Sunday, January 31, 2016

From the Archives: Maybelline Color Tattoo in Pomegranate Punk

Last summer, while working in the university archives, I wrote a post about some treasures I'd unearthed from the "archives" of my own makeup collection. In the spirit of my 2016 low-buy, I've decided to turn "From the Archives" into an ongoing, if not regular, series. Let's get better acquainted with a product I wrote about back in 2014 (yikes, those washed-out iPhone 5 photos): Maybelline Color Tattoo cream eyeshadow in Pomegranate Punk. Is there anything better than discovering an eyeshadow that forms a complete eye look on its own? Yes, in fact: discovering that eyeshadow in your very own stash, where it's languished, largely untouched, for more than two years.


I often wonder how much thought goes into naming drugstore beauty products. My guess is almost none: Right, it's dark red. What else is dark red? Uh, pomegranates. Okay, let's go with "Pomegranate" something. What else begins with P? "Pretzel"? Damn, I'm hungry. How is it only 10:30? Focus, focus. "Punk," I guess. "Pomegranate Punk"? Yeah, good enough. But believe it or not, "punk" is actually a perfect name for an eyeshadow. Did you know that the word originally meant "whore"? 17th-century literature is littered with references to London "punks" who frequent taverns and playhouses, and whores were often associated with "painting," or cosmetics: The Rebellion, a tragedy from 1640, mentions "the whoremaster tied to a painted punk." And there's something rather 17th-century about Pomegranate Punk's little glass pot and its gold-flecked bordeaux color:


This Restoration noblewoman is wearing very similar shades on her lips and cheeks, as well as in her clothes:

Anna Maria Brudenell, Countess of Shrewsbury, by Peter Lely, c. 1670. That lip color would fit right in with current trends...

And of course early modern painters loved pomegranates:

Still life, Roman school, 17th century. Via Sotheby's.

Yeah, all this is a stretch. But it's less of a stretch than associating a burgundy eyeshadow with the Sex Pistols or whatever.

Arm swatches--one pass, then blended out:


As you can see, this eyeshadow doesn't deliver ColourPop-level single-swatch opacity (keep in mind, though, that it's over two years old). Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on your personal taste. As I've said before, I prefer an eyeshadow that can be built up to opacityand no, that's not the same thing as a streaky, patchy, or poorly pigmented eyeshadow.

I bought Pomegranate Punk at the end of 2013, but only recently—like, in the last few weeks—figured out how best to use it: as a one-and-done color, blended out for a rose-gold effect or built up to emphasize the burgundy base. Here it is worn more sheerly, with some brown smudged into my lashlines to counteract the rabbit-eye effect of reddish shadow. Blush is Sleek Flushed; lipstick is Milani Matte Naked, my favorite (well, only) matte nude.




Today I wore Pomegranate Punk layered more heavily, with no brown on the lashlines. Blush is Flushed again; lipstick is Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce (review coming soon!). I took this photo with the back-facing camera on my phone instead of the front-facing camera, and it came out clearer and more color-accurate (the front-facing camera always pulls my complexion warmer, for some reason). As you can see, the sparkles are very apparent. There's some fallout, but the cream base does a pretty good job of holding the glitter in place, as well as staying put on my lids. I've worn Pomegranate Punk through a workout and seen only negligible fading.


Have you made any discoveries in your makeup archives recently?

P.S. It turns out that my low-buy progress report for January was premature, because I bought one more nail polish yesterday: Urban Outfitters 11:59, a white, fuchsia, and gold glitter topcoat. I'd been eyeing it since November, and yesterday I noticed that it had been marked down from $5 to $.99 and there was only one left on the shelf. I mean, come on. It would have been rude to leave it there.


The name suggests that it's meant to be a New Year's Eve sort of thing, but I think 11:59 would be a nice spring glitter if layered over a pastel creme, or a year-round glitter atop a neutral base (black, gray, beige, whatever). Maybe I'll even get around to reviewing this one, despite my odd aversion to writing blog posts about nail polishbecause, really, what is there to say? I guess it's my job to figure that out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Low-Buy Progress Report #1: January

To keep myself accountable to my 2016 low-buy, I've decided to do a progress report on my blog at the end of each month, recording how much I've spent on beauty, my reasons for buying each product, and whether certain moods, events, k-pop videos, etc. have affected my spending. I know January isn't over yet, but I don't plan to buy any more beauty products in the next four days, so let's round up my purchases for the month! For the price of each item, I've rounded the total to the nearest whole number but haven't included sales tax. If I order anything online in the coming months, I'll include shipping costs in the total. By the way, I also keep track of my beauty purchases on a dedicated Pinterest board, if you'd like to indulge in financial schadenfreude over there.

New makeup/polish:

MAC matte lipstick in Antique Velvet: $17
Floss Gloss polishes in Dinge and Dimepiece: $8 each
Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce: $11 (thanks, CVS markup!)
Total: $44


So, yeah, I went $4 over budget and bought four new products instead of two. I still think that's decent for my first month after a no-buy, but I plan to be more frugal next month. Antique Velvet was a lemming of six months' standing; the other products were closer to impulse purchases. I bought Floss Gloss Dinge, a dusty pink nude, and Dimepiece, a silver holographic glitter topcoat, at Little Paper Planes in San Francisco. I was flying straight from SF to Austin for the MLA convention and had brought Zoya Normani from home to be my "interview polish," but paranoia set in at the last minute: what if a mauvey taupe color was just too edgy for an academic search committee? Dinge was my solution to this irrational worry. Dimepiece, on the other hand, was my consolation for not having bought Smith & Cult Vegas Post Apocalyptic. Throughout my no-buy, I'd told myself that Vegas Post Apocalyptic would be one of my first purchases of January; when it came down to it, though, I couldn't bring myself to drop $18 on a glitter topcoat, no matter how beautiful the bottle or how impeccable the branding. Dimepiece was less than half the price, and the small size of the bottle meant that I actually had a chance of finishing it before it went all gooey. Look how much of Dinge I've managed to use already!


As for Fierce, I'd been half-looking for a medium brown lipstick for a while. When I heard that Revlon had released a reddish brown shade in its Matte Balm formula, I couldn't resist. I did wait a couple of days before buying it, though, to make sure I really wanted it. And now that I own both Fierce and Antique Velvet, I'm declaring a moratorium on brown lip colors for the rest of the year. I have more than enough!


Beauty tools:

Glass nail file: $6
Medium Z Palette: $15
Total: $21

(I assume you all know what a black Z Palette looks like.)

I forgot to make a budget for beauty tools in my resolutions post, because I don't buy them often or compulsively. Should I count them in my $40 per month for new items? I don't know. Anyway, you know how everyone tells you that once you use a glass nail file, you'll never go back? It's true. And look how adorable! The store in San Francisco where I bought this had a bunch of ombré colors, but I can never resist fuchsia.

New skincare:

None.

Replacements:

None. I do need a new mascara (I can't remember when I bought my current one, which is a bad sign), but when I went to replace it earlier this month, I made a horrible discovery: CoverGirl has discontinued my beloved LashBlast Length! I'm now on the lookout for a new drugstore mascara; any suggestions for something that gives subtle length without crazy spidery fullness?

Total beauty spending for January: $65.

Overview:

I'm proud of myself for not going too far over $40 for new makeup, because January was an especially difficult month. I don't usually talk about my professional life on this blog, but let's just say that the academic job market is pretty brutal and I didn't get any of the tenure-track jobs I applied for. I knew I'd probably have to go on the job market more than once (almost everyone does), but expecting a bad outcome doesn't make it hurt any less. Combine this with the depression that often sets in during this gray, slushy time of year, and you get an emotional state that has prompted bad purchasing decisions in the past. Now that I'm conscious of my weakness, though, it's a lot easier to manage. I've been distracting myself by cooking new vegan dishes (last night I made gnocchi with a tasty cashew-based creamy sauce), attending "dissertation boot camp," and experimenting with my Nude 'tude palette. Let's hope that I can maintain my frugality, or "frugality," in the months to come. Maybe it's a bad sign that I already know what I'm going to buy in February: ColourPop eyeshadow in Eye Candy and possibly Telepathy, and blush in Rain. But that's it! Probably!

I mentioned k-pop videos at the beginning of this post, so here's the song I've had on repeat for the past few days, GFriend's "Rough":


I can neither confirm nor deny that I teared up more than once while watching this video. Like I said, it's been a rough month. If you will.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

AB Insists on Antique Velvet

Yesterday looked like this...


(yes, I wore Cherries in the Snow in the snow)


...so I think it's a good time for another winter story:

Like many girls, I grew up reading Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. One of the most memorable chapters in the first book, "Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves," concerns the orphaned Anne Shirley's first party dress. After twelve-year-old Anne has lived with the elderly siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert for a year, Matthew has an epiphany: "Anne was not dressed like the other girls!...Marilla kept her clothed in plain, dark dresses, all made after the same unvarying pattern." The school's Christmas concert is coming up, and Matthew decides that Anne needs a dress with puffed leg-o'-mutton sleeves, the height of fashion in the mid-1890s:

Augusta Auctions

Suspecting that his puritanical sister will "throw cold water on his project at once," Matthew goes behind Marilla's back and enlists the help of his friend Mrs. Lynde, who promises to make the dress: "I believe a nice rich brown would just suit Anne, and William Blair has some new gloria in that's real pretty." The brown gloria dress becomes Anne's Christmas present, and Anne goes into raptures at the sight:

"Oh, how pretty it wasa lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleevesthey were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon." 

I read the books after watching the 1985 Anne of Green Gables miniseries, in which Anne's coveted dress is a very '80s light blue:

TV Tropes

So when I came to Montgomery's description of the dress (the equivalent of erotica for eight-year-old me), I was taken aback: this elaborately puffed and ruffled confection was brown, of all colors? Who would get excited about a brown dress? My aesthetic sense had been formed in the late '80s and early '90s; when I thought party dress, I thought soft pastels—and so, apparently, had the costume department at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1985. But Lucy Maud Montgomery, writing in 1908, had not. "Pretty," "lovely," "dainty": all those words had struck her as perfectly appropriate for a brown dress. It was something of a watershed moment for me. I was no longer just reading a book about a little girl like myself; I was also reading a book about a little girl who belonged to a past that was palpably other, down to the smallest material details. 

I can't help but notice that this lady is a redhead, like Anne—clearly Victorian gingers were encouraged to wear brown.

It's unlikely that the people at MAC had Anne of Green Gables in mind when they created Antique Velvet, a dark cool-toned brown released in the Matte Lip Collection in May of last year. But some long-lost memory must have flared when I looked at the swatches of the twelve new matte lipsticks, because I was attracted instantly to Antique Velvet, despite never having felt the need for a dark brown lipstick.


The collection had a few colors more to my usual taste—"lavender violet," "dirty rose," and "deep blackened plum," to quote MAC's product descriptions—but it was Antique Velvet I couldn't stop thinking about. It was different from the many other brown lipsticks released in 2015: there was a depth and richness to it, a slightly plummy coolness. Though my conscious mind didn't make the connection between Antique Velvet and Anne's brown gloria dress until I started writing this post, my subconscious certainly did. And isn't that how most of our material desires arise?


But instead of buying a $17 tube of Antique Velvet right away, I tried out a series of cheaper dark browns that reminded me why dupe-hunting is usually a bad idea. As I've written before, I think the concept of dupes is helpful only if you already own a dupe of a product that has caught your eye. But if you own neither desired product X nor dupe Y, and you can afford X, odds are good that buying Y won't satisfy your yearning for the product that originally piqued your interest. I say this with smug assurance now, but I fell into precisely that trap after Antique Velvet came out. "I won't wear a dark brown enough to justify spending $17 on it," I thought, so I bought Milani Crush instead, and we all know how well that turned out. When it became clear that I couldn't wear liquid matte lipstick without destroying my lips, I picked up NYX Enamored. Despite coming in traditional solid form, Enamored managed to be even more drying than the liquid matte Crush. I'd bought both lipsticks for the fall season, but I ended up wearing neither; instead, during my no-buy in November and December, I looked up swatch after swatch of Antique Velvet and deplored my cheapness. I even tried it on during a visit to Nordstrom, and of course fell deeper into lipstick lust:


When NYX released new additions to its matte lipstick line at the end of December, I briefly considered buying Goal Digger, a dark brownish plum that reminded me of Antique Velvet. Then I came to my senses. Another dupe, ordered sight unseen? What was I thinking? So when my no-buy ended earlier this month, I decided to put an end to my regret as well. I went to the MAC store in San Francisco's Union Square and finally bought the real thing. Matthew Cuthbert didn't settle for cotton or burlap for Anne's brown dress, did he?


I often feel disappointed in a product that I've wanted for months, but I'm pleased to report that Antique Velvet has lived up to all my expectations. The color is positively luxurious: a very dark, almost black, cool-toned brown. You see a lot of gray-toned taupey browns these days, but rarely do you come across a brown with so much purple in its base. It's not quite the color of dark chocolate, but it comes pretty close. Yes, it resonates with the current '90s revival, but there's also something '20s about a deep, rich brown lip—and given the choice between '90s and '20s, I'd choose the age of Theda Bara any day.


Many dark lipsticks apply patchily, so I'm impressed with Antique Velvet's evenness and opacity.


Comparison swatches, L-R: Topshop Boardroom, NYX Enamored, Antique Velvet, Milani Crush, NARS 413 BLKR.


Enamored is a little cooler than Antique Velvet, and it has burgundy shimmer that isn't showing up in this photo (and doesn't show up well on my lips, either). Crush looks much warmer than Antique Velvet here, but it's fairly similar on the lips; if you already own Crush and like the formula, you probably don't need Antique Velvet too. And now that I've made these comparison swatches, I think it's time for Enamored and Crush to leave my stash for good. Antique Velvet is the only vampy brown lip color I need.


MAC makes one of my favorite matte lipstick formulas: soft, comfortable, easy to apply, and more or less non-drying. There are exceptions to this rule (Eugenie is almost impossible to apply without a lip brush), but Antique Velvet isn't one of the exceptions. I do have one quibble: I find that it needs a touch-up every couple of hours, because it looks a little gruesome on my lips when it fades, as if I've been eating a brownie too enthusiastically. A lipstick in a conventional color can look appealing once faded; a dark brown lipstick, not so much, at least on someone as pale as I am.

It's surprisingly easy to find colors that pair well with Antique Velvet. The hint of plum in its formula makes it especially amenable to purples, light or dark. Last week I wore it with lavender on my eyes (Kiko 251) and cheeks (Tony Moly Milky Violet). To balance out the lipstick, I also filled in my brows a little with Urban Decay Primal eyeshadow from the Naked2 Basics palette, applied with an e.l.f. angled brush over Milani clear brow gel.


251 is a sparkly blue-toned lavender sheer enough not to show up as a stark pastel, even over primer. To further neutralize the lavender, I blended theBalm Sophisticated, a cool-toned, shimmery medium brown, into my crease and outer V and along my upper and lower lashlines. As ever, I wish Milky Violet were more pigmented (I slapped at least three layers on my face before taking these photos), but I like the subtle lavender glow it imparts.


I SWEAR I'M WEARING LAVENDER BLUSH LOOK HERE IT IS:


Of course, Antique Velvet also works well with other browns, but I love how well it sets off fairylike cool-toned pastels. In the future, I might try it with ColourPop Monster highlighter, the cool pink eyeshadow I have yet to buy, or the mint shade from the NARS Habanera duo. Or a bright purple blush—one day I'll order ColourPop Rain. As Anne Shirley would say, Antique Velvet offers "scope for the imagination," and isn't that what we all hope our makeup will do?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pan That Palette 2016: Nude 'Tude Revisited

It occurs to me that I was a little unfair to the MakeupRehab subreddit in my resolutions post. Yes, there are a few things I dislike about that community. I don't think people should force themselves to finish or pan products they detest; all that means is that they neglect the products they do like and come to see makeup as a grim chore. Nor am I fond of the scolding, self-righteous tone of some MakeupRehab commenters, or the consumerism disguised as minimalism (obsessing over X aspect of makeup is no more virtuous than obsessing over Y aspect of makeup). But let me be clear: I'm still glad that MakeupRehab exists. It's a refreshing alternative to the YOLO BUY ALL THE THINGS mentality that exists elsewhere in the beauty blogosphere.

For that matter, I'm not opposed on principle to Project Pans and the like, though I do raise an eyebrow at some people's reasons for using up products. If something is unflattering or flawed and there's no way to make it look better or perform more effectively, is it really worth finishing? I mean, maybe it is! If you get satisfaction out of panning a disappointing product, more power to you. But because I don't see the logic in that, a panning project motivated by guilt over sunk cost wouldn't work for meI'd give up in disgust within a few days. What does make sense to me is a panning project based on finding the hidden potential of a product or using it up before it goes bad. Hence my MakeupRehab-inspired Pan That Palette project for 2016! My victim: theBalm's Nude 'tude palette, reviewed here and here.


I bought Nude 'tude in August 2012; it was my first eyeshadow palette and my first venture into wearing more than one color of eyeshadow at a time. The palette taught me which neutral colors I liked (taupes and cool-toned browns) and which were of no use to me (matte warm browns, frosty highlights). With these preferences in mind, I began to expand my collection. A few of the shades I bought were meant to be improvements on specific Nude 'tude shades: Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, for instance, was a cooler-toned alternative to theBalm Seductive. But as my stash of eyeshadows grew, I started neglecting Nude 'tude, even the colors I'd previously loved. I came to view Nude 'tude as my "starter palette" and rarely experimented with the color combinations it could provide. After a while, I stopped noticing it on my shelf, though its meek beige packaging may have had something to do with that. Another reason was that after years of use and abuse, it looked like this inside:



Better pictures of the current state of each shade:



Recently, though, I've been wanting to give Nude 'tude some more attention. It's three and a half years old now, and while the shadows still look and feel normal, I'm not sure how many more years of normalcy I can expect from them. I'm also in a back-to-basics mood these days: my eyeshadow technique could stand some improvement, and the more I practice, the more problems I run into, most of them having to do with my weird eyelids:


For instance: I don't think I have hooded eyes, because a good deal of mobile lid is visible when my eyes are open; but then why are my creases so deep, and why does any color I put in them end up on my browbone? How do I prevent powder eyeshadow from collecting in my extra eyelid folds? Are the bits of the folds that extend out from my eyes always going to fuck up my blending-out attempts? (I don't think I'll ever be able to achieve those perfectly crisp, perfectly rounded halo eyes you see on Instagram.) And how am I still asking these questions after more than three years of eyeshadow practice? I don't know, but I hope this most basic of eyeshadow palettes can help me out of my difficulties. I can't get a huge number of looks from the palette alone, but now that my eyeshadow collection is larger, I have plenty of mix-and-match possibilities.

In order to make the shadows more visually appealing (not to mention safer: I don't want broken glass near anything I put on my eyes), I ordered a medium Z Palette from Amazon and embarked on my first depotting project! It was ridiculously easy: I just used a metal nail file to wiggle each pan free from the cardboard packaging. The shadows look a lot more appealing in their new, clean setting. Too bad I was a dumbass and bought the medium Z Palette instead of the small one—I have so much extra room!


I've never actively tried to pan eyeshadow before, so I don't know what kind of timeline to lay out here. But seeing that these shadows are quite small (though deeper than you'd think) and I'm just a few microns away from hitting pan on three of them, let's say that in the next six months, I want to do the following:

FINISH: Sophisticated, Selfish.


PAN: Sleek, Serious, Silly, Sexy, Seductive, Stand-offish, Stubborn.


IGNORE (OR WHATEVER): Sassy, Snobby, Sultry.


Yeah, these three colors are lost causes. Sultry is the worst possible brown for my coloring, Snobby isn't much better, and I don't know what to do with an opaque frosty white. Use it as a highlighter, maybe? If I can make a visible dent in any of these, I'll count it a victory.

Finally, a couple of looks I've put together in the last few days. Here's Stubborn all over the lid, Sexy in the crease (not that you can see it), and Sleek on the upper and lower lashlines:


My lips were especially dry that day, so I wore a lip gloss for the first time in ages: Revlon Embellished, a sheer, sparkly berry. GDI why do I have wet hair in so many of my selfies.


I'm very interested in pink eyeshadow these days, thanks to Christine's recent Instagram FOTDs featuring Suqqu's Akanezora quad. Stubborn is a nice neutral-warm pink, but I'm on the lookout for a pale cool pink with a slight shimmer. Any ideas? Urban Decay Heartless is the most promising candidate so far, and I'm also considering ColourPop Eye Candy for a more aggressively sparkly option.

And today's look: Seductive all over the lid and Sophisticated in the crease and outer v:


I still think Seductive is a bit too warm for my skintone, so I'll have to keep experimenting with color combinations. A purply plum like the right half of NARS Habanera might make the bronze look less stark against my coolish complexion.


What do you think of Pan That Palette and similar projects? Are you trying to hit pan on anything currently?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My 15 Favorite Beauty Purchases of 2015

I meant to post this earlier, but life (in the form of interview prep, followed by actual interviewing, followed by jetlag) got in the way, so here we are almost halfway through January and I still haven't written about my favorite beauty purchases of 2015. But that's about to change! A few notes before we get started:
  • Few of these are technically perfect products; they're just the products that I enjoyed the most in 2015.
  • This list is not just for new-in-2015 products, but products that were new to me in 2015. I rarely buy limited-edition products or make a purchase before reading lots of reviews, so most of the makeup and skincare I buy has been around for at least a year or two. There are a couple of exceptions on this list, though!
  • I've listed these products not in order of preference (I'm not sure what would make a lipstick "better" than a moisturizer) but in chronological order of purchase.
  • In order to show how much I've used each item, I've included photos of the products as they are now, not as they were when new and pristine.
  • I've linked to my original reviews where available, but I've still to review a couple of products from the end of the year, and I'm as lazy as ever about reviewing hair and skin products (shame).
  • My silver glitter background must be acknowledged.

1. NARS Audacious Lipstick in Angela


I hesitated before putting this lipstick on my list, because the Audacious formula didn't quite live up to the hype for me. (Just as well: I really can't afford any more $32 lipsticks.) Yes, Angela applies smoothly and opaquely in one swipe and looks great, but it also transfers easily and dries out my lips after a couple of hours, and the color is hard to scrub off at the end of the day. But I love Angela's bright purplish pink color, a refreshing antidote to the gray-toned taupes and Kardashian browns that flooded Instagram in 2015. And though I fell as hard for brown lipstick as any other #bblogger last year, I don't want to slap the cosmetic equivalent of a sepia filter on my face every day. I think there's still a place in the beauty world for punchy magentas like Angela. Its place on this list is symbolic: it's a mini-manifesto in a tube. Up with color!


2. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Bill


Bill, on the other hand, fits in perfectly with 2015's taupe craze. It's a soft gray-toned brownish pink (much pinker on my lids than in the pan); its trendy lip-color equivalent is perhaps ColourPop's own matte liquid lipstick in Trap. I tried five ColourPop shadows in 2015 and was disappointed by four of them (including another matte), but Bill is a winner: lightweight, opaque, versatile, and easy to blend. Note, though, that I hit pan after five-ish uses: the ColourPop eyeshadow pans are very shallow, despite the apparent depth of the white pots. Like the Lippie Stix, the Super Shock Shadows are essentially deluxe samplessomething to keep in mind if you're tempted by that low price point. Honestly, I don't mind the small size: cream eyeshadows dry out quickly and I'd rather try three different colors for $5 each than spend $15 on a single cream shade that I might not use up before it expires. I do, however, mind ColourPop's misleading and wasteful packaging. Lame.

3. Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Plastique


Plastique's formula isn't quite as flawless as that of my other Matte Lip Bullet, Get Me Bodied, but it's still non-drying, lightweight, and opaque in two coats. And that lavender pink is a color I never knew I needed (or could pull off). It may not be my, or anyone's, most flattering color, but it makes me so damned happy. Hey, remember when I had short hair?


 4. Butter London Fruit Machine and Bossy Boots


My best friend in kindergarten and first grade was half British and half American. Despite being born and bred in the Boston area, she had ended up with her mother's British accent and mannerisms (her mother was a correspondent for the BBC and had no doubt made her influence felt). One day I was at my friend's house and we were playing with her Barbies. I asked if I could put a different dress on one of the Barbies, and my friend said no. Her mother heard this and interjected, "Don't be a Miss Bossy Boots!" My friend shot back, "You're a Miss Bossy Boots!" I think of that moment every time I wear Butter London Bossy Boots, a pale pistachio that Liz gave me when we met up in Toronto last May. I can't believe Liz parted with this amazing color!


I fell in love with not one but two Butter Londons last spring. The other was Fruit Machine, a lavender-tinged bubblegum pink that matched Plastique almost exactly. I don't often gravitate toward pink nail polish, but when I do fall for a pink, I fall hard.


5. Lush Shampoo Bar in Jason and the Argan Oil and Solid Conditioner in Big


2014 was my Year of Bad Hair. It didn't start off that way: I got a fabulous pixie cut in January and looked forward to rocking it for a long time to come. But I soon discovered that a pixie is a rich woman's game, or at least a middle-class woman's game: it needs to be touched up at least every two months, and I couldn't afford the constant upkeep. So I started growing my pixie into a more graduate-stipend-friendly bob, and in the course of 2014 went through every iteration of terrible short hair known to womankind. By the new year, my hair had grown into something resembling a haircut that a real human being might actually want on her head, but I was still dissatisfied. My hair is a little problematic (isn't everyone's?): it's fine, but I have a lot of it, and it's quite wavy. Because of its fineness, it's extremely responsive to humidity. On damp summer days, it balloons into curly splendor; on dry winter days, it looks like a limp, sad handful of straw. My Pantene shampoo and conditioner weren't giving me much control over my hair texture, and in desperation I decided to try one of Lush's new shampoo bars, the rose-scented Jason and the Argan Oil, which takes the prize for the best classical pun in the cosmetics industry to date. You rub the bar all over your wet hair, work the product into your scalp so that it foams up, and rinse it out as you would a regular shampoo.

I started using Jason and the Argan Oil while visiting my boyfriend in the UK. After a transatlantic flight, we returned to his apartment to discover that the hot water had stopped working. For nearly a week, I had to heat water on the stove, carry it back to the shower stall, and pour it all over myself. And yet my hair had never looked bettersmooth and shiny with well-defined waves. I was so pleased with Jason that I started using Lush's solid conditioner in Big, which smells like vanilla and contains bits of sea salt for extra volume and texture. It's now hard for me to imagine going back to conventional shampoo and conditioner. Every day is a good hair day, or at least a decent hair day, which is still a huge improvement over my previous average.

There is, however, a learning curve to these products. They should be stored away from the shower or bath to prevent them from disintegrating. You'll want to buy one of Lush's metal tins for the shampoo bar, and keep the bar in the tin even when you rub it on your head. If you remove Jason from the tin too often, it will start to crumble, leaving your bathtub looking like you've killed a harpy in it (two can play that game, Lush). In the photo above, you can see that my current bar of Jason, despite being relatively new, has already cracked. Because Lush doesn't make tins for its conditioner bars, I store Big in a soap dish. Same principle applies here: instead of getting the whole bar wet, keep it outside the shower and pinch off little pieces as needed (it's much softer than the shampoo bars). This might be too fussy for you; it's almost too fussy for me, but I can't argue with the results. And I love that using solid shampoo and conditioner has reduced my carbon footprint: no more bottles to discard! FYI, Lush makes twelve different shampoo bars; I've also tried Honey, I Washed My Hair with almost identical results. I suspect that it's really just a matter of which scent you prefer.

6. Illamasqua Nail Varnish in Melange


Melange, a dusty teal flecked with gold and red, was the only nail polish in Illamasqua's Fall 2014 collection. The collection, called Once, evoked decaying rococo glamour, the warm brown light of autumn, and the turquoise patina on bronze statues. The promotional shots for Once couldn't have been more to my taste if Illamasqua had consulted me personally:


In May 2015, I walked into the Birmingham Selfridges uncertain whether I'd come out with Melange or Facet, a gold-spattered dark gray. One glance at the bottles, though, and my choice was made. The nuances of Melange are hard to capture on camera, but here's the best I've done:


Melange applies smoothly and stays chip-free for several days. I'd recommend two coats instead of my usual three—an extra coat tends to dampen the complexity of the gold and copper flecks. Wear this and feel like a weathered statue in an overgrown eighteenth-century garden! You know you want to.

7. ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Monster 


A couple of months ago, I received my first truly hostile blog comment. In the early days of my blog, I wrote a post lamenting that female academics who wear visible makeup are often perceived as shallow or less-than-serious. Nearly a year and a half later, someone left a vitriolic note to the effect that makeup-wearing female academics should be perceived as shallow, because the entire purpose of makeup is to trick men into seeing women as pubescent and sexually available...oh, and "I am a scientist."

There were many things I could have said in my defense (seriously, ask your nearest scientist how they feel about evolutionary psychology; I'll wait). But I didn't feel that a full response was worth my time, and I still don't. Why should I compose a detailed reply when the perfect rejoinder is sitting on my shelf? ColourPop's highlighter in Monster, a metallic pink, flies in the face of every complaint about the "trickery" of makeup. Monster is blatantly unnatural. No one would mistake it for the flush of youth or sexual attraction. It's just fun, in the same way that matte purple lipstick or holographic nail polish is fun. In 2015, we can make ourselves look like neo-Rococo cyborgs for a mere $8, and that's something to celebrate. Now let's stop rehashing misogynistic anti-makeup treatises from the mid-17th century, how about that?

8. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion


It's by far the least aesthetically pleasing entry on my list, but CeraVe PM has more than earned its place here. Until the middle of 2015, my night cream was First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. Because it didn't break me out or irritate my skin, I assumed it was "working." But I didn't look any more refreshed in the morning than I had at night, and the cream did nothing for the fine lines around my eyes. Internet research led me to CeraVe PM, which contained hyaluronic acid, an ingredient absent from my Ultra Repair Cream. I bought a bottle, smeared it on that night...and woke up the next morning to find myself transformed in my bed into a giant insect free of the fine lines that had bedeviled me for so long. No, not permanently free, but so long as I use CeraVe PM every night before bed, I wake up with smooth skin. The lines come back with dehydration and everyday stress, but the moisturizer fills them in again like magic. CeraVe PM is also completely scentless, a nice change from the strong eucalyptus scent of the Ultra Repair Cream. My one quibble is that the pump stops working reliably when I get down to the last fourth or fifth of the bottle, but I can live with that.

9. Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture


I bought this specifically as a "professional lipstick": "professional" not by my usual clownish standards but by the actual standards of my profession. I wore it for teaching, for job interviews, and just for fun, and it never made me feel less than pulled-together. The soft rosy plum of Rapture is neutral but not boring: it's darker and purpler than a MLBB without straying into goth territory. I do wish it were a bit longer-wearing, but it's opaque and comfortable and it disguises the ever-present dry bits on my lips, so I think I'll live.

10. theBalm Custom Eyeshadow Palette 


I can't believe I still haven't reviewed this. It's next on my list of drafts, I promise. Suffice to say that I'm disappointed in only two of the shades (the bright purple and sparkly brown), but have been getting quite a lot of use out of the others, especially the three neutrals in the top row and the dark matte plum at bottom right. theBalm continues to be one of the most underrated beauty brands out there, and I can't figure out why. Is it the cardboard packaging of their palettes? Is it that they don't send samples to the most popular YouTube gurus? No, I've got it now: it's that I haven't yet discussed this palette at length on my blog. Don't worry, theBalm. Your moment is coming.

11. Essie Leggy Legend


I find Essie to be an annoyingly inconsistent brand. Some of my very favorite polishes are by Essie, and some of my patchiest, gloppiest, and most chip-prone polishes are by Essie. Leggy Legend falls into the former category. Not only does it apply smoothly and last a decently long time (three-ish days) before chipping, it's also a more complex shade than I usually associate with Essie: a dark metallic bronze with tiny flecks of red and no visible brushstrokes. I bought this in September and have already finished almost a quarter of the bottle—quite a feat, considering that I own about 75 bottles of polish.

12. Heritage Store Rosewater and Glycerin


First things first: this facial mist is probably made by a cult. It contains glycerin, rose oil, and water, but not just any water, oh no:


Wikipedia tells me that Edgar Cayce was a Christian mystic active in the American South in the early 20th century. Renowned for giving psychic readings while in a trance state, Cayce espoused various kinds of alternative medicine including, presumably, "Vor-mag water." Though I don't subscribe even a little to this sort of thing, I appreciate the modesty of the folks at the Heritage Store: they're tactful enough to admit that the benefits of vortexed water are a matter of personal belief.  But maybe I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the good vibrations of this product, because it's made quite a difference in my skincare routine. I spray the mist on my face a few times per day: after showering, before applying makeup, and whenever I need a quick moment of refreshment (it was a godsend during the bleak, sleepless nights of job-application season). It smells heavenly, it leaves my skin feeling smoother and more moisturized, and unlike many mists and toners on the market, it contains no alcohol. I suppose I could decant it into a prettier container, but I like seeing the gaudy fuchsia plastic and the bizarro health claims. I did grow up in San Francisco, after all, and this packaging reminds me of home.

13. Urban Decay Afterglow Blush in Rapture


After I tried on Rapture for the first time, I decided it was too close to NARS Mata Hari and Sleek Flushed once blended out. I told myself to return it...and then wore it almost every day for three months. Whoops. In retrospect, Rapture isn't terribly similar to the other two blushes: Mata Hari is lighter and pinker, and Flushed is warmer and redder. (In fact, Flushed no longer has a real place in my makeup wardrobe, since Rapture has replaced it in all my brick/bronze/brown/plum looks.) Rapture is one of my easiest blushes to wear: the formula sits perfectly on my skin, the color melds nicely with my complexion, and the slight gold sheen makes me look a little more alive, yet not, you know, strobed. Here I am wearing Rapture with one of my favorite lipsticks, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry:


It's rare that I get this excited about a blush, but Rapture is so good that I have to make a conscious effort to give my other blushes some attention. If you're looking for a plum blush, try this one. Seriously.

14. NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR 


This deep, brownish, slightly plummy red is my very favorite makeup purchase of 2015. I don't have much more to say about 413 BLKR than I said in my initial review, except that I bought it two and a half months ago and I have yet to tire of it. My love for this color is making me reconsider my seasonal affiliation: am I actually an autumn instead of a winter? Scandal!

15. Urban Decay Naked2 Basics Palette


I asked for Naked2 Basics as an early Christmas present because I wanted a selection of reasonably cool-toned matte browns and a couple of matte highlight shades. And now I have those shades, and that's just fine. As you may be able to tell, this palette hasn't blown my mind (I initially typed "brown my mind"): matte brown eyeshadow is unexciting by definition, at least to me. Plus, the shades are too close to each other to allow for a wide range of non-muddy looks, and the shadows are so finely milled that I find myself with a lot of excess powder floating around after I swirl my brush in the pans. So, uh, why is this palette on my best-of-2015 list? Well, the colors pair well with more interesting eyeshadows from other palettes, and Frisk, Cover, and Primal are ideal for my go-to lazy one-shade looks. Naked2 Basics has filled a huge gap in my collection, and I reach for it whenever I want an overall brown-toned look. This really was the year of Urban Decay for me, wasn't it? I started 2015 with just one Urban Decay item and ended it with a total of six (the two absent from this list are the Revolution Lipstick in 69 and the 24-Hour Glide-Onwhateverthefuck liner in Demolition).

And we're done! I was going to include some honorable mentions, but that's too tl;dr even for the likes of me. Instead, here's a photo of one of my dad's cats in a box: