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.


6 looks for 6 months

Man, I derive so much joy from doing makeup. I just sit down, fire up the Young Turks, and meditatively pile color upon color onto my face. I’d never had any kind of craftsy hobby before I took up makeup at age 28, so it was an opportunity to develop some visual skills, to learn the basics of shape and texture and color. This year, I’ve been having the most pleasurable time with this hobby so far. I don’t struggle with technique as much anymore, which allows me to just enjoy the ride.

Over the past six months, I’ve worn a lot of looks that I loved–alas, photography is not my strongest suit, so most of them were lost to history. However, I managed to snap a few–here are six of my favorites. Some of those looks are kind of psychedelic, but I did wear them all “out on the town,” even the blue lipstick one. As much as I love putting makeup on my face, I hate doing it “just for myself”–if I don’t go out that day, I don’t wear makeup at all. Two looks are my office faces, and the rest are for date nights or other outings.


Eyeshadow blending is overrated. Well, I like waving my blending brush around as much as the next guy does, but sometimes a neon splotch is enough. The contrast of orange (Urban Decay Slowburn) with a plummy shade (Zoeva Alloy) was inspired by this orange-and-purple look by Karla Garcia. The zombie lipstick is Thistle by Bite Beauty, part of the Amuse Bouche line. I love those suckers–they’re slippery, but pretty moisturizing and comfortable.


Red, red, red. This was a time in my life when I was wondering: why do I even bother wearing colors that are not red? Lucia Pica of Chanel knows how to honor this color, so naturally, she was my inspiration for this look. Here, Lucia combined the red with a little bit of purple, so I did a halo with the epic Anastasia Modern Renaissance palette and the purple shade from Shu Uemura Cool x Chic.


This blue. NYX Liquid Suede in Jet Set is so flowery! I refuse to call this color crazy or corpsey or weird. Such blues (as well as deep blacks and greens) should have the same “classic” clout that red lipsticks do. Aside from the lipstick, there’s also the fact that in 2017, I rediscovered black eyeshadow. I don’t remember which one I wore for this look, but I can say for sure that the best, baddest one in my collection is Urban Decay Blackout.


All of the looks so far have been kind of nsfw (“weekend faces” for me), so here’s one I wore to the office. My best friend says I look so 90s on this pic. This was the only time in recent memory I wore matte grey eyeshadows (the central quad from Kat Von D Shade and Light). I also wore my favorite blush, Too Faced Baby Love, which is seriously awesome. This blush is quite pigmented, but so soft and malleable that it’s impossible to mess it up. The lipstick is Give Me Mocha by Wet n Wild, from their new liquid matte line. It’s much cheaper than Kat Von D and TheBalm liquid lipsticks, but pretty much the same quality-wise.


I’m only starting to explore the wondrous world of Urban Decay Moondust glitters. On their own, they are pretty subtle, but on top of some glitter primer… now we’re talking. Besides the blue Magnetic glitter, I’m wearing the Kiko lipstick in 436 Cold Brown. It brings memories of running around with my best friend, who bought the same lipstick when we visited Kiko together. On her, the color looks like a mysterious, medium dark taupe/mauve/purple, and on me, it pulls more earthy and zombie-like.


Reddish eyeshadows in a fuzzy-edged shape and sheer lipstick. This is the kind of face that I often wear on a day-to-day basis, so it’s fitting that I chose this pic to announce the Spiders and Caterpillars blog project on Instagram. The palette I used for this look is TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Trimony. I haven’t written much about it on this blog, but this palette is one of my favorite products. Coming up with interesting looks with just Meet Matt(e) Trimony has been a challenge, but it truly shines when combined with metallics or shimmers.

Two Kiko Lipsticks: 436 Cold Brown and 205 Wine

When I visited Europe a few weeks ago, one of my makeup-collector goals for the trip was to check out the budget brand Kiko. I was excited about the Water eyeshadows–one of my all-time favorites, the burgundy 203, belongs to that line–and the much buzzed-about shadow sticks.

Beyond those eye products, I wasn’t sure what to look for. For some reason, I expected Kiko to be the European NYX, however it seems like NYX has a wider range of non-traditional lipstick shades. Kiko does carry some attractive vivid brights, but what ultimately caught my interest were two less conspicuous options. They weren’t prominently displayed, but their colors spoke to my sensibilities. Both lipsticks turned out truly comfortable to wear–just like balms. I had brought a few liquid mattes on vacation with me, to not worry about longevity, but I ended up not needing them and just wearing Kiko for the rest of the trip.


Left: Glossy Dream Sheer Lipstick in 205 Wine. Right: Smart Fusion Lipstick in 436 Cold Brown.

Smart Fusion Lipstick in 436 Cold Brown

436 Cold Brown is a taupe, something that Michèle Lamy might want to wear.

From Interview Magazine

Smart Fusion is one of Kiko’s cheaper lines, with every lipstick having a matching pencil. I didn’t buy a pencil, but it’s clear why Smart Fusion might need one. These lipsticks are so creamy they easily slip around. My friend, who also bought a tube of 436 Cold Brown, says it applies patchy on her, and she has to even it out with a finger. I think that formula- and finish-wise, Smart Fusion is very similar to Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche, which has the same slippiness issue.

I actually thought that the Amuse Bouche lipstick in Thistle would be close in color to 436 Cold Brown. But when I swatched them side by side, it was clear that the Kiko is much more brown.


Left: Kiko 436 Soft Brown. Right: Bite Beauty Thistle.

I don’t wear Thistle too often, because it makes me look like a like a glamorous cadaver. But when I do, I often create bombastic looks that turn out to be my all-time favorites: 1, 2. I expect that 436 Cold Brown will play the same role in my collection. (Man, what can be more 2010s than colorful/glittery eye looks with corpsey lipsticks?) Case in point: the look I did yesterday, which I adore.

I wore 436 Cold Brown with an eye look centered on Urban Decay’s trippy Magnetic glitter (from the Moondust palette). Magnetic consists of blue and violet sparkles in a purple base. I’ve heard that Moondust glitters work well with a black pencil base, however I don’t know much about black pencils, and the one I used, NARS Via Veneto, turned out to be unblendable. I swished a matte black eyeshadow, Urban Decay Blackout, on top of the pencil and applied a thin layer of Darling Girl Glitter Glue. Once the glue dried down, I packed Magnetic onto the lids with my finger. The Moondust glitters are usually pretty subtle and fly all over the place, but all the prep allowed Magnetic to truly showcase its beauty, with no fallout. The blush I used for this look is Your Love Is King by Too Faced, a deep pink that creates a natural flush/ slight sunburn effect on my skin.


Glossy Dream Sheer Lipstick in 205 Wine

Since I was a tiny little teenager in 2000 obsessed with Placebo, I’ve had a particular affinity for “my lips but darker and shinier”-type products. I’m not sure if the Placebo man wore such lip colors, but for some reason it was etched into my mind that he did. Over the years, I’ve had a number of lipsticks and glosses that performed this function, and 205 Wine is just another iteration of the concept.

205 Wine is (to me) a great everyday option that combines the qualities of a lipstick, a gloss, and a balm. The only issue I see is that the product is full of humongous glitter chunks, which to me seems outmoded. Those chunks, lying flat on a faint strip of color, are what’s left of the look after a meal. I don’t mind the glitter that much, but I know it might be an issue for some, so beware. Here’s 205 Wine compared to Too Faced La Creme in Bumbleberry–the glitter is obvious.


Left: Kiko 205 Wine. Right: Too Faced Bumbleberry.

For the look below, I applied 205 Wine “in full force” with the bullet. On my eyes, I’m wearing a few shades from the Urban Decay Gwen Stefani palette, a not-too-shabby sale catch for $25. I used Anaheim (light brown) in the outer crease and Stark (light beige) to soften the edges, then 1987 (yellow gold) on the lid and Punk (deep burgundy) in the outer corner. On my cheeks is my favorite blush, Too Faced Baby Love, which I grab when I’m lazy because it goes with everything.


And here I just lightly tapped my lips with 205 Wine, as I wanted the focus of the look to be on the blush–Sleek Flushed, reviewed here. The eye makeup has, coincidentally, the same gold and burgundy color scheme, however instead of the ultra-pigmented Urban Decay eyeshadows, I went for the soft blendiness of Viseart Petit Pro. The idea is the same: brown in the crease, burgundy in the outer corner, gold on the lid.