Friday, February 16, 2018

REVIEW: Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle Plush Matte Lipsticks

NOTE: This post was meant to go live on Monday, February 19th, but I accidentally posted the original draft. Hence, there may have been some typos I did not address immediately (I apologize), and there will not be another post until later next week. Oops. See you next weekend!

I have zero legitimate excuses for buying more lipsticks, even with a gift card and a reasonable price tag. The truth of the matter is that I adore Rihanna, I want to support inclusive brands like Fenty, and I just fucking love lipstick. That said, I held off on testing the Mattemoiselle lipsticks for a while because most of the rave reviews were coming from big YouTubers who received the entire shade range in an admittedly stunning PR package. The final push? Talented, smaller creators I like started wearing Freckle Fiesta, which was the shade that called to me from the beginning.

The Fenty Mattemoiselle Plush Matte Lipsticks retail for $18 each. That seems like a steal, but these lipsticks are tiny: each one contains just 1.7 grams of product, making them almost half the size of the average high-end lipstick. Not surprisingly, the tubes are physically small as well, and the actual lipstick inside is about the thickness of a cigarette. Beyond that, I like the look of the packaging just fine. The tube is a very lightweight, silver plastic, and the lipsticks have "FB" stamped in the top (though this disappears after your first application).

From left to right: Fenty Candy Venom, NARS Michiyo, Fenty Freckle Fiesta, Besame Chocolate Kiss.

There are currently 14 shades in the range, and it's an eclectic mix. You get soft, "work appropriate" shades like Spanked (dusty rose), bold and bright colors like Griselda (burgundy), and a handful of unique, not-in-most-lipstick-range shades like Clapback (navy) and Midnight Wasabi (green). While I disagree that each individual shade will "flatter all skintones"--Up 2 No Good will turn white on deeper skin, for instance--I think the range has something for everybody, and a lot of the colors are very flexible.

I picked up the bright pink, Candy Venom, and the "spiced terracotta," Freckle Fiesta. Both shades seem to work on just about everybody, though Freckle Fiesta definitely seems to read more orange than brown on dark skin. As you can tell by the swatches, they are densely pigmented. I compared them to the two most similar shades in my collection, but they still stand out: Candy Venom is darker and more purple than NARS Michiyo, and Freckle Fiesta is more yellow and less muted than Besame Chocolate Kiss.

The Fenty Mattemoiselle lipsticks have an incredibly smooth, soft texture that glides on to the lips with ease and provides opaque color in a single swipe. If I had to compare the texture to anything, I'd compare it to a cream-to-powder blush or foundation, not because it's dry or dusty, but because it has that silky smoothness to it. It definitely feels less "wet" and creamy than most traditional lipsticks. They're very forgiving on fine lines and feel weightless on the lips. "Plush" defines them aptly.

I found these lipsticks slightly drying, but only slightly. Your lips may feel a tad parched at the end of the day, and you'll definitely want to wear some balm afterwards. However, they are comfortable for a solid 8+ hours and do not cause flaking or shriveling.

In terms of wear, you're going to get above average lasting power for these puppies. They don't feather much, but they will smear with enough pressure, and they will fade a bit if you eat a full, sloppy meal. I like to apply, blot, and reapply with all of my lipsticks, including these, because it gives me a bit more staying power.

Here's a close-up of my lips with both colors so you can see the texture. Again, it's an incredibly smooth and flattering formula.

Now, that sounds absolutely stellar, but I have to tell you that one thing about the Mattemoiselle lipsticks disappointed me in a big way: the packaging. I'm no lipstick novice, but I found it very tricky to get sharp, even lines with the tiny, rounded lipstick bullets; I had to touch up the edges of my lips with a q-tip every time, and it's still not as sharp as I'd normally like it. I also noticed that a little bit of lipstick always smeared on to the edges of the tube, even when they were brand new and just-opened, as if the lipstick wasn't placed straight in the tube. You can actually see this little blob of lipstick "spillage" in the header image of this post.

If it weren't for the packaging, I'd probably give these lipsticks a 5 out of 5. That said, I will be returning Candy Venom because I don't think it flatters me very much. Freckle Fiesta, though...I know it makes me look a tad sallow in some pictures, but for whatever reason, I still love that color and I just can't quit it. At the very least, I'd like to see if I can finish this tube up. It shouldn't be too tough given the small amount of product in it.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Revisiting First Impressions Videos -- What Stayed?

"First Impressions" videos are incredibly fun, but are regularly subject to a totally valid criticism: you can't properly review a product after one application. So I decided to revisit my recent First Impressions videos and discuss what products I kept, what I immediately purged, and what I finished, but wouldn't repurchase. Hilariously, my first impressions actually matched up to my initial reviews almost perfectly.

So what stayed?

The biggest surprise was the Catrice Long-Lasting Brow Definer, a $5 brow marker I tossed in my Ulta cart on a whim. This easy-to-use product makes it possible for me to get naturally full-looking brows in a minute. It actually ended up on my Best of 2017 list. Unfortunately, it looks like Catrice is discontinuing it; there's only one heavily discounted shade available on Ulta right now. (ETA: Several readers have contacted me to say that this product is still readily available in Europe. Thanks for the info!)

Now, I expected to like the Cream Rouges sent to me by Besame, but I didn't realize just how often I'd wear them. They're perfect for my lazy makeup days because they're so natural, blendable, and multipurpose. I'm especially fond of the red, Crimson Rouge. Still, I can't wear them every day because they contain an ingredient that breaks me out with consistent use.

These were okay, but...

I'm really enjoying the YLS Touche Eclat, and getting a full size tube of the stuff along with a bunch of other interesting samples for a mere $25 was a coup. However, I put it on my 2018 Use It Up list because it's just not worth the price tag. When it's finished, I'll switch back to the Maybelline Dream Lumi Pen in Radiant. If you want a natural highlighter and a soft, glowy undereye corrector, you can get it at a cheaper price.

As for the Dior DiorShow mascara: it gave me fluttery, full lashes, but holy shit, did it reek of perfume. You can smell that stuff as soon as you open the tube. I mean, let's just take a look at my face in that First Impressions video:


Last, but not least, the Ciate Lip Velvet was really lovely, but just not My Thing. I got rid of it for three reasons: I've given up on liquid lipsticks, it's not the sort of liquid lipstick formula I liked to begin with, and I have several red shades that are almost identical. However, if you want a comfortable, smooth, pigmented liquid lipstick that won't dry you out horribly, I'd have no qualms recommending the Ciate range.

Fuck this.

Can we have a moment of silence for my hopes and dreams? Because I was expecting the Colourpop Brow Boss pencil to wow me. Instead, I found the formula difficult to work with, the packaging flimsy, and the spoolie downright painful. I've considered trying their new Brow Boss Gel, but the pencil basically turned me off of the entire range. PS: most of the shades read weirdly yellow on me.

Last, and certainly least, is the MAC Upward Lash mascara. Look, I'm all about unique wands, but only if they function. The non-existent bristles on the Upward Lash wand glomped mascara in wet, greasy pools all over my lashes and smeared product across my eyelids. I usually force myself to finish mascaras, even if I'm not in love with them, but this stuff sucked so hard, I had to toss it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Stupid Little Things: DYMO Label Manager

Stupid Little Things is all about the random cheapies, odd tricks, and miscellaneous things that make my day.

I burn like a lobster, so keeping a stash of top-notch sunscreens is second nature to me now. (Let me know if an updated "sunscreen collection" post would be useful, by the by--I have no idea if that helps anybody.) But most sunscreens lose their potency after two years. I can't risk it, so I've labeled my sunscreens, listing the month and year they were opened. Originally, I did this with masking tape; it was cheap, easy, and readily available.

The problem with masking tape, though, is that it's a bit wider than I'd like; it took up a wee bit too much space on smaller bottles. The Sharpie I used to write out the dates also tended to bleed if it came in to contact with water, and since I like to go to the lake, my sunscreens bump up against a lot of water. And on a purely aesthetic level, it looks kinda crappy.

So I bought myself a label maker. There are a slew of options on the market; DYMO alone sells a half dozen models. Some of them are over $75 because they allow you to create bar codes, change the label font, and print up to four lines of text. My needs are pretty basic, though, so I went with the cheapest model: the LM160, which you can bundle with two extra tape cassettes for $20. (I use rechargeable AAAs in mine, but if you want something with a built-in rechargeable battery, the LM280 is still relatively affordable and has the same basic functionality.)

I love this stupid thing. The 1/2" tape is the perfect size for most of my bottles and tubes, including even the tiniest containers of face sunscreen. I've also marked opened-on dates for my new foundations, and I've labeled most of my travel bottles. When your face cleanser, body wash, hair conditioner, and moisturizer are all a creamy white color, labeling is almost a matter of life and death. I've accidentally used hair conditioner on my face before and that shit stings when it gets in your eyes.

I don't just label beauty products, though. I've labeled my closet, which has always had a rough order, but now has broad categories. (Yes, the closet is very banged up. I live in an old house.) I've put my name on the insides of my textbooks, on my bag of white erase markers, and on my wireless USB mouse, since those items often go mysteriously missing from the teacher's desk, but the mystical power of a last name seems to scare off potential thieves. I used to write my first name and phone number on my bus passes, but now that they've switched from paper punch cards to reloadable plastic cards, I've slapped a DYMO label on it instead. My tech-obsessed dad borrowed it to label remotes and wires for his home entertainment system. (I also tagged his pillbox with the words "shitbag programmer," which he finds hilarious. We have a weird sense of humor.) I've labeled samples for friends and family members. I've loaned it out to people keeping track of their storage boxes. Seriously, I get way more use out of this thing than I ever thought I would.

That said, I will make one recommendation: get the extra tape. The cassette that came with the machine lasted way longer than I expected, and I'm only on my second cassette, but you can definitely run through them in record time if you're making a ton of labels.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

REVIEW: Make Beauty Custom Finish Effects Matte/Dew

The forum and "Big YouTuber" hype machine doesn't usually get to me. Sure, influencers with a million plus subscribers will sometimes rave about a product that piques my interest, but seeing a cringe-worthy shade range or a bad-for-me ingredients list almost always turns me away.

I can't say the same for bloggers, Instagrammers, and smaller creators I follow. Since they're less likely to be swayed by sponsorships and more likely to use under the radar products that fit my aesthetic, I'm prone to lusting after their favorite products. And when The Critical Babe kept posting about this Make Beauty product that promises both a mattifying cream and a highlighting cream, I was sold. The ability to customize my look? Oooooh!

Make Beauty Custom Finish Effects retails for $27. It arrives in a shiny, plastic black compact with a mirror; both attract fingerprints, obviously, but they're easy to clean and have that sleek, simple look I prefer.

When you open up the compact, you'll see a beige side and a pink side. Because I'm a dipstick used to seeing white or off-white cream highlighters and mattifiers, I initially thought they'd sent me a blush-and-bronzer combo by accident. Double check the instructions, though, and you'll see that they recommend applying the "peach formula to areas in need of shine control or matte finish, and the pink formula to areas in where you want moisture or a dewy finish."

It's actually smart to make the two sides completely different colors in the pan so you don't mix them up. Rest assured, they apply clear. As far as textures go, the matte side has a very thin, silicone-y feel to it, while the pink side feels stickier.

Let's talk about the claims. For starters, Make states that this product "will not clog pores" and is "hypoallergenic." Both of these are marketing phrases that don't actually mean much. A look at the ingredients list shows a number of components that some people find irritating or clogging, such as talc, ethylhexyl palmitate, and fragrance on the matte side, while the dew side contains various oils, waxes, and more fragrance. I didn't have any issues with breakouts or clogging, but it's worth noting.

Make also claims that this product can be used on top of foundation and powder. I found this to be partially true. In the above before-and-after photo, you can definitely see that the dewy side (applied to my cheeks) gives a subtle, slightly wet glow. It's somewhat similar to my beloved Glossier Haloscope, though I had to apply more of the Make product to get this look.

The matte side, though, didn't work quite as well. If you click on the above photo and look at my nose, you'll see that it gave me a bit of a "polka dot pores" look. This softened a little throughout the day, but it still didn't "reduce the appearance of lines and pores" like Make claimed it would, and it made my nose look a bit patchy and dry. I also applied the matte cream to my eyelids, and while it looked nice for the first hour, it quickly creased all over my lids and "grabbed" flakes from my mascara.

These creams also have dramatically different staying power. The dew effect lasted pretty much all day, while the matte effect lasted only a few hours on me, and I say that as somebody with fairly dry skin. In fact, my nose didn't just look shiny after a couple of hours, it looked shinier than usual. I could apply more of the matte side to tamp down the shine, but honestly, I'd have been better off just leaving my nose Make Beauty free.

I think the Make Beauty Custom Finish Effects creams work a little better on foundation-less skin. On this day, I went to work with the matte cream on my nose and the dewy cream on my cheeks. With no foundation to butcher, the matte side actually looks okay, but again, it became a grease slick by the time I was done teaching. The dewy cream is barely-there, natural, and slightly glowy.

So I only like half of this product, and that officially makes it a bust for me. But hey, that half is pretty damn nice. If Make Beauty sells it separately and they come out with a few more products that interest me, I might consider investing. You can never have enough dewy, glossy skin.

RATING: 3 out of 5
Make Beauty products are now available on Amazon.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My Favorite Red Lip Pencil

Before I wised up to the racket that is "free shipping when you spend X!", I would toss things I didn't really want or need in to my shopping cart to hit that shipping minimum. When it came to MAC's website, I usually picked another tube of Strobe Cream or a new lipstick. On one occasion, I decided a red eyeliner seemed like a good idea...probably because the pencils were on sale or something of that ilk. I'd tested the MAC Chromagraphic Pencils in the nude shades before and found them to be pigmented and creamy, so I figured I'd have the same luck with Basic Red.

It turns out red eyeliner isn't exactly the best look for a professor. I wore scarlet wings to class once, received a snippy comment from a higher-up, and retired the pencil to the back of my collection. And at the time, I had such a huge collection that this one pencil was quickly lost in the mix.

I've since downsized my collection dramatically, all the while becoming more and more aware of what I do and don't need to achieve certain looks. Only two red pencils have stuck with me: NYX Auburn, which I've owned for far too many years but refuse to quit because it works so well with deep bordeauxs and bold crimsons, and MAC Basic Red.

Top: Besame 1941 Victory Red and 1920 Besame Red. Middle: MAC Chromagraphic Pencil in Basic Red. Bottom: MAC Scarlet Ibis and Besame 1931 Carmine.

Basic Red is the cleanest, most neutral red lip liner I've ever found. Some people say it leans a little warm, but honestly, I think it depends on which lipstick you pair it with. I wear it with all four of the shades above: the cool toned and saturated Victory Red, the more muted Besame Red (which appears outright purple-ish here because it's so muted in comparison to other three shades, but is clearly a soft, slightly blue red on the lips), the slightly warm Scarlet Ibis, and the orange-red Carmine. In every case, lining my lips with MAC Basic Red, then bringing the lipstick right to that pencil line always gives me the sharpest, fullest look I can get sans lip brush.

I've also worn Basic Red on its own with just a hint of balm or gloss on top, as in my Best of 2016 video. The formula is smooth enough to apply evenly to the lips and feel comfortable, but waxy enough to stay put. (The standard MAC lipliners, I find, are a bit too dry and flaky to be worn all over the lips.)

This truly versatile pencil deserves far more hype than it gets. That said, I'm not so much encouraging you to rush out and buy it as I am encouraging you to think very carefully about the products you already have. It's the stuff we tend to reach for automatically, without fanfare or fuss, that's truly deserving of "Holy Grail" status.