Friday, 20 October 2017

Perfume Roundup: What I've Gotten Since My Collection Weed

In July and August, I did a series on Instagram where I did mini, daily reviews of all the perfumes I had left after a huge weed of my perfume collection. (And a couple of scents that I got during that time as well.) And then, because while I have dialled my perfume purchasing way way wayyyyy back, there were some excellent late summer/early fall collections from Solstice Scents and Arcana, and I grabbed them: Cliffside Bonfire (which I tried in an eau de parfum sample and then got a rollerball of) and a sample of Sea of Gray from Solstice Scents; an eau de parfum sample of Solstice Scents Sacred Vow with an order from Pretty Indulgent; a bottle of Sea Witch from Arcana, and I nabbed a split of Arcana Advice from a Caterpillar from a friend.

I didn't need to get any of these, especially since I still had enough perfume to wear a different one every day for a month (and did). I've been doing a fairly decent job of avoiding perfume release news, and honestly? I've tried hundreds of perfumes at this point. Something needs to be pretty damn unique or well-crafted for me to care, especially when I have limited time to wear perfume - weekends and evenings, due to a scent-free workplace. I am happy to say that all of these are unique to my collection as it stands and they were carefully chosen, with the exception of Sacred Vow, because you know, free sample.

Solstice Scents Cliffside Bonfire is the perfume I was most excited about this summer. Mostly because it's pure summer in a bottle to me: described as "Conifers, dry woods, rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), charred wood, smoke." This is...well, a cliffside bonfire. Solstice Scents has been killing it with the atmospheric blends for years now, but they just keep getting better. 

I've talked a decent bit here on the blog about my childhood summers spent in Cape Breton and how those memories are deeply cherished. And Clifside Bonfire is essentially those evenings in a bottle: wind in the woods, woodsmoke, and the scent of the ocean. It's like I'm sitting around the fire with my (incredibly large) extended family. This scent makes me so happy from just a whiff that it's possible that I wouldn't care if the sillage and the lasting power sucked, but it doesn't. It's got moderate sillage (my partner asked me why I smelled like Cape Breton when it had been weeks since I'd been) and the lasting power is decent, getting to eight hours on my skin. All of the components blend well together and fade evenly. It's a beautiful scent, but this is probably a big YMMV kind of scent. It's a true atmospheric, so if you don't want to literally smell like a bonfire next to the ocean, you should pass.

Sea of Grey was from the same late summer release as Cliffside Bonfire. I was much less sure about this one, so I picked it as my free sample with my order. This is described as "Vanilla rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), white amber, roasted seashells, white sandalwood, frangipani."

Sea of Grey reminds me a lot of Arcana The Kraken. They're not the same scent, but in the same wheelhouse: both a vanilla aquatics. But while The Kraken is a smoked vanilla aquatic, Sea of Grey is more like vanilla ice cream and the ocean. The vanilla is delicate and sweet, while the ocean notes are smoothed out by white florals. Sea of Grey hugs much closer to the skin than Cliffside Bonfire, but has the same lasting power as Cliffside Bonfire. The sweet vanilla disspates more quickly than I expected, and it becomes more about smooth cool ocean and a whisp of vanilla. I like Sea of Grey, and it probably has broader appeal than Cliffside Bonfire, but I'm satisfied with just a sample. It's lovely, but not me.

The third Solstice Scents pick is the free one I got with my order from Pretty Indulgent to get Arcana Sea Witch and the rollerball of Cliffside Bonfire, Sacred Vow. Sacred Vow was created, along with White Feather, a scent I have yet to try, by the owners of Solstice Scents for their wedding, which I think is really lovely. It's described as "Vanilla, amber, bay rum, sandalwood, oak, patchouli, vetiver, saffron, lime and more." 

(I don't know what "more" means. That doesn't seem much like a note. I digress.)

Sacred Vow is more unisex than I go for - it's either straight-up fruity candy scents or strict atmospheric scents over here, and the spicy, resinous tone of Sacred Vow isn't much like me. I'll probably pass this onto my partner in a valiant attempt to get him into indie scents. It's a very warm, cozy, spicy scent. I get a lot of bay rum and sandalwood on me, which is not surprising. Both notes amp a ton on me. The sillage is relatively low, hugging very intimately, but the staying power is crazy. All of the times I've tried it have left it lasting at least 12 hours, sometimes longer. I've gone to sleep with it on and had to scrub it off to go to work in the morning. 

My two Arcanas are also a little outside what I might normally get. I was sold on Advice from a Caterpillar when my friend described it as lime Pepsi, which is one the best pops that of which I still mourn the loss. It doesn't totally smell like lime Pepsi, maybe a spicier, more sophisticated version, but I do get a bit of lime Pepsi when I first put it on. It's described as "Disappear into Wonderland with this mind-altering blend of tart lime peel, sugared coconut, ripe berries, clove bud, allspice, yellow peach, and a faint wisp of Indonesian patchouli."

It's such an interesting blend. It starts off with lots of lime, coconut and allspice, but mellows as it sinks into my skin, becoming spicier and richer as the lime dissipates. The coconut helps smooth the spice, and general fruitiness really rounds it out. It gets peachier as it wears as well, but the allspice remains the centre of the show during the duration of wear. It's delicious. It's got low moderate sillage, and lasts about six hours on my skin.

Finally, I got Sea Witch from the recent Witches release. Sea Witch is a fruity aquatic, and it's...interesting. I've been testing it pretty extensively and I'm still not sure if I like it. It starts off really shampoo-like on me. It smooths out some, but I don't know. It's described as "Delicate aquamarine scales and fins mingle with ribbons of seaweed, blueberries, brine, fresh rain, and gently sweet amber resin."

I think the problem is the blueberries, which is a great note in theory, but one that often reads like soap to my nose. After a few minutes of letting it sink into my skin, it's less soap and more like blueberries, amber, and slightly salty water, with a quickly disappearing fishy note. Probably the seaweed note, since that has gone fishy on me before. It's a very fresh water scent, much less salty than the other aquatics than I've reviewed in this post. The sillage on this one is lower than the others, requiring me to be fairly close to smell it (frankly the best way to wear perfume, in my humble opinion), and it lasts about five hours on my skin.

I've yet to see any fall releases jump out at me, but I think I'll continue this sort of perfume reviewing: rounding up my purchases for a season, since there won't be that many, and then I can compare them (especially if I'm buying on a theme, like this time around). What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Hype Machine: Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer

Unless you've been living under a rock (or don't care about beauty, in which case...why are you here? Stay if you want, but this is a beauty blog), you're probably aware that Rihanna launched a makeup line called Fenty Beauty and the internet beautysphere has gone nuts over it because a) Rihanna and b) 40 shades of foundation with a wide range, which is excellent. I'm not in the market for a new foundation since I adopted The Ordinary Serum Foundation, which is $6.80! Canadian! I love it! but I did take a look at the offerings from Fenty Beauty at launch. I like the branding and the focus on bases in the line at launch. 40 foundation shades, one lip product. It's an interesting choice. And as a lip product devotee, I went straight for the lip gloss. 

The Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer in Fenty Glow (do you get more points if you have extra long product names?) is described as a "shimmering rose nude." I assume that Fenty Beauty plans to come out with more shades of these at some point, since they bothered to name the only shade that came out at launch. But since there's only one, most people I've seen talking about it have been calling it the Fenty gloss. I'm guilty of that too, since that name is so effing long, but the librarian in me knows this will be a problem when people try to find reviews later and the shade range has expanded. 

The applicator is enormous.

(It's also why I have such a problem with Instagram tags. There are SO MANY ways people could search for something! So stressful sometimes. It's possible I spend too much time thinking about this. Controlled vocabularies are so needed.)

The Fenty gloss reminds me a bit of the Shiro Snow Bunny lip gloss I had from the Indie Memory Box, though sheerer. It's comfortable and lightly moisturizing. Because it's so sheer, it doesn't wear away unevenly. I got about three hours before I had to reapply it, while doing regular snacking/drinking/talking incessantly.

Swatched heavily, sheered out.

It's probably universal because it's so sheer. Not because there's an actual universal colour. 

It smells like peaches and vanilla, very similar to Arcana Peaches Crave Vanilla - it reminds me a lot of that perfume, and seems to have a tiny bit of sweetener in it so that you get a bit of the taste. It's like a throwback to Lip Smackers gloss, but a more adult version, for those who still want to wear gloss but also need to be a professional.

Indirect natural lighting.

Fluorescent lighting.

My one huge gripe with this product is how bulky the tube is. Here it is pictured with a bunch of other lip products.

L-R: Colourpop lip gloss (2.4g), Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit liquid lipstick (6g), Fenty Gloss Bomb (9ml), DreamWorld Cosmetics Ectoplasmic Lips (11g), Fyrinnae Magic Whipped Metallic (3ml), Sephora Cream Lip Stain (5ml), Bite Prismatic Pearl Creme Lip Gloss (4.14ml)

The Fenty gloss is 9ml, which is a lot of gloss. Most liquid lip products, as you see above, have much less (but also have bulky packaging too). But the tube is especially short and wide, and I'd honestly rather have less gloss and a thinner tube. Gloss isn't a product that keeps forever, you know? If this was the only thing I wore everyday, I could see using it all up in a reasonable amount of time. And maybe that's the goal of it, to be an everyday, multi-occasion kind of product. Who knows.

The Fenty gloss is nice. It's a really solid gloss. Does it deserve the hype it's been getting? Probably not. If you have a gloss formula you like already, you can probably pass on this. I like it, I'm glad I bought it, but it would have been fine to skip it.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

2017 Reads: July to September

This quarter, I borrowed a bunch of library books in order to put some pressure on myself to continue to get back into reading, so I have a slightly more interesting picture of some of these titles. This was moderately successful, though I maxed out my renewals on some titles that I didn't get around to reading this quarter and had to return them yesterday before reading them. Having overdue fines is a shame I can't bear.

Some of the books I read. Apparently I forgot to take photos of the others.

Commonwealth - Ann Patchett

This was really good, if somewhat strangely paced. It starts with the christening party of Franny, the youngest child of Fix and Beverly Keating, where Bert Cousins arrives with gin and kisses Beverly. They start an affair that breaks up their families and brings their six kids together every summer in Virginia. The story is told mainly through Franny's eyes, and it's a strange, funny, sad story about actions, unintended consequences, and the bonds of family. Truly one of the best books I've read this year.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine Thien

This book is not critically acclaimed for nothing. It starts in 1991, with Marie and her mother taking in a refugee, Ai-ming, who has connections to Marie's father and brings with her the stories that make up the rest of the plotline: connections between different generations and families, starting withe the Cultural Revolution in China and ending with Tienanmen Square. It can be somewhat hard to follow and keep track of, with the jumping from era to era, but it's beautifully woven overall. 

Saints of Big Harbour - Lynn Coady

This was a familiar story to me, in that I recognized the characters like they could be people from my own life. It's set in the fictional Cape Breton town of Big Harbour, focusing on the life of Guy Boucher and a cast of characters that he is related to or meets: his mother and sister, his alcoholic uncle, his alcoholic English teacher, the girl he has a crush on from Big Harbour, and her best friend. Guy is the main narrator, but there are a bunch of other chapters from the other characters. Some of it falls a little flat, since the fractured viewpoints don't always work that well, but I liked it for staying true to the Maritime spirit.

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat - Philip Lymbery

I've been carefully inching toward vegetarianism for years (and will probably make it over to veganism at some point) and I decided to read Farmaggedon for a good overview of the environmental cost of factory farming. I've been reducing my animal consumption for a while, but needed a kick and decided to grab this to help along with it. It's an interesting and sobering look at the cost of our food, plus has loads of great sources to follow up on.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel - Heather O'Neill

I like Heather O'Neill's writing but sometimes I feel like if you've read one of her books, you can pretty much fill in the rest of them. Some tragic children, with sad backgrounds, grow up on the streets in Montreal and attempt to overcome adversity but can't truly rebuff their pasts. Usually gritty. They're always good and entertaining, but I have yet to finish one and think "Hey, this wasn't like the rest of them!" Rose and Pierrot are children born out of wedlock and left at one of the many institutions run by nuns in Montreal in 1914. Both are brilliant performers and soon are sent out by the Mother Superior to entertain potential donors. And they fall in love. And here begins their really tragic story: Pierrot and Rose are separated by the nun who has sexually abused Pierrot for years, and once both are out of the orphanage, they drift in and out of bad situations, till they find one another. It is really good, I swear. But familiar.

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

I have the DVD of this on hold at the library and will be watching it soon, now that I've finished the book. This broke my heart, to be perfectly honest. You have a lighthouse keeper with PTSD, his wife who miscarries multiple times, and a baby who washes up on the rock where they live with the light in a boat with a dead man. They take the little girl and raise her as their own - and that's fine, till they leave the lighthouse and move back to the mainland. It was beautifully told, but it was unbearably sad. 

The Two-Family House - Lynda Cohen Longman

This was a random library selection when picking up my holds. It's about two brothers who own a company together and share a house, one brother living upstairs with his family, and the other downstairs. Their wives are close friends and raise their children together, but after both are pregnant with their youngest children at the same time, a rift forms, and they eventually become deeply estranged. It was surprisingly one of my favourite books that I read this quarter, though I saw the twist coming from a mile away.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague- Geraldine Brooks

This is a book that a friend's mother gave me when we stayed with them in Ottawa, telling me it was one of her favourites and since I'm a librarian, she wanted to hear my thoughts...which I still haven't messaged to my friend. So after I post this, I'll message him. But anyway. This was really interesting. It's set in Eyam, a village in Derbyshire that quarantined itself in 1666, when the plague arrives, which actually happened. It's narrated by the fictional Anna Frith, a widow and housemaid, who tells the story of the desperation and fear that grips the village, as well as her own tragic losses. The last bit of the novel gets a little over the top, but most of the story during the quarantine is really good. 

In a Daze Work - Siobhan Gallagher

This is a really fun concept: it's a choose-your-own-adventure journey through the daily grind - work, buying coffee, shunning social contact, bingeing on Netflix, etc. I enjoy picking it up and leafing through. It's funny as hell and sometimes a little too relatable. Also I went to the same high school as the author and she's incredibly talented.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies - Michael Ausiello

I only Michael Ausiello because I am a rabid Gilmore Girls fan and was when it was airing. So was he. This is the memoir about Ausiello's last year with his husband, Kit, and what it was like to live with a spouse dying of cancer. It's tragic and funny, and Ausiello doesn't shy form sharing the ups and downs of their relationship. The emotion was definitely raw in this one, and it makes up for any shortcomings in narration.

Looking for Bootstraps: Economic Development in the Maritimes - Donald J. Savoie

Returning to my first academic love: the Maritimes and what the hell we're going to do. This was an interesting overview of the economic history of the Maritimes, and exploring how we ended up as a struggling region, small and unheard in Confederation. Savoie explores the relationship between the federal government, the provincial governments, and the competition in a region that doesn't (and shouldn't) be sabotaging one another. It was fascinating, and laid out the evidence for my own mixed thoughts on why we are where we are, the frustrations of being a young person in a chronically depressed region, and where we may end up if we don't get our collective acts together, along with the recognition that we can't bear all of the blame. It was very thorough, and I highly recommend it. 

Total read this quarter: 11
Total read previous quarter: 11
Total read in 2017 to date: 32

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Low Buy Report: Catching Up and Reevaluating

Oh hey, remember when I set some low buy goals for 2017? I struggled a lot during the beginning third of the year, and then a combo of time, stress, and shame that I ended up going over my budget (by kind of a lot for what the budget was, though admittedly I'm still spending less than a third of what I did last year on beauty, so yay) led me to abandoning the series of posts. But now it's fall and the fact that fall usually means new beginnings, I decided to revisit the low buy report, think about the original goals, and create a more sustainable plan that I can commit to without much effort on my part.

I've been very quiet this month, somewhat unexpectedly. My work situation has changed somewhat: while I continue to be a solo hospital librarian with a somewhat tyrannical way of managing, I will also be spending the next year managing the day-to-day operations of another library in my health authority. I don't know what that's going to look like quite yet, but I will be travelling a lot more for work, and I'm definitely going to be crazy busy. It's a great opportunity for me career-wise, but I'm a little nervous since I've gotten used to managing only me this last year. As hard as that has been, it's been an incredible amount of freedom and I'm going to miss it in a strange way.

Thus, my head is pretty crammed full of stuff to worry about right now and I'm not interested in adding any more.

When I changed my blog name, I wanted it to better reflect the direction I was going in: a broader beauty blog, with a variety of interesting posts. This is aligned with the original intentions I had when I decided on my low buy and beauty budget: write more interesting posts, get through my backlog of products that I had to review (there's still a backlog, but it's much reduced), and be more conscious about what I was buying. With a few exceptions this year, I think I've achieved that. I have made very few impulse purchases this year, and those that were impulse were still researched and sat on for at least a few days. I've vastly reduced any stress shopping - or have directed it into purchasing things that I actually need, like new sheets and rainboots.

Overall, I'm satisfied that I've:

  • reduced my spending considerably
  • have truly become more thoughtful in my consumption
  • have produced a good variety of blog posts this year
  • stopped buying random lipsticks when I'm bored/tired/hungry/stressed
  • continued to work toward a makeup collection that is used and reflects my current interests
  • avoiding hype
Things I still need to work on:
  • having more makeup than I can reasonably use (I'll probably always have a lot, but I can definitely stand to have less)
  • ensuring I'm not buying multiple versions of the same colour (hoping to do some dupe weeding this weekend!)
  • making plans that work with me over the year
I've been writing a lot of syntheses on human resources literature lately, and one of the themes that is currently being bandied around in performance review trends is that you need to be able to revise your goals, and that a yearly assessment structure should be bolstered by more frequent, informal check-ins and less rigid goals to allow for the dynamic kind of work environment that we're usually in. This exercise is a kind of performance review, of me and my buying patterns, and so while I had the vague idea right (set goals, frequent check-ins), I was still thinking too narrowly. At least for me and the kind of person I am. 

Going forward then, I will:
  • have a quarterly check-in post. I think that's more reasonable. Monthly can feel daunting when I think about all of the other things that I want to write about.
  • not be keeping a strict budget with a million rules that feel too hard to keep track of.
  • have a much easier rule: try to aim for spending no more than $100 a month on average, on beauty, including replacements. I think this allows for wiggle room of buying more extravagant things, plus allowing for stocking up on essential items when I need to.
  • work on panning some of my much reduced perfume collection and continue to revisit some older scents here and there.
  • continue to track my daily lip colours and perfumes. I've been keeping a running note of this in my planner, and it helps me see what I'm using regularly.
  • stop buying so many liquid lipsticks. Seriously, who am I???
Of all the iterations of low buying that I've tried, this is probably the most natural for me and the simplest. We'll find out at the end of December how it's going! Especially with the Sephora sale coming up...I'm building a wishlist, the most ridiculous item on it being the Dyson hairdryer. I don't even blowdry my hair. That will probably be dropped. One hopes.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Glow Series: Sleek Cosmetics Precious Metals Highlighting Palette

I bought my Sleek Cosmetics Precious Metals Highlighting Palette in Brussels almost a year ago now, so I should probably get around to talking about it. I picked this up in a Di store, which is a little beauty store that sells lots of drugstore brands. There were a good mix of things I could have gotten at home and things that are nigh impossible to get your hands on in Canada without some work, so I chose to focus on those brands. Sleek has always interested me, because they have an interesting array of colours and products and I've always heard good things, so somewhat impulsively, I grabbed this highlighter palette. I regretted it a little later, since I didn't realize it was three cream highlighters and one powder. I'm not a fan of mixed palettes like that. The upside is that the powder highlighter in this palette is not too powdery.

The downside is that I've had this palette for a year and I regret buying it. And that it came with a shitty brush, though I've long since chucked it. It wasn't a lot of money or anything, but it wasn't my greatest purchasing decision. All of the colours are beautiful, but the cream formula is oily and has a tendency to separate in a really unattractive way on my face throughout the day, usually around the five hour mark. Since I like to wear my makeup for more than five hours at a time, this is not great. It becomes weird patchy glitter, even the less obviously glittery shades. And the one powder highlighter, Antique Bronze, is too dark for me, even though it's a great texture and blends well.

Antique Bronze, swatched heavily and blended out.

I like these in conception. Even in pan. Platinum, the white, is my favourite silvery white kind of highlight, just won't stay put on my face. 

Platinum, swatched heavily and blended out.

Royal Gold is a glitterbomb. A pretty one, but it looks like I dipped my face onto a Christmas card in a not-great way. 

Royal Gold, swatched heavily and blended out.

And the last cream, Renaissance Gold, is pretty but again suffers from breaking down on my face in a patchy weird way, and is a little too dark/warm for me. 

Renaissance Gold, swatched heavily and blended out.

This impulsive snatching of something before our train back to Liege was not my greatest move. I haven't used it very much in the last year because I have lots of other highlighters, the packaging, while nice to look at, doesn't seem all that secure for a palette of creams. The magnet that is supposed to keep these shut is a bit weak.The highlighters themselves don't wear in a way that I really like, and the powder one, while lovely, is too dark for me. So this one will be exiting my collection. This is a shame, but it was among the last of my truly rash makeup purchases, so I did learn something. Yay for that!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Beauty, Pseudoscience, and Finding the Answers

I've been working on figuring out the wording for this post for months now, since it's such a big topic that I have many, many thoughts about. And one of the things I realized I should address for those old and new to my blog is what my qualifications are when it comes to discussing science before I launch into why I have come to these conclusions and frustrations. For those unaware, I am a health sciences librarian, based in a teaching hospital. I've mentioned it here in passing, but what do I actually do? That's a question that I get a lot, and the answer is happily relevant to discussing science and beauty. 

My job is to support patient care. I do this through several avenues (providing a print collection of core books, facilitating access to reputable journals and databases, teaching people how to find reputable sources, finding patient education info, doing research for policy development) but the one I spend most of my time on is literature searching. If a clinician has a question and needs the latest relevant articles, they come to me. I design a search based on their question, run it through the databases I feel are most relevant (and/or Google), and screen the results for the most relevant material. I send it to them, and they hopefully use it to provide evidence-based healthcare. This means I spend most of my work time reading about all kinds of interesting health things. I am not a physician, nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist, or qualified in any way to give you medical advice (so please stop asking, certain family members). What I am qualified to do is to find the information to back up claims and hopefully cast some light on the efficacy of ingredients for myself. I have a lot of fun tools to play with because of my affiliations, and I have been known to do a quick search or two to explore questions I have about what I might be interested in buying, and whether or not oakmoss is a dangerous irritant. But there are a lot of free tools out there that you too can use to find evidence! And I'm going to reference a few for you.

I don't often take advantage of is my access and skill in searching the literature to debunk some of the beauty pseudoscience I see floating about the interwebs. Frankly, most of it is a time/benefit thing: arguing with people on the internet is fruitless and frustrating, and I'm not going to waste an half hour on PubMed creating a search and screening the results for someone who won't appreciate it. No, I get paid to create searches and screen results and then give them to people who do appreciate it and send me chocolates at Christmas. Another aspect is I can't usually link to stuff that I've read, since I used my affiliations to access full text, and I'm not going to write an essay explaining my search and my screening criteria and the content of the full text that I read - again, because I get paid for that for people who appreciate my work and I'm not usually interested in wasting that on strangers to prove an internet point for some upvotes. And finally, because I like to use my free time to do other things and try to stave off my looming workaholic tendencies.

But there is a depressing tendency in the communities I frequent to peddle pseudoscience. This is part of the reason why I've taken several huge steps back from indies in the last year or so - I can't deal with the greenwashing and the naturalistic fallacy that so often is bandied about. There's a very strong connection between people who are into clean living and all-natural everything and good for you, but everything is made of chemicals, so please stop saying you're looking for an eyeshadow without chemicals. I like to support small businesses and am guilty of being a special snowflake when it comes to having things that other people don't have. I like cool labels and nifty oils and unusual things. But stop trying to sell me things based on their superior all-natural label. They aren't better for me or better quality or will restore my positive energies or anything else I've seen.

1. Stop asking/giving health advice on the internet.

Seriously, stop it. It's never people who know exactly how dangerous that is (usually), but people who know just enough to get themselves into trouble. I actually don't participate in groups related to my own chronic health issues for this reason alone - I tried and kept getting asked for my medical opinion, and I kept seeing people giving out advice that they were in no way qualified to do. Nah, I don't need to commiserate that badly. Skincare communities are particularly bad for this. No one here can diagnose your rash, go to a doctor. I suspect that because most English-language sites are heavily American, this has more to do with the state of that healthcare system, where people literally can't afford to go see a doctor for minor health ailments. That breaks my heart. But it doesn't change the fact that unless you're using the internet to video chat with a health care professional, you probably shouldn't be using it as a substitute diagnostician. At least we can refer people to reputable consumer health sites, like Medline Plus. But using Wikipedia to help diagnose a Please stop.

2. Natural doesn't equal good.

I don't know that this bears repeating on my end, but the naturalistic fallacy is alive and well, as I alluded to above. So here it is again: just because something is natural doesn't make it good for you or better or purer or anything. It's merely natural. Like bears or arsenic or thorns or crabs pinching your toe in the water. If you want to buy all-natural stuff, go to town. But remember that all it means is that you're buying stuff labelled as natural. It simply is. 

3. You probably don't know how to search, so ask someone who does.

This is a sticky point that I debated on including, mostly because it's pretty harsh, for all that it's the one I can talk endlessly about. But with the proliferation of fake news, predatory publishers, people asking questions all over Reddit that could have been Googled (I answered one the other day about if there were any Sephora locations in New Brunswick), and our elderly relatives posting memes with blatant falsities on Facebook, I'd say many people are cluing in that we're not always great at handling the massive amount of information out there on the internet. There is this pervasive belief that because we have Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo/whatever your chosen search engine is, we don't need anything else. When I said I was going to library school, multiple people asked me why I'd bother, since libraries are obsolete because we have Google. Some of you are still probably sitting here thinking that. I won't take it personally, but no candy for you when you come visit me at my reference desk. 

Just because we have Google doesn't mean you know how to search. In fact, it's entirely possible that you were never taught how to, aside from maybe one session with a librarian in university. I started kindergarten the year before Google came online, and I wasn't ever really taught how to use it in grade school, probably because the educators in my life were learning to use it at the same time I was. It's not your fault. But it's still a fact. Google has made searching almost absurdly easy - it lets you type in sentences and all that stuff. It's great when you want to find a bread machine recipe or a store selling mermaid earrings. But to dig into more advanced topics, to find the right answer? Ehhhh. I have my doubts, and I know I wasn't very good at searching till I became a formally trained finder of stuff. 

If you aren't familiar with where to go to look for evidence, then you probably aren't going to find good evidence. I was on the vegan subreddit on Reddit, and came across a poster who was looking for evidence for something and posted some blogs and YouTube videos that were of pretty questionable quality. Someone linked the poster to some PubMed Central articles to read up, and the poster claimed he was suspicious of a .gov site. Understandable, but since the president probably has no clue what the National Library of Medicine is, let alone their services, I'm still pretty confident in recommending PubMed as a good place to start looking for evidence. Not sure how to start searching in PubMed? Start with the NLM Guide. Or feel free to shoot me an email, and depending on my time, I can give you a few tips. I recommend PubMed mainly because it's free, fairly comprehensive, and also has Cochrane systematic reviews, which are noted for their quality and evidence.

Always check author information and any conflict of interest statements. Is there a retraction notice? Publishers have gotten better at that, but you can still check out Retraction Watch. PubMed has gotten better at tagging retracted article in a more obvious way, thankfully. Check out the journal's reputation. On the evidence pyramid, you'll be wanting the stuff that's higher up. A case report, while interesting and you're mostly likely to find heaps of these for whatever you're interested in, is not great evidence to support your claim. Sometimes there won't be any evidence. That doesn't mean your experience is wrong, but it does mean that there isn't an answer one way or another yet. The plural of anecdote is not data.

4. Just because it worked for you doesn't mean it'll work for someone else. 

Even if something has lots of evidence, it doesn't mean something is going to work. On Reddit, Skincare Addiction has a basic routine which is touted as the Holy Grail and we should all be using Cerave in the tub and Stridex in the red box. And sure, it's easy to access stuff filled with good ingredients that works for a lot of people. But not everyone, and the fact that it's held up as a one-size-fits-all approach (and before anyone sends me nasty messages about how SCA doesn't actually push it, I've been reading there since its inception, and people really do push it as the One True Way) is troublesome. Which again brings me back to one of my earlier points: skincare blurs the line between medicine and beauty. Often, it's both. And you have to be very careful when framing recommendations about skincare because you can very easily fall on the side of being prescriptive about skincare and cross over into giving something that looks a lot like medical advice. I'm almost positive I have done this too. I really try very hard not to do so, but occasionally it slips that way, and I'm always regretful. What if I told someone to do something based on my very tiny sample size of me and it caused them damage? Recommendations are one of the ways we learn about things, but I think we could all stand to be pickier about where we get our recommendations, myself included. And we definitely need to be incredibly mindful of recommendations versus providing medical advice. 

I've really only barely scratched the surface of this wide-ranging topic, and all of the things that I see and read on a daily basis. I could open up a thread somewhere and pull examples upon examples of pseudoscience peddled in the beauty community. I know I'm not always diligent about researching everything, but I read with a critical eye and do check the claims that trip my bullshit radar or directly reference something that I may use in my own life, on my skin. I read ingredients lists (sometimes forgetting what I'm looking for - I recently found out I am sensitive to lanolin but apparently forgot that when purchasing Glossier Balm Dot Com...) and evaluate brand claims with a healthy dose of salt. I'm not immune to marketing, but I also view beauty through a bluntly realistic lens. Nothing is going to give me a miracle overnight. Nor should it. 

Next up: tackling my thoughts on cruelty-free. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Reverse Review: Josie Maran Coconut Watercolour Cheek Gelee in Pink Escape

I had planned to post some more highlighter reviews, but while I was taking things out to swatch and photograph, I glanced at my blushes and saw my little pot of Josie Maran Coconut Watercolour Cheek Gelee in Pink Escape (wow, that's a mouthful for such a little pot) and decided to pay homage to this. I never see anyone talking about these. Does anyone buy them? Are they still being sold? 

I just hopped over to Sephora to confirm that they are still being sold, though it looks like the mini size in Pink Escape, which is what I'm about to talk about, isn't in stock there. It is in stock on Josie Maran's own site. 

Anyway, since I'm apparently one of five people who bought these, I can at least tell you how great this one is. I picked it up over the winter, tossing the mini size in my Sephora cart as a compromise: I wanted to try it, but didn't want to commit to the full size, in case I didn't like it or didn't use it fast enough. Wrong on both counts. I've called this a reverse review, because while you can see I still have a good amount left in the pot, I'd say I'm over the halfway done point, compared to when I started using it in January. I've used it multiple times a week since then - Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure is my neutral, goes-with-everything blush, but Pink Escape is wonderfully natural on me, just a little brighter and pinker than my natural flush. It's described as a "cool toned pink" and I agree with that. Being on the cooler side of neutral myself, I can see why it wears so well for me.

Right is blended out, left is built up to show the colour.

But it's the formula of this that's truly beautiful: it's a gel that glides easily, blends well, and sinks into the skin in a really natural way. It can look terrifyingly pink before it sinks in a bit, but once it does, the result is a soft flush that looks luminous. I feel like I'm writing marketing copy here, but it really is. 

This is about ten minutes after application.

This blush usually makes it through the workday for me, worn over foundation and set with a translucent powder. You can see it in this photo I took in the best lit place in my whole library (while I crossed my fingers that no one would come in while I was trying to take a good picture). This is about three-quarters of the way through my work day, 

I prefer to apply it with my fingers, since I find this is the easiest, most foolproof application. The only downside is that my finger ends up being pretty pink and needs a bit of micellar water to scrub it clean before work.

I anticipate finishing this up in the not-too-distant future, based on current usage, and I will be looking at the full sized pots when I do, because this is such a great formula. I live in fear that it will be discontinued before I can grab a full size of it. But maybe more people are buying it than I think, since it's not a new, hypeable product. Let that be true.