Sunday, August 13, 2017

Adding More to Project Pan 2017

Because I started a year-long, casual Project Pan, then fussed over not meeting my goals fast enough, I decided to add more goals. Maybe that sounds counter-productive, but if my goal is to finish 5 products and I'm barely denting more than two of them, adding more stuff to pan or finish improves my chances of know, hitting my goals. Granted, it means there are also more goals I won't reach, but ha ha ha, LOGIC.

I ran a few goals, like "pan any product" and "finish a pencil," through a randomizer app, then picked some more stuff to toss in to the project. Here's what we've got going on:

Products to Finish: Maybelline Dream Lumi Highlighting Concealer Pen in Ivory, Glossier Balm Dot Com in Mint, Glossier Boy Brow in Clear, Milk Makeup Blur Stick (deluxe sample), Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint, and miniature lipstick.

Products to Pan/Finish Half: YSL Creme de Blush in #9 Babydoll, MAC Strobe Cream (travel size).

Purged: Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint. I've honestly loved the ease and the finish of this product, but after the first few months of use, I began to notice that my skin would react when I wore it. I rub on the tint, and within a half an hour, my chronic hives kicks up. I actually got rid of my first bottle because of this, missed it, thought it might be something completely unrelated, repurchased it, and have noticed the same thing happening over the past few months. My hives are generally not prompted by topical products, but my body has decided it dislikes something in this tint, so unfortunately, I'm going to have to hand it off to somebody else.

Goals I will almost definitely hit: I use MAC Strobe Cream frequently, so I'll be a bit surprised if I can't finish half of it by the end of the year. I've already gone through two thirds of the Glossier Balm Dot Com. Also, the Milk Makeup deluxe sample is heftier than you might think--a little goes a long way--but it is a deluxe sample, so I'm hopeful I can finish it in four and a half months. You can't see it in this picture, but I've already finished about half of the YSL blush; it's one of my favorites, and I'm forever pissed that they discontinued it.

Goals I'm nervous about: It's been a while since I've finished a lipstick, even a mini, because it's rare for me to wear the same color more than twice a week.  And I don't know how people are emptying those Maybelline concealer pens in less than 2 months! Granted, I don't wear makeup every day, but it still takes me a damn long time to even make a dent.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

REVIEW: Glossier Wowder + All Shades Swatched

So Glossier tried some sneakier marketing, and I don't know if it worked out the way they expected. Between the name of the product (which has been trademarked for the past year) and the brand's usual font on their "teaser" website, the internet immediately sussed out that "Wowder" was a Glossier product. But while the tactic may not have worked the way the brand expected, it did kick up a lot of interest. The day this product launched, for example, I noticed half a dozen posts on various forums asking if anybody was buying Wowder or had tested it. And on that day, after I'd woken up and settled in with my coffee, I did indeed buy it.

I bought all three shades using my store credit.

And the brush.

And I had them shipped to me via next day air.

I was intrigued by this product and very eager to try it, despite the fact that there's only ever been one powder I've loved on my like-the-deserts-miss-the-rain skin.

Hey, I admit to being a bitch about marketing ploys, but I've never claimed that I'm totally immune to them.

Since I've mentioned the brush twice and I'm not a brush expert by any means, let's just get it out of the way. It wasn't specially designed for Wowder; it was made in China and is a basic, dense powder brush with a "G" on the end, so it's likely a private label product the company liked. The bristles are synthetic and they're very soft. For comparison, I'd say that this brush is similar in shape to the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, but it's a little less dense, and it's not as fluffy or huge as most powder brushes. Basically, it's a perfectly decent brush that's worth it if you don't have a lot of brushes and you're purchasing the Wowder duo. However, if you have a powder brush you like? You probably don't need it.

Let's move on to the powder itself. Wowder is a loose powder that Glossier claims will give you "that glowy, real-skin finish, just without all the drawbacks of other powders." In other words, it'll be mattifying without being cakey or flat, smoothing without looking white in flash photos, and workable on both bare skin and over foundation. It's $22 for 0.25 ounces of product (or $35 for the powder and the brush) housed in a plastic container with a "trampoline mesh" insert and a screwtop lid.

Some people have complained about Wowder's packaging, saying it's not as "clean" or "elegant" as their other products. The jar may look like Benefit's cash poor, hipster cousin, but I don't think it's completely off-brand. Besides, the fact that Glossier sends you stickers to slap all over their products and never seems to use a model over the age of 30 suggests that they aren't striving for that grown up, sleek-and-chic image like NARS or Lancome.

That quarter of an ounce size has raised some eyebrows as well, and justifiably so--it's kind of tiny. When I compared the cost per ounce of Wowder to a slew of other loose powders, however, I noticed that it was middle of the road. Here they are, ranked from most expensive to cheapest:

Kevyn Aucoin Gossamer Loose Setting Powder, $72 for 0.11oz = $654.55/ounce
Makeup Forever Ultra HD Microfinishing Loose Powder, $36 for 0.29oz = $124.14/ounce
RMS Beauty Tinted Un-Powder, $34 for 0.32oz = $106.25/ounce
NARS Soft Velvet Loose Powder, $37 for 0.35oz = $105.71/ounce
Besame Brightening Setting Face Powder, $22 for 0.21oz = $104.76/ounce
Koh Gen Do Natural Lighting Powder, $42 for 0.42oz = $100/ounce
CoverFX Perfecting Setting Powder, $35 for 0.35oz = $100/ounce
Glossier Wowder, $22 for 0.25oz = $88/ounce
Armani Micro-Fil Loose Powder, $45 for 0.53oz = $84.91/ounce
Bare Minerals Mineral Veil, $23 for 0.3oz = $76.67/ounce
Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder, $30 for 0.67oz = $44.78/ounce
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $38/ounce
Cinema Secrets Ultralucent Setting Powder, $22 for 0.67oz = $32.84/ounce
MAC Studio Finish Face Powder, $28 for 1.4oz = $20/ounce
L'Oreal Hydra Perfecte Powder, $8.97 for 0.5oz = $17.94/ounce
CoverGirl Translucent Professional Loose Powder, $5.85 for 0.7oz = $8.34/ounce
Coty Airspun Translucent Powder, $5.90 for 2.3oz = $2.60/ounce

Obviously, Coty Airspun is cheap as fuck, Laura Mercier Translucent is a better deal than people give it credit for, and Kevyn Aucoin Gossamer will rob you of your next iPhone. Taken as a whole, though, I don't think the price for Wowder is awful. A bit higher than it probably should be? Yes. Exorbitant and completely out of touch with average makeup costs? Eh, not really.

I'll also point out that the trampoline mesh does, in all fairness, keep you from losing too much powder every time you open the jar or swirl your brush. The one exception is when you open a brand new jar and peel off the sanitary sticker; two of my three Wowder jars blew out little spurts of powder as I peeled back that sticker. But overall, you shouldn't have too much powder waste.

Wowder was produced in three shades, and you're meant to select whatever color corresponds to your Perfecting Skin Tint or Stretch Concealer shade: Light/Medium, Dark/Deep, and Rich. Again, I purchased all three colors and used Light/Medium on my own fair skin. The other two shades were swatched up against some medium-to-deep foundation and concealer samples I've collected.

 For swatching purposes, I applied the tiniest bit of Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream to my arm to get the powder to stick and marked the swatch with some Milani Liquid Eyes eyeliner. As far as I can see, this did not impact the color accuracy of the swatches. I'm very fair, so please don't judge the depth of Dark/Deep and Rich by how dark they look on my arm; use the other shades as markers instead. In all of these swatches, the natural light photo is on top and the flash photo is on the bottom.


From left to right: NARS Sheer Glow in Siberia; Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint in Sand; Colourpop No Filter Concealer in Fair 5; Glossier Wowder in Light/Medium; Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation in 001; Deciem The Ordinary Coverage Foundation in 1.0N; Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer in Light Warm.


From left to right: Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint in Medium; YSL Le Teint Touche Eclat in Cool Bisque; Glossier Wowder in Dark/Deep; Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer in Medium Light; Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation in 002 and 301.


From left to right: Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint in Deep; Colourpop No Filter Concealer in Rich 75; Glossier Wowder in Rich; Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation in 302 and 303; Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer in Dark Golden.

This is a fairly inclusive shade range. I do wish Rich was a hair deeper, but Jackie Aina (linked above) was able to use it as a sort of natural contour powder on her skin, so perhaps I'm being overly picky. I will say that all of the shades read very neutral to me, though the product is (as I will show in a moment) so sheer that I don't think it'll matter much.

Now the ingredients! Glossier has done their usual "IT'S REVOLUTIONARY!" marketing ploy by claiming that Wowder is "not a powder" and is "unlike any powder you've met before." (Which, if it's NOT a powder, how are you comparing it to powders you've used BEFORE? I'm being a pedant. I'll stop. Sorry.) The truth is that Wowder contains many of the usual loose powder suspects: mica, silica, and kaolin top the list, and titanium dioxide and several iron oxides pull up the rear. Yet again, I wish Glossier would stop pretending their products are fresh, top-of-the-line formulations and instead focus on how easy and no-fuss their range is for the average consumer.

The one ingredient that concerned me, personally, was kaolin, which can suck the moisture from my already parched skin. I've used this product for about a week and haven't had any problems with this drying out my face or making me itchy. Also, it doesn't contain any of my acne triggers, but keep an eye out for your problem ingredients.

Sorry about the fucked up eyebrows. I was testing out a new technique.

 To demonstrate Wowder's texture, I decided to do most of this post's photos on a no-foundation day. I used the Wowder brush to apply a dusting of Light/Medium to my forehead, nose, and chin. The above before-and-after pictures look almost identical, right? You have to click on the picture and expand it to see a difference, don't you?

Yeah, that's not shocking. While Wowder does manage to mattify and smooth the skin a bit, it's a very subtle effect. This is clearly what the company wanted, and I won't deny that I'm happy with how much my skin still looks like skin. But if you're expecting dramatic results, you're not going to get it with this powder. It's very much a Glossier product, designed to be super sheer and natural. Here's a macro shot of my skin with a layer of the powder on top so you can see how seamlessly it applied:

So yeah, it's pretty on bare skin. It also looked nice on top of my staple foundations, MAC Face & Body and Buxom Show Some Skin. Wowder sounds like a wonder product so far.

But I noticed some issues with this powder over other base products. Specifically, it seems to cake up a bit over foundations and concealers that are more matte or have thicker formulations.

In the picture above, I applied MAC Face & Body all over my face, then used my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer wherever necessary, which on this day included my chin. It's a bit tough to see, but take a peek at the section of skin I boxed in: that's Wowder clinging to, and getting flaky on, my NARS concealer. I also tested this on my mother's base products, and while Wowder looked lovely over her Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer (sheer and dewy), it went weirdly ashen over the IT Cosmetics CC Cream (medium coverage and satin).

Another issue with Wowder is the staying power. It's comfortable and satin-y on the dry parts of my face for about 3-4 hours before disappearing, and it only keeps my oily nose matte for about 2 hours before I have to reapply or blot. It does layer beautifully, insofar as reapplying the powder over oil breakthrough gives you the same smooth, soft look, but let's be honest: how many people are going to carry around a loose powder for touch-ups? And even if you're like me and you keep blotting sheets in your purse, shouldn't you get more than 3 hours out of a mattifying product?

Figuring out what to rate this product was a struggle. I do really enjoy it for my skin type and the looks I usually do, and it's a nice finishing touch on my no foundation days. I can see me using up the whole jar. But giving it a high rating just didn't feel right. After mulling it over, I realized the issue: I wouldn't recommend this to a lot of other people. If you have combination or oily skin, I can't imagine Wowder beating out your other loose powders, and it may cake up over your other base products if your taste in formulas is different from mine. If you have dry skin and you want a matte powder, I'm more likely to suggest the Dolce & Gabbana powder foundation I love so much, since it gives a matte finish with more coverage, better staying power, and a consistently smooth texture.

In the end, Glossier has done worse. They've also done better. Wowder is a decent powder, but it certainly doesn't (are you ready for it?) wow me like I hoped it would.

RATING: 3 out of 5
Glossier products are available on their website.

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Tried to Copy Makeup Artists (with video evidence)

I am not a makeup artist, nor am I particularly good at applying makeup, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Almost every time somebody points out that one of my brows is wonky or my blush isn't totally blended, I say, "Yep, I totally bombed that one." I like to leave perfection to the real experts: professional makeup artists. These are the people who create stunning styles for runway models and make celebrities look even more beautiful.

The great thing about the 21st century is that the internet has brought experts and their insider knowledge closer to us, including makeup artists. Some, like Lisa Eldridge, start their own channels and flood them with gorgeous tutorials and fun gift guides. Others, like Pat McGrath, create their own product lines, then pop up regularly in interviews to provide tips or breakdowns. Because these people would know better than anyone how to make a face look good, I decided to jot down some of their tips and attempt to copy them.

Lisa Eldridge: applying liquid highlighter with a flat brush

Lisa Eldridge is a talented makeup artist and a YouTube celebrity. It's almost impossible to find somebody who watches makeup videos and DOESN'T love Lisa. It's obvious why: she creates a wide range of looks on her channel and provides plenty of explanation on how to get the look. One of her big things is making the skin look as "real" and "fresh" as possible, which often requires highlighter. But unlike me, Lisa usually doesn't apply her liquid highlighter with her fingers--she tends to use a flat brush instead.

Mary Greenwell: "the famous Mary pummel"

Many people (including me) were first introduced to Mary's personality via Lisa's YouTube channel, and the differences between the two women left some viewers charmed and others flabbergasted. I'm in the former group; I think the woman is the personification of "WHEEEEE!" What stuck out to people the most is the way she just slaps makeup on to the model and rubs it in to their skin. In this video, the model refers to it as "the famous Mary pummel." That's hilarious, so clearly, I gotta try it. Mary also admits to using more foundation than most people would because she wants it to be blended all over and pressed in to the skin. Scary, but worth a shot.

Pat McGrath: using blush to shape the eyes

Pat McGrath doesn't just make luxury makeup products packed in a metric ton of sequins. She's also the creative force behind beautiful looks for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, and CoverGirl. McGrath has become infamous for traveling with dozens of bags of makeup, but she should be famous for her incredible work. I particularly loved this soft, romantic look she created for D&G, and I decided to steal her idea and blend some blush on to my eyes.

Rae Morris: keeping your lips youthful

Rae Morris doesn't seem to get a lot of credit or attention on the blogosphere these days, and it's really a shame. She's written some amazing books, and her brush range is top notch. (I don't own any of them, but I've fiddled with a friend's.) In this video, she provides numerous tips for making the mouth look youthful, including "don't overdraw the outer corners" and "apply shimmer to your top lip." I'm so set in my ways with lipstick that this kind of scares me, but the end result in this video is so gorgeous, I'm gonna give it a shot.

The Results
(in two weird lighting situations because I suck)

For the most part, these tips impressed me more than I ever expected, proving that makeup artists really know their shit. Rubbing the foundation in to my skin was almost smothering, there was so much of it, but it gave me an even more skin-like, lovely finish. However, using more foundation than usual was not a great choice for my deep fine lines.

I'm officially in love with that blush in my crease. Like, I totally suck at eyeshadow, but as long as I prep with some primer and a nude shadow as a base, the Tarte Paaarty blush blends wonderfully in to the crease. It's so natural and soft and beautifying...which makes sense, because blush shades are usually selected to flatter skin.

Avoiding overdrawing the edges of my lips looks a little better than my usual shape, though it's quite a subtle difference. I don't think you can even tell in these pictures, but at least for my initial application, I didn't overdraw the corners of my mouth and kept most of the fullness to the center of my lip. I kind of messed that up when I reapplied, and I hate to admit it, but it definitely didn't look as nice.

And I'm sticking with a flat brush for my Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector. Yeah, I'll have to wash a brush more often, but I don't use the Becca highlighter every time I do my makeup, and I really should be better about washing my brushes, anyway. It's kind of embarrassing that I own all of 10 and will let them sit on the edge of my desk for weeks before scrubbing them.

The duds? Well, I didn't like putting shimmer on my upper lip, but I kind of expected that one. I also don't really like this amount of foundation, since it tends to settle in to my smile lines. In the future, I'll probably do a slightly gentler version of the "Mary Greenwell pummel," and I'll use less foundation to do it.

Don't believe that I actually rubbed my face that hard? Friends, I bring evidence!

What's your favorite tip from a makeup artist or beauty pro?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Budget: May, June, and July

Part of life is failing to meet all of your goals, then learning to accept it. In this case, I'd hoped that I'd still have at least $100 left in my beauty budget by the time we hit the halfway point. That's not what happened here: I only have $61.81 remaining.

What happened in May, June, and July?

May was not a spend-free month for me for several reasons. One, Besame released a new lipstick, Portrait Peach. They also restocked Portrait Pink. I've wanted the pink shade forever, the peach made me think of Audrey Hepburn, and Besame makes my current favorite traditional lipstick formula. So I decided to purchase them, then declutter my collection and begin a lipstick no buy for the rest of 2017. Two, I managed to hit some great sales--but more on that in a moment.

My partner flew over to visit me at the beginning of June and stayed for two months. Obviously, him being here took up most of my attention, and the amount of money I spent on new products dropped. What I did buy was often purchased with PayPal credit from my most recent blogsale, store credit, or a gift card. I've become kind of stingy about spending cash on things, especially if I'm not liking the "freebies" that will be included with my order, and because of that, I'm more likely than ever to wait to purchase something.

Also, I obtained a second job. I don't plan on using the extra money I make to pay for beauty products; I'm more concerned with things like paying for a passport.

What did I buy?

Over this three month period, I purchased five staple replacements with cash: my Buxom Show Some Skin foundation, another pack of Shiseido Facial Cottons, a full size of the Kat Von D Lock It Concealer, and liquid eyeliner and mascara from the drugstore. I used Glossier store credit twice, once to replace a staple: my niece gacked on my sweater, so I decided to purchase another one, and I'll just keep the stained one for sleeping.

The biggest deal I managed to snag was a Sephora Chic It Easy set for $25. I'd wanted the set for a while, but it was originally $49, and I just couldn't justify it on my budget. When they dropped the price to $25, people went nuts--I mean, the YSL Touche Eclat alone is worth more than that! So it kept going in and out of stock. When it came back one afternoon and I happened to notice it, I used a gift card to snag one as fast as I could.

As for new products I spent my money on, I purchased a few things besides the aforementioned Besame lipsticks. I've been on a quest to find the perfect face sunscreen for my dry, dehydrated, reactive skin, so I snagged four on eBay. Unfortunately, I didn't pay as much attention to the sunscreen filters as I should have, so one of them is a sunscreen without UVA1 protection (Mommy UV Mild Gel). Had I checked that before purchasing, I definitely would've selected another sunscreen or just stuck with three. Colourpop released a new $6 concealer as well, and since I had a $5 coupon that would basically pay for shipping, I decided to buy the lightest warm shade for me and the darkest shade for swatches.

While these are mostly things I really wanted, and some of them are products I've wanted for years (ie, Besame Portrait Pink), I'm still a little panicked about how little I have left in my beauty budget. There are several products on my Sephora favorites list that are just calling to me, and I only barely managed to avoid the Nordstrom Anniversary sale this past month. $61.81 is nothing in the face of upcoming Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and winter holiday sales.

With that in mind, I've decided to commit to another month of "just don't buy shit" this August. There are two exceptions I'll be making. One is for Glossier's Wowder; I had enough store credit to purchase each shade they released, and I'd like to complete that review and those swatches so they can be a useful resource for anybody interested in the product. (The shades that are too dark for me will be given to friends after I've swatched them.) I also forgot to buy my friend a birthday gift when I was in Sephora with him last week, so I'll be ordering him one of the Stila glitter shadows he's wanted and grabbing a relatively affordable hair care product to replace some stuff I've finished. But other things I've been lusting after? They can wait until autumn. To keep better track of this, I've updated my budget spreadsheet so that "August" now stands on its own, and "September and October" share a slot.

In the meantime, I hope the start of the fall semester and training for this new job will keep me too busy to fuss over new releases.

How are my other goals going?

My casual Project Pan is going slower than I'd like. I certainly haven't finished a mini lipstick, which I knew was going to be the toughest goal for me. My Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint barely has a dent in it, mostly because in summer, I occasionally go full glam and mostly just skip foundation. There's slow but steady progress on the Maybelline Dream Lumi Pen, which should be empty (or close to it) by the end of the year. The biggest progress is definitely on my Glossier Mint Balm Dot Com, which was roughly 2/3 full and is now maybe 1/3 full; I used more of it than I expected this summer because my partner hates the taste of coconut and wouldn't kiss me if I was wearing my personal favorite Balm Dot Com flavor. I also finished the two skincare deluxe samples from the original post; unfortunately, neither was worth a repurchase for me.

Speaking of samples: my quest to finish as many foil packets and deluxe samples as possible is going well! At the time of this post, I've finished 36 foils and 24 deluxe samples. I'm actually a bit surprised by how much makeup I'm finishing this summer, including several liquid eyeliners and the usual slew of mascaras.

My "free swag" hasn't been wowing me as much as I'd hoped lately, though. Recently, two companies offered to send me free products to test, went through obtaining my address and working out a deal with me, and then ghosted me when I reminded them that I only write honest reviews. Frankly, it's shocking to me how unprofessional some of these smaller brands are. If you've changed your mind about working with me because you're frightened I'll say something bad about your stuff, send me an email expressing that. Don't just disappear. I've also gotten a few new things from Influenster, and while I usually like the products' formulas, they have an awful habit of sending me the wrong shades.

"Be less wasteful" is the one goal where I feel like I'm still making strides. My mother in law recently offered to make me a carrying case for my reusable straws, for example, so that will make it easier to take them to restaurants. I'm trying to make even more food from scratch to cut down on waste from wrappers and boxes. For example, I always buy regular bags of things like nuts and portion them out in small tupperware instead of buying individual 100 calorie packs, and I've learned how to make popcorn on the stove so I won't buy bags of microwave popcorn anymore. And since the weather has been so temperate, I'm hanging some of my clothing outside instead of running the dryer whenever it's feasible.

Regardless, it's been a great summer overall, but a tough period for sticking to my beauty goals. I'm hoping for a smoother go of it in the coming months!

How are your goals for 2017 going?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

1P2L: Lipstick with NARS Jungle Red

When I get stumped by my makeup, I'm tempted to buy a new product, illogically thinking that'll make everything fresh and exciting again. The smarter thing to do, of course, is to use what I already have, but try a few new looks or alternative application methods. With that in mind, I've decided to start a new series called 1P2L (1 product, 2 looks). The goal? To use the same product to create discernibly different looks. I'm not a makeup artist, so of course none of my creations will be particularly awesome or unique, but I do hope they'll serve the "stop buying shit you don't need" purpose.

For lipstick, I decided to try out my newest shade, NARS Jungle Red. The look on the left is meant to be very soft and youthful, while the look on the right is a more traditional winged liner deal.

The trick with the lips on the left: use your lipstick as a stain instead of applying it at full opacity. You can do this two different ways. The first method is to rub your finger on the lipstick, then pat the color in to your lips, using a clean finger to spread or press it in without distributing more pigment. The second method necessitates a thin layer of slick lip balm on the lips; then you brush the lipstick on using light, feathery strokes, applying as literal pressure as possible. I actually did both here--pressing with my finger for a base layer, then adding balm and a bit more lipstick on top for more color--but do whatever works best for you.

Obviously, the more full-on look is just the lipstick applied straight from the bullet. I still recommend a few additional steps, though: exfoliate your lips beforehand to get a smooth application, and use a lipliner to keep the shape relatively straight, even if you're using a very forgiving shade.

Here are the two piles of products I used for these looks. (I certainly didn't rub a candle or some perfume on my face, but it's an instagram photo, sooooo.) For the lighter look, I skipped foundation and kept the brows a little softer and messier, but I also applied a much stronger red (Stila Hibiscus) to keep the face from looking too bare. For the heavier look, I added winged liner and darker, more drawn-on brows to balance out the darker lipstick. And since Jungle Red is a satin matte, I tried to create a glossier finish on the other parts of my face.

Using lipstick as the first product for 1P2L may seem like a copout, and it...kinda is. I talk about using your lipsticks as a stain all the time. But it did encourage me to get rid of Jungle Red, since I have similar shades I consider more flattering on my skintone. Small victories!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

REVIEW: Milk Makeup Blur Stick

It probably seems a little weird for me to review a mattifying, pore-filling product when I'm incredibly dry-skinned and don't have too many visible pores. I do, however, have a nose that is irritatingly more oily than the rest of my face, and since my face is rather parched, my fine lines are generally very visible. Also, I got this as a free sample and there was a ton of buzz around it. Forever intrigued by Milk Makeup, despite the fact that only a couple of their products have actually worked for me, I decided to give the Blur Stick a shot.

A full size Blur Stick contains an ounce of product and retails for $36. While Milk's prices per unit are about right for Sephora, I will point out that their sticks tend to be quite hefty, and this one is no different. Seeing as this little sample has been used several times and still looks almost new, a full-size Blur Stick should last you a while. It has a slight citrus scent, but it's nothing overwhelming, and I can't smell it when it's on my face.

Milk makes several claims about this product. They say it is "colorless, oil-free, and silicone-free." In the most technical sense, they have two out of three right: this applies completely clear, and I'm not seeing any oils in the ingredients list. I do see silica, though, which is an oxide of silicone; hence, if you're extremely sensitive to silicone, this still may not work for you. As for its actual effects, Milk states that the Blur Stick will "minimize the appearance of pores and fine lines," provide a "smooth, matte finish," "lock in your makeup," and "will not clog pores." I've also noticed that some of their product posts and videos on social media have mentioned that you can use it on bare skin, under makeup, or over makeup, so I tried all three for this review.

For reviewing purposes, I photographed the Blur Stick when applied to bare skin; in this instance, I brushed it on my nose, in my smile lines, on the slightly larger pores on my inner cheeks, and around my eyes. Here's a before and after macro shot. (The "after" picture is a bit blurry because I suck at standing still, but you can still see some of the effects.) The results:
  • Minimizing Pores: A slight effect. This did make my pores like a tad smoother and smaller, particularly on my nose, but it's not as "filling" as some other primers I've used. I had no problem blending blush on top.
  • Hiding Fine Lines: No effect in real life, but a moderate effect in photos. Actually, this looked a bit bad on my smile lines in real life because it settled in to them. But in these photos, my smile lines definitely look less visible after applying the Blur Stick.
  • Eye Area: Very slight effect; it mostly made my undereyes feel a bit smoother and made my eyelids look a tad more matte. Again, I had no problem blending makeup on top of it.
  • Mattifying: This certainly gave my nose, eyes, and cheeks a very soft matte look. It's super natural, which is kind of nice for days when I'm not wearing foundation. I did test it as a blotter after wearing foundation for a few hours, and while it did seem to take off some of the excess shine, a blotting sheet or a powder is more effective and easier to use.
  • Works on bare skin, under makeup, and over makeup: This worked about the same in all three instances for me. That said, I think I preferred it most on bare skin. The Blur Stick is quite slippery feeling on my face, and I wasn't really fond of the feeling of foundation on top of it.

While this product is incredibly lightweight and easy to use, it doesn't have the best staying power. Here's another macro shot of my face after about three and a half hours of wear. As you can see, my concealer has creased as per usual; the pores on my cheeks and my smile lines are fully visible. The one area where it really held up was in mattifying: my nose and eyelids are getting a little shiny, but they're definitely more matte than they'd be without the Blur Stick. Of course, you can layer a bit more Blur Stick on to your skin to get more blurring--it went on clear over this blush, for instance--but some people might find that 3-4 hour wear time a nuisance.

As a final note, I did not experience any clogging or breakouts with this product, and when you run the ingredients through Cosdna, it doesn't list any major cloggers. However, Milk warns that this product is "not recommended for those with a sensitivity to citrus or coconut oils," which makes me think this may aggravate skin that's sensitive to coconut-based ingredients or citrus.

I think I'll finish this deluxe sample up, just because it's an easy way to get "summer satin skin" on my no foundation days and the tube fits in my purse. But while the Blur Stick isn't terrible, I'd hesitate to recommend it to others. I just think there are better mattifying, blurring, and pore-filling primers on the market.

RATING: 3 out of 5
You can buy Milk Makeup products at their website.

NOTE: I stole the comic in the header from Kate Beaton's hilarious Hark! A Vagrant! strip. I swore I'd get HAV in here some day and now I have.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What We Pack For Outdoor Day Trips

Let's give it up for Kirby being my Vanna White for the day!

I mentioned possibly writing a post about what Kirby and I take on our outdoor day trips, and I received a surprising amount of "That'd be awesome!"-type comments. So here it is: a quick overview of what we like to pack! This is the stuff that keeps us fed, dry, and safe from ticks while we take long walks through the forest or faff about on a canoe.

An important note: this is what we pack for a casual day trip in a safe, well-populated, well-maintained state park. It is not enough for more intense outdoor activities, like a weekend hike through the mountains. Always read up on the necessary equipment for a longer or more intense trip.

If you're hiking in the Appalachians for a week or completing a 70 mile bike ride across Pennsylvania's more rugged terrain, you probably have some of the best equipment on the market, including a top-of-the-line backpack. I do not. I have a backpack that I bought for $5 at my local Goodwill. I give zero shits about the fact that it's pink or a "Polo" product; I care that it has tons of pockets, is lightweight, and is super easy to clean. (I scrub mine down with lukewarm water and Dr. Bronner's soap.)

Most thrift stores I've visited have an entire box full of cheap backpacks for you to sift through, many of them in like new condition. If that's not an option, stalk the stores shortly after the school year begins and see if any of the backpacks go on sale, or check in at an army surplus store. Last, but not least, you can give a shout on social media and see if anybody has a spare backpack they'd give you. A few of my older friends with high school aged children say that their kids change backpacks every year, so they've often got an extra bag stuffed in a corner.

Now for the goods in the bag!
  • A tarp. Most public parks have picnic tables, but sometimes, we just want to sit out on the grass. Yeah, a picnic blanket is prettier and more romantic, but it won't keep your butt dry if the ground is still wet from a recent rainstorm. Tarps are also easy to clean and cheap to buy; this 5'x7' blue one cost me about $10.
  • A map. All of the public parks in my area provide free maps. You can also print one out before you leave the house.
  • Extra socks. It doesn't matter if you plan on going in or even near the water: there's the possibility your feet will get sopping wet, and few things are more uncomfortable than wet socks. I always pack an extra pair for each of us. If we're actually going swimming (which almost never happens, since Kirby isn't a fan), I bring an entire change of clothes, my swimsuit, and a towel.
  • Sandals, if we're canoeing (not pictured). You often have to step in to the water a bit to get in and out of your canoe, and my graceful self always manages to splash water in to the boat.
  • A poncho. We avoid rain like the plague, but you never know in Western Pennsylvania. A poncho is easier than an umbrella, since it leaves your hands free. 
  • Plastic freezer bags. We keep a few of these in the backpack so we can keep a few essentials in the canoe without worrying about them getting wet. And by "essentials," I mean "my phone," since I keep forgetting to buy a cheap-o watch so we can return our rented canoe on time. I really need to get an actual water-resistant case when I have the chance, I know.
  • Bug repellent. I draw mosquitoes like no other and Kirby is terrified of ticks, so we always coat ourselves in bug spray. We've been using Off! Deep Woods VIII for a while now and are relatively impressed with it. It reeks to high Heaven, but it does a pretty good job of keeping most bugs away from us and it doesn't feel heavy or greasy on our skin and clothes.

While we don't usually go on longer hikes, and we're generally good about staying on the designated walking paths outlined by the parks department, I'm still in the habit of bringing a little extra safety equipment. Pictured above: an LED headlamp, a compass, a lighter, and a safety knife. Altogether, this equipment cost me less than $20 and was totally worth it to ease my paranoid mind.

Not pictured is the small-but-powerful LED flashlight, chemical mace, and safety whistle I have on my key chain. If you're going to bring a whistle in case you get lost or hurt, make sure you bring an actual safety whistle; mine is a Shoreline Marine whistle that cost me a couple of bucks and can be heard for several miles. The basic whistle code is one whistle to announce your location, two as a call back, three to call for help.

There's also an assortment of first aid stuff that we keep in a Glossier pouch. Yes, you read that right: we use a Glossier pouch. It has nothing to do with them being "cute" or "hip;" they're just the right size, lightly padded, and easily replaced if they get damaged.

Inside the pouch:
  • Tampons, because I have a uterus and whatnot.
  • Bandaids and Neosporin. Despite being supremely clumsy, I almost never get cuts when we're in the woods, but better safe than sorry. Hilariously, I actually use Neosporin more on my cat's popped chin pimples than on myself.
  • Benadryl Cream. We pack this for two reasons. One, lakes are full of bugs, and even with an extreme amount of bug spray on our personages, we can still get bit. Two, I have trouble with chronic hives that can appear out of nowhere. Both are horribly itchy situations that can ruin a trip, so we nip the itch in the bud with this ointment.
  • A hairbrush. This cheap, plastic brush was given to my partner by the airport when they misplaced his luggage. Stylish? No. Comfortable? Not really. Effective? Eh, it works well enough if I topple out of the canoe and have to brush out my wet hair to prevent tangles.
  • Body Glide. I've written an entire post about this stuff, I love it so much, so definitely check that out for more details. I'll just add this: I won't go on any sort of walk, vacation, or day trip without Body Glide these days, and my chubby thighs are eternally grateful. 
  • Moleskin. Getting in to hiking and boating exposed me to moleskin, and holy shit, how did I not know about this stuff before? Basically, it's soft cotton padding, usually sold with an adhesive back so you can adhere it to your skin. What do you use it for? Blisters. Guys, this stuff is fucking mana in the wilderness if you have a blister and you want to stop the rubbing. Maybe I'm being a bit intense, but trust me, it's essential if you're spending time outdoors. You can sometimes buy moleskin that comes in pre-cut little circles, but we usually buy the full pads and cut it to size.
  • A nail kit, primarily for the tweezers and the scissors. These are useful for splinters and cutting moleskin, respectively.
  • Ibuprofen 800mgs. We rarely use these on the trip itself, since we stay home if one of us gets a bad headache, but again, better safe than sorry. I actually had to pop one on a trip last month because my period snuck up on me, and I started having back pain on the way to the lake. 20 minutes after popping one of these, I was pain-free and ready to row.
  • Extra sunscreen. We always slather on a thick layer of Blue Lizard Sensitive before leaving the house, and that will hold us for our walk and our picnic. If we're going to be outside for more than a couple of hours, though, we obviously have to touch-up, and that's easiest with a travel-size spray. We're currently using Banana Boat Sun Comfort, since it was one of the few sprays to get an "excellent" rating from the most recent Consumer Report. (NOTE: Again, Kirby and I usually don't go swimming; if you do, you may want to make sure your sunscreen has marine life-friendly filters.) I'm also carrying the Sun Bum SPF30 lip balm. I don't love it, but it's cheap, so, I mean...I won't weep if it gets ruined. In the bag it goes.

Kirby and I are also the picnicking sort...and even if you aren't, you should probably bring some food if you plan on being out for more than an hour or two. You should also eat a filling, but not too heavy, breakfast. My personal favorite? Oatmeal. It's so damn easy to make, very filling, and provides plenty of energy.

The basic oatmeal recipe is one part rolled oats to two parts liquid, but you can of course add extras to spice it up. My pre-hike oatmeal for the two of is 2/3 cup of oats, 1 1/3 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Pour it all in to a pot and stir it regularly over medium-low heat until the oats soften and the liquid thickens. I like to top that with a cup of fresh blueberries and chopped strawberries for each of us.

For lunch, I try to once again focus on "filling, but not heavy." I drop some reusable ice packs in to the cooler, then add sandwiches (a half for me, a whole for Kirby), a beverage for each of us, some raw vegetables with ranch or hummus for dipping, small containers of nuts, and a yogurt for each of us. I also throw in a fiber bar for each of us on the long car ride home. I fill a plastic freezer bag with ice, then put our water bottles on top. (The bonus with this method? You can steal some ice cubes out of the bag and drop them in your bottles if the water starts to heat up throughout the day.) These Brita bottles are nice if you plan on refilling them at the park and the water fountains are a bit suspect, but honestly, I just like them because they're soft and easy to squeeze.

I should note that we almost never eat everything I pack. On this trip, for instance, I didn't eat my yogurt and Kirby didn't touch his cashews, so we just took them home. Always dispose of your trash properly!

Last, washable hats! I highly recommend a hat with a brim that goes all the way around, like mine, so you can get some extra protection on your ears and the back of your neck as well. Kirby is addicted to his baseball hat, though, and that's better than nothing. "Washable" is key, because these get covered in sweat and sunscreen throughout the day, and we purposely blast them with bug spray to keep the gnats and flies off of our faces. It works, but at the end of the day, they are beyond smelly. All we have to day is toss them in the washer on a delicate cycle and hang them to dry.

So that's what a couple of filthy casuals like us takes on a day trip outdoors. If you think we're missing something incredibly important, or you have a few favorites of your own for outdoor adventures, please let us know! We're considering saving up for prescription sunglasses, for instance--any thoughts on that investment?