Saturday, January 21, 2017

What even is anything? Skincare in a post-fact world and other stupid things

Probably you already saw this, since it's a few months old now, but it seems appropriate for the times. Did you know that they tested a bunch of aloe vera gels and found that they contained no aloe vera? (I've been wondering what to do with the big bottle of aloe gel my mother bought for a sunburn once and left in my apartment, and I suppose the answer is just to toss it.) I really wonder how many similar tests would show that other skincare products don't contain what's included on the ingredients list.

And here's another one that isn't so much shady as just eye-roll inducing: Bite Beauty is coming out with new lip liners in wooden pencils, but I guess since they want to seem "natural" by using wood while also making it sound good to those who prefer twist up pencils, they describe them thus: "The case is an artisanal wood barrel that encapsulates whipped shea butter and three times the amount of pigments for a perfectly defined line."

artisanal wood barrel

artisanal wood barrel

Any other stupid beauty news out there that we can shake our heads at? It's very trivial right now, but maybe we need a short break from the much more serious bullshit.

And thanks to everyone around the world marching today! You all kick serious ass!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

10 Favorite Products of 2016

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Since I wrote about the most disappointing products I came across last year, I guess it's only right to tell you my favorite products, because people like positivity and all that shit. I managed to come up with 10 again, all things that I used for the first time in 2016 (and an honorable mention). Obviously 2016 was the year I really came around to lipstick, because that makes up 40% of the list. Here are the best things I started to use last year, in no particular order (with links to previous reviews, when they exist).

1. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Fire & Ice

I love all three of the Super Lustrous lipsticks I have, but Fire & Ice (right) was the one I bought last year. I need to put it into more frequent rotation. Reviewed here.

2. Wet N Wild ColorIcon Trio in Plaid to the Bone

My love for duochromes has been well documented, and I can't resist an affordable version in a good formula like this. Sadly, it was limited edition, but you can still get it from gougers on Amazon if you are really determined. Reviewed here.

3. Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture

Another product that is now discontinued, but you can get it in the Vice version (swatched here). I bought this when the Revolution lipsticks were being cleared out, and it became one of my favorite work lipsticks during the fall and early winter. I also bought After Dark, and I love it too, but don't wear it as often.

4. Covergirl TruNaked Palette in Roses

This palette is filled with very pigmented, rosy-but-not-too-warm shades that work extremely well for me. An exception to most mediocre drugstore attempts at competing with the more expensive popular palettes out there. The mattes are great over primer, but the more I've used it, I've realized that the shimmers can benefit from a glitter primer, so keep that in mind. Reviewed here.

5. Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patches

I plan to review these soon, because I'm on my second pack now. I've tried the Nexcare patches too, and I like these better, because they are thinner and less conspicuous.

6. Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Sour Cherry

I got this lipstick as part of one of the Bite holiday duos (which are still available, by the way), and Sour Cherry (bottom right) was my favorite of the four. I'm really enjoying the Amuse Bouche formula. Reviewed here.

7. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Fiery

This one made the list because it surprised me. I generally dislike liquid lipsticks, but this is easy to use, comfortable, and long-wearing, so I'm impressed all around. I wore it to my wedding as well as when I went out recently.

8. Black Radiance Eyeshadow Primer

This primer is a better replacement for the discontinued Wet N Wild Fergie primer than the new Wet N Wild Primer, according to my tests. Reviewed here.

9. Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Sideline

I'm sure you can get something similar for cheaper, but I got this as my free UD birthday gift. It makes an interesting everyday eyeshadow that is exciting but not too dramatic for your boring coworkers. Swatched here.

10. Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster

This is something else that I guess I should review, but I'm not sure what else to say other than that my skin has been better since I've been using it. Niacinamide is a form of Vit B that helps reduce the visibility of pores and wrinkles. It also make some people's skin clearer, and I am apparently one of those people. I've been adding a couple of drops to my moisturizer since early fall and seeing good results.

Honorable mention: Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze

I've been using Bad to the Bronze for well over a year, but I'm including it here because it was by far the product I used most often in 2016. And it's still not dried up, and I still have a ton of it left. It always makes me feel polished when I am rushed or lazy. Reviewed here.

I used a bunch of other good stuff last year, but these are the things that stood out when I looked back. Just like my list of disappointments, I'm not sure there's a real pattern here. Some cheap, some expensive, some researched, some impulse purchases.

How about you? Any great discoveries in 2016?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Smoothing Smoothie: Freeman Banana Oat Instant Smoothing Mask

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Review of Freeman Banana Oat Instant Smoothing Mask

I had a mini tube of REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask that I used up recently and loved. My skin doesn't really respond to what is supposedly the most powerful form of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) found in skincare: glycolic acid. That means that all of the Paula's Choice AHA products do nothing for me. Lactic acid, on the other hand, does work for me, and so that's why I think the REN mask made my skin feel so incredibly soft and smooth after each use. Unfortunately, it costs $55 for a full size bottle (or around $30 from Amazon, so if I ever do cave and buy it, I'll get it from there).

In the meantime, I had a gift card for Bed Bath & Beyond to burn, and after some responsible purchases like a shower head and a butter dish, I saw tubes of this Freeman Banana Oat Instant Smoothing Mask on the end of an aisle marked down to $2. Lactic acid is high on the ingredients list, so I picked one up. (For more info about how AHAs work, see this useful post from Lab Muffin.)

Before using it, I searched for some reviews. I discovered that a lot of people reported serious irritation and redness after using the mask. In fact, on the back of the tube, in very fine print, there are instructions to patch test the mask before use. I rubbed a little into the inner side of my elbow and left it over night. I didn't have any reaction to it, so I felt comfortable using it on my face the next day. I would highly recommend testing any product with high levels of chemical exfoliants or other unfamiliar ingredients before use, however. You never know what your skin might hate.

Review of Freeman Banana Oat Instant Smoothing Mask

This mask comes in a fairly thick gel format, and it has an artificial banana fragrance. Unlike the obnoxious fake melon smell of Freeman's sleeping mask, however, this was mild enough that it didn't bother me, despite the fact that I usually dislike fake banana. The mask is easy to spread, and I haven't experienced any irritation when I use it. It does, however, make my eyes water, which is something that I have noticed on occasion with other masks. I think that as they dry and some of the ingredients evaporate, those sort-of fumes will sting my eyes a bit. But I am prone to watery eyes in general.

The instructions say to leave it on for "up to 7 minutes," and you probably shouldn't go any longer, since it's pretty potent. After rinsing it off and applying moisturizer, as instructed, my skin feels extra soft and smooth, and it stays that way for a couple of days. That lactic acid really does its thing. I've also used this mask a couple of days after my 1% retinol treatment, when my skin is extra flaky, and it does an excellent job of exfoliating away the flakes.

While the results from this Freeman mask aren't quite as dramatic as with the REN, I'm quite satisfied with it. It usually costs a little over $4, so getting something almost as good as that for less than a tenth of the price is pretty fucking fantastic in my book. I'll add the Banana Oat Instant Smoothing Mask to my list of other favorite Freeman masks, along with the Avocado and Oatmeal Clay Mask and the Charcoal and Black Sugar Polishing Mask.

Do you use any AHA products? What else is good out there?

Monday, January 16, 2017

10 Most Disappointing Products of 2016

I enjoyed auxiliary beauty's post on this theme so much that I decided to write my own. After all, complaining is one of my hobbies. When I tried to come up with a list of last year's shittiest shit, I ended up with an even 10, so that's satisfying.

Some of these things aren't bad products, exactly, but they were let-downs for me. Others are just straight up garbage. I've reviewed them all in the past (again with the complaining hobby--such a good motivator!), so I'll just give a brief comment here and link to the previous post. Here are the products that bummed me out in 2016, in no particular order:

1. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Vintage Plum

Vintage Plum may be one of the worst makeup products I've ever bought in my entire life. Patchy and unusable. It was all the more disappointing because the color was so perfect for me. Reviewed here.

2. Freeman Honeydew & Chamomile Sleeping Mask

Not only did this stuff break me out (which probably wouldn't happen for everyone who used it), it caused a burning sensation on parts of my face and had a horribly strong fake melon stench. Reviewed here.

3. Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Matte Luxe

It's not a good color for me, which obviously isn't the lipstick's fault. But the fact that it somehow just would not adhere to the surface of my lips? For that I blame Milani. Reviewed here.

4. Makeup Geek Matte Eyeshadow in Fairytale

This isn't a terrible eyeshadow, exactly, it just wasn't the color I was looking for (my fault) and the performance was mediocre at best, so for my first order from Makeup Geek, it was a let-down. Especially when compared to their excellent duochromes. Reviewed here.

5. L.A. Girl Pro Conceal HD Concealer

This concealer also wasn't awful, but I had high expectations after reading so many rave reviews claiming that it is one of the most effective and opaque concealers available at the drugstore. It was just average. Reviewed here.

6. Hard Candy Metallic Mousse Lip Color in Smoke & Mirrors

Ok, so this made my mouth look like a robot's butthole. That's the nature of metallic liquid lipsticks. The bigger problem was that the color of the product in the tube was completely different from the color on my lips. Reviewed here.

7. Wet N Wild (Reformulated) ColorIcon Blush in Pearlescent Pink

It's a fine blush. But I was really disappointed to find that it's a totally different color from the original Pearlescent Pink, which is a favorite of mine. In fact, it's not even very pink at all. Reviewed here.

8. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner

Another product that just didn't live up to the hype for me, considering so many people consider it a holy grail liner. Not only did it not "stay all day," the tip became completely frayed and unusable while there was still a lot of product left. Reviewed here.

9. e.l.f. 3-in-1 Mascara

This one is a little different, because I had used and loved this product before. But I bought the mascara above last spring, and it was so dried up that the brush got stuck in the tube the first time I opened it. When I tried to exchange it, I found four more tubes that were the same. The fifth brush actually came out, but when I got it home, it was still so dry that I was only able to use it a handful of times. I don't know if my CVS just had particularly old stock (but the e.l.f. display hadn't been around long) or what, but I'm not going to take my chances with this stuff again. Too bad, because it's not easy to find a tubing mascara for less than $5!

10. Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Poe

Does it count as a disappointment if I knew the stuff was going to be bad, but I bought it anyway? I don't regret buying this lipstick, but it sure is a pain in the ass to apply. Reviewed here.

I'm not sure there are any real lessons to be learned here. Sure, several of these were impulse purchases, but several had been carefully researched, and some I had even owned (in one form or another) before! Some were very cheap, but others were not cheap at all. Shrug?

What were your biggest duds last year?

TheBalm on HauteLook 40-50% off

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TheBalm seems to be the only sale on HauteLook that inspires me these days. They have so many random brands. But they have a bunch of palettes for 50% off and I've really been wanting the Balm Appetit one. Ugh, stupid no buy. There's also the Meet Matte Trimony (oh god they have the stupidest non-puns, because doesn't a pun have to have a DOUBLE meaning, not just one meaning and something that makes no sense?). A big selection, in fact, including their liquid lipsticks, which I've heard are good. Personally, I've tried a lot of different products from this brand and liked everything except the concealer.

When you buy makeup from HauteLook, shipping is about $6 and you have to wait a couple of weeks for your order, fyi.

(They also have sales on Alterna and Kevyn Aucoin, if you're interested.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Shopping: $7-9 blanket scarves on Amazon, American Apparel going out of business clearance

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These blanket scarves plaid shawls look pretty nice for 9 bucks, right? Or $7 with code 2IH4OTIW. And they have 4.5 stars. I mean, they're acrylic but they're supposedly soft and machine washable, so . . . maybe I am just cold right now.

Any other good deals out there that we should know about?

ETA: I guess American Apparel went bankrupt and will be closing all its stores by April. Yay? That means 40% off everything. Yay!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mega Urban Decay Vice Lipstick Swatch Comparison + Dupe Search (and a partial lipstick inventory)

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Mega Urban Decay Vice Lipstick Swatch Comparison and Dupe Search

Urban Decay managed to hook me with that 24-shade sample pod thingy that everyone and their mother got last year. There's no way I would have given Rock Steady a second glance if I hadn't tried it on--and there's no way I would have bothered to try on what looked like a basic dark red--without that sample. But it turned out to be one of the most flattering lipsticks I've ever put on my face. You know those rare colors that seem to just light up your complexion? And harmonize seamlessly and look somehow natural even though they really aren't at all? Rock Steady is that, for me. But I was sure that in all my reds and burgundies and berries, I had to have something that was a dupe, or close enough. So I decided to do some comparison swatches.

And then I thought, what the hell, I should just go ahead and compare the rest of these samples to all the lipsticks I have. That could be fun. (As you may suspect, this has now become one of my longest posts ever, so buckle up. Or settle in. Or something.)

To do that, I had to pull out all of my lipsticks (both bullets and liquids) and pile them on my bed. Then I had to divide them into color categories: reds, rose/mauve/MLBBs ("my lips but better"), nudes, pinks, berries and fuchsias, corals and oranges, vampy shades and purples, and browns. Once they were all laid out like that I couldn't help but count them. 57! That's too many. Ugh. Mind you, that number includes minis as well as a bunch that I don't wear but have been stuck in a drawer for swatching. It doesn't, however, include anything in a pan, like my So Choix samples.

(Um, and I've bought a few new lipsticks since I finished swatching these. But no more money will be spent on lipstick in the foreseeable future.)

I didn't count individual categories, but by far the largest were the MLBBs and the reds. The MLBBs make sense, because I wear them more than anything else. The reds on the other hand . . . how did that happen? I guess it's in part because I think I should wear red more, and in part because when you get a freebie lipstick, it's almost always red. (And here I am writing a post a post about coveting another red lipstick.) The smallest categories were nudes, browns, oranges, and pinks. Like pinky-pinks, not berry or fuchsia or magenta.

On to the swatches! Not everything in my hoard has been swatched here, because I chose things based on how similar they were to the Urban Decay samples. I'm not going to review these lipsticks, Urban Decay or otherwise, unless I feel particularly compelled. I didn't swatch Urban Decay samples if I had nothing comparable, like Big Bang, which is basically a clear base with lots of pink glitter in it. Also, the swatches here are meant simply to compare colors and, to some extent, finishes. You shouldn't draw any conclusions about opacity or anything like that based on my photos alone, because I swatched the UD samples with a q-tip in most cases, but the others were applied directly from the bullets.

My main purpose here was to see if I had any dupes in my hoard, but as you'll see, there weren't too many. Nevertheless, I hope this will still serve as a useful point of reference for some of you, because you may be able to see how these things compare to lipsticks you already own. It was a valuable exercise for me.

Since Rock Steady was where I began . . . it's where I'll begin. As you can see, I actually didn't have anything quite like it. It's a dark red wine with a bit of berry in it. On my lips, it looks like strawberry jam. Rock Steady (cream finish) and Gash (cream finish) are quite similar, in fact, with Rock Steady being just a touch brighter. If you are not a makeup person, then all of these variations of red probably look pretty close--but (a) I chose the ones I had that were most similar to compare, and (b) you are probably a makeup person if you're reading this. You know, then, that red lipstick is a bitch and so slight variations can mean the difference between perfectly flattering and totally off. For instance, the "universally flattering" Nars Cruella (5) looks awful on me.

Swatches of 1. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Rock Steady; 2. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Gash; 3. Bite Beauty Scarlet; 4. Maybelline Creamy Matte in Divine Wine; 5. Nars Cruella; 6. Urban Decay Bad Blood; and 7. NYX Matte Perfect Red

1. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Rock Steady; 2. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Gash; 3. Bite Beauty Scarlet (reviewed here); 4. Maybelline Creamy Matte in Divine Wine (reviewed here); 5. Nars Cruella; 6. Urban Decay Bad Blood; and 7. NYX Matte Perfect Red.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

(Sort of) free "luxury" beauty sample box from Amazon for Prime members (plus Zoya deal)

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I'm working on a swatch-a-thon right now, so please accept this small offering in the meantime. Amazon is selling a box of samples for $20 (which probably isn't worth $20), but then you get a $20 credit to use in their luxury beauty department. So if you were planning to buy something from that department anyway (Stila, Mario Badescu, Jack Black, Oribe, OPI, Bioderma, La Roche-Posay, L'Occitane, theBalm, LORAC, etc.), you would basically be getting the box of samples for free with your purchase. Here are all the products that are eligible. Note that they say the samples in the box "may vary," and that this offer is only available for Prime members.

Also, Clara reminded me that Zoya is doing their usual deal where you get 4 "free" bottles of polish (or lipstick, this time) with $15 shipping. Or, as I like to think of it, 4 bottles for $3.75 each with free shipping. Use code 4ZOYA, ends Jan. 16.

Obviously, I will not be indulging in these deals, because of my No Buy, but if you decide to go for one of them, please allow me to live vicariously through you.
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