Tuesday, January 30, 2018

7 Days of Glossier, Day 1: Glossier You

When Glossier announced late last year that it was launching a perfume, I barely took notice. Fragrance is one of the few categories in my beauty stash that aren't ridiculously overpopulated. I wish I could attribute this to willpower, but the reason is more mundane: I dislike a vast majority of the perfumes I try on. I do wear fragrance a few times a week, but I'm content with my very small collection. I own just four full-sized perfumes: L'Artisan Verte Violette (which is seven years old and still 3/4 full), Diptyque Florabellio, Lush Tuca Tuca, and a rollerball of Fresh Citron de Vigne. There are a few other perfumes that I love but have owned only in sample form: Parfums Delrae Coup de Foudre, Maison Martin Margiela Lipstick On and Funfair Evening, Diptyque L'Ombre dans l'Eau, and L'Artisan Safran Troublant. That's, what, nine favorite perfumes total? Nine in seven years? I can fall in love with nine lipsticks in seven minutes.

If there's a common thread that runs through those fragrances, I have yet to isolate it. I gravitate toward high-end niche brands, but Fresh and Lush are both affordable. I like rose, violet, vanilla, salt, and incense notes, but I can think of several perfumes that contain at least one of those notes and still manage to put me off. In general, though, I like somewhat eccentric fragrances. I like sweetness tempered by strangeness. I like my perfume to tell its own story even as it interacts with my body chemistry. And Glossier You promised to be the opposite of all that: "a skin-smell enhancer first and foremost." So, like...boring? I would never have bought this perfume, not even with store credit, if the Glossier website hadn't offered a sample along with my order. But it did, and here we are.

The full-sized bottle, designed by a young Glossier employee, is as aesthetically pleasing as any other Glossier product: millennial-pink ombré with a red top and a generous dimple in the glass. (A cute touch: that dimple is echoed in the spray mechanism of the sample.) In describing the bottle, though, I'm reminded of a remark by my longtime idol Chandler Burr, former perfume critic for the New York Times: "I'm opposed to the photon. If you have to see it, I'm not interested." It's true: a perfume, perhaps more than any other beauty product, needs to stand on its own merits. So no more photos; let's talk about the merits (or lack thereof) of the fragrance itself.

Glossier has done with You what it always does with its new products: suggested that it's created something totally unprecedented. A perfume that's meant to enhance you instead of assert itself? Has any other brand ever attempted such a feat? Well, yes, actually. Here's Burr in a Times column from 2010: "Unlike the old masterpieces, which cloaked the wearer in scent, new fragrances are lighter and more transparent, engineered to show you off." Glossier didn't invent no-perfume perfume, just like it didn't invent no-makeup makeup, but you wouldn't know that from the hype surrounding You.

According to the Glossier website, Glossier You has base notes of musk, ambrette, and ambrox, with iris root and pink pepper on top. To me, that description sounds a bit gourmand. I'm often down for gourmand scents, even simple ones: I use Palmer's cocoa-butter lotion after every shower. So my first sniff of You was a surprise, and not a pleasant one. I smelled nothing but loud, powdery, generic white floral. I could have created something similar with five random testers from the rollerball display at Sephora. I've now worn You three times, and I can detect a hint of pepper if I sniff really hard, but that cheap, strident floral always dominates for the first 15 minutes.

On my first wear, I couldn't conjure an image from those top notes. Glossier You is recursive, self-referential; you catch a whiff and think, "Well, I sure am wearing perfume." The second day, I had a breakthrough. In middle school, the rich, popular girls exuded some unidentifiable fruity-floral chemical fragrance, probably from Bath & Body Works. (I, on the other hand, smelled like the almond Dr. Bronner's liquid soap that my dad insisted on buying.) The top notes of Glossier You smell like those girls. Like the girl who wouldn't let me borrow her pastel Gelly Roll pens, who vacationed in Aspen and Sun Valley, whose parents rented the entire California Academy of Sciences for her bat mitzvah. It smells like turn-of-the-millennium preteen class anxiety. Not Glossier You but Glossier Fuck You.

After the top notes wear down, You becomes more tolerable, though not what I'd call "good." The amber peeps through, as well as a faint lemon-vanilla note. Okay, there's the gourmand. This phase of Glossier You puts me in mind of an adorable pastry that you buy for $6 at an Instagram-famous bakery on the Lower East Side. You take a photo, then a bite. Flakes of viennoiserie explode onto your black jeans. Honestly, the pastry is a little dry and tough, but damned if it isn't cute. You post the photo on Instagram because isn't that what you're supposed to do?

After four or five hours, Glossier You is nearly undetectable, except for a bit of warmish musk. And that's it. Glossier's signature fragrance, over and out. (Very few perfumes outlast the five-hour mark on me, so I'm not counting this as a negative.)

I don't hate Glossier You. It's hard to feel any strong emotion, positive or negative, about such a basic scent. But I am disappointed. When a fragrance is promoted with a wacky "concept store" (red walls and windows, red-clad employees whispering compliments, disembodied hands offering red roses), I expect something offbeat and memorable. This, though? I don't know what to say. If you want to smell like you're wearing perfume, buy Glossier You. But I think it falls short of its most basic claim: it doesn't meld meaningfully with my skin. It never starts smelling like me. Which, for a perfume called You, is something of a problem.

Would I repurchase this product at full price? Hell, no. I doubt I'll use the sample again, either. (For the record, some reviews on the Glossier website complain that the full size and sample smell different.)

Grade: 2/5 Grammy product placements.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

7 Days of Glossier, Day 0: Introduction

Things have been quiet on the blog, due to my ongoing job applications and financial uncertainty. Until those situations resolve, I'll have to keep minimizing non-essential spending. Yet, miraculously, I also have eight new Glossier products in my life:

This haul was made possible entirely by readers who gave me Glossier store credit by shopping through my affiliate link. I'm tremendously grateful to those who did so, as I'd never have been able to afford all of these products (or even a few of them) otherwise. I decided last week to blow through my hoard of store credit and test some products I'd been wondering about for a while. It's difficult to find thorough Glossier reviews that aren't written by brand reps, and several people have told me that I'm one of the few bloggers they trust to give honest opinions about Glossier's products, which is gratifying to hear. So I'm planning a series of seven posts, each one spotlighting a different new-to-me product (the eighth one I bought is Boy Brow in Brown, a staple that I've already reviewed). I can't predict when any of those posts will appear, since I'm still sorting out my work schedule for the coming semester, but I hope I can write them all in the next few months. I'll be posting quick first impressions on Instagram in the meantime.

Is it just me or do the stickers look a bit weird this time? Kind of grainy?

Say what you will about Glossier (and I've said a lot), their customer service is impeccable: I placed my order last Thursday and it appeared at my door on Sunday morning! Here are the products I'll be trying out:

1. Boy Brow in Clear ($16)

This product sneaked onto the Glossier website last yearI don't remember an announcement of any kind. I was excited to discover it, though: my natural brows are quite full and dark and some days I just want the soft hold of Boy Brow without the added tint. I used to use Milani's clear brow gel daily, and I'm curious to see whether Glossier's version is an improvement. Unfortunately, it looks identical to the brown Boy Brow (though, weirdly, its box was bigger). That will no doubt cause confusion during groggy pre-coffee primping sessions, but I guess that's what the stickers are for.

2. Cloud Paint in Haze ($18)

As you know, I'm a big fan of Glossier's liquid-blush formula, which comes in four colors. The only one I've tried so far is Puff, a bright neutral pink, but Haze has intrigued me for a while. It's a dark purplish berry that's apparently more pigmented and liquidy than the other Cloud Paints, so I'll probably have to use a light hand, but I love plum and berry blushes in general and have high hopes for Haze. We'll see!

3. Glossier You Perfume (free sample; $60 for 50ml size)

Fair warning: I hate about 80% of the perfumes I try on, so if I hate Glossier You, don't take it as a definitive judgment. I'm already slightly biased against Glossier You because of the ridiculous pop-up shop that promoted it, which sounds like hell for cynical bitches with social anxiety (i.e. me), and because of Glossier's corny insistence that "the formula comes incomplete; You are the first ingredient." That would be cute if it weren't true of literally all perfume. Like, that's what perfume is. It interacts differently with everyone's body chemistry, which is why Le Labo Santal 33 is the choice of half the trust-fund hipsters in Brooklyn but makes me want to vomit when I smell it on my own wrist.

4. Haloscope in Quartz ($22)

Last year's disappointing experience with Wet n Wild Precious Petals taught me that I should stick to cream and liquid highlighter formulas. Powders are too metallic for my tastes and too, well, powdery for my dry skin. Haloscope is supposed to add hydration as well as glow, which sounds perfect, though I'm a little worried that the coconut oil in the formula will break me out. The Haloscope packaging and texture remind me of Topshop's Glow Sticks, though the tube feels much sturdier, thank God. Quartz is a warmish rosé-wine pink, slightly cooler-toned than my two usual highlighters, ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Lunch Money and Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal.

5. Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18)

Desperately trying to prevent the bottle from rolling across my desk.

Milky Jelly was one of Glossier's earlier launches, debuting almost exactly two years ago. It has tempted me ever since, but until I'd accumulated enough store credit, I couldn't bring myself to abandon my perfectly good CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for something half the size and almost twice the price. I mean, the difference in value is comical:

From photos, I expected Milky Jelly to be similar to CeraVe in texture, but when I tried it this morning I found that it was firmer and more gelatinous. It smells heavenly, though I'm so brainwashed by r/SkincareAddiction accustomed to fragrance-free skincare that I can't help but wonder if the rose fragrance will DEVOUR MY SKIN FROM THE INSIDE or something. (It won't. I'm fine.)

6. Perfecting Skin Tint in Light ($26)

In some ways, I'm Glossier's ideal customer. Example: I've never worn foundation or tinted moisturizer. Never even tried it on. I promise this isn't a "not like other girls" thing; I'm just not comfortable with the idea of a layer of makeup sinking into every pore on my face. But my skin certainly isn't Barbie-smooth, and there are days when I do wish for a bit of coverage. Perfecting Skin Tint seems to have been formulated for my exact needs, so I'm looking forward to giving it a shot.

7. Solution ($24)

In other ways, I'm far from Glossier's ideal customer. Example: I know a fair bit about skincare. Someone on Reddit recently pointed out a strange paradox: the Glossier brand grew out of Into the Gloss, which attracts a beauty-savvy readership, yet Glossier skincare seems formulated for people who have never heard of sunscreen or chemical exfoliants. The average ITG commenter is probably around my age, but the Glossier target audience is (I assume) younger and less experienced with makeup and skincare. Hence ITG commenters' repeated pleas for less fragrance in your products, for the love of God, and Glossier's repeated decision to add fragrance to absolutely everything. The pattern plays out over and over: Glossier announces a new skincare product, commenters object to the presence of fragrance, and a Glossier minion responds to the complaints with "It's just a little essential oil!" or "It's all-natural!" It's obvious that Glossier's vaunted "crowdsourcing" of new products is (mostly) an illusion to make consumers feel involved in the creation process.

As a longtime devotee of the frills- and fragrance-free Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid, I'm probably not the Solution user that Glossier has in mind. But I'm still curious about it, particularly because it's advertised as moisturizing as well as exfoliating. I used Solution last night and was dismayed by the strong (though not unpleasant) herbal scent, but my skin looks fine today, neither better nor worse than it does after a Paula's Choice treatment. And there's no denying that the shimmery pink bottle is the most attractive thing on my skincare shelf! I think I'll spend about a month testing Solution on one side of my face and Paula's Choice on the other, then give my final verdict. That will have the additional benefit of making me more diligent about exfoliationI currently exfoliate only when I remember to do so, which is once or twice a week. The Solution bottle recommends daily use, but I think that will be a little intense for my dry skin, so I'll stick to every other day.

And now, because I've yet to develop an immunity to Glossier's minimalist pastel aesthetic, here's some packaging porn!

Isn't "Glossier" supposed to rhyme with "dossier"? Whatever.

Solution comes in this big foil package. You can also buy Glossier-branded cotton rounds at $4 for a pack of 60, but I'm not sure I could live with myself if I did that.

I used to live in that ugly building.

Finally, a caveat. It's harder to review a product honestly when you've received it for free, and thanks to the kindness of my readers, this was all free. That said, the rest of my beauty stash was purchased almost entirely out of my own pocket, so I think I'm capable of assessing whether I'd actually part with my own money for these products. Also, just to be clear: I am not and will never be a Glossier rep. The idea of becoming a "rep" for any brand is contrary to everything I want my blog to be and do. Frankly, it disturbs me how readily young women affiliate themselves with brands in exchange for below-minimum-wage commissions, a handful of freebies, and/or the nebulous feeling of coolness. Come on, you deserve better!

(I can't promise to make the ensuing reviews less salty than this post. I can but try.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Lipstick Megapost: Inventory, Pans, and Last Destash of 2017

Since the beginning of 2017, I've maintained a lipstick inventory, noting how often I wear each of my lipsticks, which ones are new to me, which I've destashed or finished, etc. Some people use a spreadsheet, but I prefer the humble Word document. As you can see, I place an asterisk next to a lipstick every time I wear it out of the house.

Keeping this record has given me a much clearer picture of which colors and finishes I actually wear. For instance, I think of myself as a bold-lipstick devotee, but these were my 10 most-worn lipsticks of 2017 (I was trying to pan Jam and Sultry):

  • Glossier Jam (18 wears)
  • Revlon Sultry (17)
  • Urban Decay Rapture (15)
  • Milani Matte Naked (12)
  • Urban Decay Amulet (11)
  • Urban Decay Backtalk (11)
  • Wet n Wild Rebel Rose (11)
  • Glossier Cake (10)
  • Maybelline Naked Coral (10)
  • NARS Dolce Vita (10)
L-R: Jam, Sultry, Rapture, Matte Naked, Amulet, Backtalk, Rebel Rose, Cake, Naked Coral, Dolce Vita.

Huh. Notice anything about these lipsticks? That's right: not a bold shade among them. They're all fairly muted, work-appropriate colors, even the metallic Amulet. And yet my largest shade category (with nine items) is red, not nude/MLBB. The colors that my heart lusts after are not the colors I wear on an everyday basis. This tells me that I need to be much pickier about the bold lipsticks I let into my collection. Had I not done this exercise, I might have bought a red or fuchsia from Pat McGrath's LuxeTrance line. As it was, I chose Madame Greige, knowing that I'd feel comfortable wearing it to professional events (or what pass for "professional events" in my postdoctoral funemployment).

Over the course of the year, I destashed a total of 30 lipsticks, which is a pretty sobering statistic. I don't regret getting rid of lipsticks I wasn't wearing (and I managed to give some away to internet/IRL friends), but damn, that's a lot of post-consumer waste. I did a big destash at the beginning of the year, but instead of appreciating the benefits of a smaller collection, I used its diminished size as an excuse to buy more lipsticks. UGH. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm doing a lipstick no-buy at least until the end of March, and that will help me get more use out of my current collection (and alleviate some of my guilt). Weirdly, I find no-buys much easier than low-buys. I like to think of a no-buy in positive terms: instead of denying myself new lipsticks, I'm allowing myself to appreciate the amazing lipsticks I already own! Maybe we need to find a more positive-sounding alternative for the term "no-buy."

Here are the lipsticks (plus one gloss) in my last destash of 2017. I'm sending the bullet lipsticks to Project Beauty Share, which distributes beauty products to nonprofit organizations that help women and families (here's a list of the items they do and don't accept). EDIT: I'm an idiot and misread the list. Project Beauty Share does NOT accept used bullet lipsticks! Clockwise-ish from top, we have Maybelline Deepest Cherry, Revlon Balm Stain in Crush, Bourjois Rouge Edition in Beige Trench (that overpowering floral fragrance was a dealbreaker after all), NYX Butter Gloss in Blackberry Pie, e.l.f. lip stain in Nude Nectar, NYX Midnight Muse, Tarte Birthday Suit, Milani Matte Fearless, Revlon Fire & Ice, Kat Von D Mercy, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, MAC Whirl, NYX Castle.

Bonus non-lipstick destashes (edit: I've decided to keep Coral Cove and destash Tony Moly Milky Violet blush):

NYX Faux Blacks Eyeliner in Blackberry, Wet n Wild Precious Petals highlighter, Milani Rose Blush in Coral Cove.

In addition to my destash, I finished four lipsticks this year: Glossier Generation G in Jam, MAC Amplified Lipstick in Up the Amp, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, and Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak. I must have thrown out my tube of Streak earlier in the year, but here's some #panporn of the other three tubes. Yes, I know I could scrape out the remaining lipstick and put it in a pot or whatever, but I consider a lipstick finished once I can no longer apply it from the tube.

L-R: Up the Amp, Sultry, Jam.

Finally, my lipstick inventory going into 2018! I've put asterisks next to the lipsticks that I bought or received as gifts in 2017.

Reds (9):

Clockwise from top: NARS Mysterious Red, Wet n Wild Missy and Fierce, ColourPop Let's Play, NYX Alabama, Marc Jacobs Rei of Light, NARS 413 BLKR, Maybelline Smoking Red, NARS Cruella, Bésame Noir Red.

Bésame Classic Color Lipstick in 1930 Noir Red (mini)*
ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème in Rei of Light
Maybelline ColorSensation Bold Lipstick in Smoking Red
NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella (mini)
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red
NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Missy and Fierce*

Pinks (7):

L-R: ColourPop Bee's Knees, MAC Candy Yum-Yum, Revlon Fuchsia, NARS Let's Go Crazy, Urban Decay Backtalk, Maybelline Lust for Blush, Wet n Wild Nice to Fuchsia.

ColourPop Blotted Lip in Bee's Knees*
MAC Matte Lipstick in Candy Yum-Yum
Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Lust for Blush*
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Let's Go Crazy*
Revlon Colorburst Lipstick in Fuchsia
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nice to Fuchsia*

Oranges and Corals (5):

L-R: Sephora Coral Sunset, Wet n Wild Nudist Peach, Topshop Rio Rio, NARS Orgasm, Maybelline Naked Coral.

Maybelline Inti-Matte Nude Lipstick in Naked Coral*
NARS Satin Lipstick in Orgasm (mini)*
Sephora Matte Cream Lip Stain in Coral Sunset
Topshop Matte Lipstick in Rio Rio
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nudist Peach*

Berries and Plums (7):

L-R: Urban Decay Amulet, Wet n Wild Goth Topic, MAC Rebel, Milani The Ultimatte, Topshop Let's Get Bodied, MAC Eugenie, Urban Decay Rapture.

MAC Matte Lipstick in Eugenie
MAC Satin Lipstick in Rebel
Milani Amore Matte Lip Cream in The Ultimatte*
Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Get Me Bodied
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Amulet*
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Goth Topic*

Purples (5):

L-R: NYX Amethyst, & Other Stories Droguet Purple, MAC Metal Head, MAC Men Love Mystery, Kiko Chocolate.

Kiko Velvet Passion Matte Lipstick in 319 Chocolate*
MAC Matte Lipstick in Men Love Mystery*
MAC Metallic Lipstick in Metal Head*
NYX Liquid Suede in Amethyst
& Other Stories Lipstick in Droguet Purple

Browns (6):

L-R: Revlon Fierce, Urban Decay Lawbreaker, UD Roach, MAC Antique Velvet, Maybelline Raging Raisin, NYX Brooklyn Thorn.

MAC Matte Lipstick in Antique Velvet
Maybelline ColorSensational Bold Lipstick in Raging Raisin*
NYX Liquid Suede in Brooklyn Thorn
Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Lawbreaker*
Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Roach

MLBBs and Nudes (7):

Top: Marc Jacobs Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. L-R: MAC Pale Rose, Glossier Cake, NARS Dolce Vita, Milani Matte Naked, Pat McGrath Madame Greige, Wet n Wild Rebel Rose.

Glossier Generation G in Cake
MAC Metallic Lipstick in Pale Rose*
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (mini)
Milani Moisture Matte Lipstick in Matte Naked
NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita
Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige*
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Rebel Rose*

Weird Colors (1):

NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox


L-R, top to bottom: Dior Ultradior, Urban Decay Scandal, OCC Dune, Revlon Rosy Future, NYX Tiramisu, NYX Gingersnap, Revlon Embellished.

Dior Addict Ultra-Gloss in Ultradior (mini)*
OCC Stained Gloss in Dune
NYX Butter Gloss in Tiramisu
NYX Butter Gloss in Gingersnap*
Revlon Colorburst Lipgloss in Embellished
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Rosy Future*
Urban Decay Revolution High-Color Lipgloss in Scandal (mini)

Total Lipsticks: 47
Total Glosses: 7
Total Lip Products: 54

I'm hoping to use up a few more lipsticks this year. Glossier Cake and Urban Decay Rapture are almost gone already, and I might be able to pan some minis as well, such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Noir Red. I wear lipstick every day and enjoy it more than any other category of makeup, so I'm not aiming for a truly minimalist collection. But if I can keep my stash around 45 shades, plus five or so glosses, I'll be happy.