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?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spring Cleaning: Products I'm Purging

The beautiful card catalogue Kirby made me only has so much space, and it forces me to keep only what I love. That means I've got to get rid of some products to make room for the new stuff I've tried and loved. I'm actually a bit surprised that I'm getting rid of some of these things, to be honest, because there are some gorgeous products here. But if you're not using something, it's just going to waste.

So let's talk about the really amazing products I'm getting rid of! At the top of the list are these Face Stockholm cream blushes. I stand by my belief that these are some of the best cream blushes on the market; they have a slightly "jelly" texture that blends easily and provides a natural highlight. But I always, always reach for more hygienic liquid blushes in tubes or slap-it-on-and-go stick blushes. Another beautiful, but rarely worn, product is the MAC Amplified lipstick in Nicki's Nude. As pretty is it is, on the rare days when I wear a beige nude, I reach for NARS Raquel.

The list of makeup that's really lovely, but just not my style, includes the Marc Jacobs Dew Drops in Dew You, the Milk Makeup Holographic Highlighter in Mars, and the Fenty Mattemoiselle lipstick in Freckle Fiesta. The highlighters are a tad too sparkly and "makeup-ish" for my tastes, though most people with less ghostly skintones will probably find them natural and beautiful. As for Freckle Fiesta: I absolutely ADORE the color of this lipstick, but I think I have to admit that it isn't flattering on me at all. I keep telling myself it'll be better if I tan up to NC20, but that's turning out to be a lot harder than I thought.

Now for the epic fails. Look, there have been some rave reviews for the Kosas Tinted Face Oil, and it's SO up my alley and I SO want to love it...but it just doesn't work on me. It deserves a better home. The Sephora Bright Future Gel Serum Concealer came highly recommended, too, but I found it pretty "meh." It has zero staying power on my dry skin and it can look a bit chalky on my undereyes.

The new Glossier Generation G formula is an abomination, so I won't linger on that. But can we talk about how every other brow product on the market seems to turn bright red on me? I had high hopes for the expanded Colourpop Precision Brow Pencil shade range, but nope, every shade is still too dark or too orange on me. And don't even get me started on the Urban Decay Brow Beater gel. Woof. Maybe if you have decent brows, this will look nicer, but it just made me look like Groucho Marx.

Speaking of brows! Sephora is finally releasing some freebies I want, so I'll be purchasing that brow powder and brush I mentioned this coming week. Beyond that...there's not a lot I want to buy with my birthday gift cards. Don't get me wrong; there's plenty of stuff I'd be interested in trying! But even after this purge, I've got plenty of products in my collection that I'm rediscovering. I think that's one of the best parts of being on a no buy: you have to be creative and use what you already have.

Friday, April 5, 2019

I Refuse to Buy This Until the Freebies Stop Sucking

Apparently, I am one of three people on Earth who actually likes the Sephora rewards program. Granted, spending around $75 to earn a deluxe sample is a bit rich, but at least Beauty Insider points don't expire. Getting actual cash back a la Ulta's rewards program is definitely preferable, but I will never spend enough money in a year for it to be worth it to me. So I do most of my shopping at Sephora, and I wait to push the "checkout" button until there are samples I really want.

Now, I've wanted the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo off and on for several years, and I decided to buy it back in February. But I have a birthday in April, so I waited until this month to place my order so I could use the credit from a return and cash in on my free birthday gift. That's already a big win for me; I never could have waited months to place an order in years past.

Annnnnnd I'm still waiting because the samples suck. One of the weirdly satisfying things that's come out of my downsizing and more conscious spending is that I'm very picky about what samples I'll settle for. It has to be a product I'm genuinely interested in, and it has to be in a shade or a formula I know I'll use. Currently, there's a red Laura Mercier lipstick available with a coupon code. There was a time when I would have just used that code and been done with it, because hey, free lipstick from a nice brand. Now, however, I know that I already have a ton of Besame reds I love, and I'm not actually interested in the formula. I'm actually quite interested in several of the foundation samples they've offered recently, but they're not offering a shade that will work for me. Nope. I'll wait.

Will I eventually just buy the ABH products and get the birthday gift if the samples never improve? Sure. But those Milk Makeup minis will be free to me until the end of April, and that store credit isn't going anywhere. I can wait. And the longer I wait, the more I feel like I'm breaking away from this endless need to BUY BUY BUY.

Speaking of my birthday! If you're interested in getting me a present and you have $3 to spare, donating to my Ko-Fi would be absolutely stellar. This spring's charity of choice is the DNA Doe Project, an organization that uses emerging DNA technology to identify John and Jane Does. While I have mixed feelings about law enforcement and medical organizations accessing genealogical DNA, I am all for it being used to give these people back their names and bring closure to families. You can read more about the DNA Doe Project on their website.

I have not received any donations for the past few months, so my recent donations will remain private.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Companion Piece: 2019 No Buy and Goals Check-In

Buying fewer beauty products means less to review and more time to brainstorm new post ideas. That's how I came up with "Companion Piece," a new series that will combine a blogpost and a video on a related topic. I figure this is the best way to please a variety of my readership, since some of them prefer to read and others prefer to watch or listen to a video. Fair warning: the video cuts off very suddenly because the last piece of the file was corrupted, but I'd love to hear about how your 2019 goals are going!

What did I want?

There have been a ton of great new releases these past few months, like the YSL Touche Eclat High Cover Radiant Concealer I've been eyeing, but I've also found myself looking in to more "established" products, like the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo, the Jillian Dempsey Lid Tints, and the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand. I talked myself out of the contouring product because, quite frankly, I will never be the sort of person who contours, and I just have to admit that to myself. I have a thin face; contouring isn't going to do me too many favors. I'm also pretty sure I won't buy a Lid Tint anytime soon, just because they're super pretty on other people, but not the sort of makeup I'd fuss with on the daily.

That said, I do plan on buying the Anastasia Brow Duo and a brush to go with it. Don't worry, I won't be breaking my no buy! I returned the Laura Mercier foundation I tested earlier this month (it's beautiful, but I don't have a shade match), and that plus my leftover gift cards will more than cover the cost of the brow products. April is my birthday month, so I'll use the opportunity to get the yearly birthday gift and whatnot on the same order.

What did I buy?

As is usual for a 2-3 month period, I had to replace some staples; in this case, it was my favorite Paula's Choice BHA. I've used their 2% BHA liquid for years and have never been disappointed.

Also, Glossier decided to launch their new sub-brand, Glossier Play, and I used my store credit to order (and review) quite the haul. That slew of products and Kirby's bout of shingles kept me preoccupied for most of the tail end of winter.

How am I feeling?

To be totally honest, I'm feeling better than I ever expected re: No Buy 2019. I've been wearing makeup a little less than usual due to my odd work schedule, some exhausting traveling and conference-attending I've had to do, Kirby's illness, etc. So every time I've found myself wanting to jump online and buy something "for fun," I've opened the drawers of my card catalogue and said to myself, "Well, here are these 20-some lipsticks I'm barely wearing right now. Do I really need another one?"

As for how I'm feeling in general? That's...a bit different. I've struggled with depression a lot this month, especially at the beginning of March. There have been far too many days when I've felt useless and unhappy with myself and my choices. A large part of the problem is that there are several huge life changes looming on the horizon, but they're not guaranteed, ie, I won't know if my life is changing in these massive ways any time soon. I hate uncertainty. The realization that it's not safe to fly my cat across the country has also affected me. She's my cat and I want her with me, but I also want her to be happy and healthy, and a long-haul flight just isn't in her best interests.

Anything else?

Something that people always mention is how quickly a no buy can lead to overspending in another hobby, and I really experienced that this past month. Living in a rural, relatively isolated area means there are limited shopping choices in-town, so traveling for work becomes an opportunity to shop. Last week, I walked in to a Joann Fabric for the first time in months, and...well, let's just say it's a miracle I only spent $40 on planner supplies versus $100. My planner supplies drawer is full now, so even though I want some new pens and more washi tape, I'm telling myself, "No no no, use what you have."

To keep myself on track, I'm limiting my allowance to $10 for April. That sounds crazy, but really, what do I need? Nothing. $10 will buy me a Steam game or a nice new pen, and that's more than enough combined with what I already own.

Video: 2019 Goals Check-In