Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: theBalm Schwing Liquid Eyeliner

I have always been a gel eyeliner devotee. Liquid eyeliner seems messy, difficult to apply, and unforgiving.

Schwing, by theBalm, turns my stereotypes about liquid eyeliner on their head.

Unlike traditional liquid eyeliner, which comes with an awkward brush, Schwing has a felt tip, which makes it much easier to be precise. Although I had a brief fling with pen liquid eyeliners, I find that they dry up unreasonably quickly. Schwing is a nice compromise. Its ease of application is reminiscent of a pen eyeliner, but it does not dry out.

The felt tip makes it easy to create lines as thin or as thick as you like. It dries relatively quickly, and the finish is a lovely matte.

As a result, it is easier to try out funky eyeliner looks.

The 1960s mod look is still hard, though.
Unfortunately, this eyeliner has one big flaw, and it is substantial. The staying power is no good. I have come home more than once to find that one of the wings on my cat eye is mysteriously missing. I decided to test its lasting power using four other eyeliners in my collection.

From left to right: theBalm Schwing, NYX the Curve, Maybelline Gel, and Urban Decay Zero. The first picture is when applied, the second is four hours later.
When it was first applied, theBalm's liner was the most gorgeous by far. It was both precise and dark. However, after a mere four hours, it was the only one that had smudged substantially.

Although theBalm's website touts that this is "compact", what they mean is that it is small. At $17 for 0.05oz, this costs $340 per ounce. Still, this is priced similarly to other mid-range liquid eyeliners. For comparison, Urban Decay's 24/7 liners are $19 for 0.058 oz, or $327.58 per ounce.

TheBalm's Schwing is easy to apply and looks fabulous. However, its poor lasting power means that I would not re-purchase it. However, if theBalm ever comes out with a waterproof version of this liner, I will be the first in line.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Julep May 2013 Review

I'm not going to lie. I have been really excited for this Julep Maven box. When Julep emailed us to let us know that the box would contain lipstick, I knew that I wouldn't be able to skip this month.

My lust for lipstick prevented me from choosing the box I normally pick, "It Girl". Instead, I went for "Classic with a Twist". Indeed, there is a big part of me that regrets not choosing "Modern Beauty", the all-products box that contained not only three lipsticks, but a sugar scrub and a mascara.

Overall, though, this box was a winner. Normally I think the bonuses included in Julep boxes are complete trash. (Seriously, rock candy last month? Come on now.) But these floral bobby pins are actually kind of adorable. I will definitely use these.

Everything about the packaging was gorgeous, from the tissue paper to the ribbons.

Julep put out two lip trios this month, one inspired by Paris and one inspired by New York. My box contained the Paris Trio.

The Jazz lipstick trios each come with three mini lipsticks in sleek golden packaging.

Although the size information is available online, I clearly didn't pay attention, making their tininess a bit of a disappointment. At 0.07oz each, these are substantially smaller than a full-sized lipstick. For comparison, a NYX lipstick is 0.15oz, more than twice the size.

That being said, these lipsticks are still adorable. Charleston is described as a cranberry lip sheer. Lady in Red is a matte crimson. Finally, Sweet Lorraine is a bubblegum pink lip sheer.

When I first opened up the lipsticks, I thought that they had accidentally sent me two of the same one, as Charleston and Lady in Red look so similar in the packaging. Needless to say, though, they do swatch very differently. Both are very pigmented, although only Lady in Red is opaque. Sweet Lorraine has the pigmentation level of a tinted balm, such as Maybelline's Baby Lips.

They look nice when worn as well.

Julep Sweet Lorraine on Human Face
Julep Charleston on Human Face
Julep Lady In Red on Human Face
I have not tested all three, but I can definitively state that Lady in Red lasts a full four hours.

Of course, I received two nail polishes as well. Myrtle is a muted red creme that is all kinds of classic. Zora is a frosted champagne color with a hint of pink.

So, what's the value of my box?

As always, I give three prices for my Julep value. Based on full price figures, two $14 polishes plus a $28 lipstick trio adds up to $56. (If we give perhaps a $3 value to the bobby pins, we wind up with $59.) Based on Maven prices, my box is worth $44.80 plus the bobby pins. Based on my least generous interpretation, with Julep being worth, ounce per ounce the same as OPI, each polish is a mere $4.32. For lipstick, we'll say it is worth, ounce per ounce, the same as NYX. The total lipstick product is 0.21oz. NYX costs $6.00 for 0.15oz. At that price, the Julep lipsticks are worth $8.50. Thus, if we take the least generous interpretation, my box is worth a mere $17.14, which is less than I paid.

That being said, I am quite happy with the box. I think the nail colors I got were gorgeous, and the lipsticks were high quality and well-packaged.

If you are interested in signing up for Julep, you are more than welcome to use my referral link by clicking here. The code "FREEBOX" should get you your first box on the house.

Review: Etude House Sweet Recipe All Over Color in Strawberry Chiffon Cake

Do you know what is adorable? Dessert. Etude House, packaging geniuses that they are, recognized this as fact and used sugar as the inspiration for their Sweet Recipe makeup collection.

The Cupcake All Over Colors are supposedly appropriate as either cream eyeshadows, cream blushes, or lip creams.

I got this product in Strawberry Chiffon Cake, which is elegantly wrapped up in a dessert-like plastic container. The tin interior is topped with a cute strawberry, denoting which color is inside.

Supposedly, this product smells like strawberries. I think it smells more like gummy bears.

The inside is reminiscent of a cheap tinned lip balm, and it is similar in texture. When you touch it, it is stiff, but your fingers warm it up to a sort of weird greasiness. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with a spatula or any convenient way to apply it, making it almost mandatory to stick your grubby, bacteria-laden fingers inside of it.

Strawberry Chiffon Cake is a true, warm, bright pink that looks gorgeous on cheeks. As you can see in my swatch, it easy to get rich color or to get sheer color based on the amount you apply.

Unfortunately, like so many dual-use products, it does not work on both cheeks and lips. A close-up on my mouth demonstrates how the product fills lines and drys out lips, resulting in a truly unappealing look. If you are looking for a product that will work fine as a blush, this product will do so admirably. But on the lips, it is a disaster.

In terms of pricing, this product is, like all Etude House makeup, quite inexpensive. It is currently listed as costing $7.58 from the reliable Amazon seller A-Poly. The product is 0.35oz, meaning it costs $21.65 per ounce.

I don't think the quality of the product is spectacular, even as a blush. However, the packaging is certainly lovely enough to compensate.


In addition to the All Over Color, I picked up Etude House's Ice Cream Nail Polish in Mint Chocolate Chip. The color is genuinely gorgeous, and it looks substantially different from every other polish in my collection. It takes two coats of polish to reach opacity.

Etude House Ice Cream Nail Polish in Mint Chocolate Chip

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Beauty Bullshit: Revlon Eterna 27

Revlon's Eterna 27 is a line of creams that supposedly helps target wrinkles.

Source: http://di1-3.shoppingshadow.com/images/pi/6d/fa/99/70952157-260x260-0-0_Revlon+Revlon+Eterna+27+Moisture+Cream+With+Progen.jpg

Credit for this observation of pseudoscience goes to Rachel, a reader who observed some rather bizarre claims in the Revlon cosmetics employees training guide.

According to Revlon, their "protective telomeric complex [in Eterna 27]... is like a special 'memory' for your skin that continually reminds our skin cells to reproduce and reproduce accurately - helping keep skin looking younger for longer."

It's not clear exactly what this "complex" is. Presumably it is pregnenolone acetate, which they market as "progenitin", an endogenous precursor to a variety of neuroactive molecules including progestagens, glucocorticoids, androgens, and estrogens.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pregnenolone.svg

It is worth noting that not only are there no scientific studies indicating that pregnenolone acetate has any effect on wrinkles, there is no evidence that it is even able to penetrate the skin.

So, on to the science! First of all, what are telomeres? 

Your DNA, as we all know, is a series of nucleotides that together form the genes and regulatory regions that provide the unique code that makes each organism. Since DNA is double stranded, these nucleotides pair up, making hydrogen-bound base pairs. There is a lot of information that needs to be encoded in an organism's DNA. The human genome has about 3.2 billion base pairs. If that was stretched out linearly, each cell's DNA would be about two meters long. Since your cells are not two meters long, they need to be packaged up more parsimoniously.

Source: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/cells/nucleus/images/chromatinstructurefigure1.jpg
To deal with this problem, DNA is packaged into a condensed structure called chromatin. Being in the form of chromatin keeps long DNA chains nice and small, protects the DNA from damage, binds the DNA to necessary proteins, and helps control gene regulation. All of this essential in order for the cell to work properly. Chromatin can be more or less coiled up depending on what stage the cell is in.

Human chromosomes.
Source: http://www.austincc.edu/mlt/mdfund/mdfund_unit10pictures.htm
This coiled up chromatin forms the basis of our chromosomes. Humans have 46 chromosomes. At the end of each chromosome is something called a telomere. Telomeres are a series of repetitive nucleotide sequences that do not code for anything.

Glowing telomeres!
Source: http://holisticprimarycare.net/topics/topics-a-g/functional-medicine/1038-telomeres-aging-a-disease-prevention-do-telomere-targeted-treatments-have-a-role-in-clinical-practice
Why do we need telomeres?

Every time your cell divides, you lose a little hunk at the end of your chromosome. When DNA polymerase, the enzyme that replicates DNA, does its job, it can only go in one direction. Your DNA is not symmetrical. We talk about DNA in terms of 5' at one end and 3' at the other. DNA polymerase will only go from 5' to 3' because it needs to act on the 3'-OH of the existing strand to add nucleotides.

DNA replication starts at the center of a DNA strand. One DNA polymerase can go straight through without any problems, because it is traveling from 5' to 3'. This is called the leading strand.

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/DNA_replication_en.svg/350px-DNA_replication_en.svg.png
The other strand, though, is more difficult. Instead of traveling straight down the strand, the DNA polymerase works to create a series of short fragments called Okazaki fragments. Sequences of RNA are used as primers a little bit ahead of the initiation site, letting the DNA polymerase start there. Because these fragments are not connected, there is a little bit of excess processing needed to make the strand useful.

Enzymes come and help change those RNA primers to DNA, connecting the Okazaki fragments. However, in order for this to happen, there must be a DNA strand before the primer. The very last RNA primer does not have that. Thus, it is destroyed. As a result, some of the DNA code is destroyed every time DNA is replicated.

Source: http://vrp.com/static/images/aug2012nl_telomere.jpg
If we had useful DNA going straight from one end of the strand to the next, that would mean that you would lose important information when replicating cells. Telomeres protect the DNA code by getting lost-- instead of losing crucial genes, we lose nonsense gibberish.

How do telomeres relate to aging?

Some people hypothesize that telemeres are closely related to the aging process. Because a little bit of telomere is lost at each cell division, individuals who are older have shorter telomeres than individuals who are younger. This fact has led some people to hypothesize that the reason that we age is because our telomeres are getting shorter.

Source: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/images/i/403/iFF/mouse-lab-rat-101117-02.jpg?1324321441
Unfortunately, this explanation does not fit well with the scientific data. For example, rats with dramatically shortened telomeres do not have shorter lifespans. It's also worth noting that rats have super, ridiculously-long telomeres. If the telomere theory of aging was a major component of the story, rats would live much longer than we do... but they don't. Even more damningly, human telomeres can sometimes be maintained in length, and approximately 0% of those people who this happens to are Benjamin Button.

Who knows what is going on with his telomeres.
Source: http://giggsey.com/videos/images/2b892055465a9fe2bed229403b3b29cb.png
It also is an explanation that doesn't make a lot of theoretical sense. Telomeres are a code of seriously random nothingness. It doesn't code for anything. It doesn't promote anything. It doesn't regulate anything. It shouldn't matter that they are getting shorter until they reach a certain critical point.

Worse still, telomeres have never been proposed as a mechanism associated with wrinkles. Being less likely to die and being less likely to have crow's feet are hardly analogous.  The idea that shortened telomeres cause wrinkles is absolutely the textbook example of the adage "correlation does not equal causation". To quote Dr. Ron Rosedale, "The telomere theory as a cause of aging was hotly debated over a decade ago in many biology of aging conferences where university researchers got together to discuss their latest findings. Now, this is barely discussed outside of pseudoscientific circles."

Even if telomere protection was a good anti-aging mechanism, we still wouldn't want to implement it. We actually do have the technology to lengthen telomeres, and we have done so in mice. We don't do it in humans because it is a terrible idea. Introducing enzymes that help protect telomeres dramatically increases one's likelihood of getting cancer. If this process was actually occurring in all of your cells, dying of cancer would be a near certainty.

Cancer cells
Source: http://www.alternative-cancer.net/images/Cancer_cell,%20brain.jpg
Now that we have addressed the conceptual problems with telomere anti-aging products, let's go back to the specific claim that Revlon makes: This "protective telomeric complex... is like a special 'memory' for your skin that continually reminds our skin cells to reproduce and reproduce accurately - helping keep skin looking younger for longer."

That makes literally no sense. The "protective telomeric complex" name sounds like they are saying that the product will prevent telomeric shortening, which is problematic for reasons I have already outlined. But telomeres have NOTHING TO DO with causing your skin cells to reproduce (and if you were using a telomere shortening theory of aging, you wouldn't want them to reproduce!), they have NOTHING TO DO with the accuracy of DNA polymerase, and even if they did, that would have NOTHING TO DO with keeping your skin young-looking. This claim is bullshit, plain and simple.

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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Get It Before It's Gone: Paul & Joe "A Mid Summer's Night" Lip Gloss

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!

As deeply passionate as I was in my love for Urban Outfitters when I was 14, I haven't paid much attention to them in a while. Suddenly, I just didn't feel like I needed shirts that came pre-stained.

Although Urban Outfitters and I have grown apart, I decided to catch up with a quick browse through their website... and holy fuck. At some point along the line, Urban Outfitters decided to sell real makeup. Like, good makeup. For grown ups.

Source: http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/category.jsp?id=W_BEAUTY_EYE
The array of brands that they offer are impressive for a variety of reasons. First of all, the brands are good. There are certainly some brands that I have mixed feelings about. (For example, ELF and Lime Crime are not my all-time favorites.) However, brands like Anna Sui, NYX, and Pixi are fabulous brands. A few others, like Medusa's Makeup, Lord & Berry, and Fat & the Moon look like they would be tons of fun to try out. Second of all, the brands that are offered here are not widely available elsewhere. If the selection was similar to Sephora, I would always choose Sephora. But brands like Anna Sui are not available at Sephora (unless you want perfume). NYX can be hard to locate in drug stores. There is certainly a bit of overlap (e.g. Stila), but this is still a fantastic resource for encountering some harder-to-find brands.

One of my favorite difficult-to-track-down brands is Paul and Joe Beaute. Paul and Joe is a brand that combines clever themes, gorgeous packaging, and consistently high quality products.

Paul & Joe Midsummer Night's Dream Collection
Source: http://i6.cdnds.net/12/41/hb-paul-joe-shakespeare-ss12-160412-mdn.jpg
Paul and Joe's "Midsummer Night's Dream" collection was inspired by the classic Shakespearian comedy. A Midsummer Night's Dream was actually the first play by Shakespeare that I read. In sixth grade, we put on the play. I played Hippolyta, the queen whose marriage precipitates the plot. (You probably don't remember her because she wasn't a very important character.) I had wanted to play Titania, the queen of the fairies.

I recently picked up one of the Mid Summer's Night lip glosses in Fairy Kisses from the Urban Outfitter's website. Its ethereal green color is certainly reminiscent of my beloved Titania.

The packaging, of course, is spectacular. The cap has a vintage vibe, and the chrysanthemum detailing on the tube is adorable.

Although Urban Outfitters is calling this a "flavored lip gloss", I am not confident that that is the correct terminology for this product. It is green apple and vanilla scented, but it pretty much just tastes like... wax. (Don't eat this.)

A swatch of Fairy Kisses.
The product is green and glittery in the tube, but, when applied, it looks clear (and still kind of glittery). However, when you look closely, you can see a faint green shimmer that adds a touch of uniqueness and prevents it from looking childish. The gloss is a bit thicker than a typical lip gloss, but it's easy to wear and it isn't sticky.

The only thing that I don't like about this product is the brush. At first it was pointy and hard. With some massaging, I removed this problem, only to find that the bristles splay out everywhere when I try to apply the product. Still, this is a relatively minor complaint. I love the theme, I love the product, and I love the packaging. I'll tolerate the brush.

Fairy Kisses on Human Face.
P.S.: Like my earrings? I like my earrings.
Fairy Kisses originally retailed for $22 for 0.21oz (or $104.76 per ounce), but it is marked down on the Urban Outfitters site to $12.99 ($61.86 per ounce). It's not quite as cheap as a drugstore lipgloss (e.g. Revlon's Colorburst costs $7.49 for 0.2oz, or $37.45 per ounce), but it is much less expensive than a typical mid-range brand (e.g. Benefit's Ultra Shines Lip Gloss costs $18 for 0.17oz, or $105.88).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What is Living on Robyn's Makeup Brushes: A Horror Story

Let me start this post by saying: wash your brushes, you dirty hippie. Not only does the process of cleaning makeup brushes remove old, crusty makeup, dirt, oil, and dead skin cells, it helps to remove festering bacteria.

I take pretty decent care of my brushes. I wash them once a week, and I spray them with Sephora's anti-bacterial daily brush cleaner after each use. I decided that I wanted to see what effect brush cleaning had on the bacteria diversity living on my brushes.

For this investigation, I used my Tarte Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush, which is my favorite everyday foundation brush.

Now that I have posted the nail applique comparison, you guys can all see how long I have been procrastinating on certain posts...
To wash the brush, I used the Sephora brand makeup brush shampoo.

Using a q-tip, I exposed one Petri dish filled with an agar growth medium to the bacteria living on my unwashed brush. Then, I washed the brush and exposed a second plate to its cleaner state.

As a note, since this would be really easy for you to replicate at home: make sure that if you try this that you do NOT directly touch the brush to the agar. Otherwise, you would create a bacterial paradise on your brush!

Then, I waited for two weeks, ready to check out my fascinating colonies:

The "before" petri dish. 
The "after" petri dish.

I will admit, at first I was a bit disappointed about a perceived lack of improvement between my "before" and "after" cultures. However, closer examination revealed that the difference was more noteworthy than it initially appears. That fuzzy mold obscures the truth! The "before" culture had what looks like about ten distinct species, whereas the "after" culture had a mere five.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that the fact that I consistently wash my brushes likely decreases the effect. Someone who hasn't washed their brushes in two months would likely see a much more dramatic decreased in bacterial diversity and species concentration.

So, what is living on my makeup brushes?

I used a dissecting scope to help me characterize the colonies more accurately. 
Without some relatively time-consuming tests, it's hard to identify the precise bacteria that I found growing on my beloved brushes. However, I can make some educated guesses.

The fuzzy white stuff is, as I already noted, clearly some sort of mold, although I am not certain what species it is. The yellow colonies look suspiciously like Micrococcus luteus, a Gram-positive bacteria that typically lives in dust, soil, and on human skin. There also seems to be a few colonies from the genera Bacillus and Colstridium, although, again, I am not certain about the species. Other likely culprits include Staphylococcus and Streptococcus.

Although all of these bacterial species would normally be present on your face in small quantities, the opportunistic bacteria that thrive on makeup brushes should not be continuously re-introduced to your face, lest they aggravate acne and other skin conditions. So, again: go wash your brushes. The internet will still be here when you get back.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: NYX Push Up Bra For Eyebrows

The NYX Push Up Bra for Eyebrows is a dual-ended pencil that brings together a creamy pink highlighter and an eyebrow filler to give your brows a lift.

When I first saw this product, I was intrigued. My current method of a powder filler doesn't leave my eyebrows as impeccable as I might wish. I hoped that it might facilitate a sharper, cleaner line on my brows.

The eyebrow filler is a cool taupe that NYX touts as a "universal color". It has a faint, silver glitter that is barely noticeable. The pencil is almost as hard as a number two pencil, and it only offers a faint, unblendable line.

In contrast, the highlighter side is opaque, soft, and creamy.

Together, the highlighter and brow pencil do create a more defined line than eyebrow powder alone.

The pink highlighter stick is truly gorgeous. It brightens my eye, but it looks completely natural. The smooth, creamy texture is super blendable, making it easy to work with. Unfortunately, though, I do not feel that this would work well for women with dark skin, since it would likely look chalky and greyish.

Sadly, though, I haven't yet learned my lesson about "universal colors". The eyebrow pencil is simply too dark for my eyebrows. It's not flattering, it's not easy to apply, and it's too damn pointy. I would be much more satisfied with a lighter color.

For some reason I didn't think it was important to clean up my eyebrows before doing this post.
Overall, I think this would be a great product for women with pale skin and very dark eyebrows. For the rest of us, we're only getting half the product.

That being said, this comes in at only $10, so it may be worth it for some people to buy it for only one side. The entire product is 0.12oz (so this costs $83.33 per ounce). If you are only interested in the highlighter side, you're paying $166.66 per ounce. Benefit's High Brow, for comparison, is $20 for 0.10oz, or $200 per ounce. Thus, this could still save some people a bit of money even if they only wanted half the product.
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