Update, 3/12/19: This post discusses Glossier Play's excessive plastic packaging and non-biodegradable glitter. In the ten hours since I finished my post, Glossier has stated that they're going to phase out the foil packets and replace the plastic glitter with biodegradable glitter. Kudos to them for taking criticism on board, but I hope they eventually make the announcement on a more visible platform than an Instagram comment reply.
Last month, Glossier's Instagram began teasing something called "Glossier Play." True to form, Glossier provided no specific information, just a few GIFs of the Glossier G spinning around or dissolving into water droplets. Cue rampant speculation on social media! The most popular theory, to which I also subscribed, was that Glossier was finally branching into bolder makeup after four years of barely-there pigment. (Another—mercifully incorrect—theory was that "Play" implied hipster sex stuff. I can imagine few things less sexy than Glossier-branded millennial-pink lube.) Last week, we finally got our answer: Glossier Play is a "brand of dialed-up beauty extras" exploding with color, glitter, and shine. The collection comprises four new products, each in multiple shades: Colorslide ($15), a "technogel eye pencil"; Glitter Gelée ($14), a gel containing "multigrade paillettes" (the most pretentious possible way of saying "irregularly sized glitter"); Niteshine ($20), a liquid "highlighter concentrate"; and Vinylic Lip ($16), an opaque gloss in a click-pen dispenser. There's also Blade ($4), a pencil sharpener, and The Detailer ($6), a silicone glitter applicator.
Reactions on social media have been very mixed; in fact, this is probably Glossier's most polarizing launch to date. Quite a few commenters on Glossier's Instagram have complained that the new products aren't "Glossier" enough: too bright, too sparkly, too loud. Others have wondered why Glossier didn't release normal makeup staples, like an eyeshadow palette or a set of opaque bullet lipsticks. Personally, I feel that the Glossier Play products fit well with the overall Glossier aesthetic, which is carefree and a little messy. However, I did feel disappointed when I first saw Glossier Play, because I didn't have much use for these particular products: I prefer neutral eyeliner to colorful, matte lip products to glossy, and cream highlighter to liquid, and I associate chunky body glitter with my middle school days. (You know what they say: if you're old enough to have worn it the first time around...) Glossier Play is clearly inspired by Into the Gloss's Top Shelf After Dark series, which is my favorite ITG feature because it's so far removed from my own lifestyle. A normal Saturday night chez Auxiliary Beauty involves embroidery, k-pop videos, and maybe a gin and tonic if I'm feeling naughty. These are not activities that demand blinding highlighter or holographic face glitter.
My real objections to the launch, though, have less to do with the products themselves and more with their rollout. Petty quibbles all, but what's a Glossier review on this blog without petty quibbles? First, it's weird to describe Glossier Play as a "new brand" when it shares the Glossier name. A sub-brand, sure, but calling it a separate brand is just confusing. Second, the name "Glossier Play" automatically makes people think of the Sephora Play beauty box, which has existed for a few years now. I realize that "play" rhymes with "Glossier," but could they seriously not come up with a more original name? "Glossier After Dark," maybe? Finally, the Glossier Play website is suspiciously devoid of swatches, relying instead on blurry art shots and mood-lit videos of gyrating models. They've since posted some swatches in their Instagram stories; it's nice that they've used a variety of skin tones, but not all the photos are of the highest quality. When I was trying to choose a shade of Vinylic Lip, I would have appreciated better pale-skin swatches than these:
|As usual, the white guy gets away with totally phoning it in.|
Despite my misgivings, I decided to use my Glossier store credit to buy a few items to review. I almost ordered a "Playground" set, which allows you to choose one of each product for $60 total; but I was almost positive I wouldn't use the Niteshine highlighter after blogging about it, and I'm a beauty consumer before I'm a beauty reviewer. So I ended up ordering the Colorslide in Early Girl, an "eggshell blue"; the Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up, a "candy pink"; and the Glitter Gelée in Phantasm, "opalescent with holographic specks," which comes in a set with The Detailer for $16. I'll review each product individually, then put them all together for some appropriately playful looks!
First, though, let's talk about the branding and overall aesthetic of the new brand (or sub-brand, or whatever). Glossier Play's packaging is recognizably "Glossier," i.e. minimalist, but with notable differences: cream plastic instead of white; a '70s-esque serif font instead of the usual sloping sans-serif one. (You can see both fonts in action on the sticker above.) The font's evocation of the '70s is no mistake: Glossier Play's aesthetic is clearly influenced by the era of Guy Bourdin and Studio 54, as the promotional images make clear:
One of the most frequent complaints about Glossier Play is that it's similar to other brands: Lemonhead and ColourPop both make popular glitter gels, CoverFX sells liquid highlighter in glass bottles, and Milk Makeup has long marketed fun, sparkly colors and textures to Gen Z club kids. I do think Glossier brings some of these complaints on itself by insisting that all of its new products are revolutionary, when there aren't many ways to innovate on lip gloss, liquid highlighter, or chunky glitter. But that aside...guys, there aren't many ways to innovate on lip gloss, liquid highlighter, or chunky glitter. I even saw an Instagram post accusing Glossier Play of copying Urban Decay's 24/7 eye pencils, never mind that most of Glossier Play's shades are completely different. Since when does Urban Decay have a monopoly on interesting eyeliner shades? Shouldn't people be happy that there are more such shades on the market now? As you well know, I'm happy to snark on Glossier when I think snark is warranted, but it's silly to criticize Glossier Play for releasing products that aren't 100% original. All brands and trends constantly feed on and borrow from each other. That's literally how popular culture works.
Anyway! The Glossier Play products come in a standard Glossier pink pouch; I wish they'd allow customers to opt out of the pouch, since anyone who has made a few Glossier orders has more pouches than they need. I also think it's odd that they're using the pink pouch for Glossier Play, which is supposed to be an entirely separate brand or whatever. Glossier no longer includes sticker sheets with each order (which I don't mind at all), but at least for now, all the Glossier Play orders come with a very deluxe sticker. I like that the font color is different on each box: blue for Colorslide, green for The Detailer, red for Vinylic Lip, and holographic for Glitter Gelée.
But that's not the end of the packaging. Far from it! Inside the boxes, the products are ensconced in colorful foil plastic pouches, giving them the look of giant candies. It's a cute effect, and the plastic crinkles satisfyingly when opened, but come on: it's 2019, and Glossier should know better than to add needless packaging, especially non-biodegradable packaging. They've received some well-deserved criticism for this, so let's hope they change the Glossier Play packaging before long. It bums me out that my small order produced so much trash.
Glossier Play has the same price point as Glossier, but its packaging looks and feels slightly higher-quality overall, with one exception: who approved the cheap-looking clear plastic caps for $15 eyeliners? My only other eyeliner with a clear cap is my £3 Barry M one.
Swatches, left to right: Phantasm, Early Girl, Blow-Up.
The grand unboxing is complete; now for the individual reviews!
1. Colorslide Technogel Eyeliner in Early Girl
Glossier's claims: "Colorslide is the eyeliner where what you see on the pencil is exactly what you get. [AB's note: WHAT IS THIS SENTENCE. Hire a copyeditor, please.] Plus, a waterproof formula that dreams are made of: a highly pigmented, smooth gel eyeliner that doesn’t crease, smudge, tug, or skip and lasts for 12 hours (matte shades last in the waterline for 8 hours), leaving you to create freely....Draw a precise line to define the eye, or smudge and blend out for a diffused, smoky effect."
My experience: Early Girl is easily the most impressive of my Glossier Play purchases. Glossier describes it as an "eggshell blue"; it's actually a very light turquoise, though it looks bluer on the lid. The "Colorslide" moniker is accurate: the pencil really does slide smoothly across the skin. Pastel makeup is notoriously hard to perfect, so I worried that Early Girl's formula might be patchy or sheer, but it's nearly opaque in one pass and completely opaque in two. It also has serious lasting power: I wore it to the gym for a workout and it looked flawless afterward, though of course the real test will be the humidity of a New Jersey summer! Glossier really wants you to buy their "German-engineered" pencil sharpener to go with Colorslide, but I can attest that Early Girl sharpens perfectly with my NARS sharpener.
The only Glossier claim I'd dispute is that the formula is easy to "smudge and blend out for a diffused, smoky effect." I can't speak for any of the other shades, but Early Girl sets very quickly (in about a minute), and even before it's completely dry, I can't smudge it with a brush or my finger without rubbing off color. I was hoping to be able to use it as a cream shadow, but that's just not going to happen. I'm thrilled with Early Girl's performance otherwise, though, and I want to buy about six more colors of Colorslide.
2. Glitter Gelée in Phantasm + The Detailer
Glossier's claims (Glitter Gelée): "The multi-dimensional paillettes mirror everything as you move, changing and reflecting color everywhere you look. Comfortable, wearable, and long-lasting, thanks to a transparent gel base, this is an instant mood boost that stays shiny and stays put for 12 hours. No fall out, no flaking."
Glossier's claims (The Detailer): "[C]ustom-built for controlled application. With an angled silicone tip and a wand that fits comfortably in your hand, The Detailer scoops up a perfect portion of glitter to spread across the eye or dot anywhere with precision."
My experience: My earliest experience with chunky glitter was at a Shakespeare Camp performance in the summer of 1999, when I was eleven. I was playing Ariel in The Tempest, and a cool older girl dabbed glitter all over my cheekbones for an ethereal effect (promptly ruined by my wire-rimmed glasses and overall geeky affect). All this is to say that, having worn face glitter during the Clinton administration, I couldn't help but wonder if I was too old for its current incarnation. My misgivings weren't allayed by Glossier Play's advertising, which boasts race and gender diversity but zero age diversity: I doubt any of their models has reached their mid-twenties.
On the other hand, I fucking love glitter, so whatever.
The gel in which the glitter is suspended is thicker than I expected. The amount of product you get is quite small (here's Phantasm in my hand for scale), but a little goes a long way, at least for my preferred glitter looks.
The Detailer is a tiny silicone spatula that's supposed to make it easier to apply the glitter precisely. I find it easiest to pick up one or two flecks of glitter at a time; try to get much more than that and you'll end up with an unwieldy clump. I think it's worth ordering the Gelée/Detailer duo if you don't already have a similar tool, but you could just as easily apply the Gelée with a (clean!) nail-polish dotting tool or the handle of an eyeshadow brush.
I haven't worn Phantasm for longer than six hours, so I can't substantiate Glossier's twelve-hour-wear claim, but I can say that there's remarkably little fallout after six hours. There is some fallout (I mean, if you're not comfortable with a few specks of glitter ending up in your hair or on your shirt, maybe you shouldn't be wearing glitter at all), but I'm impressed with how firmly the glitter stays affixed to my face. The gel feels cool and tacky when first applied, and tight once it dries. After an hour, I stop noticing the tightness, but around the five-hour mark, my skin starts itching and I feel the need to take the glitter off. I certainly wouldn't try to wear Phantasm for an entire twelve hours, but it's a fun product for an evening out.
By the way, it's worth noting that the glitter in the Gelées is non-biodegradable. This has provoked a good deal of social-media outrage, about which I have mixed feelings. There's no denying that microplastics are a serious environmental issue, but so is literally every other form of capitalist consumption. (Consider that most biodegradable glitter is made of mica, which is often mined by child slaves.) Of course it's better to focus on one issue than to throw up your hands and do nothing, but the only way to be a truly responsible consumer is to consume less overall. It's not like forgoing the Glitter Gelée makes your purchase of the Vinylic Lip a great decision for the planet, you know? Social media distracts its users from huge systemic problems by obsessing over the relatively minor symptoms of those problems. Glossier's use of plastic glitter is the current object of Instagram's obsession, but the bigger problem is our overconsumption of everything. In fact, I shouldn't even have this blog and encourage others to buy more makeup. Rant over.
3. Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up
Glossier's claims: "Meet your newest obsession: Vinylic Lip. This lip vinyl comes in six essential colors with an addictive high-shine finish. A cushiony, never-sticky, never-goopy formula gives you the gloss you want with the shades you need to go with anything. The easy-to-use click-pen allows for precise application so you can build up to the full, lacquered look—and once you get there, keep going."
My experience: Vinylic Lip has elicited snarky comparisons to Milk Makeup's Lip Vinyl, though that gloss has completely different packaging (a squeeze tube with a doefoot applicator), as well as a more muted color range. I think Glossier could have avoided the Milk comparisons if it had simply chosen a different name. Honestly, "Vinylic Lip" isn't even a good name. It sounds pretentious and faux-scientific, and how the hell do you pronounce it? (I've been saying "vy-NIL-ic," but who knows.)
Despite my extensive experience with lip products, I'd never used a click-pen product before Blow-Up. When you press the pink button on the bottom, the gloss oozes out of six holes embedded in the small, fluffy applicator:
What struck me most about Blow-Up, after I'd opened the box and ripped off the foil and admired the font and clicked the pen 32 times (yes, I counted) to start the flow of gloss, was how unremarkable the formula really was. Which is not to say I don't like Blow-Up: I do, and I think I'll wear it often this spring and summer. But Glossier Play's copy led me to expect something more than a standard sheer gloss that fades to nothing after an hour or two (less if you dare to eat or drink anything). This is two-ish coats:
The formula has a faint strawberry-candy scent and taste. I'm sensitive to fragrance in my lip products (see my review of the reformulated Generation G lipsticks), but I don't mind this scent, though I wish the gloss were unscented. Blow-Up is as non-sticky as promised, and I suppose it's "cushiony" when first applied, but no more so than any other gloss. I don't find it to be at all hydrating, which is unusual for a lip gloss.
My main complaint, though, is with the packaging. Who asked for this? Who buys a lip gloss and thinks, "Gosh, this is almost perfect, but I wish it came in a clicky pen with a fuzzy applicator"? It seems like Glossier was trying to be original for the sake of originality (in a desperate effort to set themselves apart from Milk, maybe?), and I don't think they quite pulled it off. First, it's hard to build up the color to the "full, lacquered look" that Glossier promises, because with each pass, the applicator rubs off some of the product it just put down. Second, after I carried Blow-Up in my makeup bag for a day, I noticed that some gloss had been pushed out of the six holes. This suggests either that the tube has a problem with leakage or that the clicky end was depressed while the tube was jostling around in my bag. That certainly makes me wary of traveling with Blow-Up in the future. Finally, I tend to close lipsticks by pressing the lid with one finger and the base with the other, and I have to try so hard not to do that with Blow-Up, or more gloss gets extruded from the applicator.
I placed Phantasm in a similar pattern, adding a thin line of Early Girl on my upper lashline and a few coats of Blow-Up on my lips. I confess, I hadn't felt so cute in a very long time.
My second look was mod-inspired: a much thicker line of Early Girl, with Phantasm dabbed above the inner corner. Blow-Up looked a bit clownish with the bold pastel liner, so I wore my subtlest lipstick, NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita. Since my eyes are deep-set, Phantasm looked fairly subtle when I was looking straight-on, and showed its true splendor only when I blinked or looked down.
The thick formula emphasizes the crinkly texture of my eyelids, but that's inevitable with light-colored eyeliner, I think.
Finally, I copied a look from the music video for one of the best k-pop songs of 2018, Apink's "I'm So Sick." Like Sunmi's video, "I'm So Sick" uses glitter as a tool of dramatic irony, highlighting just how not fine a seemingly festive and glamorous situation is.
For my version of Hayoung's look above, I used Glossier Lidstar in Slip all over the lid, followed by a layer of ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Ladybird, a fine silver glitter. I smudged Urban Decay Cover onto the upper lashline, and added more Ladybird and some flecks of Phantasm on the lower lashline. Hayoung is clearly wearing a brown eyeliner with a baby wing, but my eyelids just don't allow for wings of any kind. Hayoung's gloss is a sheer cool pink, so I added two thin coats of Blow-Up. Excuse my dry lips: this winter has been rough on them.
And now for the real question: if I had no Glossier store credit, would I purchase these products with my own money?
Colorslide in Early Girl: Absolutely. This was the standout product for me. It's so hard to find decent colorful eyeliners at an affordable price point, and I fully intend to pick up a couple more Colorslide shades eventually--maybe Critical Mass, a magenta purple, or Nectar, a mustard yellow.
Glitter Gelée in Phantasm: Maybe. It's a lot of fun to play with, but ColourPop has an almost identical glitter gel for $8, so...meh.
Vinylic Lip in Blow-Up: Nope. It's a nice, non-sticky lip gloss, but so is NYX's Butter Gloss, which is more user-friendly, more moisturizing, and less than 1/3 the price. You're paying for the sleek Glossier branding, which might be worth it for you, and no judgment if so. But I doubt the Vinylic Lip is going to become anyone's "newest obsession."
Overall, though, I'm pleased with Glossier Play: I'd give it a solid B/B+ so far. I'm excited to try more of the Colorslide eyeliners, though I probably won't order more Vinylic Lips or Glitter Gelées. Let me know your thoughts on this launch!