This will almost certainly be my last year structuring my favourites posts this way; I just don’t anticipate having nineteen favourites next year. But here are the eighteen items that brightened up my 2018. These products are presented in chronological order and encompass things I tried for the first time this year. (I cheated a little bit but it’s my blog and the rules are made entirely by me, so whatever.)
NYX Epic Ink Eyeliner
After four years of religiously buying the Stila liquid liner, I made the switch to NYX this year. I see virtually no differences between the two liners other than the price tag. Liners have the tendency to transfer on my lids, but this one stays put all day, which is 90% of what I care about. It’s also easy to apply, and one pen lasts a long time. (I can’t give a terribly accurate gauge of how long since I go through phases with liquid liner and haven’t used it too frequently this year.) NYX products nearly always disappoint me, but their liquid liners consistently impress.
I really like the custom matte formula that Bite offers at their Lip Labs, and of course I’m in love with the burnt orange and vibrant magenta shades I got on a bitter day in January. I genuinely really like these lipsticks, but they’re also a favourite because of how fun the custom creation experience was. Definitely one of my most memorable Christmas presents from last year!
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Strawberry Girl
This is a bit of a cheat: I incldued So Sofia in last year’s roundup, so Strawberry Girl wasn’t exactly a risky purchase. (Especially since my mom bought it for me on the last day of our month-long European adventure…) Of course I love this creamy, comfortable, longwearing formula and the sleek, substantial packaging. (It has a magnetic closure, guys!) But this muted-ish coral is new to my collection, and since I have nothing else like it I feel justified in calling special attention to it. After years of avoiding anything in the peach/coral/orange family, these are now some of my favourite colours to wear, and Strawberry Girl is complex and flattering. Here it is on my face:
Zoeva Luxe Petit Crease brush
This picture sucks because my DSLR wouldn’t focus on it so I had to use my phone.
Just so everyone is aware, Danish Sephoras carry Zoeva, and it’s a wonder I bought only this brush. But it’s fantastic – soft and comfortable to use, the perfect size and shape for delicate crease work. Brushes aren’t exactly the most exciting of beauty products, but judging by how much I reach for this it would be a glaring omission to exclude it from this list!
Stila Shimmer & Glow Liquid Eyeshadows – Jezebel and Kitten
There is nothing I don’t love about these shadows. They’re ridiculously shiny, they’re easy to apply and blend out, and they seriously do not budge. These shadows make it so easy to create a stunning, high-impact look with minimal effort or skill. I have a gif swatch of them in my summer favourites post in case you want to see how excellent they are. By the way, I love the original Glitter & Glow shadows, but those are definitely prone to a bit of fallout. Not so with these, which are truly gorgeous without any of the mess.
Clinique Cheek Pop – Peach Pop and Ginger Pop
Once again, I am supremely late to the party here, but that’s only because I have believed in the supremacy of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes for so long. And they are still my favourite blush formula, and I still wear Mood Exposure basically every day, but there are limited shades in that formula and this year I wanted something new. The Clinique Cheek Pops are sheer and buildable and come in a nice array of tones – though clearly I’m leaning into warm tones. Peach Pop was practically all I wore this summer, and Ginger Pop is a nice burnt orange that I’ve been loving in the cooler weather. While I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetics of clear plastic packaging, I love how compact and easy to store these babies are.
The Chemistry Brand HA3 Hand Hydrator
I am very picky about hand creams because I absolutely cannot deal with the feeling of anything sticky on my hands. If it leaves a residue, I will not use it, which is why I have spent most of my life not using hand cream. This one sinks in so quickly and does a great job of hydrating. Bonus: I love the lemongrass scent!
NIOD Photography Fluid Opacity 12%
I basically don’t believe in primer. I’ve tried a lot that do not make my makeup last any longer than it would without, and I find a lot of illuminating primers lose their impact as soon as I put foundation on. But this one genuinely makes a difference even under a layer of foundation – it’s not intense by any means, but it leaves a gorgeous natural radiance. It can also be used as a liquid highlighter, though I prefer it as a primer.
NARS Velvet Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl
Another cheat, since I already love NARS Cruella. But I lusted after Dragon Girl for years until I received it as a very generous gift from a family friend. This vibrant strawberry red is pure fun and I wish I had a chance to wear it more often. (My current workplace is neutrals-only, sadly.)
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Malibu Peach
AHHH I cheated again! I almost exclusively buy the Miracle Gel formula because it works really well for me and there are a lot of great colours in the line. Malibu Peach is a fun, bright, modern peach that is outside of my usual comfort zone but no less great. For some reason I always get compliments when I wear this colour.
Here is a close-up to prove how bad I am at painting my nails.
Marcelle Translucent Loose Setting Powder
I am all about that loose powder life nowadays, and this one is both inexpensive, massive, and effective. Even in the dead of winter it doesn’t leave my skin looking parched – it has a gorgeous smoothing effect and sets makeup perfectly. I don’t always feel the need to powder, but when I’m using a more dewy foundation that doesn’t totally dry down I always use this. Marcelle is one of my favourite drugstore brands; they just do things right.
CoverGirl Super Sizer Mascara
The worst thing in the world happened this year, which is that Clarins discontinued their Truly Waterproof mascara, which in addition to holding a curl like no other also made my lashes long, defined, and perfectly fluttery. The reason is probably that I was the only person in the world who bought it, so it makes sense from a business perspective while still remaining personally devastating. I’m not going to say this CoverGirl mascara is as good: it’s a lot more volumizing than the Clarins, so it forfeits some of the effortless flutteriness. But it makes my lashes look good, and, crucially, it holds a curl better than basically any of the high end mascaras I’ve tried recently. I’m happy to keep using this mascara because the results are great and the price tag is right. (I got it on sale for $6.99, you guys. The Clarins was $28.)
Bite Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Verbena
I obviously took this photo with a potato.
As I mentioned, I tragically have to wear neutral makeup to work, so it’s always nice to find a neutral lipstick that’s still interesting. Verbena is just that: it’s described on Sephora as a “rose terracotta”, which is the perfect description of this layered, hard-to-pinpoint shade. I’ve never been one for nude lips, and I definitely prefer my neutrals more on the rosy brown side, so this is right up my alley. The hint of orange makes it interesting, but it’s still perfectly appropriate for work.
There is no light in Toronto at this time of year, but this picture is basically colour accurate.
Drybar 100 Proof Hair Oil
I have upped my haircare game and I now use one product daily, which is this hair oil. It makes my hair smooth and shiny and adds some hydration, since I now blow it dry a few times a week. A little goes a long way, so although this is not a cheap item, it’ll last me forever. (I also bought it during the Sephora sale, because I’m smart like that.)
First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Bendy Avocado Concealer
The hype about this concealer is so real: somehow it looks completely natural but still covers and brightens undereye circles amazingly. It’s comfortable on the skin, it’s pretty crease-resistant, and it wears well throughout the day. I’m kind of mad that I like it this much because it’s $28, but shit. This stuff is great.
NIOD Survival 30
$30 for 30ml of sunscreen is clearly expensive. But dammit if this isn’t the best facial sunscreen I’ve tried so far. I’ve used Vichy, I’ve used La Roche-Posay, I’ve used Avène, and this is the least-greasy, most-layerable of all. It doesn’t feel, smell, or look like sunscreen. I also love that it’s packed full of antioxidants for broad protection from free radical damage. The pump delivery system is great, too.
Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment With Avocado
What a luxurious, rich, truly hydrating eye cream. I can’t find fault with this product, other than its $39 price tag. The 15ml tub will last a long time since very little product makes a big impact, which is the only way I can justify this purchase. That said, while I truly love it, I will certainly be on the lookout for cheaper dupes.
Bougie and overpriced? Of course. But these tinted lip balms are absolutely stunning: they soothe and hydrate while giving the lips the illusion of fullness and a gorgeous hint of colour. I balk at spending a lot on something with minimal visual impact, but my lips thank me every time I apply one of these so I guess I can’t really be too upset.
2018 was not actually a huge year of makeup discovery for me, mostly because I reined in my spending quite a bit. The majority of my beauty spending was on old staples, but I did discover some new products that I’ve happily incorporated into my daily routine.
Posted on December 21, 2018 under Reviews
Time to complain about things I didn’t like! Actually, almost everything on this list is merely mediocre – there were very few outright fails this year. But I am not that tolerant of mediocre when the cosmetics market is so saturated, even less so when the products in question are pricey. So, in no particular order, here are the things I didn’t enjoy in 2018.
It’s hard for me to say, definitively, that this product is not worth it, because by nature everyone’s formula will differ. I was initially swayed to drop some hefty cash on this custom shampoo and conditioner duo precisely because I had read reviews that claimed it was worth it. I’m sure it is, for some. But for me, these are two products that do the job and nothing more. I can get serviceable shampoo and conditioner at the drugstore.
This is probably the biggest disappointment of all, because you know I wanted so badly to like a $52, gaudily-packaged luxury lipstick whose name references my academic discipline. (Well, kind of, I’m more on the TV side of things but TV used to be shot in 35mm too.) I firmly maintain that this isn’t a bad lipstick, it’s just an okay lipstick. The colour is pretty but nothing special, nothing that I can’t find for $30 or even $10, it’s a bit prone to patchiness on dry lips, and the wear time is far from remarkable. (I wore this lipstick to my work party the other week primarily out of guilt that I’ve barely touched it since receiving it in January, and I had to perform quite a few touch-ups.) I seem to remain the only person on this planet who has had a less-than-glowing experience with this formula, so take that as you will.
Avène High Protection SPF 50+ Emulsion
My main issue with this sunscreen is that it leaves such a white cast, and that is coming from me. I can’t even begin to imagine how unworkable this sunscreen would be on darker skin tones! I mean, the sunscreen itself is fine: it’s a nice lotion texture, it sits well under makeup without pilling, and it does seem to adequately protect from the sun. But, come on. There are too many sunscreens out there for anyone to be spending $25 on one with a severe white cast.
Avène Cold Cream Lip Balm and Abnomaly Petrowhat? in Milk
Two mediocre lip balms! The Avène has a texture that is simultaneously thin and slippery, and it doesn’t seem to ever actually sink into my lips and do any type of moisturizing. It offers temporary relief from really uncomfortably dry lips, but it wears off quickly and doesn’t leave my lips in an improved condition. Luckily I got this as gratis at my old job.
I was excited about Petrowhat?, a new-ish Deciem launch. This lip balm is supposed to mimic the feeling of petroleum jelly-based lip balms, but it’s made with squalane and amino acids. However, I find that this is too thick and greasy and that it just sits on top of my lips. It also has quite a strong salty taste thanks to the amino acids. This is a multipurpose balm so I’m trying to use it up on my cuticles and elbows. Despite the cute packaging and coconut scent, this is a no-go for me and I’d advise you to spend your seven bucks elsewhere.
OGX Flexible+ Beeswax Texture Spray Wax
I picked this up at Walmart on an impulse, because I thought Yes, why not get a texturizing spray? Though I like to make minimal effort with my hair, I thought that a texturizing spray was something I could take fifteen seconds to incorporate. But this just makes my hair a gross, sticky mess. I want to wash my hair as soon as I spray this in. Do not impulse buy hair products at Walmart, everyone.
Luckily, those are the only products that wronged me enough that I had to share. Most of what I bought this year was either satisfactory or too boring to work up any real emotion about. My next post will, of course, be all about the best products I discovered this year, so we can end the year on a positive note instead of dwelling on things that made me sad.
Posted on December 17, 2018 under Reviews
There’s no smooth way to include this information on my blog, so I’m putting it at the beginning of a review of some expensive lip balms. A week and a half ago, my dad had a heart attack that caused cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest has a staggering 92% death rate, and those who survive often have neurological damage from the lack of oxygen to the brain. My dad had his heart attack in the hospital, which increases survival rate to a bleak 24%. Those statistics are beyond grim, which is why I am overwhelmed by how lucky I feel to be able to say that my dad was released from the hospital today, with no neurological damage and very minimal damage to his heart. I’m still processing a lot of complicated emotions about how lucky we are and how differently things could have turned out, and I know it will take some time before I can truly wrap my head around the gravity of the situation. There’s a lot more I could say, but let’s leave it at this: my dad stayed in the hospital for ten days and his total bill was $0. He is self-employed, without insurance, and when he started feeling strange he took a cab to the ER without having to worry that it would be staggeringly expensive. If comprehensive universal health care were not a reality (as it isn’t in his home country), he may have decided to hope for the best and stay at the office. But he didn’t have to think twice: he went to the hospital, and that decision saved his life.
Anyway, here’s another story.
There was a period about five years ago when every YouTuber was talking about the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments. During that period, I thought going to Sephora for a tinted lip balm was outrageously bougie. I was also all about high-pigment, dramatic, long-wearing lip colours. Now that I’m fully an adult, I can both appreciate the benefits of a subtle, comfortable lip colour and justify the occasional splurge. On a recent Sephora trip, I was inexplicably drawn to the Fresh gondola and ended up trying to decide between Rosé – a very subtle berry MLBB – and Petal, which is slightly deeper and dustier. Then I saw that Fresh was selling holiday sets containing minis of Rosé, Petal, and the bright pink Tulip, and I was immediately sold.
There are very few makeup products that I immediately make up my mind about. I like to test things in different ways, see how they wear, and take my time deciding whether or not something is to become a staple in my routine. But I knew from the moment that I put Rosé on that I loved it. And because I’m me, and I’m incapable of experiencing pure joy untempered by negativity, I was like “WHY DID I NOT LISTEN TO ALL THOSE YOUTUBERS FIVE LITERAL YEARS AGO WHY HAVE I BEEN DEPRIVING MYSELF OF THIS FOR HALF A DECADE.”
Now, $29 for a tinted lip balm is expensive. I am not here to argue with that or even to say that this product is definitively better than much cheaper tinted lip balms. It’s probably not. But it applies so smoothly, feels plush and comfortable, and instantly soothes dry lips. Over the past week, I have spent my waking hours visiting my dad in the hospital and working full time, and a simple, easy, comfortable lip product is exactly what I need when I am stressed and short on time. You know when you’ve been out all day and you get home and take off your bra and put on sweatpants? Applying this product is the equivalent of that.
The actual product is pretty soft, which makes for a luxe and comfortable feeling on the lips but does make it susceptible to breaking off. I find that it is particularly sensitive to heat: don’t keep these in your jeans pocket and try to apply them, and don’t nestle them next to your travel tea mug in your backpack. Definitely don’t wind them up too far when applying – especially the minis, which are so thin. (Do those sound like lessons I learned the hard way?) Obviously, this is a fairly substantial design flaw for a pricey product. I will not make excuses for this. I will simply say that I have learned to work around it and enjoy the product enough not to mind. Others may feel differently.
Petal (center) has seen some shit.
Wear time on these is… not great. I mean, it’s a tinted lip balm. As such, I vastly prefer the two lighter colours, Rosé and Petal. While there are some nice brighter colours in this line, the need for constant touchups would drive me crazy, so I don’t see myself dabbling in them.
On my lips, Rosé adds the slightest tint. It doesn’t necessarily look like I’ve added any colour, but it makes my lips look healthier and fuller. I’ve used this one the most, because it’s the lowest maintenance and I can apply it without a mirror. I’ve taken to carrying it around in my coat pocket for moments when I just need a hit of soothing hydration. I’ve already gone through about half the tube because I’ve been using it nearly daily and applying liberally.
Petal is similar to Rosé but slightly more saturated. It has a greater impact and looks a bit more done, whereas Rosé is very casual and doesn’t look jarring when worn on an otherwise bare face.
Tulip is a lovely bright pink, and I think it does very flattering things to my complexion. I like this colour in a glossy finish: it feels very fresh. Hot pink is typically seen as a summer colour, but I really like it in winter too. It mimics the pinkness of cold cheeks and adds some life to a very dull, grey, and generally depressing time of year. (I may be struggling through the start of Canadian winter after spending last winter in the comparatively balmy UK!) Obviously, this colour requires some maintenance, so it’s not a day-to-day one for me – I just don’t have the time or inclination to reapply lip colour at work all day. But this is a nice one to pop on for a dinner out or some other relatively time-constrained event.
All in all, this is an unnecessarily priced tinted lip balm formula (which is probably why I spent five years not buying it), but goddammit it’s really nice. Sometimes you have to buy yourself unnecessary nice things. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself and you like your lips to feel like they are being hugged by something so soft and gentle, maybe put one of these on your list.