Sunday, April 23, 2017

Maybelline Inti-Matte Nude Lipstick in Naked Coral

You know that feeling when you blind-buy a lipstick, hoping that your instincts are right and the shade will flatter you and fill a hole in your collection, and it turns out to do both of those things? That's a nice feeling. It's not a particularly interesting or bloggable feeling, which is perhaps the reason I keep putting off this post. But it's the feeling I get from Naked Coral, one of the ten shades in Maybelline's new Inti-Matte Nudes line.

Coral! My sin, my soul, my most problematic lipstick shade. To the best of my knowledge, I have dark winter coloring with a slight olive undertone that leans gray instead of green. This means that I can wear almost any cool, saturated color, but corals and oranges will always present a challenge. The problem is, I love corals and oranges, whether in vintage illustrations...

Earl Christy for American magazine, May 1923 (source).

...or modern editorials featuring k-pop stars (same color scheme, oddly):

Hani of EXID for 1st Look magazine (source).

In the six-ish years since I fell in love with lipstick, I've been hunting for my perfect coral (I've given up on true orange). A few coral lipsticks have worked for me, but they're so different from each other and so similar to corals that don't work that I've had a hard time determining what kind of coral I need. Pink-, red-, or orange-leaning? Pale or dark? I can rattle off a list of coral and salmon lipsticks that have failed me over the years: MAC Vegas Volt and Relentlessly Red; Revlon Pink in the Afternoon; Maybelline Shocking Coral; NARS Greta; Marc Jacobs So Sofia; Bite Pickled Ginger and, come to think of it, every other coral in the Amuse Bouche line. I feel like I've swatched half the coral lipsticks on the market.

However, there was one category I hadn't explored until recently: brown-tinged corals and peaches. After my success with Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Coral Sunset, I began searching for a lighter brownish coral, something that verged on neutral but still delivered a hit of retro warm pink. After a few weeks of swatch-hunting and contemplation (turns out dirty coral/peach is a rapidly expanding category), I picked up Naked Coral at my local Wegmans, where I also encountered psychedelically beautiful Svedka bottles that presaged the unicorn-frappuccino trend.

The Inti-Matte Nude lipsticks come in a silver tube with a translucent rose-gold cap. This is my favorite iteration of Maybelline's lipstick packaging, though I wish they'd introduce safety seals: I feel like a jerk opening a lipstick to check whether it's been swatched. (In my defense, I open it only if I'm sure I want it.)

Naked Coral is a pale dusty peach, less strident than most other corals and peaches I've tried.

L-R: Milani Matte Naked, Glossier Cake (3 passes), Naked Coral, Urban Decay Streak (just realized I omitted at least one shade from this comparison; I'll redo the swatches tomorrow):

I''ve heard great things about the Maybelline matte formula for years, and Naked Coral hasn't let me down. It's pigmented in one swipe, it glides smoothly onto the lips and feels comfortable for the duration of wear, and it lasts a few hours. My one caveat is that when it wears off in the middle of my lower lip and I apply a new layer, it can look a little cakey. But I'm really nitpicking here. Whether the color will flatter you depends on your skintone and personal taste, but I've been surprised and delighted by the formula, and I'd definitely consider buying another Maybelline matte lipstick in the future (though, as always, I'll look to cruelty-free brands first).

In recent weeks, my daily makeup has taken a turn for the dull: brown pencil eyeliner, a neutral cheek, and a more or less bold lip. I've been spending less time on makeup experimentation and more time on questions like "wtf am I doing with my life" and "how will I make money next year"; sorry 'bout it, as Kimberly Clark would say. So here's a representative, if glazed-eyed, FOTD with Naked Coral:

And here's the makeup I used. I've been enjoying layering Milani Coral Cove blush over Illamasqua Zygomatic (check out that pan!) to tone down the brightness. On my eyes, I used the "browbone" shade from the Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone trio and Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner (not shown).

Same cheek combo, but with Kiko stick eyeshadow in Golden Mauve (so perfect for spring, I can't even) and UD Demolition eyeliner. Yeah, I have damp hair in all these selfies. Sorry 'bout that, too.

Naked Coral outside on a sunny day:

Naked Coral looks slightly brighter on me than it does in the tube, but it still sits firmly in the neutral category, making it a good choice for professional events (like the conference I couldn't afford to attend this week, lol). I see it as a warm-toned version of Urban Decay Backtalk: dusty and muted but well outside MLBB territory. I've been tracking my lipstick usage since January, and these neutral-but-not shades have been my overwhelming favorites in 2017. I have a feeling that Naked Coral will see a lot of use in the coming months!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

FOTD: Cyborg Easter Bunny ft. NYX Twilight Tint

Happy Easter! Full disclosure: I'm one of those secular assholes who welcome the Easter season not for its religious significance but for the positively pagan abundance of egg-shaped chocolate. Growing up half-Jewish, I couldn't help noticing the difference in quality between Easter candy and kosher-for-Passover candy, which consisted (and still consists) primarily of coconut-covered marshmallows and those sinister jelly fruit slices. The marshmallows weren't bad, but they couldn't hold a candle to malted-milk eggs and Cadbury's Creme Eggs and Reese's Eggs. Come to think of it, have I ever encountered an egg-shaped candy I didn't like? There must be some deep primal significance to ovoid treats.

All this is to say that I really enjoy the symbolism of Easter, to say nothing of its color scheme. Most pastels pull out the gray undertones in my skin and make me look slightly zombified, but I still give them an ill-deserved chance every March and April. This particular Easter, I was also inspired by the Y2K-era silver-blue-lavender metallics that comprised the palette of my preteen years and seem to be making a comeback. During a recent visit to Ulta, I bought NYX's Duo Chromatic Illuminating Powder (just call it a highlighter, guys) in Twilight Tint, a spectral white with a strong blue shift.

The highlighter comes in a round compact that feels sturdy but is infuriatingly, nail-destroyingly hard to open. Here it is in my palm for scale:

All my highlighters, L-R: ColourPop Lunch Money, ColourPop Monster, Twilight Tint, Topshop Otherworldly.

Twilight Tint is my fourth highlighter but my first powder highlighter, and the learning curve has been steeper than I expected. The NYX formula is quite dry, and swirling a brush in the pan (I use an e.l.f. stippling brush) kicks up a fair amount of powder. (You can see some stray powder on the pan's black rim in the photo above.) Initially, the dryness fooled me into thinking the highlighter wouldn't be very pigmented, and the light color made it hard to see how much I was applying, and you can imagine what happened next: I ended up with a glowy blue face that wouldn't have been out of place in TLC's "No Scrubs" video.

See, if you can't spatially expand my horizons, then that leaves you in a class with scrubs.

Like most highlighters, Twilight Tint is best appreciated in motion, but here's an attempt at capturing it in a photo. I prefer an understated highlight, but the pigment can be built up (or, I assume, layered over a cream formula) for something more vibrant.

For today's look, which I call "Cyborg Easter Bunny," I paired Twilight Tint with a very similar eyeshadow: Topshop Mono Eyeshadow in Holograph, which has both blue and pink shifts. Since I didn't want to go full metallic, I grounded the look with NARS blush in Threesome and Bite Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Lavender Jam. (I'm using a very liberal definition of "grounded," of course.) I was disappointed in Threesome's pigmentation when I first reviewed it, but I've been wearing it constantly since then. Go figure.

L-R: Holograph, Twilight Tint, Threesome, Lavender Jam.

Using a tip from Michelle, I left most of my lid bare, patting Holograph onto the upper and lower inner corners over Urban Decay Primer Potion. I also lined my upper lashlines with Urban Decay Demolition liner.

And here's the full look:

The light is really bright today, so I look a bit washed-out; sorry about that. My nail polish is Illamasqua Speckle.

I also tried applying a thin layer of Twilight Tint over Lavender Jam for a metallic effect, but it produced only a light shimmer:

I feel a tiny bit crazy in all this lavender and duochrome, but if I can't go full-on shimmery pastel today, when can I? Speaking of which, tell me I'm not the only one who's a little obsessed with Instagram's Easter stickers.

Yes, I know I need a haircut. This week!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Low-Buy 2017 Progress Report: March

I'm back with some makeup and some thoughts!

New Makeup:

L-R: Whirl, Metal Head, Men Love Mystery, Puff, Otherworldly.

Swatches, same order.

Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff: $14.40 (20% off)
MAC Matte Lipstick in Men Love Mystery: $15 (15% off, plus tax)
MAC Metallic Lipstick in Metal Head: purchased with Nordstrom store credit (usually $18)
MAC Matte Lipstick in Whirl (mini): gift from Renee
Topshop Glow Stick in Otherworldly: gift from my boyfriend
Total: $29.40

I acquired five new pieces of makeup last month. Technically, I bought only two of those, but I'm not letting myself off so easy. I could have spent that store credit on something else, and I didn't have to ask my boyfriend to bring me a highlighter from the UK. A product for which I don't exchange real money takes up just as much space in my collection as a product for which I actually swipe my card or hand over cash. I'm pretty pleased with all of my new playthings, at least. Reviews to come! Here I am wearing Metal Head, which looks more or less purple on my lips:


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (12 oz): ~$14
Glossier Boy Brow: $12.80 (20% off)
Revlon Quick Dry Topcoat: $8.49
Total: $35.29

Nothing to see hereI've purchased all these products multiple times and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I've mentioned wanting to find a more affordable substitute for Boy Brow, but the prospect of saving a few dollars isn't worth the possibility that I'll have to try out multiple disappointing products. I might as well keep buying what I know I like.


Beauty Secrets Nail Polish Thinner: $4.29 + shipping + tax = ~$11

I bought a totally ineffective OPI polish thinner from Amazon a few years ago. Since then, I've become a lot more paranoid about beauty fakes on Amazon, so I decided to order a different brand of thinner from a more reputable source: Sally Beauty Supply, which unfortunately slapped an absurd $5.95 shipping fee on a $4.29 product. The good news is that the Beauty Secrets thinner is far more effective than the (fake?) OPI was. The bad news is that it's effective only up to a point. I've managed to revive a few completely desiccated bottles of polish, but those shades are still on the gloppy side after 5-7 drops of thinner, and they seem to chip more quickly than they used to. Still a worthwhile purchase, thoughI really missed that bottle of Essie Ladylike.

Total for March: $75.69

Reflections: I've been faithfully recording my beauty spending for the past 15 months, and though I've achieved a clearer sense of my consumption habits, I'm currently feeling ambivalent about my low-buy. I struggle with self-esteem in many areas of my life, and I wonder if this low-buy plan isn't just another way to set myself up for failure. I don't have a shopping addictionat least, I don't think I dobut could I have a guilt addiction? Could I be hooked on the little thrill of self-loathing that follows every makeup purchase beyond my two-a-month limit? I still enjoy writing up these posts at the end of each month (or, you know, the middle of the following month), but I'm not sure how to sustain my low-buy without feeling guilty all the goddamn time. Ultimately, my goal is to focus less on the products I want to buy and more on the looks I can create with my existing collection, but my low-buy seems to have encouraged me to do the opposite. I'm just not sure a strict low-buy is the best fit for my personality, especially because I'm not impulsive and I don't have problems with overspending or hoarding. Thoughts?

Wishlist for April: I've already bought three pieces of makeup this month, so I'll confine my wishlist to something I've wanted for a while: a really subtle mascara. A lash tint, basically. Just a little extra color and lengthno spider legs, no clumping, no can't-believe-they're-not-falsies volume. Such a product must exist, right? Help me help myself.

Edit, 4/12: Okay, I also want some of those peachy ColourPop powder eyeshadows like Wait for It and Outta Luck, and at least one of the new Blotted Lips. And a small handful of other CP stuff, obviously. Time will tell whether I place that order this month or wait virtuously until May.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Your Daily Memento Mori, Courtesy of Ulta

Earlier today, while scrolling through Facebook and minding my own business (well, other people's business, if we're getting technical), I came upon this Ulta ad:

Okay. Okay. LET'S UNPACK THIS, as we say in the lit-crit biz.

In one sense, this is your typical "#yolo buy all the things" message. I received a similar message from a Sinful Colors polish I saw today at Wegmans (aka heaven on earth if you like awesome deals on booze and lipstick):

But there's something a bit more sinister about the Ulta ad. "Life is short." Meaning what? "We want to keep you alive only until you buy this NYX loose pigment"? I picture someone pacing the Ulta aisles, grappling with a problem that has preoccupied philosophers for millennia: the inevitability of death and the concomitant difficulty of living a fulfilled and virtuous life in the shadow of mortality. Who knows when our end will come? Should we seek momentary pleasure or a more lasting good? The Ulta customer paces, she contemplates, she swatches, and finally she decides: yes, I will buy that $5.99 glitter. Why, Socrates himself would have done the same.

I mean, Ulta has no way of knowing this, but I'm pretty neurotic. I think about death all the time. On my ninth birthday, I lamented to my dad that I was no longer a child and had failed to appreciate my youth while I still had it. I'm perfectly aware that life is short; I don't need a picture of lavender glitter to remind me of it. I don't know, man. Has the death drive of capitalism finally decided "screw it, no point concealing myself any longer?" Or can we situate the Ulta ad in the noble artistic tradition of memento mori? Is there a hint of melancholy behind the consumerist message? From ancient Roman mosaics...

Source 15th-century engravings...

Source 17th-century still lifes...

Source the image that popped up in my Facebook app this afternoon, artists and thinkers across the centuries have explored the deceptive allure of earthly things. Speaking of which, I blew through my monthly quota of makeup today:

L-R: Maybelline Naked Coral, Sinful Colors Thera-Pewter, NYX Twilight Tint.

I'm afraid my low-buy roundup for March will have to wait until Sunday, because I'm pretty busy for the next few days. In the meantime, THINK ON DEATH.

(And because it's National Poetry Month, see also Philip Larkin.)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Reverse Lipstick Chronology #3: Urban Decay Roach

I was eight for most of 1996, but I remember that year quite well. In fact, I remember it as an especially good year in my young life. My parents and I had moved to San Francisco the year before, back when an assistant teacher and a busker at Ghirardelli Square could afford a nice two-bedroom in Cole Valley. The Summer Olympics took place in Atlanta, and my best friend Dana and I played with her new gymnast Barbie (complete with parallel bars). I owned a fuchsia velour T-shirt embossed with daisies. My parents drove a 1983 Toyota Corolla. My mom and I laughed at the mysterious "www." and ".com" appearing on billboards and bus ads all over the city. On the evening of the presidential election, my dad picked me up from ballet and I said "Clinton won, didn't he?" and my dad, very pleased, said yes. And the upstart beauty brand Urban Decay launched its first collection: nine lipsticks and a dozen nail polishes in bizarre metallic colors with names like Smog, Plague, and Asphyxia.

All right, so I don't remember that last detail. But I was still excited when I learned last summer that Urban Decay was bringing back its original product lineup for its 20th anniversary. And the lipsticks' brown cardboard boxes looked familiar enough that I know I must have seen them, or something very like them, back then. To paraphrase another cultural touchstone of the late 20th century, Nigel Tufnel: "It's like, how much more '90s can you get? And the answer is none. None more '90s." Honestly, I prefer the brown boxes to the current gaudy ones. (Nouveau Cheap has a great post, itself now seven years old, on the evolution of Urban Decay. Did you know they used to sell temporary tattoos?)

The XX lipsticks must not have sold very well, because they were marked down to $11 (from the original $18) by December. I was a little surprised, given the current popularity of metallic and frosted lipsticks in offbeat colors, but the problem may have been opacity: the repromoted UD shades ranged from slightly translucent to quite sheer. Below are Asphyxia (which, appropriately, made me look dead when I tried it on) and Oil Slick:

I assumed that if I ended up with any of the shades, it would be one of the three purples. But while returning NYX Up the Bass at Ulta in December, I found myself drawn to Roach, a rich bronze. Longtime readers might remember that after NYX released its metallic Wicked Lippies in 2014, I coveted the orange-bronze Wrath for at least a year before deciding I wouldn't wear it enough to justify the purchase. Now here was a slightly cooler-toned bronze in a higher-quality formula, for a mere $11. I couldn't resist.

Urban Decay does a good box lining:

Roach was one of my favorite purchases of 2016, mainly because it achieves the near-impossible: it's a playful metallic lipstick that manages to be almost neutral. I can wear it out of the house without feeling acutely self-conscious, but it's far from boring. I also appreciate that it verges on taupe while still retaining an bronzey warmth:

I had no idea which of my lipsticks would make good comparison swatches, so here's Roach between two other medium browns: MAC Whirl (L) and Revlon Fierce (R). As you can see, Whirl and Fierce are far redder than Roach, which looks almost yellow-based here.

One coat of Roach provides almost full opacity, but I generally use two. The Vice lipsticks are scent- and tasteless, and Roach's formula is comfortable and moisturizing without being slippery. Most metallic lipsticks these days come in more or less drying liquid formulas, so it's nice to own a true metallic lip color in a more congenial formula. The color changes quite a bit depending on lighting, so I've done swatches in natural light (above) and fluorescent light (below).

My makeup concept today was "shit I have ten minutes to do makeup before therapy and we're just going to be driving around central Jersey in the rain after that," so uh, enjoy. I thought the NYX Jumbo Pencil in Iced Mocha would pair well with the plum half of the NARS Habanera duo, so I smeared Iced Mocha all over my eyelids and layered Habanera on the outer third. Unfortunately, the two colors blended into a muddy brownish wash and I had no time to improve the look, so I tightlined with Urban Decay eyeliner in Whiskey and called it a day. I'm also wearing Illamasqua cream blush in Zygomatic and ColourPop highlighter in Lunch Money.

I scrolled through my photos to find slightly more inspired looks that incorporated Roach, but it turns out that I always pair it with boring neutral eyeshadow because I fear that a distinctive eye look will be Too Much with bronze lipstick. I think Roach would look beautiful with a Modern Renaissance pink/red eye, and perhaps one day I'll do that and update this post. But sloppy brownish eyes and cheeks are certainly in the spirit of 1996, so let's pretend that's what I intended all along.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reverse Lipstick Chronology #2: Maybelline Smoking Red

Drugstore makeup has become a lot more interesting over the past few years, and I can't help but envy people who are just getting into makeup now and have access to so many weird lipsticks at affordable price points. I've always been drawn to slightly eccentric makeup, but in my early twenties it was impossible to find so much as a true purple lipstick at the drugstore, let alone the blues, blacks, and greiges that are available now. In fact, there were so few purply lipsticks on the shelves of my local CVS back in 2011 that I can remember the exact shades that were available. There was Revlon Va Va Violet, which leaned more burgundy than purple and looked depressingly streaky in the photos I saw online. There was Revlon Berry Haute, a sort of purplish mauve. There was CoverGirl Divine, a bright magenta that looked purple if you compared it to a true pink. And that was it. The first real live purple lipstick I ever found at the drugstore was Maybelline Brazen Berry, part of the Colorsensational Vivids collection that launched in early 2013. Brazen Berry was followed that fall by Revlon Matte Balm in Shameless, a dark true purple. And so a new era of drugstore lipstick dawned.

Because of the Vivids collection and subsequent releases, I've come to think of Maybelline as one of the more innovative drugstore brands, in color if not in formula. So it didn't surprise me that Maybelline was the brand to debut the 20-shade Loaded Bolds collection last summer. The collection comprises not only a true bright purple (of course), but also a white, a black, two blues (you saw Midnight Blue on my mom in this post), a few trendy greiges, mauves, and browns, and a handful of more conventional lipstick colors. All the Loaded Bolds come in a silver tube with a square cover in translucent dark blue, a huge improvement over the tacky orange Vivids tubes.

To my surprise, the Loaded Bolds shade that first called to me was one of the least quirky: Smoking Red, a dark red with a slight brown tone. It came to my attention through a post on the now-defunct xoVain (RIP). Yes, it was a sponsored post. Yes, Sable has the uncanny ability of making any beauty product look exceedingly cool. No matter: Smoking Red was beautiful, and I wanted it. I held off for a few months, though: I prefer to patronize cruelty-free brands, and I already had a couple of dark, murky off-red lipsticks that I loved. But inexorable fate intervened. Back in San Francisco during winter break, I had a peek in one of my mom's makeup bags (as you do) and found an untouched tube of Smoking Red! My mom never wears red lipstick, so I asked her why she'd bought it. She couldn't remember, but speculated that she might have intended it as a birthday present for me and forgotten to send it. Clearly, this lipstick and I were meant to be together.

Smoking Red looked decidedly warm-toned in Sable's xoVain post, but on me it's a dark neutral red, somewhere between brick and berry. It's rare to encounter a nicely balanced red in the drugstore: I'd expect such a complex color from NARS, maybe, but not Maybelline. (Smoking Red actually reminds me of the darker red Audacious lipsticks, like Charlotte, Jeanne, and Olivia.)

I was surprised to find that Smoking Red wasn't a dupe for any other lipstick I owned. I expected NYX Alabama to be very similar to Smoking Red, but it looks almost orange in comparison! NARS 413 BLKR comes a bit closer, but it's warmer and rosier.

L-R: MAC Eugenie, NARS 413 BLKR, Smoking Red, NYX Alabama, NARS Cruella.

The formula of Smoking Red is...unusual. As you can tell from the arm swatches above, this is a very pigmented lipstick, opaque in one swipe. As with many pigmented lipsticks, though, application can be tricky. The formula has a tendency to drag and feather at the same time, which is pretty remarkable. After applying Smoking Red from the bullet, I often find myself tidying up my cupid's bow with a bit of NYX Cabaret lip liner. When freshly applied, the lipstick has a satin finish with a bit of shine (hence the slight feathering). After about ten minutes, that shine fades to reveal a matte finish, which I much prefer. It's as if there are two layers to the formula, one slippery and short-lived, the other matte and tenacious. Here's Smoking Red just after application, sans lip liner:

To be fair, the slight unevenness at the edges probably wouldn't be visible if you were talking to me at a normal distance, but it annoyed me enough that I went in with Cabaret for a cleaner look:

Isn't that a beautiful '20s-style wine-red? It lasts for hours, too. I find it a bit drying after half a day or so, but not so drying that my lips feel ravaged the next day.

Smoking Red looked pretty great with the sequined blazer I tried on at the very fancy Nordstrom in Palo Alto.

Despite my quibble with the formula, I'd highly recommend Smoking Red. It's an affordable gem and a reminder of how dramatically drugstore makeup has improved in just the last five years.