Monday, July 23, 2018

Bite Beauty Spice Things Up Collection: Smoked Za'atar and Star Anise

Oh, Bite Beauty. The intensity of my love-hate relationship with this brand is second only to that of my love-hate relationship with Glossier. On paper, Bite is my ideal beauty brand. It makes nothing but lip products, offering a wide range of complex, well-balanced colors. It releases thoughtful, interesting limited-edition collections, most of which are available for months. Its lipstick formulas are comfortable on my often-dry lips. Yet I've had consistently bad luck with Bite lipsticks, due to their slipperiness and tendency to transfer absolutely everywhere. (See my review of Lavender Jam, which I ended up giving away.) So when Lena of Faceonomics got sent Bite's Spice Things Up collection and very generously offered to give me the two coolest-toned shades, I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I said yes (I mean, obviously), but I was prepared for disappointment.

The Spice Things Up collection (what a lazy name, honestly), inspired by "the warm shades of toasted spices," contains eight lipsticks in Bite's standard Amuse Bouche formula. Like the permanent Amuse Bouche lipsticks, they retail for $26 each. It would be cool if each lipstick smelled like the spice it represented, but all the lipsticks have Bite's usual sweet lemon scent and taste, which I don't mind at all. (It reminds me of lemon bars, one of my favorite desserts.) This collection is limited edition, but it was released two months ago and is still fully in stock, at least on Sephora's American website. The lipsticks come in Bite's standard dark-gray matte tubes, but the boxes, printed with mounds of colorful spices, are genuinely beautiful.

The two shades that Lena sent me are Smoked Za'atar, which Sephora describes as a "plum-chocolate," and Star Anise, a "muted lavender."

Smoked Za'atar on the left, Star Anise on the right.

And just for fun, here are Sephora swatches of the other six shades in the collection. Top to bottom: Pink Salt, Toasted Cardamom, Lit Turmeric, Hot Harissa, Crushed Chili, Saffron Fire.

Alas, not all the shade names correspond exactly with the spices that inspired them. As you probably know, real star anise looks like this:

I mean, fine, creative license and all that; Bite wanted to make a lavender-tinged lipstick and there aren't many lavender-tinged spices. But the name "Smoked Za'atar" doesn't even make sense on its own terms, because there's no such thing. I did a quick Google search and found that the word "za'atar" can refer to a specific herb related to oregano and thyme (Origanum syriacum) or, more commonly, a Middle Eastern spice mixture including that herb. Like masala, za'atar differs in composition from region to region, but there's one constant: the spices are toasted or sun-dried, not smoked. You can't go into a store and buy "smoked za'atar" as you can smoked paprika. Sure, this is a small detail, but it makes the name of the lipstick feel like lazy orientalism. At least Bite got the color semi-right:

Source: Savory Spice

Sephora's color descriptions for these two lipsticks are accurate for warm-toned people: on Christine of Temptalia, for instance, Star Anise and Smoked Za'atar do indeed look like a "muted lavender" and "plum-chocolate" respectively. Combined with my cool grayish undertones, however, both shades lean much warmer. On me, Smoked Za'atar is a deep neutral brown with hints of yellow and purple, while Star Anise is a gray-toned true nude, close to my skin tone and almost identical to my previous HG nude, Bourjois Rouge Edition in Beige Trench. This was an exciting discovery: I destashed Beige Trench earlier this year because I hated the chemical-floral fragrance, but I was hoping to find a similar nude lipstick eventually. Here's Star Anise swatched on the left and Smoked Za'atar on the right, first in shade, then in direct sunlight:

Let's start with the review for Smoked Za'atar, since it was the one I tried first. Photographed on its own, it does indeed look like a plummy brown...

...but when it's swatched next to other brown lipsticks, its yellow tones come through. Below, L-R: MAC Antique Velvet, Smoked Za'atar, Revlon Fierce,  and Maybelline Raging Raisin, in shade and sun. If you look closely at SZ, you can see a bit of yellow at the edges of the swatch.

I've now worn Smoked Za'atar twice, with a lip liner and without, and I'm sad to report that it suffers from the same weaknesses as the other Bite lipsticks I've tried: it's a tiny bit streaky on my lips (as dark lipsticks often are), and it transfers very easily. As you might be able to tell from my swatches, it has a shine that Star Anise lacks, which unfortunately translates into slipperiness. Here's a (slightly out of focus, sorry) lip swatch; you can tell that it feathers without a liner, a problem that I don't usually have with lipsticks.

And here's SZ (can't help thinking of the Barthes treatise, lol) with ColourPop Lippie Pencil in Taurus, which makes the lines look a bit cleaner:

The formula isn't a dealbreaker by any means, but I think I'll wait until the fall to wear Smoked Za'atar regularly. Both in the tube and on the lips, Bite lipsticks tend to soften in heat and firm up in cold, and SZ will probably transfer less in cooler, less humid weather. In the meantime, here's an FOTD with mustardy eyeshadow and nightmarish humidity hair:

And with tamer hair and a reddish eye look (all I can remember is that I was wearing ABH Red Ochre in the crease):

Star Anise, on the other hand, is an absolute delight. It might be my favorite new lipstick of 2018 so far, and it's certainly made me rethink my entire relationship with Bite.

I couldn't have found a more suitable nude lipstick if I'd asked Bite to design one especially for me. I worried that it might be too similar to my other nude-ish lipsticks, Milani Matte Naked and Pat McGrath Madame Greige. But next to Star Anise, Matte Naked looks almost peach (and it's one of the cooler-toned nudes at the drugstore!), while Madame Greige looks straight-up purple:

L-R: Matte Naked, Star Anise, Madame Greige.

Here it is on my lips; it's less shiny (thus less slippery) than Smoked Za'atar, but it still has a definite shine. I have yet to see a truly matte lipstick from Bite.

SA lasts a surprisingly long time for a nude lipstick: three or four hours of everyday wear (with drinking, talking, etc). And because it's so close to my skin tone, it looks perfectly natural as it fades. Both Smoked Za'atar and Star Anise are extremely comfortable to wear; they're not actively moisturizing, but they don't leave my lips feeling dry, either.

Here's Star Anise on my face just yesterday, with a few Modern Renaissance shades on my eyes and Glossier Storm on my cheeks:

And a few weeks ago, with Glossier Lily on my lids and Illamasqua Zygomatic on my cheeks. I've been meaning to write a quick review of Lily and Slip, but there's been so much Glossier on my blog this year that I wanted to give it a rest for a few posts.

After my positive experience with the Spice It Up collection, I'm going to be paying more attention to Bite's future releases. I'm already contemplating buying one of the Prismatic Pearl glosses, possibly Rose Pearl (which I've swatched in Sephora: it's gorgeous) or Oyster Pearl. For now, though, I'm just happy to have two reasons not to dislike Bite anymore.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Making Up with 95% Humidity

If there's one thing I've learned from living in central New Jersey for the better part of a decade, it's how to choose humidity-resistant makeup. (I would say "humidity-proof," but nothing is truly humidity-proof except mosquitoes.) In a part of the world where the humidity index routinely hovers above 90% and occasionally creeps up to 100%, it's essential to know which formulas won't slide off my face before I even leave the house—or, at least, will look semi-decent as they slide off. In addition to living in the muggy armpit of the United States, I'm also a person who sweats a lot, particularly on my face and scalp. After my 20-minute walk to work, my face is dripping and my hair is as wet as if I've just showered. All this is to say that if I vouch for the tenacity of a formula, believe me: it's tenacious.

When choosing my makeup on particularly humid mornings, I look for formulas that a) stain the skin, b) dry down completely, or c) fade gracefully. (I'm talking about color makeup, by the way: I have yet to find a humidity-resistant concealer, but please enlighten me if you know of one.) Because I don't wear foundation, powders don't blend out properly when my skin is damp, and brushes don't glide across my skin as smoothly as usual. And let's be honest: now that I'm working a 9-to-5 job, I have a newfound appreciation for products that I can mash into my face with my fingers when half-asleep. On summer weekday mornings, I gravitate toward liquid or cream eyeshadow, liquid or cream blush, matte liquid lipstick, and sheer lipstick. This post will be an overview of my favorite formulas and shades in those categories!

1. Liquid and Cream Eyeshadow

My OG humidity-resistant holy-grail shadow is Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze, one of my summer staples since 2013 (this is my second one):

Bad to the Bronze is cooler-toned than most bronze eyeshadows on the market (I'd even venture to say it verges on taupe), with a formula that blends out smoothly but sets quickly. This stuff is apocalypse-proof. Unfortunately, none of the other Color Tattoos I've tried have impressed me as much, but I will repurchase Bad to the Bronze as long as it's available. It's one of the very few products that I discovered early in my makeup journey and still wear frequently today. For proof of its incredible longevity, look no further than this (rather gross, sorry) photo from earlier this week:

I took this after walking home from work on an afternoon when the heat index was about 100°. I was more sweat than woman, as you'll see more clearly if you enlarge the photo, which I encourage you not to do. And yet, incredibly, neither my eyeshadow nor my lipstick budged. (The lipstick is Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Nice to Fuchsia; more on that later.)

The Glossier Lidstars are a newer discovery. (Disclaimer: I purchased all the Glossier products in this post with store credit earned through my affiliate link.) Glossier is known for sheer, barely-there makeup, but many of their sheer products are surprisingly long-lasting. I've now tried every Lidstar except Herb, and I wear four of them regularly (Moon is a lost cause, and I actually sent it to an Instagram pal just yesterday):

L-R: Fawn, Cub, Slip, Lily.

Obviously, the packaging leaves much to be desired: the caps crack after a few weeks of gentle use (par for the course with Glossier, I'm afraid). But the formula is so tenacious that I can forgive the cheap packaging. These shadows dry all the way down and can be removed only with oil-based products. Sweat and tears will leave them unscathed.

Top to bottom: Lily, Slip, Cub, Fawn.

Cub and Fawn are pigmented enough that I can apply them with my fingers. Slip and Lily are sheerer, and they look patchy when finger-swiped across my lids, so I prefer to dab them on with their doefoot applicators and blend them out with a synthetic brush (I bought a cheapo one from e.l.f expressly for this purpose). This creates a beautifully smooth finish, even on my deeply creased eyelids. Here I am wearing Slip recently, as well as Glossier Cloud Paint in Storm (more on that later, too) and MAC Metallic Lipstick in Pale Rose. Slip matches my skin unnervingly well; it's the slightly shimmery my-lids-but-better color that I've wanted since my earliest days of wearing eyeshadow.

2. Liquid and Cream Blush

Another longtime holy grail is Illamasqua Cream Blusher in Zygomatic, a pinkish beige that matches every makeup look. I've owned this blush for four years, which makes me think I should toss it soon, but it hasn't gone bad in any perceptible way. I guess I'll just keep using it until it does? (I notice that I bitched about the Jersey humidity in my original review of Zygomatic. Some things never change.)

Zygomatic is my only cream blush, but I've recently discovered the glory of liquid blush, in the form of Glossier Cloud Paint. I own four Cloud Paints, and I've been wearing them almost every day this summer. In fact, I can't remember the last time I used a powder blush.

Inspired by draping queen Lena of Faceonomics, I've changed my everyday blush placement as well. I used to apply blush to the tops of my cheekbones, where highlighter usually goes, but now I like to blend it below my cheekbones for a more contoured look. This placement is especially effective with darker blushes like Storm and Dawn, the new Cloud Paint shades. (I still apply light blushes to my cheekbones or the apples of my cheeks.) Storm is a deep rosy brown, close to the color of dried blood, and Dawn is a bold, slightly burnt orange. Here they are at full strength and blended out, in shade (top) and sun (bottom):

 Dawn is the perfect shade for replicating an amazing look from a k-pop video I saw recently:

I'm not brave enough yet to go quite as bold as Taeyeon (or Lena), but this is my best attempt at sunburn-contour so far. I really like it! As always with blush photos, it looked bolder in person, I promise.

3. Matte Liquid Lipstick

As regular readers know by now, my favorite matte liquid lipsticks are the Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuits. Comfortable, long-wearing, cruelty-free, and $4.99 a pop: what's not to love? I own five:

L-R: Rebel Rose, Nudist Peach, Missy and Fierce, Nice to Fuchsia, Goth Topic.

They also work well as sheer stains, which I learned from Julia of Spiders and Caterpillars. My favorite Catsuit for this purpose is Goth Topic, which I bought last fall but never got around to reviewing. At full strength, it's a very dark brownish plum that's a little much for everyday wear, especially during the summer (though my commitment to summer goth remains strong). Sheered out, though, it's a moody plum that delivers a desaturated goth vibe. To apply, I use the applicator to dot a few drops on my lips; then I blend out the pigment with a finger, adding more color as necessary until I reach my desired intensity:

4. Sheer Lipstick

Of course, I also own several bona fide sheer lipsticks. Yes, these fade quickly in the humidity; but at least they fade nicely, which is all I ask. What I really like to avoid on hot, humid days are opaque cream lipsticks that smear when I try, pointlessly, to wipe the sweat off my face. (Glosses are also a little more smeary than I'd like, though I do wear gloss occasionally during the summer.) Here are all the sheer lipsticks I own currently:

L-R: Urban Decay Seismic, Urban Decay Lawbreaker, Glossier Like, ColourPop Bee's Knees, NARS Orgasm, NARS Dolce Vita.

Swatches, same order. (That's three [!!] swipes of Glossier Like and one swipe of every other shade.)

L-R: Seismic, Lawbreaker, Like, Bee's Knees, Orgasm, Dolce Vita.

And that's it! What are your favorite products to wear on humid days? Do you have any tips for making makeup last when the air is almost too damp to breathe?