Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Last Destash of 2018

(I started writing this as an Instagram post, but I can type only so much text with my thumbs on a tiny keyboard before I have to move to the laptop. I'm old.)

The end of the year has awakened the destashing impulse in quite a few makeup people I follow online. It makes sense: we're all sick of 2018's bullshit at this point, and we want to start the new year with as little bullshit as possible in our lives and on our makeup shelves. In that spirit, here's a quick no-frills post about five lip products that just aren't doing it for me anymore. As I did last year, I've been keeping a record of how often I wear each of my lipsticks, so I'll note the number of wears per shade as well. Excuse the not-great late-afternoon winter light in the photos.

L-R: Revlon Fierce, Milani The Ultimatte, NYX Oatmeal Raisin, Wet n Wild Rebel Rose, NYX Stone Fox.

L-R: Fierce, The Ultimatte, Oatmeal Raisin, Rebel Rose, Stone Fox.

1. Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce (reviewed here): 6 wears in 2018

This is a very '90s reddish brown that would look amazing on redheads, blue-eyed folks, and people of a warmer complexion than mine. On me, it looks...eh. Not hideous, but not great. In 2019, we're no longer going to settle for "not great." I've worn it six times this year, but I had to force myself to wear it and would rather have been wearing something else. If I want that mid-'90s earth-toned vibe, I have Sephora Coral Sunset and Urban Decay Lawbreaker, both of which suit me better.

2. Milani Amore Matte Lip Creme in The Ultimatte (reviewed here): 1 wear in 2018

This is a gorgeous, flattering dark metallic plum, but like Milani's other liquid lipsticks, it's so drying. In other words, it's practically unwearable in the winter, the season when I most often want a lip this dark.  I have plenty of vampy lipsticks that don't dry out my lips, so this one has to go.

3. NYX Intense Butter Gloss in Oatmeal Raisin: 0 wears in 2018

This is what I call a DRIP: a Depression-Related Impulse Purchase. I knew perfectly well from my experience with Spice Cake three and a half freaking years ago that the opaque Intense Butter Glosses didn't suit my tastes. I like sheer glosses in neutral colors, not opaque glosses in vivid colors. I don't like worrying that my gloss has migrated to my chin or hair. And yet, for some reason known only to the particular combination of chemicals in my brain on that particular day, I decided that ordering another Intense Butter Gloss in an even deeper shade was a great idea. It wasn't. To add insult to injury, the gloss came from the Macy's warehouse wrapped in a Geico ad. Classy.

4. Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Rebel Rose: 6 wears in 2018

This is a great shade and formula, but it's not drying down fully anymore, even when dabbed on in a very thin layer. And it's only about a year old! Thus have I learned for the nth time that liquid lipsticks go bad really quickly and I should probably stop buying them (but will I...?). My Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk is basically the same shade as Rebel Rose, and the Comfort Matte formula looks smoother on my lips than any liquid matte formula does.

5. NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox (reviewed here): 0 wears in 2018

This deep teal-gray is a weirdly flattering color for me, but I just don't wear colors this crazy except on Halloween, and my designated Halloween lipstick is now Wet n Wild Shady Witch. Most of us are guilty of purchasing makeup for our fantasy selves, and my fantasy self is apparently a sea witch, which is kind of ironic because I can barely swim.

That leaves me with 42 lipsticks and eight glosses, which is more than enough for healthy variety. My boyfriend's parents are giving me a Sephora gift card for Christmas, and I'm planning to use it on the NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dirty Mind. After that, though, I'm putting myself on a no-buy on lip products for at least the first few months of 2019.

Tomorrow I'm heading to San Francisco for the first time in a year and a half, and I'll be back to the blog before long with my favorite beauty products of 2018!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Three Generations of Glossier Generation G

Note: I purchased these products with store credit earned through my Glossier affiliate link. I am not a Glossier rep (and never will be), and these opinions are entirely my own.

Glossier's Generation G lipstick is aptly named, though that aptness is accidental: the sheer matte lipstick is now in its third generation, having been reformulated and repackaged twice since its debut in early 2016. The newest version of Gen G still costs $18 and still promises "the look and finish of just-blotted lipstick, without the blot," but Glossier claims that the revamped lipsticks boast "a smoother, softer, more cushion-y texture," a "truer matte finish," and "stronger, more luxurious packaging."

The thing is, Glossier has made these claims before: in October 2016, to be precise, when they advertised the second generation of Gen G as "more gliding and sleek" and "even more luxurious and comfortable over time," with "reworked packaging that keeps your Gen G fresher for longer." That version became notorious for its brittle packaging, with a cap that cracked when you looked at it a few seconds too long. The Gen G product page was flooded with negative reviews for over two years (kudos to Glossier for not deleting those reviews, I guess?), and I suspected it was only a matter of time before a re-revamped Gen G appeared. And so it did last month, just in time for Black Friday.

After some dithering (should I trust Glossier's claims when their first revamp flopped so hard?), I ordered two new Gen Gs: Jam, a bright plum that I'd owned in the first-generation formula, and Zip, a new-to-me orange-red.

I've now tried two shades from each of the three generations: Jam and Cake from the first, Like and Leo from the second, and Jam and Zip from the third. Generation G has never been my favorite Glossier product, but I liked Jam and Cake enough to use them up completely (it helped that they were tiny and I had to reapply them several times a day). I bought Like and Leo this past summer but never reviewed them: Leo was a warm-toned brown that looked awful on me, so I sent it to an Instagram pal, and Like just didn't make enough of an impression to get a full writeup on my blog, though I still wear it occasionally. But now that I own two of the new Gen Gs, I'll use this post to compare the three formulas. The obvious caveats apply: I no longer have the two shades from the first formula, and it's hard to compare a shade that's supposed to be sheer and natural (Like) with two shades that are meant to be bolder (Jam and Zip). But I'll do my best!

For my full assessment of the first-generation Gen G formula, check the blog posts I've linked above. The tl;dr version is that the formula was good: it faded quickly, which was only to be expected, but it gave an easy, attractive matte tint effect without drying out my lips. However, the size and price point were shameful. $18 for 1.1 grams? That's about 1/3 the size of a normal full-size lipstick! And the bullets of both Jam and Cake popped out of their tubes within a few weeks, so I had to be extra-careful when taking off the caps, lest the lipsticks fly onto the floor and get a dust bath.

I was less pleased with the second-generation formula. The first big change was the smell. The earliest generation had been basically scentless, with just the faintest hint of clay. The reworked Gen G smelled and tasted like cooking oil that had been used to fry donuts and then left in the pan all day. The formula didn't feel "more gliding and sleek," either: if anything, it felt more drying. And, of course, there was the problem of the fragile packaging. The one big improvement was the almost 100% size increase, though the price stayed the same at $18.

And now here we are two years later. A lot has happened in those two years. We're all more exhausted and cynical. The bubble of influencer hype is close to popping, if it hasn't popped already. As a culture, we are--I think, I hope--more reluctant to trust brands who act like our friends. (Can we talk about how Glossier's Instagram bio now describes the company as "a people-powered beauty ecosystem"? Vom.) At the same time, I can't deny that Glossier has released some killer makeup this year. Lidstar is the rare eyeshadow that can stand up to Jersey summer humidity; Lash Slick is my new holy grail mascara; and I've been wearing Cloud Paint in Storm almost every day since August. So, while I didn't fully believe the hype about the new Gen G, I was more willing to believe than I would have been at this time last year.

The most dramatic change, of course, is to the packaging. Glossier has finally coughed up a few extra cents per unit and introduced metal to the tube. I'm still not in love with the Gen G aesthetic: the new tube looks a bit MLM-y, a bit Beautycounteresque (though that might be my own bias against the Glossier rep program). But I can't deny that these tubes are superior to their predecessors. They're thicker and heavier; they finally look and feel like $18 lipsticks, not like factory prototypes or Sephora samples.

Here's a new tube (top) compared to a second-generation one (note the cracked cap of the latter):

There's also been a size increase of 50%, from 2 to 3 grams. Accordingly, the new bullets are wider, which I hope prevents the breakage that bedeviled the first and second generations.

A third big change: the fragrance. For Generation 3, Glossier added a strong rose scent that doesn't quite cover the stale-cooking-oil funk. I almost never like floral scents in makeup, and this one is no exception. The good news is that it dissipates about ten minutes after application, but I'm still disappointed that it's there.

The new Gen Gs seem to be the most pigmented of the three generations. My old Jam never got even close to opaque, no matter how many layers I swiped on. My new Jam delivers a respectable (though still sheer) amount of color after just one swipe. Below, Jam and Zip swatched with one, two, and three layers:

As you might be able to tell just from these arm swatches, the formula is quite dry, clinging to every unevenness on the skin of my inner forearm, which I promise is no more textured than the skin of the average human forearm. Generations 1 and 2 had a little more slip, but the new formula is very matte, exaggerating lip texture and forming tiny clumps of pigment. Here I am wearing one, two, and three layers of Jam. My lips were especially dry that day, and you can see that as I add more layers, the result looks drier and blotchier. This is far from the "smoother, softer, more cushiony texture" that Glossier promises.

Same deal with Zip, below:

Zip looks rougher and drier than Jam on my mouth; accordingly, it feels more drying than Jam as the hours pass. I struggle to make it cling to the inner portion of my lower lip, as you can see in the third lip swatch. Jam is marginally more comfortable, though still drying. For both shades, I'd recommend a thin layer of lip balm before application, especially in the winter months. The formula also feels tacky and waxy when I press my lips together. Both Jam and Zip last for a few hours before fading, which is what I would expect, but Jam fades more gracefully.

Unsurprisingly, I find Jam more flattering on my cool olive complexion. Here I am wearing three layers:

I was curious how Jam compared to my other sheer plum lipstick, Urban Decay Seismic. It turns out that Seismic is darker and cooler-toned than Jam. Needless to say, it's also shinier and more moisturizing (it has a very fine microshimmer that doesn't show up on the lips). Here's Seismic (above) and Jam (below), in direct sunlight:

Zip leans more orange on me than I expected, though I shouldn't have been surprised: many warm reds turn Cheeto orange on my lips. I don't hate Zip on me, but I wish it were a bit redder and darker.

To sum up, here are the pros and cons of the new Generation Gs compared to the first and second iterations:

  • Larger size for the same price
  • Sturdier packaging
  • More pigmented (though still sheer)
  • Strong rose fragrance
  • More drying and dry-looking

I'm afraid I can't recommend the new Generation Gs wholeheartedly. I can recommend them more enthusiastically than I could the previous versions, but they're still far from Glossier's best makeup product (that honor would go to Lash Slick or Cloud Paint). If there's a shade in the Gen G lineup that appeals to you (and your lips are generally in better condition than mine), I wouldn't dissuade you from buying it, but this product still has too many flaws to qualify as a must-have. Though the quality of the packaging has certainly improved, the quality of the formula has declined. And I'm not alone in that opinion: check out the reviews on Glossier's product page. Anyone want to take a bet on the launch date of the fourth version?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Red: ColourPop Lux Lipstick in Liquid Courage

Inspired by Renee's recent post on her upcoming yearlong no-buy, I've been thinking about how to reduce my own beauty consumption in 2019. I was particularly struck by Renee's observation that her "interests are varied, but the blog is relatively linear--how might that change if I created more of the kind of content I really wanted to create?" This resonated with me because, while I do enjoy reviewing beauty products, those aren't the posts I have the most fun creating. Review posts are formulaic, and though there's nothing wrong with having a formula, it can get old. My real passion lies in writing bigger, more holistic posts about cosmetic history, or trends in the beauty industry, or Glossier's ridiculous marketing gambits, or whatever. As a result, I currently have a backlog of at least fifteen products that I bought in 2018 but have put off reviewing because it felt more pressing to, say, snark at length on Bite's zodiac lipsticks. I probably won't do a no-buy for the entirety of 2019, but I think purchasing fewer new products will push me to be more creative with my blog content (and with the makeup I already own).

In the meantime, how to blog about the stuff that has piled up on my shelf in the last six months? I've considered different formats for reviewing these new products (group them into posts by brand? review one lipstick a day for seven days?) but laziness and entropy have had their usual effect, and I've decided to just write the reviews in whatever order and at whatever rate takes my fancy. So, basically, no change whatsoever from blog business as usual, except that I'll try to keep the rambling to a minimum so I can post more often. (I'm off to a great start with this review, clearly.) 

Today is Thanksgiving, and if there's one makeup item that encapsulates late fall and its revelry for me, it's brick-red lipstick. It's a little more aggressively festive than most fall makeup, but less sparkly and dramatic than traditional holiday makeup. For almost four years, my go-to brick-red lipstick was NYX Alabama, but I destashed it earlier this year after its texture changed. I didn't want to repurchase it when there were so many other tempting reds out there (plus, I'm over NYX's cheap lipstick packaging), so when fall rolled around, I began searching for the perfect brick red. One of my favorite makeup purchases of 2018 was ColourPop Lux Lipstick in Dream Easy, and there happened to be a promising-looking brick red in the Lux Lipstick formula, so I ordered Liquid Courage on the last day of my August no-buy.

I like the Lux Lipstick packaging a lot. It's a sturdy rose-gold plastic tube with little stars all over, and the lid snaps on securely. I'm a little worried that the rose-gold coating will rub off eventually, but I've carried both Dream Easy and Liquid Courage in a crowded makeup bag several times each, and both tubes still look almost new.

The bullet is fairly wide, but with a rounded tip that makes it easy to outline lips. Oh, and it's imprinted with stars as well! That's the thing about ColourPop: sometimes they totally half-ass packaging and design, even in their pricier products (exhibit A: the blush/highlight duos from this spring), and sometimes they put a surprising amount of thought and effort into a $7 lipstick.

(The star design brings back strong memories of the Hollywood Hair Barbie I got when I was five, in 1993. She came with a hair stencil so you could spray-paint pink stars on her hair. The neon/rhinestone/lamé wardrobes of my childhood Barbies had more of an effect on my adult aesthetic than I feel comfortable admitting.)

To my relief, Liquid Courage turned out to be exactly the color I wanted: a bold red with a slight brown undertone. (As every veteran ColourPop customer knows, website swatches mean nothing, and you never know exactly which color will pop out of the box. I assume that's the origin of the brand name.) In direct artificial light or sunlight, Liquid Courage looks close to a true red...

...but otherwise it's a perfect '40s brick red, perfect for wearing with a houndstooth suit and a shiny shoulder-length mullet-y hairstyle that doesn't move when you turn your head (I watched The Third Man recently). I wish I'd kept Alabama so I could do comparison swatches, but if my memory doesn't fail me, it was basically identical to Liquid Courage. Here's Liquid Courage swatched with four other dark and/or brownish reds, in direct sun (left) and shade (right):

Top to bottom: NARS 413 BLKR, Maybelline Smoking Red, ColourPop Liquid Courage, NARS Cruella, Marc Jacobs Rei of Light.

The Lux Lipstick formula is one of my favorite beauty discoveries of 2018. In finish, lipfeel, and longevity, it reminds me very much of the Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme formula. Liquid Courage is opaque in one swipe, with a faint cake-batter smell. It's quite shiny when first applied, but it sets within ten minutes to a semi-matte finish. It's also very long-lasting: I wore it to dinner last night and it looked almost intact after drinks, salad, fish, and light blotting with a napkin. Unfortunately, Liquid Courage's extraordinary longevity comes from the fact that it stains the lips for hours. I went through several tissues and applications of lip balm trying to remove it last night. (For the record, Dream Easy doesn't stain at all.) Like most very pigmented lipsticks, Liquid Courage isn't moisturizing, but it's not drying, either. Here are a couple of lip swatches in different lighting:

And some full faces! Outside, with nondescript makeup on eyes and cheeks, sorry:

In bright artificial light, with ColourPop Tea Garden (a fabulous duochrome that I promise I'll review before the end of the year) and ABH Golden Ochre on my eyes:

Finally, a rare well-lit photo taken inside my apartment, in natural light. My eyeshadow is Glossier Lidstar in Cub.

More reviews to come soon! Until then, happy Thanksgiving, enjoy the upcoming sales if you're planning to take advantage of them, and stay strong if you're not!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Shady Witch (and a New Wave Halloween)

In the past five years or so, I've owned at least one dark lipstick in almost every color family: red, purple, pink, plum, brown, even blue and gray. Until this year, though, I had never bought a true black lipstick. Black lips were a little too predictably goth, too Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way. A dark brown or dark red was arty, my hipster brain told me. It was historical, because I could point to the same colors in illustrations from the '20s. Dark shades of traditional lipstick colors made me feel more mature: that is, as mature as an overeducated, underemployed, indebted millennial could feel. By contrast, black lipstick evoked nothing so much as a My Chemical Romance concert in 2006.

But my prejudices vanished one late-September Sunday in the beauty section of Target, when I came upon Wet n Wild's Halloween collection and spotted a sparkly black liquid lipstick. I had resisted non-sparkly black lipsticks by dozens of brands, but I was powerless against black plus glitter, and the Liquid Catsuit in Shady Witch came home with me.

So far as I can tell, Wet n Wild releases a Fantasy Makers collection (featuring untraditional colors, costume-friendly products, and sp00ky names) every September. This year's collection contains several dozen items, including a glitter palette, face and body stencils and gems, a color-shifting "zombie blush," and over ten new Liquid Catsuit shades in both metallic and matte finishes. Admittedly, my Shady Witch review comes a little late for Halloween, but the collection is still available and we're still deep in Scorpio season, damn it.

I've sung the praises of the matte Liquid Catsuit formula ad nauseam on this blog. I own six (!) matte Liquid Catsuits, most of which apply beautifully and feel comfortable on my perpetually dry lips. But I'd heard that the metallic formula wasn't as good as the matte, so I was curious to see how Shady Witch stacked up to my other Catsuit shades. When I swatched it, the first thing I noticed was that it wasn't quite opaque in one pass:

In indirect natural light.

Seeing the arm swatch, I braced myself for a patchy gray mess on my mouth, but I should have had more faith in the Liquid Catsuit formula. It's easy to build up the color to near-opacity: I need two coats, sometimes even three, but the lipstick doesn't get clumpy or sticky when layered. If I look very closely at my lips after application or shine a light directly on them, I can still see a tiny bit of streakiness, but the lipstick looks totally opaque at a normal conversational distance. This formula also seems to dry more quickly than the matte Liquid Catsuits do, but it doesn't feel drier. In fact, I've worn it for several hours on pretty severely chapped lips with no ill effects.

More annoying than the opacity issue is the fact that the lipstick starts flaking off the inner part of my lips after a couple of hours, even if I don't eat or drink anything. Luckily, touching up is simple: again, no clumping or bunching. And I bought Shady Witch as a costume lipstick, so I don't hold it to the same standards that I'd use for a workhorse MLBB shade. But I think it's indeed fair to say that the metallic Liquid Catsuit formula is inferior to the matte one. I have yet to encounter a metallic liquid lipstick that truly blows me away; it just seems like a difficult product for any brand to perfect. And black lipsticks are notoriously hard to perfect, so I consider it a minor miracle that Wet n Wild managed to produce a good black lipstick with glitter.

The only real problem is sketching out a precise lip line with the doefoot applicator. Here's Shady Witch on my lips with no liner; as you can see, the sparkle is very visible on the lips, though I wouldn't call this finish "metallic" (as Wet n Wild does). Because the base color is slightly sheer and the glitter particles are quite large, I consider this a glitter finish (see my lipstick taxonomy flowchart).

And here I am wearing Shady Witch with no other makeup except mascara and undereye concealer:

You may have noticed that the glitter in Shady Witch has a slight blue tint. The base shade is true black, but because the glitter itself isn't black and the base isn't totally opaque, Shady Witch leans slightly blue in direct light and will looks even bluer as the base color wears down.

Thinking Shady Witch might need a liner, I consulted the collective wisdom of Instagram and picked up NYX's retractable liner in Black Lips. It's...fine. It helps me get a neat lip line with the applicator, but it doesn't do much to stop the crumbling; if anything, it crumbles faster than the lipstick itself. The next photos all feature Shady Witch with Black Lips, but I'm not sure the liner makes it look much different.

A few days before Halloween, I decided to lean into the mid-2000s-emo aesthetic and pair Shady Witch with a reddish eyeshadow. I was inspired by my favorite passage from the iconic 2006 Harry Potter fanfiction My Immortal, widely considered the worst fanfic of all time (and probably the creation of one or more trolls, though no one knows for sure):
I was wearing black lipstick, white foundation, black eyeliner and red eye shadow. I was walking outside Hogwarts. It was snowing and raining so there was no sun, which I was very happy about. A lot of preps stared at me. I put my middle finger up at them.
Which, revamped for a 30-year-old in 2018, turned into this:

On my lids, I used ColourPop Jelly Much shadow in Half Moon, which I keep meaning to review. (Spoiler: despite the "all-new!" hype and the amusing gelatinous texture, it's a pretty standard cream shadow. My only objection is that it's far from the purplish plum depicted on the website.)

While I was out and about that day (waiting in line at Old Navy to return a shirt, to be precise), I had an interaction that, in my humble opinion, confirmed my status as a high-powered influencer. Just in front of me in line were a sixtyish woman and a girl of two or three, probably her granddaughter. The following dialogue ensued:

Little girl to her grandmother, attempting to be discreet: WHY DOES THAT PERSON HAVE BLACK LIPS
Me: It's for Halloween! It's spooky!
Grandmother: Yes, it's a good lipstick for dressing up!
*several seconds of silence*
Little girl: I WANNA DRESS UP
Grandmother: What do you want to wear?
Little girl: I WANT BLACK LIPS

I just don't think you can call yourself an influencer until you've convinced a toddler in a suburban mall to want black lips.

However, the real purpose of this rambling post is not to boast about the vast sphere of my influence but to show off my Halloween costume, which I'm calling "New Wave Witch." This was the second Halloween for this costume, which features an '80s or early-'90s black velvet dress that I bought for $10 at Mission Thrift in San Francisco last year. This dress is one of the best-fitting garments I own, and I wish I could bring myself to wear it on occasions other than Halloween.

I'm a goth (in case you couldn't tell) and I wear mostly black. I love Hot Topic and I buy all my clothes from there. For example today I was wearing a black corset with matching lace around it and a black leather miniskirt, pink fishnets and black combat boots.

For makeup, I wanted dark, fuzzy-looking eyebrows; messy, smoky eyeshadow in a cat-eye-ish placement; neon blush blended just below the cheekbones and into the temples and hairline; hair slicked back with hairspray. These days, makeup tends to be either bold and crisp (the Instaglam look) or subtle and messy (the Glossier look), but never bold and messy. I love that '80s makeup is bold and messy; it's fun to put on and fun to wear, and the average person can approximate it without a million YouTube tutorials or special tools (though I did watch this great Miss Fame video for inspiration). I think I nailed everything except the hair: my natural wave fought too hard against the hairspray, but I was afraid to wear more, fail to wash it out, and have to teach the next morning with nightmare '80s-hangover hair.

The next day I woke up in my bedroom. It was snowing and raining again. I opened the door of my coffin and drank some blood from a bottle I had. My coffin was black ebony and inside it was hot pink velvet with black lace on the ends.

A few more angles for my New Wave album cover:

"Why couldn't Satan have made me less beautiful?" I shouted angrily.

Some fucking preps stared at us but I just stuck up my middle fingers (that were covered in black nail polish and were entwined with Draco's now) at them.

Tom Riddle gave us some clothes n stuff 4 free. He said he wud help us wif makeup if he wunted koz he wuz relly in2 fashin and stuff (hes bisezual).

And the makeup I used:

Brows: Glossier Boy Brow in Brown, with Urban Decay eyeshadow in Primal (from Naked2 Basics) to fill in the gaps for an '80s power-brow effect.

Eyes: I relied heavily on the Urban Decay Naked2 Basics palette for the crease, lid, and outer-corner shades. I also used ColourPop Dragonfly, a dirty plum, in the crease. (I thought it was a very cool-toned color, but it looks quite warm next to the other shades. Oh, well.) The glitter on the inner half of my lid is ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Ladybird. My eyeliner is NYX Slide-On eye pencil in Gunmetal, smudged out with Urban Decay Undone from Naked2 Basics. Mascara is Glossier Lash Slick on upper and lower lashes (I almost never wear lower-lash mascara).

Cheeks: Blush is NARS Coeur Battant from the 2013 Guy Bourdin collection, draped just below the cheekbones and blended up to the temples and hairline. Highlighter is NYX Twilight Tint. I'm not sure how '80s a blue duochrome highlighter is, but I couldn't resist.

Lips: Wet n Wild Shady Witch, of course, with NYX Black Lips pencil.

This look felt so oddly natural that whenever I caught a glimpse of myself in a reflective surface the next day, I was surprised to no longer be an '80s goth. I might have to start wearing smoky eyes more regularly. Or black lipstick. Or both! Though probably not at the same time...until next Halloween.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Astrology by Bite: A Rant

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Bite Beauty has almost finished releasing a series of twelve Amuse Bouche lipsticks inspired by the signs of the zodiac. Bite started with Aquarius in January, and they're now two signs from the end, having just revealed Scorpio on Thursday. (If you're curious about Sagittarius and Capricorn, Trendmood has leaked all twelve shades here.)

Like any other enamel-pin-collecting queer millennial, I enjoy astrology. I don't believe in it, per se, but I'm a Scorpio with Pisces rising and Aries moon, and that combination of signs is pretty damned accurate for my personality. (I didn't identify with Aries until I caught myself saying to my boyfriend, "I don't have anger issues; I'm just angry all the time.") So I've been following Bite's releases all year, initially with eager anticipation, then with increasing bafflement, and now with outright annoyance. The Astrology by Bite series was a great idea that could have been executed in a million appealing ways, but Bite simply blew it. The lipsticks themselves seem up to Bite's usual high standards (Kate of More Like Space has reviewed all the shades from Aquarius to Virgo), but almost every shade is an absolutely bizarre choice for its zodiac sign. I didn't feel the need to complain on my blog, though, until I saw the Scorpio shade.

Now, look: everyone knows that Scorpios are the goths of the zodiac. Halloween and the Day of the Dead (i.e. my birthday) fall during Scorpio season. Scorpios are INTENSE and MYSTERIOUS and VENGEFUL and occasionally PETTY. In fact, we're vengeful and petty enough to write an entire snarky blog post if Bite releases a Scorpio lipstick that isn't even close to the vampy splendor we deserve:

EXCUSE ME? A bright orange-red? A bright orange-red that looks identical not only to a bunch of other orange-reds Bite has released previously, but also to the Aries shade from March? Would you even be able to tell these two apart without the astrological signs on the tubes?

They look only slightly more different in these swatches from Bite's Instagram story:

Bite's explanation for this choice is that Scorpio is the most ~*~sExUaL~*~ sign of the zodiac: "For sexy Scorpio, Bite mixes up a bombshell shade. This searing, spicy red is perfect for hot dates." Hot fire-sign dates, maybe, but Scorpio is a water sign, and its particular brand of sexuality isn't the retro pinup look-at-me brand. Like, come ON. Everyone was expecting a dark purple or plum, or a burgundy, or even a metallic black reminiscent of the studded leather outfits we Scorpios wear while tying up our lovers in sex dungeons. A bright orange makes no sense for Scorpio. And I'm not the only one who thinks so:

Source: Temptalia

But Scorpio isn't the only sign to have gotten totally shafted this year, so let's go through the Astrology by Bite series sign by sign and analyze where the problems lie. (I wasn't able to find Bite's blurb for every shade, but I've copied and pasted the ones I could find. All photos are Bite promo images from Temptalia.)

Aquarius ("berry plum"):

Bite started the year strong with this bright purple, a good match for eccentric Aquarius. I don't have any complaints about the shade itself, but I am annoyed that Bite kicked off its series with the first zodiac sign in the Gregorian calendar year. The zodiac actually corresponds to the Julian calendar, with Aries as the first sign.

Pisces ("pitch-perfect peach"):

"Ruled by the planet Neptune, Pisces is the water sign of artists and dreamy creative types; it’s considered the most spiritual and compassionate sign of the zodiac. Pisces are soulful, and like water they 'go with the flow,' blending in and out of different environments."

Just two lipsticks in, things start to get weird. Pisces is a water sign. Its symbol is literally two fish. For this most aquatic of signs, Bite chose...a brownish peach. I think a soft shade of blue would have been perfect for sensitive Pisces, but Bite clearly decided to stick with traditional lipstick colors for this collection, despite having created blue lipsticks in the past. Lame.

Aries ("fiery orange-red"): 

Back to the expected with this bright warm red, which is exactly the color I would have chosen for impetuous, hot-tempered Aries, though I might have made it metallic for even more punch.

Taurus ("muted white-chocolate rose"):

"Taurus is an earth sign, ruled by the planet of love, Venus. Sleepy, sensual Taurus is enamored with everyday luxuries: Flowers, chocolate, and all the finer things in life are essential to beauty-loving bulls." 

When I think of Taurus, I think of rich food and dark wine. This is a beautiful MLBB, but it's more subdued and professional than I'd expect a Taurus lipstick to be. For this sign, I would have liked to see a rich chocolate brown (similar to Smoked Za'atar) or a merlot red, though I understand that Bite was trying to make a spring-appropriate shade.

Also, it's "enamored of," not "enamored with." Just sayin'. My mistake: both are correct!

Gemini ("warm nude" and "fun-loving red"):

"For Gemini, the sign of the twins, Bite offers a double-sided bullet. A warm nude and a fun-loving red let Geminis mix up their style as they please." 

Here is where the Astrology by Bite series jumps the shark. How would a human being wear this lipstick? I appreciate the spirit of the thing, but if you're going to make a two-toned lipstick, maybe pick two colors that actually go together.  (Kate mixed the two shades to create a soft salmon pink, but I can't imagine many people going to that trouble.) Or if you want the red/nude split, make a dual-sided lipstick like the ones Bite itself has released in the past. Or just give us a freaking duochrome along the lines of the Prismatic Pearl Multisticks. Bite could have conveyed the Gemini ethos in so many interesting ways, but they went with the least wearable one. If you want nightmares, check out the two-toned lip that Bite itself created.

Cancer ("muted mauve with gray undertone"): 

"For nurturing, caring Cancer, Bite mixes up a safe-but-sexy neutral. Cancers will love this muted mauve with gray undertone that looks just as good at home as it does at work."

Gosh, that looks familiar:

Cancer and Taurus aren't quite as similar as Aries and Scorpio, but they sure are close. Also, Bite missed the perfect chance to set an oceanic mood by describing the lipstick as a "sandy beige" (though as swatches reveal, Cancer is much pinker than the promo photo indicates).

Leo ("glittering gold"): 

"Leo offers incredible vibrancy and bold dimension. Leo is a fire sign, ruled by the sun. Like the sun, bold Leo lions like to be the center of attention: They’re dramatic and charismatic, always the star of the show."

The person in charge of these promo images is totally a Leo.

Here's where my inner conspiracy theorist emerges. Leo looks very similar to the sheer gold lipstick that Bite released for the holidays a couple of years ago. Is it possible that some of the zodiac lipsticks are repackaged older shades with astrological signs slapped on? I won't deny that this lipstick is appropriate for Leo, but surely the stereotypical Leo would want an opaque gold, not a sheer one.

Virgo ("grapey-red"): 

"Virgo is an earth sign, ruled by the planet of communication, Mercury. Disciplined Virgos demand perfection and order all around them; they’re known to be humble and practical, and love a good value...For earthy Virgo, Bite mixes up a shade inspired by the fruit of the vine. This grapey-red is a smart hue that goes with everything."

This is by far my favorite shade in the series (surprise), and it's not a terrible choice for Virgo, though I would have expected something a little less dramatic.

Libra ("balanced medium brown"):

"For stylish Libras, Bite mixes up a shade made for hitting the social circuit. This balanced medium brown gets along with just about anybody."

In my opinion, it's impossible to make a brown lipstick that "gets along with just about anybody." There is nothing less flattering than a brown lipstick that clashes with your undertones, as I discovered when I tried on Bite's own yellow-toned Edgy Neutrals collection last year. And Libra is a warm brown that most certainly won't get along with cool-toned folks. That said, I'm not sure what color I would have assigned to Libra. It's an artistic, creative sign, so maybe a neutral with a twist, like a grayish lavender?

Sagittarius and Capricorn are a bright pink and dark plum, respectively. Many of the Sagittarians I've known well have been narcissists with no sense of personal or professional responsibility, and neon pink is indeed a color that shouts "look at me, but don't expect anything of me." (No offense to any Sagittarians reading this, of course. I'm sure you're lovely people.) Bite's choice for Capricorn is more mystifying. Capricorn is a businesslike earth sign, so I would have assigned it an office-appropriate color, a soft neutral like Taurus or Cancer. Why not give the vampy shade to Scorpio? (Look, we hold grudges. We're not going to get over this.)

Taken as a whole, the Astrology by Bite lineup seems unbalanced and incomplete: lots of warm oranges and browns, two pairs of near-dupes, only one dark shade, and no truly offbeat colors (unless you count Leo's gold). This series had so much potential, but it's started to feel like a cynical cash grab: "Well, the kids like astrology, so let's re-release some old colors and put astrological symbols on the tubes; they'll eat that shit up." The first four lipsticks sold out almost immediately, but all five shades from Gemini to Libra are still available on Bite's website, suggesting that I'm not the only one to have soured on Astrology by Bite. I think Bite is at its best when pursuing its foodie roots (e.g. Edgy Neutrals, Spice It Up) instead of hopping on the latest trend, and I hope Astrology by Bite isn't an indicator of things to come for the brand.