Monday, February 20, 2017

Drugstore Liquid Lipsticks, Part 1: Milani Amore Matte Metallic Lip Crème in The Ultimatte

Milani was perhaps the first drugstore brand to release a true matte liquid lipstick, back in the summer of 2015. I tried one of the original limited-edition shadesCrush, a dark brown—but hated it. The lipstick went on patchy, felt painfully dry within an hour, wore off in noticeable flakes, and had a strong root-beer-float smell. So when Milani made the Amore Matte Lip Crèmes permanent in 2016 and released dozens of new shades, including metallics, I didn't pay much attention.

That changed last month, when I popped into a Rite Aid in Philadelphia to look for the Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit lipsticks and came upon a display of new metallic Amore Mattes. And there was a metallic dark purple, you guys. And this was where common sense should have taken hold, to remind me that I'd been let down by the formula before and I didn't need another vampy lipstick I couldn't wear often. But I was preparing for an interview and had allotted all my reason to that, so I had nothing to counter the temptation of a new lipstick. All that remained was a collection of vague impulses along the lines of ooh purple and ooh sparkly and hey I haven't bought any new makeup yet this year, never mind that 2017 was exactly a week old. 


Milani's liquid-lipstick taxonomy is rather complicated, especially for someone who hasn't been following the brand's new releases. Milani offers a total of 52 (!) liquid lipsticks at $9 each. The website groups the lipsticks into "Amore Matte Lip Crème" and "Amore Matte Metallic Lip Crème," though some of the non-metallics are designated "pearl," which sounds an awful lot like "metallic" to me. There are 37 shades in the former category and 15 in the latter. The shades are numbered, but the numbering goes 1-15 for the metallics and 10-42 for the non-metallics, and there are overlaps in numbers between the two categories, and some numbers between 10 and 42 are missing in the matte group. Thank god each color has a name as well as a number, or I'd give up entirely. Every shade name in the metallic group is a pun on "matte" ("Matte About You," "Automattic Touch," "My Soulmatte"), which is cute, though I can't help wishing Milani had devoted some of that ingenuity to its numbering system.

The Amore Mattes have a large doefoot applicator that I find somewhat unwieldy. Because it's squared off at the end, I have a hard time getting into the corners of my lips, but people with fuller lips than mine might not have this problem! The applicator picks up a lot of product at once, so I find myself wiping it on the rim of the tube.


The lipstick I chose is #15 The Ultimatte, which Milani describes simply as "plum." It does indeed look plum in the tube and in arm swatches, but it turns more purple on my lips, to which I don't object at all. Here it is in indirect (left) and direct natural light:


L-R: & Other Stories Droguet Purple, Milani Matte Fearless, The Ultimatte, Topshop Get Me Bodied, MAC Eugenie:


One coat on my lips: see how much more purple it looks? I didn't use a liner this time, but sometimes I draw a faint line with NYX Cabaret just to guide my hand.


The formula certainly has pros and cons, and though I really enjoy this particular shade, I won't be buying more Amore Mattes anytime soon. Two things haven't changed since I tried my first Amore Matte in 2015: the overpowering root beer fragrance and the dryness of the formula. Not only is the scent extremely strong, it also lingers for close to an hour after application. The lipstick goes on very evenly, with no patchiness at all, and dries down almost immediately. It does wear off on the inner part of my lower lip if I drink, but stays put on the rest of my mouth unless I eat something oily. It's impossible to remove the lipstick without some sort of oil: just wiping it with a tissue does nothing. Predictably, this longevity comes at a price: my mouth starts feeling dry very quickly, and the metallic finish emphasizes my lip lines. However, my lips don't feel worse after I remove the product, so I can put up with some extra dryness while I'm wearing it. That color is just so pretty omg. I want to call it "Tyrian purple": it has a very ancient-Mediterranean vibe, I think. It makes me feel like Carthaginian royalty, though I don't think Dido wore much red flannel:


Sometimes I want to go all out with smoky eyes and dark metallic lips, but I just don't have that kind of lifestyle, so you get this rather boring look instead. I'm wearing ABH Warm Taupe eyeshadow (from Modern Renaissance, of course), Urban Decay Whiskey eyeliner, and Urban Decay Rapture blush.

Up next, a drugstore liquid lipstick whose formula I much prefer to Milani's. Have you tried any of the Amore Mattes?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Help Me Choose My New Font!

One of my goals for this year is to pull my blog's aesthetic out of 2007. I may be meticulous about my makeup, but I'm not a particularly visual person in most other aspects of life. (I remember one of my college friends telling me very seriously that the handmade Latin grammar charts I'd hung on my walls were a real boner killer: "No guy is going to want to come over here.") My carelessness about the charm of my surroundings extends to graphic design. I'm used to typing my academic work in Times New Roman, so I set my blog font to Times New Roman three years ago. Recently, though, I've begun suspecting that I can do better. But I don't entirely trust my instincts, which is where you come in. I've spent the past nevermindhowlong experimenting with the fonts provided by Blogger; let me know which of these you find most readable and visually pleasing, and which you find simply unconscionable.

First, my current font, good old TNR:


Droid Sans:


Inconsolata:


Lato:


Lora:


...though why bother with any of these boring fonts when Rock Salt is available?


Yep, I think we have a winner.

Update: The most popular choice both here and on Instagram appears to be Lora, which I was already favoring: serif fonts just feel right to me. Thank you to everyone who offered their input!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Renaissance Is the ABH Modern Renaissance Palette?

Having devoted the better part of a decade to studying Renaissance (we in the biz prefer "early modern") literature, I perked up when I heard that Anastasia Beverly Hills had released an eyeshadow palette called "Modern Renaissance." The palette came out in mid-2016 and started a warm-neutrals trend that, as of February 2017, shows little sign of dying down. Despite my instant attraction to the name, I resisted Modern Renaissance for half a year, for a few reasons:
  • I have a hipster distaste for any product that receives a tremendous amount of hype. (Preteen me held out on the Harry Potter novels for at least a year because ~everyone else~ liked them.)
  • Historically, I've preferred eyeshadow singles to palettes: more travel-friendly, less visually intimidating.
  • My skin, hair, and eyes are all cool-toned.
  • I wear simple neutral eye looks almost every day and didn't trust myself to use the bolder colors in the palette. 
  • I'd never tried anything by Anastasia Beverly Hills and had no idea what to expect from the brand.
  • $42 was more money than I'd ever spent on a beauty product. 
By the end of the year, though, I'd succumbed to the siren song of Modern Renaissance. I didn't own dupes for most of the shades, I wanted to escape my sheer-wash-of-gray-eyeshadow rut, and I had a Sephora gift card burning a hole in my pocket. So I bought the palette in the last week of 2016, and I've worn it almost every day since. The hype is justified, and you have no idea how much it kills me to say that.

I was going to use a photo of my palette in its pristine state, but I thought it would be more interesting to upload one that reflects its current usage, since I love seeing how different people favor different shades. Just as every pedestrian draws her own map of a city, so every makeup user finds her own way through Modern Renaissance. Predictably, I've given the most love to the cooler-toned shades—Buon Fresco, Antique Bronze, Cyprus Umber, and Warm Taupe—but I've used every shade at least twice:


There are a zillion Modern Renaissance reviews on the internet, so I thought I'd make mine different by posing a question that I haven't seen asked yet: How Renaissance is Modern Renaissance? Let's begin with the outside, which features a blush-pink fuzzy felted surface with white lettering. I've done my best to prevent the pink felt from getting grubby (traveling with the palette in a Ziploc bag, etc), but as many reviewers have discovered before me, it's a losing battle.


You know what isn't remotely Renaissance? That boring white sans-serif typeface. Here's a typical Renaissance title page:


Yes, this is a very trivial and nerdy quibble, but any of the typefaces above would have been more interesting than the one Anastasia used. If you're going to name a palette "Modern Renaissance," establishing conceptual continuity through little details like font is a good idea. 

Now, how Renaissance is the overall color scheme? Let's assume that the word "Renaissance" applies to the art produced between, say, 1400 and 1600 (the Renaissance began and ended in Italy much earlier than it did in northern Europe, including England). One of the shade names alludes to an iconic Italian Renaissance painting, Sandro Botticelli's Primavera (c. 1482):


Modern Renaissance's color story is a skillful adaptation of Botticelli's, from the warm golden hair of the female figures (Raw Sienna and Burnt Orange), to the vivid orange robe (Realgar), to the leftmost figure's drapery (Venetian Red) and sandals (Cyprus Umber). So far, so Renaissance; now for some swatches. I've made each swatch below by swiping my finger once across the pan and once across my arm.

Top row, L-R: Tempera (look closely!), Golden Ochre, Vermeer, Buon Fresco, Antique Bronze, Love Letter, Cyprus Umber:


Bottom row, L-R: Raw Sienna, Burnt Orange, Primavera, Red Ochre, Venetian Red, Warm Taupe, Realgar:


Most of the shades are mattes, with the exceptions of two dazzling shimmers (Vermeer and Primavera) and two subtler shimmers (Antique Bronze and Venetian Red). 

Let's turn to the individual shade names, most of which refer to paints and pigments. Many YouTubers who reviewed this palette last year made no effort to pronounce the names correctly, which kind of annoyed me. I don't expect everyone to have a comprehensive knowledge of Italian art history (I certainly don't), but if you're sent an expensive palette for free, the least you can do is look up the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. One well-known beauty guru said, and I quote: "This palette was inspired by Renaissance paintings, and I'm sure these are probably named after some paintings, or some people who made the paintingswho fucking knows, to be honest." Well, you might, if you did a 30-second Google search, but okay. I don't want to come off as a snob (though I'm sure that ship sailed long ago), but one of the most appealing aspects of this palette is the narrative that ABH created through its colors and shade names. If you take no interest in the names, you're missing out on part of the story, so I thought I'd introduce each shade with some information about its name. Not being an artist or art historian myself, I learned a lot while writing this post! Let's start with the four colors on the far left:



Tempera is a very pale beige that's slightly lighter than my skin. It's named after tempera paint, made by mixing pigments with a glutinous substance, usually egg yolk. Egg tempera dominated Renaissance art until the development of oil painting toward the end of the 15th century. Tempera is the one Modern Renaissance shade that falls short for me: it's drier and more powdery than the other shadows, though certainly workable. Here it is at left, next to Urban Decay Skimp (center) and Stark, both from the Naked2 Basics palette. Tempera is the most opaque of the three, but also the chalkiest.


Golden Ochre is a pale mustard brown. Ochre (or ocher, in American spelling) is an earth pigment derived from clay containing hydrated iron oxide, which gives it a yellow, orange, or red color. Ochre has been used in art since Paleolithic times; Renaissance artists generally used it in frescoes, mural paintings executed on wet plaster. The word "ochre" comes from the Greek ὠχρός, or "pale yellow."

Raw Sienna is a medium warm brown that looks darker and more orange on my lids than it does in the pan. Sienna is an earth pigment similar to, but darker than, yellow ochre. It takes its name from the Tuscan city-state of Siena, which was an independent republic from 1125 to 1555. The word "raw" distinguishes sienna in its natural state from heated or "burnt" sienna, which is darker and redder.

Burnt Orange is a light brownish orange. No real Renaissance significance to this name, alas.


Vermeer is an opaque peachy-pink shimmer. The name refers to Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), a Dutch Baroquenot Renaissancepainter. It's bizarre that ABH named just one shade after a specific artist, and he's not even from the right era. Vermeer is known for his judicious use of light, which may explain why such a dazzling eyeshadow received his name. Here's Vermeer's Girl with a Red Hat, painted in the mid-1660s:


Buon Fresco is my favorite Modern Renaissance shade, a muted plummy browny pink reminiscent of ColourPop Bill. It's also sold as a single eyeshadow, if you don't feel like buying the entire palette but want a pink transition shade in your life. The term buon fresco refers to the Renaissance technique of painting on a wall of wet or "fresh" (fresco) plaster. Some frescoes are executed on dried plaster, but only wet-plaster painting is considered buon or "true" fresco. Michelangelo's Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is probably the most famous example of buon fresco:


Primavera is a pale gold named after the aforementioned Botticelli painting, which now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The title, meaning "spring," was bestowed on the painting not by Botticelli but by the historian Giorgio Vasari four decades after Botticelli's death. Though the woman in the center probably represents Venus, the symbolism of the rest of the painting has been debated for centuries. The superiority of Primavera and Vermeer to similar shades from theBalm Nude 'tude, however, is less controversial. L-R: theBalm Stubborn, Vermeer, Primavera, theBalm Stand-offish:


Red Ochre is a deep reddish brown. The color of ochre varies depending on the minerals present in it; hematite turns ochre red. Red ochre has been used for cosmetics and body painting in many cultures and eras, including ancient Egypt.


Antique Bronze is my second favorite shade, a shimmery deep bronze that pulls more red than any other bronze eyeshadow I've encountered. Blended across the lid and into the crease, this is a great one-and-done shade. As the Met's website explains, the Renaissance interest in classical antiquities produced a craze for bronze sculpture, and "the lustrous reddish bronze of Florence set the standard." Here's a panel, depicting a mask of Medusa, from a 16th-century writing box:

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love bronze eyeshadows, so I had a few on hand for comparisons. L-R: Maybelline Pomegranate Punk, Antique Bronze, theBalm Sophisticated (Nude 'tude), Maybelline Bad to the Bronze. I was surprised to discover that Antique Bronze is closest by far to Pomegranate Punk.




Love Letter is a bright berry fuchsia. As my swatch indicates, this shade isn't as opaque as most of the others. Frankly, I don't mind: this is the sort of color that I prefer to build up gradually. "Love Letter" is another generic name, though Renaissance literature is full of love letters, including this stanza from John Donne's "Valediction to His Book":
Study our manuscripts, those myriads
Of letters, which have past 'twixt thee and me;
Thence write our annals, and in them will be
To all whom love's subliming fire invades,
Rule and example found;
There the faith of any ground
No schismatic will dare to wound,
That sees, how Love this grace to us affords,
To make, to keep, to use, to be these his records.
Venetian Red is a slightly shimmery berry red that looks warm in the pan but pinker on the lids. The name refers to a pigment derived from ferric oxide, i.e. hematite, the same mineral that colors red ochre.

Warm Taupe is actually one of the coolest shades in the palette, a light grayish tan that works well as an all-over lid color. No specific allusions here, unfortunately, but I've done some comparison swatches. L-R: Warm Taupe, Urban Decay Cover (Naked2 Basics), theBalm Sultry (Nude 'tude), Raw Sienna:


Almost done!


Cyprus Umber is a cool dark brown, named after yet another earth pigment: umber, which is darker than ochre and sienna but similarly colored with iron oxide. The word "umber" is derived from the Italian region of Umbria. Like "Vermeer," this shade name is slightly inaccurate: umbers appear less often in Renaissance paintings than in the darker, moodier art of the Baroque period.

Finally, Realgar (pronounced "ree-AL-gar": yes, I had to look that up) is a rich orange with a hint of brown. Realgar is a bright red or orange arsenic mineral that was used in red paint from ancient Rome until the 18th century. Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is a cluster of realgar crystals:

Source

The Modern Renaissance shadows have a very soft and pigmented formula that kicks up a ridiculous amount of powder with the slightest tap of the brush. I feel wasteful every time I have to blow away excess powder, but so it goes; I suppose there's a reason why people are hitting pan on these shadows so quickly. The pigment also clings very hard to my brushes, which I've had to wash weekly since I started using this palette. In general, I prefer semi-sheer eyeshadows that can be built up to opacity (NARS Lhasa is a good example), but I've been enjoying the Modern Renaissance formula as well. It blends out smoothly and evenly, giving the impression that I'm better at eyeshadow than I actually am. I do have trouble blending it into the deep creases that run across my lids, but I encounter that problem with almost every powder eyeshadow. Because they're so pigmented, the MR shadows can collect in the creases instead of blending softly over and through them as my sheerer shadows do.

Maybe it's because I have no experience of fancy brushes, but I really like the two-headed brush that comes with the palette. The larger head has long, floppy bristles that work well to blend out the crease, while the smaller head is good for packing shimmer into the inner corner.

Having owned this palette for almost two months now, I've tried out more looks than I can feasibly include in one blog post, so here are my best attempts. I'm pleased to report that Modern Renaissance cooperates beautifully with my usual taste for boring, work-appropriate eye looks, though I've tried out some dramatic smoky eyes as well. First, here's my Valentine's Day look, featuring an all-over base of Tempera; Buon Fresco and Love Letter in the crease; a blend of Venetian Red and Love Letter on the outer half of the lid, with Cyprus Umber in the outer corners; Tempera on the inner half of the lid, with Vermeer in the inner corners; and more Cyprus Umber on the lower lashlines. Phew. My blush is Threesome from the NARS Pop Goes the Easel collection (more on that in a future post), and my lipstick is Bourjois Rouge Edition in Beige Trench. I'm still not totally satisfied with my blending skills, but I suppose that's what practice is for. I made the mistake of wearing this look to Hidden Figures, which made me tear up no fewer than four times, and I'm not even a movie crier. D:


Closeup of an earlier iteration: same crease combination and inner-corner highlight, but with Love Letter and Cyprus Umber in the outer corner, Buon Fresco on the lid, and Antique Bronze on the lower lashline. I think I like this version better.


My first attempt at a halo eye: Raw Sienna in the crease, Red Ochre and Cyprus Umber in the inner and outer corners, and Primavera in the center, plus an annoying stray hair. In future halo eyes, I think I'll concentrate the highlight shade on a smaller area of lid.


Burnt Orange and Realgar in the crease, Antique Bronze on the outer half of the lid and lower lashline, Raw Sienna on the rest of the lid:


Finally, one of the subtler looks that constitute 75% of my use of this palette. Buon Fresco and Antique Bronze in the crease, Antique Bronze on the outer lid and lower lashline, and Tempera on the rest of the lid. My other color makeup is Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter, and Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce.


Well, that took me forever to write. The main conclusions you should take from this post are that Modern Renaissance is 1) really great; 2) really Renaissance, though not as Renaissance as it could be; 3) never mind the rest, I just drank a huge French 75 and I'm pretty tipsy. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Low-Buy 2017 Progress Report: January

Well, we somehow got through January, even if we spent the last third of the month refreshing various news sites in growing horror. And now it's time for my first low-buy progress report of 2017! A reminder of the low-buy goals I've set for myself this year:
  • No more than two makeup products per month, excluding replacements
  • No new nail polish in the first half of the year
And that's it for the consumption part of my beauty resolutionsthe more I make, the more I'll forget, right? So let's see how well I did in January:

New Makeup:

L-R: The Ultimatte, Nudist Peach, Missy and Fierce.

Milani Amore Matte Metallic Lip Creme in 15 The Ultimatte: $8
Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit Lipsticks in Nudist Peach and Missy and Fierce: $5 each
Total: $18

New Skincare:



Skinfood Super Nut mask, My Beauty Diary Damask Rose mask, and Tosowoong Propolis mask (already used): $7ish total
Etude House My Beauty Tool blotting papers: $4
Samples: COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Mask and Snail Mucin Essence; Cure Natural Aqua Gel
Total: $11

Replacements: 


Bioré Aqua Rich Watery Essence x2: $30
Revlon Volume + Length mascara: $7
Total: $37

Total for January: $66

Reflections: Okay, so I bought three new pieces of makeup. Three liquid lipsticks, yet: who am I? Someone who increasingly values long wear in her lip colors, I guess. The Milani Amore Matte liquid lipstick was a pre-interview impulse buy. Unfortunately, it has the same drying formula and awkwardly large applicator as the non-metallic Amore Matte I reviewed back in 2015, but the pigmentation is much more even and that metallic purple is gorgeous. Then I tried Wet n Wild Nudist Peach and liked the formula so much that I had to go back for Missy and Fierce, which turns out to be the best liquid lipstick I've ever tried. Seriously. I wish the Liquid Catsuit lineup had more interesting colors, but I suppose that's a good thing for my budget. I'm not too bothered about having gone over my two-piece limit (it's not a hard limit, more of a number to keep in mind), but I'll try harder to stick to it in February.

When I visited San Francisco in December, my Bioré sunscreen was out of stock at the store where I'd last bought it, and I couldn't find it anywhere else before I left. By the end of January, I was down to the bottom of my current tube and dreading having to order more from Japan. So when I visited a friend in New York last week, I made a trip to oo35mm in Chinatown, and they had it! And I bought two tubes because I'm too much of an agoraphobe to brave the chaos of Canal St. more than twice a year.

By the way, I've created a running document to keep track of the lipsticks I wear in 2017. Some people use spreadsheets, but I'm too lazy and low-tech for that shit. I just copied and pasted my lipstick inventory into a Word document, and whenever I wear a lipstick I put an asterisk next to it, like so:


This document is immensely helpful for visualizing my collection at a glance and pinpointing shades that I've been neglecting. (Left to my own devices, I naturally wear my newer lipsticks over and over.) It's also interesting to see patterns emerging: as you can see, I wore red lipstick ten out of 31 days in January, which is very unusual for me. I attribute my newfound love of red to feeling angry on both micro (academia) and macro (Trump) levels pretty much constantly.

Current Wishlist:

MAC Matte Lipstick in Whirl ($17)

Source

A year and a half after its release (my usual delay when it comes to trends), I've become fascinated with the plum-pink-gray-brown that is Whirl. It's the kind of shade that could easily go wrong on me, though, so I'd like to try it on before buying. This is no guarantee that I won't order it late one night after submitting a postdoc application, but I hope I do the responsible thing.

2. NARS Blush in Threesome ($30)

Source

This pale lavender-pink blush (cooler-toned and lighter than it looks above) is part of the limited-edition Pop Goes the Easel collection, which features three blushes, three Sheer Pop Multiples, and four Velvet Lip Glides. The collection is already available in Asia and the UK, but for some reason won't be released in the US until March 1. However, I have the inside hookup: my boyfriend, who lives in England and loves me enough that he's willing to visit his local Selfridges and ask the NARS vendors if they have Threesome blush in stock.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2016

Because it's year-end-roundup season until January 31, damn it. I'm back online, so it's time to present my favorite new-to-me beauty products of 2016! As always, I've listed these items in the order in which I bought them. I listed 14 favorites in 2014 and 15 in 2015, but 16 seemed excessive somehow, so I kept the number at 15.

1. MAC Matte Lipstick in Antique Velvet


This was the very first beauty product I bought in 2016, after a no-buy of almost two months. During those two months, I tried on Antique Velvet twice, loved it both times, searched the internet for cruelty-free dupes, and finally decided that nothing would satisfy me but the genuine article. Antique Velvet is a dark, cool-toned brown with a hint of plum. You'd think that such a dark matte lipstick would go on patchy, but it's smooth and evenly pigmented, with the same soft, comfortable formula as the other MAC mattes I've tried.

After sticking to my no-buy for seven weeks, I expected to be thrilled to get my hands on a new lipstick, but I felt oddly blasé, even disappointed in myself for succumbing to temptation. I didn't wear Antique Velvet until the next week, after a stressful interview at the Academic Job Conference of Doom, which was held in Austin that year. I went back to my hotel room, changed out of my interview dress and stockings and heels, put on my dark brown lipstick, and felt like myself again. It was the makeup equivalent of a deep, calming breath. I don't wear Antique Velvet all that often (because, well, dark brown lipstick), but I feel like a really great version of myself whenever I do, and that's more than enough to secure it a place on this list.

2. Zoya Kristen and Jules


I bought Kristen at the beginning of the year and Jules at the end of it, but I'm making them count as one product because I can. Kristen (right) is a pastel blue with a heavy dose of gray, making it less stark and lobster-hands-inducing than most light blue polishes look on me. I somehow can't find a photo of Kristen on its own, but here it is with Floss Gloss Dimepiece on top:


Jules has a grayish taupe base with gold sparkles, but in direct sunlight I spot some flashes of pink and mint as well. It's almost impossible to capture Jules's subtleties on camera, but here's how it looks in indirect natural lightthe very definition of a holiday neutral:


3. Glossier Boy Brow in Brown


The word "game-changing" is as ubiquitous in the beauty blogosphere as the Chanel logo in a Jeffree Star video, but it's rare that I encounter a product that truly changes my makeup game. Boy Brow is one such product, and you know I'm being honest because I'm as biased against Glossier as it's possible to be. But if you have thick brows that need just a little extra color and hold, I'm not sure there's a better product out there than Boy Brow. My one complaint is that the tube is so tiny for the $16 price. I don't think I use that much every day, but I go through a tube in four or five months. If you know of a similar product that offers more goo per dollar, let me know.

4. Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence


Another true game-changer. At the risk of TMI, I am an unusually sweaty person, particularly around the face. I also live in an area of the country that's very humid year-round: we're talking upwards of 90% for days at a time. These two factors make oily Western sunscreens slide right off my face in hot weather. After hearing over and over that Japanese sunscreens were lightweight and formulated to go under makeup, I ordered a tube of Bioré's Aqua Rich Watery Essence from Amazon and waited three weeks for it to ship from Japan. And oh my god, it's everything I wanted from a sunscreen: light, non-greasy, and slightly mattifying. Three small caveats: the formula contains a lot of alcohol (so it's wise to wear moisturizer underneath, though I don't always), I finish a tube in about three months, and it's almost impossible to find this sunscreen in the States unless you have access to Asian beauty stores. And of course it's more expensive (~$15) than what you'd pay in Japan—though certainly cheaper than a ticket to Japan.

5. Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paints in Damson and Butterscotch Sundae


I've never been impressed by Barry M's original Nail Paint formula, but their slightly more pricey Gelly Hi-Shine line is fabulous. The word "Gelly" is misleading: these polishes aren't as long-lasting as gel manicures, nor do they have a jelly or crelly finish. But they are beautifully opaque and they come in great colors: Butterscotch Sundae is the yellow-white of clotted cream, and Damson is that blazing International Klein Blue shade that nail polish bloggers were losing their shit over a few years back. I should note here that Damson totally smells like weed. I swear it does. I made my boyfriend smell it and he thought I was crazy, but I'M NOT. Go smell it and tell me I'm not.

6. Seventeen Eyeshadow Mono in Statuesque


I'm not usually prejudiced against drugstore makeup, with one big exception: powder eyeshadow. I've been disappointed by almost all the drugstore eyeshadows I've tried. They tend to be chalky, patchy, and coarsely milled, and I've pretty much stopped buying them. So I was bowled over when I swatched this beautiful rose gold in Boots and it was as silky and pigmented as a high-end shadow. Like most of my favorite eyeshadows, Statuesque works equally well on its own and paired with other shades. It can be packed on for a metallic effect or blended out for a more neutral one (I wore it in this post on interview makeup).

7. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

My boyfriend has a running joke about "the planet of Hyaluronia," whence all hyaluronic acid is imported to Earth.

Ugh, sorry, this is such a boring product. It's a scentless, colorless, slightly gelatinous fluid without cute packaging or a high-end pedigree. But it removes my makeup (granted, I don't usually wear heavy eye makeup), and it's $14 for 12 oz, and it doesn't leave my skin feeling dry. It's also great for sensitive skin, which I don't have but my mom does. I actually started using this because I ran out of my Lush 9 to 5 when I was staying at my mom's place, and it worked so well that I bought my own bottle. Not only is it better at its job than our current president, it would also be better at his job.

8. Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light


From the magnetic packaging to the absurdly pigmented formula, this is the most luxurious-feeling lipstick I ownand for $30, it had better be. Rei of Light sits halfway between brick red and rusty orange, and can take on the qualities of either color depending on lighting. I'd compare the Le Marc Lip Creme formula to the NARS Audacious formula, except that Le Marc is more matte and, in my experience, less drying. I've said a lot about Rei of Light on my blog and Instagram this year, so I'll shut up now.

9. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk 


When Urban Decay launched its 120-shade Vice lipstick collection last summer, I kept my distance. The shade range was so overwhelming that I resolved not to look closely at it until I wanted a specific color. As fall approached, I began searching for a matte dusty pink, something an early-'60s coed might wear with her gray angora sweater and strand of pearls. One swatch of Backtalk, a mauvey medium pink with the slightest hint of brown, and I knew I'd found my ideal. The Vice Comfort Matte formula goes on smooth and opaque, and though it's a little drying after a few hours, it's nothing I can't endure. More importantly, it makes me feel like an extra in An Education. I've owned it for just four months and have used almost half the tube, which says a lot. Here I am a few months ago, wearing Backtalk with Kiko Golden Mauve eyeshadow and what looks like my Kiko black eyeliner:



10. Revlon Super Lustrous Sheer Lipstick in Pink Truffle


Despite my love for bold matte lipsticks, I like carrying a sheer MLBB in my makeup bag at all times as a sort of normcore security blanket. For years, that sheer MLBB was NARS Dolce Vita, but when I lost my tube in LA last year I couldn't justify replacing it, given that almost every drugstore beauty brand makes a similar shade. This is a great "walking to yoga at 9 am on a Saturday" lipstick, a great "oh shit I spent 30 minutes blending out a halo eye and now I have no time for any other makeup" lipstick. We all need one of those.

11. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Whiskey 


For a while, my go-to brown eyeliner was Urban Decay Demolition, which is cooler and darker than Whiskey. But now that I'm wearing a lot of warm-toned eye looks (more on that later), Whiskey is the eyeliner I use most often. It's also great on its own, smudged out around the lashlines for some subtle definition. What I can't understand, though, is why these eyeliners cost $20. I'm semi-okay with paying that much because I don't wear eyeliner every day, and I anticipate Whiskey will last me the better part of a year. Still, $20? Why are Urban Decay's pencil eyeliners more expensive than their lipsticks? I just don't get it.

If you're curious, here's Whiskey (right) swatched next to Demolition:


 12. Kiko Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 05 Rosy Brown


I reviewed another shade in this line, Golden Mauve, over here, but never got around to posting about Rosy Brown. The formulas of the two shades are identicalcreamy, sparkly, easy to finger-blend, and yes, long-lastingbut Rosy Brown ended up on this list simply because I wear it more often. I love bringing it with me for overnight trips, since I'm not fond of messing around with brushes while traveling.

13. Diptyque Florabellio Eau de Toilette 


I first tried Florabellio back in the spring, but I didn't acquire my own bottle until my birthday in November. It's such an odd fragrance that I can't understand how it even got produced, but I'm not asking questions, because it feels like it was custom-blended for me. And isn't that the impression every perfume should give us? The Diptyque website identifies Florabellio's notes as "apple blossom, marine accord, coffee," and it is indeed sweet and salty, reminiscent of Maison Martin Margiela Funfair Evening. What first hits me after application is a blast of salt, followed by Tootsie Rolls. Seriously! As it wears, it becomes more fruity and floral (I detect apple, though not necessarily apple blossom), but the salty seaside aroma really lingers. I suppose most people would classify Florabellio as a summer perfume, but I can't afford to have seasonal scents and I've been happily wearing it this fall and winter. As a grad student who spends a great deal of time sweating nervously and writing in coffee shops, I find that the accords of salt and coffee really mesh with my lifestyle.

14. Urban Decay Vintage Vice Lipstick in Roach 


Like ColourPop's Monster highlighter last year, this lipstick made it onto my favorites list because it's a great reminder of how fun makeup can be. Roach is part of Urban Decay's six-piece Vintage Vice collection, which seems not to have done well commercially, because the lipsticks have all been on sale for $11 for over a month now. The sheer iridescent blues and purples in the collection are indeed on the weird side, but Roach caught my attention because it's such a badass neutral. Sparkly blue is a "hey, look how quirky I am" lipstick shade (not that I haven't been known to wear such shades myself); metallic bronze is less self-consciously eccentric, but still offbeat. Some of the lipsticks in the collection looked streaky or clumpy when I swatched them, but Roach can be built up easily to opacity, and it's really comfortable and moisturizing as well. It's also remarkably long-lasting and non-slippery for such a creamy lipstick. I wore it a lot during the holidays, along with my new velvet choker:


The name "Roach" reminds me that as terrible as the 2016 election was, it did legalize recreational marijuana in California. Weed has never really been my thing, but legalizing it will have a lot of social and economic benefits. Well done, fellow CA voters!

15. Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette  


Like any good reader of r/MakeupRehab, I spent months trying to talk myself out of this palette. It was too warm-toned for my complexion, I told myself. It lent itself best to dramatic blown-out looks that weren't to my taste. I'd never use all 14 shadows. The packaging wasn't practical for travel. And surely any product surrounded by so much hype was bound to disappoint. But when my boyfriend's parents gave me a $35 Sephora gift card for Christmas, I finally got on the Modern Renaissance bandwagon, and I'm so glad I did. The warm browns, oranges, pinks, and reds flatter my green eyes and look surprisingly good against my cool-toned skin. The shadows can be packed on or sheered out almost effortlessly. There are so many potential color combinations: cool or warm, sparkly or matte, neutral or glam. I'm still a lipstick girl at heart, but I haven't felt this excited about eyeshadowor, frankly, makeup in generalfor a long time. And reader opinion is leaning toward my reviewing Modern Renaissance next, so expect that post after my January roundup!