Things you should or should not buy for your brows and lashes

Posted on April 22, 2018 under Reviews

Here, have three reviews of things that are not exciting enough to warrant their own posts. We have two mascaras and a brow pencil, and those things are kind of related, right? I mean, they both pertain to hair on your face. That’s a good enough parallel for me to justify shoving them into the same post.

Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner in Universal Taupe

I’ve been doing my brows the same exact way for four years. I use Maybelline Colour Tattoo in Tough As Taupe on an angled brush, and it works marvellously. The colour match is perfect and I get the exact angles I want. However, some time ago I decided that I wanted a brow pencil for travelling, since the heavy pot of cream eyeshadow plus an angled brush can get a bit unwieldy. I’ve read really good reviews of this Annabelle pencil, and it’s always been a high seller in my experience working cosmetics retail, so I picked one up back in the summer.

This is a very fine twist-up brow pencil à la the almighty Anastasia Brow Wiz and its army of dupes. It comes in five colours – Universal Light, Universal Medium, Universal Dark, Universal Ebony, Universal Taupe, and Universal Auburn. I’m not really sure what the hell Annabelle thinks “universal” means, but whatever. I selected Universal Taupe because it seemed to be the closest to the colour of my brow hairs. Unfortunately this colour is a hair warm for my brows. I find that brow pencils are either too dark or too warm. Where is the nice light, ashy taupe I need?! See, this is why I can’t stray from cream eyeshadow.

Here’s how my bare brows look:

Clearly, I already have pretty full, well-shaped brows. I mostly like to fill in the tail and add a tiny bit of structure.

Here’s the same brow filled in using the Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner:

I’m not crazy in thinking that colour just isn’t right, am I? This is how I usually do them:

I just think that tone is a lot better for me!

Colour aside, this pencil has a pretty dry formula, which I definitely prefer for a brow pencil – I don’t want to accidentally overdo it with an emollient pencil. It’s also not super pigmented, which is a plus for the same reason. The teeny-tiny tip is absolutely great for making small, precise strokes.

Unfortunately, as it turns out I’m just not a huge fan of brow pencils. I seem to prefer the application and final look of pomade. Maybe this is just bias because the last time I regularly used a brow pencil my eyebrows look like this:

(However, I also had healthy hair, so that’s a tradeoff, I guess. Although as you may have noticed in recent pictures I’m making good progress growing out my blonde hair!)

I don’t know. There’s no particular fault in this product I can point towards. It’s actually really good for what it is. I just don’t like using an eyebrow pencil, apparently. And I want my brow products to be ashier than Pompeii, which this pencil just isn’t. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy pencils and can find a good colour match!

L’Oréal Paradise Extatic Mascara

I am 99% sure that this bizarrely-named mascara is the exact same thing as the Lash Paradise mascara that the entire world went crazy for over the summer. (Seriously, we could not keep it on the shelves at work. We’d get a shipment of like thirty tubes twice a week and within a day THEY WOULD ALL BE GONE. Except for the brown. Those usually stayed put.) I don’t know why the UK had to give it this name, but whatever. It’s the same thing.

As usual, I am unfashionably late to this bandwagon, probably because this is the first time I have spent real currency on mascara in five years. (I always got it free from work, but now I no longer work in cosmetics, and I ran out.) Really I was looking for something that would hold a curl because I’ve noticed that some of my old mascara faves have failed to do that lately. (Lancôme Hypnôse, I’m looking at you.) This formula is more volumizing than lengthening, which is fine. My preference is for extreme length and solid definition, but I’ll take volume as long as it doesn’t clump. This definitely is not a super-clumpy formula, but it takes about a week to get to the sweet spot, I think, whereas something like Lancôme Hypnôse (for all its curl-killing faults) is impossible to make clumpy. That’s okay, though; my favourite mascara of all time, Clarins Truly Waterproof, also need a few weeks to bloom into its full potential, and I can be patient. (You can see how that mascara looks on me in this post, because it is truly everything I need.)

I like this brush. I prefer natural to plastic bristles so this delivers on that front. I don’t really care about the hourglass shape; it works just fine, but I wouldn’t say it’s especially noteworthy. The brush doesn’t hold onto too much product, so that’s fine by me.

I have pretty thick and long lashes that are tragically straight. Like, if a mascara isn’t going to hold a curl then I might as well not have eyelashes, let alone good eyelashes. I would say this mascara is medium at holding a curl. I’ve certainly experienced the letdown of a mascara that immediately kills a curl and makes applying mascara pointless, but I’ve also seen the magic of Clarins Truly Waterproof and this ain’t that. It’s serviceable in the curl department, though. I also don’t notice flaking or extreme amounts of smudging if I use it on my bottom lashes. It’s not waterproof, but it’s slightly harder to remove than your average washable mascara. I personally don’t mind that; like I said, my favourite mascara is waterproof, and I use a biphase eye makeup remover anyway. It takes a bit more work to remove this with a simple micellar solution.

Here’s how the Paradise Extatic mascara looks on my top and bottom lashes:

And a comparison of my lashes with and without the mascara:

All in all, I think this is a nice mascara. It does everything I want it to do even if it takes some time to truly hit its stride. That said, it costs $15.99 in Canadian drugstores and that is just absurd. I can spend $11 more and get a tube of my beloved Clarins. Next time I’m looking to the drugstore, I’ll probably grab a tube of CoverGirl, which is $6.99 on sale. (Seriously, I know Maybelline and L’Oréal are the darlings of the drugstore mascara world, but in my experience CoverGirl knocks it out of the park every time at a cheaper price.)

Urban Decay Troublemaker Mascara

Ugh, this mascara is bullshit. First of all, the marketing sucks and is stupid. Second of all, the mascara sucks and is stupid. It basically did nothing for my eyelashes and rubbed off underneath my eyes within eleven seconds. I used it all of three times before I threw it violently into my declutter box.

As I’ve said a million times, it doesn’t take a miraculous mascara to content me, because my baseline is already pretty good. So when I actively dislike a mascara, you know it’s bad news.

Here’s what UD Troublemaker looks like after being built up pretty much to the greatest extent possible:

If you want something subtle, this may be the mascara for you! But when UD boasts that they “loaded up this mascara with insane benefits—for thicker, longer and fanned-out looking lashes”… well, no. That is a lie. Also, if you DO like subtle eyelashes, you can go to Walmart and get Wet N Wild for three bucks.

Here, let’s compare L’Oréal and UD:

The Paradise Extatic on the left gives noticeably more volume and length and holds a curl a lot better. I know which one I’m choosing!

And in case you were wondering, here’s the brush on the UD:

I tend not to get along with rubber bristles too well, so maybe this was doomed from the start.

And there are some reviews of some things. In conclusion, do not waste your coin on UD Troublemaker. Buy L’Oréal Lash Paradise maybe if you don’t mind that it’s very expensive for the drugstore. Buy the Annabelle brow pencil if they have a colour that works for you and you like micro brow pencils. The end.

Lipstick Collection: Fuchsias and Bright Pinks

Posted on April 16, 2018 under Inventory

Fuchsia was the first lipstick colour I ever fell in love with. When I was 19, you could expect to see me sporting fuchsia more often than not. It’s a colour that I’ve grown out of somewhat; I still really like the right tone on me, but I don’t think it’s my most flattering colour anymore. (To be fair, when my fuchsia obsession was at its height, I had brown hair.) Regardless, this portion of my collection is still pretty robust, even after trimming it down in the summer.

This category can get slightly hazy – sometimes there’s not a lot separating a warm fuchsia from a pink-based coral or a cool fuchsia from a warm lilac. I’ve just gone with my gut here, which has involved rearranging the configuration of products I presented in my lipstick inventory post back in the summer. (By the way, as always, arm swatches are available in that post.)

And here are my bare lips:

Lancôme Le Lip Liner in Rose Lancôme

Man, isn’t this colour just so pretty? It’s bright and unapologetic and it has the hint of warmth that I love in a good fuchsia. Although you definitely should not spend $30 on a lip liner, if you do, Lancôme liners have an almost gel-like quality and they glide on very comfortably and evenly. Personally I like to cheap out on lip liners, but I’ve found it really hard to find a bright, warm fuchsia and I bought this with Optimum points anyway. (Of course. Come on. I buy everything with Optimum points.)

ColourPop Lippie Stix in Heart-On

Ugh, I still hate the name. However, this is a great lip liner option – it’s cooler and deeper than Rose Lancôme, so it fulfils a different function. You can see in the photos in the original post that a purple undertone can become more apparent in cooler lighting, which makes it a nice layering option to change the undertone of a fuchsia lipstick. Also, one time I wore this lip liner by itself to work, and a man asked me why, and I said because I liked it, and he said, “No you don’t,” and I still don’t know what he meant by that. Actually, I’m pretty sure he meant he didn’t like it, which is fine because he was buying Just 4 Men hair dye because he wants to pay more money for less hair dye solely because there’s a picture of a man on the box. Anyway. This lip liner reminds me of that man. I hope he’s having fun touching up his grays.

NARS Audacious Lipstick in Angela

I honestly have no idea how to categorize this lipstick. Is it a bright magenta? Is it a super bright cool-toned pink? Is it almost a lilac? I don’t know! In the end I decided that it’s too light and bright to be magenta and too pink to be lilac, which leaves it in the vague “bright pink” category. Rest assured that the Audacious formula is one of my favourites of all time – I have five of them! You can read my full review of the formula here. Angela is my most recent addition to the Audacious collection (though it’s not really that recent an acquisition since I bought it in August). I was slightly nervous that this colour would be way too much, but I shouldn’t have worried. In general, I can pull off really saturated colours, and this one totally works.

Bite Beauty Matte Lipstick in Custom Colour

Oh, you thought NARS Angela was freakishly bold? Well, allow me to introduce to you this custom colour from Bite Beauty, which is Angela on steroids. This is possibly the most unapologetically loud lipstick I own, and I love it for that. The formula is also great – I’m in a small minority who doesn’t live and die by the Amuse Bouche formula, but I really enjoy the matte formula Bite offers at their lip labs. It strikes a nice balance between wear time and comfort. In the original post you’ll be able to see that it can appear a bit more purple in some lights, but overall I think it’s just shy of being a true purple. Whatever it is, I love it.

ColourPop Lippie Stix Matte X in Poppin

This is genuinely one of the best lipstick formulas I have in my collection, and I always forget about it. It has a true matte finish but manages to look beautifully smooth on my lips. It also wears like a champ. And this is just a really nice colour – anything that leans berry is going to be flattering on me, but I like that this colour has that nice vibrant punch. If I ever make another ill-advised ColourPop order, I might have to try some other Matte X colours, because this one is seriously so good. (And, hey, it was a GWP, so I didn’t even spend any real money on it.)

Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Lovesick

I have such an intense nostalgic love for this lipstick. It was one of the first I ever bought, right when I was first getting into makeup in early 2013. I have a perfectly clear memory of buying it: I was at the end of my first year of university, just finishing exams, and preparing to move back to Toronto for the summer. I bought it from the Pharmaprix near my dorm and put it on just to see how it looked. I wasn’t used to so much colour on my face, but I found that I really liked it. I wore it constantly during the summer. On my nineteenth birthday, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that it was a really flattering colour on me. Wait, here is a picture from that exact day of discovery:

Anyway, I then proceeded to buy like fifteen more fuchsia lipsticks that summer because I had found My Colour. This is no longer My Colour, but it’s still a great lipstick. They haven’t made this colour in years, so I cling to my tube. (By the way, this is my second tube – the first one melted in the sun – so it’s not actually five years old. Just, like, three. Whatever.)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Fiore

I’m pretty much over liquid lipstick these days, but Stila’s formula is about as good as it’s going to get for me. Fiore was a gift from my friend Kristin a few Christmases back, and she obviously knew me very well when she selected this bright pink! I actually prefer this tone on me to the OG fuchsia, Revlon Lovesick. (I’m wearing it in the picture on the sidebar! Which was taken 3 years ago the last time I lived in Glasgow, ha.) Though this is undoubtedly a bright pink, it’s a bit more muted than some of the others I have. It’s like a daytime bright pink. I don’t know what it is – there’s just something in the undertone that makes it a bit more of a reasonable colour.

Lancôme Matte Shaker in Pink Power*

Dude, I love this lipstick. Like, I’m over liquid lipsticks and I still love this one because it truly doesn’t feel like a liquid lipstick. And this is the kind of in-your-face vibrant warm fuchsia lipstick that I’m all about. It’s just so good. I think if I had to pick a single fuchsia from my collection, it would be this one. The colour is just exactly what I want, and I can’t rave about this formula enough. And this is coming from someone who just declared that she is over liquid lipsticks. I have tried enough liquid lipsticks that claim to be different to be wary, but this one actually is. (It doesn’t wear the same way as a classic liquid lipstick, either, but this particular colour stains so brilliantly that that doesn’t matter.)

YSL Rouge Volupté Shine in 28

I really didn’t need to buy this lipstick, but I love it anyway. I’m not normally a sheer lipstick person, but I absolutely love the Rouge Volupté Shine formula for casual days (and travel, when comfort is of the utmost importance). Though this is definitely a bright colour, the fact that it’s sheer means that it’s not too much when I want to slap on a sheer foundation and mascara and run out the door to grab brunch. And though this is (obviously) not a long-wearing formula, it fades to an even stain, which is a bonus. Obviously, I wouldn’t call this a fuchsia, but it fits into the catch-all category of “bright pink” for me. It appears a bit warmer in photos than in person, but in real life it’s definitely pink.

YSL Rouge Pur Couture in 57

This is where the colour category gets a little fuzzy. In my big lipstick inventory back in the summer, I put this in the coral category, but swatched next to a bunch of true corals it looked really pink. However, here it is photographing very coral, especially compared to the true fuchsias in this post. So, apparently I can never win with this colour, but I still consider it a warm bright pink with a slight blue-y duochrome shift under some lights. That sounds kind of like something a middle schooler circa 2006 might have worn, but I promise it’s really pretty. This lipstick is pretty much a trophy for me, unfortunately – the formula’s nothing special, and I think the floral scent is truly revolting. I mean, I still wear it, but basically the only reason I don’t part with it is that it’s YSL. Which is a bad reason, I know, but that’s the way it is.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Electric Poppy

Speaking of warm pinks that are borderline coral-y but really who’s to say what is what when colours are so nebulous and subjective and can we all just agree that I’ve had a hard time trying to categorize these last few and I’m doing my best…! This one is just so gloriously playful. It’s not a serious colour at all; it’s just fun. In my experience, the Matte Revolution formula is consistent across all colours – that is, it’s creamy, comfortable, and reasonably long-wearing.

And because I feel like I’m going crazy with these warmer pinks, I went on a bit of a swatching frenzy:

L-R: YSL #28, YSL #57, Charlotte Tilbury Electric Poppy, Marc Jacobs So Sofia, Revlon Fire and Ice

Maybe you can better understand where and why I drew the line? Maybe not. The more I think about this the more I’m second-guessing myself, even though back in August I was convinced I was entirely wrong in my classifications of YSL #57 and CT Electric Poppy in the coral category. It’s a slippery thing, and the line between “warm bright pink” and “definitely coral” is hazy. At least for me. Maybe you guys are better at colour taxonomy.

I had a lot more lipsticks in this category back in the summer, but luckily I managed to trim the collection down to a more reasonable size. (Okay, there are still a lot of lipsticks here.) Even though fuchsia is no longer my go-to colour I seem to have had to do a few culls specifically targetting the excess of fuchsia in the past few years, which I guess goes to show that old habits die hard.

Review: Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in 35mm

Posted on April 11, 2018 under Reviews

Though Pat McGrath’s early makeup launches were appealing on some levels, ultimately I found them easy to resist. I don’t care enough about highlighter to spend a billion dollars on one packaged in sequins, and though the lip kits were beautiful, they were so far out of my budget that they didn’t even enter the realm of consideration. It was when the brand released their MatteTrance and LuxeTrance lipsticks that my interest was truly piqued. We all know I’m someone who can get behind a single luxurious lipstick, even if it is overpriced. And when I started hearing over-the-top praise from people in Facebook groups, I knew I would have to bite the bullet one day. Originally I was thinking to use it as a reward for a substantial accomplishment… but then I got a Sephora gift card for Christmas and decided that I didn’t want to wait until I had accomplished something substantial. (Let’s be honest – my next substantial accomplishment will be finishing my degree, and that’s in September. I don’t have that much willpower.)

Canadian Sephoras unfortunately don’t carry Pat McGrath products in store (or didn’t when I bought this back in early January), and there is a shocking lack of swatches of the lipsticks online. I mean, as makeup lovers the internet is our most precious resource! I never buy things without consulting an appropriate amount of online sources for reviews and swatches. After rounding up the few scraps I could find, I narrowed down my list to a variety of berry and burgundy shades. Ultimately I decided that the berries were too close to my beloved MAC Rebel to justify buying… and the name of the burgundy 35mm won me over. I’m a film and TV grad student, you know? When it’s right it’s right.

Sephora calls this a “burgundy pink”, which is a phrase that makes no sense and is most certainly not in any way factual. In the tube, 35mm looks like a medium brown with a hint of red, but on my lips the brown all but disappears. I’d call it a deep wine red with virtually none of the brown or purple necessary to be burgundy. (Clearly it’s also not in any way pink.) I actually wish it did have more brown, because I think this colour is fairly standard:

I mean, it’s really pretty, don’t get me wrong. There’s something uniquely powerful about dark red lipstick. But I guess I wanted my $52 lipstick to be a bit more singular. I think NARS does this beautifully: their lipsticks are a cool $40 in Canada (which seems eminently reasonable compared to Pat McGrath), but so many of the colours have a complexity that I don’t see at a drugstore price point. (See Audrey, which is in a similar colour family but which has notes of wine, plum, and brown.) Also, although I know this type of colour is perfectly flattering on me, it’s just not my favourite colour to wear. I mean, it’s still beautiful, but I just wanted something different. And that’s why you shouldn’t buy things that you haven’t seen in person, especially when nobody on the internet has swatched them. I am the person on the internet swatching them!

Comparison swatches:

L-R: Pat McGrath 35mm, Bite Beetroot, NARS Audrey, Lancôme Kiss Me Chérie*, NARS Cruella, Maybelline Burgundy Blush

Here I think you can see what I mean about Audrey’s comparative complexity. 35mm is a standard wine when you take into account the hints of plum and brown in Audrey. You can see that it’s very similar to Bite Beetroot, and, I’m sure, many other wine lipsticks that I don’t own. It’s definitely not a simple dark red when compared to Kiss Me Chérie and Cruella, but it lacks the same strong brown pull of Burgundy Blush.

Packaging-wise, you just can’t deny this. It’s a little bit gaudy and a lot amazing. It’s heavy, it’s extravagant, it’s too much and it knows it. I will admit I’m a little bit confused on Pat McGrath’s brand identity, since the original launches were packaged quite generically (some might say cheaply), and this is… well, this. It’s a black tube with big gold lips on it. I’m a fan of luxury packaging that is just a tad extra; I also love the YSL Rouge Volupté Shine lipsticks for the same reason. Look, if I’m going to buy an overpriced lipstick then I want to feel like my money went somewhere, and when I pull out a tube and it screams HI I AM EXPENSIVE AND I WILL TACKILY LET YOU KNOW THAT, I’m into it. Maybe that’s tacky of me. That’s fine.

Now, as I said, I have read nothing but glowing reviews for this formula. Like, over-the-top fawning. So, I don’t want to be the one, but… I’ll be the one. Maybe it’s this colour in particular (and I do know that deeper shades are trickier), but… meh. I mean, look, it’s not that it’s bad. It’s not. But this is a $52 lipstick. I could have a Tim Horton’s donut every week for a year with that money and still have some left over. I think I would prefer the 52 donuts! If I’m paying $10 or even $25 for a lipstick and the formula is perfectly adequate, I will be happy. If I’m paying FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS for one SINGLE SOLITARY TUBE, I want it to be the most incredible, transformative thing I have ever put on my face. People don’t pay $52 for “Yeah, it’s okay”, right?

Okay, let’s get into specifics. This lipstick glides on smoothly and comfortably. It feels a lot like the Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème formula in that regard: there’s absolutely no resistance during application. However, it does have a tendency to ever so slightly exaggerate dry patches, of which my lips have plenty during the winter. And, you know, this is a cold-weather shade. I really try to break free of prescribed seasonal colours because I know it’s all fake and I should do what I want, but I never want to wear dark red in the summer when I could be wearing a bright coral instead. So, basically, I only want to wear this lipstick when my lips are at their crustiest, and it does not do amazingly with crusty lips. Like, it’s not a disaster, and it’s perfectly wearable. But look closely and I think you’ll see that it’s darker in certain areas:

I think you can especially see this on the centre-left of my bottom lip. If you scroll back up to the swatch pictures, you can also see it there, and that is on my smooth, non-crusty arm. Again, I know this is nitpicky, and this is something I could overlook if Maybelline were selling it for $10.99. But I demand perfection from something this expensive.

Wear-time is… you know. Fine. I mean, for a traditional bullet lipstick (and one that isn’t even matte), it’s… fine. Bold colours usually don’t fade super gracefully, and I know that, and yet I want more than this:

This was after six hours of wear, one meal (noodles – medium amount of contact with my lips, I’d say – I’d hate to see how it would look after a burger), and quite a lot of water. So, not only has a lot of it faded, the fading isn’t very even, and my lips look pretty dry. Obviously, I’m not expecting a miracle here. I have worn a lot of lipstick in the past five years and I’m very aware of what you can expect out of a cream formula. But I have lipsticks with similar feeling formulas that last longer, that fade more evenly, and that don’t make my lips appear crusty. (Once again, Marc Jacobs and NARS edge out Pat, at $14 and $12 cheaper, respectively.)

So, I don’t know. This isn’t a bad lipstick by any means and I will certainly keep using it. I just feel like I’m living in the Berenstein world all of a sudden because I’ve literally never heard a single bad word about this formula and I found it to be “meh” for the price. I just can’t divorce that exorbitant price tag from the lipstick itself, which I think is pretty reasonable. Of course I’m well aware that all makeup is marked up to the extreme (I worked in cosmetics for years, I know how much it really costs to make), and I know that when you buy luxury you’re paying for the prestige. But, come on. I also want a good product, and if you’re going to tell me that your product is worth $52 – and I really just want to emphasize that again, because that is SO MUCH MONEY – I want to actually feel like it is. The packaging is glorious and I could wax poetic about it for days, but that’s not enough for me to think, “Yep, this has the same value as half a year of Netflix, or three books, or a nice shirt.” NOPE. IT DOES NOT.

If you’ve been eyeing Pat McGrath Labs lipstick, I don’t think you should let my review dissuade you completely. There are lots of good ones out there, from small, independent bloggers and random people in Facebook groups who I don’t think are being swayed by the machinations of the beauty guru industry. Those people can’t all be wrong. I had a different experience, and I think it might be that 35mm is not the best colour, or maybe my lips just repel this formula in a bizarre way. But this is my honest opinion, and it’s different from everyone else’s. Maybe it will help you.

Pat McGrath LuxeTrance Lipsticks retail for $52 CAD (did you get that?!) for 0.14 oz, or $371.43 per oz.