Thursday, January 3, 2019

My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2018

It's year-end-roundup time once again! I found it harder to compile a best-of list in 2018 than I did in 2017, which suggests that I got better at avoiding impulse buys and zeroing in on products that suited my tastes and needs. (I'll eventually get around to writing a snarky worst-of-2018 post, but it will be far short of 15 items.)

In the online makeup community, 2018 was characterized by a series of influencer scandals: Kat Von D's anti-vaxx sentiments and trash-fire husband, Laura Lee's racist tweets, and Jeffree Star's...honestly, I've lost track of all the bullshit he got up to this year. Some people interpret that turbulence as an indication that consumers are finally losing faith in influencers and the hype they create. I'm not quite that optimistic. Everyone loves drama, but I'm not sure whether the downfall of individual influencers has caused most people to question the premises of influencer culture. I certainly hope 2018 has generated more skepticism toward sponsored YouTube infomercials by people who "love you guys sooo much," but I don't think we can know that for sure until some more time has passed.

In terms of beauty trends, I'm struggling to pinpoint a particular aesthetic that characterized 2018. The year felt more transitional than anything else. The beauty industry seems to be leaving behind warm-toned eyeshadow, for instance, but it hasn't completely embraced cool tones. We reached peak Instaglam well over a year ago, but brands continue to release new shades of blinding highlight and matte liquid lipstick. I can think of specific looks that inspired me (Rodarte's Rococo-meets-'80s SS19 show was the aesthetic high point of 2018 for me), but most of those looks were one-off moments, not manifestations of larger trends.

Furthermore, it's hard to describe the "2018 look" when the one constant of this year was a surfeit of choice. While compiling my best-of-2018 list, I noticed that only seven brands were represented, and that I tried only one new-to-me brand (Dose of Colors) in 2018. By contrast, each of the products on my 2017 list came from a different brand! I don't think it's any coincidence that I've become more brand-loyal as the number and output of beauty brands have increased. I simply don't have the time, money, or inclination to keep up with the incessant deluge of new shit; I'd rather confine my purchases to brands I know and trust, and I'd wager I'm not alone in that.

My usual caveats apply to this list:
  • These products were new to me in 2018, though many were released earlier.
  • I've listed them in order of date purchased, not in order of preference.
  • I bought a few products in December, but most are not eligible for inclusion in this list because I haven't had enough time to test them exhaustively. They might appear on my 2019 list, however.
  • The list contains one exception to the above, because I make the rules in this house (and because nail polish is easier to deem good or bad than eyeshadow palettes are).
  • I bought all the Glossier products with store credit. The other products were either given to me by friends or purchased with my own money.
  • I've reviewed a few of these already, but I'd like to write full reviews of most of them eventually, so I'm keeping my descriptions short in this post.

Let's begin!

1. Glossier Haloscope in Quartz (reviewed here) - late January


I wasn't wild about Quartz when I first tried it: I'd been expecting a subtle gleam, but this was really subtle. However, Quartz soon became my favorite highlighter precisely because of that subtlety. Prior to Quartz, I hadn't owned a highlighter that I felt comfortable wearing in professional situations. But the Haloscope formula doesn't read as highlight except in direct sunlight; instead, it just makes me look a little more hydrated and well-rested than usual, and the very light gold color goes with every look. I've worn Quartz at least five times a week since I bought it (though I'm nowhere close to finishing it), and I hope Glossier comes out with more shades in the Haloscope formula; I'd love to see a peach or pale pink.

2. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Ravenswood - late February


I realized early in 2018, just before a job interview, that I didn't own a true MLBB lipstick. I had a subtle pinkish plum (Urban Decay Rapture, which I've since finished), a sheer nude (NARS Dolce Vita), and a matte nude (Milani Matte Naked), but not your standard pinkish brown. There was a good reason for this. I have cool-toned, high-contrast coloring (in sci-art terms, I'm a dark winter), but most pinkish brown lipsticks on the market are made for warmer, lower-contrast coloring than mine. It's hard to find lipsticks in that color family that don't wash me out or look muddy against my skin tone. Ravenswood, however, is just the ticket. It's a little darker and plummier than most MLBB shades, but it's still firmly in that "unimpeachably professional Adult Lady" category. And Urban Decay's Cream lipstick formula remains my favorite of the Vice formulas, being more comfortable and longer-wearing than most cream lipsticks.

3. ColourPop Lux Lipstick in Dream Easy (reviewed here) - late March


After a series of lackluster experiences with ColourPop lip products, I was hesitant to try the new Lux Lipstick formula, but it proved to be one of my better makeup discoveries in 2018. (My second Lux Lipstick, Liquid Courage, almost made it on this list, but it stains my lips and Dream Easy doesn't.) Coral is always a tricky color for me, particularly in lipstick, but Dream Easy is one of the few flattering coral lip colors I've found. It's darker and more muted than most corals I've tried, with no discernible white base. (It's also a great dupe for Marc Jacobs So Sofia, if you happen to be looking for one.)

4. MAC Matte Lipstick in D for Danger - early April


I bought my first MAC lipstick in the summer of 2012, and six years later I finally had six empty or unwanted MAC lipstick tubes to exchange for a free new lipstick through the Back 2 MAC program. After much swatching and cogitation, I settled on D for Danger, a deep, super-saturated raspberry red. MAC describes the shade as a "brick red," which isn't even close to true, though it does have a hint of brown that makes it more wearable for me than, say, Revlon Cherries in the Snow. The formula is rich and opaque, and a little drying but nothing too problematic. MAC matte lipsticks have been around forever and are still some of the best on the market, and D for Danger is probably my favorite new lipstick of 2018. It seems to work in every season: it feels most natural in fall and winter, of course, but I enjoyed wearing it in the spring and summer as well.

5. Glossier Lash Slick Mascara (reviewed here) - mid-May


This is the mascara I've wanted since I first started wearing mascara. It dries quickly, darkens and lengthens my lashes without adding too much volume, and lasts most of the day before it starts to flake. It's humidity- and tear-proof, which is a sine qua non when you're a certified crybaby living in central Jersey. Its packaging is much nicer than I've come to expect from Glossier. Honestly, I can't think of any drawbacks to Lash Slick, except its $16 price (but then I'm a trash person who uses my mascaras for six months, so).

6. Glossier Lidstar in Slip - mid-May 


I felt pretty neutral about the Glossier Lidstar liquid eyeshadows in the spring, but truly came to appreciate them during the summer, when the humidity index rose above 90% daily. I'd walk to work every weekday morning and arrive dripping with sweat, my hair so wet I'd have to wring it out in the bathroom sink. The Lidstars never budged, though! It's really the formula in general that deserves a place on this list, but I rate Slip slightly higher than my other Lidstars (Cub, Fawn, and Lily) because it's such a versatile shade: a slightly shimmery beige-pink that delivers a "my lids but better" look. My one big issue with the Lidstars is that the caps inevitably crack within a few weeks, which doesn't affect the performance of the product but does nothing to dispel my general impression that Glossier makes their packaging as cheap as they can possibly get away with.

7. ColourPop Ultra Glossy Lip in Finesse - late May

(There was more product in the tube when it was new. I took this photo fairly recently.)

I've always gravitated toward lip gloss in neutral colors, but this clear gloss with tiny blue and pink sparkles was too cute to pass up. It reminded me of the holographic spacegirl Y2K aesthetic of my middle-school years. I'd never tried ColourPop's gloss formula, so I was pleased to discover it was moisturizing, non-sticky, and relatively lightweight, with an almost undetectable lemon-lime scent. I was prepared for the shimmer to disappear on my lips, but it's actually quite noticeable, though not full-on glittery. I love wearing this gloss on (almost-)no-makeup days when I want just a little sparkle somewhere on my face. It adds just a little...finesse.

8. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Birthday Wish - late May


This eyeshadow was a freebie included with every order during ColourPop's four-year-anniversary celebration in May. Look at the cute packaging!


Birthday Wish has a practically clear base crammed with finely milled glitter. The glitter is mostly pale champagne gold, with flecks of pink and blue. It's an excellent sparkly topper for a range of eyeshadows: I wore it over Glossier Slip pretty often in the summer. But because the glitter is so fine, Birthday Wish also works as a neutral all-over lid color. Paradoxically, the more product you pack on your lid, the more subtle it looks, because sheering out the formula emphasizes the sparkle. Here's an out-of-focus swatch to show off the glitter:


9. Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Star Anise (reviewed here) - early June


Like many of us, I've been looking for the perfect nude lipstick for years. (To be clear, when I say "nude" I mean "close to my skin tone," not "close to my lip color.") Pale, cool-toned nude lipstick shades are few and far between, but I managed to find a few decent ones over the years, most notably L'Oreal Fairest Nude and Bourjois Beige Trench. However I ended up destashing both of those lipsticks because I couldn't stand their artificial floral fragrances. It wasn't until 2018 that I found a nude lipstick that matched my complexion and wasn't scented with headache-inducing old-lady perfume. That lipstick was Star Anise, which Lena sent me in June. I've complained before about the slipperiness of the Amuse Bouche formula, but that's less of a problem with a shade as subtle as Star Anise. I still don't think the formula is suited to bold shades, but it works nicely with neutral ones.

I admit, however, that the hint of lavender-gray in Star Anise can make me look sickly in certain lights. During the summer, the heat sometimes made me queasy, which led to the following exchange with my boyfriend one August afternoon:

Me: Ugh, I don't feel well.
BF: Oh, my God! Your lips are turning purple!
Me: ...no, that's just my lipstick.

10. Glossier Cloud Paint in Storm - mid-June


In the middle of the year, Glossier released their fifth and sixth Cloud Paint shades: Dawn, a bright, slightly burnt orange, and Storm, a deep brownish rose. I was already a fan of the Cloud Paint formula, having tried Puff in 2017 and Haze at the beginning of 2018, so I ordered both new shades. I wore Dawn a few times in the summer for a sunburn-but-make-it-fashion look, but it was Storm that truly stole my heart. It's deep enough for skin tones much darker than mine, but it works beautifully on my pale skin as well, whether applied lightly on the apples of my cheeks for a natural flush or more heavily under my cheekbones for an '80s-inspired look. It blends out flawlessly (unlike Dawn, which is more pigmented and watery), and it never looks patchy or blotchy when layered. It harmonizes perfectly with the plum, mauve, and berry tones I wear year-round. I've worn Storm several times a week since I bought it six months ago, and I have yet to tire of it. Glossier seriously killed it this year (with one unfortunate exception).

11. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Seismic - early July


Sheer plum lipstick has long been a mainstay of my makeup stash. Lipsticks in the plum family never fail to flatter me, and I love having a low-maintenance plum that I can apply without a mirror and trust to brighten an otherwise un-made-up face. I've gone through a few sheer plums over the years--MAC Capricious, Glossier Jam, Revlon Plum Velour--and Seismic is my latest discovery in that category. Urban Decay calls it a "Sheer Shimmer" shade, and it does indeed have very fine purple shimmer, but it looks like a straightforward sheer cream lipstick on my lips. Seismic is a little deeper and cooler-toned than most sheer plums I've tried (Jam, for instance, is brighter and pinker). It's moisturizing and unscented, it doesn't cling to the dry patches on my lips...it just works. Sometimes you just need a lipstick that fucking works. Seismic is that lipstick for me.

12. Bite Beauty Prismatic Pearl Crème Lip Gloss in Rose Pearl (reviewed here) - late July


I was going to write a paragraph about how 2018 was the Year of the Lip Gloss, with interesting shades and finishes popping up at every price point, and then I remembered that Bite's Prismatic Pearl glosses came out almost two years ago, in February 2017. I don't know how successful these glosses were at the time, but I don't remember hearing much about them. It seems they were one of those products that appear so early in a trend that they're forgotten by the time that trend reaches fruition. However, I'm reliably behind every trend, so here I am to give the Prismatic Pearl formula some well-deserved publicity. Rose Pearl is one of the most beautiful makeup products I've ever seen. That copper-fuchsia-chartreuse shift is absolutely magical, and it doesn't disappear on my lips, but it also doesn't make me look like I'm going to a rave in 1999. In fact, it looks semi-professional. How did Bite do that? The formula is nice, too: a little heavier than I prefer, but comfortable and pleasantly lemon-scented.

13. ColourPop Pressed Powder Eyeshadow in Tea Garden - early September


I don't own many duochrome eyeshadows. I love looking at them in stores and online, but they always give me trouble in practice. I prefer sheer, neutral colors on my eyes, and there aren't many sheer, neutral duochromes. The neutral-ish shades are often darker and more opaque than I'd like (e.g. that ubiquitous red-teal combo), while the sheer ones are too bright and flashy for my usual looks. But I had a feeling that Tea Garden would hit that sweet spot between boring and bold, and I was right. Tea Garden is a very distinctive shade, yet it has the magical ability to harmonize with a variety of colors. I usually wear it with a mustard or warm brown in the crease; below, I have ABH Golden Ochre in the crease and Tea Garden all over the lid, with no liner.


14. Essie Nail Polish in Say It Ain't Soho - early October


I don't pay much attention to nail polish releases, so I wasn't aware how massively popular this shade was until I went in search for it and discovered it was sold out almost everywhere. I can see why: metallic oranges are rare, and metallic oranges with formulas this smooth and luminous are even rarer. I wore Say It Ain't Soho constantly this fall: it's #pumpkinspiceeverything in a bottle.



15. Urban Outfitters Nail Polish in Scorpio - late December


I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to Urban Outfitters for a few Tony Moly sheet masks and fallen victim to their wily trick of arranging their cheap, sparkly own-brand nail polishes on shelves or in bins by the register. I've been buying UO polish since my early twenties and have almost always been disappointed in the formula. Yet there I was at the end of 2018, a grown-ass 31-year-old woman, sheepishly forking over $5 for a glittery duochrome shade that I might, might have left in the bin had it not been called Scorpio. But it was, and after the disappointment that was Bite's Scorpio lipstick, I couldn't resist a beauty product that seemed far better suited to my star sign.

And, surprise: it's gorgeous. Like, really fucking gorgeous. Can you imagine if Bite had made a Scorpio lipstick that looked like this?


The base is a deep magenta with a jelly-ish texture; the first coat looks a little streaky, but three coats will give you the perfection you see above. And unlike most other UO polishes I've tried, Scorpio stays on my nails for a few days without chipping. I hesitated before putting Scorpio on my best-of-2018 list, since I've owned it for just a week and a half and am still excited about its newness. But whatever: it's brought me a great deal of pleasure in that week and a half, and I can't imagine not wearing it often in the new year. And after my snarky Bite post, finding a great product called Scorpio feels like poetic justice.

Happy 2019!

1 comment:

  1. An expansion of the Haloscope range would be lovely! Out of all my highlighters I pretty much only use Quartz these days. It's the product that begrudgingly made me admit that there might be something to all the Glossier hype.

    Tea Garden is so pretty and it's perfect with your colouring!

    When I worked at Urban Outfitters in 2011 so many people succumbed to those $5 nail polishes. There were some really pretty duochromes and shimmers even back then. Scorpio is stunning and absolutely the type of shade Bite should have made. (I think my bitter disappointment over the botched Zodiac collection will haunt me for a while...)

    Best wishes for a happy 2019!

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