Thursday, September 18, 2014

25 Tops: MAC Please Me (sort of) and UD Native, plus a "Skincare State of the Union"

Please note that there is no top image for this post. That's because the lipstick I was going to toss in to this challenge, MAC Please Me, was recently stolen from me. What had happened was...I took a bag containing several personal items, including some makeup, into the bathroom at work on Wednesday. I wasn't feeling well and I was a bit out of it, so I forgot the bag in the bathroom. Right before my class, I realized the bag was missing; I looked everywhere and couldn't find it. Nobody has returned the bag or contacted me (my information was inside). So they made off with a lot of personal items, including my MAC Blot Powder, my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer (an HG product)...and, I realized today when I reached for them and came up empty, my MAC Please Me lipstick and my Bobbi Brown Tutu gloss.

I was so upset, I almost cried on the spot. I don't say this because I want you to pity me and send me free things--my life is not that hard, and I always tell people to donate their money to worthwhile charities instead--but rather because it was a moment when I felt incredible pain. I don't make a lot of money, and these were items I'd worked hard for. And because most people aren't as pale as I am, I sincerely doubt that the thief will even be able to use what they stole. They stole that bag probably thinking there was money in it, and when they checked and realized it was just personal items, they probably...well, they might've used some of the stuff, but it's more likely that they just chucked my hard work in to a dumpster.

But I decided, "I am NOT going to let this person defeat me." I put on UD Native instead. And I realized that I truly, truly love this lipstick, even more than the Please Me/Tutu combination. I am not a vengeful person, but I am honest. Here's the truth: selfish, greedy people always get their comeuppance. And I will look flawless, no matter how much of my stuff you steal.

BASE: MAC Face & Body in N1 + White, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx02, Dolce & Gabbana powder foundation in 50 Ivory

EYES: Too Faced Shadow Insurance, Makeup Forever Aqua Cream in #02, Wet n' Wild Comfort Zone palette, Wet n' Wild eyeshadow in Brulee, Shu Uemura brow pencil in Seal Brown, CoverGirl Clump Crusher mascara, Anastasia clear brow gel

CHEEKS: Scott Barnes Chic Palette in Posh [D/C]

LIPS: Urban Decay Revolution lipstick in Native


In other news, my skin has changed a good deal over the past 6 months or so. I think it's a mixture of aging, hormones, and stress. I'm experiencing lots of tiny bumps on my forehead (I think they're clogged pores), more sensitivity and acne, and a much oilier t-zone than I previously did. So I've been slowly switching out my products to figure out what might be causing the change in texture; namely, I've replaced konjac sponges with baby washcloths (because the latter are washable), and I've started using my mother's CeraVe PM cream. I'll try to keep you guys posted!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jeans: A Mini-Philosophy

Fashion guru and former Parsons faculty Tim Gunn once wisely, but controversially, stated that the American obsession with comfort is somewhat overrated:

I get very impatient with this whole "comfort issue" with clothing. Yes, you don't feel as comfortable in clothes that fit you as you do in your pajamas and robe. That's a good thing. You're navigating a world where you need to have your wits about you. If you're in a lackadaisical comfort haze, you can't be engaged in the world the way you need to be. [...] Does grooming take time? Yes, it does. But we need to make a commitment. ("Gunn's Golden Rules," p116 & 124)

Some people have taken this to mean that Gunn is absolutely against any sort of comfort in fashion and favors a "constantly buttoned-up" approach. This is not accurate, which Gunn himself points out; a suit is too much for a grocery store when a t-shirt and slacks will suffice. Rather, there's a time and a place for everything. It's just that some people have become completely lazy when it comes to dressing themselves for a day out in public. And I have to agree that it's mildly appalling.

Yes, the August 2014 issue of InStyle included an entire article on "designer sweatpants," comfy clothes made to look a bit more presentable than the standard drawstring fare. And I cannot deny that some of them looked very pretty and, well, comfortable. But at the end of the day, they're still pajamas and yoga pants. What makes me leery is the fact that I know many people who are so obsessed with comfort that they will go out of their way to wear sweatpants and ratty t-shirts 24/7, no matter what the situation, and this designer sweatpants trend might add fuel to the fire. "If Heidi Klum can wear them to the gym, why can't I wear them to my interview?"

Let's put it this way: when I'm enjoying an autumnal day at home, I wear my Super Mario pajamas, or a pair of Merona cotton yoga pants that are so comfy, I could cry tears of joy. But if I'm going further than our house's mailbox? I'm putting on a bra and a pair of jeans. Unless I'm sick, dying, or do not have any other options (a legitimate issue for some people, let it be known), I'm not going to walk out of my house looking like I just rolled out of bed and couldn't be fussed. This is not the case for some people, and I've seen many-a-student waltz through the college halls in polka-dot pajama pants and a hoodie at noon. NOON. I know it's an unpopular opinion, but I also know that most of those students are not deathly ill or lacking for clothing options, so the choice of "pajamas in public" strikes me as downright inappropriate.

 "And please, put on a clean shirt when you step outside your door. It's an affront to the very delicacy of my nature."

Here's my point: modern denim is incredibly comfortable and affordable, but still perfectly presentable in a wide variety of situations. Yet some people cling to the idea that anything conforming to their body is inherently uncomfortable, even flowy sundresses or loose slacks, and they cling to their pajama pants. At the end of the day, jeans are meant to conform to your body. Really, most clothes that fit you will conform in some way. They're not going to feel like pajamas, no, but for the zillionth time, only pajamas should feel like pajamas!

That being said, jeans also shouldn't feel bad. They should conform to your body, and you should be able to feel them, but they should not rub, dig, cut off circulation, or make you feel uncomfortable insofar as you think you look bad/weird. Think of it like a suit of armor: it's tangible, but it makes you feel protected and prepared to handle any situation. It's not a pair of sweats, but it's also not uncomfortable.

A good jeans brand will include a decent amount of stretch so you can sit and move. (Trust me, this is a modern development: jeans were originally designed for folks working in hard jobs, like down in the mines, and the stiffness and roughness of the fabric was a testament to that.) You need to find a brand that feels especially good on your body and almost always fits you right, and in my personal opinion, you need to stick with it 90% of the time.

Don't get me wrong, it's fun to try new things! But have you ever been that person who spends two hours pulling out every single pair of jeans, from every single brand and in every single cut available, trying to find just one pair that fits you right? (Clearly, I've been that person. Ugh.) If you find a few brands that work for you, all of that guesswork goes away, and you can search the racks at consignment shops, or head straight to the right corner of Nordstrom's, for stuff that will most likely work. For example: when I go shopping, I can flip through an entire rack of jeans in less than 5 minutes. That's because, after years of trial and error, I've found a few brands that look great on me, and I stick with them. I wear Citizens of Humanity (my top choice for curvy ladies) or 7 For All Mankind in a 29 or a 30. They fit me perfectly, they have the right amount of stretch, and they come in styles I like. Everything else gets passed over, unless I'm in the market to try something new or a 29 in another brand has a particularly interesting style.

There's also a range of cuts/styles for you to choose from, leaving you with plenty of options. That's something else people forget: jeans can be dressed up or dressed down. I recently got a simple black blazer, and my mother and I gushed over how great it would look with a nice t-shirt and a pair of straight-leg jeans for a business casual workplace. On a day-to-day basis, I wear super stretchy boot cut styles with A-shirts or ripped up tees--I'm dressed, but I'm still me, and I'm still comfortable. And if I'm going out to lunch? Skinny jeans work best with most of my boots, since they'll tuck in without looking baggy. I have a friend who looks fabulous in high-waisted jeans, and another friend who's big on the 70s and loves a flared leg. Whatever your style or preference, there's a pair of jeans waiting for you.

And remember: tailoring is always an option. I learned this the hard way. For years, I would see size 29 Citizens of Humanity jeans at Salvation Army or Goodwill for $5. I'd try them on, and they'd fit perfectly in the waist, the butt, the thigh...and then they'd be too long. So I'd pass them up. This past month, I obtained a pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans that were way too long for me, but were in such a pretty wash and were so freakin' cheap (less than a cup of coffee!) that I decided I would just roll them up. My mom's response? "You know, your aunt could just hem them for you."

My aunt is a professional tailor. Most professional tailors have equipment that lets them work on embroidery fabric and wedding gowns, so denim is really Not a Big Deal to them. And they'll hem your jeans for less than $10 a pair in most cases. I'm not sure how I missed this, but I did.

Look, I'm not saying you have to wear jeans. There are people like Dita von Teese who pretty much never wear pants. But people like Dita von Teese still manage to look put-together and feel comfortable on a day-to-day basis. The jeans market is so full of options right now that I think most people can find something suitable to their tastes, and also suitably comfortable. It just takes a little searching...and yeah, you gotta relinquish the sweatpants for a day. Don't worry: they'll be there when you get back.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Well, if it works for a BABY--"

There was a time when, like many beauty fanatics, I cleansed my makeup brushes with Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. It was a great product: a tiny amount cleansed my brushes, rinsed out easily, and left everything supple and soft. Hilariously, I'd also run in to a few people who were appalled that I would use "regular shampoo" on my brushes. I didn't quite get the shock--if it's delicate enough to work on an infant, then how bad can it be for my brushes?

I switched to Dr. Bronner's bar soap, simply because the bar makes cleaning quicker and less messy. (My dad has commandeered the baby shampoo to clean his CPAP machine.) But recently, I've been looking back on the Days of J&J Goodness and wondering if I've let go of something really amazing. This is especially pertinent as I age; my skin has become more sensitive, more acne-prone, and slightly more textured over the past year. Now I'm using several products designed for children and babies, and I couldn't be happier with my skin.

Johnson's Baby Lotion -- Truth be told, half of the reason I bought this lotion is because it smells like baby powder. My mother has always used baby powder after she showers, so the scent reminds me of her. But it's also a nice, light lotion with a very basic, won't-eat-your-skin-alive formula. Applying this immediately after I shower leaves me with silky-smooth and lightly scented skin. It won't be enough for extreme winter dryness, but in the summer? Perfect. This product contains mineral oil (more on that later), so some people also use it to remove their makeup.

Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple SPF50 Sunscreen -- It's mind-boggling how many sunscreen lotions, sprays, and sticks I've tried over the past few years. I'm always looking for something that protects well without feeling heavy or clogging up my skin. Finally, I've give up the ghost. I've admitted that if I want decent sun protection at an affordable price point, I'm probably going to have to deal with something that's a tad heavy. Enter Coppertone's Pure & Simple line. While I can definitely feel this stuff when I'm wearing it, it's not sticky and it doesn't break me out. It's also fragrance-free, which is a major bonus.

Johnson's Baby Oil -- I used to spend a good chunk of change on oil-based makeup removers until I realized that the active ingredient was plain old mineral oil. In fact, most of the products I used were just mineral oil with one or two softening agents and some fragrance. I've been removing my makeup with ordinary baby oil (which is just mineral oil, sometimes with added fragrance) for at least 5 years now. Nothing tops it! It breaks down every bit of makeup and doesn't dry my skin out. It does take some getting used to, because...well, it's oil, and that greasiness can feel weird to some people. But I can't imagine using anything else. Just a pro-tip: after you apply the mineral oil to remove your makeup, you'll want to use a dry tissue or facial cotton to swipe most of it off of your skin. Otherwise, you'll have too much oil on your face, and your skin won't wash clean when you cleanse.

Baby Wash Cloths -- I've loved konjac sponges, but it's always been a pain to order them from China and replace them every month. It's also kind of icky to me that you can't really CLEAN them. You can rinse them in hot water with some gentle soap, but still, it bothers me. So I asked the folks on MakeupAlley for recommendations. The overwhelming favorite? Baby wash cloths. And I can see why. These cotton wash cloths are incredibly cheap (I got 10 for $5 at Wal-Mart) and can be laundered after every use. I've been rubbing my cleanser in with my hands, then gently removing it with a soaked wash cloth, rubbing in circular motions with hardly any pressure. It exfoliates my face and leaves me glowing without irritation. I might need a stronger exfoliant every once in a while, but for now, this is my new favorite!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

REVIEW: Makeup Forever Mat Velvet + Foundation

You know I'm getting desperate for pale foundations when I start trying every matte formulation in the book. My most recent test-it-out: Makeup Forever Mat Velvet +. Advertised as providing full (but variable) coverage with a matte, "powdered" finish that lasts for hours, I figured this product would be too drying for my skin.

Hilariously, it was actually very comfortable, and it had a pretty finish. And yet I find that disappointing.

MUFE Mat Velvet Plus retails for $36 for 1 fluid ounce. I swapped for the lightest shade, #15 Alabaster, which is described as a shade for "porcelain skin with pink undertones."

The foundation has no major smell, and it applies very easily: no streaking and plenty of time to blend before it dries. However, it was immediately clear to me that this is NOT a full-coverage foundation. One layer gives me light coverage, which I can build up to medium; as you can see here, my evil chin zit and undereye circles are still relatively visible.

Nor does it appear to be a "powdered matte finish" on my face...kind of impressive, considering I have dry skin. But because it had more of a velvety finish than a powdery finish, I was instantly concerned about how it would sit on oily skin.

Like most foundations, #15 swatches lighter than it applies. It was immediately clear to me that this foundation was too dark and too pink for me. It's not quite as pink as MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NW13 (see below), but it's definitely not a match for my neck. I'd peg it at about NW15 in MAC terms, with definite pink undertones.

All of those issues aside, I found this foundation relatively comfortable to wear. It didn't feel heavy and it didn't transfer.

I dotted some of my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer on my undereyes and zits, then went about my day. After 6 hours, I noticed some definite shine on my nose, plus a bit on the normal portions of my face (chin and center of the forehead). The actual coverage, however, was relatively intact: you can see that my skin still looks quite even.

Overall, I wasn't wowed by the foundation. Yes, it was comfortable, and it had a pretty finish and decent wear. But how is this supposed to last on the people it's designed for--people with oily skin? And how does something with a "powder finish" get so freaking shiny? Mat Velvet + was a decent product for my skin, and I'd finish the bottle if it matched me. But I don't think it lived up to its claims.

RATING: 3 out of 5.

From left to right: Makeup Forever Matte Velvet Plus in #15 on top, NARS Sheer Glow in Siberia, MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NW13, Cinema Secrets Cream Foundation in PS501s-11. Filtered daylight on top, flash on the bottom. Please note that this bottle of NARS SG has gone rancid, so the color may be impacted.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

25 Tops: Beaute Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron

When it comes to cool, unlike-any-other lip formulas, few products can top my Beaute Cosmetics Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron. I gave this bright beauty a rave review, and it was well-deserved: this is definitely a long-wearing product with plenty of pigment and a relatively comfortable feel. Also, it looks cool. I always get a mixture of compliments and questions when I wear this stuff. It somehow manages to sink in to the lips and stay bright. Awesome!

But I think it's time for Flouron to move on.

I stand by my initial review. In a nutshell, this is a bright pink lip stain with a slightly powdery feel. It can be used on the cheeks, but tends to dry too fast for my tastes. It can also be layered. All in all, a very cool and unusual formula.

But I don't reach for Flouron much. And I'm starting to realize why: it's not as versatile as my other "neon pink," MAC Viva Glam Nicki I. Think about it: I can dab VG Nicki on for a soft pink stain or apply it full-force for loads of color; you can't really sheer out Flouron. Flouron's texture means it's always going to look "soft-edged" on my mouth, but usually I want the harder line that a traditional lipstick can give me. Flouron stains the lips for about 2 days, even after I've used an oil-based makeup remover, but VG Nicki wipes clean away when I'm done.

Also, every once in a while, this happens with the Beaute stain:

Nothing in particular seems to cause the transfer. I just have days where this product wants to slip right to the center of my lips and look like a disgusting ring around the inside of my mouth.

The Beaute stains are still 5 out of 5 products, but I'm downsizing here, and I can't afford to be sentimental or lenient. Since I have another bright pink that does roughly the same job, but better, I have to declare Beaute Flouron a PURGE and MAC Viva Glam Nicki I and KEEP.

Also, I've decided to PURGE Bite Madeira after all. Just not as flattering on me as I'd like.

1. Hourglass ORLL in Muse 
2. Hourglass ORLL in Riviera 
3. Hourglass ORLL in Icon (mini size) 
4. Chanel RAL in Dragon (DC)
5. Lancome Pale Lip
6. Bite Beauty HPP in Velvet
7. Lipstick Queen Saint in Pinky Nude

8. Lipstick Queen Jean Queen
9. MAC ML in Scarlet Ibis
10. MAC SL in Viva Glam Nicki
11. Urban Decay Revolution lipstick in Native

1. MAC ACL in Neon Orange 
2. MAC SL in Sounds Like Noise (LE)
3. NARS VMLP in Cruella
4. NARS VMLP in Roman Holiday
5. Lipstick Queen Saint in Berry

6. Bite HPP in Madeira
7. Beaute Cosmetics Liqui-Gel Stain in Flouron
2. Elizabeth Arden Poppy Cream

1. MAC RML in Relentlessly Red
2. MAC SL in Sushi Kiss

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Inspiration: Taal

I had a request for more Bollywood-centric inspiration posts. I live to please, so I decided to pick a film that is particularly popular with Bollywood newbies and casual Hindi cinema viewers: Taal.

But first, I felt the urge to figure out why this movie is so popular with people who have seen nary another Bollywood film. To be completely blunt, it's kind of a shit movie. The heroes treat the heroine like a piece of meat whose only value is in her looks. The aforementioned heroine is kind of vapid and flat, and she does little more than dance and look beautifully doe-eyed (which, to be fair, is something Aishwarya Rai does perfect). The script is horrendous, bogged down with bad dialogue and blatantly obvious tropes. And it's very obvious that Coca-Cola was a sponsor: several scenes could double as Coke commercials.

Then I rewatched the film and remembered that the music is really, really, REALLY good. Also, the picturizations (the visuals that accompany the music, a la a music video) are stunning--maybe a bit odd if you aren't open to Bollywood culture, but still, stunning. And I remembered that when I was new to Bollywood, every shitty movie was a "masterpiece" to me because of the sheer beauty of it all. So okay, I get it. I won't judge you.

Let the fun begin!

Sometimes, the "she's not wearing makeup!" look the artists give Aishwarya in her movies is absolutely nude, sheer, and untraceable. But the majority of her "natural" looks are similar to what you see in the top right and bottom left corners here: matte swatches of grey and burgundy on the eyes, and a soft wash of coral pink on the lips and cheeks. It's obvious, but flattering. Also, check out the bright lipsticks on the gals in the bottom right picture--hurrah!

Man, I dig that red scarf. I don't care if it's supposed to be her scrubby workout clothes! PS: obligatory mehndi.

It's hard to make Aishwarya Rai look simultaneously beautiful and ugly, but somehow, that makeup on the bottom left manages. Is it weird that I still enjoy it? And here, there's our "truly nude-looking" natural makeup at the top!

It was so unbelievably hard to get that top right picture. And it's a shame, because the stage makeup she's rocking there is actually really cool. Also, take note of the very 90s makeup on the bottom left! That shot tempts me to try MAC Taupe lipstick, even though my coloring is the complete opposite.

It's hard to rock a powder blue crop top ensemble, but if anybody can get away with it, it's Aishwarya Rai. And I could dupe that green look! (I looks a lot like Chanel Epatant, yeah?)

Last, but not least, here's the sample song: "Ishq Bina." It's all beautiful and gorgeous until it turns in to a Coca-Cola advertisement, I swear! If you like this song (or even if this one doesn't melt your butter), definitely give the rest of the soundtrack a listen. Taal has endured for a reason.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Skin is Mad at Me

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't like summer. Every year, beauty magazines erupt with worshipful odes to the sultry season, farmers markets pop up on side streets, and festivals fill our schedules.

But you know what summer does to me? It eats my skin! Seriously. I'm very fair and am incredibly sensitive to heat and humidity, so I burn in two minutes and look like a beet in half that time. The air conditioning dries out my face. Walking from the bus stop to campus leaves me covered in a heat rash. I sweat like a stuck pig. Bugs, poisonous plants, and wayward children seem boundless. Yes, summer has some perks, like garden-fresh veggies and sleeveless shirts. But for the most part, I see summer as a stepping stone to fall.

Here's how I clean up my complexion when summer is at its cruelest. Fair warning: I look drunk in these pictures. #sorryboutit

First, I take stock of my skin. I have some small pimples on my chin and forehead, a patch of hives on the lower part of my cheek, and a little bit of everyday unevenness, like the sallow spots at the sides of my mouth. My skin also has a bit of an odd texture at this point--partially from the A/C dehydrating my face--so I need to use something as a primer.

I apply a thin layer of my Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Liquid SPF50 ($39, Sephora) all over my face. Normally I use a dryer sunscreen through my T-zone to prevent oil breakthrough, but because I'm dehydrated, I'm sticking with the Shiseido. Then I conceal my undereyes and my red spots with the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx01 ($48, Neiman Marcus). (NOTE: the Shiseido SPF50 lotion always has a white cast when freshly applied. I find that said white cast after a little while.)

Now it's time for some overall coverage! I like to use a thin layer of MAC Face & Body foundation ($27, MAC)--click here for my F&B application tips. Right now I'm using about 2 parts N1 to 1 part White; in the winter, I switch that ratio around. I like to let F&B sit on my face for a few seconds so it "melts in" to my skin and becomes less dewy.

For finishing touches, I dab on a small amount of highlighter, like MAC Strobe Cream ($10, MAC). To get a little more coverage and smooth everything out, I use a light dusting of Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Finish Powder Foundation in #50 Ivory ($60, Sephora) through my t-zone.

And there you have it: how I save my skin from summer!

For the record, there are plenty of great drugstore products you could use to replace some of the more expensive items in this blogpost. The only reason why my base products are all mid/high-end is because they're the only brands that make stuff in my shade and/or produce a white corrector. If your shade is easier to find in the drugstore, definitely scope out your options!