Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Ten(ish) Disappointing Makeup Products

My crap radar is usually pretty accurate and I try to avoid buying stuff I suspect would annoy me. But every once in a while I come across a product that looks promising but I just can’t make work. And I try. Boy, do I try. The photo above only includes six items because one has been rehomed and others were unceremoniously chucked, so you know I mean it when I say NO. Just NO.

Two of the missing items are both stick highlighters, which might have meant something If I weren’t quite fond of several other highlighters in this format such as NARS The Multiple (best in class, in my opinion, for color, texture, and blendability), Benefit’s What’s Up (blends beautifully, gives good impact), and Clinique Chubby Stick Highlighter (subtle and fuss-free). Neither the Barry M stick highlighter (not even available in the US. I had to order from abroad) nor the one from Tony Moly (a favorite Korean drugstore brand that’s usually available at Ulta) looked even remotely attractive on top of my cheeks. The shades were fine ( a rosy beige something or other), but the texture was too thick to blend seamlessly without messing up the base makeup and everything it, and the final result looked patchy and waxy instead of the nice glow I expected.

Next comes Black Up Revolutionary Ultra Volume, Length, and Curl mascara. I nearly used up the tube in anticipation for it to somehow get better (I’m also still waiting for the Easter Bunny, so what?). I liked the curvy brush that allows good access to all lashes, but other than that the mascara itself was too wet, clumpy, and created an unholy mess out of my eye makeup every time I reached for it. I’ve let weeks pass hoping that with regular use the natural drying process would improve the situation, but the it just became a slightly dryer mess. Pass.

Another disappointing mascara was Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Volume. There were several months that Sephora was heavily promoting it and I ended up with a bunch of travel size tubes, so I can’t blame it on a single incident. The mascara would apply evenly and look nice and smooth. Then it would dry. And flake. And flake some more. Leaving me with tiny black particles on my face, clothes, and worst of all: inside my eyes. I don’t wear contact lenses but I can imagine how bad that could have been. As it was, my eyes were as unhappy as me with these results.

Milk Makeup Face Gloss. Several months ago I saw a short segment of an interview with Jennifer Lawrence on TV. Nothing good can come out of this start, I know. In any case, her face had this fascinating glossy finish to it and I became slightly obsessed despite the fact that a) it was a press junket on TV, not a candid photo of Jennifer out in the wild, b) I’m twenty years older than her, and c) she’s Jennifer Lawrence. I wanted a glossy face and I was going to get it. The first product that came to my mind was the much-hyped Face Gloss from the much-hyped Milk brand. I either bought it or used Sephora points to get this travel size and waited for the angels to sing. The angels, however, were busy laughing at me for smearing a sticky substance on various areas of my face trying to capture the magic. While the gloss was lightweight and harmless it was also as sticky as a lip gloss (or more). Cat hair, my hair, lint, an errant lash- it all stuck to the top of my cheeks. That, my friends, is not a good look. My skin is dryish so a certain amount of glossy claminess shouldn’t be an issue, but in reality it just appeared like I was either attacked by a vaseline tube or simply had no idea what I was doing with my makeup.

Which maybe is true, because the next mess was another Milk product, their brow gel in pencil form. I love brow gels, brow pencils, brow pomades, brow powders, brow everything. But this hybrid pencil gel aside from not being a good color match (they only offer three shades. Don’t get me started) didn’t make any sense. Perhaps I’m missing something during application, but the pencil is too soft and squishy to use for precise little strokes and too thick in texture to use as an overall hair holding product. It also smudged before setting, fell prey to every pencil sharpener I own, and generally sucked. That’s unacceptable in an era where every brand under the sun offers a variety of brow products, many of them are nothing short of fantastic.

The two good things I have to say about my purchase of Butter London Glazen Blush Gelee are a) I only bought one color despite being interested in two of them, and b) I had a feeling I should also skip the Glazen Face Glow despite my glossy face obsession mentioned above. I adore almost every Butter London product I’ve ever tried, both in their original incarnation as mainly a nail product company as well as when they got seriously into makeup. The Blush Gelee, however, does not work for me no matter how hard I try. It’s a jiggly jelly, alright, and I have no textural problem with the concept. I do have a problem with makeup that doesn’t apply evenly no matter what I use (fingers, brushes, even a Beauty Blender which was the worst idea ever for spreading the blush in a way that made any aesthetic sense). The pigment gets swallowed by my skin and the base while the gel itself moves around like a fevered jellyfish. No matter what I’ve been trying the result was always the same: blotchy cheeks with messed up makeup. My last ditch effort was testing the gel on makeup-free skin, pretending I’m all effortless blush-and-go no foundation type of woman. The blush set upon contact. I couldn’t blend it, so there I was with blotchy splotchy yet metallic cheeks.

I wasn’t going to include these two Dior Metalizer Eyes & Lips Metal Creme Shadow in this list. Out of the four shades I bought two were excellent (Copper Power which I can even wear on my lips when I’m brave enough, and Plum Reflexion). Also, Metalizer was part of Dior Fall 2017 collection and I assumed they were long gone. However, the Dior website still sells the entire range, so someone might find this warning useful. The two colors I was most looking forward to wear, Platine Fusion and Bronze Tension, both suffer from the same issues. I bought them the second they became available (Saks? Nordstrom? I can’t remember), so it was not an expired product problem. They were thinner in texture than the other two, glossy rather than creamy, with Platine Fusion showing signs of separation, so I had to mix it back to even be able to use it. Pigmentation was miserable. I have nothing against eye glosses (Paul & Joe used to make really nice ones, and the Butter London eye glazes are a joy to use and wear), but this was dull on my darker than average lids. The barely-there hint of color was less pigmented than what I’d get had I smeared a good lip gloss over my eyes. They set well, just like the two good ones, but it was pointless. If I want to look makeup-free I’d just not put anything on.

We’ll end this up with a brush. An expensive and useless brush that I feel has to be the worst single item in my collection. Back in the day the original Kevyn Aucoin brush range might not have always been the softest with the best quality hair, but it was design to work and perform various makeup tasks. There were several original shapes there that you weren't able to find from other brands and you could tell that here was thought and design behind the brand. A couple of years ago the entire line was reworked, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. You already know where this one is going. I love fan brushes big and small. I still have my Louise Young Super Fan LY20 brush and use it for various face products (I think it was redesigned since I bought it and is now called 20a, made from synthetic hair). The Kevyn Aucoin Large Fan brush is also synthetic, and the fibers remind me of the synthetic taklon brushes of yore, floppy, unable to pick up any product of any kind, deposit color or blend it. They have so much give that they bend with the lightest pressure, making this brush unsuitable even for a cleanup job like kicking off extra powder. I’ve had this brush probably since it was launched two years ago and I have yet to find a reason for its existence. To add insult to injury, this $60 brush also feels very cheap. For comparison, there are several excellent quality natural hair face brushes you can buy from Hakuhodo for around $63. Any of them would serve you faithfully, as would the $36 all-synthetic Sephora PRO Featherweight Fan Brush #92 that has great heft and bounce.


  1. I'm so sorry, Gaia, but I laughed out loud at your description of all the things sticking to your face with the face gloss. Brilliant. :-)

  2. Oh goodness, thank you for the warning about the Marc Jacobs mascara! I haven't tried my samples yet, but I DO wear contact lenses...

    (I really appreciate these posts! Also, this reminds me I have a Butter London Eye Gloss I need to dig out.)

  3. This post was both entertaining and helpful. I've had a few unpleasant highlighter interactions recently, but I think that was more about my preferences than problems with the products themselves. I won't be trying the Barry M or Tony Moly, that's for sure. I'm so glad you warned abut the face gloss...somehow that sounded intriguing to me, too. Glad I now know better than to try it!

  4. I wasn't lucky enough to get a sample of the Marc Jacobs mascara, fell for the hype surrounding it and bought a tube. I wore it once, contemplated wearing it a second time and just chucked it.

  5. I was quite fortunate to avoid the Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Volume mascara debacle of 2017. I've been madly in love with L'Oreal's Voluminous Lash Paradise mascara and haven't looked back since. I also discovered this neat no profit called Wands for Wildlife. They recycle old mascara wands and use them to get larva and fly eggs off of wildlife. A win win for all around! :)

  6. I like the idea of gloss intended for anywhere other than the lips, but it just never turns out very well. I always look like a frighteningly sticky mess. Good to know about the velvet mascara though.


  7. I just find Milk confusing, I had some sample size items to try, an eye color and the mascara. Hated both. I keep playing with the various stick products but they are not earthshaking to convince me to go over to their side. I was wondering about the Butter London eye glazes, I think I'll get one for myself. Disappointing product - I was in Sephora today and tried the Fenty puff because I couldn't help myself. lol It's glitter on a not particularly soft puff. Not as fun as it looked.


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