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.


FOTD: My New Goodies by Kevyn Aucoin, Sleek, Wet n Wild

I recently got myself a few makeup gifts for my upcoming birthday, and decided to write up some first impression reviews. Here’s the full look:


Kevyn Aucoin Volume Mascara


Uh… you can’t really see the mascara in the FOTD photo. That’s because my lashes are naturally short, sparse, and not very visible in selfies, even with volumizing mascara on. However, I can say that Kevyn Aucoin Volume works just fine! I didn’t have time to take an eye pic, but hopefully, I will put one up on this blog soon.

In another post, I mentioned that I had sworn off expensive mascara after trying Essence’s cheapo volumizing mascara, I Love Extreme. However, since I learned that Kevyn Aucoin is cruelty-free, I’d been wanting to add something by this brand to my collection. (Who doesn’t love Kevyn Aucoin??) I needed a mascara the most, so… *shrugs*

Unlike I Love Extreme, the Aucoin mascara does not create that spidery effect. It’s actually surprisingly understated, producing a look that’s kind of a “middle road” between the Essence and my other mascara that just expired, Milk Makeup Ubame. Like the latter, the Aucoin mascara separates the lashes very well and makes them, um, “fluttery.” But it’s clearly a black mascara, whereas Ubame had hardly any color to it.

I also love that the Aucoin wand is really small and delicate, which allows me to cover my lashes fully. I had a hard time getting to the roots with the hammy Essence wand!

Sleek Hemisphere Highlighter


Did you know that the British brand, Sleek is now sold at Walgreens? At least one Walgreens in San Francisco: the one on Fillmore, by SF Japantown. I actually entered that store to look for Royal Calyx, the new lavender highlighter by Wet n Wild. (I recently had my interest in highlighters rekindled by Russian blogger Elia Chaba’s bombastic posts.) Turns out Royal Calyx is only available on the Ulta website, but no problem–I got the legendary Sleek Solstice palette, which also has a lavender highlighter! It’s called Hemisphere, and Temptalia lists it as a Royal Calyx dupe.

On me, Hemisphere doesn’t read as “boom! lavender!”, but its super cool tone creates a strong contrast with my skin. I love it. Besides Hemisphere, I’ve tried one other Solstice highlighter so far: the creamy beige called Ecliptic, which is very subtle and translucent (like a plastic bag). From what I know, the Glossier stick highlighters have a similar effect.

Wet n Wild Video Vixen Liquid Lipstick


I’d never heard the term Video Vixen before, and I assumed that Wet n Wild was just inspired by the 90s (“VHS era”) dark lipstick. But I now see that the term has a large and contentious cultural history.

As for the product itself–I’d long, long wanted to own a fully matte dark lipstick, and Wet n Wild had been a strong contender since the release of the Liquid Catsuit line. Video Vixen didn’t disappoint–just like the other Liquid Catsuits I’ve tried, it’s relatively light and not devastatingly dry. Which, to me, means it’s a good liquid lipstick. Here’s a post where I express all my thoughts on the whole genre of liquid-to-mattes).

However, Video Vixen has a large and glaring issue: with the way I apply liquid lipstick (in a light layer on top of a balm) it comes off easily, and it doesn’t look too hot when worn off. As in, Video Vixen completely disappears in the middle of the lips. And when you reapply, the finish gets uneven and clotty. I haven’t figured out how to deal with this yet. Maybe apply a more emollient lip product on top?..

The other problem (a small one, this time) is that Video Vixen, like other Liquid Catsuits, dries down really quickly. So, if you’re the one to blend your lipstick after application, that needs to be done swiftly, one lip at a time.

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.