an aesthetic that falls somewhere between ultra-minimalist and ultra-done.

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