Friday, March 31, 2017

Reverse Lipstick Chronology #3: Urban Decay Roach

I was eight for most of 1996, but I remember that year quite well. In fact, I remember it as an especially good year in my young life. My parents and I had moved to San Francisco the year before, back when an assistant teacher and a busker at Ghirardelli Square could afford a nice two-bedroom in Cole Valley. The Summer Olympics took place in Atlanta, and my best friend Dana and I played with her new gymnast Barbie (complete with parallel bars). I owned a fuchsia velour T-shirt embossed with daisies. My parents drove a 1983 Toyota Corolla. My mom and I laughed at the mysterious "www." and ".com" appearing on billboards and bus ads all over the city. On the evening of the presidential election, my dad picked me up from ballet and I said "Clinton won, didn't he?" and my dad, very pleased, said yes. And the upstart beauty brand Urban Decay launched its first collection: nine lipsticks and a dozen nail polishes in bizarre metallic colors with names like Smog, Plague, and Asphyxia.

All right, so I don't remember that last detail. But I was still excited when I learned last summer that Urban Decay was bringing back its original product lineup for its 20th anniversary. And the lipsticks' brown cardboard boxes looked familiar enough that I know I must have seen them, or something very like them, back then. To paraphrase another cultural touchstone of the late 20th century, Nigel Tufnel: "It's like, how much more '90s can you get? And the answer is none. None more '90s." Honestly, I prefer the brown boxes to the current gaudy ones. (Nouveau Cheap has a great post, itself now seven years old, on the evolution of Urban Decay. Did you know they used to sell temporary tattoos?)

The XX lipsticks must not have sold very well, because they were marked down to $11 (from the original $18) by December. I was a little surprised, given the current popularity of metallic and frosted lipsticks in offbeat colors, but the problem may have been opacity: the repromoted UD shades ranged from slightly translucent to quite sheer. Below are Asphyxia (which, appropriately, made me look dead when I tried it on) and Oil Slick:

I assumed that if I ended up with any of the shades, it would be one of the three purples. But while returning NYX Up the Bass at Ulta in December, I found myself drawn to Roach, a rich bronze. Longtime readers might remember that after NYX released its metallic Wicked Lippies in 2014, I coveted the orange-bronze Wrath for at least a year before deciding I wouldn't wear it enough to justify the purchase. Now here was a slightly cooler-toned bronze in a higher-quality formula, for a mere $11. I couldn't resist.

Urban Decay does a good box lining:

Roach was one of my favorite purchases of 2016, mainly because it achieves the near-impossible: it's a playful metallic lipstick that manages to be almost neutral. I can wear it out of the house without feeling acutely self-conscious, but it's far from boring. I also appreciate that it verges on taupe while still retaining an bronzey warmth:

I had no idea which of my lipsticks would make good comparison swatches, so here's Roach between two other medium browns: MAC Whirl (L) and Revlon Fierce (R). As you can see, Whirl and Fierce are far redder than Roach, which looks almost yellow-based here.

One coat of Roach provides almost full opacity, but I generally use two. The Vice lipsticks are scent- and tasteless, and Roach's formula is comfortable and moisturizing without being slippery. Most metallic lipsticks these days come in more or less drying liquid formulas, so it's nice to own a true metallic lip color in a more congenial formula. The color changes quite a bit depending on lighting, so I've done swatches in natural light (above) and fluorescent light (below).

My makeup concept today was "shit I have ten minutes to do makeup before therapy and we're just going to be driving around central Jersey in the rain after that," so uh, enjoy. I thought the NYX Jumbo Pencil in Iced Mocha would pair well with the plum half of the NARS Habanera duo, so I smeared Iced Mocha all over my eyelids and layered Habanera on the outer third. Unfortunately, the two colors blended into a muddy brownish wash and I had no time to improve the look, so I tightlined with Urban Decay eyeliner in Whiskey and called it a day. I'm also wearing Illamasqua cream blush in Zygomatic and ColourPop highlighter in Lunch Money.

I scrolled through my photos to find slightly more inspired looks that incorporated Roach, but it turns out that I always pair it with boring neutral eyeshadow because I fear that a distinctive eye look will be Too Much with bronze lipstick. I think Roach would look beautiful with a Modern Renaissance pink/red eye, and perhaps one day I'll do that and update this post. But sloppy brownish eyes and cheeks are certainly in the spirit of 1996, so let's pretend that's what I intended all along.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reverse Lipstick Chronology #2: Maybelline Smoking Red

Drugstore makeup has become a lot more interesting over the past few years, and I can't help but envy people who are just getting into makeup now and have access to so many weird lipsticks at affordable price points. I've always been drawn to slightly eccentric makeup, but in my early twenties it was impossible to find so much as a true purple lipstick at the drugstore, let alone the blues, blacks, and greiges that are available now. In fact, there were so few purply lipsticks on the shelves of my local CVS back in 2011 that I can remember the exact shades that were available. There was Revlon Va Va Violet, which leaned more burgundy than purple and looked depressingly streaky in the photos I saw online. There was Revlon Berry Haute, a sort of purplish mauve. There was CoverGirl Divine, a bright magenta that looked purple if you compared it to a true pink. And that was it. The first real live purple lipstick I ever found at the drugstore was Maybelline Brazen Berry, part of the Colorsensational Vivids collection that launched in early 2013. Brazen Berry was followed that fall by Revlon Matte Balm in Shameless, a dark true purple. And so a new era of drugstore lipstick dawned.

Because of the Vivids collection and subsequent releases, I've come to think of Maybelline as one of the more innovative drugstore brands, in color if not in formula. So it didn't surprise me that Maybelline was the brand to debut the 20-shade Loaded Bolds collection last summer. The collection comprises not only a true bright purple (of course), but also a white, a black, two blues (you saw Midnight Blue on my mom in this post), a few trendy greiges, mauves, and browns, and a handful of more conventional lipstick colors. All the Loaded Bolds come in a silver tube with a square cover in translucent dark blue, a huge improvement over the tacky orange Vivids tubes.

To my surprise, the Loaded Bolds shade that first called to me was one of the least quirky: Smoking Red, a dark red with a slight brown tone. It came to my attention through a post on the now-defunct xoVain (RIP). Yes, it was a sponsored post. Yes, Sable has the uncanny ability to make any beauty product look exceedingly cool. No matter: Smoking Red was beautiful, and I wanted it. I held off for a few months, though: I prefer to patronize cruelty-free brands, and I already had a couple of dark, murky off-red lipsticks that I loved. But inexorable fate intervened. Back in San Francisco during winter break, I had a peek in one of my mom's makeup bags (as you do) and found an untouched tube of Smoking Red! My mom never wears red lipstick, so I asked her why she'd bought it. She couldn't remember, but speculated that she might have intended it as a birthday present for me and forgotten to send it. Clearly, this lipstick and I were meant to be together.

Smoking Red looked decidedly warm-toned in Sable's xoVain post, but on me it's a dark neutral red, somewhere between brick and berry. It's rare to encounter a nicely balanced red in the drugstore: I'd expect such a complex color from NARS, maybe, but not Maybelline. (Smoking Red actually reminds me of the darker red Audacious lipsticks, like Charlotte, Jeanne, and Olivia.)

I was surprised to find that Smoking Red wasn't a dupe for any other lipstick I owned. I expected NYX Alabama to be very similar to Smoking Red, but it looks almost orange in comparison! NARS 413 BLKR comes a bit closer, but it's warmer and rosier.

L-R: MAC Eugenie, NARS 413 BLKR, Smoking Red, NYX Alabama, NARS Cruella.

The formula of Smoking Red is...unusual. As you can tell from the arm swatches above, this is a very pigmented lipstick, opaque in one swipe. As with many pigmented lipsticks, though, application can be tricky. The formula has a tendency to drag and feather at the same time, which is pretty remarkable. After applying Smoking Red from the bullet, I often find myself tidying up my cupid's bow with a bit of NYX Cabaret lip liner. When freshly applied, the lipstick has a satin finish with a bit of shine (hence the slight feathering). After about ten minutes, that shine fades to reveal a matte finish, which I much prefer. It's as if there are two layers to the formula, one slippery and short-lived, the other matte and tenacious. Here's Smoking Red just after application, sans lip liner:

To be fair, the slight unevenness at the edges probably wouldn't be visible if you were talking to me at a normal distance, but it annoyed me enough that I went in with Cabaret for a cleaner look:

Isn't that a beautiful '20s-style wine-red? It lasts for hours, too. I find it a bit drying after half a day or so, but not so drying that my lips feel ravaged the next day.

Smoking Red looked pretty great with the sequined blazer I tried on at the very fancy Nordstrom in Palo Alto.

Despite my quibble with the formula, I'd highly recommend Smoking Red. It's an affordable gem and a reminder of how dramatically drugstore makeup has improved in just the last five years. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

On the "Fakeness" of Social Media

Yesterday I came across a very insightful post on r/MakeupRehab, titled "A thought on the fakeness of Instagram..." It's a long post, so I won't quote it in full, but the writer argues that successful Instagrammers like her sister, women whose posts feature them "in trendy places in even trendier outfits," perpetuate an internalized misogyny that filters down to the social-media accounts of ordinary women:
It's so absolutely drilled in our heads that we have to be PERFECT at all times. On social media, we never post when we get dumped. We never show ourselves when we splurge on makeup because we had a bad day. We never show when we fail that exam, or have a fight with our partners, or are so depressed we can't leave bed. We never show ourselves eating that third bag of cheetos on the couch. We never show when we fail. And we never show ourselves listening to our favorite songs or holding our loved ones or laughing with a friend and feeling something that no money or makeup or followers could EVER make us feel and we don't even NEED to document the moment because it's just here, right now, and it's REAL.
To my own surprise, I found myself pushing back a bit:

Needless to say, it's disturbing that girls and women feel pressured to present a glossy, sanitized persona on social media. But it also bothers me that criticism of that pressure often takes the form of "we should be totally raw and honest ALL THE TIME." That strikes me as a holdover from an earlier era of the internet: the overshare culture of the 2000s and early 2010s, the xoJane "It Happened to Me" series, the LiveJournal/Emily Gould/Julia Allison (remember her?) brand of confessionalism. Back in 2015, Slate ran a great story on the "first-person industrial complex," the journalistic model that "incentivizes knee-jerk, ideally topical self-exposure," often at the expense of the writer's professional reputation and personal life. Yes, that's the other extreme of online self-commodification, but the assumption behind it is widespread: that a social-media account should provide a full, often unflattering, picture of a life. This is its own flavor of misogyny: the idea that women should package their emotions, traumas, and mistakes for public consumption. When was the last time you heard a man described as "fake" because he didn't post about eating that third bag of Cheetos? "Fake" is a gendered criticism.

I've mentioned in passing that I deal with various mental-health shit on a daily basis. I have depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I've been in and out of therapy since the age of 13. And yes, I do think it's important for people to be more open about mental illness so that we can collectively reduce the stigma attached to it. But I also think that principle extends only so far. If providing daily Instagram updates about your depression level helps you cope, then by all means do it; I'm not arguing that you shouldn't. But providing those updates wouldn't be good for my mental health, and isn't that what I'm trying to preserve in the first place? I don't see why should I feel guilty about that.


When I follow someone on Instagram, I take for granted that there are things they share with their best friends, romantic partners, and doctors that they're not going to share with me, a rando on the internet. And I'm totally fine with this. Why shouldn't I be? Social media has blurred the boundary between person and persona, but it's the viewer's responsibility to stay conscious of that boundary, not the Instagrammer's responsibility to go live when she's crying over a breakup. If we don't reveal everything about ourselves to everyone we encounter in real life, why should we feel obligated to do so online?

All that said, the people I enjoy following on Instagram are people who offer unglamorous glimpses of their day-to-day life. That's what I offer, too, because that's all I have to offer. If someone I follow starts airbrushing her selfies or shilling diet products, that's an unfollow from me. But I've never resented anyone for not sharing more of her problems. Peeking into other people's lives through social media is a privilege, not a right, and I think it's possibleand preferableto strike a balance between Jezebel-circa-2010 oversharing and Kylie-circa-2017 glossy perfection. Really, though, I'm curious to know what others think! How do you prefer to share your life on social media?

And because this post doesn't have nearly enough photos, here's the metallic blue lip I put together before showering last night, after I'd removed most of my other makeup. I patted Topshop eyeshadow in Holograph over NYX Velvet Matte lipstick in Midnight Muse, and I love the intergalactic-disco effect, though I fear an intergalactic disco is the only place I could wear this look. Know of any good ones?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reverse Lipstick Chronology #1: MAC Whirl


...oh, right.

The weather may suggest otherwise, but I'm now on spring break. That doesn't mean very much in ABD world, since I should technically spend every waking hour chipping away at my dissertation, but I'm still planning to use my extra free time (or the illusion thereof) to write some reviews I've been putting off. While looking over my lipstick inventory the other day, I realized that I have yet to review ten of the lipsticks and glosses I've acquired in the past year. I'm not sure how many reviews I'll be able to write in the next week, but I'd like to knock out at least a few so that I can move on to more creative posts. Longtime readers of my blog will remember that in its early days, I had a series called "Lipstick Chronology," in which I reviewed all the lipsticks I owned in chronological order of purchase. Now that I have a substantial backlog of unreviewed lipsticks, I think it's time I made another chronology in reverse. Let's begin with my newest lipstick, MAC Whirl:

After Kylie Jenner revealed that she used MAC Whirl lip pencil for her signature brownish nude lip, MAC capitalized on the ensuing hype and created a matching lipstick, which debuted in 2015 in a collection of nine new matte shades. Not being in the habit of taking beauty tips from someone a decade my junior, I didn't pay much attention to Whirl and its numerous knockoffs until this year, when I got it into my head that I needed a taupey medium-brown lipstick. I had a dark violet brown, a warm reddish brown, and a brown that was practically gray, but I didn't have that iconic mid-2010s murky rosy coolish brown, a brown subdued enough for professional wear but still distinctly eccentric.

When Renee heard that I was thinking of buying Whirl, she kindly sent me a mini Whirl from one of MAC's Nutcracker Sweet Lipstick Kits from last holiday season. (The "nude" gift set came with four mini lipsticks: Creme Cup, Nouvelle Vogue, Kinda Sexy, and Whirl.) I'd never seen a MAC mini lipstick before and was pleasantly surprised at how substantial it was. My tube of Whirl is 1.8 g (0.06 oz), whereas a full-sized MAC lipstick is 3 g (0.1 oz):

Whirl looked very cool-toned, almost purple, on Renee, but it pulls much warmer on me. It's nearly identical to Topshop Lip Bullet in Motel, which I destashed earlier this year because I hated the formula. In different lights, I detect hints of peach, gray, and plum.

Like the other MAC matte lipsticks I've tried, Whirl applies smoothly and evenly, with no patchiness:

L-R: Revlon Fierce, Whirl, Milani Matte Naked.

Though I'm glad I got the chance to try Whirl, I'm also glad I didn't pay $17 for the full size. Whirl is a beautiful color, but I don't think it's my color. It's simply not made for pale, cool-toned folks, and I accept that. In the look below, I've tried to cool it down with plummy makeup and a purple top. On my eyes, I'm wearing ABH Buon Fresco in the crease and Antique Bronze in the outer corner and lower lashline; Seventeen Statuesque on the lid, and Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner on the upper lashline. My blush is Urban Decay Rapture.

A better look at the eyes:

My real issue with Whirl, though, is not the color but the formula. In general, MAC's matte lipsticks play well with my sensitive lips. I own three other MAC matte shadesAntique Velvet, Candy Yum-Yum, and Eugenieand I find all of them comfortable and relatively non-drying. Whirl, however, is one of the most drying lipsticks I've ever encountered. I've worn it on two different days now, and the same thing happened both times: my lips started peeling within two or three hours, even when I applied Whirl over balm. I wore it yesterday, and today my lips almost feel bruised, as if I got punched in the mouth. It's so weird to have this reaction to a formula I usually love, and I'm not sure how to explain it. I'm certainly having second thoughts about ordering MAC Men Love Mystery, though. Maybe I should go for the new NARS matte pencil in (wait for it) Pussy Control? Hmm.

I hope I can figure out a painless way to wear Whirl, because I really enjoy the color and think it would look equally good with warm- and cool-toned eye looks. Thanks again to Renee for sending me her tube!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

In Pursuit of Pastel Pink, Part 2: Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff

I can't remember getting as excited over any Glossier release as I did over the Cloud Paint cream blushes, which launched a week and a half ago (following a "soft launch" at the Oscars, because of course). Two days before the blushes dropped, I had a dream that I was looking at them in a store, but they were in pans instead of tubes, and there were only two shades: a warm brown and a bright red-orange similar to NARS Exhibit A. Say what you will about Glossier, their marketing is capable of infiltrating my subconscious to the point that I have dreams about specific products. Glossier is really good at creating narratives around their merchandise, and as someone who picks apart narratives for a living, I have to respect that.

The Cloud Paints are $18 each (though Glossier currently has a two-for-$30 deal), and they come in four colors: Beam, a peach; Dusk, a beige-brown similar to Illamasqua Zygomatic; Haze, a purple berry; and Puff, which I thought would be a lavender pink capable of fulfilling my k-beauty fantasies. I'd been meaning to order a new tube of Boy Brow anyway, so I gladly succumbed to Puff, as well as one of Glossier's terrycloth headbands with an embroidered G (which happens to be the first letter of my surname).

Each Cloud Paint comes in a metallic cardboard box that slides out of a plastic sheath:

I've heard some complaints about the smallness of the blushes (0.33 fl oz, or 10 ml), but keep in mind that 1) cream products expire more quickly than powders do, and 2) this is a pigmented formula that doesn't take much building up. Here's the tube in my hand for scale:

A commenter on ITG's Cloud Paint post mentioned that the blushes look awfully similar to Too Cool for School's Impasto Blushes, which are also housed in mini paint tubes. (I'm surprised that ITG let that comment through, to be honest.) It's no secret that Glossier draws heavy inspiration from k-beauty, but inspiration is one thing and ripping off a product design is another. The designs are different enough that I doubt it's a legal issue, but it still feels a bit icky to me.

Unscrew the cap and remove the little foil protector, and you get this:

The blush formula is somewhat runny (as it has to be, given the nature of the packaging), and a lot of product can ooze out of that little hole if you're not careful. Other cream blushes in tubes, like the Becca Beach Tints, have a long, thin "snout" (not sure what else to call it) that prevents the product from dispensing too quickly. I wish the Cloud Paints had this feature, but since they don't, I'd recommend storing the tube with the cap pointing upward and squeezing it veeeery gently to dispense the product. I actually hold the tube upright when I squeeze it, too. Glossier describes Cloud Paint as a "gel cream," which gives the impression of a thicker, creamier formula, but it's more of a slippery stain (it's full of silicones, if you care about that sort of thing). Here's Puff dolloped onto my hand, then blended in:

Puff is an extremely pretty neutral pink. It is not, however, the pastel cotton-candy unicorn fantasy promised on the Glossier website. Seriously, check out the videos of women applying Puff: the pink looks so much cooler on them than it does on me. To be fair, my skin is quite cool-toned, so most pinks will pull a bit warm, but I was astonished when I swatched Puff alongside three NARS pinks and it looked almost coral. L-R: Mata Hari, Threesome, Puff, Coeur Battant:

Puff is even warmer than Threesome! What is the deal? (These swatches remind me how pretty Coeur Battant is and how infrequently I wear it. Must change that.)

Taken on its own terms, however, Puff is a lovely and user-friendly shade. For a natural flush, I use one small drop per cheek, blending it upward from the apples with my fingers. (I've heard that people use brushes with the Cloud Paints, but I imagine that would get messy.) For a more dramatic pop of pink, I use two drops per cheek. The color sinks right into my skin for a stain effect, blends out smoothly, and lasts several hours without fading, though I'm curious whether it would perform differently over foundation or on skin less dry than mine.

For my first attempt, I took inspiration from various k-beauty tutorials and put together a subtle warm eye with a cool lip and cheek. I used three shades from ABH Modern Renaissance on my eyes: Warm Taupe all over the lids and on the lower lashline, Primavera in the center for a halo effect, and Cyprus Umber on the top lashline. My lipstick is Glossier Generation G in Jam, because why not go full Glossier?

For my second attempt, I applied Urban Decay Skimp, a pinkish beige, all over my lids, then used the Physicians Formula liquid liner to draw a "puppy eye," which looked a lot better on me than I remembered (then again, I have a decent eyeliner now...). My lip color is Too Cool for School's lip tint in Milky Lavender, which in the year since I bought it has deepened to the vivid lilac I always wanted it to be. That probably means it's going bad, but it still smells fine, so let's live dangerously.

Puff seems like it will play well with other blushes, so in the coming days I'm going to try layering it under Threesome, Tony Moly Milky Violet, and ColourPop Rain. Perhaps one of those combinations will give me the lavender-pink cheeks I so desperately desire. If not, the Korean brand 3CE seems like it might have me covered:

Source: Stylenanda

But before I run out and buy yet another product, I'm going to do my very best to achieve the look above with the blushes I already own. Reading Renee's post about resisting the "I WANT IT!" feeling has made me more determined to mix and layer products, which is not something I generally do. But if the best makeup artists do it habitually to create their ideal colors, why shouldn't I? If I come up with any good combinations in the next few days, I'll update this post.

Overall, I really like Puff. The little tube is ideal for travel, and the color suits me and seems like it would go well with both warm and cool lip colors. Cloud Paint is probably my second-favorite Glossier product (Boy Brow being the winner, of course), though the other three shades are similar enough to blushes I already own that I doubt I'll pick up any more.

By the way, when I ordered Puff and made a Glossier account, I received an affiliate link. If you're a first-time customer and you click here to shop on the website, you get 20% off and I get $10 in store credit. If you'd rather not, no worries at all! (FYI, first-time customers get 20% off whether or not they use my link.)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

In Pursuit of Pastel Pink, Part 1: NARS Blush in Threesome

For at least two years now, I've been searching for the perfect cool-toned pale pink blush, something that will give me that fresh-faced but slightly artificial k-beauty look. Here's Jiwon of Spica for BNT International, back in March 2014:

Source: Omona They Didn't. Spica disbanded last month. :(

And here's Irene of Red Velvet for Instyle Korea, March 2016:

Source: Omona They Didn't

Now, needless to say, these photos have been smoothed and blurred and color-altered to hell. Because every irregularity of color and texture has been airbrushed away, there's a sharp contrast between skin and blush, a contrast that I'm not sure is achievable in real life. But that hasn't stopped me from searching for a blush that can deliver a subtle, yet not quite natural, cotton-candy flush. By the time I began my quest, the NARS Final Cut collection had come and gone, and with it my platonic pink blush, Sex Fantasy (lol). I thought about buying NARS Gaiety instead, but it seemed just a hair too dark. So you can imagine my elation when I heard about a new NARS spring collection containing a blush described as "lavender pink." It looked very similar to Sex Fantasy, and even had a similarly raunchy name: Threesome.

The collection in question is the pastelicious Pop Goes the Easel. Confusingly, this is not the official NARS Spring 2017 collection. Even more confusingly, it launched in Asia and Europe first, but landed just last week in the US, where it's a Nordstrom exclusive. Pop Goes the Easel comprises three blushes, three Sheer Pop Multiples (a new formula), and four Velvet Lip Glides, all limited edition. François Nars previously drew inspiration from Pop Art with his Warhol collection for Holiday 2012, but the product names in this collection ("Threesome," "Peep Show," and "Suck," among others) don't have much to do with any particular art movement. I'm all for cheeky allusive names like "Goodbye Emmanuelle" (my favorite lipstick name ever), but the names in Pop Goes the Easel don't really cohere with the collection's overall vibe. I just don't find over-the-top sexual names interesting unless they're placed in an aesthetic or narrative context, and these aren't. To confuse things further, the Sheer Pop Multiples are named for beaches and islands: Motu Tane (an island in French Polynesia owned by Mr. Nars himself), Cote Basque, and Navagio Beach. So...okay. Let's have a look at the blush.

The first thing I noticed about Threesome was its dusty, muted quality. It was very pale, but not as bright or white-based as Gaiety or Sex Fantasy. It was a slightly warmer pink than Instagram swatches had led me to believe, and I was reminded for the nth time how stupid it is to rely on Instagram for product shots.

When I finger-swatched the blush, I felt some trepidation: the pigmentation I expected from NARS blushes simply wasn't there, and I couldn't imagine that the color would show up well on my cheeks. From left to right, we have two finger-swipes of NARS Mata Hari, FIVE of Threesome, and one of Illamasqua cream blush in Zygomatic:

See how peachy Threesome looks next to Mata Hari? I wouldn't even call it "cool pink," let alone "lavender pink."

Generally, arm swatches done with a fingertip make blushes look more pigmented than they do on the cheeks. However, Threesome is odd: it looks pinker and darker on my face than it does on my paper-white inner arm. I definitely need more product than I do with Mata Hari, but two dips in the pan suffice for one cheek. I like concentrating the color on the apples for that vaguely k-beauty vibe. Threesome also wears quite well: I can still see it on my face several hours after application. I will say here that if you're not very pale, like too-light-for-most-foundations pale, this blush will probably not work for you. Pop Goes the Easel's other blushes, a dusty peach and a pinky coral, seem better suited to darker skin tones: here's the peach, Misconduct, on my beautiful Instagram pal tremblelikeaflower.

Yesterday was National Women's Day, so I paired Threesome with my favorite red lipstick, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red. The combination of pink blush and red lipstick felt very retro, so I did a messy '50s/'60s-style eye as well, using the Urban Decay Naked2 Basics palette and my Kiko black pencil liner. I used Stark all over the lid and Frisk in the crease, lined my upper lashlines with the Kiko pencil, smudged that out with Undone, and added a bit more Undone to the lower lashlines. Mysterious Red looks shinier than usual here because my winter-dry lips demanded that I apply it over lip balm.

It's hard for me to review blush because it usually looks less pronounced in photos than it does in real life, but the photo below gives a pretty good idea of how Threesome looks on my face. It's understated, but it's definitely there and definitely pink.

Possibly too close:

During my four-hour minimum-wage shift at a library desk yesterday, I realized that my Women's Day lips matched the red Loeb editions pretty hard. For those of you who aren't hardcore humanities nerds, Loeb is a Harvard University Press imprint that specializes in scholarly editions of Greek and Latin classics. The Greek editions are green and the Latin ones are red (for Rome). I sent my boyfriend (who, you'll remember, picked up Threesome from Selfridges) a photo that pretty much epitomized "gradcore"...

...which led to the following exchange:

My Glossier Puff should arrive today (it's somehow taken five days to travel just over 200 miles), so that will be my next review. I'm thinking that my ideal flush can best be achieved with a cream blush, and we'll see if I'm right. As for NARS Threesome, I like it and think it fills a gap in my blush wardrobe, but it's not quite what I expected. Come to think of it, Threesome resembles the activity for which it's named: alluring in theory, it can easily go wrong in practice, and it's certainly not for everyone.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Low-Buy 2017 Progress Report: February

A short list for a short month!

New Makeup:

NARS blush in Threesome: $30

NYX Butter Gloss in Blackberry Pie: $5

Yay, I managed to buy just two new pieces of makeup! One was carefully planned, while the other (the BLACK LIP GLOSS, obviously) was a Target impulse buy. Unfortunately, I'm not thrilled with either one. From the photos I saw on Instagram, I expected NARS Threesome to be a little cooler and purpler than it is. And because it's such a light color (seriously, it's almost white), I have to use quite a bit of product to get it to show up. I don't dislike it, exactly, but it's not what I expected. Yet another reason to swatch before buying, damn it.

NYX Blackberry Pie has the opposite problem: it's way more pigmented than I thought it would be. I've owned three other Butter Glosses, all of which delivered a nice hit of color but were definitely on the sheer side, and I bought Blackberry Pie hoping it would be that sheer black lip color I've been seeking in vain for so many months. And, um:

I thought I'd spend 2017 easing slowly into opaque-black-lip territory, but here I am already. Blackberry Pie looks like patent leather on my lips, which makes me feel cool, but it wears off quickly and it's too thick to be sheered out over another color. But hey, now I own a black lip gloss!


Vaseline Lip Therapy with Cocoa Butter: $2.50

Physicians Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum (jfc): $12

Does a product count as a "replacement" if it's replacing something I last owned two years ago? I'm going to go with yes. After three years of trying and failing to make Maybelline's Line Stiletto work for me, I gave up on liquid liner. Lately, though, I've been wanting to try again with a better product. After reading Lyn's review of the Physicians Formula liquid liner, I decided to pick it up. So far, I'm pretty impressed! I wish it were darker and more opaque on first swipe, but the thin brush tip gives me a lot of control, and the liner lasts all day.

I bought that little container of Vaseline Lip Therapy with cocoa butter after running out of my usual Palmer's cocoa-butter balm and failing to find another one at my local drugstores. And guess what: I think I've found my new holy grail lip balm. When I bought the Vaseline, my lower lip was cracked and painful. I applied the balm before bed and my lip was healed the next morning. Magic.

Total for February: $54.50

Notes: I was really broke in February. I mean, I'm always more or less broke because I'm a grad student, but February was especially bad. Though I wasn't tempted to spend more money than I had, I found myself making lists of all the makeup I'd buy with my next paycheck. I've been noticing a troubling psychological pattern: the less money I have in the bank, the more fiercely I want to buy shit, as if to prove to myself that I still deserve the occasional treat. Yet the day after I got paid (I'm teaching and working at the library now, so I'm earning more than I was last semester), all those cravings vanished. As if awaking from an evil spell, I started thinking more sensibly: okay, let's put X amount in savings, pay rent and utilities, wait a couple of weeks, then maybe get a new lipstick. Why does my brain do this?

By the way, I've been keeping up with my document tallying my lipstick use. My most-worn lipsticks this year, with four wears each, are Revlon Fierce, Revlon Pink Truffle, Urban Decay Backtalk, Wet n Wild Missy and Fierce, and Wet n Wild Nudist Peach. Runners-up, with three wears each, are ColourPop Trap, Glossier Cake, Maybelline Smoking Red, Milani Matte Naked, Milani The Ultimatte, Revlon Sultry, and Sephora Coral Sunset. Every time I open this document, I'm reminded of how many lipsticks I own and how few I need.

Wishlist for March:

1. Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff ($18)

Source: Glossier

The Cloud Paints launched this morning, and I ordered Puff an hour ago. I needed a new tube of Boy Brow anyway, and I've been wanting a pastel pink cream blush for those k-beauty editorial vibes, and the tubes look like little paint tubes, I mean can you even? The Cloud Paints are the first Glossier release for which I've felt active excitement. I even dreamed I was buying one of them, which is pretty sad, I realize. Exhaustive review and Glossier snark to come, I'm sure! Though let's be real: at this point, I'm drinking the Glossier Kool-Girl-Aid like everyone else.

2. Mac Matte Lipstick in Men Love Mystery ($17)

Source: MAC

As I've mentioned before, I've been searching for a matte version of MAC Up the Amp, which I finished earlier this year. I spent some time vacillating between Men Love Mystery and ColourPop Matte X in Back Up, which is only $5. But I know I like the MAC matte formula because I own three other MAC matte lipsticks, and I know MLM is the color I want because I've swatched it more than once. I've never tried the ColourPop Matte X formula, so I have no idea how my sensitive lips will react to it, and judging a lipstick's color by filtered Instagram swatches is always risky. And yeah, it's only $5, but if I order it I'm going to throw at least three other things in my ColourPop cart. I know I am, and you know it too. Best to avoid that altogether. Since I just bought Puff, though, I'm probably going to wait a couple of weeks to order Men Love Mystery. (God, I hate that name. HATE IT.)