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!

FOTD: Urban Decay Ember + Becca Dahlia

This look is based around one of my favorite eyeshadows at the moment, Urban Decay Ember from Naked Heat. Just like the Heat palette itself, it’s really stunning, but not without faults.

Ember is a medium dark brown metallic that flashes red and creates an almost wet effect, especially in electric light.


Quality-wise, this shadow has two issues though:

1. It creases easily, even on top of a primer. Looks like it’s a common issue with metallic shadows that have a heavier, thicker texture (the metallics in the Viseart Petit Pro palette are another example).

2. It doesn’t blend out beautifully–just to a dull, random gray. That’s why I only pat Ember on, and that’s it, baby.

In the look above, I’m wearing another Naked Heat shadow, Low Blow in the outer crease. Low Blow is one of those soft mattes that “blend itself,” which is cool, but the dust kickup is truly something to behold.

My inner corner highlighter is the classic, Becca Opal, and my liner is the Pixi Black Cocoa pencil fluffed up with a dark brown shadow, Lorac Chocolate. I’d been wanting a brown eye pencil that wouldn’t drag on my crepey lids, and Black Cocoa is it. Pixi’s pencils are gel-based, extremely pigmented, and smooth. However, you need to be careful with them: the other one I have, Deep Plum broke very easily in my sharpener.

Here’s the full face:


The blush I’m wearing is Becca Dahlia. It came in a flying saucer.


Inside it looks like this:


Yep. This product was made for much darker skin tones than mine. But I still purchased it, because… RED. Well, technically, Dahlia is “wine,” but it still falls under a broad rubric of “red” for me. I had a moment earlier this year when I wanted to wear everything red: eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks… (Wait: HAD a moment?.. Now that I’m writing this, I want to slap some juicy reds on right now!)

Since Dahlia is so saturated and strong, I had some blunders before I figured out how to deal with it. And it’s not the most forgiving product, either: once you accidentally pile it on too heavily, blending is really hard. I now tap the pan with my fluffy Real Techniques powder brush, remove the excess if necessary, and swirl the blush very lightly onto my cheekbones. Difficult product as it is, I like the effect created by Dahlia. It has a “natural,” non-powdery finish, and an earthy tone. I find that earthy-toned cheek products flatter me more than pink ones do, as the latter veer too close in color to my rosacea. However, I sometimes wear pink, too–when it comes to makeup, I’m an “anything goes” kind of person. (Well, unless “anything” means white-based pastel lipsticks…)

And now, more full face. My lip product here is the simple Hurraw lip balm in Cinnamon. If you look closely, you will see our collection of Twin Peaks funko pops in the background: Bob, Leland, and Laura (and the Log Lady hidden by my hair.)


Dragon Eyes: Battle of the Palettes

Since the warm tone eyeshadow trend started a few years ago, I’ve been following it closely. I have quite a few palettes in my collection that allow me to create “burn a hole through you” eyes, and I thought it would be interesting to compare them. I debated whether to include Too Faced Semi-Sweet and Viseart Petit Pro, but eventually decided against it, as they lack an important element: reds or reddish tones.

I have four quintessential fiery palettes: Sleek Sunset, Anastasia Modern Renaissance, Zoeva Cocoa Blend, and the newest addition to my collection, Urban Decay Naked Heat. I really like all of these, but if you’re of a mind to get only one, I know which one I would recommend. Read on till the end. I will list the palettes in order they were purchased–or, in fact, received as presents, as three of them were birthday gifts from various years. Thank you sister, husband, and best friend.


Sleek Sunset

L-R: … (all shades are nameless). The #10-12 are also photographed with flash.


It looks like the brand’s intention for the i-Divine series of palettes is to create exhaustive arrays of colors around specific themes. Sleek loves including a bunch of similar shades in their palettes, but with different undertones and/or finishes. Sunset is an ancient product by today’s standards (released around 2013), but it has all your bases covered when it comes to metallic reds, coppers, and rose golds. Sleek metallics are pigmented but thin and light, not like the rich and creamy formulas in newer palettes such as Modern Renaissance and Naked Heat.

The issue with Sunset is that it lacks matte eyeshadows, except for a black one for lining. This makes the palette seem very old-school–the OG Urban Decay Naked wasn’t big on mattes, either. But that’s ok. I suspect that eye looks with a bunch of mattes blended into a perfect ombre have hit their saturation point, and we will see much more messy all-shimmer and all-metallic looks. Same thought about Sunset’s lack of neutral shades. My crystal ball predicts more looks with statement colors, that are not “grounded” with browns, beiges, or mauves.

Sunset in action. Black (#1) as a smudgy eyeliner. Purple (#7) on the lid and in the crease, topped with translucent golden veil (#10) on the lid. Rose gold (#11) in the inner corner. 


Zoeva Cocoa Blend

L-R: Top – Bitter Start, Sweeter End, Warm Notes, Subtle Blend, Beans Are White. Bottom – Pure Ganache, Substitute for Love, Freshly Toasted, Infusion, Delicate Acidity.


What about those who like arid desert matte browns? Then Cocoa Blend is your buddy. I can’t get enough of the orange brown, Substitute for Love, and the reddish brown, Freshly Toasted. Something like Freshly Toasted is what I was missing with Too Faced’s OG and Semi-Sweet chocolate bars, which seem to have inspired Cocoa Blend. The other mattes in this palette, Bitter Start (light beige) and Beans are White (dark brown) are very common shades, but they’re executed very well in terms of saturation and blendability–something that (incredibly) not all brands have learned how to do. As for shiny lid shades, Cocoa Blend has a nice variety of those, with a red, a brown, a purple, and a gold.

The Cocoa Blend shadow texture is something… contentious, especially if one is used to stiffer formulas such as the Naked 3 and the chocolate bars. It’s similar to Lorac Pro and TheBalm eyeshadows: very soft and dusty, but kind of dry.

Cocoa Blend in action. Ombre from Sweeter End to Warm Notes to Freshly Toasted. Beans Are White as chubby liner.


Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance

L-R: Top – Tempera, Golden Ochre, Vermeer, Buon Fresco, Antique Bronze, Love Letter, Cyprus Umber. Bottom – Raw Sienna, Burnt Orange, Primavera, Red Ochre, Venetian Red, Realgar. 


Along with Too Faced Sweet Peach, last year’s Modern Renaissance is the most iconic palette release since the first UD Naked collections. It has totally eclipsed the original “red palette,” Lime Crime’s Venus. My theory is that Anastasia recognized the huge demand for a Venus-like palette by people who didn’t want to buy from a controversial brand like Lime Crime. (And now, Anastasia has released the Subculture palette–the one where the shadows are said to fall apart on first touch–which is its answer to Venus II).

The “heart” of Modern Renaissance are the juicy, super bold red, berry, and orange shades. The palette also boasts beautiful neutrals, such as the light purple Buon Fresco and the rosy brown Antique Bronze. I also like Vermeer and Primavera, the highlighter shades that look molten. The shadows are dusty and blendable like Zoeva’s, but the formula is exceedingly smooth, almost greasy. The new ColourPop pressed powder shadows are similar.

My main gripe with Modern Renaissance is specific to my own tastes and preferences. I like using all shades in my palettes, but I can’t figure out what to do with Golden Ochre and Burnt Orange. All of the looks I’ve tried with those two, I hated. So for me, Modern Renaissance is not the easiest product in terms of coming up with color combinations.

Modern Renaissance in action. Love Letter on the lid and in the crease. Warm Taupe as a blending shade. Antique Bronze on the lower lashline, with Cyprus Umber in the outer corner. 


Urban Decay Naked Heat

L-R: Top – Ounce, Chaser (They are invisible in my swatches, but they make a damn good subtle highlight and blending shade, respectively), Sauced, Low Blow, Lumbre, He Devil. Bottom – Dirty Talk, Scorched, Cayenne, En Fuego, Ashes, Ember.


Naked Heat came out very recently, and I bought it pretty much right away. Some of the colors I’ve used more than others, but I can already say that this palette is one of my favorite makeup toys of the year. I find it very easy to come up with looks. Yes, Naked Heat is really one-note in terms of color selection, more so than the other palettes I’ve reviewed here. But it all depends whether you like reddish browns or not, and I truly love them. I find it useful to have three of varying depths and undertones: He Devil, Cayenne, and En Fuego, plus an rosier brown, Sauced. All the colors in the palette are very well balanced–those are not the kind of reddish shades that would give one an infected/allergic look.

Of the classic trio of Naked palettes, I have Naked 3 (the rosy one), and its texture is much harder. As many reviewers have noted, Naked Heat is closer in formula to Modern Renaissance and ColourPop shadows, than to the older Nakeds. I like the richness of those shadows and how they “melt” into the skin–but hoo boy, holy DUST!! Especially when it comes to the mattes. In general, all of the palettes I’m reviewing except for Sleek Sunset, suffer from this issue.

Naked Heat in action. He Devil all over and all around. Chaser to soften He Devil in the crease. Scorched on top of He Devil on the lid. Ounce in the inner corner. Lumbre in the inner half of the lower lashline. Ember on top of En Fuego on the outer half of the lower lashline.


Okay… so what’s the best one?!

I wouldn’t say the BEST one… but here’s what I would recommend to a novice:


Why? I think that Cocoa Blend simply has the broadest selection in terms of color and textures. There are both metallic and matte shades, and the metallics are sufficiently different from one another to allow for a wide variety of looks.

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.