Almost all of my beauty blunders can be directly attributed to one primary thing: IMPULSE.
Video, volo, emo*.
Any amount of would-be rationalization, no matter how small, rarely reaches my level of consciousness while I am making the purchase. I'm not saying this is wrong—I have a good job and spend my disposable income on what makes me happy. But that doesn't mean I don't make some really big blunders, despite the best intentions, and despite heeding some of the prevailing advice of the day. I should add that not all of my purchases make me happy; in fact, I sometimes experience buyer's remorse before the item even reaches my front door.
Here are some of my most noteworthy failures.
I have blue eyes. Blue + orange-brown = smashing, right? FAIL. Try as I might, I do not look good in brown eyeshadow, no matter what makeup artists would have me believe. Dirty and unwashed; that's my result, and I had the good sense NOT to buy MAC Rule. Still, I wish I could take back all the money I spent trying to find the right brown.
Biggest disappointment: Dior 5-Colour Eyeshadow in Iridescent Leather 539. Best brown for any eye color? Phhhhhht. Too warm, way too shimmery and all around unflattering look on me, no matter how I combined the colors.
Sparkle just isn't my thing. Even as a much younger woman, I preferred matte and satin finishes and that's what I still prefer. A rut? I don't think so—I feel uncomfortable wearing makeup that looks like makeup (except for lipstick), always have, always will. I do like a moderately gleaming, satiny finish, which means I still try some of the new shimmer eyeshadows, only to be disappointed in how the finish looks on my lids. I'll read about them on blogs or in magazines and they look so gorgeous, but I should give it up and stick with what works, because very shimmery eyeshadows are just a waste of my money.
Memorable disappointments include Bobbi Brown Pewter #3 from the Fall 2010 Chrome collection and Rouge Bunny Rouge Abyssinian Catbird and Alabaster Starling eyeshadows. Beautiful colors to look at—on someone else.
I laugh at makeup brands that say—nay, insist—that all skin tones must wear yellow-based foundation. My skin has mauve undertones, and eons ago I was color printed at Prescriptives as Blue/Red. A recent seasonal color analysis confirmed my long-held suspicions as Summer (True/Cool, to be exact), where I finally understood that of all the skin tones in the world, I am one of a small minority whose skin does not look good with any added warmth. And yet makeup artists keep slapping yellow makeup on my face, and I occasionally buy it, thinking perhaps I got it wrong. I won't rush out to buy foundation that resembles a bottle of calamine lotion (Prescritptives Camellia, I see you winking at me), but I do try to steer toward neutral beige makeup with a slight pink base (like Make Up For Ever Face & Body #38 Pink Porcelain).
Recent (priciest) disappointment was Rouge Bunny Rouge Milk Aquarelle Liquid Foundation in Coconut Milk Parfait. Amazing finish in the wrong color. Whose fault is that? Mine! I got a sample first and still bought the full-sized bottle, hoping the sample had oxidized and that the real product would be the pale milky pink-beige, as described on the Zuneta web site. FAIL.
I tried. Even though I was not tempted by bronzer my entire adult life, my introduction to beauty blogs a few years ago made me wonder if I was missing something. In the last 2-3 years, I have tested or purchased Armani, Edward Bess, Guerlain, Chanel, Dior, Rouge Bunny Rouge, Physician's Formula, and probably many others I have forgotten.
As for the concept of bronze, just about everyone but the extremely pale can get at least a tiny tan, so tan is within my natural coloring ... somewhere. I used to like how my skin looked in summer (I lived near the beach), so my problem is not that a tan looks fake on me—it is trying to fake that sun-kissed color from a pan. I don't tan golden brown; I tan a rosy light brown.
Bronzer fail: Edward Bess Ultra Luminous Bronzer. It's an excellent product, but I should have known better. In fact, I now believe that some people are just not meant to fake a bronze. If we want one, we should go outside for 15 minutes.
In the 90s, when corporate women flocked to brown lipstick, I was still wearing red. Red lips have always been my signature look, and I wholeheartedly embraced newcomers to the scene, like Besame Cosmetics, Julie Hewett, and Lipstick Queen. But before that, I had incorporated my red lips into A Look, which I wore with very little other makeup besides groomed brows, mascara, and maybe a pale wash of beige-taupe eyeshadow. At work I'd wear a low, slightly-messy chignon and skirt or pant suits—more Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy than Gwen Stefani.
But my red lips betrayed me and became a beauty blunder. One day I was talking to a colleague, and I became very uncomfortable when I realized he could not take his eyes off my lips. After, I took a good, long look at my not-20-year-old face in the mirror and accepted that a retro, pinup-red mouth no longer suited the face I was walking around in today. But every time a new red lipstick hit the market I would buy it—or at least seriously consider it. I did this until a couple months ago, when my lips and I had a Come to Jesus moment. I accepted that red lipstick is perfectly fine, even flattering, as long as it is sheer, very much like my still oft-worn Laura Mercier Gel Lip Color in Sweet Cherry. ♥
I would dearly love to bank all the money I have wasted on eyeshadow palettes. To be sure, they are pretty to look at, but nearly every eyeshadow palette I have ever purchased has had at least one dud color you couldn't even make my corpse wear. Every Dior quint, every Chanel quad, 75% of Chantecaille's Les Dauphins quad; 50% of Chantecaille Tiger in the Wild quad, Becca face/eye palettes, Bobbi Brown, Edward Bess, Laura Mercier, NARS, MAC, Guerlain, and the list goes on. The problem with palettes is the pairing of cool with warm or too much shimmer. I can't even list my biggest blunder because they were all blunders, and I surrender. Where I get the most value and happiness is from customizable palettes. I wish more brands made this an option, but I have more eyeshadow than I will ever use up in this lifetime, so I suppose it doesn't matter.
As for my relationship with makeup in the future, I am now much more attuned to what colors and finishes are my most complementary, and I try to make more discerning purchases, but I still make mistakes.
Do you have any purchases that belong in the annals of beauty blunders?
Photo credits, mostly Google images except for Edward Bess and the eyeshadow palette drawer,which are mine.
* Roughly (and badly) translated to "I see, I want, I buy."