Or, Assigning Relative Monetary Value To Essences/Ampoules/Serums On A Per-Ounce Cost Basis, Maybe The Internet Is Dicks And Also, Math!
It’s known in the skincare kbeauty internet that May Coop Raw Sauce, a real(TM) 100% kbeauty product carried at Sephora and literally nowhere else, is very expensive. It’s $44 a bottle, which is just too much, you know. I mean, maple water? what a gimmick! it doesn’t even contain niacinamide! I’m so happy that I read lots of internet and know better than to fall into the Sephora kbeauty exclusivity markup trap.
Though… those May Coop Raw Sauce bottles are fucking huge. And it *does* contain horse chestnut extract, which science is investigating for real things, in addition to other delicious-looking extracts like black current, olive, rice…. But no, I know better than to fall into that trap. It’s not like the bottle is lovely and well designed or anything, or that the essence actually feels lovely on my hand (I think to myself, at Sephora, staring off into space and rubbing my hand ritualistically as the sales people watch me from behind the nail polish make sure I’m not shoplifting). I don’t even care that they offer 40mL travel sizes for $14, or that my local Sephora carries them.
Sorry for all the salt.
One thing that really grinds my gears about the online reviewing community in general is the lack of discussion about cost per ounce of product when talking about how expensive/valuable different products are. It’s true that things aren’t priced by the ounce, but we use up larger bottles of products more slowly than smaller bottles of comparable products, so a $50 serum that takes 3 months to use would be cheaper than a $20 serum that takes two weeks, even if the initial cost doesn’t appear that way.
Not everyone ignores cost per ounce, especially when justifying discussing expensive products that are enjoyed by the reviewers, but people are quick to jump on the hate train when something that they’re not interested in (for whatever reason) is “too expensive.”
I wanted to do a simple cost per ounce comparison of a bunch of essences/ampoules/serums that I will probably buy, because my face is dry and fragile like the rice paper in a spring roll (in other news, I’m hungry) to see if the “expensive” ones really are so expensive.
I’m not going to take ingredients into account because ingredient lists do not make or break a product, and there’s no way of knowing from an ingredients list just how much of a thing is in the goop, unless stated. I will mention the ingredient that will influence my willingness to buy the thing, because that is a factor, but that varies so that people can make their own assignments of worth re: ingredients. There are lots of other factors I’ll be ignoring, like the feel or scent of products, packaging, and accessibility. As I said, I’m going with simple metrics here. I’m getting prices from major sellers like Jolse and TesterKorea, not taking shipping into account and treating everything as though it’s NOT on sale.
I want my essences/ampoules/serums to 1. hydrate, 2. not make me super red, 3. be interesting in some way, whether that’s from such science/very ingredient/wow, presentation, feel/smell of the product, and 4. not cause any long-term averse effects (like an essence that gives me a wonderfully smooth skin texture but dries out my skin over time? nuh uh). All of these essences/ampoules/serums probably fit the bill.
COSRX HA/Snail/GM Essences
Benton High Content Snail Bee Essence
TONYMOLY Nutra Energy (Moist) Toner
May Coop Raw Sauce
Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule
Goodal Waterest Water Oil
Danahan Youth Berry Energy Essence
Holy Snails! Shark Sauce
LJH Tea Tree Essence
Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Essence
Banila Co. MF&MH Essence Oil
LJH Propolis Ampoule
Sulwahsoo Encapsulated Ginseng Serum
Wha-bam. Look at that. May Coop Raw Sauce is solidly in the middle, leaning to the “less expensive per oz.” side. It ends up being cheaper than a bunch of the random shit I want to try, and more expensive than everything I have, amusingly.
You want expensive? Look at the price per oz. comparison for Sulwahsoo, which I included for “scale,” as it were.
Again, I’m not taking effectiveness into account. All of these essences/ampoules/serums interest me, and I’ve considered dropping cash for them at one point or another (my poor over-saturated face is the only thing stopping me, really) and they all have value, whether or not they work for you, or me, personally.
tl;dr, stop using “this is too expensive” as a catch-all for avoiding bringing up legitimate complaints about a product, unless you’re willing to do the math.
Or, Stocking Up On Things To Save On Weight-Based Shipping Costs, Is It Worth!?
I have a few skincare goals (here, eventually, I’ll be linking to a post that is currently not yet written) right now, but the one that’s most irresponsible and potentially problematic is my search for sheet masks that are worth investing in. Initially, my plan was to try some of the popular sheet masks that I know are available in bulk from sellers like RoseRoseShop for cheap that I could stock up on, with some nicer more expensive options for special occasions, and a few options that are available from US-based sellers with free or inexpensive shipping for sheet make emergencies (which are becoming more and more unlikely at this point….)
Unfortunately, this meant that I started to research sheet masks pretty religiously, hitting up blogs and reddit and reading reviews in online shops and on Amazon etc., etc., and now I want to try everything. More unfortunately, I want to make sheet mask discoveries and investigate brands that people aren’t using, or want to use but need reviews before they feel comfortable purchasing, or sheet masks that just aren’t available from anywhere. I want to be able to answer questions like “hey, my second cousin’s wife’s brother’s daughter sent me this from Tokyo because she knew I like sheet masks, does anyone have any idea what brand or flavor this is?!?”
All of this was, ostensibly, a way to save money and have both deliciously moisturized skin and relaxing self-care. *headdesk*
My last shop review was pretty lengthy (and this one is longer than I intended), with some discussion accompanied by a lot of pictures. In the two weeks since then, I’ve thought about how and why I want to post shop reviews, and come to these conclusions: 1. often when I see a new online shop, I go to my favorite blogs and search the shop name to see if they have experience with it, (sometimes I find good information, but not always), and 2. I want my blog to return efficient and useful results for that kind of search, 3. in the future, it would be cool to have a master list of shops that I recommend filled with links to short shop reviews (when I’m incredibly wealthy and can afford to put face masks all over my body like the stolen faces of my fallen enemies).
I found Crystal Cove Beauty (CCB) through a targeted paid reddit ad. They were offering (and still are, as of August 12th, 2016) 20% off Benton (with the old pricing, at that), CosRx, and Leaders brand products, and have free US shipping over $25. They’re located in SoCal, which means that if I find them to be a reliable shop and they have things I want, especially sheet masks, the convenience of short shipping times will make me a repeat customer. The only downside to buying from California shops is that I have to pay sales taxes as a CA resident, but fast shipping time and free shipping are definitely worth it. I didn’t really find any discussion of them as a shop (aside from a glowing comment on an old reddit post) so I decided to give them a go.
Their selection is mostly things I’ve heard of through blogs, which is promising. It can be frustrating then reading a thorough and excited review and not being able to find the product for sale anywhere. Curating your selection based on popular kbeauty blogs also shows, in my opinion, a willingness to listen to community feedback. I prefer a shop that says “oh, these brands are recommended by independent blogs, I should stock them” over one that says “I’m going to stock these brands, here are lots of affiliated blog posts about why you should love them.”
I ended up placing two orders with them, one of entirely Benton products to get the 20% off, and one of some things I wanted to try from Tosowoong (which I got 10% off on as a first order offer for registering an account). I’ve been on the lookout for a propolis amouple (being fairly disappointed by the Missha Time Revolution blah blah Ampoule thusfar), and have wanted to try their masks as well. When I ordered, CCB had discounts listed for some Tosowoong items, but if I like the masks I will likely repurchase them at full MSRP. That’s how much I liked their practices and customer service.
As I said, I placed two orders. CCB ended up shipping them together, which makes a lot of sense and I appreciated everything arriving at once. I got email notifications very quickly after ordering, and my package shipped the next day. I’m not going to talk about shipping times because really, that’s kind of irrelevant. Shipping is shipping, shops have little control over it. They provided tracking, unsurprisingly.
My items were packed very securely in bubble wrap and shipped to me in a plastic envelope. I can tell that a lot of care was taken to ensure that a roughly-handled package wouldn’t cause damage to the contents, which I really appreciate because sometimes my mail carrier just throws our mail over the gate.
In addition to my two thoughtfully combined orders, CCB added four (yes, four as in “$8 of free masks” four) complimentary sheet masks and TINY CAT STICKIES that come with TINY BOXES FOR THEM TO SIT IN. All of the masks they included are ones that I have been wanting to try, and I can’t wait to test them. If I like them (and I probably will, I’ve heard good things about the brand) I will be rebuying them from Crystal Cove. Seriously, thank you guys. They also included an adorable hand-written note thanking me from my order (and saying that they hoped I visited again soon, which is very, very likely.)
I considered not listing the complimentary masks that they included, because I don’t want to contribute to an online shopping culture that expects (and demands) “free” services and goods as the bare minimum of good customer service. Good customer service does NOT mean “we give you free stuff”, it just means that the shop is efficient, communicative, and able to address issues with any service or goods. “Free” stuff costs money for shops, and I’d rather not receive “free” stuff that hurts a shop’s bottom line. Including complimentary samples goes above and beyond the call of duty for sellers and shops, and I want to acknowledge that. CCB included 1 each of LovemoreBlack Pearls True White Mask Sheet, Rosa Hybrida Whitening (“Brightening”) Mask Sheet, Wine Yeast Whitening Mask Sheet, and Pearl Barley & Milk Smoothing Mask Sheet. I am excited to try these… they might take precedence to the Tosowoong in my testing schedule.
(Also, thank you for the tiny cats. I’m going to use them in my daily planner.)
Overall, I had a really good experience with Crystal Cove Beauty. I hope that they continue bringing in products that I enjoy, because I most definitely want to shop with them in the future. I kept wanting to add things to my cart while link-hunting for this review, but noooo I need to actually test these masks first. Once I try the Tosowoong and Lovemore masks out, I’ll be linking to the mini reviews here.
There are no affiliate links in this post. As far as I’m aware, Crystal Cove Beauty does not have an affiliate program.
I fucking love sheet masks, ok? I heard about them, did the “oh that’s a weird beauty gimmick, I’m sure some people love them but they’re not for me” and I was WRONG. I have seen the error of my ways. I’ve been brought into the glowy, radiant skin light.
To atone for my sins (I like this weird religious analogy and I’m gonna roll with it) I’m going to attempt to keep a journal of all of the sheet masks I use to make sure I don’t waste my money repurchasing things, to track what ingredients work and don’t work for me, and to add to the general kbeauty sheet mask blogosphere. Here we have installment one. These installments will happen intermittently, basically whenever I have enough empties and time to justify a post. Edit: which will be frequently, as I’m popping sheet masks like bubble wrap lately.
The format will be: brand and source of brand within this context, a brief review of each sheet mask within that brand/source category, repeat for each brand/source, and lists of each masks ingredients at the end of the post (with hyperlinks in the post for quick reference). Ingredients aren’t the end-all be-all of my sheet mask experience, and I don’t want to clutter up the meat of the post with ingredient lists when I could instead have pictures. Let’s get started!
TONYMOLY sheet masks, purchased in San Francisco Japantown’s TONYMOLY/K-POP BEAUTY store (which has been having an ongoing identity crisis but sometimes has reasonable sales):
Strawberry Nose Pack– pull-off masks/pore strips are Literally Satan(TM) by some schools of thought, but I really liked this one. The combination of pre-mask, gentle pore pull, and soothing post-mask was really lovely. My nose was very moisturized for several days, which was a little odd. I think if I use this again I’ll sheet mask the rest of my face as well. The packaging, which I didn’t photograph or save, was very adorable as per usual TONYMOLY. Repurchase? Probably.
I’m REAL Mageoklli Mask Sheet Skin Purifying– surprisingly moisturizing, left my skin pretty radiant. I’d describe the effect as “supple.” Unfortunately, I threw out the packaging for this one without thinking. Repurchase? Maybe. (So I can finish this brief review to my satisfaction, if nothing else.)
I’m REAL Avocado Mask Sheet Nutrition– very moisturizing, pleasant and cooling to wear. Helped alleviate my nose/cheek redness, and smelled confusingly delicious and not at all like avocado. Repurchase? Maybe.
Pureness 100 Snail Mask Sheet Skin Damage Care– didn’t really do anything, I had over exfoliated a little this day, and was hoping that this mask would provide relief. Unfortunately, it did nothing to decrease my redness, stung and little, and was wholly unimpressive. Repurchase? Probably not, but maybe once to make sure this experience wasn’t user error on my part.
Pureness 100 Hyaluronic Acid Mask Sheet Hydrating– a pleasant surprise after the Pureness 100 Snail. Very moisturizing, and helped my (incredibly dehydrated) skin to look very hydrated on a day when I completely forgot to drink water at work and ended up with a dehydration hangover upon getting home. Don’t be like me, kids, but if you are like me, this mask might help you look awesome when you feel like shit. #hugovermask Repurchase? Yes, especially if they’re still on sale the next time I got to Jtown.
Pure Smile lip, patch, and sheet masks purchased in Jtown’s Candy Doll beauty store, which is definitely the best shop in Jtown in terms of stock selection, customer service, and general competency:
Choosy Honey Lip Mask– this was fun to wear, but did absolutely nothing. It just felt like a floppy gel sheet that didn’t really seem to have essence, lotion, or anything on it. Amusingly, directions recommended applying lip balm before use if your lips were dry. Maybe this was supposed to be an “add your own essence” style mask, but if so it did a bad job explaining. Repurchase? No.
Strawberry Point Patch– also amusing, with some basic moisturizing properties. I really liked the small size of this mask patch for my cheeks, but I think I’ll try other brands and hopefully find something more moisturizing or treating. Repurchase? Maybe, they had lemon, cucumber, and orange point patches and I’d like to see if the fruit extracts have any discernible difference.
Pure Smile Snail– this mask was moisturizing and a little soothing, a veeery basic mask experience but overall good. At $1.50 in-store, this would be a good emergency stash stocking option if I run low on bulk masks. (I’m still looking for my ideal bulk mask(s), there will be a lot of discussion of this blog of different brands, shops, etc. in the future!) Repurchase? Likely.
Pure Smile Royal Jelly– I loved this mask. It was moisturizing, soothing, and made my overall skin texture even while providing a little radiance. It also smelled very floral/honey without being overwhelming, and the smell didn’t linger on my face (always a plus). I decided to grab it because products claiming to contain royal honey have worked well for me in the past, and I saw several people on r/AsianBeauty listing this mask as a favorite. The only downside is the weird fit, but I’ve only tried one or two sheet masks that really fit me, and the strange cut-out-but-still-attached eyeholes, when cut off, provided extra nose coverage. Repurchase? Yes, and I’m looking into bulk ordering for these friends. eBay seems to be the best option for large amounts of Pure Smile, but $1.50 in store is a good deal comparatively and will definitely come in handy.
Lululun sheet mask pack, also purchased at Candy Doll in Jtown:
Lululun Regular Style 7day Mask Pack– I’m still working through this “7 days” mask pack, but I like it after even one two masks. This Japanese mask fits my face PERFECTLY, with a little overhang on the sides of my face that I snip off and apply to my nose for maximum coverage. This mask gets closer to my eyes than any other mask, which may be a dealbreaker for some, but I like it a lot. Gotta get that ginseng, rice ceramide, niacinamide, honey, hyaluronic goodness right up near the eyeballs, friends. Yummy. The only shortcoming of this mask is its lack of moisturizing properties when compared to other masks, but benefits (glow, plumping, skintone evenness) outweigh this. I can always get moisture somewhere else. Repurchase? Yes, at $6 for a 7pk of masks, Lululun is a really great daily mask option. Because this particular flavor doesn’t moisturize as much as I need, I’ll be trying out the Moisture Style (blue package) soon to compare.
My Banila Co. It Radiant mask was purchased on SokoGlam’s website, and the only other place I’ve found this line of masks thusfar has been RoseRoseShop. SokoGlam has them for $5 (which makes me sad because that is not a super sustainable frequent-use mask price for me) and RRS is about $4 + a wait when you take shipping into account:
It Radiant Calming Aloe & Edelweiss w/ White Flower Complex– I also loved this mask. It was incredibly moisturizing, the effect lasted all throughout my barista shift and gave me extra-radiant skin. It also destroyed the redness in my nose/cheeks and gave me a more even skintone than I’ve seen with any other mask I’ve tried. It’s a hydrogel, but stayed on my face (and fit my face) better than any other hydrogel I’ve tried, and the transparent mask with lace pattern, though unnecessary, is very fun. At $5, this mask definitely wont be in my everyday arsenal, but I plan to try out the other masks in this line (Moisturizing, Lifting, Illuminating and Nourishing. RRS carries them all, SG carries Moisturizing and Lifting in addition to Calming) and stock up one the ones I like. Repurchase? Yes, my wallet is crying.
My The Face Shop mask was purchased at The Face Shop in Jtown, which carries mostly TFS but also possibly some other brands? I’m really not sure, there aren’t a lot of labels in this store. For example, prices are a weird mystery that can only be solved by asked the salespeople to scan barcodes. Prices you see are probably wrong, and have no bearing on reality. There’s also a lot of mystery surrounding what things actually are, and unfortunately the more expensive (read: hanbang) items have little to no English labeling. See below:
Myeonghan Miindo Heaven Grade Ginseng Mask Sheet (aka TFS Ginseng Disappointment)– was an unmitigated masking disaster, no wonder I was unable to find another source for this mask (besides from Korea Depart, which might be discontinuing the whole line). Besides doing literally nothing for my skin but leaving a weird yellow-y “24 kt gold” film, this product wasn’t moisturizing, plumping, radiance enhancing, brightening, firming, or otherwise effective at all. The hydrogel was ill-fitting and slippery, to the point where I kept sort of pushing it up my face like some weird wet skin-colored seaweed because it was too slippery to actually grab with my fingers. There wasn’t very much of essence, which is fine for affordable masks like Lululun, but not something this fancy (and slippery).
Also, it was $12. Twelve. Dollars.
I know, I should’ve know better then to spend $12 on a sheet mask. But I wanted to know. I wanted to try some fancy fucking hanbang ginseng goodness and I didn’t want to have to wait to get it shipped from Korea. (Side effect of this choice: I now have four carts full of a wide variety of ginseng sheet masks open in my browser right now.) And the packaging was beautiful. (And entirely in Korean, I know know that this is the Heaven Grade Ginseng flavor because I researched the packaging before going to Jtown.)
And, it gets worse.
I bought a second one. In snail. I haven’t tried it yet. That’ll be a different post for a different day.
Part of this Ginseng Disappointment happened because I was too polite to tell the salesperson that I didn’t actually want to spend $12/mask when the sign on their box said “$5 moist” or something. I’m lucky I didn’t buy three, I had originally grabbed two of the ginseng so I could see if the effects were reproducible. I had no way of knowing that the effects were “extreme disappointment” and “why am I yellow, I have yellow undertones but not like this.”
Never again. (Well, I’ll be buying TFS masks again, but not this line and DEFINITELY not from TFS Jtown.) NEVER. AGAIN.
Just. $12. Augh.
Ingredients! I decided to make this a separate part of the post because this is getting longer than I initially intended, and ingredients lists create huge, unappealing visual chunks.
I thought about adding more pictures (I have some horrifying strawberries + floppy hydrolips selfies) but I think I’ll saved that for individualized mask reviews that might someday happen someday. The next installment should be coming pretty soon, I have opinions about things. 😐
Recently, I’ve been heavily obsessed with Korean skincare routines, and skincare products from Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. This interest is hardly unique, as a simple search on Sephora for “Korea” shows. (This is a weird search term, but it gave the most accurate results.) SokoGlam (my personal introduction to kbeauty, via Into The Gloss) has been gaining lots of attention in the weird area where blogging and sales collide, and there are a number of wonderful established blogs dedicated to the science, discussion, and love of all things Asian skincare.
While it’s become a lot easier to source kbeauty, shopping for specific products on the internet can be a bit of a struggle. I don’t want to be limited to what trendsetting curators want to bring into the states, I want to research and source things that interest me. This is a LOT easier than it used to be; shopping-by-proxy is always an option thanks to a growing number of small Korean companies, eBay and Amazon sellers sometimes have hard-to-find products for reasonable prices, and more shops are opening that seem to take their inventory choices straight from the blogs I love. Despite these options, purchasing things from <insert makeup theme webpage here> dot com can be risky, especially if you echew websites with safety nets like eBay (what do you mean “this listing has expired”) and Amazon (fulfilled by Amazon? Prime? shipping!? why is this seller charging me twice for shipping when they could just put the items in the sAME BOX?!)
All this being said, I wanted to provide a brief discussion of Korean company that I recently purchased some products from, to help people who are on the fence make informed choices. I plan to follow-up this short review when I place future orders. I would also like to add the disclaimer that, while this company does sponsor blog reviews (by sending bloggers products for review), this is not a sponsored review. I bought the things with my money. Furthermore, this is NOT a review of any of the products I got, those will come later when I’ve had a chance to properly test them.
An easy reference for the per-ounce prices for popular liquid-to-matte lipsticks! I’m not factoring tax or shipping into these calculations, as they will differ drastically depending on where you live. I’m also not including a discussion on availability, which is another important factor that I hope to tackle later.
Due to variations between formulas, I wouldn’t say that the most cost effective is *necessarily* the best, but the amount of product you’re actually getting is an important thing to consider when buying makeup. If you LOVE a color and anticipate hitting tube on it, purchasing one of the more generous options might be wise. If you’re like me and you’re trying to get as many colors as possible, the brands that give you less product might be a better choice. It’s up to you to use this information however you like!
Basic Price Comparisons (USD/oz):
Lime Crime $227.27/oz.
Anastasia Beverly Hills $181.81/oz.
LA Splash $140/oz.
OCC Lip Tar RTW (doe-foot applicator tube) $107.14/oz
Jeffree Star $94.74/oz.
Kat Von D $90.90/oz.
Makeup Monster Cosmetics $79.75/oz.
Fyrinnae (color-changing) $70.59/oz.
Fyrinnae (flat/metallic colors) $58.82/oz.
NYX Lip Lingerie/Lip Suede $53.84/oz.
NYX Soft Matte Cremes $22.22/oz.
OCC Lip Tar (old packaging, not available) $52.94
OCC Lip Tar (old packaging ON SALE) $17.65/oz.
A few notes:
1. I didn’t include Black Moon Cosmetics because I can’t for the life of me figure out the exact amount of product in their tubes. I believe they’re on par with Sugarpill and Jeffree Star, though and I will update when I know more.
2. It’s really interesting that LA Splash gets touted as an “affordable” option so frequently, given where they place in the comparison.
3. Sugarpill’s only LtM lipstick, Trinket, is not available at this time but the owner has publicly said that they plan to expand their LtM lipstick range… someday.
4. Colourpop and NYX are the best options if saving money if your primary concern, and both brands have so many options to choose from! It’s worth noting that NYX’s Soft Matte Cremes (their first LtM lipstick) are priced much differently than later releases.
5. In terms of formula for the less expensive options, Fyrinnae is my favorite, hands-down.
6. I’ve included OCC’s old packaging/product amount (and a reflection of the sale currently happening with their remaining stock) for comparison, as they were really the first brand that offered “liquid lipsticks” for the mainstream (though Lip Tar is significantly different from the popular LtM today). I wouldn’t call this product a true LtM, but it’s sold as such so I included it here.
I hope this data, though brief, is useful to those who feel overwhelmed by the LtM options, or want to try lots of fun colors on a budget!
Hello! You’ve been directed to this post because you disagree with me in some way related to Lime Crime, OR you’ve asked me to explain the “controversy”. (Or you’re just reading this post because you’re interested in my blog, in which case, awesome!) This post is directed more towards new people who are looking for information about LC’s history, and people who are familiar with the history and want to understand why our opinions might differ. Let’s just dive right in because I’m never going to be able to start my liquid lipsticks comparison post if I don’t get this out of the way.
Lime Crime is hated by a lot of people. They’re also loved by a lot of people. A lot of the people who hate them are quick to inform you that the company is horrible, the owner is racist, and they can’t make cosmetics worth a damn. There were, at my last estimation, three tumblrs devoted to keeping “receipts” of LC’s horrible behavior and trashing the company (and founder) in general. There are several prominent old guard beauty bloggers who refuse to purchase or review them. A lot of internet beauty folk are of the opinion that if you like LC, you can’t be trusted because you must be a paid shill.
I complimented someone’s lipstick the other day and asked her where she had found it. She apologized for not knowing how “awful and unethical” LC was. She promised me that, as a lipstick lover, she would never purchase from them again and that she knew better now. She told me that I should never purchase from LC because she read a post on the internet from over six years ago. (A post I had read when it was published, and had agreed with at the time.)
A lot of people who love them ignore the hatred (which I think is a side effect of the beauty community moving away from blogs and to social media blogging platforms like Instagram, the drama of yesterblog looks less relevant), but I don’t think this is a good solution. Mainly, I want to avoid getting feedback like “let me inform you about how horrible this company is” if I review, mention, or use their products in a look, or at least have a way to address it if it’s unavoidable.
The internet lacks nuance. Companies and people are treated as though they can’t change, and everything is black and white. This is the easy way to interact with people, but I don’t think it’s the best way.
I’m gonna ramble about some things. Just a heads-up, I am not trying to say that any of the brands mentioned here are doing something wrong, or need to spend less/more money on marketing, packaging, and their aesthetic in general. Nor am I trying to criticize people who care about any of these things (because that’s me, I care about these things.) I AM criticizing people who complain about certain potential aspects of a brands identity, marketing and aesthetic.
My post on Fyrinnae’s Liquid Mattes just went up (which Fyrinnae read, and enjoyed, which makes me SUPER HAPPY) and I realized as I was writing it that I had a lot to say about how the online beauty community talks about companies, organizations, and other individuals that provide us with the face goop. I realized this so hard, in fact, that I left myself a little space where that post could link to THIS post and everyone could inform themselves of my completely inconsequential opinion, thus forcing myself to actually write this post, which I really do want to write because I care a lot about makeup for reasons I’ll eventually get into. I was going to write a post about how AWESOME Fyrinnae is, and how much they rock, but I got pretty sidetracked so that post will have to wait. (Also on the post waiting list: the “I will never buy from this company again because I am upset” situation, aka drama, and a whole host of other topics.)
As you can see in that review, and as I’m sure other members of the Beauty Internets (TM) have noticed if they’ve indie brands; indie brands can be kind of low-budget. Lower production value than a multi-million dollar brand owned by Estee Lauder (who owns a LOT of brands, y’all). “We are a small company and we are doing literally everything we can to get you the thing at the price that you want” sort of deal. Lately, however, I’ve been seeing a lot of brands that I’ve been immediately categorizing as indie due to their behaviors pop up with a much higher production budget. Small brands that use social media for marketing but actually don’t suck at it, brands that don’t sell in stores and don’t appear to be owned by any of the several huge corporations that control much of the US beauty industry. Brands priced competitively to mid- to high-end brands you’d see at Sephora.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pick on Fyrinnae in this piece. (I love Fyrinnae, most of their makeup is probably the best.) I just think that the cultural move within the beauty internet to fancier packaging and high production value photoshoots,etc. might have some side effects for brands who don’t focus on aesthetic, and I want to talk about that. This isn’t the only trend within the beauty internet that I want to discuss, either, so stay tuned motherfuckers.
Moving on, Necromancy Cosmetica is kind of on the cusp of this. Their website is nice, pretty easy to navigate with good, quirky and thematic pictures of the product. Their lipsticks are priced at $16, a good mid range price (and COMPLETELY REASONABLE for a handcrafted lipstick, even more so considering the quality) that reminds me of Lime Crime’s* $16 indie lipsticks, or how MAC priced their lipsticks when I was first getting into makeup for serious. However, they’re very transparent about their facilities (small), their production volume (“handmade”), and the owner has a strong personal social media presence.
Other brands that I’d consider high-budget indie would include Instagram stars like Black Moon, Jeffree Star, Sugarpill, Lime Crime. Interestingly, some of these brands are priced competitively when compared to quirkier, niche brands, while some compare better to higher end Sephora offerings. (Lime Crime makes THE MOST expensive indie liquid-to-matte lipstick, Jeffree Star makes one of the least expensive when compared across all brands, but is solidly in the middle of indie pricing, Sugarpill’s eyeshadow is priced cheaper per once than a smaller geek indie brand that I’m not going to name because I don’t want to be a jerk. Everyone prices things based on information I’m not privy to, I am not going to judge someone who offers what they can.) They also have offices, warehouses, and employ more people than some of the smaller indie brands. Smaller indie brands might sell on Etsy, or purport to make cosmetics “in [their] kitchen”, though a lot of the old standards I follow have started moving to their own domains due to recent growth (yay!).
The industry dynamics that lead to pricing patterns, aesthetic choices in lookbooks, and social media trends are absolutely fascinating to me, but this evening I’m really here to talk about some of the things I’ve seen people say about Fyrinnae, and what I think the implications of those opinions are.
I don’t like the packaging/the packaging looks cheap/when are you getting new packaging. The consumer is entitled to their opinion about the presentation of the product in question, but riddle me this: If “nicer” packaging was accompanied by a twofold price increase, how do you think people would respond? Not well. Part of Fyrinnae’s brand identity is the inexpensive nature of their products. You can get a really lovely lipstick (liquid-to-matte or traditional bullet style) for $10, and a huge range of eyeshadow colors exists in the $6.75 category. They employ a number of cosmetic chemists, and a lot of their eyeshadow formulations involve complexities such as baking certain pigment combos to bring out unique finishes/colors/etc. in the eyeshadows. The eyeshadows come in little jars, similar to those one can find in bulk at a place like TBK Trading, and pale in comparison to Sugarpill’s lovingly designed pill bottles, or a brand like NARS’ signature sleek black packaging.
You can sacrifice one of three things for physical products like makeup. Quality, presentation, price. That is to say, high quality, pleasing presentation, and low price. Fyrinnae makes a high quality product and offers it at a low price. Sugarpill makes a high quality product with pleasing presentation at a higher price. NARS makes a high quality product with pleasing presentation at a high price, which is why they’re “luxury”, though sometimes the quality slips and that is why I don’t buy NARS eyeshadows anymore, it throws off the quality/presentation/price balance and makes the product worthless.
So yes, Fyrinnae could invest in a heavily branded packaging aesthetic, but prices would have to go up and they’ve found the prices that work for them.
Sometimes their website is closed/orders take so long to ship/why does shipping COST MONEY. Yeah, company shut downs when you want to buy the thing can be really frustrating. Fyrinnae is really transparent about this practice, though, which alleviates a lot of any of the issues I could personally have with their shutdowns. We, as consumers, have to remember that small companies can get overwhelmed when lots of people want the thing, and that there are two options here. Expand, and make more of the thing, or slow down and get the thing to all of the people who’ve bought it (re: “orders take so long to ship”), and make more of the thing. Fyrinnae has stated publicly that they (the owners) are comfortable with their current size because it allows them a good balance of control and creative freedom, and they can afford their overhead.
It’s not always fun, but if you WANT to support small business it’s far easier to accept these seemingly weird realities. I’ve worked for several independent brick-and-mortars, and there can be a lot of pushback if the business closes for several weeks to take a much needed vacation (sometimes this means doing inventory and not actually taking a vacation). The art supply store that I currently work at gives people non-traditional days off (my days off are Thursday and Tuesday) to keep the store open six days a week, and the customer entitlement when their favorite salesperson is off can be appalling. People need to take breaks, sometimes just to keep the business going.
A wonderful thing about the internet is that we can buy things from ANYWHERE! Businesses aren’t limited to their immediate surroundings, and frequently don’t have to have physical storefronts, which allows for lower prices and greater variety (especially if the product isn’t being sold wholesale to a boutique). However, this means that the money you save because you’re not also supporting a physical store goes back, in part, to paying to get the thing to you. When you buy something in a store, you’re paying for shipping in a more subtle way. Companies could build shipping into the cost, but shipping varies so greatly by location that a worldwide average shipping cost would be a fantastic deal to some (Australia) and a horrible deal to others (Fyrinnae shipping to somewhere in Seattle).
One of the most common reactions to Necromancy Cosmetica that I’ve seen (besides “these are the best and I nEED THEM ALL”) is “omg shipping though” “why is shipping so expensive” “if you offered free shipping, maybe I’d buy one lipstick”. This actually put me off of the brand for a little while, but I finally gave in and did the shipping estimate to find that shipping for me was $4. Whomp whomp, I felt dumb. Always do your brand homework! In contrast, shipping for Illamasqua (based in England) is more like $20. I have purchased things from both companies, and I have to say that if I want the thing, the shipping is worth. Shipping is relative, people, and “free” shipping will get built into the cost of the product.
Shipping costs money. Deal with it, or do not buy things online. We can’t force small business owners to eat the cost, don’t even try that shit with me.
The website is meh/slow/crashes. Websites are expensive, and this is frustrating, and you should also check your internet connection because it might be a you problem. This happens with all websites, not just indie. Sephora crashed when they announced the scandalous high point rewards last year.
There aren’t good product pictures/swatches/diverse swatches.
This is a really common complaint for basically all brands. I think the problem is twofold; models and product shots are expensive, and many companies, especially large ones, aren’t super awesome at listening to customers and haven’t gotten with the program yet. Diversity is a problem in general in the beauty industry, and activism and education are always good tools on the path to addressing these issues.
Supporting brands that show product on a greater range of skintones that pale pink white person (ColourPop immediately springs to mind with their light/medium/dark swatch arms for each product), and supporting brands founded and maintained by people of color are also good ways to further diversity. Here’s are some lists of makeup brandsrecommended forpeople of color. I’ve tried some of these brands, but not all (and there is overlap between the lists).
As someone who’s tried to take pictures that accurately show how complex and beautiful Fyrinnae products are: Good Fucking Luck.
Part of why I actually started using this blog (instead of just thinking about using this blog but never producing content) is because I want to more swatches of less-represented brands out into circulation. I touched on this in the Necromancy Cosmetica review, and will probably talk about it again, but I rely on online, personalized blog reviews and swatches for a majority of my makeup buying decisions. If you feel that a brand doesn’t have enough swatches, start swatching their stuff and getting it on to the internet, ESPECIALLY if they offer samples, like Fyrinnae.
Because this post has been rather negative, I’m going to end it with a brief list of some of my favorite things about indie brands, Fyrinnae in particular; interesting and innovative products, the standard of free samples being included in every order, the ability to purchase samples, “non-traditional” colors, brands that cater to minority identity groups or interest groups (queer makeup, like Fyrinnae, or geek-themed makeup, or Sugarpill’s drag inspired aesthetic), brands that ACTUALLY TELL YOU WHEN PRODUCT IS LIMITED EDITION AND HAVE A BAR ON THE WEBSITE THAT GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF HOW MUCH PRODUCT IS LEFT (Necromancy Cosmetica does this and I LOVE IT), transparency about shipping costs, transparency in general, and my favorite thing about indies is the knowledge that, when I buy from them, I’m supporting people like me who are doing what they love on their own terms.
*Yes, I know everyone hates Lime Crime. I don’t hate Lime Crime. I have a fuckton of their Velvetines and I have to admit, they’re worth the money. They’re the most expensive for a variety of reasons. You don’t have to agree with me but you do have to not be a dick about not agreeing with me.
I’m BACK and I’m here to bring you more swatches of indie lipsticks, now with very declarative titles!
Fyrinnae Liquid Mattes are, in my opinion, Possibly The Best(TM) liquid to matte lipsticks on the market based on several metrics, but this is just, as previously stated, my opinion, and your mileage may vary.
Fyrinnae Cosmetics is a small, indie company based out of Seattle. Their strength lies in both the innovative nature of their products as well as the cost. Fyrinnae makes REALLY inexpensive cosmetics, when compared to high end, drugstore, and even other indie brands. Add the uniqueness of their formulas to that, and Fyrinnae is a fantastic deal.
For length, I am going to extrapolate on Fyrinnae’s aesthetic and formulation(s) in a separate post, as I will be doing at least several other posts on the company.
I have three of their Liquid Mattes, which retail for $10-$12 for 0.17oz., depending on their properties. The solid colors and simple metallics go for $10, while the duochromes (they call them “color-changing”) go for $12. All of the colors I’m reviewing today are the duochromes, and I cannot speak to the longevity or pigmentation of any of the solids/metallics. They might be part of a future post, but none of the colors particularly grab me now and Fyrinnae seems to no longer be offering Liquid Matte samples.
Compared to the other matte liquid lipsticks, the Liquid Mattes are definitely one of the more affordable ones in terms of total value. I’m working on a post discussing the comparative values of several brands of liquid-to-matte lipsticks, and will provide a link to it here when it’s done. When you also take the longevity and color/finish options into account, Fyrinnae becomes the better, frequently ONLY option for specific colors as well as wearability. For example, in all of the other brands of liquid-to-matte lipstick available, there are virtually no metallics or duochromes. Of the brands I’ve tried, ColourPop, Jeffree Star, and Lime Crime all offer only matte solid colors. Other brands with which I’m familiar, like Blood Moon, Dose of Colors, Makeup Monster, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Pretty Zombie, Kat Von D, etc. all stock only matte solids as of January 2016. I think that this is partially due to demand, and standard trend behavior within the cosmetics world.
I am intentionally not including Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics’ Lip Tars as liquid-to-matte lipsticks, as they do not try down nearly as matte as all of the brands mentioned above. (More on that in the liquid-to-matte lipsticks post!)
As we’re seeing with Lime Crime’s “Perlees” “matte pearl” lipsticks, it’s possible that there will be metallic matte colors from more companies in the future. Fyrinnae seems to have done it first, and dayum have they done it well.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the weird texture that you see in the bottom swatch? Yeeeah that’s mainly due to my arm hair. The large particle size of that particular color does affect the finish, but the weird anomalies you see? Arm hair all the way. You’re welcome.
The first color we’re going to look at is Wizardry, which is, appropriately, the first one I bought. Wizardly is a dark plummy purple with a strong bluish teal sheen to it. It looks darker on the lips, and the sheen is very striking in dramatic lighting. This color wore, quite literally, all day on my lips with ABSOLUTELY NO TOUCH-UPS. Even more long-wear lipsticks start to fade towards the mouth as the day progresses, and need subsequent touch-ups, but Wizardry needed nothing of the sort.
Wizardry is the easiest shade to achieve opacity, in my experience. It was mostly opaque after one coat, with a few minor areas needing a little extra.
Wizardry has a sister shade of bullet lipstick named Witchcraft, swatches and review of which will be up shortly and as a comparison, I’m reviewing the sister shades in comparison to each other and will post that soon as well. tl;dr: they are NOT the same color and feel/perform very differently, and you should definitely buy them both.
The next shade, Volcanic, is the subtlest of the three in terms of duochrome qualities. I’ll quote Fyrinnae here regarding the nature of the pigment in these unique liquid-to-matte lipsticks: “As with our Arcanes/Exquisites [eyeshadows with duochrome properties], you won’t be able to see the color change as dramatically while wearing because your eyes are moving with the rest of your face, of course.” It’s really hard to capture the duo nature of these colors in swatches, which I think might be part of the reason there aren’t a ton of swatch reviews for Fyrinnae in general.
Volcanic is a bright red with shimmer that appears either a deep pink or a copper orange, depending on the angle. The above swatch shows off the color’s coppery orange properties, and I’ve included some full arm swatch comparisons at the end of this post with different light angles. If the other colors I’m reviewing today look too extreme, Volcanic is what most people would consider “wearable”. This above swatch is two coats of Volcanic.
The final color, Electromagnetic, is the most temperamental of these three Liquid Mattes. The particle size is quite large (see the bottom of the above picture, that’s the particle size right there!) and it is therefore the least opaque out of the three. The swatches below were at least three layers of product, depending on the area. That being said, the layers didn’t feel cakey, as you’d expect a traditional lipstick to feel after piling on the layers, and the large particle size gives Electromagnetic the highest degree of color differentiation, making it an extremely unique shade.
I’d describe the color as greenish silver with a strong pink-purple shift, but it also seems to have a tealish cast? I can’t WAIT to see what it looks like over a black lipstick.
You’ll notice that I didn’t talk about the longevity and general wearability of Volcanic and Electromagnetic. Alas, I haven’t had a chance to wear those colors yet, and will be doing a follow-up post (or potentially just editing this post) after I’ve tested them. I predict that Volcanic will wear similarly to Wizardry, based on the similar particle size and opacity, and that Electromagnetic wont last nearly as long.
Oooh look at the shimmery ooooooooh. Hopefully, the color shift is apparently here, even if slightly. It’s difficult to capture these shades.
And finally, a brief note on packaging. Fyrinnae packing is very simple (a longer discussion of packaging can be viewed in my general post about Fyrinnae as a company), and fairly hefty.
Each tube has a sticker with some info about Fyrinnae, and the ingredients list for each individual shade. There’s a small sticker on the bottom of the tube with the shade name (which isn’t really needed, all of these colors look SO different).
I highly recommend Fyrinnae’s Liquid Mattes (and basically all of their other products), especially if you’re looking for unique colors and finishes. These liquid-to-matte lipsticks are very reasonably priced, shipping is affordable (I think the shipping for two of them was about $1.50?), and the quality is fantastic.
A number of my bros have asked me how to do basic makeup, what makeup brands are worth the money, what is the science behind skincare (if there’s any at all,) and a variety of other makeup-related things. Here’s a post in that vein. Inexpensive makeup brands are a good way to get started and play around while discovering what you like on your Makeup Journey™ without spending all of your money on makeup, slowly amassing a collection that you’ll never be able to use and developing a habit that will last you the rest of your known life (like me.)
Drugstore brands– called such because they’re usually available in (in my case, American) drugstores. These range from good deals to absolute shit not worth the cost of the packaging to stuff that is more expensive per ounce than the big names. I’m going to name some of my favorites and what products I like from them.
Neutrogena is good for basically anything skin-related, so foundation, concealer, powder, etc. I’m sure that their lip, cheek, and eye products are equally fabulous, but they’re more “wearable” (aka “normal”) than what I like so I’ve stayed away from them. I’d definitely recommend Neutrogena skin makeup over anything else in Walgreens, CVS, etc. They also make a lot of great skincare products (their Advanced Wrinkle Moisture, basically a strong retinol cream, is getting its own post at some point,) especially for acne-prone or otherwise sensitive skin. Their makeup remover is better than a lot of high-end brands. Buy their makeup remover. Now.
Covergirl has some acceptable foundations and powders (I used them a lot for theater in high school) but in my experience they make interesting and nice mascaras, and acceptable eyeshadow.
Maybelline has a weird line of “bouncy” and/or “whipped” cream products which are pretty good for their price point, though I wouldn’t recommend their foundation (the bouncy/whipped turns cakey in a bad way.) They have interesting and bright lipsticks in their ColorSensational line, and their eyeshadow is a smidge better than Covergirl’s. They also have a series of gel and twist-up eyeliners that are nice and affordable.
Almay makes a decent makeup remover, and a variety of wearable cosmetics. They have an interesting “match your eye color to your eyeshadow” series of eyeshadow palettes that are good quality, and are useful for folks who want wearable looks but have a hard time picking colors. Their skincare, like Neutrogena’s, is pretty good. L’Oreal is expensive, and some of the products aren’t worth it. Like most of their eyeshadow. It’s not good enough for the price. They’re owned by the same company that owns the super high-end, luxury brand Yves Saint Laurent, so if you want products (esp. lip products) that have the appearance of high-end, they’re the way to go. They’re chemically almost identical, aside from scent.
Wet n’ Wild, aside from an unfortunate name perpetually stuck in the 90s, has a lot of nice stuff. Their nailpolish is really cheap but wears better than comparably priced stuff, and their eyeshadows SOMETIMES are great. They have palettes of eyeshadow (always 8 colors) that are phenomenal for the price. And their eyeshadow primer is the way to go. Their Halloween collections (under the label Fantasy Maker) are a good way to get into more theatrical stuff without actually buying theater makeup.
Rimmel makes good lipsticks, lipliners, and eyeliners, but I haven’t tried anything else from them so I can’t speak for their other products. Their Kate Moss line of lipsticks is especially good, and the matte lipsticks within that line are probably my favorite matte drugstore brand lippies.
Revlon has the best drugstore lipsticks (in my opinion) and pretty nice satin and shimmer eyeshadows. They also have good matte lipsticks, and are probably tied with Rimmel in terms of awesome.
Sonia Kashuk is Target-exclusive (I think) and I’m honestly amazed at how inexpensive the products are for the quality. I have several of the lipsticks and honestly, they’re nicer than many high-end brands (*coughNARSMACcough*) and their eyeshadow and brushes are very well reviewed.
Pixie is another brand I’ve only every found at Target, but they have two products that are worth it: their gel cheek stain (which rivals Benefit’s Benetint) and their nude eyeliner (which is ACTUALLY NUDE and not yellow or white. This product is used to line in inner part of the lower eye to make one look like they slept instead of writing tumblr posts about makeup all night.)
Physician’s Formula has a super fancy science name that’s probably really misleading, but they make really good skin makeup and blushes. They also have an “organic” mascara that’s supposed to be great for people with sensitive eyes (though “organic” has nOTHING TO DO WITH THAT.)
Milani has a lot of great products in misleading packaging. Their cream eyeliners are on par with Urban Decay’s, which are the best of the high-end in most people’s opinion. Their cream eyeshadow pencils are similar. Their nailpolish is also pretty good. I imagine the rest of their stuff is similarly good from online reviews I’ve read.
NYX has been pretty hit-or-miss in my opinion, but their Jumbo Eyeshadow Pencils are fantastic. If you like crayons and drawing on your face, they’re worth it. They also have some nice blushes.
For drugstore nailpolish, Essie is the way to go. Their base and topcoats are lovely, and they have a huge variety of colors.
For drugstore brushes, ELF is cheap and pretty ok, and Ecotools is fantastic. Most of the brushes I use are Ecotools.
Online Indie brands– There are lots of amazing indie companies with products in the lower end of the price spectrum, but it can be hard to tell if an indie company is established and trustworthy, or if they’re selling unsafe or repackaged bullshittery.
Fyrinnae is fantastic, but their website is always down. They’re a really small (less than 10 people, I think) company with a big following. They do collections that benefit endangered species, and LGBTQ organizations. They’re the best and I love them. Everything they make is superb, unique, and interesting. Basically, I want to be them. If you buy one product from Fyrinnae, I recommend their Pixie Epoxy more than any other eyeshadow-prep product on the market. It’s basically a gel that you pat eyeshadow over to make it FABULOUS. SO FABULOUS.
Portland Black Lipstick Company has a fairly slow turn-around time, but they make some of the least expensive interestingly colored lipsticks in the indie scene. They make a selection of reds, but have metallic olive, purple, blue, etc. They also offer samples that last a long time and let you play around with crazy colors that you’re not sure you’ll be into.
Limnet Lipsticks (available via Etsy) is similar to PBLC in that they’re inexpensive, colorful, and have samples. An added bonus (for some) is that they’re entirely vegan- no beeswax or carmine. It’s hard to make good vegan lipsticks, and their stuff is amazing (side note: I wore their dark blue lipstick to a Sephora VIB Rouge event and 5 or 6 employees asked me what I was wearing on my lips. This has also happened with Fyrinnae eyeshadows.)
Sugarpill is on the cusp of inexpensive indie and high-end, imo. Mainly because their stuff is so wonderful that I have a hard time believing that it’s not a gajillion dollers. If their eyeshadows feel too expensive, look at the sizes. They’re big, really big for the price. And a little goes a LONG way. They also have a nice selection of really weird fake lashes.
My two favorite indie Etsy nailpolish companies are IndigoBananas andDandyNails. Both companies (though I think DandyNails is a single lady) make unique colors that last longer than basically all drugstore, and longer than many high-end.
Good for Skin Makeup: Neutrogena (DS,) Physican’s Formula (DS)
Good for Lipstick: Maybelline (DS,) Rimmel (DS,) Revlon (DS,) Sonia Kashuk (Target,) Portland Black Lipstick Co (indie,) Limnet Lipsticks (indie)
Good for Eyeshadow: Maybelline (DS,) Covergirl (DS,) and Wet n’ Wild (DS) are ok, but NYX (DS,) Fyrinnae (indie,) Sugarpill (indie,) and Sonia Kashuk (Target) are the way to go.
Good for Nailpolish: Essie (DS,) Milani (DS,) Wet n’ Wild (DS,) IndigoBananas (indie,) and DandyNails (indie)
Good for Eyeliner: Maybelline (DS,) Rimmel (DS,) Milani (DS,) Pixie (Target)
Good for Brushes: ELF (DS,) Ecotools (DS,) Sonia Kashuk (Target)
Good for Mascara: Covergirl (DS,) Physician’s Formula (DS,) Maybelline (DS)