Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Dolce & Gabbana 'The Blush' Luminous Cheek Color in Tan 22

I'm on a new quest: the perfect powder contour. Although Illamasqua Cream Pigment in Hollow is serving me well, I generally prefer packing on powder products over my foundation. NYX Blush in Taupe is a lovely contour color, but the packaging falls apart as soon as I look at it, and I'm having profound problems with having to constantly scrape off a thick layer of grease that just kills the product's pigmentation. It's acceptable for a drugstore pricepoint, but I would gladly pay a premium to bypass its pain-in-the-ass qualities.

Enter Dolce and Gabbana's Blush in Tan. After reading a boatload of raves, I decided to take the $45 plunge.

If there is one thing you can say about high end brands, they know how to make you feel fancy. This blush is encased in a velveteen snuggie in case it gets cold at night.

The packaging is gold and very shiny. Hey look! It's me!

It comes packaged with a snazzy mirror and a small brush. The brush isn't a tragedy, but you're not going to be able to effectively contour with it. It's probably a little more handy for blushes that you would use as a traditional blush, but anyone who's paying more that forty bucks for a blush probably owns a much better blush brush already.

As you can probably see, the color is an ashy medium brown. It looks a little dramatic in the pan, but it applies really beautifully. A single swipe of color is quite sheer, but you can build it up to be as intense as you would like.

Although the color is much cooler than any bronzer you might find, it is still warmer than NYX Taupe.

Dolce and Gabbana Blush in Tan on left, NYX Blush in Taupe on right.
The packaging is great and the product applies beautifully, but the color is just too warm to look natural on me. Hell, if I could cool down NYX Taupe a little, I would.

I think that this product definitely has the capacity to be "holy grail" material for anyone who is light to medium skinned and warm-toned (those of you who can get away with contouring with bronzer, but might still prefer a more natural-looking shadow on your cheek). The texture and application are truly superb, it's just the hint of warmth that's throwing me off.

Here's how it looks on my face:

Dolce and Gabbana 'The Blush' Luminous Cheek Colors retail for $45 for 0.17oz, putting them at a relatively pricey $264.71 per ounce.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stacking Sephora Chic Week and Ebates: What's the Savings?

Chic Week (or "Spring Social", depending on whether you prefer rhyming or alliteration) kicked off for VIB Rouge today. For those of you who, like me, live prohibitively far from an actual Sephora, you're probably taking advantage of your 15% discount with some good, old-fashioned online shopping.

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If you do online shopping and are not already signed up for Ebates, you should probably remedy that immediately. It's a cashback service that takes money for "referring" you to a store, and passes over a percentage of that profit to you. (My referral link is here, if you are interested.) Concurrent with Chic Week, Ebates is having a "Luxury Week" with double cash back on "luxury" stores. Sephora is at 8% cash back right now. (Sephora is frequently at 8% cash back, so it's not really "double", but it's pretty darn good either way.)

Our math question of the day is what are you actually saving when you stack these discounts? Because the 8% total is off of the already discounted price, you are saving 21.2%. You are paying 78.2% retail price.

That means if you are buying $300 worth of stuff, you are spending $234.60.

If you buy $100 worth of stuff, you are spending $78.20.

If you buy $50 worth of stuff, you are spending $39.10.

Note that because this saving is including what you get back from Ebates, you'll have a higher total in your cart (plus, like, tax and stuff), but you will get some of that money back.

Easy math, but a good reminder for anyone who is weighing their purchases this week.

Chic Week runs March 30 - April 11 for VIB Rouge. It starts later for VIB and Beauty Insiders, although I can't seem to find the exact dates. If you know, let me know too!

Review: Sumita Beauty Contrast Eye Pencil in Ziba

I originally got a black Sumita eyeliner from Birchbox in May 2013. I was really impressed with the brand's creamy texture, which reminded me of the Urban Decay 24/7 pencil liners. However, in a world of near-infinite 'pretty darn good' black pencil liners, even the softest, most pigmented black doesn't get my heart rate pumping.

Do you know what does?


The Sumita eyeliners retail for a downright-paltry $11 each. They're pretty basic, but I think the packaging looks nice, especially for the price. There's some floral-y squiggles on there. I can appreciate that. They're also not too difficult to sharpen, even though they are quite soft and smooth.

Ziba is a yellow-y green shade. I find that it swatches well, but, on my eyes, it takes a few passes to really build up intensity, especially if it is applied over heavy eyeshadow looks.

Once you get it on, though, it's not going anywhere. Pass the makeup remover, guys.

Here's how the Sumita Eye Pencil in Ziba looks on my face:

Sorry about the clumpy lashes. I was trying a lash primer and it was not a success.

The Sumita Color Contrast Eyeliners retail for a super reasonable $11 for 0.06oz, or $183.33 per ounce. For comparison, Urban Decay's 24/7 Pencil Liners retail for $20 for 0.04oz, or $500 per ounce. Given the pretty low cost and good quality, I definitely plan on trying out other Sumita products in the future.

Now I just need a liquid liner in this color...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beauty Myths: Vitamin E and Scarring

Vitamin E as a treatment for scar tissue is a tale as old as time. Sadly, it's no more based on reality than turning into a hairy monster because you were mean to a witch. Despite the damning evidence that you probably should not put Vitamin E on a scar, this myth continues to bounce around, particularly on sites that advocate for home remedies and on sites about body piercing and modification.

Before I start, I want to clarify that there is nothing wrong with using a cosmetic product that contains Vitamin E. I am specifically debunking the idea that you should be putting Vitamin E on scar tissue. Additionally, although post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is colloquially referred to as "acne scarring", it is not actually a scar and there is no evidence that putting Vitamin E on hyperpigmentation is anything put benign.

What Are We Talking About?

So, what the hell is Vitamin E, anyways? In general, vitamins are organic compounds that the human body requires. (This contrasts with minerals, like calcium or potassium, which may also be required, but are inorganic.) Vitamin E is the name for eight different fat-soluble compounds, four of which are tocopherols and four of which are tocotrienols.

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When Vitamin E is added to topical cosmetics, it is usually in the form of tocopherol acetate. (Tocopheryl linoleate and tocopheryl nicotinate are also used cosmetically.) A wide variety of skincare companies make products featuring Vitamin E, including the Body Shop and Malin + Goetz, where it is typically touted as an antioxidant.

Secondly, what is a scar? I've written about scar tissue in more depth here, but a quick-as-a-motherfucker review: A scar is the fibrous tissue that your body may produce post-injury.

Why Do People Think Vitamin E On Scar Tissue is a Good Idea?

According to Baumann and Spencer (1999), "Since the discovery that vitamin E is the major lipid soluble antioxidant in skin, this substance has been tried for the treatment of almost every type of skin lesion imaginable." In other words, part of the craze is just because it's there. And, like, antioxidants and stuff.

However, as with many home remedies, there is some scientific reasoning behind the remedy.

Most notably, in vitro evidence shows that Vitamin E inhibits fibroblasts and keratocytes in both humans and rabbits. In particular, Vitamin E increases the levels of a cytokine called basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), which inhibits collagen production, an important part of scar formation. 'Bingo bango!' thought home remedy advocates. 'Vitamin E equals less collagen scar formation!'

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And that would seem true, if we didn't have any other evidence.

In vitro experiments, or "test tube experiments", which take place when you isolate a cell or tissue culture from the organism at hand. They are awesome because they let us look a lots of tiny parts individually without getting distracted by a bunch of irrelevant stuff. It's simple and an essential part of biological science.

But here's the thing: being able to predict the levels of bFGF in a petri dish don't always mean a crapload when what we really want is to extrapolate and talk about a big, honking, on-a-living-body scar. That's why in vivo evidence on an actual set of humans is so important when determining the efficacy of cosmetics ingredients.

Why Is This Actually a Terrible Choice?

We do, in fact, have that in vivo evidence.

Vitamin E, when applied topically to scar tissue, does not improve scar healing. Indeed, it actually results in a pretty worrisome number of minor but troublesome side-effects.

Jenkins and colleagues (1986) tracked 159 burn victims for one year. Participants were randomly assigned to be treated using a Vitamin E cream, a topical steroid cream, or a base cream containing nothing of note. The researchers assessed range of motion, scar thickness, change in graft size, and ultimate cosmetic appearance of the scar. They found no effects of either the topical steroid or the Vitamin E on any of their assessed factors and concluded that neither treatment was effective at reducing scar formation. What's more, 20% of those receiving the Vitamin E treatment reported some form of adverse side effects as a result of the application.

A later double-blind study by Baumann and Spencer (1999) had similar results. Skin cancer patients who had undergone surgery to remove their lesions were given two ointments labeled A and B, one of which contained Aquaphor, a traditional emollient, and one of which contained Aquaphor mixed with vitamin E. Scars were then randomly divided into part A and B. Participants were instructed to put Ointment A on part A of the scar and the Ointment B on part B of the scar twice daily for 4 weeks. Scar appearance was independently assessed by the patient, the physician, and a trained investigator. Instead of finding a beneficial effect of the Vitamin E on scar tissue, researchers concluded that "the application of topical vitamin E may actually be detrimental to the cosmetic appearance of a scar." Furthermore, 33% of the participants developed contact dermatitis, a form of skin inflammation, as a result of the Vitamin E exposure.

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Zurada, Krigel, and Davis (2006) add that even the in vitro justification for Vitamin E on scar tissue may be flawed. They note, "The use of vitamin E in scar management has other theoretic limitations. Because of its ability to inhibit collagen synthesis, the use of vitamin E early in scar therapy may reduce scar tensile strength and, hence, lead to the development of widened scars and even wound dehiscence."

If the Evidence Isn't There, Why Does This Rumor Keep Showing Up?

In my opinion, part of the reason this home remedy refuses to die is because people cannot run a double-blind experiment on themselves... but scars do fade, no matter what you put on them. If someone hears about Vitamin E, uses it, and ends up with a faded a scar, even if it had nothing to do with the Vitamin E, they might continue to recommend it.

This is one of the reasons it is so important to check out what the scientific literature says on an ingredient, rather than relying on user testimonials.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PopSugar Must Have March 2014 Review

I have chosen not to subscribe to PopSugar Must Have up until now for a variety of reasons. First of all, it costs a whopping $39.99 a month. Second of all, I do check in about what PopSugar is sending out every so often, and sometimes I love it and sometimes I am not interested at all. It's a total mixed bag of beauty products, accessories, clothing, food, and more. That could be fine, but there's no customization for this box. That means that it is quite likely that they will send you shit you don't want. If you're really picky (and readers of this blog have probably realized that I am really picky), they could very well be sending out shit that lots of people love but that you don't enjoy. At $40 a month, I don't want to have months that I regret.

I considered PopSugar for a long time, but the nail in the coffin came in February 2013 when they sent out a Nicholas Sparks novel. I know that sounds like a trivial thing, but I just concluded that this was a service that aimed at someone other than me. Even when I had totally ruled out PopSugar Must Have, though, there was one thing that they had sent that I fantasized about. In September 2012 they sent out a Brokedown scarf that I am still in love with (the whole box actually looked fantastic-- link to the Popsugar blog about it here).

In March 2014, they sent out another Brokedown scarf and goddamn it, I just had to have that sucker. I posted a facebook status about the scarf-shaped hole in my heart, and one of you lovely readers pointed out that the box was still available, SO I BOUGHT IT. I would have happily spent $40 on just the scarf, so everything else was a bonus.

Here's what I got:

Baublebar Elephant Ring Tree, retail value $12

I have a lot of rings. It's one of those pieces of jewelry I constantly convince myself that I will wear. (By the time I load myself up on clothing and makeup, though, I'm usually wearing enough decoration without any metal accoutrements.) Consequentially, this just isn't particularly practical for me, as you can only put a few rings on this teeny weeny elephant's trunk.

The aesthetic is fine, it's not not necessarily what I would choose for myself.

Jurlique Herbal Recovery Advanced Serum (0.5 fl oz), approximate retail value $27

I kind of instinctively roll my eyes at skincare products that say the word "serum". I feel like it is really common to market random-ass shit as a "serum" even when the ingredients make no sense at all. As long as something is approximately the texture of ejaculate and it is labeled "serum", people seem to buy it.

Looking at the ingredients, I really don't understand how this product is supposed to function. What stands out to me most is the laundry list of fragrances and other potential irritants. It smells nice (like roses!) and the iridescent packaging is kind of fancy. In terms of functionality, though, I would skip it.

Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps (full size at 3.3oz), retail value $1.49

I actually already buy Snapea Crisps and I adore them. I've been buying them since I found a package in my then-boyfriend's cupboard sophomore year of high school. I opened them and ATE THE ENTIRE PACKAGE BECAUSE OH MY GOD THEY WERE SO DELICIOUS. Super recommended. They're basically the pea version of potato chips.

I would have preferred to get a food item that I had not tried, but I can't complain about getting a snack that I enjoy.

Nature's Bakery All Natural Strawberry Fig Bar (one bar at 2oz), approximate retail value $0.63.

This is basically exactly the same thing as a Fig Newton. I have purchased from this brand before and didn't have strong feelings about the products.

Dogeared Lucky Horseshoe Make A Wish Necklace, retail value $30

This is a very dainty piece of jewelry, and I am normally a chunky jewelry lady. I like this fine, but I am not jumping up and down about it. It's a little bit short as a necklace and it goes around my wrist only 2 and a half times, making it exactly the wrong size to work as a bracelet.

The concept for this necklace is that you wear it until it breaks and, when it breaks, your wish will come true. I'm not really sure how I feel about a piece of jewelry that is advertising that it is going to fall apart. I've been wearing it and have decided that I am going to wish for an indestructible necklace.

With that said, I was browsing the Dogeared website and found that they had a "wishbone" version of this necklace. (They also have it in bracelet form.) Even though the horseshoe necklace seemed a bit "meh", I think the wishbone version is adorable!

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ActiveForever Fusion Exercise Ball, retail value $9.95

This is an eeny weeny exercise ball. It arrived folded up, looking like either a vaginal fortune cookie or a neon pink folded napkin. You blow it up with a little straw.

Again, this ball is very small. So small, in fact, that I had no idea how one could possibly use it to exercise. I had to go to the Popsugar blog to gather even the faintest idea about how one would use it:

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Maybe I'm just not exercise-savy enough, but I would never do shit like that. Ever. My idea of exercise is getting on my elliptical, setting up my laptop with some Netflix TV show on in front of it, and telling myself I can't stop moving until the episode ends. And I like it like that! I don't want to try to balance on your itsy bitsy ball!

Brokedown Blue Ikat Scarf, retail value $72

Grand finale! This is the reason I bought this box. Happily, it was totally worth it. It's really lightweight and soft, and the design is gorgeous.

A lot of the things on the Brokedown website seem to embody the Dolly Parton quote, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."(Would you pay $118 for this furry hoodie or $79 for a sparkly trucker hat emblazoned with the word 'Dream'?) Their scarves, though, are clearly perfection.

Total Box Value: $153.07

I am happy with the box. I already knew I was going to be happy with the box because scarf. Since I've unsubscribed to Wantable, I've decided that I'm going to give PopSugar Must Have a few months and just see how it goes.

If you are interested in joining PopSugar Must Have, you are, as always, welcome to use my referral link by clicking here. You can use the code REFER5 to get $5 off your first box.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Maybelline Eyestudio Color Plush Silk Eyeshadow in Coral Oasis and Gutsy Green

If you describe something using the word "plush", I'm generally going to assume that you are talking about a stuffed bunny rabbit. In the case of the Maybelline Eyestudio Color Plush Silk Eyeshadows, though, they're just lovely, fine-milled colors. No fuzzy creatures involved.

The packaging on these shadows is a little unfortunate, in my opinion. The lids feel very fragile and cheap, and the accompanying sponge-y applicators are narrow and unpleasant-- even for generally sponge-y applicators, which seem to be awful as a rule.

With the eyeshadow pan shape, I think they were trying to be snazzy, but they just remind me of the flashing arrow board signs that tell you that you have to merge when there is road construction. Luckily for them, what's in the pans is much more appealing.

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I have two of these palettes: Coral Oasis and Gutsy Green.

Coral Oasis is a warm palette that's neutral, but not boring. Even if you already have eight thousand brown palettes, the colors are quirky enough that they probably aren't repeats in your collection. It's definitely not the palette that I would imagine if you just told me it was called "Coral Oasis", but that can be easily forgiven.

There are four unnamed shades in each of these palettes. The highlight shade is the largest. I personally like it when companies do this because I use highlight shades a looooot.

This palette contains four shimmery shades:

1. A 'manila folder' peach-y cream.
2. A color that I would either describe as a golden chartreuse or a green-tinged gold, depending on the day.
3. A bronze-y coral.
4. A rich, coffee bean brown.

Two swipes, no primer.
As you can see, the colors are really saturated and beautiful. I was really blown away when I first swatched these because they are so smooth, so buttery, and so pigmented that they don't feel like they came from the drugstore.

Plus, they look awesome on my face:

Maybelline Coral Oasis on Human Face

My second palette is called Gutsy Green. This is another rather weirdly named palette, since none of the colors are an archetypal green. Again, though, I like the colors, so I couldn't care less what the shadows are called.

Gutsy Green contains four shimmery shades:

1. A yellow-y lime green with a little silver sheen.
2. A wintermint.
3. A kickass please-send-me-to-Hawaii teal.
4. A dusty forest green.

These also have a superb texture. They apply and blend like a dream.

Maybelline Gutsy Green on Human Face
I have heard that these little palettes are a bit hit-or-miss, but both of these are definitely hits.

Still, nothing in life is without its downside. For these, the downside is price. I mentioned earlier that these shadows don't feel like a drugstore product. Unfortunately, they're not priced like a drugstore product, either.

The Maybelline Color Plush Silk Eyeshadows retail for $9.99 for 0.09 oz. That's a full $111 per ounce. You can buy a Stila Palette for $79.79 per ounce. Urban Decay's Naked palettes come in at $86.67 per ounce. Kat Von D's palettes are usually $90 per ounce. Although Maybelline's $9.99 overall pricetag isn't too scary, the price per ounce is very firmly in the terrain of mid-range brands. I would argue that the quality is also there-- I wouldn't be poo-pooing these shadows if they can from Stila, either-- but it's important to recognize that these are not bargains. Plus, you get tacky packaging.

Drugstore makeup does go on sale much more frequently than mid-range makeup, so it might be worth it to milk their drugstore status via coupons. Still, even at "Buy one, get one half off", you're spending $14.99 on 0.18 oz, or $83.28 per ounce. That's still much more expensive than a typical drugstore shadow.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jezebel's Article on Contouring is Bad, and They Should Feel Bad

I should probably preface this article by saying that I used to read Jezebel, so there is a tiny part of my heart with a slightly mushy spot for them. (Hell, I was a starred commenter back when that was a thing.) However, that mushy spot immediately hardens to stone when they pull some sort of fucking bullshit, which seems to be approximately daily.

Jezebel's article on contouring, entitled "Let's Just Stop With the Contouring Already" by Tracie Morrissey is fucking bullshit and I am going to explain why, point by insipid point. (Note: I did include a link to the original article, but if you want to avoid giving Jezebel pageviews, the entire article is included within this article. All you need to do is read the bolded parts below.) Is it the most bullshit thing that has ever graced the halls of Jezebel? Definitely not. But I am grumpy about it, and I am going to grump in your general direction.

Point #1: "Sure, love is a battlefield, but makeup isn't supposed to look like war paint."

This quote presumably was supposed to be witty, but, in my opinion, things that are witty are supposed to make sense. "Love is a battlefield" does not make sense when talking about makeup. It is not relevant. You need to have some sort of bridge to the topic at hand. Makeup is not love.

Still, the thing I take umbrage at here is that Tracy presumes that there is a way that makeup is "supposed" to look. One of the awesome and amazing things about makeup is that you can do whatever the fuck you want with it. Minor quibble, but I suppose we can move on.

Point #2: Still, women are drawing stripes all over their faces and taking liberties with bronzer in an attempt to create some kind of illusion—but they simply can't escape the cold hard reality that they look like fucking idiots.

Calling women "fucking idiots" is not helpful.

Point #3: I blame Kim Kardashian for this. She's been a real champion of contouring.

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If you think that Kim Kardashian invented contouring, I can only assume that you have literally never looked at celebrity faces.

Contouring is not new.

Do you see that swipe of color under Marilyn Monroe's cheekbone? You do. Don't lie.
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If you try to tell me you don't see the contouring on Audrey Hepburn, you need new glasses.
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Obvious contouring is obvious on Elizabeth Taylor.
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If it's good enough for Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman...
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So, what is it about Kim Kardashian that is different from the thousands and thousands of contoured faces we have seen for our entire lives?

As far as I can tell, the only difference is that she is open about her process.

Point #4: Her influence can be seen on the mangled faces of several reality TV stars. (From left, Lilly Ghalichi, Melissa Gorga, Nene Leakes.)

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I don't know who these ladies are, since pretty much the only reality TV I watch is Top Chef and infinite re-runs of Flavor of Love, but a quick google search shows that these ladies usually look rather good. Although I understanding the reasoning behind choosing the least flattering pictures available, it really is okay to mess up with your makeup on occasion.

Nene Leakes looking way better that she does in that Jezebel photo.

The other day, I tried something new with my foundation and it was not a success. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the dentist and my foundation was melting off my face. That doesn't mean I should never wear foundation again. It just means that on that particular day, I screwed up. Since I'm not a celebrity, no one photographed me, so the only people who know about that particular error are me and my dentist (and now, all of you). When you're a celebrity, though, people see when you screw up. But that doesn't mean it's not okay to make an error or two.

Point #5: Here are two young women having a conversation on Teen Mom 2. They are classmates in makeup school. This is what your aesthetic future looks like, America.

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I literally don't even know why this would be included. Is the point that teenagers sometimes don't do their makeup well? When I was a teenager I wore bright orange foundation, had bushy caterpillar eyebrows, didn't blend my eyeshadow, and drew long, wonky cat eyes with a pencil eyeliner. I am not sure that a teenager with imperfect makeup is really newsworthy, or something that would affect the decisions I make about my own, no-longer-teenage face.

Also, why are you spending your time making fun of the way that teenagers look?

Point #6: But it's not just reality stars who're walking around looking like the cast of Zoobilee Zoo. Professional entertainers, like Nicki Minaj and Julie Chen, pay people to do this to their faces.

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I feel like this one bad contouring day from 2011 is going to follow Nicki Minaj around forever. We get it. It's not flattering. But this is neither representative of Nicki Minaj's usual contouring nor typical contouring that a home makeup-user might do.

Point #7: Here's inverse Hamburglar Adrienne Bailon, striped-nose Aubrey O'Day and reliable disaster area Lindsay Lohan.

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Why is Jezebel choosing random celebrities like Adrienne Bailon, who I haven't thought about since 3LW's self-titled album came out in the year 2000? Because bad contouring isn't an epidemic. Big-name celebrities are still contouring, they just look awesome, so it's essentially ignored.

Beyonce with excellent contouring.
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(Also, slightly harsh nose contouring aside, none of these ladies look particularly bad in these photos.)

Point #8: But seriously, you don't need to reconstruct your face with a series of complicated shading and highlighting. It doesn't make you look more beautiful. It only makes you look like a second-rate drag queen. If you are unable to wash your face without recreating the Turin Shroud then you are wearing entirely too much crap on your face.

For every photo you show me with less than flattering contouring...

It's okay that this doesn't look perfect, by the way. I am pretty sure Lilo had more important things to think about that day.
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...I can show you a million regular, non-celebrities whose contouring looks like this:

Messy Wands in Chanel Notorious
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BNSquash with a blue contour
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Checkmate1234 in Too Faced bronzer
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Just as the existence of unflattering bright eyeshadow...

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...doesn't mean we should discount the truly amazing bright eyeshadow that also exists.

By LinsdayEatsBrains
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Makeup is a learning process and you have to be forgiving of mistakes that people are inevitably going to make along the way. No one contours perfectly the first time. The way to deal with this isn't to say, "Never try." After all, the world won't have that perfect Beyonce contour if no one learns how to create it in the first place.
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