Sunday, January 15, 2017

Return of the Lipstick Diaries #2 - Lime Crime Faded and Lulu

For the next page of the Lipstick Diaries, we're testing two of the Lime Crime Velvetines: one is better in the tube than on the lips, the other is the opposite. Faded is a muted mauve that should flatter a decent range of skintones, though it might have too much white in the base for ebony skin. It applies smoothly, wears like iron, and is weightless on the lips. I also think the color is surprisingly flattering on me, given that it skews a hair grayer than my usual preferences. Oddly enough, I find that this shade looks a little better in selfies and on video than in HD photographs. Here's a selfie photo with obligatory Natural Light Abuse:

Cool, right?

Lulu, however, was not quite as much of a success for me. Again, the HD photo is not 100% accurate: it's a bit more saturated and peach in real life, but my camera seems to pull out a lot of the white base. It's another case where selfies seem to more accurately represent the color:

I think the aforementioned strong white base is the root of Lulu's problems. Lulu applied a bit more streaky than my other shades, slightly emphasized and cracked on lip lines, and took longer to dry down. These are all common issues with pastels. It's a neat color, but I think it would only really work if I was wearing dark eye makeup, which I don't normally wear. I'm considering purging this one.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

REVIEW: Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation + Full Shade Range Swatches

When you've been testing and writing about makeup for as long as I have, and when you've gotten progressively dryer and more dehydrated with age, it becomes hard to find a potential Holy Grail foundation. In some cases, it's touted as being "glowy" and "luminous," but the ingredients list contains my skin's ticking time bombs, like alcohol denat. Other times, a product will be promoted as being dry-skin friendly, but when fellow desert faced reviewers test the product, they point out that it only works for them if they pack on moisturizer, oil, and setting spray.

I'm not judging, by the way, because if you're dry skinned, those sorts of products are your primer. But if you have to layer and layer and layer to get something to look halfways decent? Then I'm likely not going to get much use out of it.

But I've heard so much hype around the Koh Gen Do Aqua foundation. And while I didn't have an out-of-the-bottle shade match with their Moisture foundation, I thought the formula was beautiful, a rare glowy treat for very dry skin. Thankfully, Koh Gen Do offers sample packs of their foundations with free shipping, so I grabbed the full range and settled in for the test. If you decide to grab a full size of this foundation, you'll get one ounce for $62 in a glass bottle with a pump.

Natural light on top, flash on bottom. From left to right: Koh Gen Do Aqua in 012 and 113, NARS Sheer Glow in Siberia, and MAC Full Coverage in NW10.

Straight off the bat, this is another Koh Gen Do foundation that doesn't have a match for me out of the bottle. The lightest shade, 012, has strong pink undertones, and the lightest yellow shade, 113, is at least one full shade too dark for me. Since my yellow undertones aren't too pronounced, I decided to do my first round of testing with 012.

This foundation has a very thin, runny texture. I detected a very faint botanical-type smell, which I think is coming from some of the ingredients; it's not especially strong and I couldn't smell it after application.

One layer of this foundation applied with a buffing brush gave me solid medium coverage. It went on easily without streaking. I was a little surprised by how matte this looked on me, however, since so many dry skinned people claim this product is their ride or die foundation, and because Koh Gen Do's website claims it will give you "youthful appearing dewy skin." In all fairness, I am not "slightly dry" or even "dry"; I am very dry and rather dehydrated. A lot of products that look glowy on others go satin or matte on me.

That said, it also looked a bit flaky around the driest parts of my face--here's a macro shot of my jaw area to show you. It's absolutely not the worst I've ever experienced, and it was only obvious if got close to my face, but it's still worth mentioning. I did get a bit of settling in to my fine lines as well, but again, it was slight and you had to be close to see it. Overall, I'd say it has a very skin-like quality to it.

I think one of the reasons so many dry skinned people enjoy this is because it's comfortable. If you have parched skin, you know how easy it is for beauty products to leave you feeling itchy, or like your face is a piece of cellophane pulled taut across your skull. Koh Gen Do Aqua doesn't give me that feeling it all. It's completely weightless and very comfortable.

Here's the time lapse photos. As you can hopefully see, this wears pretty well throughout the day. I did notice the foundation breaking down a bit on my nose at the 3 hour mark, and it had worn off by the 5 hour mark. I still think you could use this if you're somewhat oily-skinned, provided you added in a primer and/or some powder. I also got dryer throughout the day, which resulted in the foundation being visibly flaky along my jaw and in my fine lines, but you can't really tell in these photos.

That's the other thing about this foundation: it photographs beautifully. Don't get me wrong, it looked nice in real life, but it didn't look quite as sterling as it does in this 5 hour picture. This may be due to the microshimmer in this foundation, because yes, it has microshimmer. I thought I was going crazy the first time I tried it; then I noticed it on the second, third, and fourth trial run. It's extremely fine and can only be seen up close in bright-ish light, yet it still irks me a little. I hate the possibility of looking all-over sparkly.

As a side note, while this is definitely too pink for me, it did not oxidize. My skin looks a little lighter in the picture on the left because there was daylight coming through the windows when I took it, whereas the second and third picture only have the camera flash for lighting.

The second time I tested shade 012, I applied it with a damp Beauty Blender for my Glossier Black Tie Set Review/Anti-Haul post. This gave me lighter coverage, which I prefer, but I don't think it made it look that much less matte. I used plenty of finishing spray on this day to make my skin look and feel less parched.

I concluded that while the depth of 012 is just about right for me, it's way too pink. I can't get away with it. Hence, I bumped up to 113 for my next two applications, mixing roughly 2 parts Koh Gen Do Aqua with 1 part NYX Pro Foundation Mixer in White. This gave me a shade I'd peg between NC10-15: darker than my neck, lighter than my face, which is usually what I strive for.

This shot ended up being weirdly cropped, as you can tell, but I think it shows you the color and the finish better than the previous photos. Notice that the foundation is very skin-like, but yes, rather matte and a tad dry on my face. This is even with a layer of Too Faced Hangover primer underneath and plenty of Clinique Moisture Surge spray on type. By the end of the night, it was nearly as dry and flaky as all of my other trial runs. I just don't see this looking dewy or even satin on dry skin without a damn impressive skincare routine to back it up.

That doesn't sound too bad, though. No, I would never recommend this product over the Moisture foundation if you are very dry skinned, and in fact, this has inspired me to revisit the Moisture foundation and fiddle with the yellow shades. But if you are dry to combination, slash, you have a prep routine that really works for you, you'd still probably enjoy this foundation. It's comfortable, skin-like, and easy to use. What's not the love?

I'll tell you what's not to love: the shade range. The fucking shade range.

ETA: Somebody on Makeup Alley asked for a version of these swatches with an updated white balance, so I produced it below. I hope it's helpful!

 Here's the full range, swatched in the order Koh Gen Do has them listed on their website. You have three shades with strong pink undertones (012, 002, 013), three shades with neutral-to-yellow undertones (113, 123, 143), and one olive shade (213). 143 is the darkest thing they've got...and it's not that dark. As proof, here's a photo of someone wearing 143 from their Instagram:

A photo posted by kohgendo (@kohgendo) on

That's it. That's the darkest they've got. Compare that to their Moisture foundation, which admittedly had only 8 shades when I first tested it, but has since added 4 deep shades for a total of 12. It's still a small range, but it stretches much further. For reference--and again, I'm using their own Instagram--here's a model wearing their lightest yellow shade in the Moisture foundation, 112:

And here's the deepest shade, 303:

A photo posted by kohgendo (@kohgendo) on

Now, you might want to defend Koh Gen Do because they eventually got their shit together with the Moisture foundation, slash, they're originally an Asian beauty brand. But I'm not buying that. Aqua was around when I tried the Moisture foundation with its initially shitty shade range, and yet they haven't updated it. Furthermore, this brand has been available on the western market for quite some time now, and they've been selling in Sephora for at least 2 years. It's beyond aggravating that their range stops at "kinda sorta tan."

If it seems like I'm especially tough on Koh Gen Do...well, I am, because for better or worse, I hold them to a higher standard. They create products with formulas that tend to be leagues above the rest, and for that, I don't mind paying a little extra for them. But if they really want to be competitive on the western market, and more importantly, if they want to do those beautiful formulations justice? They have to work on a better shade range.

At the end of the day, shitty shade range or no, Koh Gen Do Aqua won't be a unicorn for me. I might, however, have better luck with the Moisture foundation this time, seeing as I'm armed with a workable white mixer. If you're very dry skinned, you'll probably want to join me on the Moisture foundation side of things. If you're not especially dry, you match one of the few available shades, and you're looking for something that provides light to medium coverage, feels weightless, and looks like skin, you may prefer Koh Gen Do Aqua. Personally, I'll be taking a pass on that full bottle.

RATING: 4 out of 5
This product is available at Sephora.

Monday, January 9, 2017

12 Pans of Christmas Finale and 2017 Goals

Remember me whining about how my mid-project update for 12 Pans of Christmas wasn't as eventful as I would've hoped? Yeah, that was pretty prophetic. Technically, I hit half of the goals for this project by finishing 5 of the listed products and decluttering a sixth, but a lot of the "big ticket" items are still on the list.

As a reminder, I decided to modify at least one of the goals when I realized that the Coconut Balm Dot Com is my personal favorite Glossier balm. Instead, I used all four of my Balm Dot Coms more regularly and made small dents. The other change since my mid-project update is that I decided to declutter the Bite High Pigment Pencil in Velvet instead of panning it. I still love the color and the formula, but I no longer think those flower petal pinks flatter me; I'm more likely to reach for a softer, "nude pink" shade or a full-on fuchsia.

With that cleared up, here are the goals I hit:
  • Makeup Forever Excessive Lash deluxe sample -- It takes me about 2-3 months to go through a mascara sample, but I always manage! This was a generous sample tube, so it lasted for a full 3 months. I loved the volume it provided and how easy it was to get down in to the roots of my lashes with the thin, soft brush. Unfortunately, I find that Makeup Forever mascaras dry up very quickly.
  • Nuxe Reve de Miel -- There's technically a tiny amount of balm left in this pot, as you can see in the photo above, but it's next to nothing. I consider it finished. I fell in love with this lip balm in 2016; it's now a staple and my new tub arrived last week.
  • Gold Bond Ultimate Restoring Lotion CoQ10 -- Uuuuuugh, this shit smells like a urinal cake in a jar of hippy-dippy herbal medicine, and it's so sticky when you first apply it! I finished this thing as quickly as I could back in November.
  • any perfume sample -- I actually finished two 3 milliliter tubes of perfume! The first is Thierry Mugler Alien Essence Absolue, which both my partner and I love. I'm just too cheap to buy a bottle of another vanilla fragrance right now, even at a steep discount on FragranceNet. The second is Guerlain L'Instant de Guerlain Eau de Noel Iris Millesime, which was discontinued a few years ago. It's full of iris (duh), amber, and honey, and while it's super pretty, I think it's too feminine for my personality and it doesn't really suit me.
  • any five sample packets -- I've been working through sample packets like woah. More on that in a moment.
Here are the goals I did not hit:
  • Milani Liquid Eyes pencil -- Given how often you have to sharpen this super-soft liner, I was shocked that I barely made a dent in it. It turns out I am really lazy with my eye makeup: I don't even tightline much anymore.
  • Ouai Wave Spray deluxe sample -- I used about half of this bottle and enjoyed it, but to be honest, I have bad hair and it doesn't look great with that whole "beachy wave vibe." Instead, I use this on ponytails and braids for a bit of texture. It'll last me until I die, most likely. 
  • Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper deluxe sample -- Actually, I think this little guy is on its last legs and will die at the end of January/beginning of February, along with several other makeup products. Still, I'm bummed that I didn't finish it for this project.
  • MAC Chromagraphic pencil in Basic Red -- I've only sharpened this once over the past few months. It's weird to realize how many of my red lipsticks can be applied without liner...
  • Colourpop Brow Pencil in Bangin' Brunette -- How did I not finish this wisp-thin pencil?! Lord, I wish I could wind it up and see how much is left. As with the KvD liner, I think this will be finished within the month, but because it's not retractable, I can't really fucking tell!

 So again, it's not a complete failure of a project, but...I dunno, I was just hoping to do better. Part of the problem, it seems, is that I'm so close to finishing quite a few makeup and skincare items, but once you get them 95% empty, the last 5% turns in to a bottomless pit. Surely my perception is warped by the more successful Beauty Roulettes and Project Pans I did in 2016.

With that in mind, I'll be taking a break from traditional panning and use-it-up projects for a few months. It'll be good for me to use my makeup collection as I see fit. However, I'm on a casual, year-long quest to finish as many deluxe samples and foil packets as I can. I mentioned this on Snapchat and Instagram, and for the most part, I'll be keeping track on those platforms to avoid clogging up the blog. Deluxe samples will appear in my Empties videos and will be added to the overall value of products finished; foils will simply be discarded after they're photographed.

Finishing 50-some samples may not seem tough, by the way, but I am a devoted patch tester. This could easily take up all of 2017.

Also, the $250 budget for 2017 is still on! It's already working its magic, too: I was in Sephora with a friend who had to pick up some of his skincare staples, and even though I was armed with a sizeable assortment of Sephora gift cards, I didn't buy anything. I just kept thinking, "Well, it's only January. Do I really want to start cracking in to that budget already?" Instead, I asked for samples (the sales associate was more than generous). As of this post, I've bought one product, the aforementioned Nuxe Reve de Miel balm, which does not deduct from my budget because it's a staple. Even buying that made me stop for a second! I'm liking how this budget forces me to carefully consider my purchases.

Finally, I came up with some goals for 2017! While I jotted down ten, I'm only going to mention the ones that are relevant to my blogosphere.
  1. Be less wasteful. I want to use washable towels instead of face cottons and papers towels whenever possible. I've also purchased reusable, dishwasher safe glass and plastic straws (no more disposable straws!) and a great coffee mug with an airtight seal (no more campus coffee in paper cups!).
  2. Be more adventurous! I had a rough 2016, and no, it wasn't because of celebrity deaths. (Although I must admit that losing people like Leonard Cohen and Carrie Fisher...that's still hard for me to fathom. I grew up with Star Wars and "Famous Blue Raincoat" is my favorite song.) Without getting in to too much detail, I spent a good bit of my year holed up in my bedroom, avoiding the walks and day trips I used to love. This also prompted me to spend more, because getting a package is an easy way to brighten a day. I wasted so much time and money in 2016 feeling sad.
  3. Maintain that $250 budget. It's still early in the year--there could always be a catastrophic spending spree that ruins the whole thing. To try and prevent that, I'll be updating you guys on what's left of the budget throughout the year. Monthly updates are a bit much, so I'll strive for seasonal or bi-monthly posts instead.
  4. Finish at least $1000 worth of products. Looking at what is close to finished in my collection, I think I'll make a big dent in the first half of the year, then slow down in the second half. I just hope I stay consistent instead of panicking.
  5. Save up for a new camera trip with my partner. Initially, I planned on squirreling away as much money as possible for a Canon Rebel T6i. But I think a weekend trip with That Dude I'm Marrying will make me happier in the long run. This goal should encourage me to spend less on beauty products: you can't travel if you're dropping your pocket change on your 32nd tube of lip balm or a face powder you really don't need.
 And that's it! I want this blog to continue to be relevant and useful to you, which may seem difficult in light of my "use-it-up" goals. But trust and believe, I have a steady backlog of products to review, including two foundations, several skincare products, and a slew of deluxe samples. The Lipstick Diaries has been rebooted, and my "to write" list already runs through February. My interest in what's new and my bad habit of showing you way too many high-def shots of my nose hair hasn't changed. I'm just trying to be more like Chris Traeger when it comes to my beauty products:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter Giveaway WINNER! -- redrawn

Our original winner didn't contact me, so I had to redraw another random submission. Congratulations to Alyssa M! You have one week to contact me at the email address listed on the side bar.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

REVIEW: The Makeup Eraser

When I posted a photo of my recently-used mini Makeup Eraser on Instagram and Snapchat a few days ago, I was a little surprised by how many people commented about how much they love their own full-sized Eraser. Ranging from a local drag queen to a high school friend, they all proclaimed that it was one of their favorite products and a staple in their collection.

I was surprised, you see, because I didn't expect much from this hot pink oddity. Part of that is because I'm deeply committed to removing my makeup with oil, and part of that is because I remember cringing at a friend who spent 5 minutes scrubbing off long-wearing foundation with a rough towel. It turned her face beet red and never fully removed the product, which resulted in some skin problems on her end. "A towel," I have long declared, "cannot remove all of your makeup."

But after re-acquainting myself with "no foundation looks" this past year, I've gotten in to the habit of sometimes wearing a very bare-bones list of products: brow pencil, mascara, concealer where needed, lip balm. And on those days, it feels wasteful and excessive to soak two Shiseido cottons in baby oil and run through my usual makeup removal routine. So when I noticed a mini Makeup Eraser in a $17 Sephora favorites kit that included several other items I was interested in, I decided to give it a shot.

The full-sized Makeup Eraser retails for $20 at Sephora. It's made of polyester and, as per the included care instructions, can be washed with warm water and tumble dried, not unlike a lot of other face cloths. (In fact, they point out that you should wash this before your first use.) I've washed mine several times, just tossing it in with whatever non-delicates I had going, and have not had any problems with the the dye running or the texture changing.

Speaking of texture! Each side has a different feel: one has shorter, terry-cloth-esque nubbins made to remove your makeup, the other has longer and softer fibers that apparently exfoliate. I dunno, the exfoliating side doesn't do anything for me, but I could be too used to chemical exfoliants at this point to notice a difference.

The mini Makeup Eraser I'm testing is of the same quality as the full-size, it's just smaller. I recorded the measurements as 2.5" wide and 7" long; I also compared it to a standard-size novel for my fellow visual learners. The full-size cloth is 7" wide and 16" long, which is comparable to the average hand towel. The Sephora page for the set this came in is loaded with complaints about how "tiny" this is, but frankly, I think that's silly. First, they outright state that the kit comes with a mini Makeup Eraser. Come on! Second, this smaller size is just right for one use, which is roughly how often I will use it per week. Third, the mini seems more suited to travel; I would gladly take this with me for a weekend trip.

The benefit of the full-size cloth, apparently, is that you can use one section at a time, so you get more uses out of the towel before you have to wash it. I'm a neat freak, though, so I would have to wash it after every use, even if I only used one corner. If you don't have that problem, though, then you should be able to get 2-3 removals out of your full-sized Makeup Eraser before you toss it in the washer. The company promises that the towel will last for a thousand washes, so we should be in the clear regardless.

Now, again, I would never feel comfortable relying on this to remove a full face of makeup. That's a very personal quirk: I like knowing that all of my foundation, lipstick, eyeliner, etc. is off of my face before I even touch my cleanser, and an oil-based remover gives me that safety net. Instead, I tested this product on one of my lazy days. On the left, you can see the makeup I was wearing on this particular day: Colourpop brow pencil, non-waterproof MAC In Extreme Dimension mascara, Kat Von D Lock-It concealer under my eyes and on a few spots, and some Glossier Balm Dot Com. As per the instructions, I soaked half of the Makeup Eraser in lukewarm water and very gently rubbed it around my eye area.

The picture on the right shows the result on the left-hand side of my face (the eye without the freckle): it removed the products easily. I did have to go back over the mascara with a back-and-forth motion a couple of times, but I was still able to get it off very quickly without roughing up my skin. (The surface redness you see on my nose and cheeks in the "after" picture is from me feeling warm; I didn't rub the Makeup Eraser on that area at all.)

Here's what my Makeup Eraser looked like after I removed everything. I'm gross, so the sight of that makeup satisfies some dark part of my soul. I will also note that my skin felt very normal afterward; it was not rough, red, or oily.

Of course, I got in the shower afterward and followed up with my usual cleanser. Remember that this product is a makeup remover, not a cleanser; it will not clean your face.

Now, the aforementioned makeup I wore was very light, and the Makeup Eraser's Sephora page promises it can do more: "Remove smear-proof, water-proof makeup and mascara." Hence, I decided to test it on a couple of very tenacious products, the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper and a Lime Crime Velvetine. I applied some of each product to the back of my hand and let it sit until it was totally dry. Then I attempted to remove it with the Makeup Eraser.

As you can see on the right, I was able to remove a good bit of the product. However, it doesn't break these products down as efficiently as an oil cleanser would. Also, I had to rub very hard and for a good 30 seconds to completely remove these products, which doesn't sit well with me personally.

Initially, I intended to rate this a 4 out of 5 because it does not remove waterproof makeup without a decent amount of scrubbing. I realized, though, that that is a relatively minor complaint given how well it works on more "basic" makeup. Also, not everybody is as adverse to scrubbing as I am. Overall, the Makeup Eraser is easy to use, a breeze to clean, and a relatively affordable way to cut down on waste. While I hesitate to recommend it as a go-to makeup removal option for those who wear a lot of makeup on the regular, I have no qualms saying it is a solid product for the average user.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Return of the Lipstick Diaries #1 - Urban Decay Sheer Rapture and NARS Apoline

To kick off the new year and possibly improve my chances of finishing some of my goals for the year, I decided to revive the Lipstick Diaries. This challenge requires that I wear every lipstick in my collection, photograph it, put the pictures in a post, and decide whether or not it should stay in my collection. My lip product stash underwent quite a transformation last year, so while I won't be re-swatching anything I showed last year, I've got plenty of new lipsticks to show you.
Let's start with a product from a discontinued range, Urban Decay Sheer Rapture. This is a sheer mauve-purple with a glossy finish. I don't normally go for "sheer" or "glossy," but the swatches for this one looked so good, I just had to try it. I'm glad I did: this is an easy, comfortable, every day lipstick. I'm a little mad at myself for not wearing it more! The only problem with this one is the staying power, which is par for the course with dewy makeup. Oh, and my one eyebrow is jacked up and smeared--my bad.

NARS Apoline is one of the newest Audacious lipsticks. It's a warm pink that I've been calling a "soft rosewood color," probably because my partner does so much woodworking and I spend a lot of nights listening to his internal struggles over material choices. Whatever, you know what I mean--it's a soft, creamy, not-bright-but-not-nude sort of shade. Honestly, I don't think Apoline flatters me very much; I seem to look nicer with a brighter or cooler pink. But it's just so damn pretty! I can't stop staring at it when I wear it. I'll keep this one on my radar, but even if I eventually realize it's not the best shade for me, I know I'll have a hard time purging it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Winter Giveaway WINNER!

The winner of the Beauty Favorites Pack is TaRae F! Congrats. You have one week to email me at the address listed on the sidebar.

A huge thank you to everyone who entered! Your continued support means the world to me. Happy New Year!