Thursday, June 13, 2019

I broke my no buy. It's fine. Don't panic.


Many a psychologist has pointed out that our shopping tendencies have little to do with our wants, needs, or financial realities and more to do with how our brains our wired. The fact that we buy stuff we don't need and spend more than we should because of our habits has become common knowledge; it's a factoid that appears in just about every blog post critiquing capitalism and every "stop shopping" YouTube video. And that's what made me break my no buy this month: a habit.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've moved to a rural area with few physical retail options, but I'm originally from Pittsburgh, where shopping opportunities abound. This means it's tough to get nice clothes where we live now unless we do a ton of online shopping and returning. However, we have plenty of options when we visit my family. So twice a year, we have a "refresh the closet" budget, slash, shopping spree. This includes visits to numerous thrift, consignment, and discount stores, including T.J. Maxx. And after a hundred T.J. Maxx visits, I'd built up a routine: spend 15-20 minutes scouring the beauty section for any products that might remotely interest me.

Sure enough, when we went to T.J. Maxx last week, I followed the same routine: I perused piles of Perricone MD skincare, Kat Von D palettes (oh, how the mighty have fallen), recently-discontinued Bite lipsticks, and nearly-expired Shiseido sunscreens. Then I noticed a few Bobbi Brown lipsticks, including the relatively new Crushed Lip Colors. I went through my usual procedure with T.J. Maxx beauty products: I checked the shade (Baby, a soft pink I've been wanting for a while), I opened the box and rolled up the lipstick to see if it had been tampered with (it was fine), I considered the price ($15.89 with tax--not bad), and I checked the batch code (it was from a later 2018 batch). I'm so used to doing this that I didn't even think of my no buy as I tossed the box in to my cart and wandered off to peruse the clearance sweaters.

My T.J. Maxx habits are so engrained in me, in fact, that even going through the checkout lane twice didn't set off my "WAIT WAIT NO BUY" thought process. I bought my clothes on the first go-round, noticed the Bobbi Brown box sitting in the cart under our bag, realized I'd forgotten to pay for the lipstick, and went right back through the line to buy the lipstick on a separate transaction.

This week, we finally got around to hitting up our local thrift stores and found tons of great, like-new clothing for all of $43. (Why can't my experiences in department stores crowded with $100+ blouses and dresses be as successful?) We decided to wash all of our new-to-us clothes so we could just throw them in our closet when we got back, and when I reached in to the T.J. Maxx bag to grab my $10 sweater, I realized...oh, wait. There's a new lipstick in here. And I didn't use a gift card to get it.

I broke my no buy.

Now, I didn't give you this whole story to make excuses for this new lipstick. It doesn't really matter that I bought it because shopping the T.J. Maxx beauty section is a habit; I still made an adult decision and broke my no buy. Rather, I'm pointing out that behavior modification is tougher than we think it is, and it is very likely that you will make mistakes with your own no buy. So much of what we do in our lives is based on routines and habits. In my experience, our financial habits are even harder to break. In a recent Reddit thread, I admitted that I used to prepare for each paycheck by looking for something to buy as soon as the money hit my bank account; it was a habit I didn't break until I was well in to my 20s.

It's also important that we realize that mistakes are normal, and as I've said before, flagellating yourself every time you slip up during your no-buy isn't helpful. You're just going to feel bad for a few days. How is that productive? Rather than downing yourself, think of ways you can address the problem and learn from your mistake. I've realized, for instance, that I should remind my shopping buddy that I'm not buying new beauty products this year. Then, when I make my habitual drift toward the beauty section, they can remind me that I'm on a no buy. If you prefer to shop alone, trying using cash to pay for your purchases instead of a card (we tend to spend less when we use paper instead of plastic), write a note on your hand, or jot down a list and stick to it. For instance, my wardrobe is now pretty well updated, but I still need a new pair of tennis shoes, a white bra, and maybe a back-up pair of jeans. I'd write down those three items on a list, and that would be all I'd look at when I was in the store.

Long story short, I broke my no buy, but I'm not mad about it. I got halfway through the year without spending my own money on any unnecessary purchases. I'm back on track. And I've learned something beneficial: the T.J. Maxx beauty section is the devil.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

What I Crammed Into My Travel Bag


I have a tendency to over-pack when I travel, and that includes my makeup selection. I'll pack five different lip color options and three foundations, despite the fact that I'm incredibly lazy when I travel and I spend a lot of time makeup-less in my pajamas. To save space in our luggage, I decided I'd only pack what I could fit in this small makeup bag. I openly admit that I squeezed it cram-jam full and I could barely pull the zipper shut, but shut it I did, so it counts.


Against my better judgment, I packed two highlighters: Glossier Haloscope in Quartz and MAC Strobe Cream. I brought the Glossier highlight because it's my go-to for natural looks, and I brought ye olde Strobe Cream because it's almost done and I wanted to empty the tube. (This is a good place to point out that I've decided to stop collecting empties for the year. I'm tired of having a box full of trash in my bathroom and empty containers clogging up my luggage.)

Glossier actually makes up about half of my bag. I brought three shades of Cloud Paint because I'm Too Much, but also because Dusk, Puff, and Beam can be mixed to make a whole slew of shades. I'm almost done with this tube of Lash Slick, and it's my go-to summer mascara because it doesn't smudge or flake on me, so I figured I'd finish it up on this trip. I'll be curling my lashes with the Shu Uemura Lash Curlers, which are honestly at the end of their life cycle--the hinge is getting rather loose. As for the Boy Brow: it's just a tube of the clear shade I'm trying to finish up.

There's a distinct lack of Besame in this bag, which I know will raise some eyebrows, since they make my favorite lipsticks. Frankly, I've become a bit of a Besame collector, and I'm way too worried about losing my beloved lipsticks to even consider tossing them in my carry on. Instead, I brought two travel-sized lipsticks that won't hurt my wallet if they're lost: YSL Oil-In-Stick in 44 Nude and Shiseido Modern Matte in Exotic Red. If I wear the Shiseido, I line my lips with the NYX Auburn Lip Pencil to get a crisper line.

Now, I would usually round out my bag with a brow pencil, since they're easy to apply and don't require any special tools. But honestly, I've been loving how the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo in Medium Brown makes my brows look. It takes a little longer to apply, but it's unbelievably natural looking. I use the lighter shade in the front of my brows and to map out the shape, and I fill in the tails with the darker shade.

For my base products, I brought my most natural, slap-it-on-and-go foundation (Surratt Surreal Skin) and my new favorite undereye concealer (YSL High Cover). If I'm traveling and dealing with something that needs more coverage, like the travel acne that finally reared its ugly head today, I usually just skip a full face of makeup and go with these two products instead:


Is it a cheat to bring these two products in my purse, separate from my makeup bag? I always carry a lip balm (this is the new Glossier Balm Dot Com in Mango) and my Sephora Make No Mistake High Coverage Concealer in 04 Ginger, so it's just standard fair for me. But maybe I should've wedged them in to the bag, too, to prove to myself that I could pack light. Anyway, I think the Mango balm is just okay, and I absolutely love and rely on the Sephora concealer. Sephora will inevitably discontinue this concealer and I will have a minor panic attack. It's doing a great job covering up this morning's travel acne.

Now that my brother is back from the south and I've finished sorting through roughly half of the objects I left at my parents' house, I can probably start using this makeup bag, right? Right. I'm going to get out of these pajamas and put on that fierce red lipstick!

...tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll do it, I promise. Today, I have books to read and a brother to hang with.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

FOTD: Red Lipstick, No Mascara


Makeup artists have this incredible ability to make awe-inspiring looks appear easy and manageable. In this age of YouTube, Instagram, and blogs, we have more access to these artists and their work than ever, including tutorials they make themselves. Over the past year, there's been one oft-repeated suggestion that has stuck with me: skip mascara.

"You know," the makeup artists say coyly as they brush up their models' already-perfect brows, "you could leave the eye makeup here. With skin this glossy and perfected, and with brows this full, you could totally skip mascara." Some of them add, "With a red lipstick, this would be so chic and Parisian," which always makes me cringe a bit because it taps in to an idealized, fetishized, commodified woman who doesn't really exist. After that cringe, though, I'm basically sold, because red lipstick. I'm a simple Pittsburghese woman.

As dramatic as it sounds, I've been trying to do this for months, and I just haven't been able to do it. I'd spend a solid 20 minutes perfecting my base makeup and brows, then I'd put on my bright lipstick and tell myself, "Okay, you're done." But I always caved and brushed on some mascara before I left the house. I just felt weirdly incomplete without that mascara.

Today, I forced myself to put away the mascara. And I have to be honest: I kind of like it. It's nice to know that the only things I'll really have to touch up are a dash of undereye concealer and some post-dinner lipstick. There won't be any black smudges or smears or flakes.

Accepting my nearsightedness actually makes me like this look even more. With my very necessary glasses on, you can't really see much around my eyes EXCEPT for my brows--you'd have to get damn close to see my lashes behind the lenses. I've been thinking about buying a few more pairs of glasses and treating them like fashion accessories in and of themselves; skipping eye makeup and pairing them with a strong lip color seems like a great way to emphasize both the lipstick and the glasses.

That said, I'm not going to toss out my mascara any time soon. I still love the look of full, dark lashes, especially if I wear winged eyeliner or glossy shadow. But I'm glad I've finally listened to the makeup artists and tried the sans-mascara look.

BASE: MAC Face & Body Foundation in C1 + White; YSL Touche Eclat High Cover Concealer in 0.75 Sugar; Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Finish Powder Foundation in 50 Ivory [D/C]; Clinique Moisture Surge Spray
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CHEEKS: NARS Liquid Blush in Orgasm; MAC Strobe Cream in Pinklite
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EYES: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo in Medium Brown
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LIPS: NYX Lip Pencil in Auburn; Shiseido Modern Matte Powder Lipstick in 516 Exotic Red


ETA 5/26/19: I completely forgot to post about our recent donation--I'm so sorry! With your help, we donated $20.04 to the DNA Doe Project this month. Thank you so much! This summer, I'd like to collect donations for Planned Parenthood.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Hype Machine: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat High Cover Radiant Concealer


The Hype Machine is a series that takes a critical look at well-loved, cult classic, appears-in-every-other-Instagram-photo products and asks: are they worth the hype?

A little under two years ago, this same series ranked the original Touche Eclat All-Over Brightening Pen as an above-average product, versatile and lovely, but probably more expensive than necessary. I've continued to use my Touche Eclat pen primarily as an undereye brightener, mixing it with my concealer du jour to get a bit less coverage and a brighter, slightly dewier finish. So when YSL released a true-blue concealer version of Touche Eclat (because, again, the original is not really a concealer; stop yelling at the poor thing), and when it was reviewed positively by bloggers I trust, I decided to bite the bullet and use up my gift cards.

Natural light on top, ring light on bottom. From left to right: YSL TE High Cover in 0.75 Sugar, YSL TE Brightening Pen in 2 Luminous Ivory, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, Glossier Stretch Concealer in G11.

What got me a little stuck was the shade range. I couldn't decide between the lightest shade, 0.5 Vanilla, and the second-lightest shade, 0.75 Sugar. After receiving several super-helpful comments on Instagram, I decided to go with 0.75 Sugar, since this is clearly meant to be an undereye/brightening concealer, and I knew the peachy tones of 0.75 would work well on my dark circles.

I'm glad I went with that shade. First of all, yes, 0.75 is DEFINITELY peach-toned, and it definitely works well on dark circles--more on that in a moment. Second, it's closer to the original Touche Eclat pen in 2 than you'd think. See, the original Touche Eclat pen darkens up a bit as it dries: it comes out looking almost identical to the very pale NARS Chantilly, but it ends up being about a shade darker. I'd peg the YSL Touche Eclat High Cover at about NC/NW 15 in terms of depth, and the YSL Touche Eclat All-Over Brightening Pen is maybe half a shade lighter.


The only other product on my face in these photos is a thin layer of the Surratt Surreal Skin foundation, which, LOOOOL, look at that beautiful application right over my top lip. I'M AN ARTIST.

The new High Cover version of Touch Eclat features a nearly identical metal tube and brush tip applicator; the only difference is that the High Cover version includes a black label, which is honestly helpful for differentiating between the two tubes quickly. I love the feeling and the weight of this packaging, and unlike many click tubes, it only takes a few clicks to get the product started.

One click will get you about twice as much product as you see in the above-middle photo. I actually find that a full click of this concealer is a bit much for me, so I just leave the rest on the brush for touch-ups or my next application. However, I tend to wear very thin layers of my base products, I only use this on my undereyes, and I have a sort of small face; you may use a whole click if you're covering more surface area or like more coverage.

Now, the name of this product may make you think this is going to completely blank out your dark circles. I don't think that's the purpose of this concealer. Instead, I think the name means this is a "high coverage version" of Touche Eclat (versus a traditional, maximum coverage concealer). I'd say this is a very natural, beautiful, just-barely-medium coverage concealer.


I can hear you scoffing. "Natural?! It looks like you smeared Vaseline on those undereyes!"

Look, I get what you're saying: my undereyes look hella-glossy in that after photo. But remember that it was photographed with a strong ring light shining directly down on me. In every other lighting situation I tested this in, including the all-important natural light, this just looked like a satin-y, natural, skin-like concealer. See the above natural light Instagram shot for proof!

You can also dust this very lightly with some powder to make it a natural matte texture. I found that powder took away any and all shine, and it prevented a bit of the (inevitable) creasing, but it didn't clump or cake.

Finally, let's answer that all-important question: is it worth the price? Again, I have to give you a wishy-washy "yes and no." For me, it's a pretty stellar product that's easy to apply, works well with all of my foundations, and really brightens up my face. I used to put two products on my undereyes; now I'm down to one. If you're like me and you have a hard time finding a single undereye concealer you like, it's aces. But if you already have an undereye concealer you love, I don't know that this luxury product is necessarily going to top it.

BOTTOM LINE: YSL has created a higher-coverage version of their beloved Touche Eclat pen that delivers natural, medium coverage that really works on my undereyes. If you're looking for a great undereye concealer, this could be the one for you; if you've already got a favorite, feel free to give this pricey pen a pass.



The Hype Machine is a series that represents my experiences and opinions. It is not meant to be a personal attack on a specific company, product, or consumer. I always recommend that you try products for yourself and see how they work for you. Everybody is unique, after all!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

No Buy 2019: Almost Halfway


Have we talked about how graceful I am? I'm practically a ballerina. And this past month, I danced right in to my ring flash and snapped the base.


I've also been horrifically busy with work. As much as I love my career, reading piles of student writing and creating 6-8 new lesson plans every week is starting to wear on me. I've spent a lot of my free time in bed, just trying to recover from the weird creative exhaustion.

But I'm back, armed with a new ring flash and my Sephora VIB sale purchases! Let's talk about how everything's been going.

What did I want?


Let's take a moment to appreciate this wants list. First of all, I've X-ed off half of the stuff on the list, meaning reading reviews or re-assessing the product has killed my desire for it. The Jillian Dempsey Lid Tints, for example, look absolutely STUNNING on the many bloggers who have been posting about them, but realistically, I don't need more eye makeup. I'm already beyond lazy with the eye products I have.

Second, I haven't added anything to this list since March. Seriously, for a month and a half, nothing has really tickled my fancy. I actually spent half an hour combing through the "New" sections at Sephora and Nordstrom, and there was nothing interesting enough to add to my wish list.

What did I buy?

I returned the very lovely, but very not my shade, Laura Mercier foundation I tested a few months ago and got the Anastasia Brow Powder Duo and a brush instead. I'm honestly loving this purchase. A brow powder takes a bit longer to apply than, say, a super-pigmented pencil, but it gives me a lot of control, and my brows look fuller without being blatantly drawn-on. Also, I have a problem with my brow products turning very red on my skin; the brow powder stays true to color.

I also made several purchases with store credit and gift cards. Glossier recently released Mango Balm Dot Com (it's okay) and an eye cream called Bubblewrap (haven't tested yet), so I grabbed those along with another bottle of the oil wash. For the Sephora VIB sale, I bought a whopping two things: the Verb Sea Spray and the YSL Touche Eclat High Cover Concealer. I had a rough time buying that concealer because I was sent so many conflicting reports about the shades. After being torn between 0.5 Vanilla and 0.75 Sugar, I went with the latter, since the peachy undertones will likely be better for my undereye circles.

Today, I repurchased the Skin Laundry Daily Moisturizer SPF35, my staple day cream, from Nordstrom. I had a bit of a panic attack when I noticed the product was no longer on Sephora and contacted the company to see if it was being discontinued. They directed me to several other retailers, so apparently, Sephora is just not going to carry it anymore and everything is fine. If they ever discontinue this product, I'm going crazy and buying as much as I can without overwhelming our budget.

How am I feeling?

At the risk of sounding smug, it's crazy to me how easy this has been. Every time I find myself tempted to buy something new, I remind myself that I only have so much spending money, or that I really want to achieve a no buy year, or that I already own a ton of stuff that needs loved. And I feel fine. Again, looking through the "New Products" sections on several websites and feeling zero interest was a wake-up call. I still enjoy makeup, and in fact, I'd say I've gotten even more in to skincare over the past year. But I don't need to buy a ton of it to be happy.

I do think part of what's making this easy, though, is that I've been so busy at work. I'll be visiting my family for a few weeks this summer, then I'm working a very reduced schedule (roughly 8 hours/week) in July. That makes boredom shopping a very real possibility that needs to be curbed.

Anything else?

So I had to pay some of the taxes for that Sephora order out of pocket--$4.62, to be exact. I'm wondering if that counts as breaking my no buy. On the one hand, that seems needlessly strict, since it was just taxes, not another product, and it was under $5 of my own money. On the other hand, I'm worried that that's a bit of a cop-out, and/or that I'll use that excuse to buy things I don't need later in the year.

I'm keeping track of how much of my own money I spend on non-staples, and $4.62 isn't a bad amount, in my opinion. But I really don't want it to creep up to $50+. What do you think? Am I making excuses, or was this a reasonable expense?

PS: Recently, I've gotten a TON of questions about replacements for the discontinued D&G powder foundation. For a variety of reasons, namely this no buy and my personal pickiness about powders, I haven't found a replacement. If I do, I'll let you know. If you find one, please, for the love of all that's holy, hook a sister up.

PPS: When this no buy is over, I'd like to try a new series testing super-expensive products, our finances permitting. It'd be called "I Spent My Paycheck On This," or something of that ilk. Does that sound interesting at all? Is a review of a $200 foundation even on-brand for me?