Monday, May 15, 2017

Sheer Matte Showdown: ColourPop Blotted Lip vs. Glossier Generation G

I've owned two Glossier Generation G lipsticks, Jam and Cake, for over a year now, and I wear both pretty regularly. They have their flaws (enumerated in the reviews I've linked), but I love the ease and subtlety of the sheer matte finish. So when I heard that ColourPop was releasing a new lipstick formula that seemed, shall we say, inspired by the Generation G formula, I had to order a couple of shades for comparison.

For the record, it doesn't bother me that ColourPop more or less ripped off Glossier's idea. Glossier has ripped off quite a few ideas from Asian skincare, and anyway, that's how the beauty industry works: one brand comes up with a general idea, and other brands improve upon it, and the consumer gets a wider range of choices. While Glossier offers six shades of Generation G, ColourPop's Blotted Lip formula comprises 11 shades, with a further eight in the liquid-to-matte Ultra Blotted Lip range. All of the BL and UBL shades have names that evoke popsicles or candy, in line with the "popsicle lip" trend that has dominated East Asian beauty for years but has only just made it to the West.


In this post, I'll compare the Blotted Lip and Generation G formulas in several different categories and see which comes out on top. (Note that although I spent my own money on the Blotted Lips, the Generation Gs were gifts from Renee.) First, though, a bunch of photos! Choosing just two Blotted Lip shades was tough, but I eventually settled on Drip, described on the website as a "warm rosey mauve," and Bees Knees, a "fuchsia."

It should be "Bee's Knees," and the absence of that apostrophe really annoys me.

I don't see much mauve in Drip, which looks to me like a straightforward pinkish brown, though it pulls a bit cooler on my lips. Bees Knees is a very red hot pink along the lines of Revlon Cherries in the Snow, and the more you layer it the redder it gets. I don't usually care for this shade in opaque formulas (hence my neglect of Cherries in the Snow), but I find it a lot more wearable in Blotted Lip form. Here's one and three layers of Bees Knees (left) and Drip:

One (top) and three layers of Bees Knees on my lips:

Drip, same story:

And some comparison swatches:

L-R: Revlon Colorburst in Fuchsia, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Bees Knees (1 layer), Revlon Balm Stain in Crush. Why are all my fuchsias from Revlon?

L-R: Milani Matte Naked, MAC Whirl, Drip (1 layer), Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry.

Finally, the two shades on my face (I'm wearing about three layers in each photo). Here's Bees Knees with ABH Buon Fresco eyeshadow, Urban Decay Demolition eyeliner, and NARS Threesome blush:

Drip with ColourPop Paper Tiger and ABH Golden Ochre eyeshadows, UD Whiskey eyeliner, and Illamasqua Zygomatic blush:

Not terribly happy with this eye look. Oh well.

And now for the SHEER MATTE SHOWDOWN, with the caveat that Glossier has made slight changes to the Generation G packaging and formula since I got Jam and Cake. The tubes are now fully opaque, and Glossier claims the formula is more moisturizing (though customer reviews would indicate otherwise). But since Glossier hasn't reformulated the lipsticks completely, I think my comparisons are still worth something.

ColourPop: 1g (0.035 oz)
Glossier: 2g (0.07 oz)

The Generation G lipsticks apparently contain twice as much product as the Blotted Lips, which I find baffling. The tubes are almost exactly the same size, and the bullets are almost exactly the same width. I've used about half of each Generation G shade, but from what I can remember, the bullets are about the same length as the Blotted Lip bullets.

The only explanation I can think of is that the Glossier lipsticks have more product wedged down in the tube to stabilize the bullet. But since that product isn't accessible unless you dig it out, I think it's fair to say that these lipsticks are functionally about the same size. Right? Am I missing something?

Winner: Glossier, I guess? I wish I had a new Gen G so I could do a better comparison.

ColourPop: $5 for 1 g (0.035 oz) = $5 per gram
Glossier: $18 for 2 g (0.07 oz) = $9 per gram

Even if the Generation Gs really are double the size of the Blotted Lips, they're still much pricier per gram. And since the Blotted Lips are more pigmented, you'll likely go through them less quickly. I think the Generation Gs are vastly overpriced for what they are, and I'm happy that people wanting the sheer matte look now have a cheaper option.

Winner: ColourPop


Both lipsticks are housed in thin white tubes that snap shut securely (remember that the new Gen G tubes are more opaque than the one above). The silver lettering on the ColourPop tube is a nice touch, though if experience can be trusted, it will probably wear off in a few weeks. I like that the inner part of the Blotted Lip tube matches the shade of the lipstick.

Almost every review on the Glossier site and MakeupAlley notes two big problems with the Generation G packaging: the cap is prone to cracking and the bullets often break off at the base. In fact, it seems like the packaging revamp has somehow made the cap flimsier! I can report that both of my Generation G bullets broke off shortly after purchase (the caps are still intact), though I managed to mash them back into their tubes. Interestingly, a couple of Blotted Lip reviews have mentioned the same issue. There must be something about a dry, waxy formula in a thin tube that leads to breakage. My own Blotted Lips are fine so far, but I haven't had them long; I'll update this post if they break eventually.

Winner: ColourPop


Glossier claims that all of their Generation G shades have "dialed-down pigment loads," though Cake and Like in particular are "super subtle." I can certainly attest to this! No matter how many coats I layer on my lips (usually about four or five), neither Jam nor Cake can reach full opacity. The Blotted Lips are significantly more pigmented, and Bees Knees in particular takes on the look of a regular lipstick after three coats. Drip and the two Gen Gs aren't pigmented enough to smooth over lines and dry patches on my lips, but Bees Knees is.

Here's one swipe (top) and three swipes (bottom) of each shade:

L-R: Jam, Bees Knees, Drip, Cake.

And here I am wearing Cake...

...and Jam:

In this category, I think the Blotted Lips have the advantage. They're sheer when first applied, but you have the option of layering them for a bolder look. The Generation Gs are practically invisible on my lips with just one swipe, and I have to use several coats if I want them to show up at all. Again, this is just personal preference: the Generation G formula was designed for people wary of traditional lipstick, and that is...not me, lol.

Winner: ColourPop


The Blotted Lips have no scent whatsoever, while the Generation Gs have a faint clay-like smell that vanishes after application.

Winner: ColourPop, though I don't find Glossier's scent problematic at all.

Comfort Level:

Glossier claims that the Generation G formula contains blue agave, which "binds moisture inside lips for comfortable wear," and safflower oil, which "creates a barrier to prevent moisture loss in lips." But a glance at the customer reviews will reveal that the formula falls short in the moisturizing department. Personally, I find the Generation Gs neither drying nor hydrating. They certainly don't make my lips feel better if they're already dry, but they don't actively suck out moisture either. They're also more emollient than the Blotted Lips, meaning that I can smush the color around on my lips after application.

Unfortunately, the Blotted Lips haven't lived up to my expectations for comfort. Drip in particular is quite drying (it even looks dry in the FOTD I posted above), and layering it over a balm interferes with color payoff. The best method I've found is one layer of Drip, followed by one thin layer of balm, followed by a couple more layers of Drip. I was hoping that Drip could be my new throw-on-and-go purse lipstick (to replace Revlon Pink Truffle, which I seem to have lost, and which itself replaced my lost NARS Dolce Vita), but the formula is just too finicky. For some reason, Bees Knees is more comfortable than Drip, though still a bit more drying than the Generation G formula. The Blotted Lips aren't at all emollient, either: I can't really move them around on my lips, which is a problem when I've applied them wonkily.

Winner: Glossier


When I wear one of my Generation Gs, I find myself touching up every 90 minutes or so. The Blotted Lips last longer: Bees Knees in particular stays on for 2-3 hours before I need to touch up. Bees Knees also seems to fade more evenly than Jam, which can cling to dry patches in my lips.

Winner: ColourPop


ColourPop triumphed in most categories, and I'd recommend the Blotted Lips more enthusiastically overall, but the comfort level is a big drawback for me. My experience with Drip doesn't tempt me to buy more shades in this formula. A couple of people have commented on my Instagram that they find the Ultra Blotted Lip formula less drying (it's apparently more like a lip stain than a traditional liquid-to-matte lipstick), so that's something to keep in mind. As for Generation G, my opinion hasn't changed since last year: a nice lipstick, but not worth $18but then, what lipstick is worth the price asked for it?

Have you tried either of these formulas, or anything similar?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MAC Metallic Lipsticks in Metal Head and Pale Rose, and a Lipstick Taxonomy

Now that beauty-throwback trends have slid forward in time from the Brown '90s to the Iridescent '90s, brands are releasing a flood of metallic lipsticksor, at least, what they call "metallic lipsticks." But there tends to be a huge amount of variation between one formula and another, and even between one shade and another. Some "metallic" shades have an even sheen; others have big chunks of glitter; others shift their color depending on the angle and light. Can all of these finishes really be described by the same adjective? I THINK NOT. So I present to you...

You might have to enlarge the image to see all of my neurotic little notes, but the main point I'm trying to make in this flow chart is that whether a lipstick can be classified as "metallic" depends on 1) the size of the shiny particles and 2) the color of the particles relative to the base color. I define a metallic lipstick as one with an even sheen (i.e. no visibly discrete particles) that is the same color as the base color. Here's a close-up of the relevant section:

All of these categories are up for debate, of course, but this is more or less how I classify lipsticks in my head. Which brings me to the subject of today's review: Metal Head and Pale Rose, two shades from MAC's new Metallic range. I wish I had a macro lens or, you know, anything better than an iPhone camera, because my photos don't remotely do justice to the sparkle.

I was a little confused when I saw photos of these lipsticks pop up on Temptalia. I'd been expecting something like the NYX Wicked Lippies, but most of the MAC shades appeared to have a sheer base color and a contrasting color of shimmer or glitter particles, which made them indistinguishable from MAC's venerable Frost formula. (My flow chart would put most MAC "frost" shades into the "shimmer" or "pearl" category, since I define "frost" pretty narrowly as a white or silvery sheen. Again, up for debate; there's a case to be made that a silver/white pearl or a gold sheen could count as frost, or that I'm putting way too much thought into this.) It's unclear to me why MAC didn't simply expand the Frost range, as they did the Matte range two years ago. My best guess is that "frost" is still a dirty word, evoking silvery bubblegum horrors from the '80s, and MAC thought they might as well cut their losses and create an entirely new category. Hey, it worked on me: I spent an embarrassing amount of time one morning admiring Temptalia's sneak peek of all 18 shades. If you're in need of some extra beauty today (and who isn't, these days), do yourself a favor and scroll slowly down that page. Here are some far less pretty swatches of my own, taken under Nordstrom lighting that's pulling all the shades a bit warm:

L-R: Cold Front, Royal Hour, Pale Rose, Metal Head, Foiled Rose.

And the full display:

The first shade to catch my eye was Metal Head, a sheer purply black with fuchsia sparkle. Some of you will remember my ultimately futile search for a sheer black lipstick last year (posts here and here). After destashing my deluxe sample of Givenchy Noir Révélateur earlier this year, I gave up the quest, concluding that it might not be possible to find a lipstick that delivered the look I wanted. But when I saw Metal Head, my lust revived. Honestly, I didn't even care how it wore; I just wanted to own and ogle that tube of cyberpunk perfection. So I bought it. 

A few weeks later I tried on Pale Rose, which seems to be the blogger favorite, and bought that too. 

Even before swatching these lipsticks, I had a feeling that the flow chart would place them in a category other than "metallic." Below, I've swatched them next to two other shiny lipsticks: Urban Decay Roach and Milani The Ultimatte. Both of those shades have an even sheen that's roughly the same color as the base color, which qualifies them for the "metallic" category. The MAC lipsticks, though...well, take a look:

L-R: Roach, Pale Rose, Metal Head, The Ultimatte.

Out of focus:

Pale Rose and Metal Head have much larger sparkles than the other two. And while Pale Rose's sparkles are similar in color to its base, Metal Head's sparkles are definitely not. My flow chart would put Pale Rose in the "glitter" family and Metal Head in "shimmer."

But the chart has one big weakness: it assesses how lipsticks look in the tube, not on the lips. And unless I'm in direct artificial light, the two colors in Metal Head blend into a metallic-looking grayish purple. Someone commented on my Instagram that the shade looks very similar to Kling It On from MAC's Star Trek collection last year, and after looking up swatches, I suspect that Metal Head may be a repackaged Kling It On. So if you missed out on that one, here's another chance!

I worried that Metal Head might apply or wear off unevenly, but I'm impressed by the formula. It's definitely sheer (the swatch above is two or three layers), and if you look closely, you can see that it bunches up a little in my lip lines. From a normal distance, though, I think it looks pretty good! It applies smoothly without being too slippery (though it does need touching up after two hours or so), and it feels comfortable and slightly moisturizing.

When I posted about Metal Head on Instagram, I got some questions about whether it would work as a topper for another lipstick. So I layered it over MAC matte lipstick in Men Love Mystery, a bright warm purple. Here's Men Love Mystery on its own (top) and under Metal Head (bottom):

Layered over Milani Matte Naked, Metal Head produces an interesting purplish taupe:

Metal Head made both lipsticks darker and cooler-toned, but the sparkle didn't really translate in either case, which was disappointing. Still, much better for a "smoky lip" than Black Lace Rabbit.

Some reviewers have praised Pale Rose for being more opaque than MAC's darker metallic shades like Metal Head. What they haven't made clear, though, is that it's not the base color that provides that opacity; it's the thickly packed glitter. Metal Head looks metallic under certain lights, but Pale Rose always looks as sparkly as Lana Del Rey's décolletage in the "Music To Dangle Prepositions To Watch Boys To" video:

If Metal Head is cyberpunk, Pale Rose evokes trashy '60s and '70s futurism, like Lana Del Rey in a lamé catsuit and fake antennae. I don't know why I'm so attracted to that aesthetic this spring, but I really am (not that my attraction translates into any meaningful difference in my fashion or makeup). Pale Rose is a sheer pinkish brown with abundant gold sparkles and a glint of pink here and there. I've swatched it between two other nudeish lipsticks, Bourjois Beige Trench (left) and Milani Matte Naked (right). Beige Trench looks shimmery here, but that's just the sunlight.

Pale Rose on my lips:

When I say "abundant gold sparkles," that's exactly what I mean. Pale Rose feels gritty when I'm applying it (though not when it's sitting on my lips). And I wasn't aware until I tried Pale Rose that a lipstick could have glitter fallout. Here's the tissue with which I removed it last time I wore it:

All this sounds like complaining, but I'm actually pleased with Pale Rose. It's not an everyday shade, but I like it as a retro-futuristic variation on an ordinary MLBB. Here I am wearing Pale Rose with a Modern Renaissance "smoky eye" that got almost entirely lost in my eyelid crease. I'm wearing Warm Sienna in the crease, Antique Bronze all over the lid, Cyprus Umber in the outer corner, and (I think) Primavera in the inner corner:

It was smoky, though, I promise. I need to start blending my crease color way higher, I guess. But how much higher can I possibly take it before it runs into my eyebrow?

Overall, I really enjoy Metal Head and Pale Rose. I'd recommend the MAC metallics to anyone who enjoys offbeat lip colors, with the caveat that most of the shades are not true metallics but sheer lipsticks packed with shimmer of a different color. If that appeals to you, then knock yourself out. Have you come around to the Iridescent '90s yet?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

K-Pop Beauty Inspiration, Spring 2017

As you probably know by now, I am k-pop girl-group trash. I watch a lot of k-pop videos, which means that I encounter a lot of k-beauty. Sometimes I resolve to devote an entire post to the makeup in one music video, only to find an even better look in another video three days later. If I go on like this much longer, I'll have a yearlong backlog, so let this post be my official trend report for spring 2017. I've isolated three trends from a range of videos, and since they're all more or less wearable, I hope you get some spring inspiration from this post!

Trend #1: Hazy Peachy Eyes

This is a much softer version of the warm smoky eye that still dominates Western Insta-beauty. In most iterations of this look, one or two light peachy shades are blown out all over the lid and the lower lashline, with a thin brown or black liner on the upper lashline. Sometimes the peach or orange accents are concentrated on the outer corners of the eyes, with a more neutral shadow on the rest of the lid. Belly's recent look with Suqqu's new Kisui palette is a great everyday version of this look; here are some non-everyday versions, complete with face stickers!

1. Twice, "Knock Knock"

Twice is the Korean girl group of the moment, which means that several groups have already copied the makeup in this video and more will probably copy it before long. In keeping with their young, fresh image, the members of Twice are wearing very delicate monochrome peach looks, like this one on Nayeon. If you look closely, the peachy color is concentrated at the outer corners and winged out slightly.


A closer look at the peachy eye:

This is all very subtle, though. Let's progress to something a bit bolder:

2. Lovelyz, "WoW!"

Here the diffused peach is darker and rustier, and it surrounds the entire eye, with an accent of thin black liner on the upper lashline. To be fair, there's an orangey filter on the shot below; the actual makeup is probably more subtle than it looks here.

Even zoomed out, though, you can see a slight smoky effect:

Edit: Lovelyz featured yet another peachy eye in a teaser video for a new song!

3. Pristin, "Wee Woo"

K-pop newcomers Pristin deliver the boldest of these three peachy looks. Here the peach verges on orange, and is packed onto the lid with a thicker black liner:

Like the peach shadow in the Twice video, this orange shade is winged out:

Again, there's a warm peachy filter that could be influencing the look of the makeup, but whatever, I wanted to include a photo of my two favorite members, Yuha (left) and Roa:

I recently saw some tweet along the lines of "straight people will never experience the emotion of 'oh god I'm so gay.'" Although I'm bisexual, I'd like to thank k-pop for inducing that emotion in me on a regular basis.

Trend #2: Warm Cheeks, Cool Lips

Like most makeup wearers, I match the undertones of my blush to the undertones of my lipstick, so I was taken aback this spring to see multiple k-pop groups pairing peachy cheeks with fuchsia or berry lips. It's such a simple twist, but counterintuitive enough to make an impression. My first example is relatively subtle:

1. Dreamcatcher, "Good Night"

In one of the bizarre reshufflings that seem to happen every other week in k-pop, obscure girl group Minx added two new members and rebranded as the leather-wearing, heavy-metal-influenced Dreamcatcher earlier this year. Most k-pop rebrandings come to nothing, but this one was well-considered: the group's fanbase has grown, especially internationally (check out their cover of Maroon 5's "Lucky Strike"), and their music and powerful dance moves set them apart from more sugary girl groups like Twice. In the video for "Good Night," the undead grayish cast of the members' skin is the most noticeable makeup effect, but the blush/lipstick combo comes a close second:

One of my favorite girl groups, EXID, had a somewhat disappointing comeback this month. The new single is decidedly less upbeat than their usual fare, while the video is full of the blown-out filters that k-pop MV directors seem to love these days. And is it even an EXID video without surrealist sexual innuendo? However, "Night Rather than Day" has one redeeming factor: Junghwa's makeup, as seen below.

EXID has a more ~adult concept than most girl groups (though Junghwa, the youngest member, is only 21), and the makeup in this video is accordingly sultry and edgy. Junghwa is wearing a bronzey smoky eye with winged liner, and her peach blush is concentrated in a horizontal lozenge shape level with the tip of her nose and stretching the length of each eye. This is the igari look, meant to give a "hungover" effectwhich makes sense, considering that she's drinking wine fully clothed in an empty bathtub. (Hence her wine-stained lips, too.)

LE's look doesn't fit into this trend at all, but I'm going to include it because I can:

Trend #3: Messy Waves

K-pop usually tries to project an image of sleek perfection, so the mussed hair I've been seeing in videos and photoshoots is a welcome change, even if it's just as calculated as anything else in the industry. Here's another screenshot from the Lovelyz video; Jiae's hairstyle (left) is '80s in an ungood way, but I love Kei's messy pigtails.

Taeyeon, leader of Girls' Generation and queen of my heart, in her solo song "Make Me Love You":

Jessica Jung, formerly of Girls' Generation (that scandal will send you down an Internet rabbit hole, be warned):


Sulli, formerly of f(x), for Elle Korea:

I'm not sure how many of my readers are at all interested in k-pop, but I hope you enjoyed this post nonetheless! I'd like this to become a semi-regular feature on my blog, with a few more installments throughout the year. For now, here's what I'll be up to this weekend: