Thursday, April 27, 2017

K-Pop Beauty Inspiration, Spring 2017

As you probably know by now, I am k-pop girl-group trash. I watch a lot of k-pop videos, which means that I encounter a lot of k-beauty. Sometimes I resolve to devote an entire post to the makeup in one music video, only to find an even better look in another video three days later. If I go on like this much longer, I'll have a yearlong backlog, so let this post be my official trend report for spring 2017. I've isolated three trends from a range of videos, and since they're all more or less wearable, I hope you get some spring inspiration from this post!

Trend #1: Hazy Peachy Eyes

This is a much softer version of the warm smoky eye that still dominates Western Insta-beauty. In most iterations of this look, one or two light peachy shades are blown out all over the lid and the lower lashline, with a thin brown or black liner on the upper lashline. Sometimes the peach or orange accents are concentrated on the outer corners of the eyes, with a more neutral shadow on the rest of the lid. Belly's recent look with Suqqu's new Kisui palette is a great everyday version of this look; here are some non-everyday versions, complete with face stickers!

1. Twice, "Knock Knock"

Twice is the Korean girl group of the moment, which means that several groups have already copied the makeup in this video and more will probably copy it before long. In keeping with their young, fresh image, the members of Twice are wearing very delicate monochrome peach looks, like this one on Nayeon. If you look closely, the peachy color is concentrated at the outer corners and winged out slightly.


A closer look at the peachy eye:

This is all very subtle, though. Let's progress to something a bit bolder:

2. Lovelyz, "WoW!"

Here the diffused peach is darker and rustier, and it surrounds the entire eye, with an accent of thin black liner on the upper lashline. To be fair, there's an orangey filter on the shot below; the actual makeup is probably more subtle than it looks here.

Even zoomed out, though, you can see a slight smoky effect:

Edit: Lovelyz featured yet another peachy eye in a teaser video for a new song!

3. Pristin, "Wee Woo"

K-pop newcomers Pristin deliver the boldest of these three peachy looks. Here the peach verges on orange, and is packed onto the lid with a thicker black liner:

Like the peach shadow in the Twice video, this orange shade is winged out:

Again, there's a warm peachy filter that could be influencing the look of the makeup, but whatever, I wanted to include a photo of my two favorite members, Yuha (left) and Roa:

I recently saw some tweet along the lines of "straight people will never experience the emotion of 'oh god I'm so gay.'" Although I'm bisexual, I'd like to thank k-pop for inducing that emotion in me on a regular basis.

Trend #2: Warm Cheeks, Cool Lips

Like most makeup wearers, I match the undertones of my blush to the undertones of my lipstick, so I was taken aback this spring to see multiple k-pop groups pairing peachy cheeks with fuchsia or berry lips. It's such a simple twist, but counterintuitive enough to make an impression. My first example is relatively subtle:

1. Dreamcatcher, "Good Night"

In one of the bizarre reshufflings that seem to happen every other week in k-pop, obscure girl group Minx added two new members and rebranded as the leather-wearing, heavy-metal-influenced Dreamcatcher earlier this year. Most k-pop rebrandings come to nothing, but this one was well-considered: the group's fanbase has grown, especially internationally (check out their cover of Maroon 5's "Lucky Strike"), and their music and powerful dance moves set them apart from more sugary girl groups like Twice. In the video for "Good Night," the undead grayish cast of the members' skin is the most noticeable makeup effect, but the blush/lipstick combo comes a close second:

One of my favorite girl groups, EXID, had a somewhat disappointing comeback this month. The new single is decidedly less upbeat than their usual fare, while the video is full of the blown-out filters that k-pop MV directors seem to love these days. And is it even an EXID video without surrealist sexual innuendo? However, "Night Rather than Day" has one redeeming factor: Junghwa's makeup, as seen below.

EXID has a more ~adult concept than most girl groups (though Junghwa, the youngest member, is only 21), and the makeup in this video is accordingly sultry and edgy. Junghwa is wearing a bronzey smoky eye with winged liner, and her peach blush is concentrated in a horizontal lozenge shape level with the tip of her nose and stretching the length of each eye. This is the igari look, meant to give a "hungover" effectwhich makes sense, considering that she's drinking wine fully clothed in an empty bathtub. (Hence her wine-stained lips, too.)

LE's look doesn't fit into this trend at all, but I'm going to include it because I can:

Trend #3: Messy Waves

K-pop usually tries to project an image of sleek perfection, so the mussed hair I've been seeing in videos and photoshoots is a welcome change, even if it's just as calculated as anything else in the industry. Here's another screenshot from the Lovelyz video; Jiae's hairstyle (left) is '80s in an ungood way, but I love Kei's messy pigtails.

Taeyeon, leader of Girls' Generation and queen of my heart, in her solo song "Make Me Love You":

Jessica Jung, formerly of Girls' Generation (that scandal will send you down an Internet rabbit hole, be warned):


Sulli, formerly of f(x), for Elle Korea:

I'm not sure how many of my readers are at all interested in k-pop, but I hope you enjoyed this post nonetheless! I'd like this to become a semi-regular feature on my blog, with a few more installments throughout the year. For now, here's what I'll be up to this weekend:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Maybelline Inti-Matte Nude Lipstick in Naked Coral

You know that feeling when you blind-buy a lipstick, hoping that your instincts are right and the shade will flatter you and fill a hole in your collection, and it turns out to do both of those things? That's a nice feeling. It's not a particularly interesting or bloggable feeling, which is perhaps the reason I keep putting off this post. But it's the feeling I get from Naked Coral, one of the ten shades in Maybelline's new Inti-Matte Nudes line.

Coral! My sin, my soul, my most problematic lipstick shade. To the best of my knowledge, I have dark winter coloring with a slight olive undertone that leans gray instead of green. This means that I can wear almost any cool, saturated color, but corals and oranges will always present a challenge. The problem is, I love corals and oranges, whether in vintage illustrations...

Earl Christy for American magazine, May 1923 (source).

...or modern editorials featuring k-pop stars (same color scheme, oddly):

Hani of EXID for 1st Look magazine (source).

In the six-ish years since I fell in love with lipstick, I've been hunting for my perfect coral (I've given up on true orange). A few coral lipsticks have worked for me, but they're so different from each other and so similar to corals that don't work that I've had a hard time determining what kind of coral I need. Pink-, red-, or orange-leaning? Pale or dark? I can rattle off a list of coral and salmon lipsticks that have failed me over the years: MAC Vegas Volt and Relentlessly Red; Revlon Pink in the Afternoon; Maybelline Shocking Coral; NARS Greta; Marc Jacobs So Sofia; Bite Pickled Ginger and, come to think of it, every other coral in the Amuse Bouche line. I feel like I've swatched half the coral lipsticks on the market.

However, there was one category I hadn't explored until recently: brown-tinged corals and peaches. After my success with Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Coral Sunset, I began searching for a lighter brownish coral, something that verged on neutral but still delivered a hit of retro warm pink. After a few weeks of swatch-hunting and contemplation (turns out dirty coral/peach is a rapidly expanding category), I picked up Naked Coral at my local Wegmans, where I also encountered psychedelically beautiful Svedka bottles that presaged the unicorn-frappuccino trend.

The Inti-Matte Nude lipsticks come in a silver tube with a translucent rose-gold cap. This is my favorite iteration of Maybelline's lipstick packaging, though I wish they'd introduce safety seals: I feel like a jerk opening a lipstick to check whether it's been swatched. (In my defense, I open it only if I'm sure I want it.)

Naked Coral is a pale dusty peach, less strident than most other corals and peaches I've tried.

L-R: Milani Matte Naked, Glossier Cake (3 passes), Naked Coral, Urban Decay Streak (just realized I omitted at least one shade from this comparison; I'll redo the swatches tomorrow):

I''ve heard great things about the Maybelline matte formula for years, and Naked Coral hasn't let me down. It's pigmented in one swipe, it glides smoothly onto the lips and feels comfortable for the duration of wear, and it lasts a few hours. My one caveat is that when it wears off in the middle of my lower lip and I apply a new layer, it can look a little cakey. But I'm really nitpicking here. Whether the color will flatter you depends on your skintone and personal taste, but I've been surprised and delighted by the formula, and I'd definitely consider buying another Maybelline matte lipstick in the future (though, as always, I'll look to cruelty-free brands first).

In recent weeks, my daily makeup has taken a turn for the dull: brown pencil eyeliner, a neutral cheek, and a more or less bold lip. I've been spending less time on makeup experimentation and more time on questions like "wtf am I doing with my life" and "how will I make money next year"; sorry 'bout it, as Kimberly Clark would say. So here's a representative, if glazed-eyed, FOTD with Naked Coral:

And here's the makeup I used. I've been enjoying layering Milani Coral Cove blush over Illamasqua Zygomatic (check out that pan!) to tone down the brightness. On my eyes, I used the "browbone" shade from the Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone trio and Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner (not shown).

Same cheek combo, but with Kiko stick eyeshadow in Golden Mauve (so perfect for spring, I can't even) and UD Demolition eyeliner. Yeah, I have damp hair in all these selfies. Sorry 'bout that, too.

Naked Coral outside on a sunny day:

Naked Coral looks slightly brighter on me than it does in the tube, but it still sits firmly in the neutral category, making it a good choice for professional events (like the conference I couldn't afford to attend this week, lol). I see it as a warm-toned version of Urban Decay Backtalk: dusty and muted but well outside MLBB territory. I've been tracking my lipstick usage since January, and these neutral-but-not shades have been my overwhelming favorites in 2017. I have a feeling that Naked Coral will see a lot of use in the coming months!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

FOTD: Cyborg Easter Bunny ft. NYX Twilight Tint

Happy Easter! Full disclosure: I'm one of those secular assholes who welcome the Easter season not for its religious significance but for the positively pagan abundance of egg-shaped chocolate. Growing up half-Jewish, I couldn't help noticing the difference in quality between Easter candy and kosher-for-Passover candy, which consisted (and still consists) primarily of coconut-covered marshmallows and those sinister jelly fruit slices. The marshmallows weren't bad, but they couldn't hold a candle to malted-milk eggs and Cadbury's Creme Eggs and Reese's Eggs. Come to think of it, have I ever encountered an egg-shaped candy I didn't like? There must be some deep primal significance to ovoid treats.

All this is to say that I really enjoy the symbolism of Easter, to say nothing of its color scheme. Most pastels pull out the gray undertones in my skin and make me look slightly zombified, but I still give them an ill-deserved chance every March and April. This particular Easter, I was also inspired by the Y2K-era silver-blue-lavender metallics that comprised the palette of my preteen years and seem to be making a comeback. During a recent visit to Ulta, I bought NYX's Duo Chromatic Illuminating Powder (just call it a highlighter, guys) in Twilight Tint, a spectral white with a strong blue shift.

The highlighter comes in a round compact that feels sturdy but is infuriatingly, nail-destroyingly hard to open. Here it is in my palm for scale:

All my highlighters, L-R: ColourPop Lunch Money, ColourPop Monster, Twilight Tint, Topshop Otherworldly.

Twilight Tint is my fourth highlighter but my first powder highlighter, and the learning curve has been steeper than I expected. The NYX formula is quite dry, and swirling a brush in the pan (I use an e.l.f. stippling brush) kicks up a fair amount of powder. (You can see some stray powder on the pan's black rim in the photo above.) Initially, the dryness fooled me into thinking the highlighter wouldn't be very pigmented, and the light color made it hard to see how much I was applying, and you can imagine what happened next: I ended up with a glowy blue face that wouldn't have been out of place in TLC's "No Scrubs" video.

See, if you can't spatially expand my horizons, then that leaves you in a class with scrubs.

Like most highlighters, Twilight Tint is best appreciated in motion, but here's an attempt at capturing it in a photo. I prefer an understated highlight, but the pigment can be built up (or, I assume, layered over a cream formula) for something more vibrant.

For today's look, which I call "Cyborg Easter Bunny," I paired Twilight Tint with a very similar eyeshadow: Topshop Mono Eyeshadow in Holograph, which has both blue and pink shifts. Since I didn't want to go full metallic, I grounded the look with NARS blush in Threesome and Bite Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Lavender Jam. (I'm using a very liberal definition of "grounded," of course.) I was disappointed in Threesome's pigmentation when I first reviewed it, but I've been wearing it constantly since then. Go figure.

L-R: Holograph, Twilight Tint, Threesome, Lavender Jam.

Using a tip from Michelle, I left most of my lid bare, patting Holograph onto the upper and lower inner corners over Urban Decay Primer Potion. I also lined my upper lashlines with Urban Decay Demolition liner.

And here's the full look:

The light is really bright today, so I look a bit washed-out; sorry about that. My nail polish is Illamasqua Speckle.

I also tried applying a thin layer of Twilight Tint over Lavender Jam for a metallic effect, but it produced only a light shimmer:

I feel a tiny bit crazy in all this lavender and duochrome, but if I can't go full-on shimmery pastel today, when can I? Speaking of which, tell me I'm not the only one who's a little obsessed with Instagram's Easter stickers.

Yes, I know I need a haircut. This week!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Low-Buy 2017 Progress Report: March

I'm back with some makeup and some thoughts!

New Makeup:

L-R: Whirl, Metal Head, Men Love Mystery, Puff, Otherworldly.

Swatches, same order.

Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff: $14.40 (20% off)
MAC Matte Lipstick in Men Love Mystery: $15 (15% off, plus tax)
MAC Metallic Lipstick in Metal Head: purchased with Nordstrom store credit (usually $18)
MAC Matte Lipstick in Whirl (mini): gift from Renee
Topshop Glow Stick in Otherworldly: gift from my boyfriend
Total: $29.40

I acquired five new pieces of makeup last month. Technically, I bought only two of those, but I'm not letting myself off so easy. I could have spent that store credit on something else, and I didn't have to ask my boyfriend to bring me a highlighter from the UK. A product for which I don't exchange real money takes up just as much space in my collection as a product for which I actually swipe my card or hand over cash. I'm pretty pleased with all of my new playthings, at least. Reviews to come! Here I am wearing Metal Head, which looks more or less purple on my lips:


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (12 oz): ~$14
Glossier Boy Brow: $12.80 (20% off)
Revlon Quick Dry Topcoat: $8.49
Total: $35.29

Nothing to see hereI've purchased all these products multiple times and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I've mentioned wanting to find a more affordable substitute for Boy Brow, but the prospect of saving a few dollars isn't worth the possibility that I'll have to try out multiple disappointing products. I might as well keep buying what I know I like.


Beauty Secrets Nail Polish Thinner: $4.29 + shipping + tax = ~$11

I bought a totally ineffective OPI polish thinner from Amazon a few years ago. Since then, I've become a lot more paranoid about beauty fakes on Amazon, so I decided to order a different brand of thinner from a more reputable source: Sally Beauty Supply, which unfortunately slapped an absurd $5.95 shipping fee on a $4.29 product. The good news is that the Beauty Secrets thinner is far more effective than the (fake?) OPI was. The bad news is that it's effective only up to a point. I've managed to revive a few completely desiccated bottles of polish, but those shades are still on the gloppy side after 5-7 drops of thinner, and they seem to chip more quickly than they used to. Still a worthwhile purchase, thoughI really missed that bottle of Essie Ladylike.

Total for March: $75.69

Reflections: I've been faithfully recording my beauty spending for the past 15 months, and though I've achieved a clearer sense of my consumption habits, I'm currently feeling ambivalent about my low-buy. I struggle with self-esteem in many areas of my life, and I wonder if this low-buy plan isn't just another way to set myself up for failure. I don't have a shopping addictionat least, I don't think I dobut could I have a guilt addiction? Could I be hooked on the little thrill of self-loathing that follows every makeup purchase beyond my two-a-month limit? I still enjoy writing up these posts at the end of each month (or, you know, the middle of the following month), but I'm not sure how to sustain my low-buy without feeling guilty all the goddamn time. Ultimately, my goal is to focus less on the products I want to buy and more on the looks I can create with my existing collection, but my low-buy seems to have encouraged me to do the opposite. I'm just not sure a strict low-buy is the best fit for my personality, especially because I'm not impulsive and I don't have problems with overspending or hoarding. Thoughts?

Wishlist for April: I've already bought three pieces of makeup this month, so I'll confine my wishlist to something I've wanted for a while: a really subtle mascara. A lash tint, basically. Just a little extra color and lengthno spider legs, no clumping, no can't-believe-they're-not-falsies volume. Such a product must exist, right? Help me help myself.

Edit, 4/12: Okay, I also want some of those peachy ColourPop powder eyeshadows like Wait for It and Outta Luck, and at least one of the new Blotted Lips. And a small handful of other CP stuff, obviously. Time will tell whether I place that order this month or wait virtuously until May.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Your Daily Memento Mori, Courtesy of Ulta

Earlier today, while scrolling through Facebook and minding my own business (well, other people's business, if we're getting technical), I came upon this Ulta ad:

Okay. Okay. LET'S UNPACK THIS, as we say in the lit-crit biz.

In one sense, this is your typical "#yolo buy all the things" message. I received a similar message from a Sinful Colors polish I saw today at Wegmans (aka heaven on earth if you like awesome deals on booze and lipstick):

But there's something a bit more sinister about the Ulta ad. "Life is short." Meaning what? "We want to keep you alive only until you buy this NYX loose pigment"? I picture someone pacing the Ulta aisles, grappling with a problem that has preoccupied philosophers for millennia: the inevitability of death and the concomitant difficulty of living a fulfilled and virtuous life in the shadow of mortality. Who knows when our end will come? Should we seek momentary pleasure or a more lasting good? The Ulta customer paces, she contemplates, she swatches, and finally she decides: yes, I will buy that $5.99 glitter. Why, Socrates himself would have done the same.

I mean, Ulta has no way of knowing this, but I'm pretty neurotic. I think about death all the time. On my ninth birthday, I lamented to my dad that I was no longer a child and had failed to appreciate my youth while I still had it. I'm perfectly aware that life is short; I don't need a picture of lavender glitter to remind me of it. I don't know, man. Has the death drive of capitalism finally decided "screw it, no point concealing myself any longer?" Or can we situate the Ulta ad in the noble artistic tradition of memento mori? Is there a hint of melancholy behind the consumerist message? From ancient Roman mosaics...

Source 15th-century engravings...

Source 17th-century still lifes...

Source the image that popped up in my Facebook app this afternoon, artists and thinkers across the centuries have explored the deceptive allure of earthly things. Speaking of which, I blew through my monthly quota of makeup today:

L-R: Maybelline Naked Coral, Sinful Colors Thera-Pewter, NYX Twilight Tint.

I'm afraid my low-buy roundup for March will have to wait until Sunday, because I'm pretty busy for the next few days. In the meantime, THINK ON DEATH.

(And because it's National Poetry Month, see also Philip Larkin.)