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.


Smashbox Out Loud + Thoughts on Liquid Lipsticks

A coworker of mine likes Michelle Phan, and she sent me a link to her new line, Em Cosmetics. There was a really beautiful and unusual burnt orange shade in Phan’s liquid lipstick collection–Faded Clementine. It’s the kind of color I want to call earthy. However, unlike regular beiges, browns, and brick reds, it’s shade that makes one do a double take, mostly because it’s so rare. Once I learned that Smashbox has a similar color, Out Loud, I knew what I would be getting at the spring Sephora sale, as I’d heard good things about Smashbox liquid-to-mattes.


I’m truly in love with this shade. Here is a color comparison with the other orange lipstick in my collection, Urban Decay Sheer Slowburn (right). The latter is more of a fruity color, whereas Out Loud is plain rusty. It reminds me of international orange–the color of the Golden Gate Bridge.


I am also fond of the angular shape of the packaging. As a garden variety devotee of modernism, I like keeping angular stuff around.


(By the way, the background for the product shot is a… ummmmm… Playboy-type magazine from Hong Kong. From the 1980s. Husband and I once went to an old theater in SF Chinatown to watch a Jackie Chan movie, and the owner was giving out those mags to everybody.)

Considering Out Loud’s quality… I might not be the best person to analyze this product in fine detail. I only have two categories for liquid-to-matte lipsticks: bad and not-too-bad. The bad guys are NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams (thin and streaky) and Milani Amore Mattes (crumbly). The not-too-shabby lines are those without such problems: Kat Von D, TheBalm, Wet n Wild, and now, Smashbox. They all feel pretty much the same to me. Comfort-wise, they’re decent, but y’know…. they can’t hold a candle to my favorite sheers. They dry out the lips and get crusty as you reapply throughout the day.

I do understand, however, why the idea of liquid-to-mattes is attractive: in a perfect world, they allow the wearer to throw the spotlight on pure color, without the “distraction” of shine or creamy/waxy texture that one gets with bullet lipsticks. Which is why I still bother with liquid-to-mattes sometimes. To make sure they don’t drive me nuts, I follow these useful tips:

First–and this is a piece of advice by Russian makeup artist Olga Blik–I’ve recently started to apply liquid lipstick with a dedicated lip brush instead of the doefoot applicator. With a brush, you can do a thinner layer, which would help avoid that weathered, dehydrated look. I’ve been a lip brush convert for a long time–I use it with all lipsticks to fuzz out the lipline. (I don’t like sharp outlines on myself, as they accentuate my lower lip’s asymmetry too harshly.) Now, I bust out my brush to do the whole lip. When I reapply my lipstick after lunch at work, I dab the color in the middle and blend out with a finger.

And second, I only wear liquid lipstick on top of a balm. Yes, that messes up with the longevity, which is many people’s main reason for buying liquid-to-mattes. But I personally don’t care that much about lipstick longevity. I blot my lips before a meal and reapply after, and that’s it. I have a busy job, and there’s no way I’m reapplying after each cup of coffee or tea. So I accepted that my lips won’t look perfect all day. After all, I see women with lived-in lipstick all the time. Do I judge them? Hell no. I don’t care. So judging myself for imperfect lipstick wouldn’t make any sense!