Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Favorites

You've probably noticed a dearth of summer-related posts on this blog, as compared to my winter skin tip posts and my endless ramblings about the glories of autumn. The truth of the matter is...I don't really like summer. I get it, it's sunny and you can wear cuter clothes and young people aren't in school and there's no snow and ya da ya da. It just doesn't do it for me. I burn too easily, and I absolutely haaaate sweating (summer always does a number on my skin).

But although I'd love to hide in the A/C all summer long, I do have to get out and do things from time to time. And if it's a special occasion, I like to wear a bit of makeup. When I'm fighting the humidity and trying oh so hard not to clog my pores, these personal favorite products really shine.

5 Minute Makeup: Dolce & Gabbana powder foundation and Wet n' Wild liquid eyeliner

When it's 90 degrees and 90% humidity, I won't be caught dead in full-on foundation. I don't want it to melt off my face in public, and I definitely don't like the way it feels on my face after I've been sweating for a good six hours. Instead, I tend to stick to ye olde basics: sunscreen, brow pencil, and mascara.

But sometimes the humidity gives me a break, or I know I'll be in an air-conditioned building for at least a few hours. Then, I'm willing to use two more products. I'll dust on my D&G powder for a slightly more matte finish and a tad more coverage, and I might line my upper lash line with liquid liner so it looks like I really tried. These two products are water-resistant, comfortable on my skin, and quite portable. (While I mention these precious babies in a lot of FOTD posts, I don't actually write about them often...oops.)

Comfortable Color

As mentioned, I will generally avoid color cosmetics in the heat of summer. I'll even pass on lipstick, which is quite obviously one of my all-time favorite things in existence. But if I'm going to a post-beach outing, or prepping for the rare summer job interview, I gotta get some of the life back in to my face.

Becca Beach Tints are absolutely indispensable. While they're not the longest-wearing products (they last for less than 4 hours on my lips), they're small enough to tuck in to a pocket and thin enough to be layered and layered and layered without feeling heavy or looking garish. My personal favorite is Watermelon--very much a "my cheeks but better" color on fair skin--but Grapefruit and Dragonfruit have also become staples in my collection. I highly recommend topping them with lip balm if you want to use them as a stain, however, because they can be a bit drying.

World's Best Brush Cleanser

Some people like to spend oodles of money on brush cleansers. They'll get a $30 bottle of oily, smelly liquid to douse their fluffy pretties in, and hey, if that's their thing, more power to 'em! I'm kind of...funny about brush cleanliness, though: any brush that comes in to contact with creams or liquids is deep-cleaned immediately after use, and any brush that's used on powders is cleaned once a week.That would require an awful lot of $30 brush cleanser.

The oil and bacteria  from human skin can damage both your brushes and your products. This is especially true in the summer, when you're sweating and producing more oil. I'm sorry, I know it's obsessive, but I need my brushes to be clean!

Enter Dr. Bronner's Castile Bar Soap. Super-cheap and readily available at Target, this one bar of soap has been my go-to brush cleanser for over a year. Now, somebody with more brushes would probably work through a bar much faster...but still! That's beyond impressive. It's also super easy to use: I dampen the brush bristles, swirl them on the bar of soap, then rinse the bristles out and lay the brush flat to dry. I rinse the bar after every 3-4 brushes. I can clean 20+ brushes in less than 3 minutes using this method--far faster than I could with any liquid cleansers. And despite regular cleanings, this product has never damaged my brushes. They're as soft and clean as the day I bought them.

Top Tools

Like I said, I don't have that many brushes. I'm a creams-and-liquids kind of gal, and most of those products are best applied with fingers. So for the past few years, I've been using a hand-me-down brow and lash comb and an ELF eyelash curler. I knew that the brush didn't get my brows back in shape, and I knew that the ELF curler wasn't the best fit for my eye, but eh, they got the job done. I was happy.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and try some more appropriate tools, and sweet fancy Moses, am I glad I did. This $1 ELF brow spoolie feels like Heaven. Yes, I know, that sounds weird; I don't care! Brushing my brows has become a morning ritual. I even use this spoolie to comb through my eyelashes before applying mascara or Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream, and as odd as that sounds, I can't recommend it enough. It feels great...kinda like your lash line is being massaged and scratched simultaneously.

The Shiseido lash curler, meanwhile, is a better fit for my deepset eyes because it's flatter. It rarely pinches me, and I find I get a better curl with this guy than with the much rounder ELF curler. As an added bonus, it actually feels nicer in my hands: more lightweight and more comfortable to hold.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

25 Tops: MAC Impassioned

Having recently reduced my stash yet again, and having found the strength to purge lipsticks (LIPSTICKS!), I've decided it's time for a new project. Here's the deal: I currently own about 40 lipsticks. While that's nothing compared to my stash circa 2011 (I owned at least 200; photographs of the collection looked like something from an extravagant makeup counter), it still seems like a bit much for one face. My goal is to reduce my lipstick collection to 25 tubes, tops, by figuring out which shades and formulas best suit my tastes.

My main focus is going to be my lipstick collection, but I'm also going to retry other products in my stash and see if I want to purge those as well. After photographing these products and testing them out for a full day, I'm going to decide what I want to do with them: definitely keep, maybe keep, or definitely purge.

This morning's victim was MAC Impassioned. An opaque, pigmented coral-pink lipstick with a cream finish, it's one of the most recommended and popular products in the MAC range. While I've always liked the shade, I've rarely worn it. I can sort of see why: it doesn't seem to flatter my skintone as much as some of my brighter reds and cooler fuchsias. It appears more blue-toned and fuchsia in real life, but photographs as a beautiful tropical punch sort of color. I don't own anything else quite like it, so for now, Impassioned is going in the MAYBE pile.

Cargo Key Largo also goes in the MAYBE pile. It's a beautiful coral color, and Cargo's blushes are the only powder formula I think I've truly loved. Nothing blends or photographs just like them. But I rarely wear Key Largo because it doesn't match much in  my collection, and I'm inherently drawn to creams, not powders. Definitely going to have to think about this one.

The other two "featured products," Maybelline Great Lash BIG and Benefit High Beam, are getting PURGED. I really like Maybelline Great Lash Lots of Lashes, so my mother tried to buy me a tube as a gift...and accidentally got the wrong product. It's the stuff of my nightmares: wet, sloppy, and beyond flaky. I've been trying to use this tube for almost 3's time to admit defeat and just toss it. Benefit High Beam remains one of my favorite highlighters, but my tube is at least 4 years old (they no longer produce this "travel size" tube with a doe foot applicator). It's begun to turn and has started to dry up, as evidenced by the patchy application on my cheek. Perhaps I'll repurchase a tube of this stuff one day, because when it's fresh, it's fabulous!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Blogsale 2014

Please read all of the rules and information before you consider purchasing.

I have attempted to show usage/condition via photos. Please Google swatches or ask for more information if you are curious about any of these products, the exact color, etc. Please be forewarned that I keep my makeup in bags and drawers, so the outer packaging may be banged up. If you want more pictures or information, please contact me and request it.

 Send requests to IdiotBird at Gmail dot com. I will invoice you (no gift payments, please) and will hold items for up to 24 hours after that invoice has been sent. If you have not paid for your items within 24 hours (or if you never respond to my e-mails), I will open them back up for sale. Items are only  officially "yours" after you've paid.

Payment must be done through PayPal. $15 and 2-item minimum purchase. I charge the actual cost of shipping + $1.50 to cover materials and PayPal fees; this generally amounts to $3 -$5 per package unless you've bought a ton and/or you've gotten heavy items. US ONLY SALE: I do not ship outside of the US because of issues with customs. I apologize for the inconvenience. Payment must clear before shipping.

I use PayPal ship, which comes with a built-in tracking system. :) I package as carefully as I possibly can, but I am not responsible for packages once they leave my hands. With that being said, if you receive your items and feel that you have been mislead about their condition/usage, please contact me and I'll see what I can do to rectify the situation. I'm a very honest person, and the last thing I want to do is appear dishonest!

Also, I clean my entire collection about once a month with an alcohol spritz. However, I will not sanitize these items before shipping them out unless you ask me to, because I know some people are very particular about how they sanitize their products. Be forewarned that some of the cream products may have very tiny brush hairs in them, as creams are wont to get, but again, I have kept them quite clean; I'm very, very fussy. If you ask me to sanitize items, I will sharpen pencils and spritz blushes, lipsticks, and foundations with alcohol. I always wipe down the outer packaging with alcohol before sending.

**SOLD** LIPSTICKS: $5 each OR take all for $20

Makeup Forever Rouge Artist Intense Lipstick #36 (satin fuchsia)
Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Ecstasy in #302 (Tokyo)
Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro in #400 (The Red)
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Naked
MAC Lady Gaga I Lipstick

Dior Cleansing Water: $10; Nail Polishes: $1 each OR take all for $5

China Glaze Ick-a-Body (LE Halloween)
10 Moonlight
Revlon Carbonite
ORLY Precious Jade
ORLY French Manicure: Angel Face

China Glaze Flip Flop Fantasy
Sleek Geisha's Seal
Zoya Colbie
ORLY First Kiss
Deborah Lippmann Naked

Cheek Products

Lancome Blush Subtil in Tangerine Tint, lightly used, no dips - $8
Milani Minerals Blush in Luminous, still sealed - $3
Canmake Cream Blush in #05, lightly used, no dips - $3
TopShop Glow in Polished, used 2x, no dips, practically brand new - $5
3 Concept Eyes Cream Blusher in New Pink, used 2x, practically brand new - $8

**SOLD** Eyeshadows and Pigments: $7 each OR take all for $20

Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Fantasme
MAC eyeshadow in Patina
Becca Eye Tint in Vicuna
MAC pigment in Vanilla

Miscellaneous Items

Dolce  & Gabbana Light Blue spritz bottle, about 2/3 full - $5
Caudalie Premier Cru La Creme Riche, 0.5 size, BNIB - $8
Makeup Forever Aqua Lip in #18C (coral pink) - $5
Balenciaga Rosabotanica tube, tested once -- $2

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Applying the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer with a Beauty Blender

 The "Three Ways I Use KA SSE" series is, without a doubt, the most popular set of posts on this blog. If I'm seeing a spike in blog traffic, it's usually because somebody pinned the first tutorial to Pinterest (hey, thanks!) or mentioned it on a forum (thanks again!). 

Of course, things change as time goes on, and the Kevyn Aucoin product line is no different. The KA primer mentioned in the full coverage post is no longer in production; it's been replaced by two different "developers," one for oily skin and one for dry skin. I've neither tried nor owned these products, and to be honest, I don't know if I ever will. So in order to keep this blog up-to-date and useful, I've decided to post another application method: getting sheer-to-medium coverage with a Beauty Blender.

The Beauty Blender is not my favorite tool, but it's a popular one, and it works well for this "tutorial."

You can use just the Beauty Blender and KA SSE to great effect, but because I have a dryer skin type, I like the finished product to glow a bit, and I prefer that it spread well during application. Hence, I use a small dab of MAC Strobe Cream--a lightweight, luminous moisturizer--alongside my base product. You may certainly skip this step, or replace Strobe Cream with the primer/moisturizer of your choice.

I start by saturating my Beauty Blender with water, squeezing all of the excess out with a towel. The sponge should be soft and very slightly damp, not soggy. Then I put a dab of KA SSE on the back of my hand--no more than half a pea in size--followed by a pea-sized dab of Strobe Cream. You may notice that I kind of "smear" the KA SSE across my hand. That makes it easier to evenly distribute product on the sponge. (You may also notice an eyelash in the KA SSE...sorry.)

I dab the bottom (the round part) of my BB in to the Strobe Cream, then dab it in to the KA SSE. I go straight to my face, using a dabbing motion to apply and blend out the product. These images demonstrate the process pretty well: on the left, I've just dabbed some of the mixture on to my cheek (see the glowy "halo" at the top of the BB?), and on the right, I've blended the product across my cheek. I like to work in sections because it gives me plenty of time to spread out the product, and it lets me see if I'm getting the effect and coverage I want.

When I'm done applying a layer of this product, I look over my face and see where I need more coverage. Then I dip the pointed tip of the Beauty Blender in to a bit more KA SSE (no Strobe Cream this time) and dab it over those spots.

Here's the before and after, complete with me making stupid faces. As you can (hopefully) see, the MAC Strobe Cream/KA SSE mixture gives me glowy, light coverage on the majority of my face. Where I needed a bit more coverage (my nose, my chin, a few spots, and my undereyes), I just dabbed on more KA SSE. The effect is quite natural. I like to add a dusting of powder (visible in the first image in this post), but outside of summer, it's not entirely necessary on my dry skin.

Oh, and in case it's not clear: I use the lightest shade, Sx01, when I apply product to my entire face. It's a perfect match for my neck, which is roughly N5 in MAC terms.

I hope this post helped! The Sensual Skin Enhancer is one of my all-time favorite products, so I always encourage readers to experiment with their application methods. :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Inspiration: Pakeezah

Pakeezah is a rare treat of a Bollywood film. While it's full of melodramatic moments and beautiful dance sequences like all "Hooker with a Heart of Gold" films, it also breaks free of the old tradition by highlighting the vicious cycle of prostitution: it is not their own actions that tumble these women in to infamy, but rather the expectations and prejudices of others. Nargis and her daughter Sahib, both courtesans who meet grim fates, are nevertheless driven to improve their lives and find true love. Beneath the majesty of their costumes and the perfection of their makeup, these are strong women who resist defeat. I will always appreciate Pakeezah for that.

But today, the film is best remembered for the fantastic music and the troubles that surrounded production. It took almost 15 years to complete the film. During the break, the incomparable Meena Kumari (the star) and the talented Kamal Amrohi (the director) divorced, the composer and the cinematographer died, and sections of the movie filmed in black-and-white became obsolete, requiring do-overs when filming resumed. By that time, Kumari's body was ravaged by alcoholism; she found it difficult to even move, and a body double had to be brought in for long shots on the final** dance sequence. Kumari died at the age of 39 less than 2 months after Pakeezah was released.

Yet Kumari's pain is never visible, or if it is, it is so artfully transformed in to her character's anguish that it's unrecognizable as anything but great acting. I was able to distinguish some of the portions shot just before Kumari's death by looking closely at her face (they pancaked her quite heavily to mask jaundice and age), but it felt wrong, and I quickly decided against pointing these moments out. It wouldn't be fair to degrade a powerful performance that was over a decade in the making.

It is my hope that this post will encourage classic film buffs and Bollywood fans to give Pakeezah a chance. Here it is on YouTube with English subtitles.

You're going to see a lot of that coral-pink lip in this movie. Also, notice the tips of fingers and toes dyed red with henna: this has apparently become a popular fad amongst western musicians and actresses.

I didn't take too many shots of the clothes, seeing as this is a makeup inspiration post...but feel free to admire some of the beautiful textiles you see here.

One of the little Pakeezah makeup quirks that has always intrigued me is the flicks. The eyeliner isn't sharply angled the way modern cat-eyeliner is; rather it's drawn almost straight out. It's also confined to the top lashline. Interestingly, the brows are given a similar flick, giving the illusion that the Kumari's eyes are more lifted/pointed at the outer corners. Shimmery products were clearly used on her eyes in many scenes, as well as across her skin, probably to give her a more luminous appearance in this pre-HD film.

The top 2 images are sans liner, but they still give Kumari a somewhat feline eye shape by thickening her lashes more at the outer corners. It also looks like they used matte gray and brown eyeshadows to alter how deepset her eyes appear.

Notice the range in lip colors here. Pakeezah has everything from that bright peachy coral to soft pinks to bold reds. Also, the thick, dark lines, particularly when it comes to brows: strong, painted-on brows are a Bollywood trademark to this day.

** There is some disagreement on this point. Some people say that a body double was used on just one dance sequence, while others say a body double was used for the long shots in every dance sequence. I lean towards the latter, seeing as there are often complicated kathak sequences in which the heroine's face is covered with a veil, or where she is filmed from the back and doesn't turn around in the same shot. Still, the switch is seamless, the sequences are gorgeous, and Kumari still does a good amount of the dancing. Case in point: "Inhi Logon Ne."

Monday, July 7, 2014

REVIEW: Dior Fluid Sticks

When I first dipped my lips in to the glossy waters of Dior's new Fluid Sticks, I wasn't too impressed with what I found. Inspired by the product's rave reviews, I purchased a soft neutral pink, Kiss Me, and hoped it'd be the perfect product for my sister's wedding. I described my lackluster experience to the ladies on Makeup Alley, who were really quite appalled by what I was saying.

"What do you mean they taste like perfume?"

"How are they only lasting an hour on you?"

"No pigment? Mine are really pigmented!"

Makeup is very much a "your mileage may vary" sort of thing, so I figured I was one of the few people these newbies wouldn't work for. I resigned myself to being awfully quiet about that, too, because they're generating tons of buzz and love, and it's kinda weird being the lone voice of dissention.

Here's Kiss Me in action (full breakdown and another FOTD posted here):

It's not BAD, but it's not inspiring. You know why? Because this shade was just an ordinary pink gloss on me. It didn't have great pigmentation, it gummed up at the corners of my mouth, and it barely lasted for an hour--definitely not the "fabulous wear" and "high-impact colour" the packaging promised. To make matters worse, it absolutely REEKED of perfume, and I could taste it the entire time I wore it. This product didn't live up to its official claims, let alone the hype. To date, Dior Kiss Me is one of maybe 5 items I've returned to Sephora. That's how much I hated it.

Now, when I ordered Kiss Me, I added in the 4-shade sample packet Sephora was offering, figuring I could find another shade to purchase after I returned to work in the Fall. But when Kiss Me ended up being a major disappointment, I pushed it off to the side. Add in a rogue infection that made me sick for almost a month, and you've got a product that's WAY overdue for a re-evaluation.

I was hesitant to put a Fluid Stick near my mouth again after the Kiss Me fiasco, but I'm glad I gave them another chance.

Let's backtrack a moment and go over Dior's claims in more detail. While some bloggers and YouTubers have defined the Dior Fluid Sticks as "liquid lipsticks," Dior clearly wishes to state otherwise: most of the advertisements, sample packets, and sales associates shout, "THIS IS NOT A LIPSTICK!" But they are also not a gloss, in the sense that layering them over a lip liner or lipstick isn't all that effective or attractive. They also aren't designed to stain or soak in to the lips. What they are designed to do is look glossy, provide "coverage between a gloss and a lipstick" (huh?), feel like nada on your lips, and wear well without feathering or fading. Sounds kinda like a lipstick, right?

But Dior refuses! "THIS IS NOT A LIPSTICK!" And if it's not a gloss or a stain...well, fine, Fluid Sticks; I'm officially labeling you "Frankenlip." THAT'S WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING SO PICKY.

A full-sized frankenlip Fluid Stick retails for $35 and comes in elegant plastic packaging. The bottom is clear so you can see what color you've got. The applicator is a soft, spade-shaped sponge tip; I found it easy to control. (The sample pack came with a disposable sponge-tip applicator, which I cleaned and re-used for each application.)

Pandore, a warm pinky-red, and Wonderland, a cool fuchsia pink

The formula is, indeed, incredibly lightweight and comfortable; it has a unique gel texture that stays in place without drying out my lips. You can apply a thin layer for a more toned-down look, and most of the swatches I found online seem to be applied quite thinly. But, y'know, I'm a guady ho. So I applied these products quite liberally for opaque coverage. This can lead to some very slight gumming-up at the edges of my lips when I first apply (eek!), but if I pat it with my fingers, it smooths out and doesn't reoccur. The wear is not impacted by how much you layer on: once it's there, it's not moving unless you rub it off.

Speaking of:

Here's what Pandore looked like after I ate a Cup o' Noodles. No smearing or smudging, just some mild fading, primarily at the very inner part of my lips. This is actually more impressive than some traditional lipsticks out there, which will fade and smear as soon as you sip your morning coffee. The Fluid Sticks WILL come off if you kiss someone or rub your mouth against something; otherwise, they're decently resistant to everyday wear and tear, which is impressive for a glossy formula.

Aventure, a coral with strong orange undertones,  and Mirage, a soft peach

Also, while the perfumey-ness I detected in Kiss Me was non-existent in Pandore, Wonderland, and Aventure, it was definitely present in Mirage. Mirage didn't smell nearly as potent as Kiss Me had, and the taste faded away after about 15 minutes of wear. Still, it's strange that the fragrance is really only noticeable to me in these lighter/paler shades. Maybe it has something to do with the pigments? *pseudo-science*

While all of the shades were beautiful and performed about the same, the only shades I think I'd purchase in a full-size are Pandore (for everyday looks) and Mirage (for work). That may be confusing, considering I just raved about these products, but the truth of the matter is that glossy lip products are just Not My Thing, and I don't think most of the shades flatter me. (Hell, Mirage isn't even that flattering on me, but it's just so freaking cool!) But who knows? I could swatch a few more shades and fall absolutely in love.

And hey, I liked them enough to try preserving what was left in the sample packet for later use!

Alas, the little wells overflow shortly after you peel pack the foil. I could probably get a second or even third use out of each color, but it's gonna be a messy experience.

Personal preferences aside, the Dior Fluid Sticks are definitely some of the best new lip products out there. Their versatility and comfortable formulation make them a great choice for a wide variety of people. Just watch out for those fluke shades, like Kiss Me.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, July 3, 2014

REVIEW(S): Forever 21 "Love & Beauty" Makeup

Forever 21 isn't exactly a store you'd equate with great makeup. Instead, it's the most popular purveyor of cheap, uber-hipster clothing in my neck of the woods, a store full of see-through crop tops and spandex shorts for $20 or less. That's not to say it's BAD--some people can really rock those shorts--but the vibe doesn't lend itself to makeup.

But Forever 21 does, in fact, sell a wide range of makeup and beauty products, all of which seem to be from a brand called "Love & Beauty." I'd heard that some of these products were incredible for the price point, namely the eyeshadows and lipsticks, so I decided to take a $20 and check it out.

For the record: all of these products were $3.80 when I purchased them with the exception of the cream blush, which cost $0.99.

The Liquid Eye Liner

My my my. If you want to talk about something that's the stuff of my nightmares, the Love & Beauty liquid eyeliner would probably be the top candidate.

First, the good: the brush tip applicator is actually quite well-made and easy to control. I didn't have to deal with any splayed hairs. Also, I didn't pick up any odor.

...annnnnd the good stops there. This was one of the most watery, messy liquid eyeliner formulas I've ever dealt with. While it was easy to draw a straight line with the brush tip, said straight line was a mixture of "blah gray" and "oh there's no makeup here!" It also took its sweet time drying, which left me with a few smears to clean up. I realize that the header image for this post is a little misleading, seeing as the eyeliner shown in said image is quite solid and black. That's because I refused to let that hideous Love & Beauty crap shine through in a FOTD-type picture, so I went over both eyes with the Wet n' Wild Mega Liner.

The difference is night and day. Fun fact: the Wet n' Wild liquid liner is roughly the same price as Love & Beauty's similar offering, and it works ten times better. So just go for that bad boy.

The Cream Blush

I didn't have very high expectations for this cream blush, mostly because my experiences with bargain basement cream blushes have led me to believe that they are Just Plain Crap (tm). With the noticeable exceptions of the NYC Blushable Cream Sticks (which are better than most HE cream blush sticks and were discontinued shortly after they were brought out, WTF) and the NYX cream blushes (great drugstore option for those who like an emollient formula!), all of the drugstore cream blushes I've tried have had a waxy texture, stupid amounts of chunky glitter, and/or zero pigmentation.

The Love &  Beauty cream blush does contain some pointless sparkle, but the actual product itself isn't all that bad.

Here's two layers of the cream blush over a sheer foundation. As you can see, there are some sparkles that don't really do anything (the slight glow you're seeing is just the natural glow I get in the summer, AKA sweat), but they're not particularly chunky or obnoxious. The pigmentation is decent. And the formulation is quite comfortable: it reminds me of the Lipstick Queen Oxymoron Matte Glosses insofar as it's dry in the pan, but quickly warms under the heat of your fingers and is easy to blend. This blush lasted for about 5-6 hours with minimal fading.

I'm not overly impressed with the shade; to me, it's just a standard pink that neither brightens nor muddies my complexion. But because it's cheap, has good staying power, and is easy to apply, I'll probably throw it in my makeup bag. It'll work in a pinch, and it's not a financial blow if it gets lost.


You'd think I'd have the best handle on this part of the review, seeing as I'm a lipstick fanatic who reviews pout paints regularly. But I'm not quite sure how I feel about these lipsticks, to be honest. On the one hand, they perform impressively, especially for a bargain lipstick; on the other hand, they have some characteristics that drive me batshit insane.

The most obvious problem? The packaging.

Notice our special guest?

This is what happened to Matte Fuchsia's cheap plastic packaging the first time I tried to open the tube. No, really: all I did was take the cap off, and it fell to pieces. I've experienced some truly faulty packaging, but this go-boom incident really blew my mind. How would this thing survive in a purse or makeup bag? (Hint: it probably wouldn't.)

The explosion only happened with Matte Fuchsia, but the packaging for all 3 lipsticks I purchased was flimsy, and none of the lids felt particularly tight.

Matte Fuchsia: blotted vs. applied thickly

Still, I gave each lipstick the good college try, and I was simultaneously impressed and annoyed. Straight off the bat, the matte lipstick formulation has a somewhat silicone-y feel, so it sits comfortably on your lips (I didn't experience any dryness or tightness), but it's just about impossible to get a strong lipline. Even when I applied with a lip brush, I felt like the matte lipsticks always had a "blurred" look around the edges. This isn't a deal-breaker for some people, and I actually liked the softness when I wore the shades blotted. But when I tried to do a full-on layer of lipstick, the smeariness irritated me.

The creme formulation is, of course, more glossy. It's also a little less pigmented, though I still got decent color payoff. Both formulations lasted for about 5 hours before needing touch-ups, and the matte lipsticks stuck it out with next to no fading through eating and drinking. However, those matte formulations also stain a bit, especially the fuchsia shade.

From left to right: Matte Fuchsia, Creme Coral Pink, Matte Red

Which leads me to my next problem: the shades. Do I just have a weird personal color scheme, or is that Matte Fuchsia lipstick more berry than fuchsia?! Fuchsia, to me, is a cool, hot pink with hints of purple; this shade was far more purple and dark than I would expect. The Matte Red is okay, but pretty uninspiring. Coral Pink Creme is the most aptly named and attractive in terms of color, but the matte formulation is more impressive to me.

I don't think I'll buy more of these unless they come out with a super-unique shade, and I'll be getting rid of the red for sure (my other reds are far more impressive). But...I'm not so sure about the other two. Coral Pink is different, shade-wise, from anything else in my collection at the moment, and Fuchsia looks rather nice blotted down. I'll have to think about those two.

Final Verdict?

There were hits and misses here, which is the case with any brand. Over the years, I've learned what I like and what works for me, and most of these products don't fit the bill as perfectly as other products in my collection. But you know what? With the exception of the Eyeliner From Hell, they're not that bad. Actually, they're quite nice and affordable. I could easily see buying a lipstick or an eyeshadow palette from this brand for a younger child who's just getting in to makeup, or if you want cheaper options for your travel makeup bag. And if you're on a tight budget? Eh, it's worth a try.

LIQUID EYELINER: 1 out of 5 (props for the brush)
CREAM BLUSH: 4 out of 5
LIPSTICKS: 4 out of 5