Monday, July 25, 2011

Rouge Bunny Rouge Alabaster Starling Eyeshadow

I purchased Rouge Bunny Rouge Long-Lasting Eyeshadow in Alabaster Starling (£ 22.00) at the same time as Delicate Hummingbird, so I am a little behind in my review. At 2.4 grams (around $34 at today's exchange rate), the eyeshadow—in terms of texture, ease of application, and longevity—is what I have come to expect from this brand. Luxe.

The color is described as metallic silvery-white, with a hint of pinky beige. Excellent highlighting eye shadow

Alabaster Starling in direct sunlight
Alabaster Starling in indoor lighting, no flash
I wish I saw more of the pink beige on my skin than a reflective white sheen.  I also should have payed closer attention the word metallic, because what I was really looking for was a base color, Unfortunately, the frost in Alabaster Starling is outside my comfort zone for everyday use. As suggested, I also tried it as a highlighter, directly under my eyebrow arch, on my cheekbones, down the bridge of my nose, on the Cupid's bow of my lip, and so on, but let's just say this look is better reserved for evenings, ideally on under-30 skin. I prefer Chantecaille Perle eyeshadow for its more subtle highlighting effects.

Despite personal preferences, Alabaster Starling blends with ease and lasts all day, even without primer. If a foiled eyeshadow effect is what you enjoy, this should thrill you. Here are some swatches of Alabaster Starling on my (NW15) skin:

Swatch in direct sun
Indirect sun
Natural indoor light, no flash
The following Zuneta video shows Alabaster Starling being applied. Starting at 01:05, you can get a really good visual for how shimmery this eyeshadow is.I saw the glitter and bought it anyway.

Bottom line: Outstanding quality and beautiful color, but a pass for me.

All photos mine. I purchased this eyeshadow from

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WEN Cleansing Conditioner

I don't review skincare or hair care products often because 1) it takes too long to properly test a new product and 2) I have neither the inclination nor patience to cycle through new products every few weeks. And unlike my fickleness with makeup, I am generally content with my current regimes.

Well, maybe that's not entirely true about my hair; I had just reached a point where I didn't think anything would help it.

I was born with baby-fine hair that never had much volume, not even as a kid. I also have an oily scalp, so I have always washed my hair every day. Once I stopped fighting my hair's natural texture, and found the right cut for me, I accepted my hair and managed to have it look pretty good for years.

Until I stopped taking oral contraceptives. Or at least that's what seems to be the catalyst because the change in hormones caused me to lose about a third of my overall volume, and after waiting several years for it to grow back, I begrudgingly accepted it might not. I didn't have tons of hair to begin with, and I expected a brief shedding from the hormonal change, but I never imagined I would lose so much and get nothing back.

I realize it is normal to shed hundreds of hairs a day, naturally,  but I was losing so much I wondered how I was not going bald. I can't begin to tell you how traumatizing it was to see a miniature wiglet circling the shower drain each morning. If I gathered up that little fluff of hair, it would fill one of those mini jam jars you get at brunch buffets. I was tested for all kinds of things, but nothing turned up.

To baby my hair, I tried different shampoos, including volumizers and those without sodium laurel sulfates, which I suspected were too harsh for my fragile locks and were contributing to the breakage. I even experimented with henna (much gentler than chemical dye), which left my hair feeling heavy and silky, but the color did not suit me.

Out of the blue, enter a very kind blogger. I don't even remember how the topic of WEN Cleansing Conditioners came up, but Jeanie sent me a box of huge samples to try out. I never thought conditioner would satisfactorily clean my hair, or at the very least my hair would be so greasy by the end of the day, I envisioned the entire experiment turning into a complete failure, so no one was more surprised than I when it worked!

WEN thoroughly cleans my hair (I can hear a little squeaking as I rinse it), and over the few weeks that I tested it, I noticed the following:
  • The short new growth around my crown no longer stood on end in a crazed halo of frizz.
  • My hair was shiner.
  • The ends no longer felt crispy.
  • I began to notice progressively less hair loss in the drain.
  • More body.
  • Scalp produces less oil.
  • Hair color lasts longer.
  • And, yes, I could still skip a day!
I was so happy with the results, I ordered a 16-ounce bottle from Amazon (I get free shipping and they have a no-nonsense return policy). I chose Cucumber Aloe, which is for all hair types, particularly fine to medium hair. Prices vary at different e-tailers, but I paid $38.75. If I had wanted to use a different scent, I could have saved $10, but most of the others are for thicker hair.

The WEN line by Chaz Dean is fairly comprehensive, but I don't see myself using more than just the cleansing conditioner. I don't even follow his exhaustive instructions or use nearly as much product as he recommends, and I still get great results. Here's what I do:
  • Wet hair.
  • Pump out a small amount (about half a shotglass full) and disperse through my palms. (My hair is a short bob, so you might need more product than I use.)
  • Press the product on the sides of my head (over my ears), at the nape of my neck, and at the hairline near my forehead, and then swipe my hands up toward my crown.
  • Massage and smear the conditioner around for about a minute.
  • Comb through my hair.
  • Leave the product on my head while I do whatever else I need to do in the shower.
  • Rinse rinse rinse with lukewarm water and finish with a cool rinse to seal the hair cuticle.
I let my hair air dry for an hour, and if it does not settle into the shape I want, I put bamboo (velcro) rollers in my hair for about 15 minutes, and the added body those provide lasts all day.

Honestly, I am not sure how much different this product is from regular conditioner, and it's a bit pricey, so it might be worth comparing ingredients because you can go through a bottle of WEN fairly quickly--especially if your hair is not short. That said, I have tried the "no poo" method with regular conditioner, and ALL weighed my hair down, so there is something special about the mixture of ingredients with WEN.

Out of curiosity, I used a regular (SLS free) shampoo last weekend, thinking it might be a good idea to clarify, and my hair felt awful. Stiff, dry, sticky, crunchy, and when I ran a comb through it, there were tons of hairs stuck in the teeth. Ugh, no thanks.

Bottom line. LOVE! I see no need to ever use anything else, and since I get no buildup, there is no need to use a damaging clarifying shampoo.

Meanwhile, I am not even sure how I missed Jeanie's WEN posts, but here they are.

Photo credits QVC

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hitting Pan: Beauty Badge of Courage?

Contents of one of my three UNII palettes

Back in the days before I'd heard of Project 10 Pan, I used to think that "hitting pan" (seeing that little bit of metal emerge from beneath the product due to regular use) was undesirable. I felt as if my beautiful product had become tarnished, old. And I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I'd chuck it and buy a fresh one, just so I wouldn't have to scrape my brush around the sides to avoid the shiny metal.

Since I was using buying far fewer items a couple years ago, I'd hit pan a lot more often than I do now. In fact the thought of adhering to a Project 10 Pan challenge makes me roll my eyes at myself. Even if I used a base eyeshadow as primer every day, and really packed that skin-toned color down, it would still take more than a year for me to hit pan on even one tiny eyeshadow, like MAC. So the thought of using up every last bit of TEN whole products is downright gut wrenching.

I no longer feel that hitting pan is a negative thing. It tells me I am using a well-loved product, and if I happen to repurchase that item and hit pan again, it becomes clear to me that I have discovered a holy-grail item.

In my entire makeup life, there are scant few items that have reached such lofty status.

My Bare Metal Hall of Shame:
  • Shu Uemura M Beige 800 eyeshadow. Used up completely and repurchased two times. Note, this color is now called 813. By completely, I mean that the corners actually crumbled. ♥
  • Shu Uemura M Beige 804 eyeshadow. Pan barely winking at me now; I have a backup. Discontinued. Of course.
  • Shu Uemura M Grey 943 eyeshadow. Hit significant pan and repurchased M Grey 960 (same color) the moment I learned that Shu Uemura was pulling out from US retail counters.
  • Stila Ecru eyeshadow. Used about half up and repurchased 5 backups. Discontinued. I'll probably have moved on by the time I open my first backup, but it's close to Shu M800.
  • Prescriptives Mushroom. First purchased in 1989 and still buying. Because I use makeup so slowly, I am probably on my 3rd or 4th pan since the first buy.
  • Jane Iredale PurePressed Powder. I've repurchased at least 8 times since 2000.
  • Vincent Longo Water Canvas Cream-to-Powder foundation in Porcelain. I have used up every last bit of at least 12 pots of this product in the last 10 years. 
I've made dips in other products and thrown away still more, but the rest of my products are waiting for me to enjoy them again, so I think I will.

How often to you hit pan, and if you use something up, do you ever repurchase?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Do You** Blog?

**Disclaimer: This post is my opinion about my own experience blogging. I do not judge other bloggers' styles or motives, and I sincerely hope that comes across.

Photo credit: Natalie Dee

After reading a recent post by one of my favorite bloggers, who wrote that she's going through a blogging slump, I spent a few minutes thinking about my own motives in starting this blog. I won't lie—it began as a part-selfish endeavor. I hoped to draw new members to my forum, as conversations go through a lull in the warmer months, and I also hoped to be one of the lucky bloggers who receives PR samples from the brands I love or would love to try, especially since I am a relatively late bloomer with my makeup exploration, which that all of your wonderful beauty blogs helped ignite.

Photo credit: Natalie Dee

So I approached blogging a bit like a a business. I worked very hard those first couple months to write lots of honest reviews with tons of pictures (and how horrible some of those early, dim photos were!). I used search-friendly post titles, hoping my blog would come up near the top in search results. I scurried to stay on top of new collections, and tried to beat all the veterans in getting my post up first. It was fun—even exhilarating—but it became less so when I began to sound like nothing more than a review churner. I also quickly realized how stressful and labor intensive it is to keep up, to write compelling reviews about beauty products in fresh and different ways, especially since I wanted to write as well as my favorite bloggers.

So now what was my goal? I still wanted to provide visual access to hard-to-find or niche brands, the way you all did before me. Many brands are not readily accessible to me—I would have to drive 90 minutes each way to look at a single nail polish or blush or eyeshadow—so over the years I relied heavily on online reviews with detailed photographs and skin swatches, especially those swatches that compared the reviewed item to others like it; those were invaluable because color is only useful when put in context. I also wanted to add my voice, swatches and colors to the very tiny community of pale, purely cool-toned bloggers, as the makeup industry seems designed for warm or warm-neutral, medium skins.

So slowly, and despite my blog's selfish origins, I found it more rewarding to give back to anyone out there who is researching one of the products I review, the way bloggers had done before me. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more quickly than receiving a comment or e-mail from someone who bought something I reviewed and loves it. Of course there is always the chance that someone will buy something I loved and hate it, maybe even be angry at me. The risk increases when we buy makeup we swatched on skin tones that are nothing like our own.

Hannibal is so exhausted, he can't bear to look
I know I needn't tell you bloggers and readers of blogs how time consuming and exhausting maintaining a blog can be, not to mention (potentially) expensive. If I am reviewing, for example, a new eyeshadow palette, I need excellent light to take the most helpful photographs, and ideally, several types of light (direct and indirect sun, indoor/natural lighting, flash/no flash). Sometimes I have to wait several days for the sun to come out. I must allocate time to select and then edit each photo from the dozens of shots I too, in order that what you see online matches the color of the product I hold in my hand. To provide that, I remove distractions (cat scratches on my hand!), and adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, tint, and remove shadows. I try to label photos with product names when I swatch several together, so you can tell them apart without having to look at the caption (captions don't show up in Google images), and I always remind myself to add a watermark to each photo, since so many photos are stolen for use on eBay and other sites, including other blogs.

I had no idea what to expect when I started blogging. I assumed it could be competitive, maybe even catty. And yet I was quickly accepted, guided by kind people, promoted by generous people, and embroidered into a tightly-knit, global community of like-minded people. And how small that world is. To be sure, there are some negative aspects (SPAM, mean comments, a tiny percentage of other beauty bloggers who won't give you the time of day, and so on), but the positive far outweighs any negative. As for using search-friendly titles, I still try to think of what someone like me would enter into a search field, if I were looking for a review of a product, and it can work in unexpected ways: It was quite amusing to read (and reject!) some of the comments I received  for my nude post. (Made you click, didn't I?)

I started to relax about my content, but I found myself worrying about my blog's popularity, wondering why some blogs that started around the same time as I had double or triple the number of followers. And like the writer I mentioned in my intro paragraph, I found myself obsessing over statistics, especially views by post and what my traffic sources were. For anyone who has a Blogger blog, I probably don't have to tell you how unhelpful their out-of-the-box tats are, and as for the followers ... well. Increasing those numbers goes back to my original intent for this blog, where I assumed more followers = more popular = perks. It felt a little like trying to get in with the "in" crowd in school, and that was when I started to take a really hard look at what I wanted for myself and from this blog. I realized that trying to increase followers purely for the sake of increasing numbers felt hollow, and it made me reexamine my motives.

My day job pays me to write professionally (so please forgive lazy writing on this blog, where I come to relax without fear of the editor's red pen), and the golden rule is Know Your Audience. There's little point in writing if no one is reading, so having lots of people who click "follow" and never visit my blog again would make me feel sad. I would much rather have fewer followers but know that they follow because they are interested in reading what I post, at least once in a while.

As for the PR samples, no one was more surprised than I when those gifts felt a tiny bit like a burden. I insist that my posts be unadulterated by fear of having the goods shut off, just because I write an honest review that a PR firm might interpret as negative. If samples come my way, fun! I will write about them (with full disclosure) only if I like them, and I will give them away if I don't. I do not care about this blog becoming "famous." As a fairly private person, too much attention would make me uncomfortable, so I have little interest in being invited to special events. You won't see me doing YouTube video reviews, and I am certainly not looking for a job working for Miranda Priestly. I already have a job that I love. This blog is a happy hobby, nothing more.

About a quarter of what was once my total stash
I love beauty-products, especially makeup, but I discovered that after months of accumulating new products to review, I felt inundated, overwhelmed. I enjoyed makeup less because I wasn't giving myself time to enjoy it, so quickly was I moving on to the next new thing. So I have slowed down the tidal wave of product, hoping there are other ways I can add value than by churning through new products several times a week. I'm not saying I'll stop buying product—I've already tried abstinence and it didn't take. But my purchases will be more discerning and reflective. How many different shades of taupe does one person need, anyway? Don't answer that, Elvira!

So why do I blog? For fun, friendship, and I guess I feel like I have something to contribute to this small inner world of beauty. I hope that by sharing my thoughts with this community, some of you feel the same way. Very few women in my 3D life even wear makeup, so I can't talk to them about my love of beauty products.

I also hope that by writing more thought-provoking posts (and potentially fewer product reviews) I won't lose anyone, but I am willing to take that risk. Like any hobby, blogging must find a place of balance within my life. I don't want to spend the entire summer glued to the monitor when I could be enjoying my gardens outside

Why do you blog? I suspect many of you want to give back, but if you are doing it for samples or an internship or to be flown free to IMATS or to become as famous as The Arm (KarlaSugar), fantastic! Please leave a comment and tell me what that's like—I'd really love to know. I do not judge, I merely observe. And as I mentioned in my first sentence, my slight shift in focus is based purely on my own experience, a blog evolution, after makeup started to feel a little less fun. At one time, I wanted it all and maybe I will again.

My photos. Illustrations by Natalie Dee

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Which Cult Beauty Items Are Not (or Are) Worth the Hype?

Part 4 of the "I Don't Get It" series.

MAC Spice

I first purchased this beauty editor-recommended lip pencil in 1993, after reading about a new-to-me brand called M.A.C. in a fashion magazine. Touted as a universally-flattering liner, it was supposed to be the only lip pencil a woman needed, but it was just OK, a touch too warm. I used it sporadically over the next few years and then lost or tossed it. A couple years ago I repurchased it, and it was much worse than I'd remembered; it now looked orange on me.

NARS Orgasm

Not one of the Orgasmic blush, lip gloss, nail polish, or multiple (highlighter) flatters my skin tone.

I sometimes wonder if Orgasm has reached cult status on its name alone, as there is nothing especially unique about the color. Surely this shimmering peachy pink blush looks beautiful on many ladies, but it just makes me look feverish, and I'd rather get that flush the old fashioned way.

Stila Kitten

This eyeshadow is so pretty in the pan, a shimmering champagne-pink beige that I hoped would be like a second skin for my eyelids. But, alas, no.

Instead I get an uber-sparkly finish that highlights every flaw around my eyes and makes the skin look like crumpled tissue paper. If anyone knows of a more satiny pinkish-beige that is cool toned, please let me know because that color would nicely round out my eyeshadow collection.


Chanel Mademoiselle

How could one little lipstick, described as a muted rose pink, turn into such a terracotta horror fest on me?

I am convinced that Mademoiselle is the Mood Ring of lipsticks. It looks so rosy and beautiful on Vanessa and in the tube, but it turns a hideous brown-orange on me--and that surprises me because my lips are a medium-pigmented mauve-rose that usually turn most lipsticks cool or cooler.

Urban Decay Primer Potion

This primer gets much love, but not from me. I expect primer to even out skin tone, so eyeshadow I apply over it is unadulterated by red skin or blue veins. UDPP is a beige silicone product that provides nice slip, but worsens the appearance of my eyelid skin, making it look crepey. I also hate the packaging, which wastes a lot of goop.

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer

I really wanted to like this TM because I am a huge fan of Laura Mercier products. Alas, it is too dewy for me (and I do not care for the oil-free version), but the worst bit is that the chemical sunscreen reddens my skin, defeating the purpose of evening out my skin tone.

Clinique Black Honey

This "almost" lipstick continues to win awards in beauty magazines--it's even in Elle magazine's Hall of Fame. I once read that Madonna wore it on the cover of her Ray of Light album, and Black Honey is THE "lipstick" that beauty pundits insist is universally flattering. It is not. I am part of the universe, and Black Honey is not flattering on me.

Although it is described as an ultra-sheer berry stain, I see a reddish-brown raisin color. It has the unwanted tackiness of a lip gloss, and it has no staying power. I realize a sheer lip product won't last long, but I get better mileage from lipstick/gloss hybrids by Chantecaille and Laura Mercier. Worse, Clinique's formulation dries my lips. I much preferred Clinique's Sheer Raspberry Almost Lipstick back when they sold more than just this single color.

Other super-popular products that don't wow me:
  • MAC Lip Glass. Too sticky and product accumulates in the corners of my mouth.
  • MAC Paint Pots. Stiff and drying. And while Painterly looks perfect in the pot, it turns orange on me.
  • Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser. I cannot use this product for the chemical stench of it alone.
  • Essie Ballet Slippers. Continually cited in magazines as the perfect pale pink, this nail polish gives me lobster hands.
  • LipFusion Plumping Gloss. It's gloss, after all.

The Good

This post would be unbalanced if I didn't include some of the products that I think are worth the hype. Here are just a few of the hyped-up products I love.

YSL Touche Eclat

I adore this highlighter/concealer hybrid. So much, in fact, that I am on my third, which is unprecedented for fickle old me. It doesn't conceal as well as it highlights, but my undereye circles aren't that awful, and it provides some nice brightness along the nasolabial fold. I apply it in the inverted V made famous by Trish McEvoy, and my skin just glows.

Shu Uemura eyelash curler

After years of using a Revlon curler, I was initiated into the shu cult, and I love this curler for giving me truly curled lashes, not that crazed crimp reminiscent of the curling-iron bang circa 1984.

Lancôme Definicils Mascara

I can't believe I walked by the Lancôme counter for more than a decade without trying their Definicils mascara, even though I read countless reviews on how great Defincils is. It really is most excellent. The black has the barest whisper of navy undertone.

WEN Cucumber Aloe Cleansing Conditioner

I've tried the no-poo method using straight-up conditioner and my hair felt great. For a couple days. Then the greasies would come back with a vengeance. A lovely blogger sent me several huge samples of WEN. I tried it, loved it, and ordered the full size. Still loving it, and this is so worth the hype, even on my ultra-fine, thin hair. WEN leaves it soft and manageable without any frizz or dryness. I can even skip a day washing, and I don't have to use the above-mentioned hair oil. It's really a shame you need to use so much, as this stuff isn't cheap. I'd love to know of cheaper alternatives because there will come a point where I tired of spending so much on hair cleanser.

Chanel  nail polish

What can I say that hasn't already been said. I love Chanel polish, from the colors to the formulation. Elegant packaging, decent longevity, and beautiful, unique colors. I don't wear nail polish often, but when I do, it's almost always Chanel I reach for.

BeautyBlender sponge

I admit I was among the first to pooh-pooh this silly-looking sponge, but it really does provide a poreless finish, from liquid foundation to tinted moisturizer to BB cream. And it doesn't suck up much product if you use it damp. Worth it.

Bobbi Brown Eyeliner Gel

A decent color selection and amazing longevity, I own a couple of these (Granite Ink and Graphite Shimmer), more than I will ever use in my lifetime. I love that I can apply the gel over the lashline, poked into the lash roots, or I can tighlined from below without irritation (as long as I let the pigment dry before I start blinking). The color stays put ALL day, which is a double-edged sword because it can be quite challenging to remove if tightlined. Bobbi Brown gel liners are the best out there.

Shiseido Pureness Oil-blotting Papers

My skin is no longer as oily as it once was, but there was a time when I would not go anywhere without my Shiseido papers. I discovered them around 1987 and thought they were a brilliant idea. Shiseido might have been the first, but now many makeup brands carry these blotting tissues.

And for the sake of full disclosure, here are some of the cult items I have never tried:
  • La Mer anything. I chortled when my friend, Veuve, called it Le Meh.
  • Le Métier de Beauté Eye Kaleidoscopes. I don't care for the need to layer. If an eyeshadow color does not stand on its own, it doesn't get purchased. Life is too busy and short for co-dependent makeup.
  • Spray-on foundation, any kind. How does one keep it off your hair and brows and eyelashes? Eek, no, not interested.
  • Urban Decay Naked Palette. It looks so pretty in the palette, but there is too much shimmer and too many warm colors.
  • MAC Russian Red lipstick. I believe this is matte or satin formulation. Most MAC lipstick is already drying on me, so it's a no go.
  • Preparation H as an undereye puffiness reducer. Some things are best left where they belong.

What are your must-have cult products and which ones disappointed you?

All photos from stock via Google images

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Brief Blog Break While I Build a Man Cave

Photo credit Google images
My husband left this morning for a three-day hike in the mountains. Although I adore the quiet of the forest and would love to go, it is freakishly hot and humid, even up north, so I have released him into the wild while I stay at home and work on a big project.

Did I mention big?

He will be gone over his birthday, and I never know what to get him, so I have decided to build him a man cave, his own private sanctuary/office that no one enters. Given his tendency to be messy, I am tempted to adhere a sign over the door that reads, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here," but it will be his mess.

If I work very hard and efficiently, when he gets home, he will be able to walk into what used to be the guest bedroom--where the ceilings are currently painted a depressing dark blue with barn boards nailed to the lower walls in some crazy, rustic version of wainscoting--and heave a sigh of pleasure. As soon as the electricians finish in that room, I will paint his favorite shad of sky blue to brighten it up and will move in the bookshelves, new desk, a small sofa he can nap on, and a big vintage map of his favorite mountain range, if I can find one in time. His new office will also be properly wired for air conditioning.

Photo credit Google images
We live in a small cottage, which was built during World War II when families were larger and houses were smaller. Our house provides plenty of room for two people, but since it is considered only one-and-a-half stories, I very quickly realized that this project will require more work than I originally thought. In order to create serenity out of chaos, and make room for the new, I must cull through eight years of accumulated detritus and find a new use for it, repair it, donate it, or throw it away. Trash pickup comes this morning, and they are in for a surprise.

What does this have to do with a beauty blog? I have grown really tired of twisting around or bumping my shins into oversized furniture to open a window or get a book from a shelf, so I am scaling down. New paint and trim will make everything look cleaner and more open, new mirrors will  reflect windows and give the appearance of more space, and smaller furniture and new storage (e.g., items that double as an end table, but which hold linens, pillows, game, etc.) will provide more physical space.

And for all my efforts, I am also creating a private office/reading room of my own. I call that a thing of beauty.

See you soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

MAC Semi-Precious Collection: Girls and Gore

Part 3 of the "I Don't Get It" series.

After coming in from the mail box the other day, my husband handed me MAC's Summer 2011 postcard and then ran to the bathroom to get sick.

With the Twilight series so popular and with True Blood starting its fourth season, the nation clearly finds vampires hot and sexy, and Alexander Skarsgård can bite my neck any time. Is MAC now giving its own tribute to vampire hysteria? Because their Semi-Precious advertisement conjures up images of vampires when the postcard shows, in disturbingly lurid detail, a model's chunky and dripping lips the color of clotted blood. Has she just finished feasting on someone's spleen?

I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Also, "Precious" conjures up other disturbing memories for me. Permit me to digress for a moment.

"It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
Yes, it will, Precious, won't it? It will get the hose!"
Back on point, I love dramatic red lips on pale faces, but I don't find MAC's ad particularly attractive. Compelling, yes. It compelled me to write this post. I'm sure the model is stunning, even if the photo editor felt the need to erase half of her nostrils and elongate her nose. Maybe it was the up-tilted angle and the nostrils were so wide and gaping they looked like they might engulf the reader. Instead, she ends up with a nose so disproportionately long from nostrils to tip, it looks like a bleached stingray.

I realize that advertising is one part fantasy, one part drama, and one part ca-ching, but the Semi-Precious  campaign reminds me of MAC's Mexican bordertown-inspired (Rodarte) collection, with the image of a corpse-like girl protecting her womb as she stands to the right rear of a ghostly figure dripping in pearls and blood. MAC said the collection meant to represent the ethereal, ghost-town beauty of a landscape south of the US border, and they have long since apologized for what many considered bad taste. Whatever their claims and recapitulations, I always believed that MAC intended to emphasize (and capitalize on) the darker side of Juarez, with their edgy, ugly, lurid, somewhat vulgar imagery.

Fine. Not all art is beautiful--ugly can be beautiful, and the Rodarte collection did not hurt the MAC brand. I wasn't blogging last fall when the controversy was being discussed, but I certainly noticed it.

I don't mean to rehash a discussion about that collection. I merely find myself amused on occasion by MAC's "edgy" advertising, which never compels me to buy.

I wonder how many of you received the less lurid Semi-Precious postcard.

The model is gorgeous, but this ad swings in the complete opposite direction with nude lips. And once again, there's a strange ghostly image superimposed over the model. Smoke? Wisps of mist? Is the woman being erased? I am not sure what this collection hopes I will think about it.

I suppose when you are a brand that releases dozens of collections a year, it gets challenging to come up with new concepts, to always be topping yourself when you continue to raise the bar. Maybe I am boring, but I prefer to spend my money on the brands that highlight classic feminine beauty and mystique with luxe or simple imagary, not death and/or gore.

So it's not that I don't get it--drama, edge, even controversy sell, and MAC wants to be edgy for their demanding 20-something demographic. I do get it. I just don't want this one. Do you?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

When Does Just Right Become Too Much?

Although I am a minimalist at heart, including what I wear on my face, I have loved makeup and other girly things since I first saw my mother's Avon catalog. I enjoy looking at new collections in magazines, observing how women wear it, and reading makeup reviews. In the last couple years, however, my affection has transformed into something I barely recognize. I increasingly find myself missing the days when ALL my everyday beauty items fit in a small shoebox, and my morning routine was simple and fast.

For example, my pre-forum/blogging eyeshadow "collection" consisted of 1 face powder, 2 eyeshadows, one brow color, and a half dozen lipsticks. I didn't wear blush. I owned zero lip gloss. I used 2-3 brushes. Whatever I reached for went with every outfit, any occasion, because the makeup I purchased was an extension of my own coloring. Small as my stash was, I almost always wore makeup, even around the house.

Back then, I might add a new lipstick once or twice a year. I did almost all of my shopping at a counter, never online. I was selective, discriminating, and quick to get rid of items that did not work for me (such as lip gloss). I threw them away, some practically new. I never saved the boxes makeup came in--I didn't see the point. It never occurred to me to return anything that didn't suit. 

Inexplicably, in the last 2.5 years, my makeup interests exploded. Suddenly, the goods were in a train case, tackle box, wicker baskets, and multiple shoe boxes. A friend and I would send each other USPS flat rate boxes of items we had barely used.  I recently convinced myself that my continual pursuit of the perfect _______ was only because I had no idea what I already owned. So a few weeks ago, I went to Ikea and bought Alex (not affiliated) so I could gather everything in one location.

One of the first things I noticed was the volume. Embarrassingly excessive. The second thing that struck me was how similar a lot of it was. Near duplicates and significant overlap, mostly in color but also in formula and texture. And almost all of it was barely used, some not at all, especially those limited edition palettes I guess I am saving up for who knows what.

I realize the following photos might not look like much to the makeup artists and true curators among you, but is a huge amount for a person who used to see herself as just an everyday beauty lover who enjoys makeup. This looks like a LOT to me--especially because what I am showing below are the items I am keeping. At least the same amount has been put aside for my upcoming blog sale. So just imagine doubling everything you see, and you will realize I have truly gone off the rails.

My nail polish, at least the ones I could find
Partial brush collection (rest on top of desk in a large brush holder)
Foundation, powder, blush, bronzer concealer (face stuff)
Lip stuff
Compacts and palettes
Eyeshadow singles
And that's not even all of it! In a previous post, I gave a peek into my makeup area, and showed you the storage that holds the makeup and brushes I reach for every day. (If you notice the desk is different, you'd be correct. I had to swap it with the current one so the Alex would fit underneath.)

And even still, I maintained a separate train case for all my brand new backups.

And because it still didn't fit, I have a shoebox for the overflow, which holds the items I don't love but don't want to give away yet.

If I had to name the catalyst that led to my transformation from a minimalist to collector, I'd say Makeup Alley. Reading reviews was a lot like purchasing something at, where right under the item it shows you all the other things people bought after making that purchase. Makeup Alley led to forums and blogs, which fed the interest.

Now, each morning I have to decide which of my satiny taupe eyeshadows I want to wear, and sometimes it's paralyzing. Even Hannibal finds it exhausting, and he's a model of good saintly taupism.

"All I need is my guyliner, and I'm good to go."

I can't possibly be alone in amassing all this stuff. At least I hope I am not. What happens when makeup starts to feel like it's going to eat you when you are sleeping? Where and how do you draw the line between enough and excess, and what do you do to reduce?

How do you manage your beauty items when you've accumulated too much. Do you sell it, give it away, throw it out? Once free from the excess, do you put yourself on product probation for a while, or do you start right back in? I occasionally leave a box of gently-used makeup in the ladies room at work marked FREE. It's almost always gone by lunch.

And it must be said: This article is about my habits only. I do not judge others. If collecting every blush Chanel has released since 1992 makes someone happy, then there's nothing wrong with happy.