Friday, August 18, 2017

Urban Decay Metallized Vice Lipstick in Amulet

Though I was skeptical of Urban Decay's decision to pull its entire Revolution lipstick line last year and replace it with the even more extensive Vice line, I've come to appreciate the wisdom of that move. The lipsticks are now $5 cheaper ($17 vs. $22) and 0.6 grams larger (3.4 vs. 2.8); the bullets no longer have the wide, flat tip that made application so challenging; and I haven't noticed an overall dip in formula quality (though I can't say I've swatched all 120 shades). The packaging is lighter, but in my opinion, the functionality has improved: the thinner Revolution lipsticks often wobbled in their tubes, while the Vice lipsticks feel secure. Fine, Urban Decay: I'm a cynical bitch, but you win this one.


I now own three Vice lipsticks, one in the Comfort Matte formula (Backtalk, which is apparently the most popular shade) and two in the Metallized formula. My first Metallized lipstick was Roach, a deep bronze from the LE 20th-anniversary collection last year. Oddly, many of my favorite beauty products have been impulse purchases, and so was Roach. I quickly fell in love with the formula: moisturizing, almost opaque in one coat, creamy but not slippery. So when NYX Liquid Suede Metallic Matte in Modern Maven proved disappointing, I wondered if I could find a similar metallic brownish plum in Urban Decay's lineup. The Vice collection is so enormous that I don't have a mental catalog of names and colors, as I do with other brands' lipstick offerings. But there's something satisfying about approaching a huge display of lipsticks with an open mind and gazing stupidly at the rows of shades until one catches my eye. Perhaps it's the thrill of serendipity, or the comforting reminder that no matter how much of my precious hours I've devoted to memorizing lipstick names, I could have wasted even more time.

The two shades that immediately stood out as candidates were Conspiracy, a "plum-bronze shimmer," and Amulet, a "metallic brick-rose." Here's Amulet on the left and Conspiracy on the right, in direct sunlight:


"Plum-bronze shimmer" was exactly what I wanted, but that description actually seemed better suited to Amulet, which I ended up buying toward the end of my San Francisco stay. (The name may have influenced my decision, too: amulets feature in some of my favorite Adventure Time episodes.)


Do you like my new photo background? I bought this beautiful paper at the Maido stationery store in SF's Japan Center.



I couldn't resist putting on my new lipstick before I got home from my shopping trip, so here's a shot of the unspoiled tube near City Hall, right after I devoured some excellent Vietnamese vermicelli with tofu from the Little Green Cyclo truck.


Amulet is a very shifty color, appearing more plum outside and more copper-brown under warm artificial light. Why am I so attracted to lipstick colors that defy description? Here's a lip swatch of Amulet in indirect natural light:


And in direct sunlight:


Needless to say, I didn't bring my full lipstick collection on my travels, but here's Amulet swatched next to a few colors I have on hand. When I get back home, I'll post a new swatch photo with a wider range of shades (if I remember, which I can't guarantee). Amulet looks very similar to Wet n Wild Rebel Rose here, but it pulls noticeably warmer on my lips.

L-R: Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Rebel Rose, UD Amulet, UD Roach, MAC Pale Rose.

I've read mixed reviews of Urban Decay's Metallized Vice formula, but I find Amulet just as impressive as Roach, if not even better. It's creamy, comfortable, and not at all drying, and it lasts several hours without the need for touch-ups. It seems to cling to my lips, almost as if it's bonding with them. Amulet isn't blindingly metallic, but it has an unmistakable sheen.

Here it is on my face on a very cloudy day. I have no idea what my other makeup is, but I'm clearly not wearing anything exciting.


Here's Amulet inside, with ABH Antique Bronze eyeshadow and NYX Burnt Sienna lipstick on my eyes. I think my blush is Urban Decay Rapture, not that it matters when you can't really see it on my face.


In a coffee-shop bathroom (classy, I know), under (I think) fluorescent light:


Overall, I'm absolutely delighted with my third Urban Decay Vice lipstick. Here's hoping it's the lucky amulet I need for this fall!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

FOTDs: The Lowcountry

Hello from Alabama! I just returned from a weekend that combined several discrete types of awkwardness. There was the mundane "socializing with your significant other's extended family" awkwardness, compounded by the "associating with people far above your own family's socioeconomic bracket, with a totally different lifestyle and set of values" awkwardness, plus some jetlag and Yankee-in-the-South culture shock for good measure. In my boyfriend's words, it was perhaps the most "off-brand" way I could have spent those three days (my brand being, roughly, "soft-goth dirtbag academic"). Let's put it this way: what makeup would you wear to hang out with immensely rich people who live seven miles inside a gated community that contains two entire golf courses? I'm not sure I came up with a decent answer to this question, but I came up with an answer (or three), and I might as well record them here for posterity. Let me apologize in advance for the quality of some of the FOTD pictures: I didn't have many chances to take high-quality makeup selfies in flattering lighting. And for much of the weekend, I looked like this:

I admit, driving a golf cart is a lot of fun. Oh, another bit of awkwardness: I had to borrow my boyfriend's mom's shorts for tennis because I forgot my own. No makeup, no filter, no dignity.

Though the Southern-woman stereotype tends to involve big hair and false eyelashes, the women in my boyfriend's family are dressed-down, preppy types who wear little to no makeup. When I visit, I tone down my own look accordingly. My own aesthetic is far from preppy (I figured out a decade ago that polo shirts aren't made for busty women), but I usually save my weird statement lipsticks for San Francisco. For this particular weekend, I brought a smaller-than-usual selection of makeup and didn't even touch most of it.

First, my road-trip look. Since we left very early on both days of driving, I started the morning with a bare face and added to it throughout the day. Below, I'm wearing Glossier Boy Brow in Brown, Maybelline Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze, Maybelline Lash Sensational mascara (a new purchase that I'm liking so far, except that the brush dispenses way too much product), NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla, Illamasqua cream blush in Zygomatic, and NARS sheer lipstick in Dolce Vita. I didn't need a brush for any of these products, which I generally prefer when I'm doing my makeup at 70 mph on the interstate.


Here's a closeup of the mascara. The fan-shaped brush gave my lashes a nice overall shape, but the excess product clumped a few lashes together and I didn't have a clean spoolie on hand to separate them.


On the second night of our trip, we had dinner at a country club with a dress code that was described to me as "well, the men usually wear khakis and golf shirts." Uh, cool. I wore a simple dress in my second-favorite color, chartreuse. It's hard to choose makeup that harmonizes well with chartreuse, but I went for an overall peachy look. I'd brought my ABH Modern Renaissance palette, so I applied Warm Sienna in the crease and Antique Bronze all over the lid, with NYX Faux Black eyeliner in Burnt Sienna on the upper lashline. (I recently bought two of the NYX Faux Blacks; review to come!) I also wore Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, ColourPop Lunch Money highlighter, and Glossier Generation G in Cake.


I swear my eyelids develop new folds and creases every week. I'm curious how long it will be before I can no longer wear powder eyeshadow at all.


On the last full day, we toured Savannah, Georgia, on an afternoon when the temperature rose above 100°F. It had been far too long (five days!) since I'd worn a non-neutral lipstick, so I went for ColourPop Blotted Lip in Bee's Knees, a sheer reddish fuchsia that can be built to near-opacity. Since I wrote my initial Blotted Lip review, both lipstick bullets have broken off at the base, which is very annoying. I'm also of two minds whether to keep Drip, which dries out my lips badly almost every time I wear it. Oddly, I find Bee's Knees much less drying, and it's such a pretty color: it acquires a kind of luminosity after three or so coats. On my eyes, along with mascara, I wore ABH Warm Taupe in the crease and Urban Decay Demolition liner smudged along the upper lashline. My blush was Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff (I think I want to order Haze for the fall!), and my highlighter, as usual, was Lunch Money.


Founded in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia. Its historic district is the quintessential Southern Gothic spectacle: Corinthian columns, balconies of iron scrollwork, Spanish moss dangling from trees like giant clumps of spiderweb, cemeteries dating back to the American Revolution, and a humidity index perpetually over 80%. What's that, you want to see a bunch of tourist shots I took? COOL.

Spanish moss in the cemetery:


A Masonic temple:


Like many pre-Revolutionary cities, Savannah was built around a series of leafy public squares. Here's the statue of General James Oglethorpe, founder of the English colony of Georgia, in Chippewa Square:


Many of the Savannah College of Art and Design buildings are restored historic structures. Repurposed abandoned buildings are very much My Shit, but I didn't get a chance to explore this one because no one else wanted to dawdle in the oppressive heat. Philistines!


SCAD has a shop full of student- and professor-designed jewelry, which I couldn't afford...

I loved these earrings by Sam Norgard.

...and enamel pins, which I could:


Finally, another photo of that day's makeup, taken in a golf cart because that was the only way to traverse the vast distances of the aforementioned gated community. God, it was weird. I felt like Trump.


My nail polish for the trip was Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine in Damson, which is opaque in two coats, has impressive staying power, and looks especially luminous in summer sun. It takes a lot of courage to say this, guys, but Damson might be my very favorite nail polish.


I'm going to be writing my dissertation introduction for the rest of August, so I'm not sure how many posts I'll be able to make this month, but I'm hoping it will be at least two. See you soon!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

NYX Modern Maven and a Liquid Suede Metallic Matte Anti-Haul

The only makeup store close to where I live is an especially snobby Bluemercury, so when I visit my mom in San Francisco, I tend to spend more time than strictly necessary in Sephora and Ulta. During this particular visit, I was excited to check out the NYX Liquid Suede Metallic Matte lipsticks, which debuted online in early July but didn't come to Ulta stores until July 30. The original Liquid Suede formula works well for me (I own Amethyst, Stone Fox, and Brooklyn Thorn), so I couldn't wait to try the metallic version, which allegedly delivers "high-impact metallic color" in "a shockingly creamy" formula. Spoiler: I was disappointed. But, in the spirit of a Kimberly Clark anti-haul, I might as well share my experience on my blog. I was of two minds whether to write this review: I swatched all the shades but wore only one, and for only a couple of hours, and I didn't get a great photo of myself wearing it, and blah blah blah. But entire presidential campaigns have been launched on a more slender knowledge of government than my knowledge of the Metallic Liquid Suedes, so here we go.

I'm only a little ashamed that at 11:30 am on July 30, I was in Ulta asking the SA where I could find the Metallic Mattes. She was just putting out the new NYX displays (NYX has released about four new lip formulas in the last month; I'm not even attempting to keep track), and she very kindly opened the box of Metallic Mattes and set out some testers for me to swatch. Since I didn't want to be too annoying, I confined myself to the three that had caught my interest online: Go Rogue, a dark gray with greenish shift; Modern Maven, a brownish plum; and Neat Nude, a dark taupe. Here they are in that order, in shade (top) and sun:



On a later visit, I swatched the other seven shades: Bella, New Era, Exposed, Mauve Mist, Pure Society, Biker Babe, Ego. In the same order, in shade and then sun, as before:



Two details might jump out at you from these photos. First, this formula is very different from the original Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick, which sets to a semi-matte finish and can be wiped off the lips easily. The word "cream" is absent from the full name of the metallics, and the NYX website notes that the new formula is "inspired by" the OG Liquid Suede formula. That tricky turn of phrase makes sense now that I've tried the metallics: they dry down completely matte and are difficult to remove, much like the Milani Amore Matte Metallic lipstick I have. Second, you might have noticed that a few of the shadesparticularly Biker Babe, Mauve Mist, Neat Nude, and New Erafall short of full metallic glory, while Exposed is more glittery than metallic. The shades that stood out to me as both metallic and opaque were Bella (which seems to be the Instagram favorite), Go Rogue, Modern Maven, and Pure Society. Ego is pretty, but it looks a little streaky; I assume it would need at least two coats for full opacity.

I was briefly tempted by the cyberpunk coolness of Go Rogue, but having worn Stone Fox all of three times since May 2016, I couldn't imagine I'd reach for a metallic off-black more often than a matte dark gray. So I bought Modern Maven, assuming it would look the same on my lips as it did on my arm. I expected a medium pinkish plum, the metallic equivalent of Urban Decay Rapture, which was how it looked in lip swatches I'd seen online.

Ignore the decades-old comforter that my cat used as a scratching post in 1997. #lifestyleblogger

Yeah, no:


Modern Maven pulled darker and browner as it set on my lips, transforming into a sickly taupe that resembled my arm swatch of Neat Nude. The shimmer turned an odd frosty silver. The formula felt uncomfortably drying, and the metallic finish made my lips look even drier than they were, as if my mouth had suddenly aged 50 years. The fuck? I've tried some disappointing makeup in my time, but I tend to have good instincts: it's rare that something I anticipate so eagerly turns out to be so catastrophically bad. I wore Modern Maven for about 90 minutes before removing it in frustration (at myself as much as at NYX), and I returned it to Ulta the next day.

At the end of the day, these lipsticks are related to the Liquid Suedes in name only. The Liquid Suede Metallic Mattes could work for you if 1) your lips are in better condition than mine, 2) you don't mind a very dry matte finish, and 3) you realize that not all the shades are true metallics. There are some beautiful colors in the lineup, and had Modern Maven not flopped, I might have gone back eventually for Go Rogue or Biker Babe. Now, though? Don't need it, not gonna buy it (again).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some Thoughts on NARS and "Cruelty-Free" Beauty

Last month, NARS shocked many of its customers by announcing that it was expanding into China, whose government requires animal testing on all imported beauty products. Like most successful smaller beauty brands, NARS is already owned by a larger, non-CF brand (Shiseido, in NARS' case), but it has not allowed such testing on its own products since its founding in 1994. Now that's about to change, and quite a few NARS loyalists are upset, including prominent cruelty-free bloggers and YouTubers like Killer Colours and JKissa. I'm far from a prominent blogger, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to discuss my views on NARS and the larger debate over cruelty-free beauty.

NARS x Guy Bourdin, Holiday 2013 (source).

First, a little about my current stance. If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you'll know that while I strongly favor cruelty-free brands, I'm not exclusively cruelty-free. This accords with my views on meat-eating: I'm mostly vegetarian, and about half of my meals are vegan, but I eat meat or fish maybe three times a month. I also wear leather shoes, in part because I have fucked-up ballet feet that don't do well with synthetic material. When it comes to makeup, my big purchases are almost exclusively cruelty-free; the only exception is the occasional MAC lipstick. If I'm going to spend $30 on a lipstick, though, I'll patronize a brand that doesn't test on animals. As a result, I never buy makeup from designer brands like Chanel or Dior. For drugstore makeup, though, I'm a bit more lax. When I need a specific cheap makeup item, I check out the CF drugstore brands first, but I simply don't have access to many of those. I also feel less guilty spending $7 on a Maybelline lipstick than I would spending $37 on a Chanel lipstick. Irrational, I know.

NARS x Sarah Moon, Holiday 2016 (source).

My opinions on skincare are slightly more complicated. Again, all other things being equal, I favor CF brands. But skincare products either work or they don't, and I don't feel too guilty about favoring a non-CF product that plays well with my skin over a CF one that breaks me out (looking at you, Lush). Also, in my experience, cruelty-free skincare is a lot more expensive and elusive than cruelty-free makeup. I was recently in Sephora to look for an oil cleanser, and I couldn't find one that was both cruelty-free and affordable for me. (For the record, I ended up with the Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil, which is working perfectly so far. More on that in a future post.)

There's also the unfortunate reality that the deeper you look into any brand, within the beauty industry or outside it, the more ethical issues you'll uncover. That's just how capitalism works, and it's up to every consumer to decide what she finds too problematic to support. Sitting here right now, scouring my brain and browser history, I can't think of a single beauty brand that 1) lives up to all my ethical standards and 2) makes products I actually like. Many of the brands that advertise their CF status are problematic in other ways. Jeffree Star, Kat Von D, and Lime Crime are headed by deeply objectionable people. Marc Jacobs had that cringetastic dreadlocks scandal last year. Glossier...is Glossier. Some CF brands produce limited shade ranges that exclude many people of color. Indie makeup has its own universe of interpersonal drama. Personally, I choose not to support the first three brands I listed: I'd rather give my money to a non-CF brand than to Jeffree Star's Chanel-boomerang fund. Other people make different calculations. Some of my favorite beauty bloggers love Kat Von D; some love designer brands; some love indies. I don't judge them for those choices, and I hope they don't judge me for mine.

NARS x Steven Klein, Holiday 2015 (source).

It should also be noted that many small brands are cruelty-free because they don't innovate: they're using formulas and ingredients developed by larger, non-CF brands. The phrase "cruelty-free" is an effective rhetorical tool, but follow any brand far enough back in the production timeline and you'll uncover some form of cruelty to either animals or humans. Which is not to say that we should all throw up our hands and stop supporting CF brands: individual consumers can make a difference, as they did a few years ago when they forced Urban Decay not to expand into China. However, I think this issue is more complicated than "buy exclusively cruelty-free or you're a HEARTLESS ANIMAL KILLER." Like it or not, the real problem lies with the larger system, not with individual brands. Companies aren't charities: they exist to make money, and if they can make more money, you bet they will.

NARS x Andy Warhol, Holiday 2012 (source).

But am I disappointed in NARS, you ask? Yes, I'm fucking disappointed. For as long as I've been passionate about makeup, NARS has been my favorite brand. It's the only brand I've ever loved wholeheartedly as a brand, as an overarching aesthetic vision and not just a collection of products I happen to enjoy. But the products are pretty damned good, too. NARS makes several of my holy grails, such as undereye concealer (Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla), matte red lipstick (Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red), and sheer nude lipstick (Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita). I love makeup because I love color, and in my opinion, NARS does color better than any other brand. Year after year, they release shades that are complex and offbeat but sophisticated and wearable. In particular, I have yet to find a brand that produces more beautifully balanced pinks and reds.

Top to bottom: Vanilla, Mysterious Red, Dolce Vita.

I haven't decided whether I'll repurchase my holy grails after I run out, but the good news is that inspiration is free. And NARS provides plenty of it, incorporating such eclectic influences as Pop Art, old Hollywood, science fiction, and bondage. So whether or not I give NARS any more of my money (and right now, I'm not inclined to), I can at least follow their releases and appreciate their experiments with color and texture.

What are your thoughts on the NARS controversy and cruelty-free beauty? I know that opinions vary widely within the beauty community, so I'd love to hear yours!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Reverse Lipstick Chronology #4: ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play

Needless to say, I wasn't feeling entirely celebratory this Independence Day, but I also wasn't going to miss the chance to wear blue highlighter and metallic red lipstick at the same time. I thought I'd use this FOTD post to write a quick review of a product I bought back in November: ColourPop Lippie Stix in Let's Play, part of last year's ColourPop x Hello Kitty collaboration.


Growing up, I owned dozens of Sanrio items: sticker albums, mechanical pencils, stuffed animals, keychainsand, most '90s of all, a red Hello Kitty fanny pack that I still have at my mom's house. I remember chewing Keroppi gum and receiving a set of Pochacco nail polishes for a birthday present. I remember going to FAO Schwarz, the legendary (and now sadly closed) New York toy store, and putting a coin in a giant light-up Hello Kitty that spat out a paper fortune. In other words, there was no way I could let ColourPop's Hello Kitty collection pass me by. To my credit, I limited myself to one item: the Lippie Stix (Stick? Stik?) in Let's Play, a deep pinkish red semi-matte lipstick with red and fuchsia sparkle. Honestly, even if the product had been total shit, I would probably have paid $5 for the packaging alone (omfg the little bows all over the box and tube, I can't even). But the swatches I saw online looked great, and I figured that a metallic red would be perfect for the winter holidays. That's right, I said "holidays." #waronchristmas


Let's Play features a "satin luxe" formula that, so far as I know, has yet to show up in any other ColourPop lipstick shades. "Satin luxe" seems to mean "semi-matte with lots of shimmer," and given how popular metallic lipsticks are these days, I'm surprised ColourPop hasn't produced more colors in this formula. But they're basically churning out a new collection every week (I've long since stopped keeping track), so I'm not surprised that one or two lipstick formulas have gotten lost in the shuffle. According to my lipstick taxonomy, Let's Play sits on the cusp of shimmer, metallic, and duochrome. Up close, the individual red and fuchsia sparkles are apparent, but from a distance, there's more of a pinkish red sheen. The base color is a true blue-based red, but the shimmer pulls it closer to raspberry.


With some other coolish reds:

L-R: NARS Mysterious Red, NARS Cruella, Let's Play, Wet n Wild Missy and Fierce, ColourPop Bee's Knees (two swipes).

Lip swatches in shade, direct sunlight, and artificial light, respectively:




Prior to Let's Play, I'd tried one other Lippie Stix: Frenchie, a bright coral red in a matte formula. I found that shade heavy, waxy, and drying, and I destashed it in short order. I'm happy to say that Let's Play has a superior formula, though the heaviness and waxiness are still present. As you can see from the lip swatches above, the formula is stiff enough that I have a hard time getting it to stick to my inner lower lip, while the tip of the bullet makes outlining my lips somewhat difficult. (Yes, I should probably use a liner. No, I don't own a red lip liner.) There's a fair bit of transfer when I drink from a cup, though Let's Play looks decent for several hours if I don't eat; as the base shade fades, the glitter becomes more prominent. Let's Play isn't drying, but I wouldn't call it comfortable, either: I can definitely feel it on my mouth. It's also very prone to staining. I can't say my experience with Let's Play has encouraged me to try more Lippie Stix, but the shade is special enough that I can live with a waxier formula for a few hours, you know?

For yesterday's FOTD, I used two liners on my upper lashline: Urban Decay Demolition, a dark cool brown, followed by NYX Golden Bronze, an orange-toned bronze. My blush was Illamasqua Zygomatic, and my highlighter was Topshop Glow Stick in Otherworldly, a sheer white cream, topped with NYX Duo Chromatic Illuminating Powder in Twilight Tint, a white/blue duochrome. Though I've owned Twilight Tint for a few months now, I haven't quite worked out how to wear it. I use a Sonia Kashuk fan brush to apply what feels like a normal amount of product, but because my skin is so pale, the white base blends right in. So I add more. And more. And then I turn to the side and have an "I just blue myself" moment:

Believe me, it looked bolder in person. My earrings are from Color Theory Shop on Etsy.

The highlight looked subtler from the front, at least:


I wore this FOTD for a long, humid walk around the lake near campus. It's lonely here now that my boyfriend is visiting his parents and everyone is out of town for the summer, but I retain my commitment to inappropriate glam.

I was listening to Lana Del Rey, and sweating heavily.

Honestly, my biggest issue with Let's Play is its extreme festiveness. I've worn it exactly three times so far: on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Independence Day. I know metallic red lipstick is everywhere these days, but it's hard for me not to associate it with holidays. Do you have any advice for overcoming this brain problem? Because this lipstick is too pretty not to wear more often.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom (Plus Another Rant)

Glossier keeps coming up with new marketing strategies to put me off and new products to tempt me back in. No sooner had I planned a post on Glossier's MLM-esque rep program than they released a fucking birthday-cake-scented lip balm with sparkles and holographic packaging. I have a price, and Glossier knows it. So this post will be a two-parter: a review of Birthday Balm Dotcom, followed by one of my usual rants against the marriage of social media and late capitalism. Who says we can't have our cake and eat it too?

*** PART 1: THE REVIEW ***


Birthday is Glossier's collaboration with Milk Bar, the dessert arm of the Momofuku restaurant empire. The pairing makes a lot of sense: like Glossier, Milk Bar sells overpriced, overhyped products in small portions, but damned if its aesthetic isn't on point. Here's the "Cereal Milk" soft-serve I had last October in Williamsburg; it was tasty, but who wants soft-serve without a cone? Give me Mister Softee any day.


Like the other flavors of Balm Dotcom, Birthday is permanent and retails for $12, though Renee kindly sent me one with her Glossier store credit (and I was planning to buy one with my own store credit!).


It comes with a sparkly balloon sticker that's so cute I'm tempted to put it on my laptop, even though I don't like using my person to advertise products (yes, my computer counts as part of my person; we're all cyborgs now).


Seriously, the people who designed the packaging for this product deserve a raise. Say what you will about Glossier, they know how to put hearts in their fellow millennials' eyes.


THE BOX HAS A FUCHSIA LINING, GUYS.


The Birthday Balm Dotcom comes in the same squeezy tube as the original BDC, and it has the same thick, unctuous formula, which lasts several hours on my lips if I don't eat. A little goes a long way!

Are we allowed to use the word "holosexual" anymore?

The Glossier website copy for Birthday promises "subtle shimmer," and that is indeed what you get. Here's a hand swatch in indirect natural light:


In direct sunlight:


I was pleased to discover that the sparkle is actually visible on the lips. Here's a lip swatch in two lighting situations, both natural/indoors:


From a regular distance, the balm looks more like a slightly milky gloss, though you can detect a hint of sparkle if you look closely. In true Glossier fashion, I'm wearing no makeup except undereye concealer and Birthday BDC:


I wasn't terribly impressed with the original Balm Dotcom, which I found too thick and insufficiently moisturizing. Birthday does feel more moisturizing than the original; really, though, I'm just here for the glitter.


One final detail to keep in mind is that Birthday has a very strong scent. It's supposed to smell like Milk Bar's birthday cake, and it is indeed redolent of vanilla and butter. The smell lingers for about an hour after application. I quite enjoy it, but if you hate strong fragrance (especially vanilla fragrance) in your lip products, watch out for this one. Once the vanilla wears off, the regular petroleum/lanolin Balm Dotcom smell replaces it. The balm is slightly sweet if you get it in your mouth, which is odd but not inappropriate, I guess.

By the way, does anyone remember those sparkly Lip Smackers with jewels on the caps? I had a vanilla one c. 2000 and it smelled almost identical to Birthday, with similar silver holographic packaging. Here's a photo of another one I still have, in a boysenberry flavor:

Feat. genuine Y2K-era butterfly clips.

Happy early 30th birthday to me!

*** PART 2: THE RANT ***

And now for (more than) a few words on Glossier's rep program.

By posting about any product on social media, you're providing free advertising content for a brand: that's just the nature of the beast. Glossier was one of the first brands to harness that beast by making every customer a de facto Glossier affiliate. When you place your first order, you receive a link through which other people can purchase products. First-time customers get 20% off, and if they use your link, you get $10 in Glossier store credit, for a maximum of $500 per year. (Update: as of July 2017, that amount has been reduced to $5.) Hence all the "get 20% off Glossier!!!" spam on Instagram, though the spammers fail to mention two facts: 1) all first-time customers get 20% off, whether or not they purchase through an affiliate link; 2) buying further products through a link doesn't bring further 20% discounts. If you've already ordered from the Glossier website once and you decide to make another order through my link, I'm the only one of us who benefits monetarily, to the tune of $10 in store credit. (You benefit if you enjoy my snarky Glossier posts and would like to see me review more products, and I'm very grateful to the four whole people who have clicked my link so far.)

Last year, Glossier took this arrangement to another level by inaugurating its rep program, which gives Glossier representatives a small monetary commission on every product purchased through their link. Instead of store credit, Glossier reps earn cold hard cash, and they get products sent to them in advance. From what I understand, the commission increases over time, depending on how many products a rep manages to sell. Needless to say, this encourages aggressive sales tactics: Reddit users have reported that mentioning Glossier in a comment can bring a flurry of private messages from reps eager to move some product. Initially, Glossier handpicked a small number of customers as reps, but now anyone can apply through email to join the program. I have no idea how rigorous the screening process is or how many Glossier reps are out there, but these days every Glossier post on Instagram seems to come from a rep eager to tell you that she NEVER used sunscreen before Invisible Shield.

If all this sounds familiar, you've probably come in contact with LipSense or Younique or another multilevel-marketing brand (MLM). These companies operate as pyramid schemes: distributors order a large amount of product directly from the brand and sell it at a markup to people in their area, often friends and family. But the real money comes from recruiting other distributors, who then pay commission on their sales to the person who recruited them. I have a morbid fascination with MLMs and their predatory tactics ("we empower women to run their own small businesses!"), so I've done a lot of reading on the cultish mentality surrounding these companies. MLMs prey on women who are already financially vulnerable, and often require them to buy huge amounts of product before they start selling: LuLaRoe, renowned purveyor of pizza-printed leggings, demands an outlay of $5-6k. (John Oliver has a great segment on MLMs if you'd like to learn more.)

To be clear, Glossier is not a true MLM: reps don't earn money by recruiting other reps, they're not required to buy product wholesale from Glossier, and potential customers can purchase directly from Glossier's website instead of going through a distributor. And so far as I know, Glossier isn't promising its reps that they can quit their day jobs and pull in a living wage shilling Haloscope and Boy Brow. But the rep program is more than a little MLM-y: it fosters a relentless positivity and a cult mentality (when was the last time you saw a negative Glossier review?), and it encourages customers to turn their social bonds into cash flow. New reps announce their affiliation with Glossier through eerily similar blog posts:


Make no mistake, Glossier knows exactly what it's doing. This Quartz article breaks down the mechanics of the rep program ("Mary Kay for the new millennium") and includes a revealing interview with Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of ITG/Glossier. Weiss says that Glossier operates on the "idea of every single woman being an influencer," and that for most Glossier reps, money is a secondary concern: "'I would argue that there are more important things than money,' she said. 'It's about the ability to have a voice and the ability to be a thought-leader.'" Can we just think about this quote for a second? She's saying that the real reward for Glossier reps is the privilege of being associated with Glossier. A massively wealthy woman uses her customer base for practically free advertising and pays reps less than minimum wage to splash her products all over their social media, "but there are more important things than money." Sure, Emily. I bet you paid for your pre-wedding colonics and microcurrent facials and your custom Narciso Rodriguez gown with Instagram likes.

Look, I get it: if you just want some free Glossier product and pocket money, the rep program might be a good deal for you. But you're still getting paid so much less than you would if you were a real Glossier employee producing the same amount of content. It feels shady to me, honestly. It feels exploitative and anti-feminist. The rep program has made me think twice about giving Glossier any more of my money, though I do genuinely love some of their products. I hope the brand dials down this program eventually: it's at odds with the effortless-cool-girl vibe they try so hard to project, and it's ethically sketchy at best. Is it a full-scale moral outrage? Of course not, but it leaves a worse taste than birthday cake in my mouth.
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