Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I'm Alive (Barely)

Ugh, you guys. I'm so sorry. You know the drill: some months are busier than others in academia, and until January I'll be very busy indeed. Here are my responsibilities for the next few months:
  • Finish my dissertation (I'm defending in December!)
  • Teach five overcrowded sections of a science-fiction survey course
  • Go on the completely fucked academic job market for the third year in a row
  • Revise and resubmit my third peer-reviewed article
  • Figure out how I'm going to support myself next semester
  • Cook meals, exercise, maintain relationships with other humans
As you can imagine, this leaves me with almost no time to blog about beauty. Hell, I barely even have time to read about beauty. While I believe that breaks from work are important, blogging is a special case because it's yet another kind of writing. It's very different from academic writing, of course, but it uses the same parts of the brain and demands the same kind of energy, and that energy is finite. After a day of dissertating, I don't usually feel like producing more words, even about lipstick. And if I do find it in me to start a post, the guilt soon creeps in: shouldn't I be using this precious writing energy to revise my teaching statement or start another postdoc application? As a result, I've opened five post drafts in the past two weeks but haven't written more than a few sentences in most of them. So, you guessed it: I'm going on yet another quasi-hiatus. (At what point does the hiatus become the blog? How can we know the dancer from the dance?) I'll still try to post when I get the chance, but it probably won't be more than a couple of times per month, if that.

I'll leave you with the best makeup look I've seen recently, from k-pop chanteuse IU's equally great song "Last Night Story," a '60s-style adaptation of a track from 1988 (got that?). I'd recreate this look for a post if I had time, but screenshots are all I can manage right now:

So good, right? I felt more excited about makeup after watching this video than I had in a while.

Until next time! I'm pretty active on Instagram (though less than I'd like, these days), if you want to keep up with me there.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Lipstick Project Pan, Fall 2017

After three and a half years (!) of beauty blogging, I've learned which panning projects work for me and which are guaranteed to fail. I can usually push myself to finish a piece of makeup if three conditions apply:
  • It's a cream product (usually a lipstick)
  • I like it enough that I've already used up at least 2/3 of it
  • It's getting old and/or is in poor condition
I believe that makeup should be a pleasure, so if I actively dislike a product, I'll destash it instead of forcing myself to finish it. If it's newer or in good condition, I'd rather just keep it around and wear it when I feel like it. And if it's almost full, I don't see much point in panning it: that's just setting myself up for frustration. So, as you can imagine, I don't undertake panning projects very often. But I managed to finish two lipsticks (Urban Decay Streak and MAC Up the Amp) earlier this year, and right now I have four more that I think I can pan by the end of 2017. All of them are fairly close to empty, two are at least three years old, and the other two are in pretty bad shape:

NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco (purchased God knows when, maybe 2013?) is a cool-neutral, softly shiny red that's very kind to my lips when they're dry. I find it difficult to pair Flamenco with other makeup: it feels too vivid for a bold eye but too subtle for a neutral one. Still, it's a nice fall color, and I suspect I'll use it even more often come holiday season. Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry (purchased 2014) is one of my all-time favorite lipsticks, but I have an almost identical shade waiting in the wings: a deluxe sample of Marc Jacobs Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was Sephora's birthday gift last year. I've been telling myself for almost a year that I have to finish Sultry before starting KKBB, so I should probably go ahead and do that. Glossier Generation Gs in Jam and Cake (gifts from Renee last year) are easy to wear both color- and formula-wise, but both bullets have long since detached from their tubes, and I'm tired of worrying that they'll tumble to the floor when I use them. Plus, the cheap packaging is just depressing. I have some Glossier store credit, and I've considered ordering Leo, the brown Generation G, but I don't want yet another flimsy lipstick that will break within weeks. 

Here's the amount left in each tube. Cake, Jam, and Flamenco require frequent touch-ups, and I always wear multiple layers of both Gen Gs, so I don't think finishing them will be much trouble. As for Sultry, I love it so much that I'd be happy to wear it every day for a week. 

L-R: Cake, Jam, Sultry, Flamenco.


L-R: Cake (3 layers), Jam (3 layers), Sultry, Flamenco.

Just for fun, here's a comparison of Sultry and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Sultry is the tiniest bit warmer, but they're essentially indistinguishable, at least on my hand:

Finally, and entirely against the spirit of panning projects, can we talk about a ridiculous lipstick that vaulted to the top of my wishlist this morning?

This is Rebirth, one of the three marbled "Lava Lips" released with Illamasqua's new Aftermath collection. (My brain keeps combining "Aftermath" and "Rebirth" into "Afterbirth," yikes.) I know it's gimmicky. I know it's overpriced ($27, plus $7.50 for international shipping). I know I have enough red lipsticks. I know I haven't been terribly impressed with the Illamasqua lipsticks I've swatched in Selfridges. But look at that smoky swirly witchy perfection, you guys. This threatens to be another Black Lace Rabbit situation, but I can't help it: I'm smitten. Save me from myself.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Topshop Otherworldly Part 2: EXTREME MELTDOWN

I am not a serial depotter of beauty products. I admire people with a more utilitarian approach to makeup, people for whom packaging means little to nothing. But I'm not one of those people, and I probably never will be. I don't insist on the fanciest, most elaborate compacts and tubes: MAC lipsticks are some of my favorites, design-wise. But I'd rather leave an eyeshadow in its original case, even at the expense of precious shelf space, than depot it into a magnetic palette. There's just too much risk involved in prying makeup out of its exoskeleton, and the end result is often depressingly ugly.

That said, there are times when I find depotting necessary. If a product's packaging is damaged to the point that it endangers either the makeup or me, I'd rather depot it than leave it in an unusable shell. When the mirror on my theBalm Nude 'Tude palette developed a huge crack, I reflected that it was probably a bad idea to have broken glass near a product I put on my eyes, so I moved the pans into a Z-Palette (which also made it easier, physically and psychologically, to destash the Nude 'Tude shades I never wore). And after reviewing Topshop's Glow Stick in Otherworldly, I decided that I couldn't deal any longer with its cheap, cracked packaging. I'd read about people melting down cream products in a double boiler and transferring them to new containers, so I resolved to do the same. Directions for depotting makeup are widely available in the beauty community, and I'm sure there are more effective strategies than my own sloppily improvised one, but I thought it would be fun to give you a little photoessay anyway!

The first task was finding a suitable jar. After fruitless searches of my own attic, a fancy kitchen-supply store, and a health-food store, I struck gold at Michael's with a set of clear screw-top plastic jars meant for storing beads. Since I didn't think to bring my highlighter with me, I had a hard time deciding which size to buy. To be safe, I bought two different sizes at $2.99 per set (I figured I could use the extras for travel):

Next I removed the highlighter from its tube. I thought I might have to scoop some product from the bottom of the tube, but the whole thing popped right out, highlighting (if you will) both the shoddiness and the misleading size of the packaging:

This highlighter is practically new (I've worn it maybe ten times), but look how tiny it is! The markup must be insane. Needless to say, I ended up using one of the smaller jars.

I put the denuded highlighter in a small ceramic ramekin that I had never used for food, and placed the ramekin in a shallow pan of simmering water. The product started to melt immediately...

...eventually coming to resemble a pool of shimmery vanilla custard:

Now came the tricky part: could I pour the highlighter into the jar before it hardened again? Luckily, the ramekin stayed warm enough that I was able to scrape out almost all of the product while it was still liquid. (It occurs to me now that I could have put the highlighter inside the jar and the jar inside the ramekin while it was in the double boiler, to save myself the trouble of pouring. Damn it!)

The result was less aesthetically pleasing than I'd hoped:

Glossier stickers to the rescue!

Ah, much better.

The aftermath:

The whole procedure took maybe ten minutes, and now I'm more excited about Otherworldly than ever. I see how depotting can become addictive: as makeup consumers, we're used to receiving products already designed, pressed, and packaged for us, and it's empowering to be on the other end of the manufacturing process, if only in the most amateur way. I doubt I'll ever make a habit of depotting my makeup, but it's nice to know I can! What are your thoughts on depotting?

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Highlighter for Special Snowflakes: Topshop Glow Stick in Otherworldly

One of the less charming aspects of being an American millennial in 2017 is getting called a "special snowflake" by old bigots on the internet. From my occasional perusal of right-wing Twitter accounts (I discovered last year that my mild-mannered undergrad Shakespeare professor is an alt-right conspiracy theorist, and I'm still not over it), I gather that special-snowflakery consists of wanting a living wage, universal healthcare, Nazi-free public discourse, and a modest decrease in mass shootings. In that spirit, I nominate Topshop Glow Stick in Otherworldly as the official highlighter of millennial special snowflakes, not only because of its color (white as the driven, pre-dog-pee snow) but also because it's as jankily constructed as our government these days. And because Topshop is a British brand and Brexit was the first event that made me wonder if Trump really could become president (though I do think that's a false equivalence in many ways). And because millennials love space-themed stuff, perhaps because we dream of a better world than this one. Wow, this metaphor is spinning out of orbit. Let's move on.

There are precious few reviews of Topshop makeup in the beauty blogosphere. (The only Otherworldly review I've found is from Bella Noir Beauty, whose post proves that white highlighter looks lovely on dark skin as well as light.) So when I asked my boyfriend to bring Otherworldly back from England this past spring, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting. But I knew I wanted a cool-toned neutral highlight, and Otherworldly seemed like a decent candidate.

Otherworldly is a white cream highlighter in chubby stick form. The packaging looks cute and should be portable, but I had the same disappointing experience as Bella Noir Beauty: the first time I pulled off the cap, the product popped right out of the tube. I was able to jam it back in, and I've been very careful with it ever since, but I don't feel comfortable traveling with it. And on short trips, I wear cream products almost exclusively (I like to save myself the hassle of brushes), so there goes one huge opportunity for me to get some use from this highlighter.

Also, the cap developed a huge crack shortly after I started using Otherworldly. I don't know when exactly this happened, but I do know that I hadn't handled it roughly at all. Last month I saw some beautiful vintage makeup at a thrift store on Haight Street, and it really brought home the flimsiness of modern beauty products. Did you know that Revlon powder used to come in metal compacts?

It's a shame that I had to begin my review with complaints about the packaging, because the highlighter itself works well for me. It does contain a lot of oil (note the oily residue on the tube in my second photo), but it blends out beautifully and hasn't made me break out. I'm also impressed by the formula's longevity on my skin (keep in mind, though, that my cheekbone/temple area is very dry in general). And the white sheen suits many different makeup looks, though I use Otherworldly most often with cool-toned ones.

Here it is swatched on my arm (left) and blended out (right), first in shade, then in direct sunlight:

All my highlighters, L-R: Otherworldly, NYX Twilight Tint, ColourPop Lunch Money, ColourPop Monster, Wet n Wild Precious Petals.

As you can see, the formula delivers an even shine without any specks of glitter, and it diffuses into a subtle glow, though you can also build it up for a more metallic look. Because I have a small face and I need to be careful with the busted packaging, I don't swipe the highlighter directly onto my cheekbones; instead, I put some on my finger and dab it across my skin to blend. Keep in mind that I don't wear foundation, so I can't speak to how well Otherworldly performs over it. I've heard that some cream highlights do break down or smudge foundation.

I just returned to my apartment after six weeks away, and I'm so dorkily excited to be reunited with my full makeup collection! So, for yesterday's look, I brought out a few of my oldest products. I used Urban Decay Whiskey on my upper lashlines and smudged it out with Primal shadow from the Urban Decay Naked2 Basics palette. My blush is NARS Mata Hari (I've had it for five years and still haven't hit pan), and my lipstick is NARS Flamenco (now discontinued), which I'd like to use up this fall. Here's an awkward angle to show off the highlight:

Unlike the powder highlights I've tried, Otherworldly doesn't seem to emphasize my pores or fine lines. If anything, it has a slightly blurring effect.

Ugh, I'm of two minds whether to recommend this product. I can't in good conscience endorse anything with such badly constructed packaging, but Otherworldly's formula has been a hit for me. I do find myself wishing I'd taken Clementine's recommendation and asked my boyfriend to pick up one of the Topshop Glow Highlighters, which come in beautiful glass jars and are more *beauty-guru voice* BUH-LINDING than the Glow Sticks. Oh, well: I wouldn't be a special snowflake if I didn't experience fairly constant disappointment. I wonder if I could depot Otherworldly into a small jar or something?

(Update: I did!)