Function of Beauty: Is personalized haircare worth the prestige price tag?

Posted on November 14, 2018 under Reviews

After reading rave reviews of Function of Beauty from a few small bloggers whose opinions I trust, I somewhat reluctantly placed an order. I really wanted to try this personalized haircare brand because the promise seemed so vast, but I also kind of hoped that the product would disappoint so that I would not have to incorporate an $80 CAD shampoo and conditioner set into my regular life.

As some of you may have seen on Instagram, I recently went through a drastic hair change. I finally cut off all the old blonde, and I got bangs. Growing out my blonde has been a goal for a year and a half, and I’m very proud that I finally made it to this point. My hair is now healthier than it’s been in half a decade, which means I feel that I can give haircare reviews from a normal human standpoint, whereas before everything I said could really only apply to people who also had ultra-processed hair on the verge of death. My hair is of medium thickness and naturally wavy; I’m prone to a slightly oily scalp. I can get a bit of frizz, especially in humid weather. In the past few years I’ve started noticing some very mild dandruff (especially in the colder months), likely because the years of bleach dried my scalp out. I wash my hair every other day, though by the end of day two it’s definitely getting to a not-so-nice place. (Truthfully I just can’t be bothered to go through the whole washing and blow drying rigamorale every day.)

When you order from Function of Beauty, you take a quiz about your hair and your shampoo preferences which then allows them to customize a formula that theoretically addresses the needs of your hair better than anything else on the planet. My hair goals were strengthen, anti-frizz, shine, replenish hair, and soothe scalp. You’ll probably guess that I’m most focused on keeping my hair as visibly healthy as possible after years of bleach abuse.

I selected the scent Nude (P)each, mostly because it was limited edition at the time and I had FOMO. It’s now been made permanent. The scene is fine – definitely peachy, though it doesn’t linger in my hair at all after being rinsed out.

Function of Beauty orders come with a card outlining your preferences as per your hair quiz, as well as a sheet of stickers that I will hoard alongside my unused Glossier stickers.

Now that I’ve been using this shampoo and conditioner for a month now, I feel like I’ve gathered enough thoughts to write a proper review.

Texture

I am very picky about the texture of my shampoo. I can tell instantly if I will like a shampoo based on the texture alone. Almost without fail, shampoo that has a runny, gel-like consistency as opposed to a thick, stiff cream will not adequately wash my hair. My Function of Beauty shampoo is a lot runnier than the texture that I normally prefer. This makes it more prone to slipping out of my fingers and onto the bottom of my tub, which of course makes me brilliant with rage when I’m spending $40 on a bottle of shampoo. The conditioner has a much more reasonable texture and I have no complaints there.

Packaging

Get it? Functions! (I think – I was 2% away from failing Functions and that was seven years ago. Also I managed to pass that class without ever learning what a function actually is.)

These bottles are surely very aesthetically-pleasing, from the minimal text to the clear plastic that allows you to see the pretty colours. I almost feel like the main point of the packaging design is to be as Instagrammable as possible, and given Function of Beauty’s aggressive Instagram marketing this seems like a valid theory. Functional standpoint, I do think that we as humans have evolved to a point where we should no longer tolerate any shower products which cannot be stood on their caps. I am used to squeezy tube shampoo and conditioner packaging and I don’t wish to experience anything else. I do appreciate that Function of Beauty sends pumps to use with the bottles – because, trust me, trying to squeeze a brittle bottle to coax product through a relatively small opening is not fun. I must reiterate that there is no way to stand these bottles upside down, which means that when I get down to the last dregs of product – which I will CERTAINLY want to use up given the price tag – I will have to pull some lean-the-bottle-against-other-stuff manoeuvers just to use the product that is by its very definition mine and mine only.

If this were a drugstore product and it did awesome things to my hair, I could probably get over suboptimal packaging. But, of course, if I’m going to pay $80 for shampoo and conditioner, I want every detail to be thoughtful and functional. I don’t want to pay $80 for shampoo and conditioner and then have to work especially hard to get it out of the bottle. That’s just rubbing salt in the wound.

Efficiency

Let’s go through my hair goals. First, strengthen. I’m not sure that my hair is any stronger than it was a month ago, but it’s not any weaker, and I have been using heat on it a lot more often. (At its current length, it really only looks good when I blow it dry. Once it grows out some more I’ll be able to air dry.) I’d say this little routine shines in terms of its anti-frizz benefits. I’m noticing a lot less frizz than I was a few months ago, and that’s with the addition of frequent blow drying into my routine. The shine aspect is about average; I don’t tend to have incredibly shiny hair nor incredibly dull hair, and this does about as well as anything. The same can be said for replenish hair: in all fairness, there’s not much left to replenish since all the damage is now gone, but I used this on my bleached ends for about ten days before I got my hair cut, and it didn’t seem to do any better than Marc Anthony. Finally, soothe scalp – I haven’t noticed any itchy scalp or dandruff, though that could ultimately change with the weather. However, I was dealing with mild dandruff through the summer, which is now gone.

With some of my shampoo/conditioner combos, I can get to day three before I have to wash my hair, but this routine reliably leaves me in need of a wash by day two. Now, this is definitely in part because my hair is healthier than it has been in years – I can’t compare how greasy it gets now to two years ago at the height of the bleach damage. It’s also impossible to stretch bangs more than two days before washing them (in the sink so you don’t have to wash your full head of hair because you have no time but want to trick people into thinking you’re clean am I right ladies?). And, of course, the hair goals I chose lean towards heavy hydration and nourishment, which will obviously leave hair less clean-feeling faster. That said, I sometimes have the feeling after blow drying my hair that it’s not totally clean even though I just washed it fifteen minutes ago, which I’m going to blame on that liquidy shampoo. (I am telling you, that type of shampoo never gets my hair fully clean, and I need to use so much of it to get the most minimal effect.) And while my scalp produces some oil, it’s not exactly greasy – my hair should feel clean for at least a day.

Value

This shampoo and conditioner do an admirable, better-than-average job of addressing two of the five things I paid a lot of money for them to do. While I am very much appreciating having less frizz and less dandruff than normal, I don’t think it’s controversial to say I can’t justify the high price tag in this instance, especially when combined with my complaints about texture and packaging. This is an incredibly interesting business model and I have no doubt that Function of Beauty does genuinely address other people’s concerns in a way that is worth the premium price tag. It’s just not quite there for me: I don’t feel that my hair is looking better than it ever has, and if it is that’s mostly just because I stopped bleaching it with 30 volume developer every other month.

Books Read: September and October 2018

Posted on November 03, 2018 under Books

My reading slowed down a little bit in the first third of October, but I managed to read 10 books over the last two months, bringing me up to a total of 46. I’m very happy with this number! I now only need to read 6 more in November and December to make my goal.

Because I think books can be beautiful objects, this month I’m also sharing photos of some of the individual books that I think are particularly nice-looking.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

To be honest, I thought this book would be okay but not amazing, but boy was I wrong. I absolutely loved the slow, lazy pace, the description of Cameron’s small-town Montana coming of age, the realistic emergence of her lesbian identity. I know some people find it a bit slow, but I thought the pace was perfect, and, you know, teenage lesbians never get the privilege of unhurried coming of age stories so I’m going to savour the hell out of this indulgence. Rarely do I encounter characters who feel as real as Cameron, whose tough façade, genuine conviction in who she is, deep insecurity, and unprocessed grief over the death of her parents converge in such delightfully authentic ways.

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

This is a book about mass, serial sexual assault. It is, consequently, incredibly heavy. It’s based on a true story and concerns a meeting involving eight women from two different families in a Mennonite colony in South America. Being women, they are illiterate, so they recruit a socially reclusive man from their community to record their conversation; the novel is in the form of the minutes of this meeting. The conversation is about the recent revelation that many women and girls from their community (including some of the women present at the meeting) have been given horse tranquilizer and repeatedly raped in the nighttime. The religious leaders of the colony have ordered the women to forgive their attackers, who are also members of the community. The women gather to discuss what to do next: namely, if they should stay and fight this injustice, or leave their community and start anew. It’s absolutely harrowing, but impeccably-written. Each woman has such a clear and distinct voice; Toews treats the topic delicately but completely gets across the immediacy of the dilemma. I think it’s fairly self-evident that those who are sensitive to portrayals of sexual assault (perhaps particularly in the current climate) may want to stay away from this novel, wonderfully-written though it is. It is incredibly powerful and incredibly disturbing.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I have read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, so I appreciate when it’s done differently. This is a novel about the flu that ends the world, and it’s also about the troubled life of a thrice-married movie star originally from a tiny island off the coast of British Columbia. It’s a strange mixture, but the opulence of Arthur Leander’s celebrity lifestyle contrasts with the barrenness of the post-flu world – but there is also a symmetry in the isolation of fame and the apocalypse. The world-ending plague has linkages to real-life epidemics: its arrival in Toronto echoes the SARS scare of the early 2000s (I was just old enough to remember that), its spread via air travel reminiscent of Gaëtan Dugas, a Quebecois flight attendant long thought (erroneously) to be “patient zero” for AIDS. What I found most fascinating about this novel was the divide between those who remember the pre-flu world and look back on it with nostalgia and the younger generation, who view things like electricity and air travel as incomprehensible, akin to magic. It’s a very interesting, strange novel. Also, I’m a sucker for anything set in Toronto.

Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut

Not one of my favourite Vonnegut novels, but still impeccably-written. This one is about a man name Rudy Waltz, who in childhood accidentally shot and killed a pregnant woman and was ostracized from his Midwest community. As a narrator, Rudy seems so far removed from humanity, not necessarily sub-human but somehow inhuman, and he describes humanity with detachment that is borne of his alienness rather than sociopathy. It’s a book about the impacts of childhood trauma and social isolation on the psyche, which is interesting, but it does lack focus. I’m now ten books deep into Vonnegut’s catalogue, and while sometimes I encounter one that I think deserves to be considered on the level of Slaughterhouse-Five or Breakfast of Champions, I can see why this one isn’t often discussed.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Smith’s first novel, White Teeth, is absolutely enchanting. So far I have yet to read anything by her that comes close to matching it. She creates characters so wonderfully, and in On Beauty she perfectly captures the cerebral pretensions of academics who are so far removed from the real world that they damage their relationships. But – and, given its subject matter, it’s possible that this is the point – the book felt a bit smug, like its main purpose was to assert its own cleverness. It also felt a bit like a series of vignettes that never fully come together; it shares the issue of an anticlimactic ending with Smith’s NW. Reading her books is frustrating because White Teeth was so enjoyable that it’s almost painful to not feel that her obvious talent is realized.

America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

This is a gorgeous portrait of Filipino communities in Northern California in the early 1990s. The main character, Hero, is a bisexual communist who comes to live with her uncle and his family after being a field doctor for a rebel army in the Philippines for a decade. Her upper class parents have disowned her for her political affiliations, and she must start over as an undocumented immigrant and unofficial nanny of her seven-year-old cousin. It’s a beautifully-drawn story about family, friendship, and diaspora. My only complaint is that the prologue focused on Hero’s cousin’s much-younger wife, Paz, whose story is very interesting – but she becomes a secondary figure in the rest of the novel, which is a bit disappointing!

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I really enjoy novels about fraught female friendships; one of my favourites is Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, and certain aspects of the relationship between our narrator Elena and her abrasive but dazzling best friend Lila remind me of that book. This novel follows their friendship from its establishment in early childhood until Lila’s wedding at age sixteen to a wealthy businessman. The girls’ respective power relative to each other and their community shifts as they grow up, and Elena ultimately finds herself in Lila’s shadow although she has far surpassed her academically. It’s a thoughtfully-drawn portrait of both female friendship and a country in the middle of a shift towards prosperity under modern industrialization. (I find Italian works set in the post-war period really interesting because the country changed so rapidly – Italian cinema is fascinating for the same reason.) The conclusion of the novel is rather abrupt (and does nothing to address the prologue, which is set decades in the future on the occasion of Lila’s sudden disappearance), but I guess that’s what the rest of the series is for.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Fourteen-year-old June is a misfit, understood by one person: her beloved uncle Finn. When Finn dies of AIDS in 1986, June discovers that he had a partner for a decade. June’s mother, who loved Finn but struggled with his sexuality and the stigma of his disease, made the total absence of his partner in June’s life contingent on her brother’s relationship with her. But in the wake of Finn’s death, June strikes up a secret friendship with Finn’s partner Toby, who is also dying. As some of my blog readers might know, I’ve consumed a lot of books and films about AIDS (particularly its early days) and everything in this novel felt realistic, particularly the way June’s family struggled to reconcile their love for Finn with their homophobia and the hysteria surrounding the disease. June was very believably fourteen, though I didn’t fully understand the genesis of her outcast identity.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

This is a book about people who think they’re very smart and politically radical but who gleefully participate in the institutions they claim to hate. It’s also about a twenty-one-year-old self-described bisexual communist (hey, a theme!) having an affair with a thirty-two-year-old actor who is the husband of a well-known photographer and writer who befriends her one night. I can see why thoughts are so divided here; none of the characters are likeable or display any sort of growth, and their political posturing is truly insufferable. It’s the kind of self-consciously clever novel that seems destined to irritate. But despite it all I actually liked it! It’s full of irony and subverted expectations: that these people can talk endlessly about radical politics while still living privileged lives, that despite the novel’s overt centering around conversations it’s actually about the repeated, sustained failure to communicate, that the sex scenes are without exception a bit pathetic. It’s not really a titillating story about an affair or a politically-meaningful text, but I think that’s what I like about it, that it starts doing these things and then purposefully stops short. The anticlimactic ending is fitting for these characters who are, despite their beliefs in their own intelligence, milquetoast bourgeoisie who are pathologically incapable of making good choices. It all sounds a bit grim, and it is, and I get why people would hate this one. Not really a ringing endorsement, but, hey, I really did like it and if you’re curious I think you should see for yourself.

Starlight by Richard Wagamese

Northern Ontarian Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese died in 2017 before completing this novel, which is about a woman and her daughter escaping from an abusive situation and coming to live on a farm run by a gentle nature photographer named Frank Starlight. There is a lot here that is substantial, compelling, touching. I find the exploration of communication and commonality fascinating, particularly because these characters are explicitly inarticulate and uncomfortable expressing themselves verbally. They find comfort in each other (and nature), affirming their love for others and the world around them in unconventional but profound ways. Starlight is also an interesting character – particularly his ambivalence about his Indigenous identity, which is tied up in the absence of his biological father. (This echoes Wagamese’s real life; he was raised in foster care and discouraged from pursuing his cultural heritage.) However, this novel does feel unfinished, and I don’t just mean because it literally stops halfway through. (I think this is handled well, actually, with an explanation of Wagamese’s intention for the ending, an excerpt from a work with similar themes, and a personal essay in which he explores the absence of his father, who died a year before he reunited with his biological family.) I mean it reads like a draft – a draft by a gifted writer, but a draft nonetheless. I’m talking long sections of pure dialogue, character motivations that don’t quite work, things like that. I think this book is best seen as a posthumous gift to longtime fans; as a standalone novel, it’s imperfect, and I imagine it isn’t the best introduction to his work. That said, I’d like to check out some of his completed novels to get an idea of his writing at its best.

I have a stack of eight books I’d like to get through before the end of the year – I’ll see you in two months with the final tally of 2018.

Lipstick Collection: Reds

Posted on October 11, 2018 under Reviews

So, it’s been five months since the last instalment of this series, but better late than never.

I will always love red lipstick. A classic blue-based red is one of the most timeless lip colours possible; a vibrant warm red perks up my face like nothing else; a deep red is beautifully dramatic without being too out there. My collection of reds isn’t terribly extensive compared to some categories, but it’s absolutely perfect for my needs.

Here are my bare lips, for reference:

And comparison pictures (of a much larger collection) can be found here!

Rimmel Exaggerate Lip Liner in Red Diva

This is a true blue-red. It’s cheap as chips and I have no complaints about the formula – there’s a reason I keep buying these Rimmel liners! I know that twist-up products are a massive rip-off, but they do appeal to my laziness.

Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Romantic

Man, this is from very early in my makeup career. This precise tube is nearing five years old now. (It seems to be doing okay, though?) I’m devastated that Revlon has discontinued this, because if I ever get through it I don’t know where to start in finding a replacement. This is one of my most-used colours – it feels casual but special. It’s red for people who don’t want to commit to red. I feel pretty but not overdone when I wear it. When I think of my favourite lipsticks, I usually think of the bolder, more unusual colours. But when it comes right down to it, there’s not much I’d miss more than this one if my entire collection got destroyed.

(It does tend to look a bit pinker in photos, but in real life it’s categorically a lowkey, lovely red.)

NARS Audacious Lipstick in Annabella

Is this not the most amazing vibrant poppy red ever? Ugh, I love it so much. I used to be exclusively about cool-toned red lipstick, but I realized that true reds are too serious for every situation. A nice bright warm red, though, is just fun. God, I love this colour. And we are now far enough into this series that I know you all know how much I love the NARS Audacious formula.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Red Carpet Red

When I bought this lipstick I threw out all my other true reds because there was no way anything could beat it. And I fully stand by that – this is the quintessential red, very aptly named. The Charlotte Tilbury formula, while unnecessarily expensive, is great – it’s so comfortable and wears really well for a traditional bullet lipstick. I also sort of like how luxe it is – a true red is unparalleled in its classic elegance, so I can almost justify buying a bougie version of it. I’ve used a lot of this tube and I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually went through the whole thing. I’m definitely more into warm reds these days, but this will never go out of style.

ColourPop Blotted Lips in Lexi

Not once in my life have I longed for a sheer deep cool red, but when Aisling passed along this tube to me I ended up liking it a lot. I was already a fan of the Blotted Lips formula, and I do like the way this red looks. When I really don’t want to commit, I just dab this on in a very thin layer. It does photograph pretty similarly to Revlon Romantic, but it’s cooler and more serious, I think.

Lancôme Matte Shaker in Kiss Me Chérie*

This is the only liquid lipstick formula I will tolerate. It is so thin and comfortable on my lips, and while it isn’t as long-wearing as something like Stila or the ColourPop Matte formula, it lasts longer than regular bullet lipsticks while basically feeling like one. This is a cool red that somehow finds a perfect balance between deep and vibrant. It means serious business, but it’s not somber.

NARS Velvet Lip Pencil in Cruella

Ahhh, my 2015 Sephora birthday gift is still going strong. This cool-toned, slightly dark red is a perennial fall/winter staple. Lip pencils are probably my absolute favourite lipstick format – they’re so easy to apply, and I love that you can sharpen them for total precision. This formula is great, too; it applies so smoothly, feels comfortable, and wears well.

NARS Velvet Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl

Another classic NARS colour. I absolutely love this super vibrant strawberry red with pink undertones. (It kind of leans coral in some photos, but if it’s anything but red it’s pink!) It’s pure fun, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

I guess seven red lipsticks isn’t exactly going to win me any awards for minimalism, but I think I cover all the bases here without any overlap. I’m really happy with this collection and I probably won’t add anything to it in the near future. Also, does NARS kill it with their reds or what?!