About the witch

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Performative selves, the ongoing conundrum

Will we ever get beyond bluthering, half-baked introspection or the once-a-month posting schedule on this blog? Such days are not yet upon us, it seems. In April I hammered out a realization of sorts - that I had become unmoored from my personal makeup style and was drifting in the sea of previously unconsidered options. I made the seemingly daring (at the time) claim that my previous style had been a mask, now undesired, and I was casting it off for, uh, non-matte foundation. It's a pretty laughably confident post to revisit and reminds me to avoid making any absolute statements for the rest of my 20s.

Look, more flowers! Don't leave!
I've had a lot of opportunities for navel-gazing since moving, what with the massive chunk of time before classes begin, lack of money for "going out," inability to make friends or even meet my neighbors (seriously, grad students - and I thought I was Shelob), and unexpected termination of my job. In between wandering campus, meeting with professors, and counting down the days until I receive my stipend, I spend a regrettably large amount of time pondering my face and what's on it. This has done me absolutely no favors - apart from encouraging my already alarming tendency to live vicariously through social media (and yet somehow never comment on anyone's posts..), gazing too tightly at one's own image is a particularly insidious sneaky hate spiral. Despite proudly unfurling the "aha!" banner in April, the reality is that losing the costume you've designed for yourself can, evidently, be profoundly disconcerting. If makeup is a form of self-expression, a mild extension of the self (as I, and presumably most of you, believe it is), losing sight of that self to be represented quite decidedly takes a few notches off of the fun. It feels completely backwards to be saying that, too, as if having a protracted identity crisis would have by necessity turned off the desire to self-express, at least for a bit. But, here we are.

I think it's pretty base to say we all perform a variety of public and private selves, in our actions and appearances. Even if it's not couched in such formal language, we are aware of the "professional" look and attitude, the "interview appropriate," the "formal," the "uncomfortable family gathering." Bypassing for the moment whether these are all facets of the authentic self or whether such a monster as the authentic self exists (spoiler: I don't think it does, but I use private twitter for those gnashings rather than further degenerate the quality of the internet), they are nonetheless constructions, of how we present ourselves, how our self-presentations are read, and the feedback loop of writing, reading, and being read. I am reasonably confident that I've maintained the ability to present acceptable selves for specific settings - no professors have been horribly offended by my aspect - but the comfort zone we all inhabit in the day-to-day is gone. Every time I go to put on makeup I might as well be going to a party I don't know anyone at and was invited to at the last minute - is this okay? Does this go with that? Do I like this? Why am I going to this party? Isn't this supposed to be fun? Given my constant need for validation my partner deserves a Nobel Prize for patience.

A number of times over my makeup-wearing years I've wished for the jeans-and-black-shirt beauty equivalent, something I can put on my face without enduring suspicion that the costume has become an obvious one. I've been wearing makeup pretty consistently for well over a decade but I'm not sure that I've ever, ever, worn the same look twice. Of course, if the "me" ensemble of choice is essentially gothy capriciousness, then whatever, but it's increasingly obvious to me that having a collection rather than a wardrobe doesn't suit my life or my desires. This is a realization that's been coming on literally since I started overhauling my closet as a junior in college, I think I've probably even blogged almost that exact line before, and yet still I'm trying to drag together a style; a basic self. If I do still enjoy makeup as a hobby then why all this caterwauling? Is my problem seriously that I have too much variety, or do I simply have way too much time on my hands? Can I get a resounding, "BOTH, YOU FOOL"

My only plan for the time being is to try to get out of this headspace and stop buying things as long as I'm in it. It seems as though the longer I'm in doubt about what I like, the more everything becomes a temptation - it could be this one! Maybe this! Maybe all of these! NOPE, STOP. I'd love some friendly ruminations on Gothademia, though I'm also trying to distance myself from having a #brand. But considering that my first signature self was based upon the desire to look as intimidating and unapproachable as possible..

Submitted as evidence: this recreation
... I'm open to suggestions. Just no shimmery champagne eyeshadow, okay? The deepest pits of my mind couldn't convince me I like that stuff.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Goes Well With Coffee: Lipgloss Ascension

It feels like it's been even longer than usual since my last venturing into the blogosphere. Of course, I did drive almost fully across the country in the interim, and there is nothing like crossing the entire breadth of Texas to cause doubts about the accuracy of the passage of time.

Not Texas - somewhere in the Sonoran Desert.
After a very long year of punishing self-doubts, financial anxiety, academic anxiety, personal anxiety - pretty much the full catalog of anxieties - I am at last in California, and preparing to start my PhD. I still have a little while before classes begin (I came out early to start the process of becoming a California resident, which is predictably strict, expensive, and difficult) and would have liked to get back to blogging a little earlier, but there was a delay in getting internet in my apartment. I finagled my way into graduate housing, which despite fairly negative reviews from older students is the sweetest of sweet deals when it comes to rent and utilities, excepting the evident timeframe needed to install internet. My housing is pretty dang close to campus, though, so I've been cruising over to use the library wifi to endlessly scroll instagram get some work done, but I've held off on blogging until I could do so from the comforts of my own home. No one need feel obliged to fill me in on any political absurdities that have taken place in the last week. I don't want to know.

I didn't bring any actual coffee to this coffee break because it's too dang hot. I've been curious about how my skin will adapt to the southern California climate; thus far I seem to be living in a state of perpetual dehydration, for which I believe I can thank the ceaseless wind, sun, and fan blowing in my un-airconditioned room. Yesterday while exploring Balboa Park I had an indescribably delicious coconut limeade (I need a lifetime supply) and while waiting for the internet technician the day before I baked a mountain of matcha cookies, so these will have to suffice.

For anyone wondering, yes, it felt borderline sinful and very wrong to casually mix actual gold dust matcha powder (I brought mine from Georgia, where it's $60/lb) into store-brand-ingredients cookie dough. On the other hand: matcha cookies. When we love our sin we are damned indeed. And speaking of grace or the lack thereof, I'm not sure how I've managed to achieve the blessings or the luck for this, but I'm living in my third place in three years with glorious south-facing windows. The sun shines upon my vanity!

Given my very spotty blogging, you may not recall that back in January I eliminated almost all of my lipglosses from my collection. During preemptive move cleaning I tossed even more, bringing the remainder down to two: Revlon Fatal Apple and Shiseido Phantom.

I've had a long-running ambivalence toward lipgloss - I like the sheerness but am less wild about the typical high shine, plus there's the inevitable goop factor. Squidgy (technical term) lip products generally appeal to me, provided they have a reasonable moisturizing element and aren't pure petroleum jelly. The two glosses above survived so many last dances because they aren't thick, sticky, or overly scented, don't seem to be a magnet for stray hairs, and are both very pretty shades with very fine shimmer. Phantom in particular still gives me heart eyes - it's a very cool grey lavender with iridescent blue-pink shimmer. I will never lose my weakness for undead glam.

Before commencing a 2,150+ mile move I eliminated a lot of excess makeup (while still safely remaining in the zone of More Than I Will Ever Finish) and specifically targeted lip colors I hadn't worn in a long time (the nebulous and entirely too useful "special occasion colors" category excepted). Of the 30 or so survivors (not counting minis) only 13 are pigmented, non-glossy, *real* lipsticks. Despite being perfectly aware of my preference for squidge I'd still somehow assumed my glossy shades to be the minority, possibly because so many of them are still housed in the trappings of crayons and bullets. I'm now struggling with the sneaking suspicion that I might not actually like *real* lipstick? Well, let's avoid absolute negatives - I would appear to have a preference for gloss.

Moreover, the lipgloss archetype of today does not seem to be the sticky, sheer thing of yesteryear. I can't even think of the last time I tried a seriously sticky lipgloss. No, that's a lie, I can - Bite Beauty's discontinued Honey Lip Lacquers, which were like their namesake in every way. Not good. Lipstick/gloss hybrids, a.k.a. pigmented glosses that aren't uneven, bleeding messes, are everywhere, and y'all, they're excellent. Sheering out traditional lipstick (i.e. as a stain) has always posed a drying issue for me (my lips = that top photo) but with a gloss: no prob, Bob. I've picked up four glosses so far this summer, all of which I'm thoroughly enjoying, so I'm here today to spread the good word.

T-B: Sephora Collection Cherry Blossom, Tarte Slay, Tarte Fave, and Laura Mercier Black Cherry

I apologize for hand swatches, but if there is one downside to gloss for me it's the ick factor to arm swatching. I learned this lesson in January. No gloss in my arm hair, please and thank you.
From left to right: Sephora Cherry Blossom, Shiseido Phantom, Revlon Fatal Apple, Laura Mercier Black Cherry, Tarte Fave, and Tarte Slay.

Sephora's lipglosses, or Ultra Shine Lip Gels, I should say, have a pretty decent mix of sheer tints and more pigmented bolds. I picked up Cherry Blossom just before I moved because I was looking for a clear gloss (shockingly difficult to find!) and it was (and still is) on sale for $7 (regular price $12). It serves my purpose (as a base for sheering out more pigmented glosses) perfectly fine, but I should warn you that it contains a laughably tiny 0.11oz of product. I fully expect to finish it next month.

Laura Mercier's Black Cherry Lip Glace (featured in my last post) is a bit of a ridiculous luxury item ($25 for 0.15oz of sheer gloss) but y'all. Bear with me through this slightly gross metaphor, but it's like literal butter on your lips. Indeed, the shade and sensation rapidly brought to mind NYX's Butter Gloss in Devil's Food Cake, which I previously owned. Going from memory, the NYX gloss is a bit more pigmented but very similar in shade, though far less *angels singing* comfortable.

What I'm really here to talk about (finally) are those two Tarte shades ($20 for 0.20oz each). Tarte has largely flown under my radar as a brand - I associate them with palettes of tasteful neutral eyeshadows and over-hyped blush. The Glossy Lip Paints were released alongside the Creamy Matte Lip Paints but they initially failed to capture my attention, in large part because the shade names have all been scavenged from the most tired of "millenialisms"/appropriated slang/Instagram lingo. I did not think I could hate liquid lipstick more until it came in shades like "Yaassss," "Hangry," and "Manbun."

 The Glossy versions seem to have avoided the worst of the bad-names onslaught, thankfully, only achieving "eye-rollingly bad" as opposed to "Namaste." True to trend, the shades span usual-to-unusual nudes and a variety of plums, of which I have two: Fave and Slay. There's another very dark black plum in the line, Poison, that I very nearly purchased but convinced myself would add to my already over-large "special occasions" collection.

Fave, described as "plum berry," and Slay, described as "orchid," are unlike anything else I own. I love them. I love them so much I'm considering going back for some of the mauvey nudes, assuming I will ever have disposable income again.

Both shades pull very purple on me, perhaps as proof of my as-yet-unconfirmed cool undertones (I've seen Fave look almost wine-colored on warmer-toned bloggers, by contrast). To compare, I swatched them against my other deep plums. L-R: Shiseido Lacquer Rouge in 723 Hellebore, Tarte Fave, Bite Beauty Barberry (LE from last summer, though Eggplant in the Amuse Bouche line is almost identical), Tarte Slay, Clinique Grandest Grape, and YSL Violet Incognito. A very sheer application of Fave most closely resembles Hellebore (thank goodness, as the Lacquer Rouges are disconcertingly disappearing), but Slay absolutely stands apart. I recall when Barberry was available, its shade description was a "muted orchid," and while accurate, I think Slay fits that bill even better.

A light layer of Fave on my face, from before leaving Georgia. Wish my hair were still that color :(. I've worn both shades out and about, as well as out to eat large quantities of fried food, and can report that they hold up well against drinking but not eating, and fade very, very evenly considering the punchiness of pigmentation. No migrating onto face or teeth was to be found, either, although I've only ever had one lipgloss do that to me. On the whole, I'm very pleased.

Do you have any particular passions about lipgloss? Or passing preferences? Other alliterative comments? AB reports that frosted lips are the next returning trend, but from my view the big thing is being really, really tan. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Goes Well With Coffee: Cult of Cherry

Hi, blog! Long time no see. I don't want really want to get into explaining my absence, as that would require putting personal details out on the World Wide Web, so suffice it to say that I was having a bad time. I do a lot of vicarious living through Instagram these days - far from ideal, but still far better than this same situation without social media.

I'm moving in about three weeks to start my new life as a Beleaguered Grad Student, and the fates have informed me that it would be unwise to aspire to a regular blogging schedule during this chaotic time. So here's what I'm going to do: I have a lot of stuff I'd like to blog about, but no cohesive theme/plan/whatever that would make writing posts less of whirlpool of inspiration, so I'm going to take coffee breaks. Anything goes well with coffee if you're really tired or really reaching; lucky for you, I'm both, so welcome to my first coffee break! We're drinking Organic Columbian and I brought fresh cherries and cherry danish.

Cult of Cherry was a MAC collection from all the way back in 2008. I have never owned it, seen it, or otherwise experienced it for myself; I'd never actually heard of it until I was mindlessly browsing More Like Space's archives a few weeks ago (and I can't find which post it was! sorry!). FYI, if you notice that Casual Weekend Black Magic has been blowing up in your blog traffic, I've probably been swimming in your archives. I do that a lot.

MAC promo image taken from Temptalia
Anyway, Cult of Cherry. It looks beautiful, and because it's been gone so long it's kind of rolled around to being "safe" to look at. You know what I mean? I don't doubt that there are some pieces from this collection still surfacing on Ebay, but for my purposes, the actual products are less critical than the color scheme. Cult of Cherry, as the name suggests, was dominated by deep, dark lip colors, with lighter options in the Lipglass line to add the juice. It looks to have been seriously stunning. Honestly, looking at the promos and swatches from this collection just made it that much worse that in 2016 MAC dumped "Vibe Tribe" upon the world.

It's been a long time since my darker lip colors inspired any feeling other than fatigue, but I had an epiphany looking at Cult of Cherry. As a part of my latterly strugs I've been constantly dissatisfied with my appearance, resulting in the constant recycling of the same grey t-shirt and sheer pink lipstick. I started considering dying my hair black again, always a bad sign, and until recently was fairly convinced that my cohort would reject me as a troll doll. As part of my packing preparations I've been trying to eliminate a substantial amount of makeup, but deciding what to keep became even more of a challenge, because I was growing increasingly confident that everything would look bad on me forever.

I'm not entirely sure what combination of factors started the slow climb out of this mess, and I'm reluctant to identify any consumable object as providing an improvement to my mental health, but the things in my life I used to enjoy I've started to enjoy again, and somewhere along that line I encountered Cult of Cherry. Quite simply, it appealed to me, and reminded me why I like the makeup I like, especially the dark shades I was so certain I wouldn't want to wear again.So thanks, Kate, for describing Cult of Cherry in such glowing terms I had to look it up for myself.

The insurmountable downside to falling in love with a long-lost LE collection, of course, is that it's dead and never coming back, but I took a stab at recreating my own Cult of Cherry. For additional inspiration, I dug up a painting I'd saved to my "blog inspo" folder before I'd even created a blog: Le Bal Masqué by Charles Hermans.

Chocolates and cherries and all sorts of decadent bits, no?

Clockwise from top: Clinique Chocolate Covered Cherry, MUFE Morello Cherry, Bite Beauty Black Cherry (LE), Wet 'n' Wild Cherrybomb, Bite Beauty Truffle, Laura Mercier Black Cherry, Sephora Cherry Blossom

L-R: Clinique Chocolate Covered Cherry, MUFE Morello Cherry, Wet 'n' Wild Cherrybomb, Bite Beauty Truffle, Bite Beauty Black Cherry (LE), Laura Mercier Black Cherry, Sephora Cherry Blossom

I realize I've missed the opportunity to have three products with the same name, but Revlon Black Cherry is awful and I was not going to repurchase it just for the sake of consistency. I did think about it, though, for about two seconds.

Not the best demonstration, but here I'm wearing Chocolate Covered Cherry as a smoky wash (let's be real, the only way I do my eye makeup) with Truffle as a stain and Cherry Blossom on top. The eyes looked a bit darker and more intense indoors - Clinique shadows are fairly stiff and dry, but they build up and blend beautifully. I've experimented with Truffle as a stain before and I love how purplish it is, but I do NOT understand how folks wear their lipsticks as stains without desertification taking place. I actually bought Cherry Blossom to act as a protective layer because using fingers, lip brush, tissue, whatever to do a stain effect is so painfully drying.

And today, wearing Laura Mercier's Black Cherry Gloss in terrible lighting. The best summer lighting for pictures here is between 5 and 6pm, which is perpetually inconvenient.

That's my take on Cult of Cherry! Thanks for stopping for this coffee break with me. Have you ever found a makeup collection that sang to your soul but was only accessible by time machine? Wish you could attend that party in Le Bal Masqué? I leave you with this illustration by Alexander Wilke for Die Muskete

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dr. Jart+ BB Cream: I like this, but.

First and foremost, I left the full name of this product out of the title, because it irks me. Today I'm reviewing Dr. Jart+'s BB Dis-A-Pore Beauty Balm, and like Benefit's Porefessional primer, the word play that also serves to boost self-consciousness drives me nuts. I am really sensitive to product naming, it turns out. Although, if you can read through the shade names for Urban Decay's new lipstick lineup and not groan, I'm not sure we could ever be bosom friends. Just sayin'.

Base products are my absolute least favorite product to shop for and I'm perpetually frustrated that my skin is not "good enough" to go without them. Obviously that's an expectation-warped reality, and while I don't have Glossier-ad-close-up good skin, I also don't think my skin is "bad." My skin is, however, a difficult creature to satisfy. I have pale, acne-prone, scarring-prone, redness-prone, combination oily to outright oily skin. I also have very enlarged pores across my t-zone (does anyone still use that phrase? I haven't seen it in ages) which I used to be profoundly self-conscious about. If you asked me what my number one skin concern was during ages 13 to 18 I would have unhesitatingly replied, the cavernous holes in my skin that clearly had their own gravitational pull and sucked everyone who looked at me into darkness. That is not an exaggeration. But let's move on.

Dr. Jart+ Dis-A-Pore claims to be an "all-in-one, innovative pore tightening formula [that] delivers flawless coverage, sun protection, and hydration benefits." It comes in two shades: fair-to-light, previously the only shade, and medium-to-deep, which seems to have only been added fairly recently (more on that in a second). Both shades have SPF 30 and the $36 USD tube contains 1.7 oz rather than the typical 1 oz, which made the fact that this is the second most expensive face product I have ever purchased slightly easier to swallow.

Now let's talk about that shade range for a second. Dr. Jart+ is a Korean brand, so this is not entirely surprising, but the two available shades essentially span "light beige" to "beige." I have not seen swatches of the medium-to-deep shade, but reviews on Sephora's website do not inspire the confidence that it is actually suitable for anyone with typically "medium" skin, much less "deep." I have the fair-to-light shade (middle swatch above) and I am pleased to report that it does have truly neutral undertones. I compared it to two other foundations that don't match me but I've been known to wear: Revlon Colorstay for combo/oily skin in 110 Ivory (right swatch) and Maybelline Dream Velvet in 05 Warm Porcelain (left swatch). The Revlon foundation doesn't look as egregiously bad on my arm, which is cooler than my face, but it has decidedly pink tones. The Maybelline has oxidized like crazy in this swatch, and while it doesn't read as orange when it's actually blended into the skin, it is definitely too warm for me. Reviews of the Dr. Jart+ complained that it really was just a spectacularly pale product (and remember, this was the "universal" shade for some time), as well as noting it seemed almost grey in undertone. That's a true beige, folks.

Before leaping into face pictures, there's one more thing to discuss: this is not a sheer product. It is a surprisingly pigmented, almost mousse-like cream, and apart from making the two-shade range that much more ridiculous, this has some consequences for application. In my swatch above you may be able to tell that the unblended edges have turned slightly orange-y. The first time I tried this out, that happened all over my face:

If you squint at my chin and neck the orange cast on my face should be evident (we're not gonna talk about the rest of the makeup; it was a bad day). This product is very easy to over-apply and cannot be fully blended in with just fingers. If you are a brush maestro you can ignore that warning, but I implore anyone who is interested in trying out this product to invest in a buffing brush. I use one by Eco Tools. Since mandating a quick round of buffing after the initial smear onto face, I haven't had the world's lightest spray tan issue again.

This is my face sans everything but moisturizer. I took these photos pretty early in the morning so you'll have to excuse the lighting, but they're pretty color accurate. I don't have any active acne but I do have a fair number of healing spots on this side of my face, plus the usual redness around my nose and sallowness around my mouth. All in all, this is my usual skin. That white stripe across my forehead is not preemptive unblended highlighter, fyi, it's a scar.

Post-buffing. If you enlarge this photo you may notice that my pores are definitely still visible, though on the whole my skin is much more even and my nose looks otherworldly smooth. This stuff initially has a matte-ish finish, but as it sinks into the skin it looks much more natural - after about 20 minutes it really just looks like skin. I formerly did not believe it was possible for a more-than-sheer coverage base product to not look mask-like, so this was a very pleasant surprise.

And this is after about four hours, with added brows and eyes. Hello, pores! I've found that while this product doesn't really fade (you won't lose coverage) it does get progressively "dewier" as the day goes by. You can rectify that with a little powder, and I generally do, but even "setting" it with powder post-application doesn't really stem the dew tide. It does keep that impressively natural finish all day long, and when I do get around to washing my face off (usually 10+ hours after first applying it, because I'm disgusting) Dr. Jart+ is still with me, if a little diminished.

So, if you're in the very narrowly tailored range of true-neutral pale, combination skin, the Dr. Jart+ Dis-A-Pore might interest you. I've been using it almost every day for about two months, and while all the claims about "pore-tightening" and whatnot are absolute tosh, this is the best base product I have personally tried in my decade-plus of wearing makeup. If you don't fit onto the beige spectrum, however, Dr. Jart+ doesn't seem to make products for you. Or, as a Sephora reviewer put it, "I think the lack of shade options disqualify a good half the population. That is sad Dr Jart." And that's the truth.

Have you ever tried a Dr. Jart+ product? Hate base products too? Would rather wear an actual mask sometimes? Tell me all about it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Beauty Obsessed Tag, a real live post!

I'm borrowing this post from auxiliary beauty, because I've never done a tag post and it seemed nice. That was absolutely the most gripping introductory sentence I have ever written, thank you all for coming, please shut the door on your way out. 

 Large happy sunflower to throw you off from that opener! 

I meant to get this up Tuesday, which was my birthday, as my original plans seemed certain of being rained out. The Atlanta weather serves to spite us - the weather people call for rain, show storm tracker maps and diagrams, actual clouds appear in the sky and look threatening, the wind picks up, it gets darker and darker, everyone rushes to grab an umbrella and NOTHING HAPPENS. So, despite seeing clouds that looked ready to burst all morning, I was able to go frolic in the roses and sunshine at the Botanical Gardens by two in the afternoon. 

 Frolicking, like you do.

But that's enough about the weather!

1. Do you remember your first makeup item?

Vaguely. I know it was a terrible black eyeliner, and I know it was from a drugstore brand - my gut suggests Maybelline, but I really have no idea. It was stiff, unpigmented, unblendable garbage. I probably used it down to the nub, because it wasn't until later that I had the shocking revelation that sometimes it's not me that sucks, it's the product.

2. What kind of coverage do you prefer from foundation?  

TBD? I don't really like full coverage foundations, at least from the ones that I've tried, but I have a hard time finding a medium-to-sheer base product that will stay on my oily skin. I do tend to wear even full-cover products at around middling coverage, though. Look for a base review in the next few days, actually!

3. Favorite high-end brand?

Like AB, I don't really buy from luxe brands, like Guerlain or Chanel. I do own two pieces of Chanel makeup, both acquired while I was in Paris last fall, but I seriously doubt I'd ever want more. The most over-represented of Sephora brands in my collection is by far Bite Beauty, who have hiked the prices of their new lipstick line enough that they should qualify as high-end if they didn't already, but I'm newly reluctant to call them my "favorite." Still DC bitter.

4. What cosmetic brands have you always wanted to try but still haven’t?

 Rouge Bunny Rouge. I am pretty damn certain they make my platonic perfect taupe.

5. Favorite drugstore brand?

Survey says Maybelline. My 4x repurchased undereye concealer, favorite eyeliner, and last three remaining drugstore brand lipsticks are all Maybelline. I will say, though, those lipsticks will not be moving cross-country with me in a few months. Rimmel's Stay Matte powder probably holds the record for my most-repurchased product of all time, but I actually hate Rimmel as a brand, especially their collaboration with Kate Moss and the fact that their base products are exclusively for the fair-skinned (as in, darkest shades literally called beige). 
6. Do you wear fake lashes?

Nope. I own some, but not for my personal use. I was briefly engaged in making puppets and liked to add trimmed sets of individuals to the eyes.  

7. Is there any kind of makeup you can’t leave the house without? 

Eh, no. I mean, if given the choice, I would rather have at least my brows filled in because I think I look a little uncanny without them, but there is no scenario in which I would refuse to leave without doing my face.

8. What is your most cherished makeup product? 

I don't feel like I can comfortably apply "cherished" to any beauty product I own. Virtually all of it I have purchased myself, most of it has no sentimental value, and the vast majority of it goes unused every day. My perfume collection is very important to me, and some bottles were gifts from my partner, but even the most reasonably "cherished" of those is actually empty - my first bottle of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Hellcat, which I very tragically spilled. 

9. Do you utilize coupons, rewards cards, and sales when you shop for cosmetics? 

Not religiously, but if I'm ordering online I'll always look to see if a coupon code is available, and if I'm thinking of making a purchase I'll wait for a sale if I know one's coming up. I do have VIB Rouge status at Sephora (and I thank my mom, my partner, and my brother for all making purchases with my account for that), but I haven't engaged in any Rouge-specific sales since getting it last year. 

10. What type of product do you buy the most of?

Ahhhh, this question. I knew instinctively that the answer was eyeshadow, but since I've been meaning to count my eyeshadows for some time and conveniently always came up with something else to do instead, I finally bit the bullet. I have, ahem, 88 eyeshadow singles (34 indie, 54 non-indie), 8 duos, 6 trios, 1 quad, and 9 palettes. AND I STILL WANT MORE WHAT THE FUCK

11. Do you like colorful shades of makeup (lipstick, blush, etc.) or neutral ones?

 Haha who knows?!?!

Historically: colors. Deep smoky shades and vivid contrasting brights. But I got burnt out on dark eyes with red lips, then I got burnt out on dark eyes altogether. I've been forcing my indie cosmetics out of retirement lately, which generally manifests as neutrals with a sneaky duochrome, but I also look like this a lot:

Speaking of uncanny, how is it possible to take two pictures of yourself that 1. don't look like the same person, 2. don't look really like you???

12. What is your favorite eyeshadow color?

Three-way tie! Cool green, burgundy, and tauuuuuupe.

 13. Is there a brand that you absolutely can’t stand?

There are a bunch of brands that I won't buy from, for reasons varying from quality control to branding. Brands that specialize in of-the-moment products, like the plethora of IG liquid lipstick start-ups, have no appeal for me but also don't inspire any particularly strong feelings. A short list of brands I won't purchase: MAC, Tom Ford, Too Faced (Shadow Insurance excepted), Kat Von D, Jeffree Star, Colour Pop (due to my own finicky feelings about their packaging, naming trends, and product longevity), Glossier, OCC, Lime Crime (goes without saying), and Paula's Choice (which I know nothing negative about, I just hate their sanctimonious tone). 

14. Do you like trying new skincare products or do you keep a certain routine?

I'm still working out my skincare routine, but unless a product suddenly stops working for me I don't really deviate. New skincare products make me apprehensive - when something doesn't work, it usually really doesn't work. 

15. Favorite bath and body brand?

I have absolutely no consistency in this category. The only thing I regularly repurchase is Yardley of London Oatmeal and Almond soap, because it's cheap, convenient, and never irritates my skin. 

16. If you could only buy from one brand, which brand would you choose?

Plot twist of the century: probably Clinique. They're boring but solid, and they represent the widest variety of products (skincare, foundation, lip colors, blush, and eyeshadow) in my collection. I could do a full face with just Clinique, and I can't say that about any other brand I've tried. 

17. What brand do you think has the best packaging?

......Clinique. I really love the floral print boxes, okay? But I'm also a fan of the old-school-glamour-meets-modern-shapes that Hourglass does for their compacts. 

18. Which celebrity always has great makeup?  

Miss Piggy.

19. Do you belong to any online makeup communities?

Not anymore. I used to be an active XOVain commenter, but it was time consuming and I had a bad encounter with a troll about two years ago. I still lurk there occasionally. 

20. Five favorite beauty/lifestyle influencers?

For better or worse, Mothmouth when she was still active, and that's probably about it. I had an art and music tumblr (and because it feels like everything I've mentioned so far operated only in the past, let it be known that I was on tumblr for eight freaking years, okay) but I don't really know that it influenced my style, except insofar that I'm an insufferable encyclopedia of the obscure. 

21. Do you like multifunctional products like lip and cheek stains?

I would if they were actually decent! In theory, yes; in reality, everything is trash.   

22. Are you clumsy while putting on makeup?

I would modestly claim that I usually do not fuck up. Fresh tubes of mascara are basically Lucifer's own tar-covered hands, but that's an unavoidable calamity of life. 

23. Do you use makeup base/primer for the eyes?

I use Two Faced's Shadow Insurance each and every time I wear eye makeup. Eyeshadow will last less than an hour on me without primer, it's non-negotiable.

24. What do you love about makeup?

It gives me freedom (albeit complicated by gender and social expectations) to tweak my appearance. And I like to think we might be edging away from "makeup exists to make you attractive for the male gaze," though even extreme IG makeup still adheres to a lot of beauty norms. Colors are pretty, too. 

Hooray! I'm shooting for weekly updates this month, so hopefully by publicly announcing that I will actually follow through!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Arcana Apples Crave Terror: A Heavily Qualified Review

Most of the month of April has now passed, and I'm still feeling uncertain about what I'm smashing on my face. When I feel like I've gotten it right (which generally means I finish my makeup quickly and don't notice or think about it for the rest of the day) it's because it's BEYOND boring. Nothing to see here, folks. I've had some fun recently tweaking my rabidly anticipated red eyeshadow showdown to incorporate understated red eye makeup that's still unquestionably red, but I'm going to move on with blogging for the moment because, for once, I have quite a few things I want to review.

If you follow me on Instagram (which I haven't linked to here and.. probably won't, sorry) you may have noticed an uptick in perfume posts. I started wearing perfume before makeup was even on my radar; I was given my first bottle (Revlon Charlie White) by my grandmother (an avid wearer of Chanel No.5) when I was probably about 10. I started collecting perfume shortly after, aided by annual family vacations to Appalachicola on the Florida Gulf Coast, where I discovered a small shop that sold some really ugly new age-y clothing, candles, some exquisite and some moderately tacky jewelry, and perfume. Walls and shelves overflowing with perfume. I would save money every year specifically for stocking up on my newly discovered favorites, and spend hours at the store (ocean? what ocean!) testing new possibilities. I started wearing makeup regularly when I was about 14, and by then I had a small but expanding rotation of scents. My perfume collecting exploded on a small scale in college after some lovely and similarly scent-obsessed friends introduced me to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and the incredibly creative world of indie perfumeries.

Unfortunately, I also developed extreme breathing problems in college, which led to the eventual diagnosis of a sinus infection gone berserk and emergency sinus surgery in 2013 to prevent rapidly advancing growths from reaching my left eye and brain. As a consequence of both the infection and the surgery, my sense of smell has been permanently damaged. The spectrum of scents I can smell hasn't shrunk, thankfully, but I can literally only smell out of one side of my nose, and not very well (prompting many a blank response to "that smells so good/bad/weird!" remarks). On top of this, I have scent-sensitive chronic migraines (a legacy from puberty) which, very infuriatingly, have not been affected in any way by my weakened sense of smell.

All this is to say, I started beauty blogging with the intent to not review perfume, because the best I can provide is, "I think this is what this smells like, but, tbh idk." But within my ongoing makeup vacillations I've been turning back to perfume, a very familiar landscape for me even if the flowers are kind of hard to smell (my life for a metaphor!). Tl;dr like hell, I read Scents and Sea Spray's entire perfume archives, fixated on Arcana, and blind bought three bottles from the Craves collection in March.

And then proceeded to joyfully freak the fuck out because I'd unknowingly purchased during a special offer window for a freebie, and thus received Vanilla Craves Spring (for free!) along with Apples Crave Vanilla, Peaches Crave Vanilla, and Apples Crave Terror.

Because my sense of smell is rather lacking, I'm a big fan of scents with simple notes: "sweet" and "fresh" are the top two basic categories I'm into. The wildcard in my chosen three was thus Apples Crave Terror, a blend of apples with Arcana's indie-famous Holy Terror, described as the scent of haunted cathedrals with notes of smoke, incense, and candles. It sounds awesome but I (wisely, it turns out) elected to not go with Terror in its unadulterated form, as smoky scents are frequently overkill for me.

I would be a liar if I didn't concede that the sassy fruit ladies were an important draw.

 In the bottle: Apples, smoke, cold stone floors. Amazingly cold for a smoke scent. 

Wet on skin: Heavy, heavy smoke. Some poor soul is in stone room with a fire that's all smoke and no warmth, they've lit some incense but spilled water on a bit of it, adding to the smoke miasma. 

Dry on skin: Still smoky but more mellowed, definitely some tempering from the beeswax candle element. The incense is never overpowering (thank goodness), but no apples at all.

As it would happen, I have some experience with smoky perfume oils, and have found that wearing them in my hair can lessen the "smoke and nothing but" experience that reigns on my skin.

In hair: Apples at last, but the dawning of the top notes transforms the smoke into something much more acrid and closer to Camel than cathedral. 

I'm going to test this one out on my partner, and if they like it, I'll probably pass it on. It's a banging smoke and candles scent but I haven't yet figured out a way to wear it that I can breathe through. 

Talk to me about perfume! I'm searching for a strawberry one right now, if anyone has recommendations! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Deep End of an Existential Crisis: Seriously, What Happened to Me

I thought I was going to have to at least go back a page in my blog history to find this, but no, I post so infrequently that I just had to scroll down. In November I wrote about my unenthusiasm for most of my more colorful makeup. At the time, I attributed my lack of interest to a number of factors, but largely an unnecessary and self-imposed restriction on colors in favor of a more neutral palette. Reading through my blog history (which took not even 10 minutes, cry cry) my condemnation of neutrals and insistence upon adhering to la mode gothique are very present themes, probably tediously so. My conclusion in November was that I just needed a kick in the pants - to stop pretending I needed to meet an arbitrary standard of professionalism in my at-home job, and to stop being so lazy if these were things I really wanted to be wearing.

Throughout the month of March my makeup usage scaled waaaaaaay down. I was traveling during the first week, and extremely sick the week and half following, so for a time I just didn't give a shit (blessed peace!). Then I was busting out a revised draft of my first co-authored paper. Then I was swimming in data analysis. Then my partner visited. Then I was helping with a big family Easter. Then, and concurrently, spring happened in a major way down south, all flowers, pollen, and sunshine all the time. Then, then, then. I wore makeup consistently during these shenanigans, but in a dramatically different style than what I've come to think of as "mine." On the first 80 degree day I made it a priority to find a light base product, preferably with SPF, and subsequently have tried three (mixed successes). I've been too busy to plan and execute looks involving more than two eyeshadows, and have found that big ol' eye looks don't work well with a less-than-immaculate base. Similarly, big ol' lip looks have been traded in for softer, less jarring sheer shades. About a week ago, I capitalized on some free time to knock on an incredibly typical, familiar, second-nature smoky eye, and found myself text-message-fretting to my partner that I'd done something horribly wrong and Didn't Look Like Myself.

Now. Without going too deeply into the wonderful world of makeup-wearers being accused of wearing makeup to 1) hide themselves, 2) trick men, 3) otherwise be "fake," 99% of the crap I have put on my face in the last 12 years has been intended to make me look like someone else. Not quite alter-ego territory, but also not quite me; me, but on a really good day in a fantasy parallel universe where I look/feel/am much more badass. This is why Into the Gloss's marketing totally slides off of me - my personal makeup philosophy frames it as a costume. Let me reiterate that this is personal. This is how I, personally, have approached virtually all of the makeup I've used over the last decade-plus-some. For illustration, here's a before/after example from a couple of months ago (HUGE photo warning):

This was an acceptably neutral look for me. No blue, no green, no red eyeshadow (current crisis notwithstanding, that series will go on). I know there's a lot of polarization around referring to makeup as a mask; I am going to do so here because that is what I intended it to be. I have been working on reshaping my face using cosmetics for a very long time. Historically, this has meant: full cover foundation, dramatically filled in brows, huge dark swathes of eyeshadow, and non-negotiable color of some kind on my lips (please note their dead and bloodless appearance). This whole parade of products never bothered me in the slightest, never gave me any kind of anxiety or doubt, never made me feel uncomfortable about crafting a different face every day because that was the point - and it was fun! This is not a damnation! I love having these kinds of options about how I want to present myself. I don't think that will change.

What did change is that I think I'm facing makeup exhaustion. Not to be confused with over-saturation (my wishlist, she runs wide and she runs deep), nor given the dubious honor of "maturity" (if you think of colorful or intense or "instagram-worthy" makeup as immature, please just leave). If I've put more than five products on my face at this point (and that includes base, eyebrows, concealer, and all color products) I am truly exhausted; it's not fun, it's not satisfying, and the more extreme the end result the more likely I am to completely dissociate from it. I've hit upon a sort of happy medium in which I allow myself to pick three color products (generally eyes, lips, cheeks) and either just use those + base&brows, or add in small amounts of extras once I've used the three. It works so well. Simplicity is so nice! I've been steadily rediscovering my one true love, taupe, whom I broke up with in college because I'd absorbed a pervading notion that taupe is boring. Lies!!! Slander!! Also, who cares!!!

(Me. I cared. So much.)

Here I am this morning. I am wearing a grand total of seven products on my face (not including eyeshadow primer, which is basically a second skin): Dr. Jart Dis-A-Pore BB Cream (duuuuuumb naaaaame groooaaaan), Milani's brow pen in Natural Taupe, Maybelline DreamLumi concealer in Ivory, NARS eyeshadow in Ashes to Ashes, Sephora Collection Rouge Shine in #37 Sweet Dreams, a Clinique highlighter sample, and Lancome Definicils.

In retrospect, when I bought Ashes to Ashes last fall and promptly adored it, I should have realized that change was a'coming. And in deference to full disclosure, I have made some skincare changes between then and now, but my makeup-less face still looks essentially the same as above.

Here's a short list of things I have realized in the past week:
  1. Matte foundations are incredibly unflattering, dear god.
  2. I dislike almost all of my purple and teal eyeshadow.
  3. Sheer lipsticks and tinted balms are my most used and most represented lip colors.
  4. Stop trying to believe you like super dark and pigmented lipsticks, it's not true, please get with it
  5. Matte foundations are INCREDIBLY unflattering
  6. Using more than two (maybe three) eyeshadows at once is annoying and makes me annoyed with myself
  7. I've been wearing at least double the amount of under-eye concealer I should, to balance out literally blacking out my eyes
  8. I don't actually love how I look with blacked out eyes
  9. Matte foundations are so bad
Apart from losing some of the weight of products on my face, I'm also ready to lose some of the weight of products in my life. I'm not sure how that will work out yet, because I don't feel ready to part with a lot of things, but I'm moving cross country in a few short months and am not taking my cosmetics dragon horde with me. I also know that at least some of this awkward transition is due to experiencing a southern spring for the first time in five years, so I'm likely more attached to some of my darker shades than the tulips blowing in the breeze outside are allowing me to realize.

I don't really know how to coherently wrap up this stream-of-thought exercise. Have you ever subconsciously changed your makeup style? If I pile together everything I don't want and do a giveaway, would anyone be willing to take that much purple and teal eyeshadow?