Saturday, December 29, 2012

Battle of the Beige

In the past couple of weeks, I have acquired two new neutral palettes. I have been playing with both of them extensively for the past couple of days.

It's time to put them head to head:
Urban Decay Naked Basics vs. Coastal Scents Go Palette Cairo

Obviously, it is not fair to expect the same quality of shadow from a palette that cost $8.96 and a palette that cost $27.00. So, instead, we are going to compare whether a higher or lower end palette is giving you more bang for your buck.

You can go on other blogs are probably get really beautiful swatches that show the richness of each color as it builds up on your skin. I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to be a wee more methodological about my swatches. Every swatch has exactly two swipes of my eyeshadow brush. No more, no less. In my opinion, that is going to give you a much more honest depiction of what the product actually looks like when you try to swipe it on your face. It's also worth noting that all of these were swatched dry-- you are going to get more pigmentation if you use the product while wet.

Urban Decay Naked Basics

Urban Decay Naked Basics Outside
Urban Decay Naked Basics Inside
Finish: This palette contains five matte shadows and one demi-matte.

The first, lightest color (Venus) has a slight shimmer, but all the rest are matte.
Cost: $27.00
Number of colors: 6
Size per color: 0.05oz
Overall size: 0.3 oz
Cost per ounce: $90.00
Urban Decay Naked Basics Swatches- dry, two strokes of color each
Overall impression: Fuck, this is a great palette. All the colors are crazy smooth and almost creamy feeling. All the brushstrokes are not faded around the edges at all. As you can see, the lighter colors are not super pigmented, but because they are so rich and lovely, it actually works really nice and looks beautiful, but natural on my actual eyes. (It also appears like they are less pigmented than they are, since the second and third color are pretty close to my skin tone.) At first, I thought it was strange that there was a shimmery color (Venus, the lightest shade) in a supposedly all-matte palette, but it looks so great in the inner corner of my eyes that I am having a pretty hard time being upset about it. I have been using the NYX jumbo eyeshadow pencil in milk to highlight the inner corners of my eyes, and this eyeshadow absolutely blows that pencil out of the water (and I LOVE that pencil). I like that so many of the colors are on the lighter side of things because, in my opinion, a neutral palette is an everyday kind of palette. Having variety in lighter shades allows you to create depth and shape without necessarily creating drama.

Coast Scents Go Palette Cairo
Coastal Scents Go Palette Cairo Box
Coastal Scents Go Palette Cairo Outside
Coastal Scents Go Palette Cairo Inside
Finish: I would say that there are arguably four matte shades, one demi-matte, four shimmers and two outright glitters. However, it is a bit of a gradient, so others might classify the shadows slightly differently.
Top row: matte, shimmer, shimmer, glitter
Middle row: shimmer (metallic), shimmer (metallic), shimmer, glitter
Bottom row: demi-matte, matte, matte, matte
Cost: $8.96
Number of colors: 12
Size per color: 0.023
Overall size: 0.28 oz
Cost per ounce: $32.00 (For comparison, my favorite drugstore makeup, the Maybelline Stylish Smokes Eyeshadow Quad, costs $6.25 for 0.17oz, which translates to $36.76 per ounce.)
Swatched top row. Don't worry, it's not the picture. These colors didn't show up in real life either. (The fact that the lighting is hideous, though, is the picture. Sorry.)
Swatched middle row.
Swatched bottom row.
Overall impression: I was quite disappointed by how comparatively poor the pigment showed up. You can see in the swatches that, at the very center, it is much darker than it is along the edges. This is clear on your eyes as well, making your makeup look a lot less precise. The makeup also has a lot more graininess, which is also visible after your makeup has been applied. The light colors have absolutely no pigment to speak of. Furthermore, when I attempted to swatch beyond two swipes (which is what you see in the pictures), no amount of heavy handedness produced any meaningful color.

I also think that there are some practical limitations to the colors selected. The Urban Decay palette has lots of light-ish, tan colors. The only colors that show up at all in the Coastal Scents palette are quite dark. If you are a lady of color, that probably will not be too unnatural looking, but, for my coloring, most of the stuff is too dark for a whole look. (And if I am going to do dramatic makeup, I sure as hell am not going to do it using brown.)

I was also a tad peeved about the way that Coastal Scents advertised their pigmentation. Look at that first row of swatches that I took, as opposed to the ones on their website.

My swatches vs. the swatches that Coastal Scents provides on their website.
That is simply not an accurate portrayal of the actual colors you get. No matter how thick you layer it on, you will not be able to achieve that kind of pigmentation. What's more, the colors look to be photoshopped, but they photoshopped them to be a little bit crooked, as if it was a natural line that someone drew. I like the idea of including swatches on the website, but if the swatches aren't accurate it's misleading, not helpful.

From my perspective, the Urban Decay palette still comes out on top in terms of quality by a lot because you need less makeup to achieve pigmentation (meaning the same mass of eyeshadow will last you longer), it is smoother and easy to apply, and it just looks more attractive on your face (the Urban Decay palette makes it look like I have mad eyeshadow skills, but it's really just the quality of the product). The point of eyeshadow, usually, is to do something with your makeup that looks attractive. If the product you have isn't helping achieve that goal, it doesn't matter that it is much less expensive.

With all of that being said, the Coastal Scents palette is a third of the cost of the Urban Decay palette, and that is not a trivial pricing difference. Some people plan on using a neutral palette multiple times a week and it is seriously going to get used. If you are NOT one of those people, it might not be worth it to you to spring for the higher end palette. If you use the shadows wet and put more effort into achieving pigmentation, the Coast Scents palette would be perfectly acceptable for occasional wear. (Plus, who doesn't love silver eye shadow?!)

Still, I feel comfortable concluding that the Urban Decay palette gives much more bang for your buck than a less expensive alternative.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beauty Bullshit: Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm

Urban Decay, we need to have a talk. I really like you guys. I think most of your products are great. That's why I am standing here giving you the same look your dad does when he says, "I am not mad, just disappointed". I know BB creams are the hip new trend, or whatever. I know that other companies are making wildly improbable claims about the efficacy of their BB cream in improving your skin. That doesn't mean that you have to. If other companies jumped off a bridge, would YOU jump off a bridge?

I do not appreciate misleading claims.
In all seriousness, as a consumer, it is really important to take a critical look at the claims a company makes before throwing down serious cash on on a make up or skin care product. That's why Urban Decay's "Naked Skin Beauty Balm" is Beauty Bullshit's next target.

I received a sample of this BB cream directly from the company when I purchased an eyeshadow palette from the website. The sample had a cardboard folder that contained a LOT of claims.

According to the packet, "Pepha-Protect® helps inhibit DNA damage while Vitasource and dGlyage® firm skin, improve elasticity and fight wrinkles." The text also states that "light-diffusing spheres"  will help the wearer look "professionally retouched".

"DNA repair, optical blurring, oil free"? One of those claims just doesn't belong. (And it is the last one, because it makes sense.)
The first thing you will notice is that all of those three components are either registered or trademarked. Upon further research, it is clear than NONE of them have been a part of any sort of research without conflicting interests. All of the research on all three of these products has been funded by the companies that own the trademark. That doesn't necessarily mean that their claims are bullshit, but it is especially good reason to look closer. So look closer I did.

Thankfully, all of the claims about the Urban Decay BB cream are MUCH stronger than the claims about the Fruit Beauty CC Cream. However, that's sort of damning with faint praise. The Fruit Beauty CC Cream claims were the most ludicrous, clown-like misuse of science that I have heard in a beauty product. These Urban Decay claims have theoretical reasons that they might not be bullshit, but they don't live up to their promise.


Pepha-Protect® is derived from Citrullus lanatus, which is really just regular old grocery store watermelon. It is owned by a company called Royal DSM, whose website features lots of ladies with their arms outstretched, and who produce everything from pharmaceuticals to plastics.

Pictured: Science!
According to Urban Decay, Pepha-Protect® "helps inhibit DNA damage". That claim was automatically a big red flag for me, so I investigated further.

I tell you the following because I want you to know how tricky companies are being: when I first looked at the Pepha-Protect® data that the manufacturer released, my response was something along the lines of, "well, they did a bunch of assays. That's real science, you guys". (An assay is a procedure that lets biologists measure how much of a certain substance is in a material or solution of interest.) I barely looked at it and just assumed that it was done in a scientifically rigorous way. I closed the window. I expected that something else was going to be the subject of my next Beauty Bullshit post. I am much more knowledgeable about biology than Urban Decay's target customer, but without fully reading the material, I accepted the provided material without question. If you didn't take biology or chemistry in college, I can't even imagine how intimidating this material must look.

Luckily, a nagging feeling of, "But that claim does not make any sense!" brought me back to the page in question. They did four assays, all of which have very similar problems. For length purposes, I am going to focus on the one whose results Urban Decay is touting on their packaging.

This "efficacy test" involved a plasmid DNA assay. Plasmids are little of circular hunks of DNA that replicate separately from the rest of the chromosome. They are found in bacteria. Royal DSM did not release what plasmids they used for this assay, but if you were going to make a bet, I would highly encourage you to place your money on E. coli.

E. coli.
This plasmid DNA assay was used to determine to what extent DNA plasmid structure changes under stress. When DNA is exposed to stress it can either just absolutely fall apart or do something called "supercoiling", where it twists into little figure 8s. The researchers on this project determined that when DNA plasmids are incubated with watermelon extract, they are less likely to break and more likely to supercoil.

There are a lot of reasons why this research is not sound, so I will list some of them below in no particular order:
  1. Neither you nor I are E. coli. These researchers are assuming that all DNA behaves equally in these conditions, but they are using circular DNA (our DNA is not circular) and then testing for a structural change like supercoiling. That is sort of ridiculous.
  2. This research is not using their product. It is using watermelon extract. According to Royal DSM, the extract used in this experiment "was used to formulate Pepha-Protect®". Why did they test this random watermelon extract instead of their actual product? My guess is that they did and their actual product did not yield statistically significant results. In other words, it didn't work.
  3. "Stress" is sort of a nebulous concept, isn't it? We don't know if they introduced a chemical, radically changed the pH, radically increased the temperature... But they won't tell us what they did, so we just have to guess.
  4. In order for this study to mean anything, this aforementioned "stress" must somehow mimic actual stress that affects your skin. You probably don't pour weird chemicals on your skin or burn yourself extensively on a regular basis. Also, your skin products ought to be formulated to be a pH between 5 and 6, which is healthy for skin. It is highly unlikely that this "stress" really does have applicability to your real life skin.
  5. Your skin is not a giant mess of DNA. DNA in humans and other eukaryotes is located in the nucleus of the cell. To get to your DNA, this product would have to travel through your cell membrane AND through your nuclear membrane to get to your DNA. Your cell membranes and nuclear membranes are designed to keep random shit out of them.
So, in conclusion: someone who has financial stakes in the results of this research did a study that really doesn't make any sense and has either limited or no applicability to your actual face.


dGlyage® is a product owned by a company called Lipotec. Lipotec is such a fine upstanding company that they assert on their website that "communicating publicly" about any information on their website is "an infringement punished by law". Luckily, I am a rebel (and I am pretty sure that I am allowed to write about their publicly accessible information), so I am writing this blog anyways. 

Lipotec argues that aging is caused by transition metals accumulating in the cell's cytoplasm over time. They observe that, through a process known as Fenton's reaction, transition metals are able to generate free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron and are (usually) highly reactive. Basically, the molecule wants to snatch up an electron wherever they can grab one so their electrons will be paired. Then, the next molecule in the chain becomes a free radical (because their electron was just stolen). This keeps happening until an electron is stolen from something that can't function without it, which causes serious cellular problems. I will likely do a future blog post discussing the overzealous embrace of this theory and its implicated solutions (antioxidants), but for the purposes of this post we are going to assume that there is validity to this theory. 

dGlyage® binds to these transition metals, supposedly preventing the free radicals from destroying your DNA. 

It's been a long time since you guys have gotten a picture... so have this one.
Like with Pepha-Protect®, assays were used to determine the efficacy of dGlyage®. Unlike Royal DSM, Lipotec kindly told us what plasmid they used for the assay: pBR322. This is an E. coli plasmid.

They incubated said E. coli plasmid with copper and hydrogen peroxide both with and without Tripeptide-9 Citrulline, which is one of the components of dGlyage®. They found that the DNA structure changed less when in the presence of Tripeptide-9 Citrulline.

Most of these criticisms are exactly the same as those for Pepha-Protect®, so I will go over those very quickly: We are not E. Coli. One component of your product is not the same thing as your product. You have cell membranes and nuclear membranes. 

I also found it interesting that the researchers incubated the plasmids in hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic to cells. They presumably made this choice because hydrogen peroxide is necessary in order for Fenton's reaction to occur. By incubating in hydrogen peroxide, they are able to substantially increase the amount of free radicals that copper produces, exaggerating their results. However, if your cells had anything close to that amount of hydrogen peroxide in them, they would be dead, making this an exceptionally poor model for anything that is actually occurring in your cells. 

You don't want this in your cells.
 It's also worth noting that Urban Decay is claiming that dGlyage® "firm[s] skin, improve[s] elasticity and fight[s] wrinkles", while this research is claiming that dGlyage® decreases "changes in DNA secondary structure". Those are not even kind of the same thing.


Vitasource is owned by a company called Thibiant International, Inc. I couldn't find a lot of information about this product, which isn't unbelievably surprising given that their trademark was registered in 1999 and thus a lot of this information probably never made it to the internet. Without more detailed information about how this product was tested and developed, I can't do a full critique. However, I feel pretty comfortable asserting that if the fountain of youth had been invented more than 13 years ago, there would be some fucking information about it somewhere.

Scutellaria baicalensis. At least the flower is pretty!

According to Center Chem, Vitasource is made from the "roots of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi", which is a flowering plant. Interestingly, there is evidence that this plant may be helpful in one aspect of aging. Unfortunately for those of you wishing to rub it on your face, that aspect is dementia... and the extract has be injected.

"Light-diffusing spheres"

Urban Decay suggests that their product gives an airbrushed look thanks to "light-diffusing spheres". The Urban Decay website adds that the purpose of this is to "'blur' imperfections".

In optics, diffusion is a process by which light is scattered such that the light source is large relative to the object. For example, you might reflect a light through a big pane of frosted glass in order to make the light less harsh.

Pictured: How diffusion actually works.
The problem is that this product is not a big pane of frosted glass that you can carry around so that you are always in flattering lighting. The product is already on your face. 

If light diffuses through the spheres, it is going to diffuse THROUGH the spheres. And since there are no people in between your makeup and your face, that diffusion isn't going to be super helpful. 

Your imperfections really would be less noticeable in diffused light, but the solution to that is to avoid uncovered bulbs in your house, not to put this stuff on your face. 

It seems likely to me that this is simply working as a filler and "light-diffusing spheres" is a term that sounds more fancy and high tech, so that's what they went with.

(Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, so I am less confident in this information than in the biological sections. If you happen to know what I am mis-characterizing something about diffusion, let me know in the comments and I will make an update. There are some explanations online such as an article at Wise Geek that claims that light diffusing makeup "works by filling in fine lines, wrinkles, and other imperfections, and reflecting light away from them", but that 1. is not what light diffusion is and 2. would make all of your wrinkles more noticeable, not less.)

One of the most important things to understand about the above information is that without a valid clinical study, this is expensive pseudoscientific gunk. 

Urban Decay's "Clinical Study"

But WAIT! You might be saying to yourself. Urban Decay DID do a clinical study! It says so on that same packet!

And indeed it does. According to Urban Decay, after 8 weeks of using this BB cream:

  • 93% had significant firmer, more lifted skin.
  • 90% had significantly more radiant skin that looked better overall.
  • 84% had a significant improvement in fine lines.
  • Over 84% had significantly smoother and more hydrated skin. 
Although I appreciate the fact that they attempted to do a clinical test, this is not an appropriate way to do so. What it seems that Urban Decay did was give a bunch of ladies their BB cream and then say something like, "Did you have significant improvements in fine lines?" or asked them to agree or disagree with the statement "I saw a significant improvement in fine lines".

That is problematic for lots of reasons. Firstly, people like to please the experimenter. Urban Decay gives you a free product to test, most people are going to want to say nice things about it. Secondly, the way that survey questions are worded can make a huge difference in responses. Since this is being conducted by Urban Decay themselves, who have a vested interest in getting a positive result, and since Urban Decay did not release their survey questions, I do not trust that they accurately worded questions to avoid effects such as acquiescence bias. They are also making claims that do not reflect the research. They say they are preventing DNA damage, but they are asking about whether or not people have "radiant skin".

However, the real problem is the lack of a control group. What they should have done is a blind study where half the participants get a product lacking Pepha-Protect®, Vitasource and dGlyage®, and half get the full-blown BB cream. A "blind" study is one where the participants do not know which product they received, meaning that there is no placebo effect and they cannot act to try to please the experimenter. All they can do is answer as accurately as possible. At the start of the study, they should have had the particicipants rate their skin on X, Y and Z factors. Then, after the study, they should have them rate their skin on X, Y and Z factors again. (This makes it so that the participants do not have to guess what their skin looked like 8 weeks ago. It doesn't matter, for this design, how good their memory of their skin is because that data has already been taken.) If the experimental group had significantly more improvement than the control group, Urban Decay could make a claim about improving wrinkles and all that jazz.

ANY RESEARCHER would know that that is how this should have been conducted. They did not choose a different experimental design out of ignorance. They chose their design because they do not care if their product works. They care if you buy their product. And they believe that sounding vaguely science-y and running rigged clinical trials is the way to do that.

Either they are being manipulative or....
No valid clinical trials can be conducted without a control group, period. If you see "clinical studies" whose results are framed the way that Urban Decay's were framed in their literature, you should disregard it immediately. It doesn't automatically mean that the product doesn't work, but that is NOT valid evidence that the product is effective.

Furthermore, without real clinical tests that are conducted in an empirically valid way, this theoretical stuff does not matter. Many drugs that have been used for decades have mechanisms that are still fuzzy and unclear. (For example, lithium is the best treatment for bipolar disorder, but we really don't know what it is doing at a molecular level to achieve a mood stabilizing effect.) What we know about these drugs is that they do work and that their side effects are sufficiently minor as to justify mainstream clinical use. That is what matters. And that, unfortunately, is where Urban Decay's BB cream falls completely flat.

If you have any beauty claims you want researched in future Beauty Bullshit blogs, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

    Monday, December 24, 2012

    Julep New Years Mystery Boxes: Unboxing

    Merry Christmas eve, folks! Santa hasn't made it here yet (NORAD says he is in Saskatchewan), but the mailman kindly came and delivered my Julep New Years Mystery boxes! 

    I just received them, so I have tried out all of zero products. This is just an unboxing/value calculation. Watch for my product reviews in the near future.

    I have talked previously about Julep's price inflation problem, so I calculated my box value three different ways. Firstly, I calculated one using the most generous numbers available. This is assuming I paid full price for the product in question. A second calculation was still generous, but takes into account the fact that I am a Julep maven and thus get a discount on pretty much everything. And, finally, my last calculation was made using the most stingy numbers I find to be reasonable. Arguably, things like the mascara and pedi cream are not worth the Maven price, but since they are within normal range for a mid-range brand of product (e.g. the last mascara I bought cost $19, the Julep mascara is $19.50) and they are not available at a lower price anywhere in bundles on the Julep webpage at this time, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. 

    That being said, even my most stingy calculations have the value of the box at $21.60 for the nail polish ALONE. Since I paid $20 per box, I feel quite comfortable with this purchase. I wish I hadn't gotten any repeats, but I suppose that is the risk you take when you sign up to receive two grab-bags.

    Box #1

    Box number one. Some stuff is hiding in the corners.
    Nail file
    Most generous value interpretation: $1.27 (cost of a nail file on Amazon, as this item is not sold on the Julep site)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $1.27 (see above)
    Least generous value interpretation: No value, as I already have a glass nail files that I love, rendering this useless.

    Julep Boho Glam Lengthening Mascara
    Most generous value interpretation: $24 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $19.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation:$19.20 (see above)

    Julep "the Best Pedi Creme Ever"
    Most generous value interpretation: $22 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $17.60 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $17.60 (see above)

    2X Age Defying Hand Brightener Sample (2ml each)
    Most generous value interpretation: $1.43 (priced based on full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $1.15 (price based on Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: No value, as these are samples.

    3X Julep One-Step Polish Remover Pad
    Most generous value interpretation: $3 (based on full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $2.40 (based on Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation:  No value, as these are samples

    Polish butts.
    Julep Nail Polish in Cindy
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Lauren
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Dendrie
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Erica
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Annie 
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Total Box Value
    Most generous value interpretation: $121.70
    Medium generous value interpretation: $97.62
    Least generous value interpretation: $58.40

    Box #2

    Box #2
    Nail file
    Most generous value interpretation: $1.27 (cost of a nail file on Amazon, as this item is not sold on the Julep site)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $1.27 (see above)
    Least generous value interpretation:  No value, as I already have a glass nail files that I love, rendering this useless.

    Julep Boho Glam Lengthening Mascara
    Most generous value interpretation: $24 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $19.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $19.20 (see above)

    Julep Sicilian Orange Foot Soak
    Most generous value interpretation: $26 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $20.80 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $9.33 (1/3 of the Mistle-toes collection, which includes this product)

    2X Age Defying Hand Brightener Sample (2ml each)
    Most generous value interpretation: $1.43 (priced based on full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $1.15 (price based on Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: No value, as these are samples.

    3X Julep One-Step Polish Remover Pad
    Most generous value interpretation: $3 (based on full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $2.40 (based on Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: No value, as these are samples.

    More polish butts
    Julep Nail Polish in Cindy
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Georgia
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Sienna
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Erica
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Julep Nail Polish in Stella 
    Most generous value interpretation: $14.00 (full price)
    Medium generous value interpretation: $11.20 (Maven price)
    Least generous value interpretation: $4.32 (assuming it is worth ounce per ounce, the same as OPI)

    Total Box Value
    Most generous value interpretation: $125.70
    Medium generous value interpretation: $100.82
    Least generous value interpretation: $50.13 (or, if you REALLY want to be a snot and subtract the value of the two repeats: $41.49)

    On My Face: Korres Pomegranate Discovery Kit

    If there is one thing that gives me joy in life, it is kits full of random different types of makeup and skincare goodies that I have never tried before. As much fun as it is to get one full size product, by the end of the tube/tin/container/whatnot, it's not longer as special as it was when you got it.

    That being said, once I tried the Korres Pomegranate Discovery Kit, I bought two backups in case they stop making it. (It's on sale for $19.50 so that's not an impossible proposition!) Because, love of new things aside, I will never get sick of a product that just fucking works.

    The idea behind the kit is that it is going to perform magic and shrink your pores and make your lips 800% more kissable in eight weeks or something silly like that. And it won't do that because those are ludicrous claims.

    But what it WILL do is be a damn fine primer for oily or combination skin and a great, au naturale lip look. 

    Korres Lip Butter and Lip Glaze together. I really am the worst photographer.
    Korres Pomegranate Lip Butter (full size, 0.21 oz), retail value $12.00
    Korres Pomegranate Lip Glaze (full size 0.34 oz), retail value $14.00

    Lip Butter on the left, Lip Glaze on the right
    The lip butter is wonderful and moisturizing, with just the faintest hint of coral color.  You can go over the lip butter with the glaze, which is more pigmented and acts much like a gloss, but still subtle enough to look natural. The glaze is, perhaps, the least sticky thing I have ever put on my lips.


    Korres Mattifying Treatment and Primer
    Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Treatment (0.34 oz), approximate value $9.57
    Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Primer (0.34 oz), approximate value $11.00

    Korres Mattifying Primer Swatch
    My skin has a bad habit of looking like I smeared salad dressing on my face by the end of the day. As much as I love salad, it is not my favorite look. The mattifying treatment is basically a super-light coat of starch that absorbs any excess oil. The primer is made without silicone, which means it is going to work a lot better with my water-based makeup. (On the other hand, if you are using a silicone-based foundation, you definitely want to use a silicone-based primer such as Mirabella Prime, which came in Ipsy this month, or the much-beloved Smashbox Photo Finish.) It forms a great base for my foundation that helps it stay on as long as I need. It is very, very slightly tinted, but it looks completely sheer on my skin. If you have very dark coloration, though, I might give it a test in store before making the purchase, if you have the opportunity.

    Retail value of the kit: $46.57

    Sephora seems to be under the misguided impression that this kit is worth $56.00, which is a good reminder that you shouldn't blindly trust their little "Blankety-blank dollar value!"

    I will forgive them because the sale price of $19.50 is such an overwhelmingly good deal that I would get this Sephora URL tattooed on my lower back (not really).

    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Miscellanious Urban Decay Goodies: a Review

    I have purchased many an Urban Decay product in my life. Up until now, I have purchased those products at my friendly neighborhood Sephora. But no more.

    Ipsy gave me a handy dandy code to get free goodies with a purchase of Urban Decay on their website. I bought the new Naked Basics Palette, which will probably take me some time to review, and got TONS of samples. Plus, you get free shipping at $35, as opposed to $50 from Sephora.

    It all came in this handy-dandy bag!
     Without further ado, here was my (free!) payload:

    Urban Decay Lip Junkie Lip Gloss in Midnight Cowboy (3.6ml), approximate retail value $6.84
    Urban Decay Lip Junkie. Are you guys sick of my nails yet, by the way?
    Urban Decay Lip Junkie swatch
     This is sort of shimmery champagne color. This particular shade adds no actual color to my lips. It smells minty, but not super toothpaste-y (it contains peppermint oil). If you want your face to smell like candy canes, this might be a good choice. The packaging states that it "cools and plumps", but I see no plumping effects. Overall it's a perfectly adequate gloss, but I certainly wouldn't pay $19 for the product.

    Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (estimated 0.25ml), approximate retail value $0.45

    Urban Decay is well-known for their eyeshadow primer; it's their best seller. They claim it "deliver[s] vibrant, crease-free eyeshadow for 24+ hours". Unfortunately, since this is a foil packet, so I only got two uses out of it, which is only enough to give a vague impression. However, my eyeshadow looks impeccable at the end of the day.

    Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer
     The worst part of this product is the mistake written on the packaging. The back of the cardboard states, "[this product is] literally an eyeshadow magnet..." I am forced to conclude that writers at Urban Decay either:
    1. Do not know what the word "literally" means.
    2. Do not know what a magnet is.
    3. Have invented a pigment-targeted magnet with significant scientific applications that they need to share with the medical community STAT!
    Urban Decay Supercurl Curling Mascara (travel size 5.4ml), retail value $10.00

    The Urban Decay Supercurl mascara brush
     I was actually impressed by how much I liked this mascara (although I do think my many years using Covergirl may have left me easily excited by new mascaras). It's quite lengthening and non-smudge-y. The things I didn't like: it's a little bit too black and it is very easy to end up with clumps.

    My eyelashes while after using the Urban Decay Supercurl mascara. Closeups of mascara-clad eyes always look like you have spiders coming out of your lid.
    In terms of curling power, my eyelashes really aren't the best testers. I have super curly eyelashes already, eyelash curl just isn't a concern to me.

    Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-on Eye Pencil in El Dorado (0.5g), approximate retail value $7.91

    Urban Decay Eye Pencil in El Dorado
     This is a nice eye pencil in terms of smoothness and pigmentation, but it's an impractical color. It is a warm gold that would probably look better on much darker skin. I thought it might look nice on my lower waterline, but it actually make it look like I have an infection. It's not really thick enough to use as an eyeshadow pencil.

    Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-on Shadow Pencil in Delinquent (2.5g, almost full size!), approximate retail value $17.86

    Urban Decay Shadow Pencil
     I am not usually a big fan of eye shadow pencils, but this one is quite nice. Like all Urban Decay pencils, it is smooth, easy to apply, and highly pigmented. I love love love the color purple, and I think this is smokey enough that it can be used almost as a neutral. It takes a little blending to get the look right, however. If you have a highly skilled hand, you might even be able to get away with using this as a liner.

    Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm (0.12oz), approximate retail value $4.56 (note: since this product has not yet been released, this value was calculated assuming that the Naked Skin BB cream will cost the same, ounce per ounce, as the Naked Skin Foundation. This may not be accurate pricing.)

    Urban Decay Naked Skin BB Cream
      This product is the most concerning for a variety of reasons.

    The first is that the sample is only available in one color. Compared to my skin, the sample is very orange. It wasn't a horrible match and I almost convinced myself that it was the right color... but then, because the coverage was so bad, I put on my regular foundation over it and NOPE. It was the wrong color. The packaging on this sample argued that the color is "universal", but any product that changes the color of your face is hardly universal.

    This packaging told me all about how amazing this is supposedly going to make my skin.
     The product is also super watery, making it sort of difficult to use. Overall using the product is like rubbing slightly orange water on my face. My face ends up the wrong color, my blemishes aren't covered even a tiny bit, and it is just super, crazy runny.

    The packaging is full of lies.
     Furthermore, reading the product description, I got flashbacks to the Juice Beauty CC cream whose bullshit so offended me. According to the booklet it came with, this BB cream can "inhibit DNA damage". Dear skincare companies, why do you do this to me? Are you trying to raise my blood pressure on purpose? Don't make up random lies about physically impossible things that your product supposedly does.

    But hey. At least I didn't pay for it.

    Freebie total value: $47.62. WOW. That is not not something to sneeze at. Plus the travel bag, which is actually quite fab and will get used when I fly to California in a few days.

    BONUS: Urban Decay Deluxe Eyeshadow in Shag, originally $18.00, on sale for $8.00

    Urban Decay Shadow in Shag
    Swatch for Urban Decay Shag
     Admittedly, this wasn't REALLY free, but it was free in spirit. It cost $8, shipping cost $8, and this put me over the edge to get free shipping.This is a shimmery copper color. The pigment is pretty subtle (at least on my skin), so it works well for creating natural looks.

    All decked out in Urban Decay. Shag eyeliner on my lid, delinquent eye pencil at my crease, supercurl mascara on my lashes, and lip junkie on my lips.
     Urban Decay also sent me a coupon for $5 off my next purchase. I have already used said coupon.

    FYI, if you want to snag some freebies of your own, any purchases on the Urban Decay website before the 31st will have the Naked Skin BB sample I received, a 24/7 Glide-On Pencil Deluxe Sample, a tube (not a foil packet) of eyeshadow Primer Potion, a travel size Supercurl mascara, and an eyeshadow card.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Beauty Bullshit: Resveratrol and Fruit Stem Cells

    Welcome to the first installment of “Beauty Bullshit”, a segment where I explain to you how makeup and skin care companies are trying to manipulate you into buying expensive shit because it sounds vaguely science-y.

    Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream. Note the vast diversity in skin types that this brand caters to. Source:
     Our first target is Juice Beauty’s brand new CC cream. According to the Juice Beauty website, this ‘Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream’ is a “blend of Vitamin C and Fruit Stem Cells infused into an organic reseveratrol rich grapeseed base [that] radically firms and prevents wrinkles [sic]”. The Birchbox website adds, “It’s part tinted mineral sunscreen—the SPF 30 formula contains 20 percent zinc oxide—and part antioxidant serum, thanks to infusions of grape-derived resveratrol, vitamin C, and fruit stem cells. The [active ingredients] work together to reverse cellular DNA damage”. Wow, that sounds like science! It must be very effective. Where do I send my money?

    How could I possibly do yoga without fruit stem cells on my face? Source: the Juice Beauty website.
     There are two methodologically dubious implications in these descriptions. The first implication is that something called “reseveratrol” prevents wrinkles when applied topically to the face. The second implication is that “fruit stem cells” are able to “reverse cellular DNA damage”, again, using a topical application. Those are both really big and really problematic claims and I am going to deal with them separately. (By the way, topical vitamin C has actually been shown to have clinical effects reducing sun damage. And yes, zinc oxide really is sunscreen.)


    First, I want to deal briefly with “reseveratrol”. Juice Beauty spelled the name of their supposed active ingredient incorrectly. What they mean to say is resveratrol, which is a phenylpropanoid that is found in the skins of grapes.

     The idea that resveratrol may be a factor in aging began in 2003 with a paper in Nature (the premiere interdisciplinary science journal) by Howitz and Sinclair entitled “Small molecule activators of sirtuins extend Saccharomyces cerevisiae lifespan”. Basically, the authors found that resveratrol stimulated the Sir2 gene, extending the lifespan of a particular species of yeast. Other researchers attempted to repeat these findings in fruitflies and in a nematode species called C. elegans, but did not succeed. Additionally, some clinical studies of resveratrol have been conducted in mammals. Unfortunately, it appears that resveratrol does NOT extend the life of mice. At last, in 2011, an article in Nature concluded that the lifespan effects of resveratrol had been significantly overstated.

    If you are a yeast cell, congratulations on your literacy. Maybe check out this resveratrol thing. If you are a human, though, you should know that at the present time, there are NO peer reviewed journal articles that suggest that resveratrol has any effect on people. In addition, all of the previous studies have used resveratrol in the organism’s diet. Juice Beauty’s CC Cream is topical. That’s the difference between eating some kale and rubbing kale on your face. Obviously the latter is not going to do very much. Even more fundamentally, all of this research is being done to examine the effects the organism’s overall lifespan, NOT on visual anti-aging effects. If you are buying this product, it’s because you want your skin to look nice and youthful. But that’s just not what these studies are about.

    You would be shocked at the efficacy of a google search for "kale face". Source:

    When you look at the research, you can kind of see Juice Beauty’s train of thought. Something like, “Resveratrol extends the lifespan of yeast... yeast are cells... your skin is made up of cells... If yeast aren’t dying they also are probably not getting little yeasty wrinkles... magic... something... anti-aging! Somehow!”

    Fruit Stem Cells

    The next concerning claim is that “fruit stem cells” are somehow able to repair damaged skin.

    The name of the product is the ‘Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream’, which already does not make a lot of sense. I am pretty sure that they want you to think the product causes cellular repair via stem cells, but the name makes it sound like the product is repairing your stem cells.

    Before we move any further, what are stem cells? Stem cells are a real thing and they are, in fact, science-y. Basically, before an animal cell is a muscle cell or a red blood cell or anything like that, it is sort of a generic cell that can differentiate into various other things. Embryonic stem cells, which are taken from the inside of a structure early in development when the embryo is between 50 and 150 cells, are pluripotent, meaning they they can differentiate into any of the three germ layers. Basically, these cells can become anything, as long as they are put in the right environment. This is really exciting for medical research because it unlocks new doors for treating chronic illnesses (although it is highly probable that you have heard overstated claims about the power of stem cell research). There are also adult stem cells in your bone marrow, fat, and blood. These are multipotent, meaning they can’t be any kind of cell, but their cell fate is not determined yet. For instance, a Mesenchymal Stem Cell can become bone, cartilage, or fat. It could not, for example, become a blood cell.

     Like animals, plants have stem cells. Plant stem cells are found in the meristem of the plants. This is where growth happens-- it is at the very tip of the shoot (which will become leaves and flowers) and the root. Juice Beauty is using cells from the apical meristem of some mystery plant (although, if they are on trend with the rest of the internet’s fruit stem cell pseudoscientists, they are using an apple). All they are doing is grinding up the root and the shoot and sticking it in their product. You could easily do this in your backyard.

    An apical meristem. Source:
     The idea behind stem cell therapy is that the living cells can help repair damage to your organs basically by replacing them with ones that don’t suck. The “stem cells” in this CC cream are very dead, so they aren’t going to be able to do that. Before you go out and start rubbing apple roots on your face, living stem cells aren’t going do anything for you either. We don’t do medical research using apple stem cells because we aren’t apples. A living apple cell is not going to incorporate itself into your skin. AND, even if you DID have human embryonic stem cells sitting in your freezer for some reason, rubbing it on your face would not only be disgusting, it wouldn’t give the cells the appropriate cues to do anything meaningful. Triple failure.

    With poorly-researched newspaper articles referring to stem cells as a “fountain of youth”, it is unsurprising that skin care companies would jump on this idea for anti-aging products. However, again, this claim does not hold any water.

    Concluding Thoughts

     Overall, both of these claims are based on only tenuous connections to actual research. Juice Beauty is depending on science-illiteracy as a scheme to sell their product.

    I have contacted the company to hear their side of the science, but haven’t received a response (to be fair, it is the holidays). If they respond to my emails or phone calls, I will give you an update.

    If you have any beauty claims you want researched in future Beauty Bullshit blogs, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012

    Julep "It Girl" Intro Box

    Julep Maven is the monthly subscription box for people who would rather look at their fingernails than their faces. Based out of Seattle, Washington, Julep sends either two nail polishes and one product or three nail polishes month for $19.99.

    To be honest, I probably wouldn't have signed up for Julep if not for the promo I found. My promo code got me my first box for a penny. If you are interested in signing up, I highly recommend keeping any eye out for that deal, since it seems that they do it pretty consistently. The code I used was 'JULEPVIP', but I don't know whether or not that still works.

    The great thing about Julep is that they offer some level of customization and they offer the option of skipping as many months as you want whenever something isn't your cup of tea. You take a quiz and are assigned one of five "style profiles": "American Beauty", "Boho Glam", "Bombshell", "Classic With a Twist", or "It Girl". If you don't like what you got, you can just switch. You can also switch it up any month as desired. The first four receive two nail polishes customized to that "look" plus one product, whereas "It Girl" receives three nail polishes only.

    The not-so-great thing about Julep is the value of the boxes is not nearly as high as they pretend it is. A normal bottle of nail polish is 0.5oz. A bottle of Julep nail polish is 0.27oz... so almost half the size. These folks are trying to convince you that 0.27oz is worth $14. That's $51.85 an ounce. For reference, Opi nail polish, which costs $8 for 0.5oz, costs $16 an ounce and Butter London, which costs $14 for 0.4oz, comes in at $35 per ounce. So, sure, Julep is more cost-effective than Chanel ($30 for 0.4oz, or $75 an ounce), but that doesn't make it a reasonable price.

    Discounts are available for Maven members (nail polishes are $11.20, so $41.48 an ounce), but their crazy deep discounts suggest to me that they don't even believe their nail polishes are worth asking price. For example, right now, their "Cocktail Glam Winter Collection" is 5 polishes for $24. That's $17.78 an ounce. That is a very reasonable price for high quality nail polish. If they can make a profit selling their products for $17.78 per ounce, there is no reason to pay $51.85 per ounce.

    The take-home message of this exercise in math is that I do not think that Julep Maven boxes can be priced in the same way that Birchbox or Ipsy boxes can because Julep prices are not fair based on the product quality. I bought the "It Girl" box, which has three nail polishes for, if you pay full price, $19.99. That's 0.81 oz total.
    • If you believe that Julep is worth their full price, that is a $42 value! 'Whoa,' you may be thinking. 'Great deal!'
    • If you think that Julep is worth their Maven discount rate of $11.20 per bottle, your box is worth $33.60. 
    • If you think that Julep is worth the same, ounce per ounce, as Butter London, your box is worth $28.35. 
    • If you think that Julep is worth the same, ounce per ounce, as Opi, your box is worth $12.96. Suddenly not such a great deal.
    As a brief side note: In a feeble attempt to pretend that their nail polishes are not ludicrously small, Julep makes their bottles tall and skinny. Do you know how easy it is to knock over a tall, skinny nail polish bottle while painting your nails? Well, if you buy Julep, you will find out. I knock over chubby Opi bottles, so Julep is just a disaster waiting to happen.

    With those admittedly major caveats stated, it's time to talk about nail polish!

    Julep's picture, not mine.
     The intro boxes are different from the monthly boxes. I think they may re-vamp them every so often, but basically they are the same month-to-month.

    The "It Girl" box contains:
    • Delaunay, a "chili pepper red creme". I will be frank. This is fantastic nail polish. I needed exactly one coat of this to be completely opaque. I painted my nails five days ago using one coat of this polish, some Opi Fresh Frog of Bel Air on my tips, plus a top coat of Seche Vite and they look so good I am hoping they will make it to Christmas. These nails have made an appearance in my last two blog posts, so you can check 'em out there.
    • Daphne, a "smokey sea-foam green creme". This is also quite a lovely polish. It took two coats to get to full opacity, which is totally fine, and it looked absolutely flawless after that. It's got a great vintage vibe to it, like the color was borrowed from an old-school toaster.
    • Otte, a "rich camel neutral creme". I kind of think that this is an ugly color so I haven't used it yet. I am trying to convince myself to love neutral nail polishes for professionalism reasons, but so far I just can't. 
    • Two glitters in bright pink and bright blue that I have no interest in whatsoever. 
    So, overall, the nail polishes themselves are pretty good. Obviously worth the $0.01 I paid for them! I have made a few purchases since this intro box, including the Pomegranate Body Creme (which smells great and feels like you are rubbing whipped cream on your belly) and the Pomegranate Body Scrub (which is a great little scrub and I am super into body scrubs in general right now). However, those were hecka Christmas discounted when I bought them and they are back up at full price now. I also bought two New Years Mystery Boxes (now sold out) for $20 each, which won't be here for a while. My plan is to stay subscribed and skip except when I am truly inspired by the options.

    Like Birchbox, Julep does have a points system that you can use to get free nail polish, but the points system doesn't take purchases into account, just boxes and referrals, so it is not particularly generous. If you are interested in signing up for Julep and want to kindly give me points, you can use my link by clicking here.

    Quick concluding statement about value: Arguably, getting three small nail polishes is of higher value than one big one, especially if you are the type to never finish a bottle of nail polish. Also, to clarify, I do think that these are higher quality nail polishes than Opi. Opi, although I love them so, is more amazing for their infinite color options than their impeccable formula.
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