Wednesday, August 15, 2018

My Best No-Buy Tips

Since I'm moving this month and need to limit both my spending and my accumulation of new crap, I've put myself on a replacement-only beauty no-buy until the end of August. It's been pretty easy so far: I've been so consumed with other problems that I haven't had much brain space for makeup. But since there's no telling what temptations I'll face in the second half of the month, I thought I'd write up a list of the techniques and mantras that have helped me through previous no- and low-buys. (Disclaimer: I don't have a shopping addiction, which is a serious disorder, and I'm not qualified to counsel people who do. This advice is designed for those who, like me, occasionally impulse-buy things they can live without.)

1. Know your triggers. 

Here are mine:

a. Feeling (even) more broke than usual. I've spent my entire adult life as a graduate student and underemployed academic, so money has always been tight. But I've noticed that when it's particularly tight, I feel the near-constant urge to treat myself to a new lipstick or nail polish or enamel pin. Being poor is exhausting, not least because you're constantly reflecting on all the basic amenities you can't afford, so it's tempting to buy yourself a little luxury that you can afford. Which I don't think is a bad thing in itself (cue Republican outrage that people on welfare dare to buy beer and ice cream, as if saving that $5 will help them afford a house). But it can easily get out of hand.

b. Uncertainty about my future. Like many people who came of age during the recession, I'm getting by on contingent employment and have no idea what my life will look like in the long term. For the past two or three years, I've been unable to plan more than a few months ahead, and that's taken a significant mental toll. Ordering a treat online and using USPS tracking to monitor its progress toward my house is an easy way to ensure that I can look forward to something, even if my long-term prospects feel grim. But the pleasure is fleeting and illusory. (Wow, this post got real pretty quickly. Sorry.)

c. Anxiety from overwork. I'm never so tempted to impulse-order makeup as when I'm completing a bunch of job applications on a tight deadline. It's like, I'm already doing six things at once, and all six are agonizingly stressful, so why not add a seventh that's at least somewhat fun? For me, those impulse purchases almost always result in regret.

2. Turn to new techniques and inspirations, not new products.

If you feel like you're in a makeup rut, and you're bored and dissatisfied with how your looks are turning out, new products will only do so much. Your skills and your range of inspiration will stay the same, and instead of doing a halo eye with orange, peach, and light gold eyeshadows, you'll be doing the same old halo eye with red, pink, and champagne eyeshadows. If you own enough makeup to be undertaking a no-buy, there's no way you've exhausted the potential of all that makeup, I promise. Watch old movies or new kpop videos.* Binge Lisa Eldridge tutorials. Take another look at the Pat McGrath editorial photos you saved on your "makeup inspiration" Pinterest board three years ago. Practice your blending skills right before you shower.

*Yes, that link is a shameless attempt to make you fall in love with my precious daughter Song Yuqi and her group, whom I narrowly and tragically missed seeing in NYC two weekends ago. The makeup in that music video is really good, though.

3. Mix and layer colors to create your perfect products.

I've watched YouTube videos by professional makeup artists and by social-media influencers, and I've noticed a stark difference between the two kinds of videos. Whereas beauty gurus tend to create the same looks over and over with a constantly changing array of trendy products, real makeup artists mix and layer the same products over and over to create a constantly changing array of looks. In other words:

Makeup artists: narrow range of products -> wide variety of looks

Beauty gurus/influencers: wide variety of products -> narrow range of looks

When I realized this, my perspective on my makeup collection changed dramatically. I'm more familiar with my coloring and tastes than any brand is. Who has a better chance of creating the perfect brownish peach lipstick for my skintone: me, or some committee in a boardroom? (For the record, my perfect brownish peach is Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nudist Peach layered over Milani Color Statement Lip Pencil in Nude.)

4. Look up reviews of products you already own.

This will serve a twofold purpose. Not only will it remind you of the reasons why you bought the products and the excitement you felt when you first used them; it will also lead you to blog posts and tutorials that will give you new ideas for using those items.

5. Keep track of all the shades you own in your favorite makeup category.

For each of the past two years, I've maintained a list of all my lipstick shades (current total is 45, plus eight glosses), putting an asterisk next to a shade whenever I wear it and starting the list over at the beginning of the year. I keep the document in my Google Docs so I can view and update it on my phone when I'm out and about. This exercise reminds me just how infrequently I get to wear my favorite lipsticks, even the ones I think I wear often, because my collection is so damned large. It also gives me pause when I contemplate buying another, because that will be just one more lipstick that will prevent me from wearing the others!

6. Don't beat yourself up if you buy something.

Guilt is counterproductive. First, because it can lead to even more spending: "I've already broken my no-buy," you think, "so what's one more purchase?" Second, because brands use your guilt as a marketing tool. A glance at the Instagram account of pretty much any social-media-based brand will reveal as much. Brands love posting those "hiding your makeup orders from hubby" and "spending your therapy money on lipstick" memes, because they tap into the undercurrent of guilt we all feel as consumers. And there's nothing quite like feeling the very people who are trying to sell you more makeup. Third, because how many things does our society tell women feel guilty about? Eating. Not eating. Being girly. Not being girly. Wearing makeup. Not wearing makeup. Having feelings. Not having feelings. It's enough. Break the cycle. When you slip up, get right back on the wagon; more importantly, reflect on why you slipped up, what triggers got you there, and how you can resist those triggers in the future. Then move the fuck on.

7. Remember that the feeling of shiny newness always, ALWAYS fades. And soon.

Think about the last few products you bought. How long did your excitement take to wane? A few hours? A day or two? The pleasure of new makeup or skincare is real, and it's not worthless, but it's not even close to permanent. During your no-buy, focus on things that can improve your life in the long (or, at least, slightly longer) run.

And that's it! Wish me luck for the next two weeks, and let me know your own no-buy and low-buy tips!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Anti-Haul: Mauve/Plum/Purple Eyeshadow Palettes

Despite the flood of new eyeshadow palettes in the past few years, I own just a few: Modern Renaissance, Naked2 Basics, a nine-pan custom theBalm palette, and a magnetic palette containing, among other things, slightly less than half (five shades) of a depotted theBalm Nude 'Tude. The newest palette in my collection is Modern Renaissance, which I bought in December 2016; the others are all at least three years old. Of course, by normal-person standards, this is a lot of eyeshadow. But by beauty-blogger standards (which is what we're using here, right? cool), it's almost nothing.

No, actually, this is a lot.

There are a few reasons for my (relative) restraint in this category. First, though I wear eyeshadow almost every day, I'm more of a wash-of-one-neutral-color person than a seven-different-shades-plus-liner-and-falsies person. I also prefer cream and liquid formulas to powders, especially in the current heat and humidity. And even if I were someone who made time to play with multiple eyeshadows every day, I doubt I'd own many more palettes than I already do, for the simple reason that the eyeshadow trends of the past few years haven't been kind to cool-toned people. Most orange, red, and warm brown shadows make me look ill, yet it's been difficult to find anything else.

However, the last couple of months have seen a trend toward purple and plum tones in palettes. This is very exciting for me: I'd be all over a palette full of plum, dusty rose, and mauve shades in matte and shimmer finishes, sort of a cooler-toned Naked 3. So far, none of the new offerings has embodied my ideal, but it's still been hard to resist settling for something not-quite-perfect. So in the spirit of not settlingand in the spirit of our much-missed Lady of Consumption Reduction, Kimberly ClarkI'm going to write up a good old-fashioned anti-haul for some of the palettes that have come out in recent months. I know I'm not the only one who's been wanting a purplish palette, so perhaps this post will help you as well. (All images taken from brand or Sephora websites; pardon the potato quality, but I wasn't going to steal from Temptalia, so.)

1. Natasha Denona Mini Lila Palette ($25)

This one grabbed my attention immediately. Five Natasha Denona eyeshadows for $5 each, when her ten-pan palettes retail for $95? In exactly the color range I've been looking for? Sign me up! And I find huge palettes overwhelming (more on that later), so the small size was appealing, too. The more closely I looked at the shades, though, the clearer it became that this wasn't exactly the color range I'd been looking for. First, the two browns are...weird. The matte brown has a yellow tone that doesn't harmonize with the purples and plums; it seems like a lazy attempt to placate the YouTube beauty gurus who need that WARM TRANSITION SHADE, damn it! I wish this shade were a cool pinkish brown, like ABH Buon Fresco, or a taupe. The shimmery brown is a little better, but still not cool-toned enough for my taste. For that matter, the three purple shades look odd together, even excluding the browns. You've got a practically magenta matte, a purple-blue duochrome, and a brownish plum matte. I just can't imagine many looks in which all five of these shades, or even a few of them, would play well together. It's kind of extraordinary that such a small palette manages to be so disharmonious.

Remember, though, I'm viewing the palette from the perspective of a pale, cool-toned person. Makeup Withdrawal just posted a review of Mini Lila, and it looks great on her because the browns read almost as nudes. If warm browns don't turn as orange on you as they do on me, this could be a decent option.

2. Anastasia Beverly Hills Norvina Palette ($42)

This is the big one, of course. It's even featured on the cover of the Ulta catalog I received yesterday (side note: why is Ulta sending me physical catalogs? is it 1998?). I get a lot of use out of my Modern Renaissance palette, so I was excited to hear that ABH was making a purple-toned palette, but my heart dropped when I saw the first photos. Norvina has the problems of the Mini Lila palette on a larger scale: ABH just can't jettison those warm brown transition shades, and the overall color scheme suffers as a result. I think the lavender packaging has fooled people into seeing the palette as cooler-toned overall than it really is, but it's just Soft Glam with a couple of purples and plums thrown in. I'm also not a fan of ABH's metallic formula, which is too thick and clumpy for my textured eyelids, and this palette contains seven metallics. I love Volatile and Passion, though, and it would be cool if they were available as singles (they're not; I checked).

Also, do I really want an eyeshadow palette bearing the name of a woman who, when she received perfectly valid criticism about the Subculture palette, accused her customers of not being able to use makeup? Nah, I'm good.

Update, 8/17: I swatched Norvina at Ulta last weekend and was really disappointed in the matte shades. Not only are most of them even warmer-toned than they appear above, but some of them are also very patchy and/or powdery. From left to right, we have Soul, Incense, Love, Volatile, Passion, and Eccentric:

3. Lorac Pro Palette 4 ($44)

I've never tried anything from Lorac, mainly because I have a few irrational prejudices against the brand. First, "Lorac" is the founder's name, Carol, spelled backwards; that's lame. Second, Carol wants us to pronounce it as "luh-ROCK" instead of "LOR-ack." Sorry, Carol, but I'm not going to disregard the conventions of English phonetics for you. Third, Carol did a bizarre, tone-deaf Reddit AMA a few years ago. (I'd highly recommend reading the ONTD post I've linked; it's hilarious.) Fourth, I'm not sure what Lorac's overall concept is supposed to be, and that bothers me. The packaging is drab and boring, and there doesn't seem to be much imagination or creativity behind the products. Try harder, Carol!

Bias aside, though, this isn't the palette for me. At 16 shades, it's the largest on this list, and I find large palettes overwhelming. How anyone uses those 35-shade Morphe palettes without developing decision fatigue in 30 seconds, I have no idea. And I feel like a broken record here, but this is yet another "purple" palette with a bunch of warm-toned brown shades. Most of the shades are around the same level of saturation, too, and I can imagine them blending into a muddy wash. Then there's that baffling matte black with glitter. I thought we weren't doing matte blacks with glitter anymore. Shame on you, Carol.

4. Lime Crime Venus 3 Palette ($38)

The problem with any Lime Crime product is, it's Lime Crime. When I first got into makeup, Lime Crime was notorious for the shady behavior of founder Doe Deere. I don't think many makeup consumers these days are aware of Lime Crime's sordid past, so here's an EXTREMELY long list of Doe's misdeeds, with receipts. (Selling repackaged pigments! Wearing a Hitler Halloween costume! Telling her followers to send nasty messages to Temptalia's personal email! Releasing an offensive "China Doll" palette!) As recently as 2015, Lime Crime's website was hacked and its customers' credit card information stolen, but LC did nothing about the problem until it became public. Doe has stepped back from the brand in the last couple of years, but I'd still feel weird buying anything from Lime Crime, even in 2018. They just seem generally unwilling to acknowledge, let alone make amends for, their many mistakes.

So there's that, but there's also the weird color scheme of this palette. I realize that weird color schemes are Lime Crime's thing, but what is that bright coral doing in an otherwise purple-toned palette with several muted colors? And a larger question: why do brands seem so eager to put bright blue-toned purples and brownish plums together in palettes? Those are two completely different color families, and I'm not crazy about how they look together.

5. Urban Decay Backtalk Palette ($46)

Oh man, was I ever excited about this one when I first heard about it. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick Backtalk, a dusty cool pink in the Comfort Matte formula, is one of my favorite lipsticks ever. It also happens to be the most popular lipstick in the massive Vice lineup (though as a lifelong hipster, I'm not super thrilled about this). As you can see, my tube of Backtalk is well-loved:

What could be better suited to my tastes than an entire palette based on Backtalk? Well, a lot of things, it turns out. The palette skews much warmer than I would have expected (WTF, the warm brown second from right, is aptly named). The quality of the eyeshadows also seems to vary: the shade Backtalk, i.e. the flagship shade of the whole palette, got a D- from Temptalia. And then there's the fact that UD chose to make Backtalk an eye and face palette. This is apparently the post in which I reveal all my irrational prejudices, so let me confess that I have a prejudice against products that try to do more than one thing. Some people might find it convenient to have three blushes and a highlighter attached to their eyeshadow palette, but it just makes the palette look bulky to me. And why three blushes? Most of us, I'd assume, already have at least three blushes that go with the color scheme of this palette. And, if three blushes are really necessary, why are they all medium pinks? I have so many questions, but knowing the answers would probably just baffle and frustrate me further. ANYWAY.

6. Viseart Amethyst Theory Palette ($45)

Let's end with the palette that comes closest to my ideal. Viseart (another brand I've never tried) released Amethyst Theory in April of 2017, which is several geological eras ago in beauty-industry time, but I wasn't aware of it before I started doing research for this post. To be honest, I'd probably buy this palette if it had good reviews. Unfortunately, the few reviews I've been able to find don't speak highly of the formula. Temptalia gave the palette a B overall, and one of the shades received a D-. I still want to swatch this next time I'm at a Sephora that stocks Viseart, but I certainly won't order it without seeing it in person. (Really, I'm just holding out for a ColourPop knockoff.)

From this survey of current palettes, we can conclude that brands just aren't ready to let go of the warm tones that have been selling so well these past few years. (The exception is Viseart, which I see as less trend-driven than the other brands in this post, though I could easily be wrong about that.) This means that we're seeing lots of palettes that feature an awkward combination of warm browns and cool purples/plums. I have a feeling that this transitional stage will be short-lived and the pendulum will continue to swing toward the cooler side of things. For now, all I can do is wait.

Have you picked up any of these palettes? What are you anti-hauling at the moment?