Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Giveaway for the Winter Break!

My brother and partner will be visiting us this month, so I'll be taking a brief hiatus from the blog to spend as much time as possible with them. I'll keep posting on my other social media (ReneesAnatomy on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter), and I'll be back to the blog in January when my men have returned to their respective jobs. In the meantime, I thought it'd be great to have another giveaway as a thank you for all of your continued support!

This time, I'm giving away some of my personal favorite products: the Shu Uemura Hard 9 Formula brow pencil in Seal Brown, Glossier's Coconut Balm Dot Calm, and a mini-tube of the original MAC Strobe Cream. Obviously, everything you'll receive is brand new; I just used my pencil for this photograph because I didn't want to take the new one out of  the packaging.

As always, there are some rules for this contest:

  • You must be at least 18 years old and located in the US to enter.
  • You must be prepared to provide me with your full name and address if you win.
  • You may only enter once.
  • Entries will be finalized on December 31st at 11:59pm EST. I will use to pick a winner.
  • You do NOT have to be subscribed to this blog to enter, but I will announce the winner in a blog post, so it might help to bookmark BOGL for the next month if you've entered. If you do not respond to that blog post within a week, I will draw a new winner.

This will be the first time I try to use Rafflecopter, so please bear with me in case I make any mistakes. Beyond that, good luck, and I'll see you in 2017!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 28, 2016

12 Pans of Christmas Mid-Project Update

My current Project Pan, slash, Beauty Roulette is going a bit slower than I'd normally like for a mid-project update. Yes, I've finished two items--at least 5 sample packets and a whole tube of that Godawful Goldbond lotion--but I'm not checking off as many boxes as I would like.

Yet I'm still hopeful. Being reasonable, I actually think I can finish the Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm and the Makeup Forever Excessive Lash mascara within the next month. Both are down to their last dregs; I'm actually scraping the sides of that mascara right now to get out product. I'm also pretty sure I'll finish my Colourpop Bangin' Brunette brow pencil, although you can't twist it up, so...I can't tell how much is left. Honestly, if a little remains at the end, I'm fine with that. I'll just toss it in a 5-or-6 product makeup bag I'm putting together for lazy work days.

There are two items I likely won't finish, one because I'm just starting to figure out how to make it work and one because I decided I didn't want to completely empty it. First, the Ouai Wave Spray: I'm learning to really like how textured and full this can make my buns and ponytails look. I'm still not totally wild about wearing my second day hair down, but the volume this adds to my naturally fine hair makes it tempting. Still, I doubt I'll get more than halfway through this in the next month.

I also realized I don't want to completely finish up my Glossier Coconut Balm Dot Com within the next month. It's probably my favorite out of the current four flavors, with Cherry being a close second and Mint and Rose being negligible runners-up. I decided to keep my tube of Coconut on the desk for now, and I'll be carrying one of the least-loved flavors around in my purse instead.

How are your current projects and challenges going?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Moderate Stash: Lip Pencils

This post has been on my to-do list for almost 6 months, but I never got around to photographing it until now. Why? I dunno, maybe it's because I have a deep love for lip liner that a lot of people don't understand, or maybe it's because I was distracted with more requested posts, or maybe I was just really, really lazy. Whatever. It's here now!

While I never had a truly obscene number of lip liners in my collection, I did have well over a dozen at one point in time. Actually, it might've been closer to 20 pencils--that's a lot when you consider how long they last. I've since narrowed my collection down to 7 favorites. And while I may pop in one or two more over the next year to fill in any supposed gaps, I think this is a solid assortment that meets most of my needs.

With two exceptions, my lipliner collection always has been and likely always will be composed primarily of NYX offerings. The only two outliers are a Kevyn Aucoin liner (Minimal) and a MAC Chromographic pencil (Basic Red). All of these have the kind of formula I like: a bit more hard than soft, but not overly dry and not prone to tugging on the lips, packed with pigment, great staying power. I would say that Basic Red is a hair creamier than the others, but only a hair.

Some notes on individual shades:
  • Kevyn Aucoin Minimal and NYX Mauve are very similar, but not totally identical; Mauve is slightly darker and more brown than purple. I like to wear both with cool nudes like MAC Faux. That said, I may eventually get rid of Mauve, just because I slightly prefer the color of Minimal.
  • NYX Nude Pink is the shortest pencil I own because it's been sharpened so much. It's my go-to for warm or beige nudes like NARS Raquel, although it's so light that it doesn't add much depth. It's more for getting a precise shape.
  • I don't use NYX Rose a lot, I admit it, especially in a traditional lip liner capacity. However, it's useful for warming up other lipsticks; I've used it under the super cool-toned Bite Velvet many times.
  • NYX Pinky and MAC Basic Red are my go-tos for bright shades. If I'm wearing NARS Michiyo, you know Pinky is coming to the party, and if it's time for a bold vermillion like MAC Scarlet Ibis, I can't be without Basic Red.
  • NYX Auburn has a nice balance of red, brown, and plum, so it works well with both deep scarlets like NARS Charlotte and stark plums like Besame Noir Red. This is also my favorite lip pencil to wear as a lipstick.
  • Another liner I don't use a lot is NYX Plum, but that's really because I have a hard time finding vampy purple shades I like on my skintone. Also, Plum is a little dryer than the rest of my NYX pencils, likely because it's such a deep shade.

Swatch Photos

Natural Light


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

VIDEO: Best of 2016

(NOTE: To watch full-screen, start playing, then click the YouTube button at the bottom right.)

I attempted to post this video almost 2 weeks ago, but YouTube flagged it, most likely for containing blog links in the description. After appealing and waiting for a few days, YouTube removed the strike from my account and re-approved the video. So here we are! These are the products that impressed me the most in 2016.

Products Mentioned:
Physician's Formula 2-1-in Lash Boosting Eyeliner + Serum, ~$10 -- purchase, post
VERB Leave-In Mist, $14 -- purchase, post
La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser, $24 -- purchase
Glossier Haloscope in Quartz, $22 -- purchase, post
Lime Crime Velvetines, $20 -- purchase, post
Byredo Black Saffron, $150 -- purchase, post
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $29 -- purchase
MAC Fix+ Bottle -- purchase

Friday, November 18, 2016

REVIEW: Glossier Super Serums

Rarely has a product prompted so many tweets and emails from my readers than Glossier's recently-launched serums, The Supers. It's no wonder, though, because serums have become all the rage in the beauty community. (Skincare aficionados will tell you they've been using them for years, you slackers.) The company really amped up the marketing for these puppies as well, loading their Instagram story with shots of employees in pink capes and bringing on their model-esque team to rave about the serums in Get Ready With Me-type advertisements.

So do these live up to the hype? Are they truly super and worth a purchase, or should you take a pass?

To find out, I used my store credit to purchase a full set of the serums for myself and my best friend, and we both spent about a month and a half trying them out, one by one. My skin is dry, dehydrated, and reactive; I'm prone to hives and itching. His skin is normal-combination and basically made out of Teflon.

The Glossier Super Serums are $28 for each 0.5oz bottle, or you can buy all three at once in a "Super Pack" for $65. Unlike a lot of other Glossier kits, you do get a substantial savings of $19 when you buy these as a set. They come in clear or slightly-frosted glass bottles with a pastel pink and white dropper. I'm leery of glass and I hate having my actives/oils in clear containers, but I haven't had a problem with these breaking or spoiling, so I'm assuming they're decently tough stuff. Also, Glossier promises that the formulations are not light-sensitive. I'm trusting them half-way and keeping them out of the fridge, but away from direct sunlight. As always, you can cover these in stickers, and I actually tried it this time.

Now, serums tend to be very pricey, so $28 strikes a lot of people as a great deal. Bear in mind, however, that these are only a half ounce each. The standard serum is a full ounce. This means that the Glossier Supers are $56/ounce, putting them on par with a number of mid-end serums:

A lot of the videos from Glossier show their models running the actual dropper across their face. That gives me the ickies, so I just hold the dropper a few inches away from my hand and dispense the drops on to clean fingers. I'm sure either method works.

Before we get in to the nitty gritty, let me remind you that I am not a cosmetologist or dermatologist. I am simply an enthusiast. If I have gotten any of my information about the individual ingredients wrong, please let me know in the comments.

Super Bounce

Super Bounce is a hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 serum designed to add the "bounce" back in to your skin by locking on to moisture. Notice that I said it "locks on," not that it actually moisturizes, because hyaluronic acid really won't add moisture to a dry face. Rather, it's meant to hold on to any moisture you already have and prevent dehydration. In other words, you'll want to use it under a moisturizer. (Update: our friend at Brutally Honest Beauty has let us know that hyaluronic acid should, ideally, draw moisture from your environment. I live in the Land of Forced Air, so that doesn't work in my world, but maybe you'll have better luck!) Super Bounce actually contains sodium hyaluronate, which is salt derived from the pure acid, but most sources I've read suggest that the ingredients are equally useful. Sodium hyaluronate is just cheaper. Vitamin B5 is a form of panthenol with a similar function: it attracts moisture. I also noticed that the formula contains glycerin, a basic moisturizer that works well with most skin types. This serum is very slippery and feels slightly thicker than water. Unlike many hyaluronic acid-based serums, it is not sticky.

This is the serum my friend and I were most excited for, me because I love anything that promises to prevent dehydration, him because he's obsessed with products that promise a "bounce." But our experiences were far from pleasant: we both experienced some form of irritation.

I used Super Bounce four times, and on two of those occasions, I experienced some form of irritation. The picture above was my attempt to document the horribly red, inflamed, itchy rash it gave me one Saturday afternoon, though it's not very clear. Trust me, it was worse in real life. A few weeks later, my friend texted me and said, "I'm stopping Super Bounce. It broke me out horribly." The man rarely gets a pimple, let alone a breakout, so I was a little shocked. It turns out he actually experienced some clogged pores, not a full-blown cystic breakout. Still, it was not a good experience for him.

Beyond the irritation, Super Bounce didn't do much for me. I did notice that it made my makeup slide on a bit smoother, but I'm thinking that's the silicone in the formula, not the moisture-grabbing ingredients. My friend noticed zero benefits and couldn't wait to get back to his regular First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum. All-in-all, this one was a total dud.

Super Pure

Super Pure is advertised as a serum for "break-out prone skin and redness." The redness I can understand, since it contains ingredients I've noticed in a lot of skincare for rosacea sufferers. Zinc is often used to calm irritated, rashy skin. Niacinamide (or Vitamin B3) abounds in many anti-aging products, since it improves skin texture and tone. This serum is clear and has a very thin, watery texture.

Unfortunately, this is not a product I can use all over my face because Glossier refuses to announce the percentage of actives in their formulas. I'm sensitive to high amounts of niacinamide--it makes me break out in tiny whiteheads--and there are absolutely serums on the market that contain 10% of the ingredient. Instead, I would use a drop of this on one of the "special" pimples I sometimes get. These spots are red, itchy, and inflamed, but I can tell they're not hives because:

1. there's only one bump at a time, and
2. there's a tiny whitehead somewhere in the midst of the redness.

When I used Super Pure on one of these inflamed pimples, I noticed that the redness would fade away a bit quicker and it'd handle some of the itching. It's not a miracle product, though; it only seems to speed up the process by an hour or two. My friend said he found this one the most useful of the three Supers, though he doesn't use it often: it helps blemishes and irritation heal a bit quicker.

Honestly, I doubt how well this product could fight acne. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that, while some dermatologists think zinc can reduce sebum production, the science still puts it a ways from other anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid. Most of the websites I'm seeing that contain anecdotes about niacinamide impacting acne describe niacin pills, not topical treatments. Furthermore, Super Pure contains silicone, which can cause clogging in some breakout-prone people. I could be completely off-base here, so again, feel free to tell me more in the comments.

Super Glow

Super Glow is Glossier's Vitamin C and magnesium serum. This form of vitamin C, aminopropyl ascorbyl phosphate, is relatively new and apparently more stable than many other forms of vitamin C. It can brighten and even out the skin, particularly if you deal with hyper-pigmentation. Magnesium is a humectant, most likely included to help with vitamin C's tendency to make skin feel dry and tight. (Definitely use this one under a moisturizer!) This serum has an extremely thin, watery texture, and it absorbs quickly, so I got in to the habit of rubbing it between my fingers and patting it in to my skin. Unlike many vitamin C products, you do not have to refrigerate Super Glow. Oh, and there's no smell! A lot of vitamin Cs reek, let me tell you; it's like rubbing a hot dog on your face.

Out of all of the serums, this was the one I was most happy with. It soaked in to my skin almost instantly and, after two or three weeks of use, gave me a bit more glow and evenness. Alas, it is a bit too drying for me right now, even with moisturizer on top, so I'm retiring it for the moment. My friend said he didn't notice a difference with this one, but he blames this more on his routine and his skin, since he's used to potent products that give a mega-watt glow after each use.

The Verdict

Perhaps you've noticed that I'm not particularly enthused in this review. That's because my friend and I were both let down by these serums.

For starters, there is nothing special about these formulations. They are not revolutionary or complex. All of these serums contain basic ingredients that have been around for some time and are either available much cheaper from other brands (see Deciem's The Ordinary range), or are available in products that contain other beneficial ingredients and have better textures (see Drunk Elephant's range). Unless you're producing products with the absolute best-feeling and most-effective formulas on the market, it's ridiculous to charge $56 an ounce for something so run-of-the-mill.

Speaking of how basic these formulas are, is anybody else a miffed by Glossier's cheerful refusal to release percentages for the Supers because the formulas are "top secret?" One, let me repeat that there's nothing special or secret about the ingredients in these formulas, so acting like they're "TEE-HEE SOOOO UNIQUE!" grates on me. Two, a lot of people can only use X percentage of certain ingredients. If Super Pure does contain 10% niacinamide, for instance, then somebody like me could experience a major reaction after a few days of use. Third, plenty of more established brands openly state the percentage of actives in their products, or will tell you if asked. Fourth, let's not pretend that duping a product is as easy as knowing the percentage of a certain active in its formula. Fifth, it doesn't matter if you can dupe these easily, because a big part of Glossier is the experience. Many people will repurchase their stuff just because of the pink pouches and snappy marketing, even if they can find a cheaper alternative.

Lastly, while I am not a member of the "Silicone is the Devil" team, I am disappointed that two of the three serums contain silicone. Silicone gives beauty products a bit more slip, but it contains no actual skincare benefits. It's been my experience, actually, that silicone is often added to skincare products to make them seem more emollient than they really are. And again, silicone can be a potential irritant or clogger for some people.

In the end, we both agreed that we would not purchase these serums with our own money. In fact, I wouldn't even use store credit to get them again, and neither would my friend. There are just better and/or more affordable products on the market. Glossier has made some solid skincare basics, like the Milky Jelly Cleanser, but the Super Serums are a definite pass.

RATING: 2 out of 5
These serums were purchased from using store credit earned through referrals.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reflecting on 2016 and 2017 Goals

I originally hoped to have my "Best of 2016" video up and open yesterday, but YouTube had the video removed for some sort of terms of service violation. My appeal still hasn't been considered, so I'm posting about my goals and beauty budget for 2017 instead.

This past year, I kept track of all of my beauty or beauty-adjacent purchases in a little notebook. I noted what I bought, when I bought it, what it all cost, and how I paid for it. Unfortunately, I didn't develop the best documentation strategy until these past few months. Hence, spring and summer orders that I paid for with both store credit/gift cards and cash don't differentiate between how much of each was spent. Therefore, the "total cash spent" for spring and summer is a little inflated. I did not include products bought with just store credit or gift cards in these calculations. Also, I subtracted the cost of products I returned.

SPRING: $396.14

SUMMER: $355.61

FALL: $421.93

TOTAL: $1,173.68

Wow. Even if you subtract about $200 from the total to account for gift cards, that's a thousand freaking bucks. Now, I'm not judging anybody for spending that much, and I'm not even judging myself. I pay my bills every month, I put money on my student loans, I maintain a savings...but still. That's a lot! I imagine how much quicker I could pay down my loans with that money, or how fantastic it would feel to make bigger charitable donations.

On the bright side, a decent slice of what I spent accounts for repurchase staples, and I found some amazing new products over the year. I've also noticed that I've skipped over the last few sales that popped up, and I'm not too interested in the current Black Friday offerings, either. All I bought from Sephora VIB? 2 staple products, 2 new products, didn't even crack $100. Every time I see a product on sale, even if it's something I think I'd love, I look at my collection sitting next to me on the desk and say, "Eh, I already have _____ lipsticks." I feel great about that.

 God bless the wedding budget template in Excel.

So I set some goals for 2017! Here they are:

  • Do not participate in the 2016 Black Friday beauty sales. This is technically a goal for the end of this year, but eh, let's start early. :)
  • Set a budget of $250 for all non-staple beauty purchases. Staples I'll just purchase as needed. That sounds like cheating, I know, but staples aren't products I tend to overpurchase. I think we all know the ol' standbys are beloved for a reason, but they don't make your heart beat faster.
  • Unsubscribe from Sephora Play. I actually think it's a great service, I just have tons of deluxe samples and newer products to work through.
  • Complete at least one more Project Pan/Beauty Roulette during the year. I'll probably take a break at the start of the year, though.
  • Do a new edition of the Lipstick Diaries. This series was really helpful for me in 2016, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it!
  • Transfer more funds to my savings, student loan payments, and charitable donations. Again, I already pay for these things, but I think being even more focused will really encourage me to spend less on beauty products.
 And speaking of charity, I want to thank everybody who has contributed to Donors Choose as a thank you for this blog. I appreciate your support, as always, but even more, I appreciate your support of our educational programs.

(Quick end note: I was trying to figure out why my number for fall was so high. Then I realized I spent $95 on a Diptyque candle trio. It's the small things!)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Potential Live Chat

I just wanted to toss this idea out there and get a feel for how interested people would be in something like this! I always enjoy live chats on YouTube, and I was wondering if anyone would be interested in participating in a chat if I scheduled one. I'm not the most thrilling person in the world, but I do enjoy discussing a variety of topics, and it seems like there's always a great conversation in my blog's comments section.

If you would have any interest in a live chat, please leave me comment on this post, drop me an email, or contact me via any of my social media accounts (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter). I would probably do it on a Friday or Saturday evening, say 9pm EST, but you can let me know how you'd feel about that. If you wouldn't be in to a live chat, that's fine, too! I'd love to hear why.