Friday, March 16, 2018

Winter 2018 Favorites

As promised, I'm trying seasonal favorites posts this year. I worried that this would encourage me to rave about a dozen plus products that initially wowed me, then disappointed me when the initial luster wore off, buuuuuuut I've only got three beauty-related products, one book, one soundtrack, and a piece of clothing. I guess I'm pickier than I give myself credit for.

So let's start with the beauty products! After finishing a sample vial of Etat Libre d'Orange Remarkable People and obtaining a coupon code for Twisted Lily, I decided to get a full bottle. This is a rare bird: a citrus I actually love. It's fleeting, but it's gorgeous while it lasts. The mimosa and grapefruit top notes give this a lot of sparkle without being too sweet or synthetic, and the citrus blends with a bit of soft, white florals in the heart. It's not as "laundry detergent" smelling as most other citrus-white floral blends I've tried--it's more like a "you left a glass of moscato in your snobby cousin's Hamptons bathroom full of fancy hand soaps" blend. I wear it mostly to work right now, but I'm sure I'll wear it even more in our hot, humid summers.

Now, as far as fragrances go, the little bottles of Etat Libre d'Orange perfumes are pretty affordable. But when it comes to hyaluronic acid serums? Jordan Samuel Hydrate is definitely an upgrade. It's worth the price, though, to have such a hydrating, plumping hyaluronic acid serum that feels great on my skin and doesn't irritate me. Seriously, applying this under my moisturizer, then running a humidifier at night has saved my face this winter. I'm curious about his new-ish face mist now, so if anybody has tried it, let me know your thoughts!

It took me a while to buy Besame's Carmine lipstick because I'm insanely cheap and I wasn't sure such an orange shade would work on me, but ooooh, I'm so glad I finally got my hands on it. This is the perfect balance of orange and, it's almost orange, but there's just this extra dash of red that keeps it in the "warm red" category. It's a very saturated color, which I think works better with my skintone.

While I've been lucky with beauty products these past few months, I haven't had nearly as much success with books. I've read plenty of okay stuff, and a couple of books even got a four star rating. But only one earned a coveted five star, favorite book slot: Patrick Süskind's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer." I actually read this book when I was in middle school--the library was a 15 minute walk from my house at the time and I'd stop lingering in the children's section at the end of elementary school, thanks to Wishbone--but I couldn't remember much more than "I really liked it." So when I finally got around to seeing the film version (solid but slow, visually striking, etc.), I decided to re-read the novel.

"Perfume" tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a misanthropic orphan with an incredible, incomparable sense of smell and no scent of his own. Guided and governed by his nose and his own selfish desires, he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of certain people through the art of perfumery. Grenouille is far more blatantly sociopathic in the novel than he is in the film. For instance, film Grenouille accidentally kills a young woman and feels guilty for a moment before he starts sniffing her corpse, while novel Grenouille kills her on purpose, then noses away without remorse. In a sense, it felt like the film was trying to make us like him, while the book makes it very clear that he's a bastard of the highest sort...and I prefer that. It's hard to make me sympathize with someone who murders people just so he can smell them.

As for music, I've been listening to the Padmaavat soundtrack almost nonstop since it released. I still haven't seen the film, to be totally honest, since few of my friends enjoy Bollywood and those who do said it was "meh." The music, though, is utterly gorgeous. While "Nainowale Ne" may be my personal favorite track, "Ghoomar" captured the hearts of millions, so I just have to post it here. (NOTE: They edited this song in the film version to make it less "provocative," mostly by Photoshopping a red shift over Deepika's mid-drift. I think it looks silly, so I'm posting the original version here.)

Last, but most certainly not least, I have to give a shout out to the Elephant (Yoga) Pants. I tried the original harem version years ago and liked, but did not love, them. They were just too high at the waist, and the material was very see through. The yoga pants, though...they have just the right amount of stretch and have much thicker fabric. I wear a size 8 or 10 dress trouser right now (not my best weight, I admit) and am comfortable in a medium, and it should still fit when I get back down to my normal size. I'm trying to find work-from-home jobs for now, since I'm planning on moving soon, and I'm a little worried that if I land one, I'll live in these freaking pants. Mine are the black Kihari style.

Product List:

Monday, March 12, 2018

REVIEW: Glossier Lidstar

I'm weirdly irritated by people who try to do a "full glam" look with makeup that's meant to be sheer and natural, and then they complain about it being sheer and natural. This seems to happen a lot with Glossier: they complain that the Perfecting Skin Tint "has no coverage" (it's not supposed to have any), or that Haloscope "just looks wet" (that's the point). While I'll rag on Glossier for a lot of things, particularly their marketing, I'm not going to complain about them making barely-there products. "Barely There" could actually be the brand's name. The just-released Glossier Lidstars are no different. They aren't advertised as high impact colors; the tagline for the product is actually "less shadow, more glow," and three of the six shades are described as "sheer."

That said, there's a difference between "sheer" and "invisible," and I know that's a legitimate fear some people have regarding these eyeshadows. And while I may not complain about their overarching aesthetic, I will rant about another factor in this review. So, you know...fair warning.

Glossier Lidstars currently cost $18 each or $30 for any two shades. At 0.15oz per tube, they're the same size as most other liquid eyeshadows; you can compare them to the Stila Glitter and Glow Liquid Eyeshadows or the Make Up For Ever Star Lit Liquids. It's a plastic "test tube" sort of packaging with a doe foot applicator. Some people find it cute. I think it looks like a cheap tube of lip gloss from the 1990s, but hey, I'm turning 30 next month. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy duddy.

The real problem with this packaging isn't the appearance, though, it's the function. I'm not ashamed to say I was truly excited about these shadows when they launched, so imagine my frustration when I ripped open my pink bubble mailer and discovered that two of the six shades took a ton of effort to open. Slip took me a minute of twisting with a towel to finally open up, whereas Herb was stuck so tight, I had to enlist my mother to twist the tube one way while I twisted the cap in the opposite direction. After five minutes of wrenching, it eventually opened, but if you were somebody with reduced hand function, this would be a complete nightmare. When I complained about this on Instagram, multiple people messaged me and said they had the exact same issue, and one lovely follower pointed out that makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes (often featured by Glossier) had difficulty opening the tubes on an Instagram Live video. This is not an isolated issue.

On top of that, the lids for these tubes are really quite tiny. I have a tough time fitting my thumb, pointer, and middle fingers on the applicator, and I have relatively small hands. It hasn't been too much of an issue for me because I have full function in my hands and can grip the lid firmly, but it's definitely a bit awkward, and again, people who can't grip as well or as hard will likely find controlling the Lidstar applicator difficult. I think the fix for this is easy: make the lid longer, update the tube or the lid so that it's rubberized or textured, and/or update the packaging so that there's an edge to grip. Oh, and don't screw the damn things on so tight in the factory.

Natural light on top, ring light on the bottom.

Let's move on to the shades and performance of the actual liquid eyeshadow locked away in those obnoxious tubes. First, there are three very sheer shades: Moon, a champagne, Lily, a lilac, and Slip, an oyster pink. Then there are three more pigmented colors: Herb, a golden olive, Fawn, a taupe, and Cub, a rose gold. They all have a refined shimmer to them that thankfully doesn't flake off throughout the day.

Tin foil hat time: I find it very suspicious that, at the time of this review, Glossier's demo photos of the three sheerer shades don't feature anybody with dark skin. They have a video of Mekdes applying every color, but nobody darker than her seems to be featured. Will they actually show up on anybody who isn't as white as I am? I'm not sure. Darker skinned readers, please report back!

Glossier describes their Lidstar as "a wash of soft, glistening color that lasts all need for primer." Now, "soft and glistening" is right up Glossier's natural glowing alley, but "lasts all day without primer" made me tilt my head. Their products are generally known for being easy to apply and barely perceptible on the skin, but not having the best staying power, especially if you have oily skin. I usually wear primer under all of my eyeshadows to prevent creasing, but I was so intrigued (and so lazy) on one particular work day that I decided to skip the primer. They also said that the formula is extremely blendable, even with fingers, so I paid close attention to that as well.

Here are macro shots of every shade except for Herb--feel free to zoom on. On the left, we have two layers of Slip (one layer is almost imperceptible), worn to work with no primer. Shockingly, I found that it did, in fact, stay creaseless for most of the day. There was one big crease in the middle of my eyelid after 12 hours, but you had to be decently close to see it, and the shadow hadn't broken up or smeared otherwise. These definitely stick, so you'll need a strong makeup remover to get them off.

The other two shots show Lily and Fawn, then Cub and Moon, over primer. I do prefer to wear them this way since it takes the creasing from 5% to 0%. Take a look at that middle shot, though, for a very obvious problem: Fawn applies patchy. When I put it on the outer half of my lid and tried to blend it in to Lily, it basically pulled away the shadow that was already there. I had to keep fiddling with it to get it to be visible, let alone decent. I had a similar problem with Herb: it applied very patchy and didn't blend well with other shades.

A post shared by Renee (@reneesanatomy) on

Here's the full FOTD with Moon and Cub.

By contrast, the sheer shades applied smooth and even, even if I added another layer for more impact. Cub ended up being somewhere in the middle. One layer was very "meh" and slightly patchy, but two layers was smooth and beautiful.

I also tested blending these with a brush. Fingers definitely work best because they set so fast, especially on that first layer, but you can certainly use a fluffy brush to smooth out edges or spread the product evenly. Just be sure to use the lightest touch possible--too much pressure will pull the shadow up and leave you with bald spots.

 I'd love to round my Lidstar score up from a 3.5 to a 4. While Herb and Fawn are letdowns, the other shades are really lovely, and the claims that they will look soft and stay on are totally true. But I'm sticking with a 3 because of that packaging. Ignoring my personal dislike of the actual look of the tubes, they just aren't as functional as they could be. Glossier listened to their customers before when there were complaints about the Generation G tubes; hopefully, they'll listen here, too.

RATING: 3 out of 5
Glossier products are available at their website. Affiliate link: Glossier.
 These products were purchased from using store credit earned through referrals.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pray For My Face, March 2018

There's a lot of skincare that hasn't made it past patch testing for me recently, and that's a shame. But the few items that haven't completely eaten my face from the get-go have ranged from solid to stellar. Even the things that didn't really work for me are still passable. (I almost called them "C+ fare," but I think that's a little too much teacher at 8am on a Thursday.) Fair warning: we're slowly leaving the depths of winter, so hydration has been the name of the game these past few months.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion, starts ~$11.50 on Amazon

The darling of skincare forums across the net, Hada Labo's Gokujyun "lotions" are almost constantly recommended to people looking to combat dehydration without breaking the bank. I put "lotion" in quotes because these aren't milky, creamy products in the traditional western sense, but rather watery serums meant to be used under moisturizer. Hada Labo's Premium Gokujyun Lotion is slightly thicker than their original formula, and it contains more forms of hyaluronic acid for better hydration.

I found the texture of this serum to be a bit sticky; I always had to wait about five minutes before putting moisturizer on top of it, or else it just wouldn't spread correctly. If you have oily skin or you dislike "feeling" your skincare in the slightest, you'll want to stick with the original formula and its more watery texture. Despite this unpleasantness, I always woke up with glowier, less dehydrated skin after using my Hada Labo. Alas, I also began waking up with pimples, too. After experimenting with product combinations and doing a bit of product elimination, I realized that this serum will break me out if I use it for more than a day or two at a time. Still, it's beyond affordable and works, so if you're dehydrated and the texture and the ingredients list don't freak you out, give it a shot!

Jordan Samuel Hydrate Facial Serum, $29 at

When every affordable hyaluronic acid serum I tried freaked out my skin, I decided to give it one last shot with this Instagram famous luxury edition. No lies, I kind of hoped I'd hate it. It just has such a simple ingredients list for a $29 product! Who wants to spend that on a basic serum every 3-4 months?

...but damn, does this stuff work for me.

I didn't think it would, though, because it's even thicker than the Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion. As weird as it sounds, imagine hair gel thinned with a drop of water. That's how viscous this stuff is. Despite this thick texture, three drops of Jordan Samuel Hydrate absolutely melts in to my slightly-damp skin; I can apply my moisturizer within a minute of application. And for whatever reason, this seems to plump up my skin even more than the Hada Labo did. It's almost like I can feel my skin holding on to the water.

Beyond the price, my biggest complaint about Hydrate is its rather musty smell. It fades a few minutes after application, thank goodness. I also dislike glass bottles because I'm a klutz, but I know that's what most people prefer and it's totally functional packaging, so I won't whine too hard.

Paula's Choice RESIST BHA 9 Treatment, $43 at Paula's Choice

I don't deal with true blue acne, and I don't get a ton of giant zits--most of mine are of the "inflamed red bump with a clear white head" variety. But when I do get those deep-in-the-skin monsters? Oof, they're doozies. They're so weirdly smooth and darkly colored that it's hard to cover them with concealer, and they swell so much that I often have to take ibuprofen for the pain.

Because I don't get these sorts of zits often, I figured the $5 "travel size" vial of BHA 9 would be perfect for me. It's smaller than most perfume sample vials, aka "ludicrously tiny," but I've dipped a q-tip in it about a dozen times so far and it's still over half full. I like to put this stuff just on the blemish before going to bed so that I wake up with a much tinier, easier-to-treat white head. Just check out the images above: I spotted that honker on my chin after my shower one night, I dabbed on the BHA 9, and I woke up with that itty bitty white head. That's magic to me.

Two notes. One, Paula's Choice can't outright state that this is an acne product because it contains 9% BHA and there are regulations about that, so they say it's for "stubborn skin concerns" instead. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Two, my big, red blemishes pretty much always have a white head somewhere, though it may take a magnifying mirror to see it. If you suffer from actual cystic acne deep under your top layers of skin, I don't know how much this product will help you.

It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Eye Cream, $48 at Sephora

I'm not sure It Cosmetics needed two instances of the word "eye" in this product name--if you say it's a "bye bye under eye" cream, most of us are going to get where it goes. Then again, we have curling irons and electric knives with labels screaming "DO NOT USE INTERNALLY," so maybe I'm optimistic.

It Cosmetics claims that this cream will "instantly brighten and reduce the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles." As somebody with very deepset eyes and fair skin, no cream is going to get rid of my dark circles, but I'm all for the promised brightening and smoothing effects. I didn't think I'd get them from a stiff blue concoction that needs to be warmed between the fingers before you can really pat it in to your eye area.

But I did get some of those effects. This definitely made the skin around my eyes feel softer and look a little smoother, though it certainly didn't erase my fine lines entirely. The brightening was very subtle and probably came mostly from the fact that this is moisturizing, but hey, I'll take that over glitter any day. A little of this goes a long way, too; I've been using the same deluxe sample for over a month and it's still half full.

This is the one product on this list that I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend, but to be totally honest, I'm probably not their ideal customer, and I think most eye creams are a load of hooey. Somebody with puffy eyes, please test this and report back!

Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb, $22 at Sephora

Easily confused with its thinner, more gel-like cousin "Aqua Bomb," Moisturizing Bomb is basically everything I like in a moisturizer. It has a rich, emollient texture, it packs on the hydration without feeling filmy or heavy on my face, and it works wonderfully under makeup. It must share a dash of magic with the Jordan Samuel Hydrate Serum. And in fact, my current dream trio is Jordan Samuel Hydrate under my moisturizer at night, a humidifier running while I sleep, and a thin layer of Belif Moisturizing Bomb in the morning to lock it all in. The glowy skin you see in the picture above is 75% due to this combination. (I also exfoliate regularly.)

Weirdly enough, I would say that this actually has a slightly thinner texture than most equivalent moisturizers; it's more like a true unguent than a cold cream. It's still plenty thick by most people's standards, however, so if you have oily skin or you dislike anything even remotely greasy-feeling, you'll want to reserve this one for night time or just skip it.

Two quick whines, because that's how I roll. First, because Moisturizing Bomb is packaged in a jar with a small-ish opening, it can be kind of hard to pull out every last bit of product hiding in the nooks and crannies. Second, you'll get smacked with an intense herbal smell every time you open that jar, and it will linger for a bit after application. The results are worth it for me, and I've actually come to like the smell, but it was a real shocker when I opened it for the first time.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Another Slew of Light and Dark Swatches

I've gathered samples for the past few months and am now tentatively ready for a new slew of swatches. I say "tentatively" because it's damn near impossible to get truly dark foundation samples on sample cards. Most brands just use their "darkest-of-the-middle" shade. I'll repeat what I said on Instagram stories here: if any brand wants to send me 1-2 use samples of their lightest and darkest foundation and/or concealer shades (no full size products or payment needed), I'll gladly take them for my next swatch post.

I thought I'd try this in three lighting situations this time, so let me know what you think about that! The left photo is in direct sunlight, the middle photo is in indirect sunlight, the right photo is with flash. Please remember that these are being swatched on the inside of my arm, which is very light and leans cool yellow (NC5-ish). Hence, some undertones or shades may appear quite stark. My hope is that you'll be able to compare the shades to each other to figure out if you have a match. Also, I apologize about the disparity in swatch thickness; almost all of these came from free sample cards, and some of them give you almost no product to test.

From top to bottom:

From top to bottom:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

REVIEW: Bobbi Brown Nude Finish Tinted Moisturizer SPF15

Every time I fall a little in love with a base product, it betrays me. In this instance, the Bobbi Brown Nude Finish Tinted Moisturizer SPF15 made for a great slap-it-on-and-go, invisible-to-the-naked-eye foundation that worked well on my uber dry skin and passed my mother's very critical judgment. Unfortunately, something in this tinted moisturizer breaks me out a little if I wear it more than one day in a row, and that's not something I'm willing to tolerate in a product that goes all over my face. So I'll be returning it whilst whining about my first world problems. Still, I'd like to review it for people who don't have the same ingredient sensitivities.

The Bobbi Brown Nude Finish Tinted Moisturizer retails for $46 per 1.7oz tube. While you're getting more than the standard foundation here, the creamier, more moisturizer-like texture means you'll require a bit more product for each application. It's packaged in an opaque squeeze tube with a nozzle that's relatively easy to control. I also like that the cap is easy to twist on and off, but still stays on; that should make this a little easier to open if your dexterity is limited.

Natural light on top, flash on the bottom. From left to right: Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth in 110 Porcelain, Buxom Show Some Skin in Tickle the Ivory, Bobbi Brown Nude Finish Tinted Moisturizer in Porcelain Tint, NARS Sheer Glow in Siberia, The Ordinary Coverage Foundation in 1.0N.

There are 8 shades in the range, and while it goes from very light to decently dark, I feel that there's a big jump between Deep Tint and Rich Tint--I'd love something in between there. There is some flexibility in the range because the coverage is sheer.

I purchased the lightest shade, Porcelain Tint. I think it reads a tad pinker in these photos than it is in real life, but it certainly has a neutral-pink undertone. People in the NC/NW 10-15 range should have no trouble using this shade. If you're closer to NC/NW20, or you're an NC15 with very strong yellow undertones, you may want to bump up to Extra Light Tint.

I was having a very good skin day in the above before-and-after photos, though I had some redness, particularly between my brows. (That's life with chronic hives.) While this tinted moisturizer doesn't fully cover those issues, it does give the skin an overall smoother appearance. I also love how moisturized and healthy it makes my face look.

Advertised for "normal to dry skin," I definitely think this is a product that will work best for people on the dryer end of the spectrum, or normal/combination skinned people who like a dewier finish and are willing to powder where necessary. If you like a decent amount of coverage, a more matte finish, or foundations that control oil, you'll want to take a pass on this one.

The texture definitely marks this as a dry skinned person's product, since it's very rich and creamy without feeling heavy on the skin. (I was going to call it "unctuous," since I'm trying to bring that word back in a positive way, buuuuuut I don't think we're there yet.) Unfortunately, like most Bobbi Brown products, this formula is also loaded with fragrance; this one reminds me of a barber shop cologne, and it takes a few minutes to fade. Zero stars, would not recommend that smell. Stop putting fragrance in your bases, Bobbi Brown, because they are super gross.

After testing this tinted moisturizer on its own a few times, I decided it would be best to wear it as shown above and in the header: with a bit of powder on my nose and my eyes, the only oily-ish parts of my face. As you can see, I still got a bit shiny on my nose; I powdered right after that 3 hour photo. It definitely fades a little on my oilier spots, and it looks a tad dry by the end of the day. That said, it's much less Sahara Desert-y after 6+ hours on my skin than most foundations, and it's only noticeable if you're super close to my face.

While this tinted moisturizer didn't work out for me in the long run, I'd have no qualms recommending it to most other dry-skinned people, provided they aren't acne-prone and the ingredients list checks out for them. Just be forewarned that this stuff reeks, reeks, reeks right out of the tube.

RATING: 4 out of 5
I purchase my Bobbi Brown products at Nordstrom.