Is Primark makeup any good?

Posted on February 13, 2018 under Reviews

Since the last time I lived in the UK, everyone’s favourite ultra-cheap fast fashion retailer Primark has brought out a full makeup range. Previously they carried only tertiary beauty products such as nail files and makeup wipes, but now they have everything from heat tools to nail polish to makeup proper. I know from experience that some Primarks are considerably better than others, so I’m not sure if all of them have the full range – but the one on Argyle Street here in Glasgow has substantial floor space devoted to this section.

At some point I wasn’t going to be able to resist testing out dirt cheap makeup, but I tried really hard not to just buy for the sake of buying. I avoided lipstick entirely, for instance, because I already have too many lipsticks as it is. I’m not saying that I needed everything I bought, but did buy things that I thought I would actually use.

PS… Pro Blending Brush (£2)

This is another one of those knockoff Artis brushes that every brand is bringing out. I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but it was marked down from £5.50 to £2, which I thought was a reasonable price. I really enjoy the other Artis knockoff I have, so this seemed like a pretty sure bet. This one is a lot bigger than my Magic Collection Oval XL brush, which itself has more surface area that your standard foundation brush:

It’s also softer, but less dense. I prefer a pretty dense brush for foundation because I find otherwise the bristles are too floppy to blend efficiently, but this one does a great job. As you would imagine, the size is both an asset and a liability: it blends foundation incredibly quickly, but it’s not great for reaching the nooks and crannies of my face. It works well with more watery foundations as well as thicker formulations. Since I got it in early December, I’ve used it almost every time I put foundation on, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m cool with where my £2 went.

I find that incredibly dense brushes of this nature are hard to clean thoroughly – no matter how many times I go over them and how thoroughly I work shampoo into the bristles, it’s hard to get out all the foundation that’s wormed its way in. That’s the major downside to this entire genre of brushes – but maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

PS… CustomEyes Eyeshadow in Cranberry (£0.60)

Say hi to that random hair that I didn’t notice until I was editing these pictures.

I liked the idea of cheap, no frills shadow pans that you can pop into an empty palette, and this wine shade was very pretty and seasonally appropriate. For some reason there is no indication of the shade name on the outer packaging of this eyeshadow – it’s only there on the back of the pan itself. This eyeshadow is 0.05oz, which at the current conversion rate makes it $21 CAD per oz, as compared to ColourPop ($4 USD for 0.053oz – $95.09 CAD per oz), MAC ($8 CAD for 0.05oz – $160 CAD per oz), and Makeup Geek ($10 USD for 0.064oz – $156.25 per oz).

When I first applied this shadow with a flat brush, I was pretty disappointed – it appeared almost matte, and the colour was quite dull. However, applied with a finger it came to life. I often pretty much always apply shimmery shades with my fingers anyway, so I don’t mind this at all. I find this shade smooth and blendable as well. I can’t speak for the other colours, but this one is definitely worth £0.60.

These swatches will show you how much better this shadow performs when applied with a finger:

L-R: One pass with a brush, built up with a brush, finger swatch

And here’s how it looks on my eyes, using ColourPop Stay Golden in the crease and lower lashline:

PS… Lip Scrub (£3)

When the weather started cooling down in late November, I began to really wish I had a lip scrub, so I was glad to happen upon this. My lips have been especially crusty this winter! I’ve been sporadically mixing my own scrubs out of olive oil and brown sugar, but it’s just more convenient to have a premade one. As lip scrubs go, this one does the job just fine. I feel like loose lip scrubs are pretty much all the same, so I got exactly what I expected out of this. I have to say I do prefer the convenience of the ELF lip scrub, which is packed firm in a lipstick tube. This one tastes really good, though.

Golden Rose Ice Chic Nail Colour in 44 (£2)

I wasn’t actually going to buy any nail polish, but then I saw this muted magenta and decided to take a chance on it. In the bottle, it looked how I wanted Essie Bahama Mama to be on my nails. It requires two coats for opacity (it’s super streaky with just one coat) and ends up a deep purple, definitely not a magenta.

With my Sally Hansen Miracle Gel tip coat, I got well over a week with minimal chipping. Here’s how it looked on day ten:

It appears truer to colour here thanks to the sunlight – but in most lighting it was much darker.

One of the brush hairs wasn’t trimmed properly, which causes it to deposit colour where I don’t want any. This is the type of bizarre defect I would expect from Primark nail polish. Otherwise I think this is a fine product. I’d buy more if they had any colours that interested me.

A bit out of focus, but hopefully you can see that annoying little brush hair.

PS… My Perfect Colour Liquid Concealer in Nude Beige (£2)

I actually needed a new undereye concealer, so when I saw this I thought it was a worthy risk. My Primark doesn’t provide testers for this particular product, but luckily a herd of bipedal mammals had helpfully created their own. Unluckily, I had to dig pretty hard to find an unspoiled one. I have never been Nude Beige in anything in my life, but it turns out this works really well colour-wise under my eyes. It’s a hair darker than my actual skin, but the tone helps conceal undereye circles. I wouldn’t buy this exact shade again, but I can make it work.

This is a light-medium coverage with a creamy, blendable texture and a natural finish. It does crease a bit under the eyes if not set with powder, but most concealers do. I’m shocked that I like this as much as I do, to be honest, but it works better under my eyes than NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer and Maybelline Age Rewind. (To be fair, I really never got on with RCC – I’m sure most people would feel differently.)

No concealer on the left, concealer on the right

PS… Get Lippy Glitter Collection in Heaven Sent (£3)

Yes. I bought a glitter lip kit. This is ridiculous and arguably skirts the line of “things I will actually use”. But for £3… come on. How could I not? The kit comes with a lip liner, a “lip vinyl” (a very sticky, opaque gloss), and a pot of chunky glitter. I want to say they had a gold kit as well, but I went for this light, cool pink for some unknown reason.

Spoiler alert: I hate this! First of all, it’s a bad colour on me, but that doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. I mean, it’s a glitter lip kit, I’m obviously wearing it to make a statement, and the statement doesn’t have to be “looking pretty”. I bought it basically thinking I could wear it to drag shows and the random nights out I have with my friends where we put on wild makeup for the purposes of sitting in a private karaoke room and screaming “Not Ready To Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks until we’re hoarse. However, the other problem is that this glitter is so large that it actually hurts to wear. I’ve never worn regular-sized cosmetic glitter on my lips, but I imagine that it feels like sand. Which is probably not comfortable but also probably not painful. This stuff though… it was like having five hundred tiny pieces of glass digging into my lips. So after I documented it, I promptly removed it (which was a hassle, because that shit really does stick) and put on a sensible pink Matte Shaker* instead.

I also promptly removed the lashes and replaced them with a half strip.

There’s really not much glitter in the pot so if you were to buy this and use it semi-regularly you could conceivably use it up and be left with a lip liner and lip gloss. However, I don’t see that actually happening because it is so damn uncomfortable to wear. Also, the lip vinyl feels very thick and uncomfortable. The lip liner’s pretty nice, but it’s not a colour I’ll ever wear. So, 0/3 here. Oh well. It was £3, you know?

And that is that! We had one obvious dud in the bunch, but I actually use all of the other stuff. Not bad for a haul costing a monumental £10.60. If you’re in the UK (or visiting!) I would definitely recommend popping into your local Primark to check out the makeup section – it’s surprisingly good!

Making custom lipsticks at the Bite Lip Lab

Posted on January 26, 2018 under Reviews

Some years, I know exactly what I’m getting for Christmas. There was even one year where, as the designated gift wrapper, I ended up wrapping the e-reader that I had picked out with my mom. But in recent years, my mom has done a great job of surprising me. This year’s surprise: two custom lipsticks at the Bite Lip Lab in Toronto.

Bite Lip Labs offer two services: Custom and Bespoke lipsticks. Custom lipsticks are selected from a library of over 200 pigments, mixed with the scent and finish of your choice. Bespoke lipsticks are made of a mixture of pigments and ensure that you can get exactly what you’re looking for – and that you will be the only person on Earth to have your particular lipstick. We went for the Custom option, which costs $80 for two lipsticks instead of $150 for two. (A single Custom lipstick goes for $55, and Bespoke lipsticks can only be purchased two at a time.)

When purchasing a “gift card” for the Custom or Bespoke services, you actually receive two empty lipstick tubes in a small cardboard box. You can imagine that I was a bit confused when I opened the gift on Christmas morning, but of course my mom promptly explained what I was actually getting. (And I was reeeeeally excited.) I appreciate that the Custom and Bespoke tubes are decorated with lips, making them different from the regular Bite lipstick tubes. It’s the little touches, people…

In the days leading up to my appointment, I thought long and hard about what colours I wanted. I wanted lipsticks that I would actually wear regularly, but I didn’t want to duplicate anything in my collection. With a collection of about ~50 lipsticks, you may imagine that this was a tall order! In the years I had dreamed of going to the Bite Lip Lab, I always thought I’d get my perfect coral… but I found that in August. Another one of my makeup white whales is the perfect lilac, so that was at the forefront of my mind. And then I also settled on a burnt orange, because it felt right in the moment. And I know you are probably thinking, “Clem, you already have a burnt orange lipstick!” But I think there is room for a variety of burnt oranges in the world, and anyway, it’s a category in my collection that is far less saturated than, um, pretty much anything else.

Now, I think the Bespoke experience would be incredibly fun. But if you’re not quite willing to splash out that much cash, I really think the Custom option is great. With over 200 pigments, there is a huge amount of selection. My lip artist, Erica, didn’t have any trouble picking out a variety of pigments to match my descriptions. We started off with some more mauve-y tones, some muted, some brighter. I really liked them all on myself, but I spotted a more vibrant colour that I loved in one of the pigment jars. When I tried it on, I knew it was the one! For my burnt orange, Erica recommended the pigment aptly named Burnt Orange – but on me, it was an unflattering brown. We then tried something with a bit more of a spicy orange tone, and when I tried it on it was instant love.

The process of getting a custom lipstick is pure fun. First, you scrub your lips with the Bite Beauty Agave Sugar Lip Scrub and then put on a healthy dose of the Agave Lip Mask. (It was my first time trying it, and I loved it!) Then you get to try on each suggested colour with a disposable lip brush and check yourself out in a hand mirror. Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to find either colour, but Erica was super patient and helpful and didn’t make me feel like I had to rush through the process. After I selected my colours, Erica melted the pigments and poured them into the lipstick bullet mould, then put it on a cold plate. While the bullets were solidifying, I smelled a variety of oil blends and dabbed different combinations onto a tissue. Perhaps it’s because I did this during one of the coldest weeks I’ve ever experienced, but I was really feeling the tropical vibes. I was drawn particularly to the coconut, lime, and mango scents. After experimenting quite a bit with different combinations, we went with coconut and lime for the burnt orange and wildberry and lime for the lilac. The lime comes through very strongly in both – I think you’d only be able to tell the difference between the two if you were looking for it. Luckily, lime is one of my favourite scents.

Here’s the acetate Erica used to mix all the options:

She also offered to write down the pigment numbers on a card that I could keep, but I thought it’d be easier just to take a picture of the acetate and favourite it in my phone in case I ever wanted to get an identical lipstick. (Doubtful… but it’s cool that that’s an option! I could see this being useful for someone who got a colour that they planned to wear daily, but I don’t see myself going through these two colours anytime soon.)

And here are the lipsticks chilling:

Out of curiosity, I asked Erica what the most common colour requests are. She confirmed my suspicions – people want nudes and reds, although she did allow that there are seasonal variations as well. She does a lot of berries at this time of year and a lot of bright pinks in the summer. The perfect nude is really hard to find, so I’m not surprised by that – the tiniest shift in undertone or depth of a nude can bring you from no makeup makeup to corpse-like. But there are so many different types of red that I’m surprised that people would pay so much for a custom one. From blue reds to orange reds to poppies to berry reds, reds are abundant. But red is such a classic colour that perhaps it makes sense as something that will be worn frequently.

Here are my fresh, unmarred lipsticks, because for the second time in the history of my blog I have managed to photograph them before smearing them on my face.

Under different lighting, my “lilac” turned out to be a very vibrant cool fuchsia with a hint of purple. I actually love this loud, unflinching colour, but it’s not exactly the lilac I had in mind. I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to find this colour, mostly because there is a fine line between a cool fuchsia and a lilac – which is exactly the issue here. I also neglected to view myself in natural lighting when I was trying this shade on, which I think would have made a difference. But this is the type of shade that I think would have benefited from the Bespoke experience, because it’s so finnicky and precise. That said, I’m still really happy with this lipstick. I absolutely love the colour, even if it wasn’t what I’d originally had in mind. It’s a colour that I feel comfortable wearing year-round, so I’ll get a lot of use out of it.

That said, I do want to emphasize that lighting is super important to this experience. I would not want an appointment in the evening – or, in the winter, any time past 4pm. You want full, uncompromised natural lighting! The Lip Lab in Toronto does have a large front window with good natural lighting, which I clearly didn’t fully take advantage of. If I do this again, I will walk to the window and check out the colour there. I was so excited about the whole experience that I didn’t think to do that this time. Like I said, though, no harm, no foul – I still love this colour.

Comparison swatches:

L-R: Custom Bite Beauty lipstick, NARS Angela, ColourPop Lychee, Lise Watier Cake Pop

My custom colour is really similar to NARS Angela in swatches, but on my lips it’s a lot bolder (which is saying a lot considering how, well, audacious Angela is) and the purple undertones are much stronger. It’s pinker and brighter than ColourPop Lychee, but clearly more purple than something like Lise Watier Cake Pop.

My burnt orange is exactly what I wanted. I find it difficult to accurately photograph these tones – they seem to pull quite red on camera. The last picture was taken with my iPhone, and the truth of the colour lies somewhere in between these pictures. It appears more muted in my iPhone picture. Regardless, this is a bright burnt orange, which perhaps sounds like an oxymoron. Maybe a better descriptor is a bright earthy orange? I hate pure oranges on myself; I need a healthy dose of brown in any orange that is to touch my face. This one has that, but it also has a vibrancy that my beloved Buxom Covert Affair lacks. See, I told you there’s room for more than one burnt orange in my life. Though burnt orange is undoubtedly a fall/winter colour, I wore Covert Affair all through the summer, and because my custom shade is brighter I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it in the warmer months as well.

Comparison swatches:

L-R: Custom Bite Beauty Lipstick, Buxom Covert Affair*, ColourPop Candyfloss, NARS Annabella

This swatch is probably the most colour-accurate photo of my custom lipstick colour. Here you can see that it is much brighter and less brown than both Covert Affair and Candyfloss, but compared to a bright poppy red like NARS Annabella it’s undoubtedly orange.

The Bite Matte formula is comfortable and hydrating but less slippery than their Amuse Bouche formula. I do enjoy the Amuse Bouche lipsticks, but I’m not as much of an enthusiast as many people – I find that the lasting power places them a bit outside of my ideal. In terms of feel, I’d put the Matte formula on the same level as NARS Audacious, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution, and Maybelline Creamy Matte – very comfortable and plush with a smooth application. The wear time isn’t quite as impressive as those formulas, but it’s better than the Amuse Bouche formula and generally good for a bullet lipstick. If Bite offered off-the-rack lipsticks in this formula I think I’d be more inclined to buy from them. As it is, I use the Amuse Bouche minis I’ve received for free, but Bite has never actually parted money from my wallet.

In the end, I will use and cherish these lipsticks – but for me the gift was really all about the experience. It was so much fun to try different colours, mix my own scent, and watch as a lipstick was hand-crafted to my specifications. I think that having a good artist makes all the difference; Erica was friendly, patient, and helpful, and that made the experience top-notch. This is the best type of present, because I got to do something really cool and unusual, and I got something material out of it that I can use again and again. Thanks, Mom!

Review: Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Posted on November 18, 2017 under Reviews

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Every time I visit Aisling, she has an enormous stash of makeup castaways for me to go through. (I mean, seriously, I filled a tote bag with stuff to bring home this time, and I only took about half the stuff she had stored for my perusal.) I always find it hard to resist mid-range and high end freebies even if I don’t really want them, so I ended up with a bottle of Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5 to try. I have heard overall good things about this product, but I also know that I prefer a light to medium coverage and that long-wearing foundations don’t tend to mesh well with my dryer skin type. However, I could not resist trying out a $50 foundation for free. Hey, if I like it I win, and if I don’t like it one of my friends will win.

I began to realize that I would probably struggle with this foundation when I watched Katya use it on Instagram Live. Now, I appreciate all the drag queens on the internet for teaching me so much about life and gluing your eyebrows, but when it comes to foundation I think it’s safe to say that if it’s drag-approved it is going to be beyond too much for me. Katya’s go-to is the Dermablend cream foundation, which I have tried and which could not possibly be thicker or more high coverage, so that gave me enough context to realize that I was wading into shark-infested waters.

And you know what? I was right! It’s not just that the All Nighter Foundation is truly full coverage, which is a level that I think few people actually need. It’s also the fact that this foundation is most definitely suited to combination to oily skin types. I usually describe myself as “on the dryer side of normal”, and now that we’re getting into winter it’s at its driest. Winter in general doesn’t wreak havoc on my skin, but the transition into winter does, and that’s where we’re at right now. So I fully acknowledge that I am not giving this product its best shot since my skin is at its lowest potential currently, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

Whether applied with a brush, a sponge, or my fingers, the All Nighter Foundation tends to cling to dry patches and textured areas. When applied with a damp sponge I find that after an hour or two of wear it smooths out somewhat, but upon initial application it looks noticeably heavy on my forehead, upper lip, and jawline.

Here is my face with no makeup:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

And here is my face with about 2/3 of a pump of Urban Decay All Nighter foundation applied in one even layer:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

I mean, is it just me or does this look very unnatural and mask-like? It’s also a bit too light for me, although it does oxidize – more on that later.

Let’s do some close-ups so we can evaluate the coverage and texture:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Clearly, the coverage is impressive; it totally covers my blemishes and hyperpigmentation, and my moles barely show through. What does show is that I am wearing foundation. I’ve seen cakier, but come on. This is how I like my face to look (dark circles notwithstanding):

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Clearly, the All Nighter foundation is not giving me this look.

Here’s how it looks after four hours of wear:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Looks okay from here, but let’s zoom in:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

There is clearly some unflattering clinging going on here – not as bad as it could be, but not ideal.

The All Nighter Foundation claims to be waterproof, so I tested this by running my face under my shower head for about ten seconds. I let most of the water dry naturally and then blotted the remainder off. Some of the foundation did come off, but it maintained pretty good coverage. However, it looked way cakier.

Here’s my full face after being watered:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

And close-ups:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

More heaviness on the forehead and between the brows, and it’s worn away just above the inner portion of my eyebrow.

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Looks cakey on the upper lip, and it’s worn away around and on the nose.

Totally emphasizes the texture I have on my jawline, and it’s settled into my smile lines. By the way, the orange splotch is from eating soup sloppily and has nothing to do with the foundation. (Not that it needs help looking bad…)

Usually when I experience wear problems with foundation, it’s simply a matter of them wearing away. With the All Nighter Foundation, it stays on my skin but by the end of an 8- or 10-hour day it looks very heavy and textured. So I guess technically it is long-wearing, but it may not be something you actually want to wear for a long time. I wish I had photographic evidence of how it looks after a full day of wear, but unfortunately Glasgow is currently getting about 12 seconds of sunlight a day, so you’ll have to take my word.

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

Packaging-wise, I think this is attractive, sturdy, and functional, so it gets a Clem seal of approval. I love that it has an airless pump, because it means no product will be wasted. I’d say I wish every foundation were packaged like this, but we still can’t get every brand to include a regular pump so I won’t hold my breath. Either way, this is the only thing I wholeheartedly enjoy about this foundation.

Comparison swatches:

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

L-R: Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5, Rimmel BB Cream in Very Light, NARS All Day Luminous Weightless in Siberia, The Ordinary Serum Foundation in 1.1N (current best match)

Aisling told me that she bought the lightest shade, 0.5, because she had read that this product oxidizes a lot. It didn’t on her and she ended up with a product that was too light for her. On me, it definitely does oxidize – when I first apply it, it’s a hair too light, but it ends up being a hair too dark.

Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation in 0.5

You can see that it’s noticeably darker around the edges where it’s dried. If after this absolutely glowing review you’re interested in this foundation, I’d keep the oxidization issue in mind and maybe get a sample before buying if possible.

If you have oily skin and/or are a drag queen, the Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation may be the product for you! If you are normal to dry, I would suggest avoiding it. I’m not big on full coverage foundations anyway, and this certainly isn’t the one to change my mind. While it’s packaged beautifully and does boast impressive coverage, it simply does not want to play with my skin type, and the oxidization is another strike against it.