Monday, October 31, 2011

Give Me Some Lip! Review

I am a sucker for sample kits.  I can't tell you how many I've purchased over the years, only to be disappointed with 99% of them.  Initially I was prepared to be disappointed by the Sephora Give Me Some Lip set too, particularly since I could easily see from the promotional photo that it contained one lipstick I knew I'd never use and one gloss from a company I'd sworn off buying glosses from a long time ago. 

So what made me bite the bullet and shell out $25 (actually $20 because I used a Friends and Family code) for this one?  Two words: Tarte Moody.  I freaking love this color, and the prospect of having a purse-sized tube plus getting at least one or two other products I'd keep using was enough to convince me that Give Me Some Lip was worth purchasing.

So how did it stack up?  Surprisingly well.  First, swatches!

Left to right: Tarte LipSurgance in Moody,  Smashbox gloss in Fame, Kat Von D Painted Lipstick in Celebutard, Buxom Lip Polish in Leslie, Benefit Benetint in Rose, and Lancome Juicy Tube in Raspberry Ice.

First, the bad.  I hate, hate, hate the Kat Von D shade.  It's a nude, but not a my-lips-but-better nude.  It's far pastier than my natural lip color (which isn't dark) and wasn't flattering at all.  This was the one shade I knew wouldn't be a hit from the minute I saw the photo online, though, so it wasn't as if I was disappointed when I tried it on and realized it was a no-go. 

I also didn't care for the Smashbox gloss in Fame.  I go back and forth about Smashbox glosses, because while they're really long-lasting, they're so incredibly sticky that I never wear them, even when I do like the color.  Fame didn't do anything for me as a shade, so it went into the reject pile too.

Now when I bought this set I made a deal with myself.  As long as I liked at least half of the box I could keep it.  With two shades down, I needed at least three hits (not including the Tarte stain that I already loved) or I'd have to send it back.  Thankfully, the rest of the colors and formulas proved themselves to be worthy of the "keep" pile.

The Buxom lip polish was, on first glance, a reject.  I tried it on over the Kat Von D (mistake number one) and didn't pay much attention to how much gloss was on the applicator before I put it on my lips (mistake number two).  When I looked in the mirror I actually burst out laughing because it looked like I'd gone back to 1989 and put on some of that candy makeup they used to sell.  Remember that?  It was gloopy and stringy and tended to stick stubbornly to the purse of the lip so you had to use your teeth to get it off.  Ick.  Not a look I would care to sport at 10, much less 30.  So it's no surprise that I was ready to lump Buxom in with Smashbox and Kat Von D.  Then, this morning, I decided to give it another try.  This time I wore it over a shade (to be revealed momentarily) that I really liked, and I made sure not to apply much at all.  Eureka!  What had initially looked like a gloppy mess turned out to be a very lovely champagne-sparkle shade that worked beautifully when lightly applied.  It does have a strong minty effect on my lips, and I could definitely do without the extended tingly sensation it provokes, but overall the color and lifespan of the shade (I'm going on five hours of wear time as I type, and it's even lasted through a meal) make it a keeper.

The real prize of the set, and the color I'm wearing Buxom over today, is the Benefit Rose shade.  Applying this one is really, really unnerving and I'm going to go on record here as saying that I dislike the whole application process.  Benetint is packaged in what really looks like a nail polish jar, and applies with a brush like a watercolor.  If you look at the photo above you'll see that it's a true stain, and dries in seconds once on the skin, but before that (and because the jar is full of this dark red liquid) I get very anxious that I'm going to either drop the jar or spill/drip some of the stain onto my clothing.  This might work better for me as a rollerball, to be honest.  Still, the shade is a beautiful pink/rose that looks really lovely on my lips.  Not only would I be tempted to keep the set for this shade alone, but I'm fairly certain that I'll be purchasing a full-sized version when this sample runs out.

Finally, the last hit of the kit is the Lancome Juicy Tube in Raspberry Ice.  The scent of this shade is almost overpowering (ARTIFICIAL BERRY!) but the color is really beautiful.  In the tube it looks like an electric peach with glitter, but on the lips it mellows out into a soft pink/peach that reminds me of nothing so much as NARS Orgasm blush.  The glitter translates into a subtle shimmer, and the overall effect is quite pleasing.  I was really surprised at how much I liked it, especially since I don't tend to gravitate towards peachy lip colors.

So at $25 for the set, this works out to a little over $4 per tube ($3.33 since I snagged it during F&F), which is definitely a price point I'm happy with.  The Tarte LipSurgence alone retails for $24 for a full-sized tube, and a sample this size would work out to $8 if the price was calculated proportionately.  All of which is to say that both mathematically and aesthetically I think the Give Me Some Lip set is a solid value worth buying if you're in the market for some new lip products.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Tale of Two Mascaras

Last summer I met my new true mascara love, Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes.  A sample-sized tube of LCL was included with the Tarte True Blood palette.  I was instantly hooked.  LCL was everything I wanted in a mascara: it made my lashes look dramatically longer, the wand separated them beautifully, and I still felt that they looked natural enough when I was wearing it that someone could conceivably believe that I wasn't wearing mascara. 

But all good things must come to an end, and after 5 months that sample tube finally dried out to the point where I couldn't justifying continuing to use it every day.  So into the trash it went, and into my online shopping cart went a full-sized tube of LCL.  In the interim I used my old standby, Clinique's PowerLash, and another sample, Makeup Forever's Aqua Lash formula (more on both of these in a future entry).  Neither made my eyes look the way LCL did, so you can imagine my joy when the Friends and Family box arrived and my new tube was finally here.

And this is where our story takes a turn for the tragic, because that full-sized tube I paid nearly $20 for?  It's not as good as the sample.


Now, I'm inclined to think that the difference lies more with the full-sized brush than with the formula itself.  I've certainly heard stories about how some manufacturers will put a slightly different formula into a sample than they do into a full-sized product, but I really don't think that's the issue.  The real problem is that the sample brush seemed to do a far better job of separating the lashes than the full-sized brush.  Photo links (because I didn't save the sample tube) below:

Sample brush: From the Pretty Exclusive
Full-sized brush: From the Makeup Temple

Is it just me, or are those brushes different?

In any case, I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Lights, Camera, Lashes yet, but I would love to know if anyone else has had trouble with their LCL brushes.  My main complaint is that my lashes aren't separated very well by the brush (which can always be fixed with an eyelash brush) and thus are looking more Kewpie Doll-ish than I'd prefer.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bobbi Brown's Party Palette

The first time I saw swatches of the Party Palette on the Makeup and Beauty Blog I knew it had to be mine.  The champagne-toned colors screamed "WEAR US!" and who was I to argue?  In spite of the steep $45 price tag (more on that later) I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the set. 

So how do I like it?'s good.  Not great.  It's a warm neutrals palette, so it's hard for me to avoid comparing it to the ubiquitous Naked Palette.  At almost the same price point, Bobbi Brown doesn't hold a candle to Urban Decay in terms of quantity or pigmentation of shadows.  Still, I don't regret buying the Party Palette for even a minute.


Left to right: Black Chocolate, Copper Sand, Pink Blaze, Pebble, Champagne Quartz, and Bone,

  • With the exception of Black Chocolate these are incredibly light, sheer shadows.  Great for a very subtle daytime look, but they wash out to nothing at all very easily.
  • Bone and Pebble in particular are quite chalky and poorly pigmented.  The swatch of Bone that you see took no less than seven swipes across the pan to achieve.  I get similar coverage from Urban Decay's Virgin (from the Naked Palette, and my go-to highlighter) with just two pats of the brush onto the pan.  No swiping needed.
  • Black Chocolate is the best dark brown shadow I currently own.  It's velvety, richly pigmented, and blends like a dream.  
  • Champagne Quartz and Pink Blaze, while slightly chalky, are truly lovely subtle pinks that are ideal for my laying-around-the-house weekend look.  Pink Blaze contains some glitter, but fallout is minimal and the overall effect is subtle enough to be work-appropriate.
  • At $45, the Party Palette works out to $7.50 per pan.  As a rule I'm really hesitant to shell out more than $8 per pan for a palette (products like MAC's pro palette where I can choose all of the colors myself aside) because I know that there's bound to be one or two duds among the rest that I won't use.  What makes the Party Palette a good buy in my estimation is that even though pigmentation is an issue and it's on the high end of my buy-able price point, there isn't a pan in the bunch that I don't see myself using on a regular basis until it's finished.  I'm most comfortable in neutral shadows, and while I'd rather not have to pack them on, the Party Palette delivers what I want without giving me anything that will go to waste.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Confessions of a Nail Polish Newbie--OPI Topcoat vs. Essie Faceoff Results!

If you'll recall, earlier this week I decided to see if recent issues with nail polish chipping were related to the OPI for Sephora topcoat I had been applying.  Prior to this endeavor I'd put on three coats of polish and one of the topcoat around two hours before going to bed at night.  I'd been seeing chips within 24 hours, even when using brands that usually lasted much longer for me.

Results:  Right Hand (featuring OPI for Sephora topcoat on top of three coats of Essie)

Note the gargantuan chip on the tip of my index finger--this started less than 10 hours after applying the polish, and just got worse over the next 60 hours.

Left Hand: Essie Highly Structured (3 coats) with no topcoat

You can see that I had a small amount of peeling on my pinky cuticle (and some weirdness around the ring finger cuticle as well) but only minimal tip wear.  Moreover, NO CHIPPING!

Now, I'm not ready to completely throw in the towel on OPI topcoat yet, but consider this experiment Exhibit A in OPI's keep or toss trial.  At a minimum, I'm venturing to say that this topcoat doesn't work any better than polish alone on my fingers, and may very well cause premature chipping.

Stay tuned, and in the meantime, if you have any must-try top or basecoat recommendations for me, I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sephora Friends and Family Haul

And lo on the third day the UPS man arrived, and C declared "It is good."  And it was.

A more detailed review of each product (especially the Bobbi Brown palettes) will be forthcoming in the next few days--I'm a bit swamped tonight with homework and family concerns--but I couldn't help snapping this photo to share my squee with you. 

I also can't help sharing a cute story about my 4-year-old son, who watches me apply my makeup every morning and wanted to help me open my "present" this afternoon.  As we were opening the boxes and looking at everything, he correctly identified eyeliner and mascara before noting that I already own one of the lip colors in the Give Me Some Lip gift set.  To my future daughter-in-law: you're welcome.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toss the Gloss! Part Two

In yesterday's post I started looking culling my makeup drawer to clear room for my recent Sephora Friends and Family sale haul.  With only one tossed lipgloss and four saved ones, I'm not sure I did much in the way of making room, though I did rediscover a couple of products I'd misjudged/forgotten about.  On to Part II!

A reminder of the products I'm reviewing:

From the top going down:
  • Bobbi Brown Plum Metallic Lip Color (Party to Go Palette)
  • Bobbi Brown Pretty Pink Metallic Lip Color (Party to Go Palette)
  • Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Lip Gloss in Midnight Violet (Party to Go Palette)
  • Smashbox Lip Enhancing Gloss--Sheer Color in Lust
  • Josie Maran Argan Natural Volume Lip Gloss in Voluptuous
  • Josie Maran Argan Natural Volume Lip Gloss in Optimism
Bobbi Brown Plum Metallic Lip Color from the Party to Go Palette

This is such a pretty purpley pink gloss that I can't imagine anyone wouldn't like it.  It has just enough color to warm up my otherwise listless lips, and is perfect for really casual days.  Plus, like all of the Party to Go glosses, it's highly moisturizing.

Verdict: KEEP!

Bobbi Brown Pretty Pink Metallic Lip Color from the Party to Go Palette

This one is such a light, sheer pink that it's almost nude.  It adds just a hint of color, and like its plum counterpart is perfect for really casual weekends.  I can't say that I'd pay full price for a whole tube of this color, but it's an excellent addition to the otherwise dark Party to Go Palette.

Verdict: KEEP!

Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Lip Gloss in Midnight Violet from the Party to Go Palette

Ugh.  I'm really not sure what happened with this one, but it was a hot mess to apply.  No matter how I worked it, this color wouldn't go on evenly, which resulted in the weirdness you see at the bottom right and top left corners of my lips.  If it wasn't part of such a cute set I'd toss this one immediately, but since I love the rest of the Party to Go Palette my verdict is:

Verdict: Keep--albeit reluctantly

Smashbox Lip Enhancing Gloss--Sheer Color in Lust

This is a gorgeous pinky color with a slight shimmer that came close to being tossed by virtue of its painful, horrible applicator.  I finally used a lipgloss brush instead of the plastic brush applicator that screws into the lid because it was so stiff and unyielding.

Verdict:  Keep for the color, not for the packagaing

Josie Maran Argan Natural Volume Lip Gloss in Voluptuous 

I'll say this for Josie Maran--her products aren't sticky, but WOW do they have added scent.  I almost gagged at the overpowering cupcake/vanilla smell of this gloss.  Neither scent is a favorite of mine, and I really have a problem with adding smells to every beauty product.  If I want to smell like something other than soap I'll wear perfume, thankyouverymuch.  This vibrant hot magenta pink really doesn't do anything for my skin tone anyway, so unsurprisingly...

Verdict: TOSS!

Josie Maran Argan Natural Volume Lip Gloss in Optimism 

To say that "optimism" was on my mind when I tried yet another Josie Maran gloss would be an understatement.  This shade unsurprisingly has the same scent issues as "Voluptuous" but I quite liked the sheer champagne-colored shimmer of "Optimism."  I just wish it didn't smell!

Verdict: Keep...for now

Overall I looked at 11 different lipsticks/glosses, and wound up tossing only two.  Four more are on the fence for either scent or application issues.  I was hoping to cull more from my lip collection, but am satisfied for now that at least I've refreshed my memory about a few gems in my collection.

Later this week: a look at Sephora's Give Me Some Lip set.  Any gloss colors you're loving lately?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Toss the Gloss! Part One

In light of my recent Sephora purchases, I've spent some time this weekend culling my makeup drawer.  My goal was to get rid of products that I don't use or even really like, but the project had the unexpected added bonus of reminding me about things I really liked but hadn't used because they were tucked away behind my daily wear products.

I've always been something of a lipstick junkie, and have quite a few tubes that I didn't go through just because they're in various purses that I (again) don't use often, so these are mostly lip glosses that I've purchased either alone or as part of a set.  On the whole I've never been a huge fan of lip gloss, mostly because of the stickiness factor, and was pleasantly surprised by how many of these I actually liked once they were on.

From bottom to top:

  • Smashbox Doubletake Lip Color in Mulberry
  • Givenchy 18 elegant Rouge
  • Smashbox Limitless Long Wear Lip Gloss in Endless
  • Korres Liquid Lipstick--Raspberry Lipgloss
  • Josie Maran Magic Marker Lip Stain with Argan Color Stick in Quickstep
  • Josie Maran Argan Natural Volume Lip Gloss in Optimism
  • Josie Maran Argan Natural Volume Lip Glos in Voluptuous
  • Smashbox Lip Enhancing Gloss--Sheer Color in "Lust"
  • Bobbi Brown High Shimmer Lip Gloss in Midnight Violet (from Party Palette to Go)
  • Bobbi Brown Pretty Pink Metallic Lip Color (from Party Palette to Go)
  • Bobbi Brown Plum Metallic Lip Color (from Party Palette to Go)

Smashbox Doubletake Lip Color in Mulberry

This is a double-ended pencil/crayon that includes both the lip color and a liner, which I like since I never know which color liner to choose with a new lipstick.  It's a medium-dark maroon color with pink undertones, and quite moisturizing.

Verdict: KEEP!

Givenchy 18 Elegant Rouge

A classically packaged lipstick, this is a moisturizing magenta red that has a lot of staying power (though feathering issues if lips aren't exfoliated well before applying).  I actually have two tubes of this color because I love it so much, so the verdict here shouldn't be surprising.

Verdict: KEEP!

Smashbox Limitless Long Wear Lip Gloss in Endless
As you can see, this is a very sheer gloss that really needs to be layered over something for it to provide anything other than a sheen on my natural lip color.  It's very sticky, as are most Smashbox glosses that I've tried, but the flip side to that is that it stays on forever.  I actually wore this from around 9:00 am through 4:00 pm yesterday without retouching once, even after a meal.  Amazing!

Verdict: KEEP!

Korres Liquid Lipstick--Raspberry Lipgloss
I'm really not sure whether this is supposed to be a lipstick or a gloss, but that point is moot because I hate it.  The color is incredibly intense raspberry pink which doesn't work well at all for my skin tone, and the application is just bizarre.  It goes on super wet--like soupy wet--but dries out my lips almost at once.  Plus, there's added vanilla-y scent that I really don't enjoy. 

Verdict: TOSS!

Josie Maran Magic Marker Lip Stain with Argan Color Stick in Quickstep

This product easily wins the "weirdest application" award of the day.  It's another double-ended product, with what is literally a magic marker on one end and a tube of chapstick on the other.  I actually remember disliking the color when I first got this one, but quite liked the medium pinky red when I tried it today.  My only complaint is that the marker left a bit of lint behind on my lips, plus an odd alcohol taste.  The argan chapstick could stand to be more moisturizing, but did the job of sealing the marker color well.

Verdict: Keep--for now

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Confessions of a Nail Polish Newbie--Essie and OPI Topcoat Review

Last night I decided to try a little experiment.  After having horrible chipping all week with Chanel Black Pearl (which, WTF?) it occurred to me that the problem may not be my polish--it may be my topcoat.  The topcoat I've been using is OPI for Sephora, and if you'll recall I completely stopped using OPI basecoat after a number of very fast-chipping manicures. 

So last night I applied three coats of Essie Highly Structured to my left hand, and three coats of Essie plus one coat of OPI topcoat to my right hand.  I figured it would take at least 24 hours to see any difference between the two hands, for better or for worse.

Wrong.  Nine hours after application (two hours of drying time last night while I read a book and then seven asleep) I got my first chip.  ON MY RIGHT HAND.  I didn't do anything chip-worthy, just took a shower and got dressed for the day, and yet a significant chip popped up on my right index finger.

I'm not ready to swear off OPI topcoats after this one incident, but I'll be keeping a very close eye on both hands in the coming days to see which one fares better.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Super Sad True Love Story

George Orwell's 1984 holds a special place in my heart as both one of the few books my dad and I really bonded over when I was a teenager, and as the first novel I successfully taught during my first year of teaching English.  Dystopian fiction is hot among the YA set right now, so it's an easier "sell" in the classroom than ever, but even before Hunger Games-mania took over, there was always something about 1984 that seemed to resonate both with me and then with my students.  Between Winston Smith's undeniable humanity (and undeniable dorkiness) and the casual brutality of Big Brother, the novel "clicks" with teenagers.

That said, the teens I teach these days were born during the later years of the Clinton administration.  Even their parents were (unfortunately) sometimes just kids themselves in 1984.  The futuristic telescreens and memory holes Orwell invented for his novel back in the 1940's seems dated to a modern technology-obsessed teenager, and I've always wondered just what Orwell would have made of the Internet.  With Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, we no longer have to wonder--we know.  And it's brilliant.

Like Winston Smith, Lenny Abramov is a throwback to an earlier time--a man who floats along the current of society's expectations not because they particularly appeal to him, but because to do otherwise would be dangerous.  Lenny's story opens with his departure from a yearlong sojurn in Italy, where he ostensibly lived in order to promote his anti-aging company's products to the "HNWI" (High Net Worth Individual) Europeans.  Capitalism is king in America, which is a shame because, as Lenny arrives back home in New York, America is crumbling.  Unemployment and poverty are high, tent cities are beginning to spring up in Central Park, and the American government has gone begging at the feet of the Chinese National Bank for a bailout.  Sounds...familiar, yes?

One of the things that I found most engrossing about Super Sad True Love Story was how incredibly current it felt.  It came out only last year, so in some ways that's only to be expected, but between parallels to the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements which the novel predates, that sense that Shteyngart was writing about the here and now becomes even more eerie with every passing day's headlines.

In any case, the "love story" of the title comes into play when a girl Lenny met briefly in Rome (and immediately decided he loved, much as Julia describes her love for Winston in 1984) comes to live with him in New York rather than go home to her abusive father in New Jersey.  The two do actually fall in love in spite of their differences, and yet their story ends, as most do, unhappily.

The whole time I was reading, I kept wishing that I could teach the novel to my high school students.  Even just Sheytngart's commentary on the role of the Internet in our lives, with every character (save Lenny himself) more obsessed with the screens of their aparaats than with the real people around them, could generate some really self-reflective conversations among teenagers who act as if they'll die if they aren't allowed to text during class.  The amount of graphic (and to some extent gratuitous, in my opinion) sex precludes me from being able to share it with my students, though. 

To you, however, I can freely recommend that you go out this very day and find Super Sad True Love Story.  It's easily one of the top three books I've read in 2011, and one that I will doubtless re-read many times in the years to come.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sephora Friends and Family--Protect Me From Myself!

I'll say it: I need a Sephora intervention. 

The annual friends and family sale started today, and I've been like a kid in a candy store.  A kid with a credit card in a candy store, at that.  I'm really excited about my haul (and will be doing swatches here, especially of the newer products that have just debuted) but it's a bit...large.  And expensive.  And large. 

Perhaps I can pass some of these things off as early Christmas presents to myself.

In any case, here's a rundown of my final haul:

Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes Gold Mascara: This was a total impulse buy, and there's at least a 50/50 chance I'll be returning it, but OMG look at how pretty it is!  I've always loved the look of Givenchy's mascara brushes (though I'm slightly concerned that I'll stab myself in the eye with one) and my hope is that the gold sparkle will be subdued enough that I can wear it over black mascara without looking overly glittery.  
Sephora Favorites--Give Me Some Lip: Another impulse buy, and another product with a high return probability.  I love the Tarte LipSurgance in Moody already (it's one of my daily-wear favorites), and I have a Smashbox lipgloss that I love and adore in Endless, but I've never tried their Fame shade.  The others look...okay.  I don't see myself wearing either the super nude Kat Von D lipstick or the peachy Lancome gloss, but we all know how different something looks in the tube compared to how it looks on the lips. 

NARS blush in Orgasm: Like the Naked Palette, what more does one need to say about NARS Orgasm blush that hasn't already been said?  I have yet to try this supposedly universally flattering shade, so I'm giving it a whirl, and don't expect to be disappointed.  If I am, there's always the fabulous Sephora return policy!

Bobbi Brown Cool Party Palette and Party Palette: I fell in love with early swatches of these palettes, and actually had them both in my shopping bag on as of October 19th because they weren't coming up on Sephora's website.  Thankfully I checked for them one more time before I placed my F&F order because sometime overnight they'd been added to Sephora's stock!  After much rejoicing in the streets (actually a happy dance in my bathroom, where I was huddled with my iPad at 6:00 am on the first morning of the F&F sale) I was able to save $20 off the original price of both palettes.  Hooray!

Sephora Standing Brush Set: I don't actually have a good blush brush anymore (cheekstain has been my friend lo these many months since I started wearing makeup again) and had heard reasonably good reviews of Sephora's eyeshadow brushes.  Even if they're not wonderful, this will make a good travel set.

So what did you haul?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Confessions of a Nail Polish Newbie

I seem to go in phases with nail polish.  I'll be great about using it for 6-12 months, and then won't touch it again for 4-5 years.  When I started my latest round of nail polish purchases last month I hadn't worn polish in so long that the handful of polishes I still had in the back of my vanity had actually separated.  Ew. 

That said, I've never been a fan of painting my fingernails, just my toes.  Living in the Southwest, I can wear sandals at least 9 months of the year, and love the look of nicely polished toes in my pretty flip flops.  A good professional pedicure can last 2-3 weeks with minimal visible wear, which makes it worth the $25 expense in my book.  Fingernails, though, seem destined for chips within a couple of days.  No matter how much I spend on a professional manicure or fancy polish, chips happen long before I'm ready to move on to another color.

And yet, I really love how nail polish looks on my hands.  A big part of my new beauty philosophy is that time spent on my appearance isn't (as I've thought in the past) wasted time, so I've taken the plunge into painting my fingernails every 3-4 days.  I usually touch up my polish after 24-36 hours of wear, and four days is the longest I seem able to go without major chips.  I'd love to get an extra day of wear out of my polishes, but so far no dice.

So, this is my question to you: what products (base and top coats in particular) work best for your polish longevity?  Below are the products I've used so far and the results of each.  I'm planning to turn this into a weekly assessment of polishes I've been trying, and would love to hear from readers about which polishes you love and hate.

Week of October 17, 2011

  • Have tried: OPI brand basecoat
  • Result: Failure.  Instead of lasting 3-4 days per application, my polishes started chipping badly less than 24 hours into a manicure.  
  • Have tried:  OPI for Sephora brand topcoat
  • Result:  This seems to add a day onto my wear time, but no longer.  Frankly, I'm not terribly impressed. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Moonstone

I love Victorian literature.  I love the big, messy plots; the outlandish characters; and especially the way so many Victorian authors (Charles Dickens in particular) peeled away what they saw as the veneer of superiority held by the upper classes to look at the hypocrisy and corruption underneath class distinctions.  In short, everything most people hate about Victorian novels I love.

Be that as it may, I really do think that The Moonstone is one of those books that pretty much anyone will enjoy.  Written by Wilkie Collins in 1868, it's considered one of the first English detective novels, and the forefather of the Sherlock Holmes series.  The story centers around the theft of a storied (and cursed) diamond, and contains some truly excellent and jaw-dropping plot twists as befits any Victorian novel worth the name.

I think what makes The Moonstone so readable is its concentration on both plot and character.  The novel is epistolary--narratives that were written by certain principal characters and sent to the main investigator (Franklin Blake) after the theft.  This means readers get several points of view about events relevant to the theft, all of which combine to identify the true culprit.  I've heard that Collins began writing The Moonstone after witnessing testimony at a sensational London trial, and the effect is truly like an episode of Law & Order only with anti-colonial messages and opium use instead of quips from Detective Briscoe. 

Best of all?  The Moonstone is in the public domain, so if you have an e-reader you can almost certainly find it as a free download.  Hooray for free books!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Skin, skin, skin!

Something you should know about me is that I have problem skin.  It's mostly oily thanks to genetics, but dries out easily if I'm using a harsh cleanser.  I also suffer from a small amount of hormonal acne, even at 30.  My skincare routine, which has gotten my acne almost completely under control is as follows:

  • Wash face with Cetaphil cleanser in the shower
  • Mist with Aveda moisturizing toner after drying off (I skip this step if my skin is feeling oily, but it's a must-do if it's dry)
  • Apply makeup 
  • Wet skin, apply Cetaphil, and clean face thoroughly with my Clarisonic Mia
  • Remove eye makeup with Neutragena eye makeup remover
  • Apply Philosophy Hope in a Tube to my eye area
  • Once per week use a Philosophy Microdelivery Peel wipe to give myself a mini-facial.
  • Apply Cetaphil moisturizer as needed.
The Clarisonic, which was a major impulse buy during a rare trip to a brick-and-mortar Sephora has really made the most significant difference in my skin tone I've seen in over a decade.  As long as I keep the brush head clean (I wash it with Cetaphil at least once a week, per the packaging) it keeps my face clear of breakouts.

The Microdelivery Peel is probably my second most-valued product, mostly because I decided that I couldn't justify spending $80 on a facial once a month anymore.  The Philosophy pads were on sale due to repackaging (hopefully not reformulating--I haven't seen any buzz about it, but you never know) and for $20 I wasn't going to be too disappointed if they didn't work as advertised.  They did, though, and I'm loving the improvement in my skin tone, even beyond what I saw when I started using my Clarisonic. 

All of these products do a lot towards helping my skin look its best au naturale, but at 30 I'm definitely not going to start leaving the house sans makeup.  Tomorrow I'll be taking a look at the beauty question most heavily weighing on my mind: foundation vs. tinted moisturizer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October Birchbox

Birchbox, in case you aren't familiar with it, is a subscription cosmetics service that sends you a box of samples for $10/month.  The samples are chosen by Birchbox, and every month has some hits and misses, but overall I've been fairly pleased with my subscription.  At the very least, it's introduced me to brands and products I'd never heard of before (for better or for worse).  I've read reviews of October's box on a few other sites already, but none have included all of the products I received, and I'd like to give a few of them a shoutout since so far I've been more pleased than disappointed with them.

Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Primer in Bronze:  This received a WTF face from me right out of the box because anything labeled "bronze" probably isn't right for my face.  I am white, white, white.  Pasty white.  Never-go-tanning white.  I don't even wear bronzer because it looks really unnatural on my face.  Still, I'd read a few reviews that suggested this primer went on very sheer, so I gave it a try today.

Verdict: Eh.  It's okay.  I do like that it isn't silicon-based since I'm becoming less and less enamored of my Smashbox primer (which is mostly silicon) as time goes by.  As a primer it's solid--my makeup still looks just as fresh 8 hours after application as it would if I'd used Smashbox.  The "bronze" part is throwing me, though.  More than anything else it reminds me of NARS illuminator (see earlier entry on products I regret purchasing), which is to say that while the color is lovely in its bottle, it's all but colorless on your skin.  I'll definitely keep using the sample, but probably won't buy more when it runs out.

Juno Sunday Riley Enhancing Oil: OMG, I just noticed the pricetag for this on Birchbox's website--$125!  To say I wouldn't pay even 1/10th of that would be an understatement.  I was of Juno's Sunday Riley, and actually threw the bottle away after one use because I disliked it so much.  Imagine how you'd smell after rolling around in a pile of wood chips and mulch--that's how Sunday Riley smells.  It's a nice oil, but the smell is so unpleasant that when I walked out of the bathroom my husband did a double take from 10 feet away and asked me what I'd put on myself.  So no, not on my "to buy" list.

Ahava Mineral Hand Cream:  LOVE.  Love, love, love.  This is a thick, moisture-rich lotion that doesn't leave sticky or greasy residue behind.  The fact that it only has a very light, fresh scent is a real selling point for me too.  I'll definitely be purchasing this the next time I'm in need of moisturizer.

Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner:  LOVE.  The only leave-in conditioner I'd used until now was Bumble & Bumble's (not to be confused with their Shine On conditioner, which I didn't like and reviewed last week), which works great but is also $25 per bottle.  Ouidad is $16 for 6 oz, and works at least as well as B&B.  Just a small dollop worked through my hair (which is short, thick, and color treated) after my shower resulted in noticeable softness and gave me less frizz than I'm used to with the wash-out Aveda conditioner I've used for the last few months.  I used it yesterday morning, and even after not washing my hair this morning I'm not noticing any heaviness or residue from the conditioner.  My hair was also much easier to style both yesterday and today than usual, and I doubt it's a fluke.  This is another must-buy for me.

Ahava Dermud Enriched Foot Cream: The foot and hand cream are both fabulous products.  Ahava is the only brand from this box I'd heard of before receiving it, and its reputation for quality isn't at all undeserved. 

Verdict:  3.5 stars out of 5.  I'm still unsure about the primer--a few more days of wear may change my mind, but I doubt it'll ever wind up on my must-purchase list.  The Ahava products alone made this a good box for me, and the conditioner just sealed the deal.

So what did you get in your Birchbox?

Hark! A Vagrant!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably familiar with Kate Beaton's comics.  Beaton, a former history major and museum employee, writes almost exclusively about either history or literature, and has one of the most hilarious webcomics I've ever read (  Her new book, Hark!  A Vagrant just hit the #1 spot on the New York Times graphic novel list as well.

This book is, in a word, awesome.

The English geek in me adores her take on literary classics, particularly the Brontes.  Wuthering Heights is one of my least favorite books of all time (and considering my enduring love for all things Victorian, this is really saying something) and yet I've been tempted to re-read it after reading some of her recent comics about Heathcliff and Cathy.

As a fellow history buff I think her re-interpretations of history are equally hilarious, and have greatly enjoyed comparing her assessment of the Edison/Tesla relationship to those in the new Oatmeal book, Five Reasons to Punch a Dolphin.

I think the reason why sites like Beaton's and the Oatmeal have such a devoted (and book-buying) audience is that intelligent humor, now more than ever, has been given a voice online.  Would Kate Beaton have ever received a daily or weekend comic strip in a major newspaper?  Not likely, especially given how often her work needs pretty extensive background knowledge in order to be really funny.  Does she have a devoted online following of people who have that background knowledge?  Absolutely.  

In short, if like me you're a humanities nerd and love to laugh, pick up Hark!  A Vagrant today.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bobbi Brown's Party to Go Palette

I first saw pictures of the Party to Go palette on the Makeup and Beauty Blog, and was in instant lust.  I've been in an ongoing search for the perfect purple eyeshadow for months now, and had high hopes for the eggplant shade Bobbi Brown was offering in this holiday set.

Plus, who doesn't love twee cosmetics?

Very twee.

Shadow Trio Rundown:
  • The eggplant is indeed lovely, if a bit too dark for daily wear.  The formula is smooth, highly pigmented, and applies beautifully.  
  • The silver is very, very light.  Pigmentation is a bit lacking on this one, though I really wasn't looking for a bold or glittery silver, so this is a pretty satisfying shadow in my book.
  • The black is a soft sable, and pigmentation is similar to that of the purple.  I still had some trouble blending it--I'm beginning to wonder if my problem with blending blacks (if you recall I had similar issues with Creep in the Naked Palette) has more to do with my application/brushes than with the shadows.  Please weigh in if you have suggestions.
  • Swatches: 

    Lipstick Trio Rundown:
    • The gloss looks much redder in the tube than it is on my skin.  In fact, my first thought when I put it on was that I looked cold because it was such a cool purple. The eyeshadow I wore on the day it arrived (because of course I had to play with it immediately) was warm brown, and I have to wonder if my initial reaction to the gloss had more to do with the way it clashed with my eyes than how it really looked by itself.  
    • The two lipsticks are gorgeous.  The first is a very, very pale pink, and the second is a much darker purpley red.  Both are fairly sheer, and have decent staying power without needing to be retouched more than every 4-5 hours.  Not bad! 
    • Swatches:


      I really do love this set, but the dark cool tones of the eggplant shadow and gloss make this an evenings-only item in my makeup drawer.  Which, frankly, is exactly what it says on the box--PARTY to go.  Now I just need to find some fun parties to attend!

      Saturday, October 15, 2011

      Primers--You're Wearing WHAT on Your Face?

      Primer is one of those beauty products that sounds like an enormous crock until you try it.  Then, suddenly, you understand why everyone is spending gobs of money on something that is invisible.  The Emperor DOES have clothes, and when they work they're awesome.

      That said, some primers are absolutely not worth the money.  For the beauty newbie, here are a few things to keep in mind when you're deciding which primer to purchase.
      • Smashbox is the heavy-hitter for facial primers, partly because it was the first.  
      • Many, many beauty bloggers have talked about using Monistat anti-chafing gel (NOT the yeast infection treatment!) in lieu of Smashbox primer as it supposedly contains the same ingredients.  I haven't been brave enough to try it myself, but my skin is acne-prone and I'm always leery of new skincare products when the one I'm using works well.
      • Urban Decay is the major eye primer brand--samples of Primer Potion are packaged with most of its palettes nowadays.  
      • Both Smashbox and Urban Decay have undergone packaging changes in the last six months (Smashbox went from a pump to a tube and UD went from a little pot with a doe-foot applicator to a tube) and neither product is working the same way it once did for me.  More on that below.
      The whole point of primer is to provide a layer between your skin and the product.  This layer will both prevent product from settling into your fine lines and pores (thus eliminating cracks and creases in your makeup as the day goes on) while also providing a grippier surface for the product to adhere to.

      So, do they work?  Well, yes.  I started using facial primer (Smashbox, original formula) several years ago, and even though a 6 month supply was over $50, I kept buying it because it unquestionably helped my makeup stay on longer.  Even when I transitioned from mineral makeup to a tinted moisturizer I kept using Smashbox because it really worked for both types of foundation.  When I began using eye makeup more frequently I started applying Primer Potion (because it came with the Naked Palette) before my shadow.  I was so accustomed to using a facial primer at that point that I didn't balk at using something on my lids before applying a base color.  Like the original Smashbox, Primer Potion did exactly what it was supposed to: it kept my shadow from creasing, and it kept the product on my lids all day long.

      Do they STILL work?  This is a somewhat tricky question.  There have clearly been formula changes, and they haven't necessarily been for the better.  The consensus on beauty blogs I read (and I can vouch for this myself as well) is that the formula of Primer Potion changed when they switched from the pots to the tubes.  I never experienced any creasing at all when I was still using my sample-sized pot, but have had issues with creasing (only when using my MAC shadows, oddly enough) in the last month or so since I bought the tube.  When I use roughly double the amount of product I used to there's no creasing, but any less and my eyes look like a hot mess by the end of the day.

      As for Smashbox, I HATE the tube.  I find myself wasting a ton of product around the mouth of the tube, and the formula feels like it's separating when I squeeze it out.  I'm not seeing the same kind of chatter about this that I've seen about Primer Potion, so it could just be my bottle, but at $49 a pop I'm not likely to purchase another when my current supply runs out. 

      Do you use primers?  Which ones?  I'm clearly in the market for something new, and imagine that I'm not alone in that wish.

      Friday, October 14, 2011

      Products I Will Never Buy Again

      We all have them lurking around our makeup drawers: the Products That Failed.  These run the gamut from way too expensive to cheap and not worth it at any price, but the one thing they have in common is that they didn't work.  Yet, if you're anything like me you keep some of these products hanging around, either hoping (even subconsciously) that somehow they'll become amazing by spending some time aging in your drawer, or that they'll serve as a talisman against future bad beauty buys.  My top three worst-performing products of 2011 thus follow, posted in the hope that you won't make the same mistakes I did with these:

      #1: NARS Illuminator in Orgasm

      Oh, how I wanted this to work!  I love NARS, and I love the Orgasm shade that was all the rage this year.  When I first saw it on I thought that it would be the perfect blend of peachy color and dewy illuminating look that I'd been craving in a cheek color.  How wrong I was!  While the illuminator does look breathtaking in the bottle, there's zero color payoff once you try to blend it in.  No matter how much I used, I still only wound up getting the faintest flush on my cheeks, and I suspect at least half of that was from rubbing it in with my fingers.  The illuminating qualities are interesting, and I will say that it did make my complexion look dewy for at least a couple of hours, but for $29 I expect something with more color payoff and longevity.

      As you can see I've used around half the bottle, mostly in an effort to try to make it work any way I can because the pricetag still irks me.  At the moment I'm calling it a base and using it over my tinted moisturizer and under my Tarte cheekstain.  I can't say that it makes much of a difference, but hope does spring eternal.

      #2: Bumble and Bumble Let It Shine shampoo, conditioner, and finishing spray

      Thankfully I wasn't out any cash on this set as it was a 500-point Beauty Insider gift from Sephora.  Still, I'm kicking myself for spending those points on this worthless set of hair products.  Bumble & Bumble makes some wonderful products (their Sunday Shampoo and leave-in conditioner are two of my favorite beauty products of all time) but this stuff really doesn't live up to my expectations of their brand.  The shampoo lathers normally, but doesn't rinse clean.  You know that feeling your hair gets when you use a new product that rinses the residue of your daily-use product away?  Imagine that in reverse and you'll get an idea of how my hair felt after using the Let it Shine shampoo.  Even though I'd rinsed all of the product off, my hair felt sticky and dirty within a few hours of washing.  Since I only wash every third day, this was a bad sign.  I tried it twice, once with the conditioner and once without, and had the same results both times.

      Aside from the fact that it didn't actually clean my hair, I didn't notice any particularly unusual shine to my locks after using the products.  Even the shine spray had roughly the same effect as plain water spritzed over my hair prior to blow drying it.  Boo.

      #3: Smashbox In Bloom Palette

      Oh wow, was I upset when this proved to be a big disappointment.  The colors are just gorgeous and a combination of matte and slightly shimmery shades.  Perfect for daily wear, which is pretty much the yardstick by which I measure most shadows.  The pigmentation is almost zero, though.  I had to pack a ton of product onto my brushes just to get the barest hint of color, even when using the darker shades.  It was my first experience with Smashbox eyeshadow, and will most likely be my last.  The only silver lining was that I purchased the palette on sale, so at least I was only out around $20.

      Looking at all three products again, I'm probably most upset about the In Bloom palette's failure.  The colors are lovely, and I just want it to work so badly!  This may be worth a second (more like fifth, but who's counting?) try, and if I do give it another go I'll be sure to post some pictures and another review.

      Which failed beauty products are lurking around in your makeup drawers?

      Thursday, October 13, 2011

      Tarte Cheekstain--Never Use Powder Again!

      Like many beauty newbies, I really hesitated before even trying something called "stain" on my skin.  In my world, stains are difficult to remove, obnoxious, and stick around long after you want them gone.  Therefore, I was skeptical when a Sephora sales associate encouraged me to give the Tarte cheekstains a try.  If you've been reading my posts over the last few days, you've probably noticed that I talk about Tarte a lot.  It's currently one of my favorite brands because I have yet to try a product from them that doesn't deliver as advertised.

      My first Tarte stain was from their True Blood collection:
      In the tube this stain looks seriously scary: bright blood red, and full of glitter.  Once blended on my hand, though, the red softened to a really natural-looking flush that I knew would look amazing on my face.  In spite of my dislike of glitter and the $30 price tag, I was sold. 

      I got it home and wore it religiously for two weeks.  During that time I fell more and more in love with the color while becoming less and less crazy about the glitter factor.  I finally decided that the latter outweighed the former, and with a heavy heart sent the tube back to Sephora.

      I'll go on record here and say that if Tarte ever decides to sell this red shade again without the glitter I will buy a tube at twice the original price.  That's how crazy I am about the red.  They don't make it as part of their regular line, though, so I had to choose from their other shades.

      I finally decided on Natural Beauty, which is a cool raspberry shade.  I love the way it looks, and just like the True Blood shade it blends easily and quickly to create a very natural-looking flush on my cheeks.

      Tarte Natural Cheekstain Pros:
      • Smooth, blendable formula
      • Highly pigmented--a little of this stuff goes a long way, which makes the $30 price a bit easier to stomach.  I'm guessing a tube will last at least 6 months, possibly longer, when used daily.
      • Lasts all day and doesn't need to be retouched like a powder blush (this is huge for me--I hate having to carry around my cosmetics all day just so I can do retouches).
      • None of the currently offered shades match that gorgeous True Blood red that really will look good on anyone, and the glitter in the True Blood tube just doesn't work for anyone over 22.
      • A little goes a LONG way, and especially when you're just starting to use the product it's easy to apply too much.  No one wants to walk around looking like Bozo the Clown.
      • All of Tarte's cheekstains smell like Lemon Pledge.  I have no idea why Tarte thinks added scent is a good idea, but they do.  
      • As with most other higher-end cosmetics, the price point is really steep, especially for someone who's just starting to build their makeup collection.  Unlike some of the other products I've reviewed and deemed "must haves" (ahem, Urban Decay Naked Palette) I have yet to even see mentions of drugstore cheekstain that come close to Tarte's quality.  It really is one of those bite-the-bullet beauty finds.

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Sephora Friends and Family--Counting Down the Days!

      Sephora's annual Friends and Family 20% off sale is expected to begin in the next 2-3 weeks, and I know my online shopping bag is already filling up with goodies.  Purchases I'm planning to make include:

      Bare Minerals refillable Mineral Veil brush--$15
      • I've been a fan of the Mineral Veil since I first tried Bare Minerals back in 2008.  I used their complete line for a couple of years before switching to Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer and Tarte cheekstain, but I still love the Mineral Veil as a finishing powder.  At only $15, I'm willing to give this new delivery system a try.

      Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes! Mascara
      • I love, love, love this formula.  It adds just enough volume to my lashes (which are reasonably thick to begin with) and lengthens without making them look unnatural.  It's just a great product and absolutely worth the $19 pricetag.

      Urban Decay 24/7 Liner Travel Set in Naked
      • This set includes my daily favorite, Bourbon (shimmery brown), plus Zero (black), Demolition (dark brown), Underground (metallic taupe) and Stray Dog (silvery taupe).
      • At $32 this is a great deal if, like me, you're looking to try out some new shades of Urban Decay's fabulous 24/7 liners without spending $18 for full pencils.
      On my maybe list:

      Tarte Starlet Limited Edition Makeup Vanity

      • At only $52, this huge shadow collection seems like a no-brainer, especially when you consider that it comes with a full-sized tube of Lights, Camera, Lashes! which I was already planning to spend $18 to buy.  That brings the price of the palette down to just over $30!  I'm really hesitating to pull the trigger on this purchase after my disappointment with the True Blood palette, though.  Plus, I'm seeing some negative reviews about the pigmentation of the shadows.  This may be one I need to see in person before I buy. 
      So what's on your "to buy" list this Friends and Family season?

      Tuesday, October 11, 2011

      Tarte for True Blood

      Like pretty much every other woman between the ages of 18-45, I am a sucker for True Blood (puns!).  What I am not usually a sucker for, though, are gimmicky tie-in products.  My gut reaction is actually to ignore them because if a product isn't good enough to sell well without the name of a celebrity, movie, or television show attached why would I buy it?

      Enter Tarte's True Blood collection.

      I was initially very skeptical.  First, I'd never tried any Tarte products before (see yesterday's post about lip colors--I purchased those at the same time I purchased the True Blood palette) and I'm loathe to spend $52 on eyeshadow even when I do know and love the brand.  Second, it is SO gimmicky.

      And yet, I was totally smitten by the wide range of colors in the palette.  Mossy green, wine red, and several lovely pinks alongside matte black and gold.  The palette also offered a sample of Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes mascara (not pictured because I have since completely used it up) which I'd been eager to try.  The eye primer sample and full-sized black eyeliner were less of a draw to me as I was happy with the primer and liner I was currently using, but it can never hurt to have some extras lying around.

      So I took the plunge. That was in early August, and as you can see by the state of my palette, it's not been my most-used product of the Fall.

      Pros of the Tarte for True Blood Palette:
      • All of the shadows are quite soft, and so highly pigmented that you hardly need to pack any onto your brush to get the full impact of the color on your lids.
      • While many of the shadows are quite glittery, the fallout isn't nearly as bad as one might expect.  Definitely nowhere near the kind of fallout I saw from the glittery shades in Urban Decay's Naked Palette.
      • The colors really are stunning in person.
      • While the palette does run $52, it includes 17 large shadows.  That's $3/color, which is comparable to drugstore prices.
      Why I Don't Recommend it for Beauty Newbies:
      • Unless you're in your teens/early 20's you probably don't wear many truly glittery shadows on a regular basis.  I'm 100% no longer in that demographic, and while I love the look of glitter in the pan, on my face it looks like I'm trying too hard to recapture my younger days.
      • Even if you're in the right age group to wear the glittery shadows, they're so highly pigmented that it's very difficult to create wearable daytime (read: work-appropriate) looks using the palette's most striking colors. 
      • The "get the look" card included with the palette was a joke.  I could see Pam (vampire bitch extraordinaire on True Blood) carrying most of them off, but not a regular human living in the real world.  
      • The arrangement of colors in the palette is gorgeous, but not terribly conducive to figuring out which shades will go best together if you're new to eye makeup.  You can sort of figure out which are meant to be worn together by picking a lid color and then looking at the shades in its immediate vicinity to see which might work as crease and highlighter colors, but even that's hit-and-miss.  I'm sure experienced eyeshadow users wouldn't have trouble with this aspect of the palette, but newbies are certain to struggle.  
      Verdict:  Not for me, and probably not great for anyone in my age range who's looking for shadows to build a daily wear collection.  I'll likely buy more Tarte shadows just because I think the formula is wonderful, but will stay away from anything glittery from them in the future.

      As a sidenote, I also purchased the Tarte for True Blood cheekstain, which also left me hot and cold.  More on that later this week when I discuss why beauty newbies need to check out Tarte cheekstains as a powder blush alternative.

      Monday, October 10, 2011

      Lips, lips, lips!

      Unlike eye makeup, lipstick is something I've been moderately obsessed with for many years.  I still have yet to find the one shade to rule them all, and in lieu of that holy grail of lip colors I've amassed an embarrassing number of lipsticks and glosses that see me through the day.  I'm definitely the type of person who'd prefer to have one perfect product that I can use on a daily basis rather than dozens that I can mix and match based on my mood, so I tend to get stuck in lipstick ruts, but I'm trying hard to break that pattern and use everything I've bought at least a few times a month.

      Today's look is my current favorite:  Tarte's LipSurgence in Envy (right) with their Lipstain in Moody (left):

      Swatches: Envy on left, followed by Moody, and finally Moody layered on top of Envy (which is how I wear them 90% of the time):

      Why Tarte Lipstain is Awesome for Beauty Beginners:
      • Lipstain gets a bad rap sometimes for being drying.  I find if I just wear the LipSurgance (which is a matte) then my lips will fairly quickly dry out.  When I layer the Lipstain on top (which has a glossy finish) it's the perfect blend of long-wearing color plus moisture.  
      • Longevity:  An application of LipSurgance by itself will take me from 6:00 am through 3:00 pm with no needed touchups.  When I add in the glossy stain, I can get through lunch before needing to add another layer of Moody.  I've never before had a lip color last so long without needing to be retouched.
      • Tarte markets itself as an all-natural company.  While I don't pretend to be a chemist, I will say that at least on a psychological level it's nice to think that my makeup isn't slowly poisoning me with artificial ingredients.
      • Each Tarte lipcolor will run you $24.  That is a LOT for a single color.  If I hadn't been on a Sephora buying spree when I first discovered them there's no way I would have paid that much for a product I hadn't used and loved before.  
      • Tarte's stains all tend really pink, which isn't everyone's cup of tea.  I really wish they had more neutral/brown-tinged shades, but alas they don't.
      For Those on the Fence
      • If you're tempted by Tarte but holding back due to the pricepoint, this 5-pack from their Holiday 2011 collection may be just the thing for you.  Five full-sized shades for $29 make this a killer bargain.  I haven't tried any of them out yet, but even if only two of the five are to your liking you've saved quite a few dollars.  At the very least, this set will give you a sense of the formula and whether or not it works for you.  Best of all, it's available at Sephora, so if you don't like it you can easily send it back for a full refund.

      Sunday, October 9, 2011

      Let's Talk Books! Jane Eyre, or Why Edward Rochester is an Asshole.

      WARNING:  This review contains full spoilers--you have been warned!

      Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels.  I first attempted to read it sometime in high school, but got bored midway through Jane's childhood experiences and Lowood School and put it down for several years without finishing it.  Bad, C.  At some point between then and college I saw the A&E/BBC movie version, and became motivated to finish the novel if only for the love story.  I picked it up again likely during my freshman year of college and read through the aborted wedding scene, at which point I got bored again (and really, who doesn't find that final section frustrating?) and put it back down unfinished. Thus, it wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I actually read the book cover-to-cover for the first time and fell in love with it.

      That said, in spite of the place of honor Jane Eyre holds on my bookshelf, I find the depictions of love in the novel to be increasingly problematic every time I re-read it.  On first glance Edward Rochester seems like an ideally romantic love interest for Jane.  He is a classic Byronic hero, full of angst and secrets, and he so adores Jane that he would do anything to have her.

      In the interest of full disclosure, let me interject here to say that I have read (and enjoyed in the sense that one enjoys cotton candy in spite of the fact that it's bad for your teeth and made of spun sugar that only looks substantial on the surface) the Twilight series.  One could write lengthy papers on the similarities between Edward Rochester and Edward Cullen, in part because they both fit a very particular kind of romance hero mold.

      Going back to Rochester, the reasons I find his relationship with Jane problematic have nothing to do with his attempt to commit bigamy with her (after all, divorce was not a viable option in Victorian England) and everything to do with the way he tries to manipulate her to disclose her feelings for him without making his own feelings plain.  Given the difference in their social status, this is unforgivable in my eyes.  Jane's life and livelihood depend upon her position as a governess.  If she were to misinterpret Rochester's advances and declare her love for him without so much as a word from him confirming that he returned those feelings she could be put out on the street without a reference (which would be necessary if she wanted to secure another position).  Rochester faces no such threat, and yet he persists in playing games with Jane to discover how she feels about him.  In doing so he toys with Jane, first making her believe that he plans to marry the vapid and gold-digging Blanche Ingram, and then that she will be sent away to Ireland once he is married and her pupil (Rochester's ward, Adele) is sent off to boarding school.  By the time he confesses to the truth, Rochester has shown himself to be an inveterate asshole.  One cannot help but applaud Jane as she runs away from Thornfield, if only because Rochester needs to the importance of being truthful with those he loves the hard way.

      Still, Jane Eyre is an incredibly enjoyable read, and one that shouldn't be relegated to the "books I read in high school and didn't enjoy then" shelf in your library.  If you haven't picked it up recently, please do so!  I guarantee that like most great books, Jane Eyre yields new insights each and every time you read it.

      Urban Decay Naked Palette--My Gateway Drug to Eyeshadow

      Oh eyeshadow, how I love thee. If you had told me even 12 months ago that I would ever develop an obsession with eyeshadow I would have laughed in your face. Then I had my second baby, realized that my 20's were behind me, and decided to start putting a little more effort into my appearance. The Urban Decay Naked Palette was my ticket into a world of eye makeup that previously had both confused and intimidated me.

      First, the UDNP has been gushed about and dissected on so many blogs and beauty sites since it made its debut back in 2010 I'm going to try to focus my review less on why it's the most awesome thing since sliced bread and more on why it was such a revelation to me, and why I think it's a good investment for anyone who, like me, has never really learned how to pick colors or apply eyeshadow.

      The rundown:
      • 12 warm neutral shadows ranging from a highlighter shade (Virgin) to black (Creep)
      • Includes one of Urban Decay's most popular shades--Half Baked 
      • Originally packaged with a 24/7 eyeliner in Whiskey (not available for individual purchase, which really irritates me) and a sample of Primer Potion, but currently packaged with medium-sized shadow brush and Primer Potion.
      • Flattering with most skintones and eye colors

      So what's the big deal?  I think for me (and I'm going to guess for a lot of women, based on how quickly the original NP sold out and how well it's continued to do since re-emerging on the market last Spring) the Naked Palette is appealing because it's so non-threatening.  Let's be honest: it's hard to inadvertently make yourself look like a clown when you're using neutrals.  Besides which (and this is critical when you consider my point about why the NP is a wonderful gateway shadow palette for makeup newbies)  because so many people went crazy for it upon its release, it's incredibly easy to find tips on how to combine the shades for a wide variety of looks that even a beginner can execute.  There are literally thousands of YouTube how to videos featuring the Naked Palette, and thousands more blog entries detailing how to achieve specific looks using it.  The Naked Palette is everywhere.

      It helps that the palette mostly lives up to its hype.  The shadows themselves are highly pigmented, soft, and visually stunning in the box.  Because the Naked Palette offers such a wide variety of neutral shades pretty much every shadow is easily paired with several others in the box.   Most are either shimmery or glittery, and if there's one common complaint about the NP it's that there are too few matte shades compared to the number of glittery shades.  I've only experienced glitter fallout problems with one shadow (Sidecar, which I have completely stopped using after coming home from work several times looking like I'd thrown a jar of craft glitter on my face) though, so I'm willing to give the palette a big pass on the matte/shimmer/glitter ratio. 

      Why it's a Must-Own for Makeup Newbies:
      • Everyone needs neutral shadows.
      • The NP is highly versatile and can create looks from completely nude (aka: why are you even wasting money on eyeshadow if you want to look like you aren't wearing any?) to a dramatic smokey eye. 
      • The brush currently included with the set is a decent beginner brush, though it's really only for lids and doesn't work well in the crease.
      • At under $50, you're getting a good return in terms of quantity and quality of product.
      • As with any palette, there are shades on the NP that you simply won't use.  For me those are Sidecar (glittery taupe) and Creep (glittery black that for some reason refuses to blend in any way no matter which brushes I'm using).
      • It is $48.  Given the brand and quantity of shadows included it's a good deal, but not everyone can or wants to spend that much money on one collection of eyeshadows.  Everyone is making neutral palettes these days, and while I'm a big fan of Urban Decay's, you can find decent ones for as low as $5 (ELF). 
      In conclusion, the approachability of the Naked Palette, the ease with which I was able to find how-to videos that showed me exactly which colors to pair up and how to apply them, and the great formula of the shadows made this a Eureka product for me.  Since purchasing the Naked Palette I've gone on to purchase several other palettes from other brands, which I'll be discussing here in all due time, but the NP is still my one true eyeshadow love.