Thursday, November 23, 2017

How I Pick My Scent of the Day

I've gotten used to owning a wide range of fragrances, mostly in the form of samples or splits, and switching up my scent regularly. This is different from most of my friends: they own one or two perfumes that they wear daily like a signature. Unlike them, I have to make a conscious choice as to what I want to smell like that day. I've done this for so long that it's become sort of intuitive to me--I know what will and won't work for whatever I'm doing--but there is a method behind the madness.

Before we get too engrossed, let's break down a couple of definitions for those of you who are newer to fragrance.
  • Sillage (usually pronounced "see-ahj") refers to a fragrance's longevity. Opinions vary as to what constitutes good sillage. Personally, I think anything that lasts for more than 8 hours has strong sillage, less than 4 is low sillage, and everything in between is average.
  • Projection refers to how much a fragrance "pushes off" of the skin. If you can smell someone's perfume from across the room, they've either bathed in it, or they're wearing a couple of sprays of something with very strong projection. 
  • Notes are the individual scents that make up a perfume. Most fragrances contain three "levels" of notes: top or head notes are smelt immediately and usually fade quickly, middle or heart notes make up the majority of the fragrance, and base notes are the long-lasting, underlying smells that support the rest of the perfume and/or become apparent at the end of the perfume's lifespan.

I won't lie to you: this post is partially an excuse for me to post a bunch of charts. I love charts. So let's start with this first chart, which breaks my fragrance collection in to four broad categories. I've provided a few examples in each category for clarification.

Now, you must remember that this isn't an exact science. The four categories I created for this post are far from inclusive; there are fragrances that could be put in multiple slots, and each slot contains fragrances that smell very different. Commodity Book and Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance are nothing alike in terms of notes, projection, sillage, or overall feel. But I tend to wear them in very similar situations, which is why they're in the same group.

For clarity's sake, I'm going to briefly describe the types of scents in each category using broad terms. The first category in yellow features citrus and fresh/clean smells. These are the sorts of fragrances my mother loves. They tend to be "bright" and clean without smelling soapy; they're usually very light and inoffensive. Examples include Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, which reminds me of orange juice; L'artisan Mure et Musc Extreme, a very classy mixture of tart berry and smooth musk; and Thierry Mugler Womanity, which is a salty, oceanic smell. The sillage and projection in this group tends to be quite low.

Next are the white or light florals and "sheer" sweets. By sheer sweet, I mean that they are sugary and fresh versus syrupy. Examples include By Kilian Love, which smells of spun sugar and candied flowers; Dame Perfumery Desert Rose, a rose-water-in-a-bottle fragrance; Montale Intense Cafe, a sweet vanilla and rose with a hint of coffee for interest; and Tokyo Milk Tainted Love, which smells of sweetened tea. Note that none of the florals in this category are especially powdery; these types of smells are generally smooth and rarely have much texture.

The third category includes gourmands, rich scents, and fragrances with a lot of spice. Again, we're talking about some very different fragrance profiles, but because I tend to wear them in the same situations, I've grouped them together. On the rich side, we have Hermes Ambre Narguile, which wraps you in warmth and sweetness. On the spicy side, we have Commodity Book and Dame Perfumery Dark Horse; they both have a "dry spices cracking on the autumn wind" sort of vibe. I'd put Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance in the middle: there's sweetness and richness from the vanilla and amber base, and the patchouli and rose add some texture.

The textured, thick, complex or unusual category encompasses my more "artisan" fragrances, the kind of stuff that people who aren't in to perfume tend to hate because it can be weird or strong or this-smells-like-nothing-in-nature-ish. Notes that tend to be very heavy, textured, or enveloping usually push a perfume in to this category. These notes include rich vanilla, which makes up the base of Thierry Mugler Alien Essence Absolue and Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille; leather, with a suede variety dominating Papillon Anubis and a more chemical sort blended in to House of Matriarch Black #1; tobacco, patchouli, myrrh, and oud are also common. I admit that these are the sorts of fragrances I'm inherently drawn toward. For the most part, fragrances in this category have strong sillage and powerful projection.

The most important factor in what fragrance I'll wear that day is whether or not I'm leaving the house. I'll never forget when a fragrance reviewer's FAQ video included the statement, "I want my fragrance to fill up a room; I want everybody to smell me." It's the opposite of what I want. Not only do I dislike the idea of dominating a room, I also know that not everybody likes the same fragrances. Personally, I just don't want to force myself on anyone, and that includes my smell.

This is especially important when you consider my jobs. I teach and work at a doctor's office; in both instances, I'm working closely with a lot of different people. Their tastes will vary, yes, but more importantly, they're stuck in a situation where they cannot get away from me. So if a student hated my perfume or had severe allergies, but I decided to "fill up the room," they'd be shit out of luck.

Lastly, I used to deal with chronic migraines. While perfume wasn't a trigger, smelling a really strong, nose-piercing smell absolutely made the pain worse. I'll never forget the time I had a migraine in a clothing store: a woman wearing boat loads of Thierry Mugler Angel (one of the strongest designer perfumes I've ever encountered) walked past me, and the smell was so strong, it felt like I was being stabbed in the face. Fighting weekly migraines has made me more cognizant of things within my control that might trigger problems for others.

The above flow chart breaks down my basic thought progress. If I'm not going anywhere, I'll wear whatever I want. If I'm going to work, I only use fragrances from the yellow and orange categories, since they usually have less projection and shorter sillage. And if I'm going somewhere else, like to the store or to the bar, I let the weather guide my choices.

This is where things get interesting. As I mentioned earlier, I'm drawn to rich, thick, spicy smells. Perfumes with leather and vanilla are my krytonite. But when it's 98 degrees outside and the humidity is past 80%, wearing something as heavy and enveloping as Mugler Alien Essence Absolue is a bad move. Not only will it feel weird to wear something so "warm" on an already hot day, but the hot weather makes the fragrance project even more. And while being hugged by a vat of vanilla and amber is awesome on a cold day, nobody wants that in the middle of a Pennsylvania summer.

The weather is the final deciding factor in my fragrance choices. As the above chart shows, I don't wear those light, citrus-y fragrances all that often. This is partially because they're Not Usually My Thing; I just find them too thin and fleeting. But in the summer, that's exactly what I want. Perfumes like Atelier Cologne are sort of refreshing on a hot day. And as gross as it sounds, I've long said that Mugler Womanity smells like "sexy sweat," so if you're going to sweat like crazy anyway...

Spring and autumn are the most flexible times of year, since the temperature in Pennsylvania tends to stay in the "temperate" category with occasional shifts to slightly cold or slightly hot. For example: this past October, I wore Dame Perfumery Desert Rose on a shopping trip, then switched to House of Matriarch Black #1 when I went to a drag show later that note. It was relatively temperate that day, so I had no qualms about jumping from something as light and feminine as Desert Rose to the very complex and weird Black #1.

Winter is my favorite time for fragrance because I can use my perfumes to add a feeling of "warmth." Scents like Papillon Anubis are especially lovely sprayed on your favorite sweater. I never wear those lighter citrus smells in the winter, even if I'm going to work, because it just doesn't feel right. If I want a perfume to wear to work on a snowy day in December, I'll reach for something like Tokyo Milk Tainted Love Instead. It's too chilly to smell like oranges.

At the end of the day, you should wear what you want when you want, though I always recommend taking those around you in to consideration. Fragrance is just so incredibly personal. But there's a thought process behind what I choose, and perhaps it will be helpful to those of you struggling to pick the perfect bottle for your day ahead.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

VIDEO: First Impressions - Colourpop, MAC, Besame

(To watch in full screen, start the video, then click the "YouTube" icon.)

This glorious thumbnail deserves a post of its own. I'M SO GLAMOROUS.

Anyway! In this video, I'm testing out the Colourpop Brow Boss pencil, MAC Upward Lash mascara, and Besame Cream Rouge for the first time. (A full review of the Besame blushes is coming soon!) Enjoy my many mistakes and my terrible hair.

The Besame cream blush was sent to me by Besame. As I made clear to the company, I only write honest reviews. I do not accept financial compensation for my posts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I Only Bought Two Things from the Sephora VIB Sale, and That's Okay

Last night, I came home from work and walked right past my unopened box from Sephora. This was partially because I was really sick--I have some kind of virus and I was in the beginning stages of a migraine to boot--but it was also because I didn't think it was critical to rip the box open right away. I knew what was in there. I knew it wasn't going anywhere. And I no longer get the same "OMG PACKAGE YAY" thrill that I felt a year or so ago.

That's not to say that I dislike receiving things in the mail, or that I'm unmoved by new products. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that receiving a box of Besame PR a couple of weeks ago gave me ALL THE FEELS. But I think staying on a budget, downsizing my collection, trying to finish up products, and carefully considering my spending habits has made me less dependent on buying things to be happy. I like getting new stuff, but I don't have to get new stuff to enjoy my day.

This is especially relevant as a blogger: we feel pressured to try the newest and shiniest stuff (or at least some of it) to keep up and stay relevant. But the weird thing is that, whether I'm evaluating a product that has been reviewed to death or posting about something that doesn't seem to get a ton of buzz, people still read the blog and I still enjoy writing it. I never got in to blogging to be popular; I got in to it because it's a fun hobby and I thought I could be of some help to people. Newest releases or no, BOGL is doing just fine.

All rambling aside, my point is this: I used my last $50 gift card and paid less than a dollar out of pocket during this sale, and I don't mind. Of course, there are other things I would've liked to try, and getting them at 20% off would be preferable. But they're not necessary. I have a ton of stuff to use and to test and to write about. I mean, just look at my overflowing sample/to-try box:

Yeah, I've got a lot of work to do.

Any time VIB rolls around, I see people flooding the forums asking for suggestions on what to buy, or YouTubers posting "my VIB recommendations" videos, or panicked "BUT I ONLY WANT TWO THINGS!" Reddit posts. I'm not saying these are inherently terrible things; one of the perks of being in a "beauty community" is receiving recommendations for products you might have missed otherwise. But what always gets to me is people saying they want to buy things just because there's a sale and they feel like they have to buy. "There's nothing I want from Sephora VIB; help!"

Is that such a bad thing? Yeah, 20% off is nice if you have a few things you want to get or you spotted something new but expensive you'd like to try. I held off on buying my two products (a moisturizer and a self tanner) because I would prefer to get them at 20% off. But if I hadn't bought them? That's fine. Missing a sale is not the end of the world. Skipping a couple of new products isn't scary when you have lots of great stuff already. And there will be another sale next year. Again, it's that terrible FOMO ("fear of missing out") that sales like this capitalize on, that beauty marketing depends on, that so easily suckers us in to spending money we don't have to spend.

To be very clear: I am not ragging on people who spent a lot at this sale. I know people personally who have spent nearly $1000. The difference, I think, is that the people I know didn't purchase things for the sake of purchasing them. They actually waited several months to stock up on their staples, replace favorites, and try new things. That's fine! And it's fine if you bought a ton of stuff you legitimately want. Rather, I think we should be wary of participating in a sale and spending a lot just because we feel like we should spend-like-woah during a sale.

The 2017 VIB sale ends tomorrow. I know this. And on impulse, I went through my favorites list and added a few things to my cart. I typed in the coupon code. I looked at the final price. And I realized that I just don't want to spend the money on those things right now. I don't need more cream eye shadows. I don't need an eye cream. I don't need another candle. I might buy them eventually, and it's likely I won't have a coupon for them at that time; my VERB Leave In Mist will cost me  the full $18 instead of a slightly reduced $14.40. That's okay.

Friday, November 10, 2017

FOTD: New-to-Me Besame Reds

It's very rare that I feel compelled to write a company and tell them I love their products, but Besame's lipsticks have wowed me to that point. So I shot them a quick email expressing my love, making sure to add that I've tried a squillion lipstick formulas at this point and nothing has quite compared. Imagine my shock when they replied, said they loved my blog, and would like to send me a few more things to try.

Maybe "shocked" isn't the best description. I was stunned, then elated, then suddenly insecure because I felt unworthy, then proud of myself because BESAME NOTICED ME AND THEREFORE I'VE MADE IT AS A BLOGGER.

They mentioned sending a few lipsticks in the bundle, and since I'm nothing if not thorough, I sent them the long list of Besame shades I've already tried and photographed. I openly admit that I was holding out for one of their warm reds, like Carmine or Tango Red, but I knew I'd be excited about whatever they sent me. I also assumed they'd send along 1920 Besame Red, since...I mean, it's named after their brand.

Sure enough, they sent a tube of Besame Red (on the left) along with a tube of 1933 Merlot (on the right). I actually hadn't noticed Merlot until recently, but it looked really beautiful in swatches, so I was beyond thrilled to receive it. For the record, I've already reviewed the Besame formula, but here's a quick summary: dense but not heavy, opaque, not overly drying on the lips, great staying power as long as you apply-blot-reapply (which I do with all of my traditional lipsticks, anyway), applies smooth as silk, photographs like a dream, creamy satin finish. The only shade I've tried thus far that hasn't fit this description is Noir Red, which I found drying, smeary, and not as smooth to apply.

1920 Besame Red is not the sort of red I'm immediately drawn to, but it's definitely lovely and flattering. It leans cool toned and has a muted quality that gives it a certain softness. Of all of the Besame shades I've tried, Besame Red somehow feels the most "vintage" to me. I like this one best with a relatively simple makeup look, since it's so beautifying and classic.

I have a slight preference for 1933 Merlot, which is a deep shade with a brick-brown side to it that makes it very striking and lush. (My mother said it looks "rich," which is probably the simplest yet most apt description.) Because it's a more glamorous shade, I like it with a little more on my eyes. Usually, that means winged eyeliner, but on this particular day, I decided I have a lot of nice powder eyeshadows and I should probably use them more. And since I lack eyeshadow application skills, I basically just smeared them on. If it works, it works.

Frankly, when it comes to Besame's red lipstick range, neither of these tops my beloved Victory Red, but that's a tough shade to beat. I do think Besame Red would be a better option for light to medium skinned people who found Victory Red too bright, and Merlot will look especially stunning on deeper skintones. Thanks to these two shades, my love of Besame lipsticks has only grown.

These lipsticks were sent to me by Besame. As I made clear to the company, I only write honest reviews. I do not accept financial compensation for my posts.

You can purchase these shades on the Besame website.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

REVIEW: Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Concealer

I have sought my perfect concealer for years. I've found plenty that I've really loved, like the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer and the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer, but I've yet to find that one pot or tube that made me say, "Ooooh, yes, that's the one." So when something like Tarte Shape Tape (which is what everybody actually calls this concealer) hits the scene and causes a fervor, I take notice.

Then I actually watched people applying it, and I shrank back. As the name suggests, this concealer is targeted at and marketed for a more "full on" look. That means you apply copious amounts of concealer at strategic points on the face to create shading and highlighting. See how Nikkie Tutorials uses it in this tutorial for a clear example:

Oof. I have nothing against Instagram-style, really dramatic makeup, but I've never been able to do it on my face. It just feels like way too much. And that amount of concealer is definitely going to look bizarre on top of my generally sheer foundations.

Of course, you don't have to apply that much product, and that's what kept me vaguely interested. Promise me "hydrating full coverage" spot concealing, guys, and I'm there. But then I realized that this product was (at the time) exclusive to Ulta, and once again, I was turned right off. I just don't shop at Ulta much, well-loved rewards system be damned. I'm especially unlikely to shop there if I'm only buying one product, since they tack on $5 worth of shipping, and no amount of marketing technique awareness can get me past that. Eventually, I noticed the shade I'd need (Fair) going for a reasonable price on a blogsale, so I went for it. (Side note: the seller apparently reads my blog, so hi!)

Natural light on top, flash on the bottom. From left to right: Tarte Shape Tape in Fair, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx01, Colourpop No Filter Concealer in Fair 5.

Tarte Shape Tape retails for $27 for 0.33oz of product housed in a clear plastic tube. A third of an ounce is pretty hefty for a concealer, though if you're using it as a shaping product a la Nikkie Tutorials, you might go through it faster. The applicator is a large doe foot--more on that in a moment. There is a fragrance here, though I can't put my finger on what exactly it smells like; you can't smell the product after application.

In terms of shade, Fair is very similar to NARS Chantilly and Kevyn Aucoin Sx01. I'd say the Tarte is the same depth-wise, but has a bit less yellow in it. All three shades work well with my NC10-ish foundations. The shade range runs from uber fair to quite deep, but as with most Tarte products, the shade options really taper off at the darker end of the spectrum. I'm hoping they'll expand the range.

This product has a bit of a learning curve. If you want a more natural look, you'll have to wipe off the doe foot as much as you can, then dot the concealer only where needed. This is pretty full coverage stuff, so a little goes a long way. Apply too much over a natural base (which is what I favor), and you'll end up with a weird mask-like effect. The image above shows how much I normally use: two small dots under each eye (with a bit of a dewy corrector in the deepest part of my undereye hollows) and teeny dabs on any redness or blemishes.

Blending can also be tricky. If you have more oily skin or a really emollient base, you might find it easier to pat this out with your finger. I personally like to put a bit of moisture in to the concealer, and again, to make it look more natural. So I start blending it out with a damp Beauty Blender sponge, tap with my finger once the concealer is moistened, then finish with the Beauty Blender again. It sounds difficult, and it's certainly not as easy to apply as my NARS concealer, but it really only takes a few seconds. I think the end effect is worth it.

The biggest issue I have with Tarte Shape Tape, and the thing that made it difficult for me to use at first, is the absolutely enormous doe foot applicator. Again, this is marketed more toward people who want to shape and sculpt with it in a full-coverage look, so I get it. You're supposed to drag the flattened tip across your face to make actual stripes. But if you're trying to be more sparing with your application, this massive applicator makes it tough. It's legitimately huge in comparison to a more standard applicator, like that of the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. I've taken to using just the very tip of the doefoot and applying almost no pressure to my skin; even then, I can sometimes apply a little too much.

When it's all said and done, I honestly like the Tarte Shape Tape. I think it does a great job of concealing my blemishes without looking too dry or heavy, provided I use a light hand, and the Fair shade is a great match for me. I just wish they'd reconsider the applicator and add more to their shade range.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Anti-Haul (aka "What I'm Not Going to Buy"), Seventh Edition

The holidays are coming, which amounts to plenty of pointless collections and collaborations to fuel a final 2017 Anti-Haul. Unlike many of my other anti-hauls that focus on products I've talked myself out of, this post will feature a number of products that I have zero desire to buy. But frankly, I don't think you should buy them, either. Hence, anti-haul!

As always, these posts are not meant to make you feel bad for liking a product or spending your money; I'm just trying to think carefully about my own consumerism and maybe encourage you to think carefully about yours. Once again, mad props to Kimberly Clark for popularizing and promoting the Anti-Haul movement!

1. Any of these shitty "I'm Really Only Meant for Cool Instagram Photo" masks, especially the GlamGlow collab with the Power Rangers franchise ($29) and this Too Faced "Glow Job" nonsense -- Look, I totally love to browse #masking, but the current trend of creating products that are really only meant to look cool in selfies is starting to bug me. It'd be fine if unicorn frappes had tasted good, but they were actually vile sugar bombs; the same goes for masks like this, which do nada for your skin. No mask is going to truly firm your skin. The ingredients list for this GlamGlow product make me think it'll provide some softening and plumping that will temporarily give the illusion of firming, but it won't last more than a day or two. And again, we all know that the real draw for products like this is that they look cool in pictures. The same goes for glitter masks, like Too Faced's proposed "Glow Job" mask. Obviously, the name is just obnoxious, but I find the idea of rubbing what looks like glitter hair gel all over my skin even more repulsive. Speaking of repulsive: the only good part of the new Power Rangers movie was this delightful Rita Repulsa x Krispy Kreme moment:

Beyond that, let these masks die alongside the franchise, please.

2. NARS x Man Ray Love Triangle Blush/Lipstick Sets, $24 each -- I actually think some of these sets look really beautiful, and $24 is a nice value for a blush and lipstick with great formulas. In fact, when I found out these were being released, I totally planned to break my lipstick no buy and snag one during the upcoming Sephora VIB sale. But then they released the packaging, and I'm deflated. I know that Man Ray's photography had a minimalist quality to it that they're trying to mimic here, and it's not awful, but compare these sets to some of the packaging from the rest of the range. and you'll see why I'm disappointed.

(This photo is from Chic Profile.)

Check out those palettes! And how gorgeous is that round lipstick coffret? If you wanna give me Man Ray, give me Man Ray!

3. CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops Vault, $235 -- If you like shimmery, almost metallic, high-impact highlighters that will beam like the sun in July, it's hard to top the CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops. That description alone might make a set like this tempting, but stop and look at how much product you're getting. Each bottle contains half an ounce of highlighter, and there are 7 bottles in the set. That amounts to 3.5 ounces of liquid highlighter. Speaking as somebody who is still working through a one ounce bottle of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector that is decidedly vintage at this point, I can say that you will never, ever finish these. They have a dropper applicator instead of Becca's airless pump, too, so they'll likely go rancid before you can even finish a single bottle. And will you need all seven of these colors? No; depending on your skintone, some will be too light or too dark for you. I recommend that you pick up one full bottle of a shade that interests you or this much smaller variety pack instead.

Honestly, let me repeat that statement and apply it to pretty much every "mega vault" being sold right now: You will never finish all of it. If you already own a few lipsticks or blushes or highlighters or whatever, you likely won't even use it that often, because you'll have so much stuff. It will be a waste of hundreds of dollars. Save your hundreds of bucks. That goes double for sets like this Hourglass Confession Lipstick Vault, which costs a whopping $650. You do not need it.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What About My Neck and Chest?

I spend a lot of time fussing over the skin on my face. I fuss for a variety of reasons: because I'm often mistaken for a college student instead of a college professor, so I want my face to look clean and professional; because I've fought chronic hives for years and the itchy, unsightly buggers completely torpedo my self confidence; because I am, frankly, a little vain and I want to have clear skin. But for some reason, I haven't fussed as much over my neck and chest.

It's not like I ignore these two areas entirely. After cleansing, I always run a little moisturizer over my neck and rub it in, and I lotion up my chest with body cream. If I have a bad blemish on my throat, I'll use a bit of spot treatment. I exfoliate my body from time to time. And when I'm applying sunscreen, I make sure I'm completely covered with SPF.

But it's a sign of how much more I care about my face versus my neck and chest that I buy separate sunscreens for my face, then just use whatever spray or lotion I have handy from the chin down. I exfoliate, hydrate, and serum my face on the regular, but I stop at the edges of my jaw. I notice the deep lines in my neck, developed from years of staring down at books and student papers, but I don't do anything to fix it.

So I think I'm going to spend more time appreciating my neck and chest. I'm going to start cheap, of course--baby steps, guys! There's a slew of skincare samples that I can't use on my face, for example, but that should be safe on the rest of my body, so I'll be using some serums and oils and moisturizers on my throat and decollete. When I exfoliate, I'll be sure to bring the product down my neck. I think my regular body sunscreens still work best for covering large swaths of skin, but I'll treat my throat to the elegant sunscreen milks I usually reserve for my face.

I've been doing this for a few days now, and it feels amazing. Packets of Dr. Hauschka's Regenerating Serum, sample tubs of stupidly expensive Algenist moisturizers, and a few First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads have given my neck and chest a  bit of a glow-up. It's probably a silly, somewhat boojie exercise that probably won't actually improve my skin in the long run, but damn, is it relaxing.

For the past few months, I've also knocked around the idea of using self-tanner on my neck so it better matches my face. After annoying everybody with the "BUT MY NECK IS SO WHITE!" comments, it seems like my best option is the Clarins Liquid Bronze, so I'll likely use my last Sephora gift card for that bad boy. (Yes, I've checked out the awesomely cheap drugstore options like Jergens, but when I tested them, they seemed to turn...really orange.)

If you have any recommendations for taking better care of your neck and chest, let me know. I'm turning 30 soon, I'm getting more serious about my skincare, and I'm ready to try new things.