Stila Glitter & Glow in Rose Gold Retro

When we were in our teens, my best friend and I used to watch Velvet Goldmine, listen to Roxy Music and T-Rex, and dream about maximum glitter. Well, now I am sixteen times two, and my glam rock dreams have kind of come true… in terms of eye makeup. Last year, the newly cruelty free brand Stila came up with the Glitter & Glow liquid eyeshadows, which allow one to achieve that heavily pasted-on, solar-flare look. I got the color Rose Gold Retro, because I am one of those bozos who like rose gold everything. (Millennial pink ain’t too ugly, either…)

And who would fault me for that? Enjoy the swatches of my rose gold eyeshadow collection (two images in different lighting):

Look at how shiny the Stila is. Seriously, the Glitter & Glow line is a godsend to those who take makeup selfies with their phones (aka me), because FINALLY the eyeshadows show up as lustrous in selfies as they do in real life. That is because the glitters here are huge, irregular shards, as opposed to the delicate specks in something like Urban Decay Moondust. I’d only seen such big chunks once before, in a Japanese gel eyeshadow—Canmake Jewelstar Eyes in Stone Gold. I thought it interesting to compare a few kinds of glitter that I have:


Liquid eyeshadows sound like they have the potential to become crease central, but Rose Gold Retro holds onto the lid like a champ. (Note: I always wear primer.) It’s also very easy to blend with a finger. One issue though: the glitter fallout from that thing is MASSIVE. Which is why I take precautions: I apply Rose Gold Retro only after the rest of the makeup is finished, press it onto the lid carefully and precisely, and blend in small motions.

So far, I have only worn Rose Gold Retro in a halo eye placement. Below is my favorite of those halo looks. I really like to contrast maximum sparkle with morbid purple and greige shadows—I call it my “glitter zombie” style (my husband has another name: “sparkle goth).


The mattes in this look are all from TheBalm’s Meet Matt(e) Trimony palette:

– Matt Lin (light beige) as a base to blend other shadows into;

– Matt Rossi (purply taupe) swirled into the inner and outer crease;

– Matt Moskowitz (dark purple) to define the inner and outer thirds;

– Matt Ahmed (black) blended into Rossi and Moskowitz underneath the eye.

The highlighter in the inner corner is an icy light purple: Hemisphere from the Sleek Solstice palette.

Here is the full face. My blush is Sleek Pink Parfait mixed with a Sigma purple highlighter (Felicity) on top. The lip is Bow n Arrow by Kat Von D—a creamy matte from the “Studded Kiss” line, the one in that (in)famous Hot Topic-style packaging.


Two bonus halo eye looks from my Instagram page. This one is more mauve (Lipstick review here):

And this one is unapologetically red. Reds under the beds. (My red eyeshadow reviews live here):

Epic shiny look for a nice day. @lipstickandgalaxies guessed that I am wearing a @stilacosmetics liquid eyeshadow on my lids! ✨ The color is Rose Gold Retro. The matte eyeshadows are from the @anastasiabeverlyhills Modern Renaissance (placement inspired by the recent @karimamckimmie video). Lipstick: @urbandecaycosmetics vice lipstick Trance, a metallic beige. I am also growing out my brows for the first time since I was 16… because I am curious what will come out of it 🤦🏻‍♀️🐛 #fotd #motd #makeup #anastasiabeverlyhills #anastasiabeverlyhillsmodernrenaissance #crueltyfree #crueltyfreemakeup #redeyeshadow #haloeye #urbandecay #lipstickismyvice #urbandecaytrance #stila #stilaglitterandglow #stilarosegoldretro

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Too Faced Melted Matte Lipstick in Unicorn

I have the most amazing story about the Too Faced Unicorn lipstick. When I was visiting my mother-in-law last summer, I noticed some pretty purple flowers in her garden, and said something like “That color would be great for a lipstick.” When Christmastime came, my mother-in-law remembered that remark, and brought the flowers to a makeup store for them to find a lipstick in that shade for me! She’s so thoughtful.


I adore purple lipsticks. There are space-age blue purples, smoky grey purples, gothy dark purples… and Unicorn is a bright and flowery purple (fittingly for the story above.) It is like a darker version of that beloved 2014 Pantone color of the year, Radiant Orchid. My husband says that Unicorn reminds him of spring and Easter.

Of course, I have extreme prejudice towards this product, but believe me when I say, Unicorn is one of the best liquid-to-matte lipsticks I’ve tried. It’s easy to apply, as the wand is not too long (hello Kat Von D), and the applicator is a straighforward doefoot instead of some weird huge paddle (hello Anastasia Beverly Hills). I think it would be easy to draw a crisp outline with that applicator, if you’re into such a thing (I’m not. I just paint my lips and outline by blending the color down with a concealer brush.) The lipstick does not dry down immediately and stays malleable for a time, which allows for a beautiful even blend. Longevity-wise, it predictably disappears in the middle after eating or drinking, but I didn’t notice it cracking after reapplication. And it doesn’t dry out the lips too much, no more than a creamy matte bullet lipstick does.

Yes, in terms of quality this product is a win. But not everything is rainbows and, ummmmmmm, unicorns in the Too Faced world. I’m talking about some of the product names in the Melted Matte line. One of shades is named “Miso Pretty”–whoa, that sounds pretty racist! Seriously, Too Faced? Who approved that nonsense?! It’s 2018, jeez.

And, I’ve got another rant prepared for you, this time about the future of the whole liquid-to-matte lipstick genre. One of the Russian makeup channels I follow posted that the esteemed artist Val Garland has declared matte lipsticks over, i.e. not on trend anymore. Um… I do respect Val Garland and that channel, but these “trendy/untrendy” concepts need to head into the dustbin of history. We’re just getting the party started in terms of liquid-to-matte lipsticks. We’ve been seeing better and better formulas on the market, with Smashbox, Too Faced, and even Wet n Wild setting the bar high for other mainstream brands. I’d be down for having more good, comfortable liquid lipsticks available (instead of the crumbly crap of years past), in a variety of crazy colors.

Okay, rants over, time for the looks featuring the Unicorn lipstick.


This I wore yesterday. For my eye look, I used the satin mauve and the shimmery copper shade from an ancient Wet n Wild limited edition palette called Smoke and Melrose, as well as the dark red and purple shades from Charlotte Tilbury’s Vintage Vamp. The sparkle in the middle is the Stila Glitter and Glow in Rose Gold Retro. I’m also wearing a purple highlighter in the inner corner, Felicity from the Sigma Beauty Chroma Glow palette. (I am in love with Chroma Glow, but that would be a story for another time.)


And this was my New Year’s Eve look. Yes, my “party look” can be more demure than my regular Saturday face–that’s just the way I am. I used Zeal, the blue highlighter from Chroma Glow, as the lid shade (very subtle here), and framed it with my trusty old browns from Kat Von D’s Shade and Light palette.

Quick Reviews: Essence, The Body Shop, Pacifica

Life update: I’ve just had wisdom teeth surgery! I was supposed to see a Peter Murphy concert today (exactly 12 years since I first saw him with Bauhaus in Berlin), but the whole tour got rescheduled. I think that was a blessing in disguise, as my face is still insanely swollen, and I’m drowsy from the painkillers.

As I’m shambling around my apartment in pyjamas instead of slapping glitter on my face in anticipation of the “godfather of goth” show, I thought I’d write up a couple of reviews of recent purchases. Those goodies don’t have much in common, except for one thing: they all fall into the “boring staple” category. However, I have developed an outsized love for at least one of them, and that product would be…


Essence I Love Extreme Mascara

Tacky packaging aside, this $4.99 find is seriously the best mascara I’ve ever tried, so I was happy to repurchase it. Granted, I don’t expect much from mascara. The most it can realistically do for me is: 1) make my tiny, pale lashes a little bit more visible, and 2) not be a pain to use. I’ve tried a lot of expensive “cult favorites,” and believe it or not, most of them FAILED to pass those simple tests. Kevyn Aucoin Volume dried up on me too quickly. Urban Decay Troublemaker has a weird spiky wand that makes it hard to paint my lower lashes. Milk Makeup Ubame is too subtle. It Cosmetics Superhero gunks up in its packaging horribly… But I haven’t had any of those grievances with I Love Extreme. It gives my lashes a moderately spidery but still “separated” look, and I like its no-bullshit wand. The latter is straight and on the bigger side, but not obnoxiously huge, which works for both upper and lower lash application.


The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye and Lip Makeup Remover

Eye makeup remover is another one of those product categories that are ubiquitous, but damn, it’s hard to find one you truly like. I was peeved when Target stopped selling Sonia Kashuk’s Remove, my “holy grail”–I went through countless bottles of it over the years. When my last drops of Remove were gone, I picked up the Body Shop’s Camomile Makeup Remover, which thankfully turned out to be a worthy replacement.

Like the Sonia Kashuk remover, the Body Shop is a bi-phase product, which takes everything off in a pinch. This is important for me, because I like to wear heavy makeup: 3+ eyeshadows, eyeliner to tightline, liquid lipsticks, etc. Moreover, the Body Shop is gentle enough to not irritate my skin or eyes. So yes, it does stand its ground in comparison with my old holy grail. The only issue is the price: $18 for 5 fl oz vs. $11 for Sonia’s 4.75 fl oz. I would be down for exploring cheaper cruelty-free options for this kind of product.


Pacifica Kale Charcoal Ultimate Detox Mask

I’m not a fan of face masks, because they tend to irritate my face. But I still try them sometimes, as my combination-type skin, with issues such as blemishes and clogged pores, could potentially benefit from a good mask. If I could only find The One…

Recently, I was curious to try clearing out my pores using the Fifty Shades of Snail “Super Pore Killer” method, which necessitates a clay mask as one of its three steps (after salicylic acid and before cleansing oil). It turned out to be surprisingly hard to find such masks at my favorite “hippie” co-op, San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery. (What I found was “raw water.” WTF, Rainbow??!!) The Pacifica Ultimate Detox was one of the few clay masks available. Even though its name highlights “kale and charcoal,” it’s actually a traditional cleansing mask with clays as the second and third ingredients. The product is affordable (around $10), and like everything by Pacifica, it boasts youthful “earth mama”-style packaging, reminiscent of Tarte in its glory days. I like that the format is “ready-to-apply,” without the necessity to mix clay with water.

Regarding quality, my verdict is this: the Pacifica mask is not The One, but it’s okay! So far, I’ve only tried it on my blemish-prone T-zone, as part of the aforementioned “Super Pore Killer” method. Even though that area is the hotspot of my rosacea, I didn’t notice any extra sensitivity or irritation. In general, I’ve found the Pacifica to be a very basic clay mask, which soaks up the oils and leaves the skin slightly dry. It has a bluish grey color, which has prompted me to call it “my stone-eater mask” (in reference to N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth books, haha).

As for the results of the “Super Pore Killer” method, they have been mixed. The method didn’t “vacuum clean” my pores, but they have indeed become somewhat clearer; my skin got generally softer; and I’ve been getting fewer blemishes. However, I’m debating if I should continue, as treatments that require rubbing my face with cleansing oil for a few minutes make me suspicious–the risk of busted capillaries is real.

So yeah, those were my drowsy little reviews. Have you tried any of those goodies & what are your favorites in those product categories?

2017: My Year in Makeup

I’d never enjoyed makeup as much as I did in 2017. As cliche as it sounds, the process of applying makeup is kind of my zen. As I learn more and feed on diverse sources of inspiration, my bank of happy makeup moments and memories keeps growing. This year, I’ve started following tons of inventive artists on Instagram, which helped me finally clear out any remaining preconceptions of what makeup “should” look like.


Re: the evolution of my personal style, I’ve embraced color, glitter, black eyeshadow, and monochromatic looks. Not that I want to throw away my brown Too Faced eyeshadow palettes, but now I’m more likely to pair them with brown lipsticks or glosses for a “sepia” effect, rather than do a “bright lip/neutral eye.” About that: I’ve lost interest in creating looks where lipstick is the only focal point, whether that means “nude” eyeshadows or no eye makeup at all. There better be something interesting happening on my eyes (at least some sparkly eyeliner or spidery lashes), otherwise I’d just go makeup-free.

2017 was also the year I finally started this blog (duh), which I’d been meaning to do since I first had opinions about makeup back in 2014. I don’t update the blog or my Instagram page as often as I would like, and this is because I have a real hard time with photos. However, in 2017 I managed to take a few makeup pictures that I would call my personal best. (Here is a post about my selfie struggles.)

Enough with the generalities–so what was my brand of the year?! I’d say Urban Decay. No, they do not have the best formulas, or the most inspiring promo pics. But of the major brands, Urban Decay have the biggest diversity of colors and textures for eyeshadows, lipsticks, and eyeliners, hence I kept being drawn to their Sephora stand.

As for the anti-brand of the year, that would undoubtedly be NARS, all because they jettisoned their cruelty-free status. Now, do I understand that all ostensibly cruelty-free products are made of ingredients that were tested on animals in times past? Yes. Am I aware that the beauty industry has other problems, such as poor working conditions? Yes. Do I understand why China mandates animal testing? Am I happy that Chinese customers now have access to NARS? Do I appreciate NARS’s role of pushing “arty” sensibilities into the mainstream? Yes, yes, yes. However: does NARS entering China mean that more beasts will be subjected to cosmetics testing? Yes. The cruelty-free movement has a lot of issues, “ifs,” and “buts,” however I do want that flame to keep going, because it is ultimately an expression of love for the Earth and its creatures. I believe that taking a general stance that “we the people” are in favor of animal welfare and want to reduce suffering, even in such a small area as cosmetics testing, would make us better.

That’s it! And now, on to my top 10 products (or product categories) of the year. Not all of those were 2017 releases, and some had been purchased in earlier years. But nevertheless, these are the goodies that have defined the “2017 in makeup” for me.

1. Urban Decay Moondust eyeshadow palette

Colorful glitters. To be piled on top of any eye look. Just use glitter glue or a fixing spray, or else the Moondusts are going to end up all over your face.

2. Urban Decay Naked Heat eyeshadow palette

Yes, everyone and their granny had already released their warm orange palettes by the time Naked Heat came out. But Heat is the best of them, and that’s because the colors are (pardon me) exquisitely balanced. As in, warm orange-ish eyeshadows might give me a sickly look, but that never happens with Heat. Those shades are just so… juicy and happy? The only problem with Heat is that some mattes kick up too much dandruff, which is annoying.

3. CANMAKE cream and gel blushes

The well-loved CANMAKE blushes were (unsurprisingly) the best purchases I made in Japan last year. I have three: 05 Sweet Apricot (thick apricot cream), CL01 Clear Red Heart (sheer red), and 04 Blood Cranberry (gel berry; the color of my natural flush.) I love those blushes because it’s super easy to spread them evenly over my Bare Minerals powder foundation and finishing powder. Pictured: 04 Blood Cranberry.

4. Burnt orange lipsticks: Smashbox Out Loud and Urban Decay Backseat

Burnt orange was my most loved lipstick color of the year. It’s one of those shades that for some reason, still remain rare, however I consider orange a beautiful day-to-day alternative to red, berry, or brown. Two examples that I like are Urban Decay Backseat, which has more of a brown undertone, and Smashbox Out Loud, a redder and rustier color. I usually pair those lipsticks with Naked Heat for monochromatic looks. Pictured: Out Loud in an ombre with the Jordana Rock’n’Rose lipliner.

5. Wet’n’Wild Catsuit liquid lipsticks

Of course I like them! Everybody likes them! There’s no reason to buy Kat Von D or TheBalm liquid lipsticks anymore–only their weird or complex colors, because Wet’n’Wild has all the basics covered at the same quality and for a fraction of the price. Pictured: Rebel Rose.

6. ColourPop eyeshadows

I am enjoying both of ColourPop’s major lines–the OG mousse shadows (SuperShock) as well as the newer powders, which can rival Anastasia’s Modern Renaissance or Naked Heat in terms of color payoff and slick texture. Pictured: Making Moves (powder; crease) and Muse (SuperShock; lid).

7. Kiko lipstick in 436 Cold Brown; and

8. Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pens


Who would have thought that the most unassuming, the most cheapo lipstick from a Kiko store in Moscow would end up being my perfect “fresh-from-the-grave zombie” shade?.. For the look above, I decided to go full goth and paired 436 Cold Brown with a black eye pencil: the Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir. I have two of those “pens” (Black Noir and Black Cocoa), and they’re the most pigmented and malleable pencil eyeliners I have ever used.

9. Becca Lilac Geode highlighter


For everybody in the makeup world, 2017 was the year of weird highlighters, and I’ve also got a favorite in that category: Becca Lilac Geode. Is it pink? Gold? Green? Who knows? Who cares? It’s “my preciousssss” in any case.

10. Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb


No, I did not escape the “Fenty Beauty by Rihanna” craze, and I did purchase what seems to be the most popular product: the Gloss Bomb. (Not only for myself, but for my sister as well.) What? It’s a GREAT lip gloss, a honey beige with gold sparkles that works with any eye or cheek makeup. It’s not gunky in the slightest, feels like a lip balm, and creates an almost metallic finish. The only issue is the super strong peachy scent, so if you hate fragrance, stay away.

Playing with Glitter & Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pens

Let me preface this post with: Wooooow, shabby timing. I like me some glitter, but it’s racking in bad rep these days, with the news that it might potentially harm marine life when washed down the drain. Looks like the science isn’t conclusive (“no concrete data on glitter,” according to National Geographic), so I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not planning to stop using my glitters just yet, and they don’t get rinsed off with water anyway–it’s always makeup remover on cotton pads for me. I’ll make an update on this blog in case of further developments to this story.

So, glitter. There are “eyeshadows with glitter,” and then there are “glitter eyeshadows,” which in my collection are mostly represented by the Urban Decay Moondust palette. By themselves, those shadows are pretty subtle and atmospheric. But with a little help in the form of glitter glue or fixing spray, they produce this very on-trend wet, colorful, and “artfully messy” look. Currently, my favorite glitter companions are the Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pens.


The Endless Silky Eye Pens are exceptionally smooth and blendable pencil eyeliners. I had the color Deep Plum a couple of years ago, and back then, I didn’t understand the joke–the pencil was weirdly smushy, and ultimately got destroyed in the sharpener. When in the market for a dark brown eyeliner, I decided to give Pixi another try, and the shade Black Cocoa didn’t disappoint. Since then, I bought another one, Black Noir. They’re both soft (much softer than even the Urban Decay 24/7 pencils), but so far, the mess I had with Deep Plum has not been repeated.

As liners, the Endless Silky Eye Pens seem like a boon for aging eyelids. Mine are hooded and insanely oily, so they do not yet show signs of age when makeup-free. However, any makeup melts away from them in minutes if no primer is involved, and all primers (even the best one, Urban Decay Anti-Aging) give my lids a crepey appearance. While other liners skip and drag over the crinkles, the Pixi pencils glide. As an extra plus, they stay all day without the color migrating to the eye hoods.

I also like how easy it is to blend these liners out with a blending brush, hence I’ve been using them as a base for the Moondust glitters. Here is a look that I love, with Black Cocoa and the Lithium glitter (brown with silvery sparkles):



1: Line the lower lashline with the pencil, slightly winging it out towards the brow tail, demarcating a shape. Blend in small swirly motions with a blending brush.

2. Apply thickly onto the eyelid and into the crease. Blend. No need to use the brush cleaner spray between the blending passes. Grody is okay.

3. Repeat the steps with the other eye. Marvel at how 90s the eyes look (the overused “grungy” word is warranted here) and think “I could totally go out like this.”

4. Do the rest of the makeup. (Glitter is the last step, as the Moondusts are notoriously fallout-prone.) Put on a badass sci-fi goth lip color, such as Kat Von D’s Ayesha. Other ideas: Bite Lavender Jam or NYX Amethyst.

5. Mash a flat brush into the glitter and spray the brush with a fixing spray, such as the e.l.f. Makeup Mist & Set. Press the glitter onto the lids. Done.

Here’s another photo. Not the best pic of all time, but it shows the shape and the sparkle better.


Yesterday, I repeated the same steps with the Black Noir pencil and the light pink Specter glitter, and added some neon pink accents for good measure (using the Savage pressed pigment from the UD Electric palette). I had a ridiculously hard time capturing this look on camera, so the picture below is the best I’ve got.

The pink accents turned out to be a bad idea, as the bright inner corners made my eyes look really close together. However, the Specter glitter was not too shabby on top of the smeared black pencil, producing a soft shimmery gray. I would even call the combination a “work-safe glittery look.” I’m still not convinced that gray is “my color” when it comes to eyeshadows, so not sure if I want to repeat. We’ll see.

FOTD inspired by Jorge Balzaretti feat. Becca Lilac Geode

Lately, I’ve been using the blues and greens in my eyeshadow palettes more. Those shades are usually the least exciting to me (except for maybe the greys), but my loved ones say “Do blue! Do green!” every single time I ask them which color scheme I should pick next. So I’ve been paying attention to blue and green, and finding inspiration in various glitterbomb and “block of color” looks. Jorge Balzaretti of SUQQU recently created a fantastic “colorful makeup” story for ELLE, and I decided to copy his combination of blue on the lid and green underneath the eye:

Last beauty story for ELLE! ❤️

A post shared by JORGE BALZARETTI (@jorgemakeup) on

Not sure which eyeshadows Jorge used, but I reached for my Sleek Storm palette, a decent one for jewel tones. The dark blue shadow, Electric Storm is a little thin and sheer, so I amplified the shine with Vega, the blue glitter from the Urban Decay Moondust palette. Underneath the eyes, I thickly applied Urban Decay Dragon (the green from Vice 3) and blended Sleek’s forest green, Storm Cloud into the lower lashlines. Here is the whole look:


In most of the selfies I took, the eyeshadows appear flatter and drier than in real life. I got preoccupied with trying to capture my highlighter (read on), so I posed in ways that would allow the sun to hit my cheekbones instead of my eyes. Here is a rare pic that showcases the eyeshadow texture better:


Next time, to make metallic or glittery eyeshadows look shinier in pictures, I’m thinking of applying them wet (with the elf makeup mist) or piling on a couple more layers.

My lipstick (OCC Dash lip tar) appears similar to what Jorge chose, but for the cheek makeup, I went for something different. I thought this would be a good #fotd for showcasing my splendid birthday present to myself: the Becca Lilac Geode highlighter.


This is what you call “my precious.”


The brand describes this Ulta-exclusive color as “cool pink with golden pearl finish,” but on my cheeks, it’s more of a… pale gold, I guess?


It unexpectedly flashes greenish when sunlight hits it.


Texture-wise, Lilac Geode is surprisingly different from the other highlighters that I own, from Becca Opal and TheBalm Mary Lou-manizer to the Sleek highlighters. All of those are kind of thin, whereas Lilac Geode seems “creamy,” like the ABH Modern Renaissance eyeshadows. I am looking forward to wearing it on my lids!

My (Ongoing) Makeup & Photo Journey

I am a late bloomer as far as makeup is concerned. Well, I started wearing makeup at around 13 years old, but I didn’t have any interest in developing my skills or following trends until I was pushing “dirty thirty.” But once it started, it immediately went zero to sixty. I blame my awesome sister, who asked me to buy her popular items such as the beauty blender and the Naked Basics palette. “If she’s so gaga about all this stuff, there must be something about it, right?” Makeup turned out to be a perfect hobby for me: for as long as I can remember, I’d had a mindset for collecting and analyzing stuff.

From the very beginning, I’ve been reading beauty forums and blogs. As someone with an irrepressible urge to write about things I enjoy, I got a desire to, um, “participate in the conversation.” But here I ran into a problem: makeup being a visual medium, to be a blogger, you have to take photos! Daaaaaaamn… At the outset of my beauty hobby in 2014, my selfie chops were at the same stage of infancy as my makeup skills. I still struggle (mightily) with photos, but looking at my first experiments in capturing my looks, I see that I’ve made significant progress. Sometimes, when I feel down or stuck, I can look back at this post and see that with time and practice, any skill can be improved upon, even if you start at zero.



This was taken very early on my makeup journey. The lip color is hard to see, but it’s Artificial Amethyst by Portland Black Lipstick Co. My makeup collecting was at first pretty haphazard. I just bought random items that I thought were fun, which mostly meant dark and sparkly lipsticks and eyeshadows (me being the office goth and all.)

I also was a complete noob in the picture department: not a “visual” person to begin with, and also terrible at posing (I still am.) There is a reason why my favorite art is of conceptual persuasion. Looking back at it, I was too much of a believer in the “magic of selfies.” As in, selfies are something that you SNAP–just turn your face in various directions, click click click, and a perfect picture will somehow come out. Lighting? Wha? Never heard of it.

But even though the makeup colors and textures are hard to discern, I smile when I look at some of those old selfies. I look obviously pleased with myself for discovering a fun new hobby, and proud to be building a new skillset. And I am grateful to my husband, sister, and friends: even though those selfies were not good, my people were always supportive and helpful.



As my interest in makeup grew, I changed my approach and made steps to get that hobby systematized. I think 2015 was the heyday of “Instagram baddie makeup,” and I fully took in this style with all its million rules. Such as: “wear 4 transition colors for each eyeshadow look,” “blend blend blend, and then blend again,” “ground bright shadows with neutral colors,” and of course, the good old “face makeup is primer/ full-coverage foundation/ powder/ contour/ blush/ highlighter/ setting spray.”

Nowadays, my style is more chill and less product-heavy. I prefer unblended eyeshadow looks to overblended ones; I rarely use more than one cheek product; and I don’t care for face primer or full-coverage foundation, even if it means that my rosacea and mild acne will be showing. But I am still grateful to have had that “Instagram makeup” experience, as it taught me a myriad of little tips and tricks. I learned how to tightline, which brush motions are best for blending, etc. And because I had bought so many different products, I now have a much better knowledge of what’s out there and how it all works.

At the same time, my photo skills improved only marginally. I started to consider lighting, but I still hadn’t developed the necessary attention to detail. Now, I look at those photos and go: why so blurry? why are my bangs so messy? why is my face not centered? But back then, I just did not give a damn.


Last year, I started to come into my own, and better understand which styles work for me. For example, I realized that I do not want to outline my lips, at all. In general, I became more relaxed about “rules,” as outlined in the previous section. Of course, I cannot just credit myself for this development, as “it was in the air.” (We all like to say we think for ourselves, but we don’t live in a vacuum.) In particular, 2016 saw the rise of playful brands such as Milk Makeup, which promoted everyday versions of anarchic editorial looks (such as their endless unblended smears of bright eyeshadow.)

I also upped my selfie game that year. Instead of “magical thinking,” I began to consciously tie my photo-taking to natural lighting conditions, and notice various details. I analyze data at work–why not analyze my selfies?!

Regarding those pesky details, I got more comfortable to post my pictures on Instagram, because–frankly speaking–I learned some tricks for subtle retouching, such as spot healing. Yes, those tools are problematic, but it can’t be denied that they helped many women with “problem skin” feel more confident in their online self-presentation. It’s up to each individual to decide what they are comfortable with.


These days, my pics look kind of like this:


Still not perfect, as I’m stuck with taking selfies whenever I can, instead of whenever the natural lighting is best (I’m at work during those times, yo.) But I’m trying to do my best with whatever I’ve got.

I’ve also made an executive decision to stop spot healing. Again, “it is in the air”–feels like there is a “real skin”  movement emerging right now. See conversations prompted by well-known bloggers such as Elia Chabakaury in Russia and Katie Jane Hughes in the U.S. I don’t mind seeing edited photos from bloggers (see above), but for myself, I think I’ll let the breakouts and pores be.

Recently, I started to experiment with new ways to take selfies: direct sunlight, closeups… Some of my recent pics are among the best I’ve ever taken:


The one on the right actually features my natural facial expression, as I’m not a smiler (to the chagrin of men in the street who tell me to smile.)

I’m hoping to do more photos like that (and better ones) when time and lighting allows. It’s still a journey. In general, this blog post can be summarized in one photo collage: