Sunday, December 31, 2017

Beauty Resolutions for 2018

Happy New Year, friends! It's 0°F outside (that's -18°C), so we are STAYING PUT. But I'm still wearing glitter and sequins, because 2017 only dies once. And we made prosecco-raspberry jello shots and put them in French 75s.

I'm still planning a post about my lipstick inventory, but before 2017 ends, let me write up my beauty-related resolutions!

1. Low-buy throughout 2018, with a maximum of two new products (excluding replacements) per month.

This was my main resolution for 2017, and as I mentioned in my last post, it seemed to make me more obsessive about researching and planning for my next purchases. But I do think it's wise to have a rough limit in mind, even if I don't adhere to it every single month. So I'm going to do my best to observe that limit, and to avoid following new releases closely or looking up dozens of swatches online. This will be much easier once the new semester starts!

2. Lipstick no-buy for at least the first quarter of 2018 (through March 31)

Now, this one I will observe strictly, with one exception. I'm hunting for a taupe lipstick, similar to NYX Minx but with packaging that actually works, and if I find my perfect taupe I will allow myself to buy it. Otherwise, no new lipsticks until the end of March. After my last destash, I have 47 lipsticks, and that's far more than I need to enjoy three months of healthy variety. The less I contribute to our society's insane overconsumption, the better! I might decide to extend this no-buy longer than three months, or take a break after March and do another one later in the year.

3. No liquid lipsticks.

Even after my no-buy ends, I won't buy any more liquid lipsticks. They go off more quickly than bullet lipsticks do, and they're less convenient to apply and touch up throughout the day. When I buy a new lipstick, I do so with the expectation that I'll use it for at least a few years. But I can't buy a liquid lipstick with that expectation, and that's a problem for someone with a lipstick collection as large as mine.

4. No cheap thrills, and especially no NYX.

I've gone off drugstore makeup in the past year. The low price point enables impulse purchases, and the products are almost never as good as I think they'll be. Maybe it's that I'm getting older, but I'm increasingly unwilling to pull a cheap-looking, shittily constructed lipstick out of my purse. There are quite a few drugstore products I love (Milani and Maybelline matte lipsticks, for instance), but I need to start exercising as much discrimination about drugstore makeup as I do about Sephora purchases.

This is especially true of NYX products. I haven't yet written a post about my least favorite products of 2017, but I've made a list, and NYX has a significant presence on that list. I've been buying NYX for at least five years, and have found just three reliably good formulas from the brand: the Butter Glosses, Slim Lip Pencils, and Slide-On Eye Pencils. Significantly, those are older formulas, developed before L'Oreal bought NYX and began churning out an endless wave of new products. Even formulas that were previously great (the matte lipsticks, for instance) have gone downhill. I'd rather avoid NYX altogether than try to guess which two of the 50 products released this week will be winners.

5. Try to publish my beauty writing.

It's no secret that the academic job market is a hot garbage fire, especially for people who specialize in 17th-century poetry and prose. I need to start thinking seriously about career options outside the academy, and though I'm under no illusion that this blog can ever become a job, I'm curious whether I can leverage my beauty writing into something semi-lucrative. Or not! We'll see.

6. Revamp my blog layout.

This is at the bottom of my list because I'm not sure how much of a pain it will be, but I'd like to drag my blog design out of 2007 if possible. Maybe even buy my own domain?

I have some more general life resolutions, too: I want to get a short story published, reduce my sugar intake significantly, and read at least two books for pleasure per month. (You'd be shocked at how little pleasure reading I do. When your job is reading and analyzing books, your hobbies tend to become more lowbrow.) No matter what, 2018 will be a year of big changes for me, and though I'm an inveterate pessimist, I'll try to keep a positive outlook about the future. I wish you all a wonderful year to come!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Auxiliary Beauty's 15 Best Products of 2017

Welcome to my annual roundup of my 15 favorite beauty products of the past year! (Here are my lists for 20162015, and 2014.) My 2017 can be summed up in this viral tumblr post:

Because I had so little time for blogging in the second half of 2017, this post will double as a collection of mini-reviews for products I didn't get around to reviewing when I first bought them. As usual, I'll be listing my favorites in chronological order of purchase. This post comprises both makeup and skincare, since I never try enough new skincare for a separate list. All products are shown in their current state, to give you a sense of how much they've been used.

Beauty-wise, my year was a little odd, with distinct ebbs and flows of interest. For the first few months, I restricted my spending heavily, recording every cent I spent on beauty products. I began to realize that this regimen made me obsess over makeup more, not less. Instead of just living my life and enjoying my existing collection, I was committing too much time and mental space to planning my purchases for the next month. I took stock and decided to continue my low-buy, but without posting a monthly update on my blog or imposing hard limits on my spending. The fact is, I don't have a shopping addiction. I'm frugal by instinct; I don't spend large amounts of money thoughtlessly. And my obsessive personality doesn't do well with restrictions: hello, former anorexic here! So why was I subjecting myself to an elaborate system of regulations? It felt unhealthy and unproductive.

For the rest of the year, I relaxed my rules. Overall, I bought roughly as much beauty stuff in 2017 as I did in 2016, though not at a steady pace. I more or less lost interest in makeup during the fall, due to my insane teaching/research/job-application schedule, the overwhelming pace of new beauty releases, andlet's be realmy newfound obsession with enamel pins. My beauty spending picked up again in December: I was in a celebratory mood following my PhD defense and wanted some glitter and fancy lipstick in my life, damn it. I've destashed quite a few things as well, especially old lipsticks (more on that in my next post), but my collection has grown a bit in 2017.

Some more scattered thoughts before we begin (feel free to scroll through; I know I'm verbose):
  • I didn't discover many new staples this year. Most of the products I used over and over in 2017Glossier Boy Brow, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, CeraVe moisturizer and cleanser, Urban Decay eyeliners in Whiskey and Demolition, the ABH Modern Renaissance palettewere favorites from previous years. A majority of my purchases in 2017 fell into the "meh" category, with a surprising number of outright disappointments. You'd think I'd grow more discriminating with time and age, not less!
  • We live in the golden era of eyeshadow palettes, yet I didn't buy a single palette this year. The only one that tempted me was Urban Decay Naked Heat, but after reflecting that I wear the orange shades in Modern Renaissance maybe twice a month, I decided that $54 for a dozen more of those shades would be a mistake. I hope Pantone Ultra Violet infiltrates the beauty industry in 2018 and we get some purple and plum palettes, because the current orange/red/sienna trend seems designed to make me look like ass.
  • 2017 was the year I rediscovered glitter and gloss. I think we all need a little extra sparkle in this cold, dark timeline.
  • Of the 15 products on this list, six were either gifts or samples, suggesting that I'm only slightly more skilled than online pals and Sephora algorithms at selecting makeup for myself. That's...sobering.
  • Each of the products on the list comes from a different brand. That wasn't deliberate, but it gives me a good deal of weird satisfaction.
  • Only two of these products are from the drugstore, even though my drugstore/high(er)-end ratio for 2017 was about 50/50. I'm considering making a no-drugstore rule for 2018, since I'm obviously not thrilled with the makeup I'm buying there. Thoughts?


1. Wet n Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick in Missy and Fierce (review)

I bought five Liquid Catsuits this yearGoth Topic, Missy and Fierce, Nice to Fuchsia, Nudist Peach,  and Rebel Rosebut this rich blue-based red is the shade that truly has my heart. It is, bar none, the best matte liquid lipstick I've ever tried. It's the only liquid lipstick that has ever made my chronically dry lips look better, not worse. It has largely replaced my former HG matte red, NARS Mysterious Red, in my rotation. And it's $4.99. I love this shit so much that I've begun to remind myself of a brainwashed LipSense lady, commenting "Missy and Fierce!" on every "best red lipstick?" or "best liquid lipstick?" Reddit post.

For the record, here's my quality ranking of the five Liquid Catsuits I've tried: M&F > Rebel Rose > Goth Topic > Nice to Fuchsia >>>> Nudist Peach, with Nudist Peach being the only shade I wouldn't recommend.

L-R: Missy and Fierce, Rebel Rose, Goth Topic, Nice to Fuchsia, Nudist Peach.

Swatches, same order.

2. Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff (review)

My dry skin has always appreciated cream formulas, but as I advance further into decrepitude, I feel more thankful than ever for cream blushes and highlighters. Puff isn't the k-beauty-inspired lavender-pink that the Glossier website led me to expect, but it blends beautifully into my cheeks, lasts all day, and bestows a surprisingly natural flush. It's nice for travel, too, because it's so compact (hence its current disreputable appearance). I'm planning to try the dark berry shade, Haze, in the near future.

3. COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

Speaking of dryness, my everyday sunscreen (Bioré Aqua Rich Watery Gel) has a high alcohol content, so I like to apply this essence for a light layer of moisture before my SPF step.  And now that winter has brought dry cold outside and dry heat inside, I just pat this on whenever I think about it. It has a very faint lemon-lime scent and a slightly slippery feel, but both of those vanish immediately after application. I love the weighty, frosted plastic bottle, the sturdy pump mechanism, and the cost-effectiveness: I paid about $30 for this product and it's going to last well over a year despite near-daily use. (While buying the Hydra Power Essence at oo35mm in NYC's Chinatown, I noticed that COSRX also makes a "White Power Essence," which I assume is Steve Bannon's secret to looking so young and fresh.)

4. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in So Quiche (review)

This was a gift from reader Melanie, who kindly sent me a few Super Shock Shadows she wasn't using. Prior to discovering So Quiche, I avoided sparkle-heavy shadows, but the unique color combination of this particular shade (brownish olive base, fine fuchsia glitter) won me over. This was the first glitter shadow I wore regularly, but it wouldn't be the last: more on that later.

5. Lush Gorilla Perfume in Tuca Tuca

I was of two minds whether to include this perfume on the list, as it wasn't completely new to me in 2017, but I've never properly reviewed it on my blog so what the hell. I had a cherished sample vial of Tuca Tuca a few years ago, but when I went online to buy a full-sized bottle, I realized that the perfume had been discontinued. Which was a bummer, because I'm very picky about fragrance: I'd estimate that I hate about 85% of the perfumes I try on. Earlier this year, though, I came upon some exciting news: Lush was bringing back Tuca Tuca for a limited time! The catch: it was available only in the UK, and shipping to the US was exorbitant (about $25, as I recall). A lovely Instagram friend offered to buy me a bottle and send it to me while she was visiting the US over the summer, so I Paypaled her the money and had my Tuca Tuca before I knew it. Thank you again, Chess!

Now for an overblown fragrance description: Tuca Tuca is a dark incensey violet, the sort of perfume I'd imagine a Victorian spirit medium wearing to a séance. I love violet-based perfumes but often find them cloying, and Tuca Tuca is a great example of what a violet can be if a brand bothers to get creative with that particular note (which almost never happens, in my experience). Tuca Tuca is heavier than most of my favorite perfumes, but a tiny spritz lasts all day, so no complaints there.

6. Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil

As I've mentioned ad nauseam on this blog, I find skincare boring. Unfortunately, that means I often take far longer than I should to introduce new steps and products into my routine. While my CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is perfectly functional as a morning or second cleanse, it's not the best at removing eye makeup. But for some reason, it took me well over a year to realize that I might need to double-cleanse with an oil cleanser. This one has a pleasant almond-oil scent, dissolves eyeliner in no time, and leaves my face feeling cleaner than CeraVe alone ever did. My two quibbles are with the dated-looking packaging (very '90s-Clinique-counter) and the cost per ounce. Has anyone tried the Trader Joe's oil cleanser? I might pick that up next time I'm buying kettle corn, mushroom Brie, and those amazing fig-and-olive crackers.

7. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Let's Go Crazy (mini)

This pencil was a 100-point perk at Sephora in August. I almost never wear pink lipstick, but I immediately fell in love with this vivid berry pink. It's a sophisticated pink, if such a thing exists. Lacking a white base, it's bright and luminous without neon gaudiness. And, of course, I've loved the lightweight, long-wearing Velvet Matte Lip Pencil formula for years. It's a shame that NARS is no longer cruelty-free, or I'd have bought quite a few of the new shades in the lineup. Here I am wearing Let's Go Crazy back in August:

8. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Amulet (review)

Just call me the poor man's Gelcream.

I've owned this goddamn lipstick for five months and I still can't decide how to describe the color. Rosy copper? Metallic spiced plum? Whatever: it's one of those offbeat neutrals I love, a true MLBW (My Lips But Weirder). It also has an outstandingly comfortable formula. Urban Decay's Vice Lipsticks have really impressed me this year: I also bought Lawbreaker, a sheer brown, and I suspect that Ravenswood will come home with me before long.

9. Cirque Colors Polish in Red Hook

I put myself on a nail-polish no-buy for the first half of the year and managed not to go completely crazy after it ended. I did, however, make my first purchase from Cirque Colors, a Brooklyn-based indie brand. Cirque is probably best known for its glitter and thermal color-change polishes, but I ended up with two creams: Urbanized, a perfect mustard yellow, and Red Hook, a complex muted brownish red. Urbanized didn't make this list because it chips too quickly (couldn't resist photographing the two bottles together, though!), but Red Hook lasts for several days without chipping. I need two coats for Urbanized and three for Red Hook.

Red Hook was the nail polish I wore on my 30th birthday! Autumn in a bottle.

Story time: The original Red Hook, a former industrial center, is (I believe) the only Brooklyn neighborhood without a subway stop. One sweltering evening in the summer of 2013, I had to travel from a birthday party in Red Hook to another birthday party in the Bronx, a few blocks away from Fordham University. I bought a coconut-pineapple cake at the Archway near the Red Hook IKEA, then balanced it on my lap for well over an hour of bus and subway travel. I was a sweaty, exhausted mess by the time I reached the Bronx, but that was one of the most memorable days of my twenties.

10. Bésame Classic Color Lipstick in Noir Red (mini)

Bésame is one of those brands that appeal to me more in theory than in practice. In theory, I would love to patronize a small, female-owned, vintage-inspired, historically accurate makeup brand. In practice, I already have too many red lipsticks and I'm not particularly into the '50s-pinup aesthetic that dominates Bésame's offerings. For vintage inspiration, I vastly prefer the '20s. So I was excited when Bésame debuted Noir Red, a deep, rich tobacco shade based on a lipstick from 1930. I mentioned wanting Noir Red in an Instagram story, and another Instagram friend sent me a mini tube! Fun fact: all lipsticks had this push-up lever mechanism before the invention of the twist-up tube.

My nail polish is Zoya Honor.

Noir Red has to be one of the most flattering lipsticks I've ever worn. While it contains a lot of brown, there's also enough purple in there that it's not quite a warm red, either. It's perfectly balanced in a way that I thought only NARS could manage, and it's remarkably opaque and long-wearing for such a dark shade.

Last day of my twenties! HAIR SO LONG.

Below, I've swatched it alongside three other beloved vamps: Maybelline Smoking Red and Raging Raisin and MAC Antique Velvet.

L-R: Smoking Red, Raging Raisin, Noir Red, Antique Velvet.

11. Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty (mini)

The obnoxiously named Paaarty was the Sephora birthday gift for 2017, along with a mini tube of Tarte's liquid lipstick in Birthday Suit. The lipstick was a flop: it's one of those "universally flattering nude" shades that pull too warm on me, and the powdery finish makes me feel like I've dipped my lips in flour. Paaarty, though, is a winner. It's not quite warm enough to be peach, but it's a little warmer-toned than my HG nude blush, Illamasqua Zygomatic. Here's Paaarty on the left and Zygomatic on the right:

Paaarty is pigmented yet almost impossible to overapply. I don't know if I'm old enough to claim that a beauty product makes me feel "youthful," but whatever: this blush is like youth in a pan. It doesn't quite read as blush on my cheeks; it just makes me look a little fresher and glowier. I've never been very interested in Tarte as a brand, but I'm deeply impressed with Paaarty (ugh, that NAME).

12. Pat McGrath LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige (review)

You knew this would make the list. I reviewed it in my last post, so I'll be brief: Madame Greige is my favorite beauty purchase of 2017. The end. Sorry, I've been working on this post for days and I'm running out of words.

13. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal (mini)

Yet another Sephora sample! They killed it with the deluxe samples and 100-point perks this year. It's fashionable on Reddit to praise Ulta over Sephora because the Ulta point system gives you actual dollars off purchases, but I'd rather try a generous sample of a high-end product than get a $2 discount on a lipstick. Maybe I'm weird.

I like cream and powder blushes equally, but I vastly prefer cream and liquid highlighters to powders. Powder highlighters tend to be too sparkly for my taste, and the sparkle emphasizes the fine lines around my eyes. It's just not a good look. This, though? This may be the best highlighter I've ever tried. I worried that Opal's base color would be too dark for me, but it blends seamlessly into my skin, creating a natural but noticeable glow. (Though, looking at the swatch above, I wonder if it isn't a little too dark. Moonstone might be a better match.) Opal pairs perfectly with Paaarty, and I've been wearing the two together constantly. When I use up this sample, I'll think seriously about buying the full size, or at least the $19 mini.

14. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Rosy Future (review)

Never did I imagine that my best-of list would feature a lip gloss. It was a close contest between Rosy Future and NYX Gingersnap, but the shimmer in Rosy Future makes me just a little happier than the smooth cream finish of Gingersnap. Rosy Future is also more versatile as a layering gloss: I wore it over Milani lip pencil in Nude for Christmas and loved the effect.

15. Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Shadow in Smoky Storm

Neutral glitter. Work-appropriate glitter. Christmas-dinner-with-your-partner's-preppy-relatives glitter. It exists. I credit Lena of Faceonomics for both this revelation and the encouragement I needed to drop $24 on a liquid glitter eyeshadow. I initially bought Smoldering Satin, but the glitter was chunkier and more silvery than I wanted, so I exchanged it for Smoky Storm, a warm taupe with pale gold glitter. Here it is swatched at full strength, then dabbed across my skin (as I prefer to wear it):

Smoky Storm dries down very quickly, wears all day, and has a lot less fallout than other glitters I've tried, though there is some. But that's just an occupational hazard of wearing glitter: it will inevitably creep outside the boundaries you've set for it. I don't really mind.

Runners-up: ColourPop Pressed Powder Shadow in Paper Tiger; Essie Nail Polish in Sorrento Yourself; Maybelline Inti-Matte Nudes Lipstick in Naked Coral; NYX Butter Gloss in Gingersnap; Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer in Tang Bang; Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Lawbreaker.

To close out this post, here's my Christmas makeup look, which incorporated four of the products on this list. On my eyes, in addition to mascara, I have Stila Smoky Storm and three Modern Renaissance shades: Warm Taupe in the crease and on the lower lashline, Antique Bronze on the lid (I wish I'd gone with a slightly cooler brown), and Cyprus Umber in the outer corner. I'm also wearing Tarte Paaarty, Becca Opal, and the aforementioned lip combo of Rosy Future and Milani Nude liner.

And we're done! In my next post, I'll update my lipstick inventory from almost a year ago and talk about the lipsticks I've panned and destashed this year. Until then, stay warm!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige

(Settle in. This will be a long post.)

First, some personal news: I defended my doctoral dissertation earlier this month and now have a Ph.D. in English! At my university, the dissertation defense (our official term, hilariously, is "Final Public Oral") is a pretty lowkey affair. It consists of a 30-minute presentation and another 30 minutes of questions from your dissertation committee and others at the FPO (professors outside your committee, friends, et al). Having attended several defenses before my own, I knew that most of the "questions" would be rambling suggestions from my advisers on how to revise my dissertation into a book manuscript, and that I wouldn't be required to defend my work in any meaningful sense. Still, I was pretty nervous in the two weeks leading up to my defense. So I promised myself that if I got through it alive, I could order myself a truly extravagant present: Pat McGrath Labs' $38 LuxeTrance lipstick in Madame Greige, which I'd tried on at Sephora a month before. Of course, there was no question that I wouldn't get through the defense alive, but it was a surprisingly effective trick to play on my brain. Instead of thinking "ugh, 48 hours until my defense," I could think "48 hours until my defense AND FANCY LIPSTICK," and that was much more pleasant.

Fittingly, I took this photo at the coffee shop where I wrote at least 75% of my dissertation.

For the record, my Final Public Oral makeup (no jokes about blowjob-proof lipstick, please) was pretty boring: the taupe shade from the Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone trio on the lid and lower lashline; ABH Cyprus Umber in the outer V; NYX pencil liner in Brown Perfection on the upper lashline; and Urban Decay blush and Revolution lipstick in Rapture. Interview makeup, basically. My commitment to Gothademia extends only so far.

My pin is from KWT Designs.

I passed my defense! Did a good job, even! And then I went out for lunch with my boyfriend and a friend from my cohort, had one cocktail, came home, developed a horrible headache, took a three-hour nap, and woke up and ordered Madame Greige. My life is truly a wild ride.

But let's backtrack a bit and talk about my (very brief) history with Pat McGrath Labs. When the brand debuted in late 2015, I didn't take much interest. Pat McGrath is a fantastically talented makeup artist who has been in the industry forever, but her first products were gimmicky and flimsy-looking and well out of my price range and surrounded by limited-edition hype and packaged in enough sequins to drown an entire Texan beauty pageant, Elagabalus-style. I started paying attention, though, when McGrath launched a small collection of matte lipsticks this past summer. I wasn't particularly taken with any of the colors in the MatteTrance lineup, but I swatched them at Sephora and came away impressed with the formula. And when the brand released a permanent lineup of 31 satin-finish lipsticks this fall, many of them in shades for which I didn't already own dupes, I really took notice.

Unfortunately, the LuxeTrance lipsticks didn't get many reviews online. So when I was in New York for my birthday, I visited the Union Square Sephora to see the LuxeTrances for myself. The standout shade for me was Madame Greige, a lavender-gray-beige-nude in the same family as Urban Decay Oblivion, Bite Thistle and Cava, MAC Driftwood, and Maybelline Gone Greige, to name just a few. I also swatched some other LuxeTrance shades. Here they are in crappy Sephora lighting (left) and closer to the big front window (right):

Top to bottom: She's Heaven!, Madame Greige, Major Red, Tropicalia (see Jupiter Gimlet's review of that shade here), Beauty Junkie, Wrecked.

A few things put me off Madame Greige initially. First, the $38 price tag: I'd never spent that much on a lipstick. Second, the fact that Pat McGrath Labs sells in China, which means that it isn't cruelty-free (though my feelings on the "cruelty-free" category are complicated). Third, my misgivings about whether I'd actually wear Madame Greige often. So I did what I almost never do: I searched for a dupe. Over the Black Friday weekend, Melt Cosmetics reduced the price of its bullet lipsticks from $19 to $7, and I ordered the matte lipstick in Stepford, from last year's Prime Rose collection. Despite my excitement to try such a buzzed-about indie brand, I was disappointed. The packaging looked and felt cheap, the formula was a little patchy and feathery (and not particularly matte), and there was an overpowering cotton-candy fragrance that reviewers of the Prime Rose lipsticks hadn't seen fit to mention because they'd all received the collection for free.

Long story short, I ended up returning Stepford. The initial (and nonrefundable) shipping fee was $7, and it cost about $3 more to send the lipstick back to Melt, so I paid over $10 for the privilege of trying it on. I realized that I had a choice: I could continue to waste time and money hunting for dupes, or I could cut my losses, buy the lipstick I really wanted, and move on with my life. And since my defense was coming up, I decided that Madame Greige would make the perfect reward. Spoiler: IT TOTALLY DID.

(Here's where the review proper begins, if you've been scrolling impatiently through my ramblings.)

If this whole academia thing doesn't work out, I'd like to get a job writing copy for Pat McGrath Labs. It seems like it would be an enormous amount of fun. "Lavishly laminate lips with sensuously saturated colour," gushes the website. "Hypnotize and exude luxury with lips transformed into objects of ravishing desire." (So much for the idea that we wear makeup for our own pleasure, not to seduce others.) The academic job market may be hopeless, but if there's one thing my fancy degree has equipped me to do, it's compose alliterative phrases like "lavishly laminate lips." And I wouldn't even have to sacrifice my integrity to do so, because that blurb isn't much of an exaggeration. I can't say I've attracted the "ravishing desire" of passersby while wearing Madame Greige (and thank God for that), but "sensuously saturated colour" that "exude[s] luxury" is pretty accurate!

Each LuxeTrance shade comes in a cardboard box illustrated by a different artist. Not many lipstick boxes deserve to be photographed from every angle, but these certainly do.

That exact fastening mechanism can also be found on the "inter-department service envelopes" used at my university, which makes the Pat McGrath box seem a tad less luxurious.

You've all seen the signature Pat McGrath lipstick tube by now: heavy black metal with gold accents and a Surrealist-inspired pair of gold lips where the two halves of the tube meet. I confess, I'm not in love with the design: on the tacky-to-sublime spectrum, the lips are just this side of tacky, and they take up a fair bit of room in the box where I store my lipsticks. For $38, I also would have liked a magnetic closure (though the tube does snap shut securely). But I appreciate a bold gesture in makeup packaging, even if it doesn't succeed completely. And Pat McGrath came of age in the '80s, so it's appropriate that the tube should recall that era of overblown luxury. I can imagine a femme-realness queen in Paris Is Burning wielding a lipstick like this (indeed, one of the nude lipsticks is called LaBeija).

Like the NARS Audacious and Bite Amuse Bouche lipsticks, the LuxeTrance lipsticks contain a generous 4g of product. (By contrast, MAC and Urban Decay Vice lipsticks are about 3g, and Glossier Generation G and Tom Ford Lips and Boys/Girls are about 2g.)

The bullet tapers to a conventional point, but the bit that's usually flat is slightly convex:

How to describe the color? Not only does it look different from person to person (see Emily's post for proof), but it also looks different from minute to minute on the same person. To my eye, Madame Greige is about 40% lavender, 30% beige, and 30% gray, but I'm struggling to come up with a good word for that color. For some reason, beauty brands like to call purplish beige lipsticks "greige," but the word technically signifies a light brownish grayno purple in evidence. (Actually, Pat McGrath's own Lust Angeles shade is more greige than Madame Greige. Go figure.) I think Madame Greige is closer to mauvean equally ill-defined term in the beauty industrythan it is to greige, but true mauve is brighter. In cool-toned light, as above, MG leans dusty purple; in warm-toned or indoor light, it's more brown. Perhaps I should describe the color in terms of how it makes me feel: elegant but offbeat, like Isabella Blow or Daphne Guinness (whom I envy less for her wardrobe than for her having banged my #1 celebrity crush, Tom Hollander). You know: one of those eccentric British ladies who act as patrons to artists and designers, wear bizarre feathered hats, and have so much money that their occupation is being themselves.

Isabella Blow with milliner Philip Treacy in 2003 (source). She died ten years ago last May.

The Pat McGrath website promises "seamless, one-stroke coverage," and Madame Greige certainly doesn't disappoint. Here's an arm swatch in indirect natural light:

This is a tricky shade to dupe. Below, I've swatched it alongside all my grayish beiges and purples; the closest color match is Kiko 319, though Madame Greige's formula is infinitely superior. MAC Whirl (far left) is nearest to a true greige, and you can see that it's less purple than MG (and, on my face, less flattering).

L-R: MAC Whirl, Kiko 319, Bourjois Beige Trench, Madame Greige, Milani Matte Naked, NYX Brooklyn Thorn.

Because the LuxeTrance bullet is wide and rounded, I can imagine that if I'd bought a bold shade like Major Red or Wrecked, I'd have a harder time applying it without liner or a lip brush. As it is, Madame Greige is easy to put on. It doesn't have as much slip as, say, the NARS Audacious lipsticks, but it doesn't drag or pull on my lips, either. The texture reminds me of moist clay: heavy and unctuous but not unpleasant. It's not a lightweight lipstick by any means, but it's very comfortable to wear, and it disguises my ever-present dry patches and gives the illusion of extra plumpness. The formula is mercifully scent- and taste-free, and I'd even call it lightly hydrating. Though the LuxeTrance lipsticks are described as "satin," Madame Greige's slight shine lasts only about ten minutes, after which the formula sets to an all-but-matte finish. Honestly, there's not much difference (at least in appearance) between the MatteTrance and LuxeTrance formulas, so you might want to look elsewhere if you prefer a true satin finish. Here's Madame Greige just after application this morning:

After three hours, a large coffee, and a Larabar (carrot cake is the best flavor, don't @ me):

As you can see, Madame Greige has extraordinary lasting power and surprisingly little transfer onto cups. I've worn it for an entire morning of teaching and sipping coffee and water, kept it on through lunch (lentil salad and a tangerine), and glanced in the mirror after five hours to find it looking pretty much flawless. Of course, a lighter color will fade more gracefully than a vampy one, so I can't vouch for any other shade, but I'm very impressed with Madame Greige. Frankly, it's spoiled me for most other lipsticks. I don't want to commit to superlatives so early, but this might be the best lipstick formula I've ever tried. Yeah, I said it, and I put it in bold. Pat, you fucking genius.

Due to what I fondly call my "zombie undertones" (cool olive, i.e. gray), I tend to have good luck with grayish lipsticks. I suspect warmer-toned people might have trouble with Madame Greige, but I find it quite flattering, especially with purple, pink, and/or gray tones elsewhere on my face.

In these photos, I'm also wearing ABH Warm Taupe eyeshadow in the crease, Seventeen Statuesque eyeshadow (I think) on the lid, probably a brown pencil liner idk, Urban Decay Rapture blush, Becca Shimmer Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal, and my friend's dog's hair, shoutout to Luna.

At a different time of day (same room, same natural light), Madame Greige looks very purple:

After so many words, I'm not sure how to conclude, except to say that in my opinion (and you know I'm a frugal bitch), this lipstick is well worth $38. I never thought I'd write those six words in that exact order, but here we are. Now that we're in the holiday season, I think these lipsticks would make beautiful gifts for friends or loved onesor, you know, for yourself. Because you should be your own best friend and best-loved one, right?