Monday, September 30, 2013

Julep Maven October 2013 Review

I am pretty sure Julep's calendar is, like, two weeks ahead, since I typically get my box in the month prior to the month printed on the front of the package.

I guess the theme this month is... steampunk? I try to ignore the themes on my subscription boxes because they never make any sense. (Maybe I just take things too literally. But seriously, how is brown eyeliner "steampunk"?)

The bonus for this month was a little packet of candy corn. I know that candy corn is a divisive subject, but I ADORE IT. It's my favorite tricolored, corn-syrup-flavored, autumnal sugar-acquisition method.

I chose Modern Beauty this month, which is the all-product box. I picked it because one of the two products, the Mask Noir, seemed particularly intriguing. The second product, the Kajal Eye Glider, came in every box save for It Girl, which is the all-polish box.

I really like the packaging on the Mask Noir; I think it looks really modern. Furthermore, the idea of having a white package for a black product is just viscerally appealing.

I love peel-off masks in general because they remind me of that scene from Back to the Future 2 when Doc peels off his face and looks exactly the same underneath. (Why that makes me so happy, I do not know.)


The actual product is BLACK. Like, they are not joking about the black. It's not quite Sharpie black, but it's definitely Sharpie-knockoff black.

Unfortunately, this has one big downside: if you are white, it reeeeeally looks like you are wearing blackface when you put this on. Reeeeeeeeeeally. A lot. I was going to take a picture of myself wearing the mask, but once I put it on, I realized that I couldn't, because there was just no way that the picture wouldn't get taken out of context. The parts of your face that you avoid (like your eyebrows) don't help, because it just looks like sloppy blackface, which isn't any better.

The mask took about twenty minutes to fully dry and it peeled off about as well as any peel-off mask does. Here's where the black comes in handy, though: you can see where all the gritty parts that didn't come off properly are! My other peel-off masks are clear. As a result, I end up shedding little stringy hunks of mask onto my pillow at night because I think I got it all... but I didn't. With the black, it's easy to see, so you know for sure that you removed everything.

I really enjoyed this product, but I'd say that the full price of $32 for 2.5oz ($12.8 per ounce) is a bit high, just because it takes a lot of slathering to get a good mask going. Note that this is ounces, NOT fluid ounces; 2.5oz of a heavy product like this is a much smaller volume than 2.5 fl oz. Just eyeballing it, it looks like maybe 1.5 fluid ounces. At this price point, I start rationing my products because I don't want to waste them. (It's even worse when I love the product. My favorite clothes literally never get worn because I'm so worried I'll spill something on them or rip them or something.)

The second product in my box was the Kajal Eye Glider and Sharpener. The packaging on this is really bulky because they added in that eyeliner sharpener, meaning you get a mondo box for a skinny little liner.

I used the eyeliner sharpener for the sake of this review and it's fine, but hardly special. I actually haven't found a difference between eyeliner sharpeners across price points. Since this doesn't have a hole for jumbo pencils, though, it's only half-functional for my personal pencil-sharpening needs.

The double-ended eyeliner pencil has two colors: a sparkly medium brown and a "not-quite-as-black-as-I'd-like" black.

One swipe vs heavy swatch of both the brown and the black.
I found the liner to be a little bit stiff, which makes it a bit unpleasant to apply. My eyelids are spoiled by all the ubersoft liners out there, I suppose. When my grandma's eyelids needed to be lined, they had to buy charred sticks and it was uphill both ways to the store. (Disclaimer: no, it wasn't.)

Julep Kajal Eye Glider on Human Face
I'm overall pleased with my box, but I am retrospectively regretting my decision not to get any nail polish add-ons! I only have a hundred million nail polishes, so two or three more would really complete my collection.

If you decide that would would like to join Julep, please feel free to use my referral link here. The code "FREEBOX" will get you your first box for freeeeeeee!

Review: Tarte 'Off the Cuff' Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush Palette & Bracelet

I tend to adore Tarte, meaning that their holiday sets are awfully hard to pass up. The "Off the Cuff" palette is a four-blush, one bronzer palette with a bonus faux-leather bracelet.

The bracelet itself I find to be pretty tacky. It's made of cheap materials and it's so wide that it doesn't fit well on my arm. I think they should have left it off completely, since I actually think that its cheap material detracts from the awesome value of the blush palette itself. Leaving it out would also have had the added benefit of letting them pick a less silly product name.

Despite my disapproval of Tarte's jewelry choices, I do like the sparkles on the palette packaging. I don't think that it is overdone at all, leaving you with a lovely, glamorous effect. I am drawn to purchase sparkly things the way that my pet guinea pigs are drawn by their desire to pee on my sweatshirt.

The closure for the palette is magnetic, which I really appreciate.

The palette contains four blush shades (Dollface, Dazzled, Darling, and Crave) and a bronzer in Park Avenue Princess. Dollfaced and Dazzled are available as individual shades, whereas Darling and Crave are limited edition. Park Avenue Princess is also available separately.

From left to right: Crave, Dazzled, Darling, Dollface, and Park Avenue Princess
The color descriptions on these blushes are quite inaccurate. According to the packaging, Dollface is a light pink, Dazzled is a soft rose, Darling is a nude melon, and Crave is a pink peach. Do not listen to those color descriptions. They are not even in the vicinity of being correct.

All four colors are very, very pigmented, almost to the point of fault. For fair skin, more blending will be necessary to keep these blushes wearable. These will be effortlessly excellent on medium and darker skin, though. Everything is matte save for Dazzled, which has just a tiny hint of shimmer.

From left to right: Swatches of Crave, Dazzled, Darling, Dollface, and Park Avenue Princess
Crave is an electric an electric watermelon color. Because of its funkiness, it's my favorite of the blushes in this palette. (Sadly, it's not available outside of this set.) Still, it is definitely an easy one to overdo.

Crave on Human Face
Dazzled is a deep rose with a hint of shimmer.

Dazzled on Human Face
Darling is a classic dusty peach.

Darling on Human Face
Dollface is a bubblegum pink.

Dollface on Human Face
Park Avenue Princess is a medium-toned bronzer that, let's face it, is not appropriate for fair skin. It is substantially darker than both Too Faced's Chocolate Soleil and Benefit's Hoola (both of which are too dark for me anyways). The picture below is my best attempt to contour with this bronzer, keeping it as light as possible. Sadly, the amount of work it took to not look hilariously bad was not at all worth the effort.

That said, this isn't too warm to contour with, as long as you have the right skin tone. If you have medium-toned skin and you find that some bronzers aren't intense enough for your contouring needs, this may be a good choice.

Park Avenue Princess on Human Face
Although the bronzer won't be useful to me, I feel that the quality on these blushes is very high and I am happy with my purchase. The colors are beautiful, they are both pigmented and blendable, and the texture isn't too powdery. If you are in the market for some matte blushes, I think that this is a really solid choice.

The Tarte Off the Cuff Palette retails for $42 for 0.79 ounces of product, putting it at $53.16 per ounce.

Individually, Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blushes retail for $26 for 0.2oz, making them $130 per ounce. The Tarte Mineral Powder Bronzer in Park Avenue Princess costs $29 for 0.32oz, or $90.63. Since each of the blushes and the bronzer in the palette are 0.158oz, that puts the approximate value of each blush at $20.58, the approximate value of the bronzer at $14.32, and the total value of the palette at $96.64. This is below Sephora's stated value of $110, but it's obviously well above the $42 you pay for it. Indeed, the price is so good that even if you only like two of the shades of blush, you've pretty much justified the purchase of the entire palette. (At least, you've justified $41.16 out of the $42 you paid.)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Terrible Tutorials: How to Cover Your Acne and Scarring

I get a fair number of tutorial requests, despite the VAST, VAST, VAST number of people on the internet who are way better at instruction-giving than I am. The two requests that I get most frequently are contouring and eyeshadow-related stuff. I'm a difficult person, though, so I'm going to do a completely different tutorial: I'm going to show you how I cover up my awful skin.

Despite that fact that I constantly tell you all how much makeup I am wearing, I mysteriously get compliments about my skin in the comments of some of my posts. I love you all, and you are very sweet, but my skin is not beautiful. (Thanks to all the makeup, for contouring, I could probably just carve hunks out of my foundation to simulate cheekbones.)

It's relatively uncommon to see tutorials for acne-covering that involve people who actually have significant amounts of acne, since it is not joy-inducing to show everyone your scarred-up face, but I'm going to go ahead and let you see mine.

Here's what I wake up to every morning:

As you can see, most of my acne and scarring is around my cheek and jaw area.

Start by washing your hands so you don't exacerbate any acne problems you have already. The first step of any makeup routine, of course, is to take care of your skin. Next, I put on a sunscreen and a moisturizer.

After that, I want to give myself a really even canvas to work on. My scars make my skin bumpy and uneven, so I want to fix that as much as possible. I'm using a Smashbox primer, but you can use any primer that is advertised to fill pores. Some people break out when they use silicone-based products, so if you are one of those people, obviously don't use one. If you don't have a reaction to silicone, though, I find that silicone-based primers are the most effective at smoothing out skin with any sort of unpleasant texture.

I use a pea-sized amount of primer and focus my application on the areas where my acne and scarring is the worst. (If you are using the primer to fill pores, on the other hand, you'd probably need less on your cheeks.)

At this point, your skin is going to look exactly the same.

Next, I get out my beloved Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation and its accompanying brush. You obviously can use any foundation you like. (Indeed, if you want, you're welcome to choose a more sheer foundation and fix the acne that is left exposed with a concealer.)

I usually stick a glob of foundation on my hand and dip my brush in that. This is how much I need to do my whole face:

I start at my cheeks and, using short downward strokes, I blend my foundation into my skin, eventually covering my entire face.

I take pains to blend under my chin and into my neck.

At this point, my skin looks something like this:

Using my same brush and foundation, I add an additional thin layer over the particularly problematic areas.

Next, I break out the concealer. I'm using theBalm's Time Bomb; you can you whatever concealer you like, as long as it is full-coverage.

I use my finger to apply.

I just pat the concealer in, bouncing my finger up and down over any place that I see redness.

My skin now looks like this:

I'm looking pretty good, but I want to set all the crap I have layered onto my face. Any powder product is fine. I'm using the ELF Powdered Sunscreen and the EcoTools Powder Brush.

I tap some powder in the cap and swirl my brush...

...and then lightly cover my face.

I look the same, but... now it's less likely to melt off my face in a flesh-covered heap.

Now you can do the rest of your makeup! Mine didn't turn out super awesome today, but I was in a rush, so you get to deal with it.

If you're me, you finish off by taking pictures from the front because I don't have a lot of acne there, so it looks better.

Ta-da! Time to get dressed and brush my hair.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Growing a Nose On Your Forehead. Or: You Should Really Go Get That Injury Checked Out

I think the pictures are probably weirder than the story. (I'm seriously awful at sensationalistic journalism, you guys.)

A 22-year-old man in Fuzhou, Fujian province, identified only as Xiaolian, has a nose growing on his forehead. It's not, despite its appearance, a growth factor mis-expression. It's actually a slight modification on traditional plastic surgery techniques that may open avenues for reconstruction for individuals who have had substantial facial trauma.
After a car accident in August 2012, Xiaolian refused the recommended nasal trauma treatment. (Which sounds EXACTLY LIKE SOMETHING THAT I WOULD DO. Cross your fingers that I don't get into any car accidents.) Although his doctors urged him to get surgery following the accident, Xiolian opted for only basic care. Unfortunately, an infection corroded the cartelage of his original nose. As a result, it was so damaged that doctors were unable to repair it using conventional methods.

Instead, they developed an innovative alternative. They inserted a skin tissue expander to his foreheard. Next, they cut it into the shape of a nose and planted cartilage from his ribs to form the structure. Essentially, this is just what they would have done to his original nose if it was not so damaged. As it is, they simply moved the classic procedure to a new place. A transplant will restore a normal-looking appearance.
Shehan Hettiaratchy, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Imperial College, said: "The forehead is a traditional place to get extra tissue from to rebuild a nose... The skin from there is a good match for nose skin. Most importantly, the forehead skin can be moved to the nose and keep its blood supply, which is essential otherwise the skin would die." Xiaolian will even retain his sense of smell.

According to his doctors, Xiaolian should be ready for surgery in the near future. In the meantime, I suspect he is generating a notable collection of hats. 

Review: Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow N5 Banana Split

A person whose eyeshadow collection is comprised in large part of eyeshadow singles is a person with too much money. I mean, it's awesome that you can be so wealthy that you spend truly ludicrous amounts of cash on products that you could easily buy for way less, but I kind of feel like you should buy a palette anyways and spend all your extra money on chocolate. (Or, I guess, charity or something.)

Usually, the only time I buy eyeshadow singles is when they are marked down so significantly that I'm no longer filled with embarrassment walking my tiny purchase up to the register (or, since it's me, clicking the online shopping cart; THE WAREHOUSE PEOPLE WILL JUDGE MY CHOICES).

This purchase is the result of turning the "Well, this is priced horribly," section of my brain off. I traveled to a real life city, walked into a brick-and-mortar (drywall and stud?) Sephora store, and was mesmerized by the yellow. It's so yellow. It's more yellow than my childhood bedroom when I let my little sister pick what color to paint the walls.

The Sephora Banana Split single is sunshine color with a shimmery finish that borders on frosted. It's extremely pigmented, so it's easy to get a nice, opaque swatch.

I really like this color, and it was worth the purchase for me because I don't have any comparable shades in my collection.

Sephora Banana Split on Human Face
The Sephora Collection Colorful Eyeshadow Singles retail for $13 for 0.07oz ($185.71 per ounce). This isn't inherently absurd when it comes to eyeshadow singles, of course (for example, an Urban Decay Eyeshadow Single costs $18 for 0.05oz, or $360 per ounce), but that's only because eyeshadow singles are horrifically priced already. Palettes cost way, way, way less than either of these options. The Urban Decay Vice 2 palette, for instance, costs $59 for 0.6oz, a comparatively cheap $98.33 per ounce. Given this pricing scheme, I would only recommend this product to someone who is absolutely lusting after this particular yellow shade.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Environmental Ominousness of Polyethylene Cleansers

If you have ever read "polyethylene" on your facewash ingredients, you may have found it curious. As the most commonly used plastic (the same plastic that is used to make plastic bags and water bottles), it seems like an odd thing to add to a cleanser.

Polyethylene, usually added in the form of "microbeads", is a method of exfoliation. Biodegradable physical exfoliators are traditionally pretty expensive. Many, such as the infamous Saint Ives Apricot Scrub, are simply too rough for delicate facial skin. Plastic is an easy fix. It's cheap as fuck and can easily be made into even balls with no sharp edges, which is much better for your skin.

As nice as this may be for your complexion, environmental researchers have recently begun to examine the potential impacts of polyethylene microbeads on the ecosystem. The problem is that polyethylene beads are specifically designed to get through sewer systems, and, in that respect, they're designed a bit too well. They easily make it through waste treatment plants. Subsequently, they pass into natural water systems. Once they are released into an ecosystem, it can be absurdly difficult to remove them. What's more, polyethylene does not typically biodegrade, meaning that once it's in the water, it just hangs out as a pollutant.  Consequentially, microtrash levels are at an all-time high. For example, in the Great Lakes, it all adds up to a record-breaking 450,000 bits per square kilometer.

It's worth noting that there are a few news sources on this that are conflating different lines of evidence. For example, Mother Jones cited a study demonstrating that mussels who were exposed to more plastic nanoparticles ate less than their counterparts in pollutant-free water. However, this study specifically dealt with particles that were a thirty millionth of a millimeter in diameter, much smaller than the beads in commercial products, which may be closer to half a millimeter. These particles are released when plastic debris breaks in the water. This is obviously bad, but it's only tangentially related to your exfoliation routine. As of right now, the environmental impact of plastic beads stemming from face washes is still unclear, although we can probably safely assume their prevalence in our bodies of water is not a good thing. (Additionally, Mother Jones' quippy end-of article suggestion that we all just use soap and washcloths instead demonstrates a misunderstanding of the effort that is expended to adapt face washes to human skin. There is no reason to forgo face washes in general; just skip the ones that list "polyethylene" as an ingredient.) I was also irked by the Guardian's unfounded claim that "plastic fragments are more plentiful than plankton", which I assume they intended to be a figure of speech, but which simply comes across as a false claim.

A few companies like Unilever, Johnson&Johnson, and Procter&Gamble are all already in the process of phasing out microbeads. Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are also in the process of developing microbeads made of polyhydroxyalkanoates, naturally-forming linear polyesters that serve as an effective form of biodegradable plastic. In the meantime, I will be avoiding cosmetic products that list polyethylene as an ingredient. This is a relatively small change given the potential environmental benefits.

Still, I would caution you against thinking that avoiding polyethylene-containing facial products is the end of the story. Most of the plastic microparticles floating in our oceans, rivers, and lakes are pieces of larger plastics. Discontinuing the use of polyethylene-containing products is a good start, but it only addresses a single piece of the puzzle. In order to help reduce environmental pollution by microplastics, we need to be more cognizant of our plastic use in general, and this can't stop with what we put on our faces!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Maybelline Great Lash Colored Mascaras in I See Blue, Vision in Violet, and Wink of Pink

Every summer for the past three years, Maybelline has released a variety of limited-edition colored mascaras. This year they released six shades: So Very Berry, Vision in Violet, Green With Envy, I See Blue, Teal Appeal, and Wink of Pink.

Because my town of residence is the worst and internet shopping is still inexplicably insufficient, I didn't have access to these for a long while. I had to get someone to mail them to me, which is why I'm reviewing them a month and a half later than everyone else.

I could see from looking at the colors that some of them were going to be less dramatic than I might have wished. In particular, So Very Berry looks like a step above brown. Since Great Lash mascaras are really not impressive to me, I wanted to choose colors that would stand out. That way, it's clear why my mascara isn't giving me dense, long lashes. I don't want my lashes to look accidental. Consequentially, I chose what looked like the boldest of the colors:  I See Blue, Vision in Violet, and Wink of Pink.

The blue color is a really bold, cool cerulean. The purple, sadly, despite the bold color on the tube, was pretty dusty and dark. The pink was a spectacular hot pink.

All three mascaras were very wet, meaning it was easy to end up with lashes that were all stuck together. I tried them over a white mascara primer in an attempt to coax out some extra length (Lancome Cils Primer XL) and, unfortunately, the clumping was even more extreme.

I was expecting, based on previous reviews, for I See Blue to be the most dramatic. It was definitely visible, but I felt like you couldn't really see it from a distance. If you're on a budget and you're lusting after a bright blue mascara, this might be a good option. That being said, I really prefer some of the slightly more expensive options. I recently tried out Butter London's Wink colored mascaras and I adore Inky Six, their cornflower blue. (I'll review it in the next week or two!)

Maybelline Great Lash in I See Blue on Human Face
Eye Close-Up
Vision in Violet was the big disappointment out of the three. On my lashes, it looked more gray than purple. As a result, the "you're wearing bad mascara" effect was much stronger than the "you're wearing purple mascara" effect. I am not sure I understand the logic of purchasing a colored mascara that is subtle, since it ends up looking accidental. If you're going to wear colored mascara, you pretty much have to commit.

Maybelline Great Lash in Vision in Violet on Human Face
Eye Close-Up

Wink of Pink was my favorite by a longshot. The color was both vivid and saturated, creating a fabulous effect on my lashes. It was also the least clumpy out of the three that I tried.

Maybelline Great Lash in Wink of Pink on Human Face
Eye Close-Up
The Maybelline Colored Mascaras retail for $6.40 for 0.43 fluid oz ($14.88 per ounce).
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