Sunday, January 29, 2017

My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2016

Because it's year-end-roundup season until January 31, damn it. I'm back online, so it's time to present my favorite new-to-me beauty products of 2016! As always, I've listed these items in the order in which I bought them. I listed 14 favorites in 2014 and 15 in 2015, but 16 seemed excessive somehow, so I kept the number at 15.

1. MAC Matte Lipstick in Antique Velvet

This was the very first beauty product I bought in 2016, after a no-buy of almost two months. During those two months, I tried on Antique Velvet twice, loved it both times, searched the internet for cruelty-free dupes, and finally decided that nothing would satisfy me but the genuine article. Antique Velvet is a dark, cool-toned brown with a hint of plum. You'd think that such a dark matte lipstick would go on patchy, but it's smooth and evenly pigmented, with the same soft, comfortable formula as the other MAC mattes I've tried.

After sticking to my no-buy for seven weeks, I expected to be thrilled to get my hands on a new lipstick, but I felt oddly blasé, even disappointed in myself for succumbing to temptation. I didn't wear Antique Velvet until the next week, after a stressful interview at the Academic Job Conference of Doom, which was held in Austin that year. I went back to my hotel room, changed out of my interview dress and stockings and heels, put on my dark brown lipstick, and felt like myself again. It was the makeup equivalent of a deep, calming breath. I don't wear Antique Velvet all that often (because, well, dark brown lipstick), but I feel like a really great version of myself whenever I do, and that's more than enough to secure it a place on this list.

2. Zoya Kristen and Jules

I bought Kristen at the beginning of the year and Jules at the end of it, but I'm making them count as one product because I can. Kristen (right) is a pastel blue with a heavy dose of gray, making it less stark and lobster-hands-inducing than most light blue polishes look on me. I somehow can't find a photo of Kristen on its own, but here it is with Floss Gloss Dimepiece on top:

Jules has a grayish taupe base with gold sparkles, but in direct sunlight I spot some flashes of pink and mint as well. It's almost impossible to capture Jules's subtleties on camera, but here's how it looks in indirect natural lightthe very definition of a holiday neutral:

3. Glossier Boy Brow in Brown

The word "game-changing" is as ubiquitous in the beauty blogosphere as the Chanel logo in a Jeffree Star video, but it's rare that I encounter a product that truly changes my makeup game. Boy Brow is one such product, and you know I'm being honest because I'm as biased against Glossier as it's possible to be. But if you have thick brows that need just a little extra color and hold, I'm not sure there's a better product out there than Boy Brow. My one complaint is that the tube is so tiny for the $16 price. I don't think I use that much every day, but I go through a tube in four or five months. If you know of a similar product that offers more goo per dollar, let me know.

4. Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence

Another true game-changer. At the risk of TMI, I am an unusually sweaty person, particularly around the face. I also live in an area of the country that's very humid year-round: we're talking upwards of 90% for days at a time. These two factors make oily Western sunscreens slide right off my face in hot weather. After hearing over and over that Japanese sunscreens were lightweight and formulated to go under makeup, I ordered a tube of Bioré's Aqua Rich Watery Essence from Amazon and waited three weeks for it to ship from Japan. And oh my god, it's everything I wanted from a sunscreen: light, non-greasy, and slightly mattifying. Three small caveats: the formula contains a lot of alcohol (so it's wise to wear moisturizer underneath, though I don't always), I finish a tube in about three months, and it's almost impossible to find this sunscreen in the States unless you have access to Asian beauty stores. And of course it's more expensive (~$15) than what you'd pay in Japan—though certainly cheaper than a ticket to Japan.

5. Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paints in Damson and Butterscotch Sundae

I've never been impressed by Barry M's original Nail Paint formula, but their slightly more pricey Gelly Hi-Shine line is fabulous. The word "Gelly" is misleading: these polishes aren't as long-lasting as gel manicures, nor do they have a jelly or crelly finish. But they are beautifully opaque and they come in great colors: Butterscotch Sundae is the yellow-white of clotted cream, and Damson is that blazing International Klein Blue shade that nail polish bloggers were losing their shit over a few years back. I should note here that Damson totally smells like weed. I swear it does. I made my boyfriend smell it and he thought I was crazy, but I'M NOT. Go smell it and tell me I'm not.

6. Seventeen Eyeshadow Mono in Statuesque

I'm not usually prejudiced against drugstore makeup, with one big exception: powder eyeshadow. I've been disappointed by almost all the drugstore eyeshadows I've tried. They tend to be chalky, patchy, and coarsely milled, and I've pretty much stopped buying them. So I was bowled over when I swatched this beautiful rose gold in Boots and it was as silky and pigmented as a high-end shadow. Like most of my favorite eyeshadows, Statuesque works equally well on its own and paired with other shades. It can be packed on for a metallic effect or blended out for a more neutral one (I wore it in this post on interview makeup).

7. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

My boyfriend has a running joke about "the planet of Hyaluronia," whence all hyaluronic acid is imported to Earth.

Ugh, sorry, this is such a boring product. It's a scentless, colorless, slightly gelatinous fluid without cute packaging or a high-end pedigree. But it removes my makeup (granted, I don't usually wear heavy eye makeup), and it's $14 for 12 oz, and it doesn't leave my skin feeling dry. It's also great for sensitive skin, which I don't have but my mom does. I actually started using this because I ran out of my Lush 9 to 5 when I was staying at my mom's place, and it worked so well that I bought my own bottle. Not only is it better at its job than our current president, it would also be better at his job.

8. Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light

From the magnetic packaging to the absurdly pigmented formula, this is the most luxurious-feeling lipstick I ownand for $30, it had better be. Rei of Light sits halfway between brick red and rusty orange, and can take on the qualities of either color depending on lighting. I'd compare the Le Marc Lip Creme formula to the NARS Audacious formula, except that Le Marc is more matte and, in my experience, less drying. I've said a lot about Rei of Light on my blog and Instagram this year, so I'll shut up now.

9. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk 

When Urban Decay launched its 120-shade Vice lipstick collection last summer, I kept my distance. The shade range was so overwhelming that I resolved not to look closely at it until I wanted a specific color. As fall approached, I began searching for a matte dusty pink, something an early-'60s coed might wear with her gray angora sweater and strand of pearls. One swatch of Backtalk, a mauvey medium pink with the slightest hint of brown, and I knew I'd found my ideal. The Vice Comfort Matte formula goes on smooth and opaque, and though it's a little drying after a few hours, it's nothing I can't endure. More importantly, it makes me feel like an extra in An Education. I've owned it for just four months and have used almost half the tube, which says a lot. Here I am a few months ago, wearing Backtalk with Kiko Golden Mauve eyeshadow and what looks like my Kiko black eyeliner:

10. Revlon Super Lustrous Sheer Lipstick in Pink Truffle

Despite my love for bold matte lipsticks, I like carrying a sheer MLBB in my makeup bag at all times as a sort of normcore security blanket. For years, that sheer MLBB was NARS Dolce Vita, but when I lost my tube in LA last year I couldn't justify replacing it, given that almost every drugstore beauty brand makes a similar shade. This is a great "walking to yoga at 9 am on a Saturday" lipstick, a great "oh shit I spent 30 minutes blending out a halo eye and now I have no time for any other makeup" lipstick. We all need one of those.

11. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Whiskey 

For a while, my go-to brown eyeliner was Urban Decay Demolition, which is cooler and darker than Whiskey. But now that I'm wearing a lot of warm-toned eye looks (more on that later), Whiskey is the eyeliner I use most often. It's also great on its own, smudged out around the lashlines for some subtle definition. What I can't understand, though, is why these eyeliners cost $20. I'm semi-okay with paying that much because I don't wear eyeliner every day, and I anticipate Whiskey will last me the better part of a year. Still, $20? Why are Urban Decay's pencil eyeliners more expensive than their lipsticks? I just don't get it.

If you're curious, here's Whiskey (right) swatched next to Demolition:

 12. Kiko Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 05 Rosy Brown

I reviewed another shade in this line, Golden Mauve, over here, but never got around to posting about Rosy Brown. The formulas of the two shades are identicalcreamy, sparkly, easy to finger-blend, and yes, long-lastingbut Rosy Brown ended up on this list simply because I wear it more often. I love bringing it with me for overnight trips, since I'm not fond of messing around with brushes while traveling.

13. Diptyque Florabellio Eau de Toilette 

I first tried Florabellio back in the spring, but I didn't acquire my own bottle until my birthday in November. It's such an odd fragrance that I can't understand how it even got produced, but I'm not asking questions, because it feels like it was custom-blended for me. And isn't that the impression every perfume should give us? The Diptyque website identifies Florabellio's notes as "apple blossom, marine accord, coffee," and it is indeed sweet and salty, reminiscent of Maison Martin Margiela Funfair Evening. What first hits me after application is a blast of salt, followed by Tootsie Rolls. Seriously! As it wears, it becomes more fruity and floral (I detect apple, though not necessarily apple blossom), but the salty seaside aroma really lingers. I suppose most people would classify Florabellio as a summer perfume, but I can't afford to have seasonal scents and I've been happily wearing it this fall and winter. As a grad student who spends a great deal of time sweating nervously and writing in coffee shops, I find that the accords of salt and coffee really mesh with my lifestyle.

14. Urban Decay Vintage Vice Lipstick in Roach 

Like ColourPop's Monster highlighter last year, this lipstick made it onto my favorites list because it's a great reminder of how fun makeup can be. Roach is part of Urban Decay's six-piece Vintage Vice collection, which seems not to have done well commercially, because the lipsticks have all been on sale for $11 for over a month now. The sheer iridescent blues and purples in the collection are indeed on the weird side, but Roach caught my attention because it's such a badass neutral. Sparkly blue is a "hey, look how quirky I am" lipstick shade (not that I haven't been known to wear such shades myself); metallic bronze is less self-consciously eccentric, but still offbeat. Some of the lipsticks in the collection looked streaky or clumpy when I swatched them, but Roach can be built up easily to opacity, and it's really comfortable and moisturizing as well. It's also remarkably long-lasting and non-slippery for such a creamy lipstick. I wore it a lot during the holidays, along with my new velvet choker:

The name "Roach" reminds me that as terrible as the 2016 election was, it did legalize recreational marijuana in California. Weed has never really been my thing, but legalizing it will have a lot of social and economic benefits. Well done, fellow CA voters!

15. Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette  

Like any good reader of r/MakeupRehab, I spent months trying to talk myself out of this palette. It was too warm-toned for my complexion, I told myself. It lent itself best to dramatic blown-out looks that weren't to my taste. I'd never use all 14 shadows. The packaging wasn't practical for travel. And surely any product surrounded by so much hype was bound to disappoint. But when my boyfriend's parents gave me a $35 Sephora gift card for Christmas, I finally got on the Modern Renaissance bandwagon, and I'm so glad I did. The warm browns, oranges, pinks, and reds flatter my green eyes and look surprisingly good against my cool-toned skin. The shadows can be packed on or sheered out almost effortlessly. There are so many potential color combinations: cool or warm, sparkly or matte, neutral or glam. I'm still a lipstick girl at heart, but I haven't felt this excited about eyeshadowor, frankly, makeup in generalfor a long time. And reader opinion is leaning toward my reviewing Modern Renaissance next, so expect that post after my January roundup!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Updates and a Question

How's that for an uncreative title? Just popping in to let you know that I've wanted to post in the last week, but my aged computer has stopped connecting to wifi AND the wifi in my apartment isn't working, so I'm using data to type this on my phone. I hope to get both situations sorted out in the next few days, ugh.

Also, I have such a large backlog of products to review that I thought I'd ask your opinion: what would you like to see me review first, after my roundup of 2016 favorites?

  • ABH Modern Renaissance palette
  • New liquid matte lipsticks from Milani and Wet n Wild
  • Urban Decay Vice lipsticks in Backtalk and Roach
  • ColourPop eyeliner in Fast Lane, highlighter in Might Be, and Lippie Stix in Let's Play
Finally, let me send my love and support to everyone marching today; I wish I could be out there too. Women's rights are human rights!

Friday, January 13, 2017

First Lipstick Inventory and Destash of 2017

I don't know about you, but I find it much easier to destash makeup when I'm in a foul mood. The angrier I feel at the world, the more readily I can accept that a certain lipstick will never work for me and doesn't deserve a place on my shelf. In that spirit, I'm removing nine lipsticks from my collection today:

The three Topshop lipsticks and the mini Givenchy are fairly recent acquisitions, but the other five have been kicking around for years and are very well-loved. In fact, all five were favorites of mine at one point or another, but have outlived their usefulness in my collection. It's hard to part with those lipsticks, but I know from experience that decluttering the makeup I no longer wear makes my collection less visually overwhelming. From left to right, we have MAC Pink Nouveau, Topshop Plastique, Topshop Boardroom, Maybelline Vivid Rose, Topshop Motel, Revlon Primrose, and MAC Creme Cup:

And two stragglers, Revlon Red Velvet and Givenchy Noir Révélateur:

Swatches, same order, minus Pink Nouveau:

And a quick word about each one. I don't want to destash MAC Pink Nouveau, a perfect medium pink for my complexion, but it's clearly gone off: the texture has changed and the scent isn't quite vanilla anymore. Topshop Plastique is a lovely color that just doesn't work on my face, and the formula is a bit patchy and chalky. Topshop Boardroom is the lipstick that won me over to greige, but its formula is even worse than Plastique's: uneven and prone to sinking into lip lines. Maybelline Vivid Rose was my JAM in the summer of 2013, and I have many fond memories of wearing it on date nights with my boyfriend, but I haven't reached for it since last JanuaryI'm just not into non-matte bold lipsticks anymore. Though Topshop Motel was one of the lipsticks I resolved to use up this year, I wore it the other day and didn't like anything about it. The formula is weirdly grainy and slippery and drying, and the shade washes me out and doesn't fit into any one color category: it's too dark and warm to be an MLBB, yet too light and nude to be a true brown. Revlon Primrose is a lilac-y nude that was another 2013 favorite, but I genuinely can't remember the last time I wore it; same with MAC Creme Cup. There was a point early in my makeup-collecting life when I thought I needed a couple of pinky nude lipsticks, because everyone seemed to have a couple, but I discovered eventually that they weren't to my taste. Revlon Red Velvet is too soft and smeary to be as opaque as it is. Givenchy Noir Révélateur has a horribly strong floral fragrance, and let's be real, I'm never going to layer it over another lipstick. I do plan to keep the Pink Nouveau and Creme Cup tubes for the Back 2 MAC program, which gives you a new lipstick in exchange for six empty tubes. I should qualify for that free lipstick by, I don't know, 2020?

Here's my collection post-destash:

Finally, a quick inventory of that collection, because I'm desperate to distract myself from demoralizing academic bullshit. I've put an asterisk next to the shades that are no longer available.

ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light
Maybelline Colorsensational Bolds in Smoking Red
NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella (mini)
NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco*
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red
NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Fire and Ice
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in 69*
Total: 10

Bite Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Radish (mini)
MAC Matte Lipstick in Candy Yum-Yum
NARS Audacious Lipstick in Angela (I can't bring myself to get rid of such a pretty color!)
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow
Revlon Colorburst Lipstick in Fuchsia*
Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk
Total: 7

Oranges and Corals:
Maybelline Colorsensational Vivids in Vibrant Mandarin*
Revlon Lip Butter in Candy Apple*
Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Coral Sunset
Topshop Matte Lipstick in Rio Rio
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak*
Total: 5

Berries and Plums:
Glossier Generation G in Jam
Kat Von D Studded Kiss in Mercy (mini)
MAC Matte Lipstick in Eugenie*
MAC Satin Lipstick in Rebel
Milani Matte Fearless
Milani Amore Matte Metallic in The Ultimatte
Revlon Balm Stain in Crush
Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Get Me Bodied
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture*
Total: 9
& Other Stories Droguet Purple
Bite custom lipstick
Bite Amuse Bouche in Lavender Jam
NYX Liquid Suede in Amethyst
NYX Round Lipstick in Castle
Total: 5

MAC Matte Lipstick in Antique Velvet
NYX Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn
Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce
Total: 3

Nudes and MLBBs:
Bourjois Rouge Edition in Beige Trench
ColourPop Ultra Matte in Trap
Glossier Generation G in Cake
Milani Matte Naked
NARS Cinematic Lipstick in Last Tango*
Revlon Sheer Lipstick in Pink Truffle
Total: 6

Unconventional Colors:
NYX Velvet Matte in Midnight Muse
NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox
Urban Decay Vintage Vice Lipstick in Roach
Total: 3

Grand Total: 48

That's not counting my six lip glosses (four full-sized, two minis), two lip tints, and four lip liners. That's also not counting MAC Up the Amp, which is practically empty. My grand total has shrunk by three since last March, but it's worth noting that 19 of the shades on my list are new. My tentative goal for this year is to bring the total between 40 and 45, either by using up some shades or by destashing. And I'm going to be a lot pickier about the lipsticks I let into my collectionor so I say now. Oh, well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My 13 Least Favorite Beauty Products of 2016

Welcome to the first, and saltier, of my two 2016 roundup posts! A few notes before we begin:
  • There are 13 products on this list simply because I was disappointed by 13 products last year (not a large number, considering how many I tried). 
  • As always, the products are listed in chronological order of purchase, not from best to worst or vice versa. I've linked to my original reviews where available. 
  • I returned several of these products, sometimes too quickly to take photos. In those cases, I've used the brands' product shots. I also lost a number of my photos while clearing my phone's memory last year.
  • Not all of these products are total fails. I kept and still use a few of them, since I don't subscribe to the KonMari doctrine of getting rid of anything that I don't absolutely love. Especially in the case of color cosmetics, if a product fulfills a specific purpose but isn't perfect, I'll often keep using it instead of buying yet another product in the same category. The more "niche" that specific purpose is (e.g. purple blush, not red lipstick), the more likely I am to try to work with it.
  • Can I draw any lessons from this lineup? You'd think "no more impulse purchases" might be one lesson, but it's actually not. Some of my favorite makeup of all time has been bought on impulse, and as you'll soon discover, some of my least favorite purchases of 2016 were planned carefully. "Buy less drugstore makeup" strikes me as a good resolution for 2017, thoughand of course, my larger goal is to reduce my consumption overall.

1. Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer [no, seriously] in The Bee Side


If you're going to charge $18 for nail polishes and fire up the hype machine to create an aura of luxury and exclusivity around them, the least you can do is ensure that they take less than an hour to dry and aren't patchy after three coats. Pastels are hard for any brand to get right in any product category (nail polish, lipstick, eyeshadow, you name it), so I'd ordinarily be more forgiving, but my $8 Formula X nail polish in Lively is far better quality at less than half the price.

Look, I love a well-considered brand aesthetic. But there's something about Smith & Cult that just rubs me the wrong way. The nail polish bottles are twice as wide as an Essie or Zoya, as if Smith & Cult is asserting that its polishes are twice as good as any other and therefore deserve twice as much space on your shelf. The website is so fancy that it stalls my browser, and the giant gifs splashed all over the page make it almost impossible to focus on the words. Which might be a good thing, because the product blurbs sound like they were excerpted from a trust-fund kid's "satirical" short story in her undergrad literary magazine: "It's all about everyone spending the entire time strongly insinuating that they are elevated and evolved because they eat organic uncultured Echinacea balls of green mulchy purity." The whole brand feels like a lazy rich-person vanity project aimed at other rich people. I mean, one of the polishes is literally named "Feed the Rich." Oh, and the "add to cart" label reads "add to swag," as if you needed another reason to bypass this brand.

2. ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Rain 

I don't hate this blush, but its texture has always annoyed me. I expected a ColourPop blush to have the same moussey, spongy texture as the brand's eyeshadows and highlighters. Instead, Rain feels like one of those softer products left open for a few days. I don't know if I got a dried-out product or if this is just what ColourPop's blushes are like, but it's only become more difficult over the past year to extract color from the pan. I was so excited to find an affordable purple blush, too!

3. Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask

It wouldn't be an Auxiliary Beauty worst-of list without a mention of Glossier. My Instagram pal Amanda was kind enough to send me some Glossier mask pods from the holiday 2015 release, and here I am about to repay her generosity by shitting all over the Moon Mask. I will admit that the other mask in the set, the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, is one of the most effective masks I've ever tried. The Moon Mask,'s not terrible, exactly, but I don't get the point. It's too thick to work as a night moisturizer (even for skin as dry as mine), yet too emollient to work as a normal wash-off mask. It left my skin feeling greasy but not unusually hydrated. I didn't break out or get hives or anything, but meh.

4. Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Lavender Jam

It pains me to put Lavender Jam on this list, because I adore the color, an almost neon blue-lavender reminiscent of the hydrangeas that bloom all over town in June. But my relationship with Bite Beauty over the years can be summed up by Samuel Johnson's description of a friend's second marriage: "the triumph of hope over experience." I ordered Lavender Jam sight unseen, knowing that no Bite formula had ever worked for me but hoping that the new Amuse Bouche lipsticks would be less slippery than their Luminous Creme predecessors. Alas, it was not to be. Lavender Jam slides off my lips within an hour, a sin that I might forgive in a less wacky shade. As it is, I've used almost half the tube because I have to reapply it constantly. I've given up on Bite for the foreseeable future, despite feeling just a bit tempted by their new Edgy Neutrals collection, a quartet of yellowy browns guaranteed to make me look like hell.

5. Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Wink

Almost every time I break my "no ordering before swatching" rule, I come to regret it. After my disappointment with Marc Jacobs So Sofia, I decided to order Topshop's coral Matte Lip Bullet, which was so new that I couldn't find any swatches online. The product shot above is very inaccurate: Wink turned out to be a faded beigey coral, far less pigmented than the other Matte Lip Bullets I'd tried, with weird gold sparkles throughout. Not shimmer or frost, but discrete particles of gold glitter. And I couldn't even return it. I threw it away after wearing it twice and felt so wasteful. Never again. 

6. The Face Shop Jeju Volcanic Lava Peel Off Clay Nose Mask 


It struck me just now that the quality of a beauty product might be inversely proportional to the length of its name. Have I hit upon a foolproof method for avoiding bad makeup and skincare? Let me know. And don't buy this mask. It's supposed to dry on your nose and cleanse your pores, but it did neither of those things. It had the color and texture of chewed bubble gum, and it was just as ineffective as a skincare product.

7. Bioré Pore Strips 


I should have known better than to buy these. I should have known so much better. But about midway through the year, I reached the point where all I could see when I looked in the mirror were the pores on my nose. So after trying a couple of gentler remedies, I went for the hardcore option, or what I thought would be hardcore. As it turned out, the pore strips were fiendishly difficult to use, and all they did was remove the top layer of skin from my nose. I feel so dumb. 

8. NYX Matte Lipstick in Up the Bass

You've likely had the dispiriting experience of buying a product you've wanted for the better part of a year, eagerly trying it on at home, and discovering within a few seconds that it sucks. It's unpleasant to reflect that this is what you spent so much willpower on—and this, too, is what broke that willpower and opened your wallet. I wanted so badly to love Up the Bass, despite (or because of) its lolariously vulgar name. The deep gray-purple was the first shade that caught my eye when NYX expanded its matte offerings at the beginning of 2016, and because I'd had such good luck with brick-red Alabama, I assumed that Up the Bass would have a similarly opaque, comfortable, long-lasting formula. Instead, it was patchy, slippery, and given to fading within an hour of application. I'm not always glad I live in America, but it certainly is nice to be able to return shitty makeup. In December, I took Up the Bass back to Ulta and used my store credit toward a far superior product: Urban Decay Vintage Vice Lipstick in Roach, a metallic bronze.

In 2017, I'm going to be a lot more wary of drugstore makeup, and of NYX in particular. There's a certain thrill in buying a weird cheap product that might disappoint or might be a hidden gem, but let's be honest, it's usually the former. The Russian-roulette mentality leads to a lot of wasted time and money, and I'd rather not buy a product in the first place than run the risk of having to return it. Reduce consumer waste 2k17, people.

9. Lipstick Queen Black Lace Rabbit

You had one job, Lipstick Queen: making good lipstick. Instead, you took the Smith & Cult route, crafting elaborate stories around your expensive products to obscure their mediocrity. Black Lace Rabbit had such promise, but I couldn't make it work. It was patchy on its own, giving me less of a "smoky lip" than a "post-burger lip." Layered over other lipsticks, it reduced their longevity dramatically. Again: so glad I live in the land of easy makeup returns, even if the tradeoff is President Trump, unaffordable healthcare, and no gun control to speak of...oh, wait.

10. Essie Playing Koi

I read several enthusiastic reviews of Playing Koi before buying it. I wonder how the reviewers reached that conclusion: anyone who tried the bottle I got would notice that it's still patchy after three coats. It's also darker and browner on the nails than I expected. And I spilled half the bottle all over my desk one night, which is really my fault, but I'm going to blame Essie anyway. Clearly this polish is cursed. If you're going to buy a shade from Essie's fall 2016 collection, go for Udon Know Me, a dusty light aqua that lasts several days without chipping on my nails.

11. Floss Gloss Donatella

It's rare that I give up on a brand entirely, but I've more or less given up on Floss Gloss. I've now tried four of their polishes—BritBrit2000, Dimepiece, Dinge, and Donatella—and haven't been terribly impressed with any of them. The worst is Donatella, which is a beautiful gold-shimmered pumpkin color for the 12 hours it lasts on my nails before it begins chipping. Made in Brooklyn, Floss Gloss has an exuberant, emoji-filled social-media presence ("👯 💕🏁MADE 4 THE BAD GRLS🏆💵") and a temptingly eclectic color selection, but its formulas just suck and there's no getting around that.

12. ColourPop Creme Gel Liner in Fast Lane 

ColourPop is the Russian-roulette experience of drugstore beauty shopping taken to the nth degree. Because ColourPop's products are nonrefundable unless they arrive damaged (and even then it's iffy), yet also impossible to try before buying, you know you're taking a risk every time you place an order. And that's a problem, but it's also part of the appeal. Yes, your new eyeliner might be a total waste of $6, but what if it proves to be the best $6 you ever spent? This kind of thinking is addictive in the same way that gambling is addictive, and like gambling it does nothing but drain your bank account. Of the ColourPop products I've tried over the past two years, I've loved maybe a third, felt indifferent to a third, and actively disliked a third. Those aren't great odds, and I'm going to try very hard to resist the siren song of ColourPop in 2017.

I started wearing eyeliner regularly last summer, and after switching between black and brown pencils for a couple of months, I decided to expand my color horizons. ColourPop's eyeliners had received a decent amount of praise, so I ordered Fast Lane, a dark teal. I realized later that much of the praise had come from people who had used the eyeliners on their waterline, which I never do (I wear contact lenses and the thought of placing pigment practically on my eyeball squicks me out). Instead, I tried Fast Lane on my upper lashlines, which wasn't a success. It looked decent at first, but after two hours the color had faded and transferred to my undereye area. Not a good look for a teal eyeliner.

13. NYX Suede Matte Lip Liner in Brooklyn Thorn 

NYX has released a zillion new lip products in the past year, and this relentless focus on NEW NEW NEW ALL THE TIME has inevitably produced some duds. The lip liners in NYX's original formula are fabulous—creamy, opaque, and long-lasting—and I don't understand why NYX didn't add trendier colors to that range instead of releasing a totally new, and vastly inferior, formula. To be fair, Brooklyn Thorn is the only shade I've tried in the Suede Matte formula, but it's bad enough that I have no desire to buy any more. It's patchy, it drags so hard against my lips, and it doesn't even sharpen smoothlythe exposed wood is all rough and spiky.  

Next up, my favorites of 2016! Did any beauty products disappoint you last year?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Low-Buy Plan and Beauty Resolutions

I returned last night from the academic job conference and felt so drained today that I didn't leave the house once, which almost never happens unless I'm sick. (Today's high temperature was about 12°F, too. That was definitely a factor in my laziness.) Now that I have some more time, I'm looking forward to writing a couple of 2016 roundup posts. In today's post, I'll look back at my low-buy plan for 2016, concoct a (better, let's hope) plan for 2017, and make a few miscellaneous beauty resolutions.

At the beginning of 2016, I vowed to "maintain a low-buy of no more than two new products (makeup, nail polish, and fragrance) and/or $40 per month, with at least two no-buy months." The devil was in that "and/or." In the interest of simplicity, I decided after a couple of months to pay more attention to the "under $40" half of that resolution than the "no more than two new products" half. That was a mistake. There were indeed some months when I spent under $40 and bought no more than two new products, but because much of the makeup I buy is drugstore, it turned out that $40 could get me a lot of stuff. In the end, I bought more or less the same amount of makeup in 2016 as I did in 2015. Oh, and I completely forgot about that "at least two no-buy months" clause until just now. I told you I have a bad short-term memory.

Now for the successes. I did manage to stick to a monthly low-buy progress report for every month except December (check out those posts under the "low-buy 2016" tag), and I was more conscious in general of the emotions behind my material desires. I also got better at experimenting with products I already owned. Though I didn't hit pan on any more shadows from my Nude 'Tude palette, I did force myself to use it in several new ways. I used up one lipstick and almost used up another (more on that later), and hit pan on a non-lipstick makeup product, ColourPop Lunch Money, for the first time since December 2014. Here's my empty tube of Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy:

I also focused on improving my application skills, particularly with eyeshadow. I can usually silence that "buy new stuff" voice in my head by reminding myself that makeup isn't about the products I buy, but the looks I create with those products. I have enough makeup to achieve pretty much any look, and researching new aesthetics and techniques is freeand ultimately more fulfilling than buying a lipstick. 

That said, I bought a lot of lipsticks in 2016. 14, to be precise. Plus two glosses. Plus the 10 lipsticks I received as gifts or free with purchase. That's 26 new lip colors, on a supposed low-buy. Seriously? I did destash several lipsticks that I no longer wore, but I still have more lipstick now than I did on this date last year. Look, I've never claimed to be a minimalistI love having a good selection of lipstick. I love lipstick more than most things and people. But enough is enough, and it's clear that my monthly limit of $40 was way too generous. So, without further ado, my 2017 resolutions, including a new low-buy plan:

1. Buy no more than two new products per month.

By "products" I mean "makeup and nail polish," since I don't seem to buy too much of anything else. I'm not going to set a monetary budget, because my problem is less with overspending than with, shall we say, overaccumulating. If I stick to my goal of two new items per month, I'm pretty sure I'll stay well under $40 most months; it's not like I'm going to run out and buy a $250 Natasha Denona eyeshadow palette. For the record, the only product I've bought so far in 2017 is Milani's new Amore Matte Metallic Lip Creme in 15 The Ultimatte, a metallic plum. It feels pretty dry on my lips, but who cares because THAT COLOR:

2. Buy no new nail polish for the first half of 2017.

I have so much nail polish, guys. It is truly the last thing I need more of. I want to get a bottle of polish thinner to revitalize some of my old bottles, so if you know of a good one, please let me know!

3. Have at least two makeup-free days per month.

I love applying and wearing makeup. I love choosing a different aesthetic every day. I love bonding with strangers over lipstick colors. I love blending eyeshadows into a neat gradient (not that that happens every time, but that's why we practice). But despite all my feminist protestations, I don't wear makeup solely for creative purposes; I also wear it because I think I look better with it. When I wear light makeup or go barefaced, I'm often mistaken for a much younger person, which is more annoying than gratifying: I'm not an undergrad anymore, damn it, and I'm extremely glad that I'm not. I'm also self-conscious about the dark undereye circles I've had since childhood. In (flattering) natural light, with no makeup at all, I look like this:

There's nothing wrong with this face (my hair could be better brushed, but hey). This was the face I showed the world every day for 23 years. I want to feel comfortable with it again. I probably won't go barefaced to professional events, but I'm looking forward to forgoing makeup during some weekends. I've already had one makeup-free day this month, when traveling back to the East Coast from San Francisco, and it felt surprisingly nice to wear nothing but sunscreen on my face. I didn't wear makeup today, either, but I'm not counting days on which I don't go outside!

4. Finish at least six lipsticks.

To make things easier for myself, I'm including MAC Up the Amp in that number. I don't think there's more than three days' worth of lipstick left in that tube, so that's one almost crossed off the list. My five others are ColourPop Trap, Maybelline Vibrant Mandarin, Topshop Motel, Glossier Jam, and Urban Decay Streak, all of which are small and/or already well-loved. I doubt I'll be able to finish Vibrant Mandarin, but because it's showing wax bloom and I prefer matte lipsticks these days, I plan to toss it after this summer.

L-R: Trap, Vibrant Mandarin, Motel, Jam, Streak.

5. Continue improving my eyeshadow skills.

I sank into a sheer-wash-of-one-color rut for the last few months of 2016, but my ABH Modern Renaissance palette has made me excited about eyeshadow again. I'm not naturally talented at applying makeup, and my weird foldy eyelids will always prevent me from achieving an Instagram-flawless blended-out eye, but I know I can improve from my current level.

I don't want to make more resolutions than I can keep, so I'll stop here. If all goes according to plan, my next post will be a roundup of my favorite and least favorite beauty products of 2016!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 25 Coral Sunset

Surprise! I'm allowing myself to write one quick post during this hiatus. Today I'll be skipping over my backlog of unreviewed products to take a look at my most recent purchase, a new product that hasn't yet received much attention online.

Sephora massively expanded its Cream Lip Stain range last month, adding 27 new shades, mostly trendy browns, purples, and taupes, plus some offbeat colors like black and teal for the goth mermaids out there. The Cream Lip Stain formula has been around for at least a few years (you've probably heard of Endless Red and Marvelous Mauve), and it tends to garner positive reviews. Being generally indifferent to liquid lipstick, I'd never taken much interest in the Cream Lip Stains, but that changed during a visit to Sephora at the end of December. While glancing over the new shades, I found myself drawn to one in particular: 25 Coral Sunset, which looked a lot like my platonic rusty orange. A swatch proved me right. Forth reaching to the fruit, I plucked, I bought.

The Sephora Cream Lip Stains are $14 for 4 ml. Their packaging makes them look smaller than they are; here's Coral Sunset next to a NYX Liquid Suede, which actually contains slightly less product (3.8 ml):

I think it's cool that Sephora has minimized the amount of plastic per unit; this also means that the Cream Lip Stains are lighter and more portable than other liquid lipsticks. The cap twists shut very securely, with an extra little catch to hold it in place. The applicator is a small, slanted doefoot that would make it easy for a less clumsy person to get in all the corners, but I'm just not great at applying liquid lipstick and I don't think any shape or size of applicator would change that.

The name "Coral Sunset" is rather misleading. Coral isn't the easiest color to define, but I think of it as containing at least some pinkness and some brightness. Coral Sunset, however, is a deep russet, sitting squarely on the border between orange and brown. I expected it to be similar to Marc Jacobs Rei of Light (another milestone in my quest for the perfect rusty orange), but Rei of Light is brighter and redder. In fact, Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce is the closest match for Coral Sunset in my collection:

L-R: Revlon Fierce, Coral Sunset, Marc Jacobs Rei of Light, Topshop Matte Lipstick in Rio Rio.

I've heard great things about the Cream Lip Stain formula, specifically its longevity, but Coral Sunset has disappointed me on that front. Having worn it twice now, I can conclude that it looks like a matte liquid lipstick but doesn't quite act like one. Though it dries down to a flat matte finish within a minute, it transfers onto cups and doesn't stand up to food at all. On the plus side, it's not patchy, I don't find it particularly drying, and it's easy to remove before eating. Basically, it has the same longevity and lipfeel as my MAC matte bullet lipsticks, and that's fine; it's just that I expected something different.

(Update, 1/9: On a suggestion from reader Clara, I tried applying the thinnest coat possible of Coral Sunset, and I'm pleased to report that it barely transferred at all onto cups and glasses. However, it did still feel a bit tacky when I pressed my lips together, and I could still smear it easily with my finger. It may be that the new shades have a different formula from the original ones, or just that the formula varies from shade to shade.)

(Update, 9/11: All right, I think I've finally figured out the best application method for this lipstick. After I remove the applicator, I wipe the excess product on the rim of the tube, then apply a single swipe to my bottom lip. I mash my lips together, use the applicator to add a bit more lipstick to each lip, and then blend it out across the entire lip with my finger, repeating as necessary. This not only gives a more natural, lived-in look, but also ensures that I get the thinnest, least tacky layer possible. The thinner the layer of Coral Sunset, the brighter and more orange it will look.)

Today I wore Coral Sunset with some orangey shades from my new ABH Modern Renaissance palette, which I'll review eventually. For now, suffice to say that I'm delighted with it so far, and grateful to all of you who encouraged me to get it! I blended Burnt Orange and Realgar into the crease, then placed Antique Bronze on the outer half of the lid and along the lower lashline, and finally added Raw Sienna to the inner half of the lid. I'm also wearing Illamasqua Zygomatic blush and ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter on my cheeks. (I wore Zygomatic for about two weeks in a row while traveling last month, and never once felt the need for another blush. Now, that's a holy grail.)

That's my collection of enamel pins held up by a pants hanger. Classy. My earrings are from American Apparel.

And a closer look at the eyeshadow:

Orange is still a difficult color for me to wear, but it's clear that I do better with dark, earthy oranges than with bright, white-based ones. I love how easy it is to diffuse the Modern Renaissance shadows into a relatively subtle wash of color.

Overall, Coral Sunset is a nice lipstick, but I'm not exactly dashing to my nearest Sephora to pick up more Cream Lip Stain shades. I bought Coral Sunset specifically for the color, and if there's a shade you love in the CLS range, I wouldn't discourage you from getting it. But don't order the 40-piece vault, people. Come on. You know better.