Saturday, March 24, 2018

REVIEW: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation

I remember when the original Make Up For Ever HD liquid foundation launched. High definition was becoming THE standard in television and photography, and people had to figure out new ways to put on their makeup without looking made up on camera. MUFE HD foundation promised to give you that perfected-but-not-Photoshopped look. I bought it in what was then the lightest yellow shade, 115, and found that it was too dark for me, great in pictures but makeup-y in person, and overall just not to my tastes.

I also remember when Make Up For Ever reformulated a lot of their base products. The switch from their admittedly gorgeous, but smelly Face and Body foundation to the sheerer, still stinky Water Blend prompted a lot of hurt feelings on the net. However, the reformulated HD liquid foundation received a more mixed review, with some raving that it was far superior to the original formula and others grousing that they didn't like the new version. I waffled on buying this for years before getting a Sephora gift card via Ebates (note: referral link) that would cover the cost.

Natural light on top, ring light in the middle, flash on the bottom. From left to right: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation in Y205, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx01, NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Siberia, Tarte Shape Tape Concealer in Fair, The Ordinary Coverage Foundation in 1.0N.

The reformulated MUFE HD liquid foundation is roughly equivalent to the previous formula in terms of price and packaging: you're paying $43 for just over an ounce of product in a clear, plastic bottle with a pump. The pump is easy to control and dispenses just a little product at a time, so don't be freaked about their "two pumps" recommendation--it's not as much foundation as you might think. The biggest change in the formula, in my opinion, is the shade range; there is now a yellow shade light enough for me (Y205 Alabaster), and there are multiple very deep shades.

Actually, I think Y205 might be a bit too light for me, since it seems to match my super pale neck and that's more fair than I normally like to go, but you can be the judge of that. I did not notice any oxidation.

The formula itself feels thinner than the original Ultra HD, almost like it has a bit of air fluffed in to it. The smell is not especially strong to me after application.

Applying this foundation with a brush gave me a true medium coverage, but it was much drier feeling and looking than I want. In fact, it felt a bit uncomfortable on my dry, dehydrated skin applied straight to the face that way. So from then on, I applied it with a damp Beauty Blender over a rich moisturizer (usually Belif Moisturizing Bomb). This gave me slightly lighter coverage, but only slightly; I'd still call that "after" picture medium coverage.

The good news is that, like its predecessor, this formula looks beautiful in photographs. It gives me skin a downright soft focus look in both cell phone selfies and HD pictures. The bad news is that it doesn't look quite that good in real life. It's dry and makeup-y without being patchy, flaky, or heavy-looking; the best way I can describe it is "chalky." Get within three feet of me wearing this product, and you'll think I've dusted my face with a flour. I actually felt uncomfortable in public when I wore this foundation to the grocery store because I knew it looked so odd.

 Me wearing MUFE Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation.

I also had a Hell of a time getting it to apply to my nose. Unfortunately, the HD-ness of this foundation made it almost impossible to photograph these foibles, but if you zoom in on the above "after" picture, it should be a bit more clear. (Not the salty Demi Lovato gif, the actual photos of my face.)

So it's not as "unnoticeable" as MUFE claims. It is, however, weightless when applied with a Beauty Blender. I felt like I had nothing on my skin when I wore this.

Note: I did blot with a blotting sheet after taking the 3 hour photo.

Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation was "meh" on me in terms of wear as well. Again, it looked gorgeous in pictures, but it got drier and more chalky on most of my face and faded off of my nose throughout the day. It didn't control the oil on my nose, either, which makes me think it's not a good option for truly oily skin.

I was hoping I'd like this reformulated product better than the original. Unfortunately, my feelings are roughly the same: it's great in photographs and weird looking in any other scenario. Granted, "chalky" is a different look from the original formula's "heavy," but it's still unattractive. What a bummer. Maybe I'll give Water Blend a second chance, but really, the smart thing to do might be to give MUFE a wide berth. I think it's an overall lovely brand that just doesn't suit my skin or my needs.

RATING: 3 out of 5
I purchased this product from Sephora.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Tried Copying Makeup Artists - The Direct-to-Video Sequel

You guys seem to love watching me make a complete ass out of myself, and now that I'm an adult who has made peace with most of the very stupid shit she did as a teenager, I'm right there with you. So I've gathered four more interesting tips from makeup artists across the YouTubes to test out. Oddly enough, these ended up being very eye makeup-centric, which wasn't planned. Maybe I'm subconsciously scarred from rubbing a metric ton of MAC Face & Body in to my skin the last time. That felt suuuuper weird.

Jordan Liberty: use a peach corrector on dark circles and a balm on your lids

Truthfully, the tip I wanted to steal the most from this tutorial was the "highlighting pencil" trick. I don't have a shiny pencil that's light enough to highlight my paper white face, though, so I had to take a pass for now. Instead, I decided to go with the peach corrector, which Jordan says will cut down on how much concealer you need, and some balm for a glossy lid look.

Samantha Chapman: put soap in your brows

Samantha Chapman is one of the Pixiwoo sisters, whom I've been watching since they started on YouTube a decade ago. She's one of the makeup artists responsible for repopularizing this old school makeup trick and bringing it to the masses. You wet a spoolie with some clear soap and run it through your brows for a thicker, more textured look. It may sound silly, but guys, if I think it'll make me half as attractive as the Chapman sisters, I'm gonna try it.

Valli O'Reilly: brush over your lashes with a spoolie and a tissue

I love it when Lisa Eldridge has guest artists on her channel! This artist, Valli O'Reilly, often worked with the late Amy Winehouse. But I'm not stealing that trademark blunt eyeliner, I'm going for the lash look, which Valli says is achieved by putting a tissue under the lashes and running a spoolie/wand over top of them.

The Results

I didn't have quite the same amount of rip-roaring success this round, but a good bit of that seems to be user error. The Valli O'Reilly trick is a prime example: I couldn't remember if she brushed over the lashes with the actual mascara wand or a clean, dry one. Suffice to say that running the wand on top of my lashes made them clumpier, even with a tissue underneath. But the clean spoolie + tissue combination worked really well for me, pulling out obvious clumps while catching flakes. It's way more work than I'd want to do normally, but I'll keep it in my pocket for special occasions or "what the Hell did I just do to my eyelashes" moments.

I've tried soap brows again since filming and photographing this post, annnnnd...yeah, I'm still not sure how I feel. On the one hand, I dislike having to get the just-right-amount of soap to prevent sudsing, but still get that hold, and it's a little fussier than what I'm used to. On the other hand, it gives me some damn cool texture, particularly on my good brow. And a $3 bar of glycerin soap is waaaaay cheaper than the two or three tubes of brow gel I kill every year.

The most successful tips are probably the Jordan Liberty ones. I haven't had much luck with color correctors in the past, and I still don't think the one I used here was quite the right shade of peach for me. But it definitely brightened the area and cut down on how much concealer I needed. I might try a thinner, lighter peach corrector in the future. The glossy lids are not something I'll be doing on the daily, since it's a tad messy and my deepset eyes hide the effect most of the time; still, it looks damn cool in pictures.

If you want to watch me rub soap in to my brows and hear me spray and slap my face at 4x speed, please enjoy this bonus video.

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.