Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Tarte Maracuja Cheek Tint

I am a recent convert on Tarte foundation, and their cheek stains have been a staple in my makeup routine for years. So, on a whim, I decided to give the Tarte Maracuja Cheek Tint a try.

There are four colors: deep berry, light nectar, light pink, and sheer red. I am pretty much set for life on light pink blush, and I couldn't shake the feeling that deep berry and sheer red would be more flattering on a darker skintone. So, I settled on light nectar.

Although I opened up my package and went, "Uh, that's it?", this actually isn't a particularly small product. The Tarte Maracuja Cheek Tint is on sale at $15 for 0.35oz (or $42.86 per ounce). For comparison, Benefit's boxed blushes are $28 for 0.28oz (or $100 per ounce, about 2.33 times more expensive per ounce). It seems that I am so used to seeing huge, additional cardboard to bulk up a small product that I am actively surprised when a company uses sleek packaging that doesn't significantly overstate their product's size. My initial surprise quelled, a decided to check out the application.

The swatch on the website looks like this:
Totally normal cheek color.
What came out of my bottle looked like this:

Luckily, it blended out to a less ridiculous color.

Note, though, that where I originally sprayed the color is not blending out. It stained quite dramatically. In fact, this swatch stayed on my arm for about 24 hours. This is good news if you want blush on your face 24 hours after application and less good news if you want the privilege of being able to fix mistakes before going out in public.

If you are like me and your put on your makeup very. very. very. slowly... you are going to have to break that habit for this product. A slow application leaves you with patchy, weird looking cheeks. The faster you get this on your face, the better it will look. Furthermore, each time I have used this product, I have liked it a little bit better, likely because my ability to apply the product appropriately has improved.

Tarte Maracuja Cheek Tint in Light Nectar on a Human Being.
(If nothing else, this blog serves as a spectacular documentation of my acne.)
The one thing I can't shake, though: this is product is going to stain your fingers. There are just no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Overall, I like this product. I think I am more of a powder blush kind of lady, but I appreciate the fact that this blush is available in relatively unconventional colors. And, if you are looking for something with some staying power, this will be right up your alley.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Julep Maven February 2013 Review

Although I usually skip my Julep Maven box, I did receive it this month. This was 30% because I was intrigued by the Freedom Top Coat and 70% because I forgot to skip my box until the window was already closed. Since I have no particular interest in non-nail polish Julep products, I got the "It Girl" box, which has three polishes instead of two, as always.

It is still January, but this is a February box. Living in Washington state occasionally has its benefits. (Julep ships out of Seattle.)

The theme for this month was "Get On the A List", so their polishes were all named for famous actresses. I am not normally one for themes, but I thought that this was actually pretty cute. My box honored Rebel Wilson, Marion Cotillard and Joan Crawford.
Say what you will about Julep, their packaging is pretty adorable.
My box contained the following:

Julep Eyelash Curler, approximate retail value $1.00 (?)

Julep Eyelash Curler
Apparently when Julep thinks of Hollywood Glamor, they think of eyelashes? My eyelashes are insanely curly already, so these lady contraptions only serve to confuse and horrify me.

Two Milk Chocolate Hearts, approximate retail value $0.40 (based on Dove prices)

These were totally adequate and were eaten approximately ten seconds after being photographed.

Nail polishes:

Next come the nail polishes.
Julep Nail Polish in Rebel
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 Rebel in natural lighting
I appreciate the little "swatch me" stickers that now appear on Julep nail polish bottles. They are particularly applicable to me as a blogger since my nails are too busy being adorable right now to try out these new polishes.

This polish is a holographic polish. However, it is a very subtle holo. This is not a flaw in the polish, of course, although I personally prefer my holo polish to be OH MY GOD SUDDENLY MY LIFE IS IN TECHNICOLOR WHOA.

Julep Rebel in artificial lighting
As is pretty typical with the holographic nail polishes that I have tried, there is very little effect in sunlight, but a much larger effect in artificial light.

Julep Nail Polish in Marion
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 Marion
This is a lovely smokey blue with a bit of silver shimmer. 

Julep Nail Polish in Joan
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 Joan
This is my favorite of the polishes that I received. It's sort of a dark berry color with gold glitter.

Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat
Most generous value interpretation: $18.00 (full price)
Medium generous value interpretation: $14.40 (Maven price)
Least generous value interpretation: $5.89 (assuming it is worth, ounce per ounce, the same as Seche Vite)

This month, every Julep Maven received an extra product: Julep's new Freedom Top Coat.

Julep Freedom Top Coat
The Julep website proclaims, "Activated by natural light, this innovative formula creates a unique polymer force field that prevents chipping for days longer than regular top coat, leaving your nails with a gel-like shine."

I'm going to forgive Julep for using the term "force field" even though they are not an episode of Star Trek. However, I am slightly less forgiving of their advertizing their product as a "Polymer Top Coat".

First, what is a polymer? A polymer, which literally translates to "many parts" is a chemical compound that is comprised of repeated units. Many daily products, from styrofoam to latex, contain polymers. There are also natural polymers in products such as wood, silk, or wool. All nail polishes contain polymers. They are necessary in order for the product to adhere to your nail. The also help end product to be flexible without breaking. So, technically it's not inaccurate for Julep to call their product a "Polymer Top Coat". However, given that polymers are a necessary component of all nail polishes, I still suspect that Julep is attempting to blind consumers by using science-y words.

Nail polish normally dries when the solvent in the nail polish evaporates. Because the Julep Freedom Top Coat packaging goes on about how it is "activated by natural light" and because it is stored in a funky black bottle a la hydrogen peroxide, obviously Julep is suggesting that the product interacts with light. I looked at the ingredients to see what might cause this reaction.

Freedom Top Coat
The ingredient list is mercifully short: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, hydroxypropylcellulose, and isopropyl alcohol. Ethyl acetate and butyl acetate are common nail polish solvents and isopropyl alcohol is also commonly used in nail polsh. However, I was unfamiliar with the use of both methyl ethyl ketone and hydroxypropylcellulose. Methyl ethyl ketone, also known as butanone, turns out to also be a common solvent. It can be broken down by sunlight, but the course of that reaction will take days, not minutes. Hydroxypropylcellulose is a polymer that is used as a gelling agent.

To me, this ingredient list suggests that the black bottle is necessary in order to prevent the top coat from breaking down in the long term, BUT that the top coat dries the same way that nail polish typically dries: via solvent evaporation.

I conducted a very limited test of this hypothesis by wrapping a layer of the Freedom Top Coat in plastic wrap. I used another Julep nail polish (Marion) as a control, to ensure that the polish didn't dry simply due to air exposure. Feeling generous, I waited ten minutes with the nail polish in the sun. My hypothesis was partially confirmed. Neither nail polish had dried. However, the Freedom top coat was slightly more gel-like than when I had left it. Again, it seems that solvent evaporation is the primary mechanism of drying. Still, there is likely something going on that my non-chemist self doesn't understand, since there was a texture change in the top coat.

Here is a picture of my shitty experiment.
Overall, I feel the Freedom Top Coat claims are ever-so-slightly misleading... BUT they definitely do NOT qualify as Beauty Bullshit.

I can't speak to the efficacy of the Freedom top coat since it will take a long time to test. However, I fully intend on doing a comparison with my current favorite top coat, Seche Vite, some months in the future when I have had sufficient time for trials. Expect graphs.

Total Box Value:
Most generous value interpretation: $61.40
Medium generous value interpretation: $49.40
Least generous value interpretation: $20.25

If you are interested in becoming a Julep Maven and kindly want to give me credit for referring you, you can click here. The code JULEPVIP should get you your first box for a penny.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Get It Before It's Gone: Benefit Cabana Glama

Unlike fancy makeup blogs who get free stuff sent to them and/or review things right when they come out, I have the joy of picking things out a thousand years too late, right when they go on sale!

Benefit's Cabana Glama is a summertime kit that features various bronzing products. It came out last summer and is now discounted from $36 to $18.99.

Outside packaging.
I actually purchased this specifically because I wanted Hoola, which is Benefit's beloved bronzer. I decided that it made much more sense for me to get a half-sized bronzer PLUS a bunch of other fun things for $19, rather than a full sized bronzer for $28.

Inside view.
The kit contains:

Hoola (0.14oz), approximate retail value $14.00

This is a great matte brown, which makes it perfect for contouring if you are more talented than I and can contour without looking simultaneously gaunt and bruised. You can keep it light enough that it doesn't look bizarre on a light-skinned lady, but it will also build up for people with darker skin. (That being said, I don't know if it will show up on very dark skin.)

The brush it comes with is crap. Just throw it away and use your normal brushes.

Some Kind-a Gorgeous in Medium (0.12oz), approximate retail value $10.60

Note: This is a swatch of the same product that I received as a free sample from Sephora. I figured I would keep the one in the kit unblemished in case someone decides to take it off my hands.

Benefit has this weird idea that everyone can get away with the same color foundation and concealer. I'm not exactly sure where this idea came from. Even their slightly more customizable collections are super limited in terms of shade options. For example, I would LOVE to buy How to Look the Best at Everything. Unfortunately, even the "light kit" uses the darkest shade of "light" foundation. On the other side of things, the "dark kit" has the lightest shade of "dark" foundation. They make other shades of foundation! You would think they could offer a bit more customization!

In other kits, they don't even try at all. 'Everyone needs medium colored foundation and concealer', they figure. That's what happened here. This is basically worthless to me, and it is basically worthless to any of you who are not this precise shade... which is probably most of you.

It definitely DOES dry to a powder, which might dry your skin out if you skin leans dry already. It's on the more sheer end of things.

I'm also turned off by the application because it feels like the perfect format to harbor weird bacteria.

Posietint (0.08oz), approximate retail value $5.52

This is a great product. I only wish that this was bigger. It is an amazing color on my fair skin and it blends beautifully. It's very sheer and natural looking.

It doesn't show up on my lips, however, so it seems like a waste of a beautiful product to use it there.

Eyeshadow Palette [Peach Fizz, Bronze Buzz and Cocoa Pizzazz] (0.12oz), approximate retail value $19.00

These eyeshadows are smooth, pigmented and apply beautifully. I wish there was a lighter color, since the peach is too dark to use as a highlight, but overall I think these are fantastic.

It comes with crappy sponges instead of brushes, so, again, you are going to need to provide your own brush.

Total Box Value: $49.12

From left to right: Hoola, Peach Fizz, Bronze Buzz, Cocoz Pizzazz, Posietint. As always, two swipes of each color.
I wouldn't have purchased this at full price, but I think that this is a great deal at the sale price. Even if only a few of these products specifically interest you, you will likely find other things you love in the kit. It may be winter, but these summer-y products still look great.

Using all the products save for Some Kind-a Gorgeous, which is unwearable

You can pick up the Cabana Glama kit on the Benefit website or at

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beauty Bullshit: Almay Smart Shade Makeup

This product review marks a low point in my beauty blogging career because I purchased this product with the specific intention of making fun of it. I paid for it, with my hard-earned money, specifically because I knew it was complete and utter crap.

Almay Smart Shade makeup claims to adjust its pigmentation to fit the color of your skin. According to the Almay website, these products allow you to "take the guesswork out of finding the right shade of concealer. Concealer [the product that I will be looking at specifically] instantly adjusts to your perfect shade. Breakthrough shade-sensing technology starts out white and adjusts to right." Amazon adds that "the shade sensing microbeads start out white and instantly adjust to match your natural skin tone".

Almay Smart Shade Concealer
 So, being intelligent and science-literate individuals, let us consider the possible explanations for Almay's supposed phenomenon:
  1. Some sort of chemical is mysteriously able to bind to melanin in your skin. Not only is is absorbed into your cells (allowing it to find the melanin), it is somehow excreted back into the makeup product, where it causes a conformation change in the pigments (meaning it has to be able to bind to them as well). This conformation change affects the way that the pigments reflect light. Furthermore, something about the chemical prevents it from binding to hyperpigmented areas, which one would want to be covered by makeup.
  2. This makeup is filled with microscopic nanotechnology that is able to intelligently determine the shade your makeup should be, and, consequentially, can trigger a chemical reaction that changes the pigmentation in the product.
  3. Magic.
  4. Almay is run by lying liars who lie. 
Before investigating the mechanism that Almay uses for their product, I first wanted to try it out.
When it first exits the tube, the product is essentially white with a few black spots.
A bit of speading.
As you start to blend, the color begins to get darker.
As you rub it, it starts to look a bit more like skin.
By the end, it looks nice and flesh-y.
So, obviously, I concluded that Harry Potter is non-fiction and Almay is owned by witches.

The problem is that what I am seeing is not exactly what I am investigating. I'm not curious whether or not the makeup changes colors. That would be quite easily disproved the first time anyone used the product. I want to know whether "Smart Shade" makeup is a real thing. Is anything about this product "shade sensing"?

Above, we hypothesized about four possible mechanisms: a chemical mechanism, a technological mechanism, a magical explanation, or a deception-related mechanism. The chemical mechanism and technological mechanism are both likely impossible, and, if they were possible, they would certainly be well beyond our current scientific abilities. (Furthermore, if these mechanisms existed, I highly doubt that Almay concealer would cost a mere $8.99 on Assuming that we are comfortable ruling out magic, it seems most likely that Almay is being deceptive.

Luckily, Almay's parent company, Revlon, made it rather easy to investigate what is going on. They got a patent!

According to Revlon, Smart Shade makeup is comprised of "...a composition would exhibit one standard resting color and a second application color so that there is a consumer perception that the cosmetic composition is 'smart', e.g. it changes color to exactly match her skin tone." Note the word "perception". Revlon is quite aware that their product is all smoke and mirrors.

Woo! Mysteries!
So how does the product actually work?

In chemistry, there is a rule of thumb known as "like dissolves like". This allows us to predict solubility. In essence, it means that a solute will dissolve better in a solvent with a similar chemical structure. Polar solute will dissolve better in polar solvents (such as water). Nonpolar solutes will dissolve better in nonpolar solvents. Since oil is non-polar, oil and water do not typically mix.

Although oil and water do not mix on their own, if you input a lot of energy, you can make an emulsion, which will cause normally non-mixable components to blend.

One common emulsion is a vinaigrette.

According to Revlon's patent, Almay Smart Shade makeup is an emulsion of water-in-oil. The pigments in the product are hydrophilic, or "water loving". The "shade sensing microbeads" are simply water and pigment. When you spread the Almay makeup on your face, these pockets of pigment break open and change the color of the product.

There is absolutely nothing "shade sensing" about this makeup.

Revlon justifies this deception by claiming that "...for color cosmetics... the consumer has almost too many colors to choose from. [This will help] simplify the shopping experience... One obvious way to do this is to provide three or four general categories and ask the consumer to determine what category she falls into... for example... eyebrow categories may be 'light', 'brown', or 'black'".

So, in other words, they think it's just too hard for you to make real decisions about what products you want. They want to explicitly limit your choices. And apparently Revlon thinks there are exactly three colors of eyebrows. Has Revlon seen any human beings?

According Revlon there are exactly three colors of eyebrow in this picture.
Even more tellingly, Revlon states, "Foundations with higher opacity are harder to match with skin... a foundation manufacturer that sells a relatively high opacity foundation may need to have 24 to 30 shades... [This] means more expense for the cosmetics manufacturer." The reason that many people think that this product matches their skin is simply because there is very little coverage. And Revlon likes it that way because it is cheaper to make less shades. However, people with very light skin (ahem), very dark skin, or unconventional coloring still won't be represented in this brand.

Sorry Revlon, but hell no. Hell no to deceptive advertising, hell no to limiting my color choices because you are too cheap to provide the colors I genuinely want, and hell no to eliminating full coverage options.

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

Birchbox January 2013 Review

Although I have generally mild, positive feelings about this month's Birchbox, I can't help but notice that the Birchbox staff are not particularly adept at picking out ridiculous claims made by their brands.

Here's what I got:
Birchbox all together.
Lumiere d'hiver Clarifying Shampoo (1.75oz), approximate retail value $6.67

Lumiere d'hiver Clarifying Shampoo
 Birchbox offered some awfully ridiculous claims for this shampoo: "Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, this clarifying shampoo restores health and shine to overworked tresses. Black currant and soy restore vibrancy; acai berry and vitamin C deliver youth-boosting antioxidants; Oolong tea and Irish moss defend against environmental damage; and lemongrass and oatmeal gently cleanse and purify."

Vitamins and antioxidants? For hair? Do we have to go over what hair is again? Hair is dead, dearest Birchbox. That is just not how hair works.

So let's ignore all the overblown claims and focus on the more important question: Is this an adequate shampoo? The texture is very thick and a little bit sticky. Imagine rubbing honey into your scalp, and you will have a good sense of the thing. Since I have such long hair, the texture made this a rather arduous process. I did love the musky, floral scent, however. As for the shampoo-y-ness of the thing, it performed... fine? I don't see how it did anything different from my normal shampoo.

The TREsemme I typically use is $5.99 for 32oz (so $0.19 per oz). This costs $32 for 8.45oz (so $3.79 per oz). That means that this product is almost 20 times more expensive than my normal shampoo, ounce per ounce. If it were offered in the same size packaging at TREsemme, a bottle would cost $121.18. I have long hair. Long hair requires an awful lot of shampoo. Thanks Birchbox, but no thanks.

Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream (0.14oz), approximate retail value $3.48

Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream
 Oh goodness. Birchbox really needs to do a few quick google searches before they start drinking the Kool-Aid. According to Birchbox, "This brand-new moisturizer from Fresh is made with a proprietary blend of seven actives to prevent and treat all the signs of skin aging while keeping skin moisturized day and night." Apparently, these ingredients qualify as "actives", even though, legally, there are no active ingredients in this product. Is that because these "actives" are snake oil? Why, yes. Yes indeed. It's also apparently, "Clinically proven to... immediately improve skin radiance."Skin radiance is apparently super objective, you guys.

I also couldn't help but notice that I had already received this sample (for free) from Sephora. So Birchbox gets double eyebrow raises for that. 

All that being said, it smells pretty damn nice.

Harvey Prince Skinny Chic (estimated at 2ml), approximate retail value $1.82

Harvey Prince Skinny Chic
More bizarre claims from Birchbox: "In lieu of downing yet another cup of coffee or reaching for a sugary treat, we’ve been spritzing on this chic new scent from Harvey Prince. The fresh and fruity blend of apple, mint, and grapefruit is specially formulated to keep us energized—and curb cravings to boot." 

I sprayed this on my decolletage and proceeded to eat a bowl of bacon. So obviously it didn't work. Not to mention: it would take an awfully nice psychological study to show that this actually "curb[s] cravings".

Even more bafflingly, the product description reads, "We craft exceptional fragrances that empower women to feel young, happy, slim, and beautiful." You empowered me to feel slim? Thanks, random perfume. I'd like to keep fat-shaming out of my fragrance collection, though.

The product smells pretty nice. It's crisp and apple-y and unexpected. I would really like it... but the "skinny" pushing eliminates my interest in this product entirely.

Lashem Double Trouble Mascara (estimated at 1ml), approximate retail value $4.76

Lashem Double Trouble Mascara
This is actually not supposed to be a mascara. It is supposed to be a lash-growing serum by the same company. There was a mix-up, and I got the mascara. I was looking forward to writing a Beauty Bullshit post about the serum, so I sent Birchbox an email and I am getting a replacement. That means extra samples for me, so I am not exactly complaining.

I was expecting to hate this mascara, but I actually kind of love it. The name is a bit misleading, since it makes it sound like it will be super lengthening and thickening and it just... isn't. But it adds nice definition and looks a little more natural than the mascaras I normally use.

TheBalm Hot Mama (1g), approximate retail value $3.11

TheBalm Hot Mama
This was the product I was most excited for! Since I wanted it as a blush, the small sample size was a bit of an impediment, but overall it was workable. I generally love theBalm products and it looked like a great color.

My only concern was that Hot Mama would be a little bit too close to my go-to blush: NARS Orgasm. However, closer examination revealed this to be an unwarranted worry.

Hot Mama vs. Orgasm
Although both Hot Mama and Orgasm are peachy, pinky, coral-y, gold-y colors, the actual product is definitely different. Hot Mama is a bit less pink, and it doesn't have the same sort of glitter that Orgasm displays.

Swatches of Hot Mama (top) and Orgasm (bottom). You can see both the difference in color and the difference in glittery-ness.
By the way, theBalm Hot Mama is $20 for 0.25oz (or $80 per oz). NARS Orgasm is $28 for 0.16oz (or $175 per oz). So NARS is about twice as expensive, ounce per ounce.

If you are interested in seeing this makeup on a real, live, human face... I can provide that.

TheBalm Hot Mama + Lashem Double Trouble Mascara
Total Box Value: $19.84. How Orwellian! (Plus the value of the yet-to-be-sent lash serum.)

Edit: If you are interested in signing up for Birchbox and generously want to give me credit for referring you, click here. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ipsy January 2013 Review

It's that time of the month.

No, not THAT time of the month.

It's the time of the month where the subscription boxes start rolling in.

Here's my junk. Er, my stuff. Er... sorry, I am feeling a bit like Tobias Funke today.
This month's Ipsy was housed in a bag that is slightly less boring than the last two bags we received. Like the last few months, the bag in question is an awkward shine-y brown/black. Whoever is buying these bags is clearly really into that particular aesthetic. Also simple can be beautiful, a ten cent makeup bag needs some sort of design to distract from how cheap it looks. However, on the bright side, it is filled with little stars, which is pretty cute.

Almost acceptable.
In this bag, I recieved:

Argan Oil by Josie Maran Cosmetics (0.17oz), approximate retail value $4.17

Josie Maran Argan Oil
 I didn't even realize why my makeup was melting off my my face today until I sat down to write this review. Goddamn it argan oil! I disapprove!

I know many of my buds joyfully indulge in their oil cleansing method and use oils as moisturizers and all kinds of stuff like that. And, indeed, I love you and your beautiful oily faces. But this shit just ain't for me. Me and my oil-free moisturizer will be in the corner snuggling.

Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Body Butter (2.5oz), retail value $7.00

Pacifica Body Butter
 I am really impressed at how ridiculously this scent appears and disappears. Since this is a blog for science lovers, I thought I would be really helpful and make a graph.

Legitimately, when I first applied this I thought that it was unwearable. I didn't want to spend all day reeking of hyper-concentrated Skittles. Two and a half minutes later? Smell completely gone. I remain baffled.

Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play (1.6oz), retail value $6.00

Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play
This is a totally adequate hair spray. My closet right now is 40% full of hair spray and 60% full of impractical shoes I never wear. If I were to guess what the exact median was in terms of not sucking at being hair spray, this would be my guess.

Nailtini in Bloody Mary, retail value $13.00

Nailtini Bloody Mary
This is a very bright red (not at all the color of a Bloody Mary the drink). I do really like the color, but I don't like its lasting ability. I applied this polish yesterday and am already getting chips.

 I am baffled as to why the manufacturers of this product think it's worth 162% the cost of a bottle of Opi. Save yourself the trouble and pick up a better brand at the drugstore.

Soho New York Eyeliner Brush, retail value $7.99

Soho New York Eyeliner Brush. This is a horrible picture, but you get the idea.
 I was hoping to get a crease brush, since a variety of brushes went out with this month's bags. This is a wee bit floppy, but it does a respectable job. 

Total Box Value: $38.16

Overall, I am not very excited about this bag. I've been spoiled by months of makeup. I think that Ipsy would have been wise to mix their makeup and other products a bit more. Then, neither product-lovers nor makeup-lovers would be disappointed. Cross your fingers and wish for makeup next month.
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