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.

Drugstore favourites: Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks

Posted on November 11, 2017 under Reviews

I noticed recently that a great deal of my reviews are of mid-range to high-end products – probably because they’re more exciting to me. I’m far more likely to meticulously research pricey products before pulling the trigger, and the fact that they’ve taken up so much headspace means I’m already in the frame of mind to review them. With drugstore products, I’m prone to impulse purchasing – snapping something up, putting it in my makeup storage, and only thinking of it when it’s time to apply it. But, like most of us, I started at the drugstore and I still have a good range of drugstore products in my collection which I use regularly. Today I thought I’d shine a spotlight on one of my favourite drugstore products of all time, the Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks.

When it comes to lipstick, my collection leans pretty expensive nowadays. When I first started wearing makeup regularly, I was all about the lipstick (and still am) and bought all my lip products from the drugstore. These days buying a fancy lipstick is one of my favourite ways to treat myself, and over the years I’ve accumulated so many dupes and near-dupes that I’ve weeded out a lot of my cheaper lipsticks in favour of the ones I paid a lot for. My favourite lipstick formulas are higher end; I’d say that my top two are Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution and NARS Audacious. But the Maybelline Creamy Mattes will remain in my collection, because they are amazing. In fact, I’d rank them right up there with CT and NARS formula-wise at a quarter of the price.

A lot of the time when we talk about drugstore products, we qualify them: they’re good for the price, because they’re so cheap we can’t complain, they’re a good budget option. But no joke, the Creamy Mattes are straight up one of my favourite lipstick formulas, no qualification necessary.

The name really says it all; Maybelline was not lying. These are a true matte (for a bullet lipstick, that is – they don’t look as, well, dry as liquid lipsticks) and incredibly comfortable. They don’t feel as smooth and creamy as the CT or NARS; they have a slightly dryer-feeling formula, but they don’t dry out the lips or tug on application. All in all, they’re everything you could ever look for in a lipstick formula, and you can regularly get them on sale for $5.99 CAD. The packaging is undeniably drugstore, but I think it’s pretty nice. It’s sturdy and I like that it’s matte, which always reads as less cheap to me than a shiny tube. These lipsticks feel more substantial than something like the Rimmel lipsticks. The tubes all look the same, however (with the colour of the outer packaging changing from line to line, but not shade to shade), so if you have a few of these I’d suggest storing them upside-down so you can see the shade names at a glance.

Really my only complaint is that I want them to expand the shade range! Canada gets a little short-changed here; we don’t have as many colours as our American friends. I have diligently avoided the allure of buying makeup since arriving in the UK, but it seems that Boots and Superdrug carry a whopping six shades of the line. Maybelline did just launch the Inta-Mattes a few months ago, which, as far as I can tell, share the Creamy Matte formula, but none of those colours call to me. (They also don’t seem to be available in the UK.) I would kill for more bolds in this line! The drugstore could use more high quality mattes in the plum/magenta/berry/purple family.

These smell similar to MAC lipsticks – that is, they have that vanilla-reminiscent scent that’s standard across a lot of lip formulas. I wouldn’t say I love the scent, but it doesn’t bother me in the least, and I don’t notice it throughout the day. I mention this only because I know some people dislike that specific scent in their lip products, and I myself am sensitive to certain scents as well.

Now, some pictures of the colours I have:

My first exposure to the Creamy Mattes was in the form of Lust For Blush, which is a cross between pink and lilac. This is the type of colour that should not be flattering on me but somehow is. It’s quite similar to Wet N Wild Mauve Outta Here, a colour that I destashed back in 2013 but sought to replace with something with a superior formula. (That was a lie the internet told me – I never got along with those Wet N Wild lipsticks.) It’s really the colour of Lust For Blush that compelled me to buy it, as I was convinced that it was the colour I was looking for. And it was, but it also got me hooked on the formula. This borders on a Barbie pink, which should look positively terrible on me. Every time I put it on I’m surprised not only that it doesn’t look awful but that it actually brightens up my face a lot. This is one of my favourite lipstick colours of all time!

Comparison swatches:

L-R: MAC Please Me, NARS Audacious in Anna, Maybelline Lust For Blush, Lise Watier Rouge Gourmand Velours in Cake Pop, Little Mix by Collection in Perrie

You can see that it’s more purple than the medium pink (Please Me), though not as mauve or dusty as Anna. It looks positively pink compared to a true purple (Perrie). Lise Watier Cake Pop is darker and more saturated but the most similar tonally, though it still lacks that hint of lilac.

My next foray into this line was Touch of Spice. This was a colour which I had passed over many times until I saw my coworker wearing it. This is one of those complex neutrals that can be described with a variety of colour adjectives: brown-y pink-y mauve-y. On her it pulled quite purple, which interested me as the bullet appears more brown. On me it’s more of a pinky-brown. I never would have thought I’d like something with this much brown, but it’s very flattering and easy to wear and one of my favourite fall neutrals. When I worked in cosmetics, this was one of the lipsticks I sold most frequently. I’m pretty sure every customer I put it on bought it! It looks different on everybody and it flatters such a variety of skintones. Of course I shy away from describing something as “universally flattering”, partially because that’s nearly impossible and partially because it’s really just conjecture on my part. That said, I have seen this colour on a lot of people ranging from very fair to medium-to-dark, with basically every undertone, and it’s looked good on them all. I can’t promise you anything, but it’s worth a swatch, at least. You can see in the pictures above that different lighting conditions pull different undertones out, as well, though usually on me it’s more of a pinky-brown without too much mauve or plum.

Comparison swatches:

L-R: Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, Maybelline Touch of Spice, Buxom Plumpline Lip Liner in Hush Hush

Okay, let’s address the obvious: if you have Revlon Sultry you probably don’t need Touch of Spice, though both are colours which seem to transform on the lips and look very different on everyone. On me, the red tones in Sultry are evident, whereas Touch of Spice appears a little more brown. It’s definitely more brown than pink (as you can see when compared to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which pulls much more pink) but not entirely brown – the pinky plumminess is evident when viewed next to something more brown (Hush Hush).

Finally, I picked up a newer colour, Burgundy Blush. I believe this colour is permanent in the US but already long-gone in Canada (sorry). This is another one that seems to appear pretty different depending on who’s wearing it. On Christine of Temptalia, it looks much more like a brick or burgundy. On me, it’s a dark brown with strong red undertones. This is the type of colour that I would never have worn even when I was out there rocking dark purple lips on the regular. I was terrified of brown lipstick for a long time, but I’m finally on board. The camera seems to make this one look slightly uneven on my lips, but I don’t notice any patchiness in real life. In her review of Burgundy Blush, Christine notes that it feels a bit drier than the other Creamy Mattes, which I don’t personally notice.

Comparison swatches:

L-R: Bite Amouse Bouche Lipstick in Whiskey, Maybelline Burgundy Blush, ColourPop Ultra Satin Lips in Prim

In these swatches, Burgundy Blush appears to have a stronger red/berry hint than it does on my lips, especially when compared to Bite Whiskey, which is clearly more brown (though it does have a berry undertone, as well). It’s very similar to ColourPop Prim, especially applied to my lips rather than the underside of my arm.

Obviously, I’m a fan of the Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks – they’re pretty much everything I look for in a lipstick formula, and at a great price point. I hope Maybelline continues to expand the colour selection, because this is one of the best products you can get at the drugstore.

The Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks retail for between $7.97 (Walmart) and $10.99 (Shoppers Drug Mart) for 0.15oz.