Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Marc Jacobs The Sky-Liner Crashes and Burns

I have tried several things from Marc Jacobs' makeup line.  I have not been particularly impressed with any of these things.  His mascara looks lovely, but flakes off at the end of the day, in exactly the same way as my favourite stand-by drugstore mascara looks and flakes.  I once received a sample lip gloss in a colour that is not at all my style, and I admit I have not brought myself around to trying it.  I had high hopes for the liquid liner, which in fact does look nice, and I love a felt tip - but it doesn't apply well over eyeshadow, and the tip is a tad too wide to ever make a sharp point at the end of my liner wing.  I have a lipstick or two that feel nice enough, but they don't last any longer than other lipsticks and the colours aren't anything unique.  In sum, I don't get the big deal about Marc Jacobs.

Anytime I say this, people get weirdly defensive and insist I at least try the pencil liners.  The smoothest, the creamiest, the longest-lasting, the prettiest colours...  "Don't write off Marc Jacobs until you've tried the liners".

So I tried the liners.

This photo is terrible and I don't care because fuck Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs Holiday 2015 "The Sky-Liner"

I'd like to clarify that I do, in fact, already have and regularly use one of the sample-sized black high-liners, but I find it no more impressive (that is to say: not really) than anything else I've tried from the line.  It is hard and dry, which made it impossible to use on my upper lashline.  After a friend recommended it for the waterline, I have found a use for it - while difficult to apply, it does last awhile and fades quietly away instead of melting into my inner corners the way every other liner in the world does.  But I have never been blown away by this liner, so still, I don't get the big deal about Marc Jacobs.

In the spirit of fairness, I decided I'd wait until the holidays and buy a sample set so that I could finally give this mystical, supposedly brand-rescuing product a chance.  Unfortunately for both me and Marc Jacobs, this year's set is "The Sky-Liner", which is actually and without hyperbole the worst eyeliner I have ever used in my entire life.  When I was 14 I bought my makeup at the dollar store and these liners from Marc Jacobs are still the worst liners I have ever used.

I was warned.  I looked up reviews before my purchase, and one in particular pointed out that these were hard, difficult to use, and generally so poor that the brand had actually pulled them off the shelves.  After investigation, I wasn't able to find much on the reason for the product recall (including the full-sized permanent line) and assumed - wrongly - that they had been removed for reformulation in an effort to avoid them staining the brand's reputation.

But no. They simply sold them to Canadians.  Typical.

After a few weeks, the holiday Sky-Liner set and full-size liners reappeared on the Canadian Sephora site and in Canadian stores (with no simultaneous appearance for USA consumers).  I assumed - again wrongly - that this indicated that the issues with the product had been resolved.  I had suspicions that the quality-control process could have been completed so quickly, but I figured I'd take the chance and see for myself.

And now I can show you too.

Have you ever seen swatches this bad?

Those two faint shadows of what possibly might be a swatch are the blue ("(Wave)length") and the Limited Edition purple ("Boys & Berry").  I assure you, these are not one gentle brush of the pencil across my hand. I scrubbed.  Particularly with the purple, which I had most been looking forward to, I rubbed back and forth again and again and this was the absolute best I could produce.  Don't believe me?  Watch:

Marc Jacobs "Boys & Berry"

Fuck you, Marc Jacobs.

The other colours were similarly disppointing, as the photo above clearly indicates.  The champagne colour ("In the Buff") perked me up a bit, as it at least applied, somewhat similarly to the black sample liner I already owned, though it was not what I'd call impressive.  It was only when I tried the black that came in this set that I realized why people usually have such a high respect for these liners: it was creamy and opaque in one swipe, and despite running my finger over it several times since, it has not smudged one iota.  THIS is a liner I can get behind.  I was so shocked, in fact, that after my initial double-take, I swatched it again.  And then again.  (That is why there are three stripes of black in my swatch photo).  I could not believe it.  I already own and use daily one of the black highliners, and it was never anything like this.  And not a single one of the other liners in this set was like this.

For science, I went into my storage and pulled out the second black sample highliner I had in there (waiting for when my current one got used up) and swatched that one too.  This liner was not awesome either.  It was about on the level of the champagne from the Sky-Liner set; better, but not outstanding.  For anyone who's counting, that means that out of NINE Marc Jacobs high-liners that I have personally tried, only ONE has not been garbage.

That is not at all a good record.  I would like to especially point out that this set is a sample set, intended (here I go making assumptions again) to impress people enough to draw them to the brand.  Unfortunately, due to a level of wretchedness that I have never before experienced, this set is for me the final nail in the Marc Jacobs coffin.  You'd think they'd be too embarrassed or self-respecting to actually release this rubbish out into the world, never mind charge $58 for it, but evidently the brand's need to cash in has no lower limit.  Gross.

It also pisses me off a LOT that they knew the product was bad (else why remove it from stores and the Marc Jacobs website?) and rather than fix it, they insultingly shipped it off to the Canadian warehouse to be disposed of into northern shoppers' carts.

Fuck you again, Marc Jacobs. 

So that's that then. Unequivocal (by which I mean "good enough for me") proof that Marc Jacobs makeup tends toward "overpriced crap" and the brand itself toward "offensive, avaricious asshole".  I now feel justified in never again spending a dime on this brand, and will no longer wonder if I'm the crazy one for not liking it.  This set has now finally reappeared on both the Canadian and USA Sephora sites.  Please don't buy it.  You're welcome.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I'm Allergic to Bobbi Brown (and her Marketing)

At least, my eyes are.  Fortunately for me, my favourite highlighter doesn't get applied anywhere near my eyes, so I have never reacted to it.

Not so fortunately, Bobbi's "Smokey Eye Mascara" and her "Intensive Skin Serum Concealer" turned me into a lumpy, itchy, puffy-eyed, whiny mess.

When I first suspected that the mascara was the most likely cause of my problem, I immediately ceased using it, and all went back to normal after a day.  Naturally, I assumed there to be whatever ingredient in that particular formula that was to blame, and figured as long as I didn't use it again I would be fine.

Which made me minutely suspicious of the sample concealer that arrived with my Sephora order months later.  For no good reason, really.  Sometimes you just know, I suppose.  But I tried it anyway, and sure enough, in no time I was in itchy, stinging pain again.

So it appears there is something going on at Bobbi Brown that my eyes do not want to be a part of.  I attempted to glean ingredient lists for both of these products off the internet in order to make a comparison, but was unable to narrow down an obvious culprit.  (For the record, neither of the ingredient lists I found were official and may or may not be accurate.  I could not find an ingredient list for the "Smokey Eye" mascara at all, so I used her "No Smudge" mascara ingredients instead). The only ingredient that was in both of the lists I used and is commonly linked to allergies was Phenoxyethanol (a preservative), except this is also in several other eye products that I use regularly without any issues.


I emailed Bobbi Brown through their site to request accurate and full ingredients for each of these products, because maybe there was something missing or incorrect in the ones I found online.  They have not responded.  From the comments I see on Sephora for this product, it seems others have also been unsuccessful in obtaining ingredient information on these products.

Which kind of pisses me off, enough that I'm going to segue into a slightly critical sidebar about the Intesive Skin "serum" that naturally arose while I was investigating the list of ingredients.  This product claims to "treat as it lightens and brightens" by counteracting dark circles caused by aging.  It apparently does this by use of ingredients such as "skin-boosting... Cordyceps Mushroom, Indian Tree Root, and Bamboo Grass".   (Source: Sephora and Bobbi Brown's own site).

I've done a basic search of scholarly journals and couldn't find much supporting the conclusion that topical application of any of these ingredients actually reduces visible signs of aging.  Most notably, I couldn't find ANY such studies on the bamboo grass (Sasa Veitchii Extract), which doesn't appear to have been tested on skin at all. Commiphora Mukul Resin Extract (more commonly called "Guggul", the Indian tree root referred to) has been studied topically, but most often in the context of a contact allergen.  The science on topical skin benefits is pretty limited, though it is apparently sometimes used to treat acne.  The Cordyceps mushroom has mostly been tested on rats and mice, though none used topical application, and any tests on humans have been done in vitro.  I couldn't find any studies on topical human application of this ingredient.  This mushroom has long been used medicinally but, as far as I can tell, is always ingested for this purpose.  I don't know about you, but (not counting one poorly-thought-out "nude lip" experiment in tenth grade) I don't typically eat my concealer. 

The most promising ingredients in this list is an arabica coffee seed extract, and perhaps a wrinkle-reducing peptide, neither of which are highlighted in the product's anti-aging claims (as quoted above).  However, both of these are included in such small amounts that I can't imagine they'd be especially useful.

Regardless of whatever flimsy scientific basis the use and promotion of these ingredients as "anti-aging" are relying on, I have serious doubts about the likelihood that topical application of any of them in these tiny concentrations is going to be effective.

But sure.  Sell your shit with SCIENTIFIC WORDS.  

Be sure not to tell anyone what the ingredients actually are, though.  Because then you might look like an asshole.  Oh, wait.

Anyway, it's all kind of a damned shame, because if you ignore the totally bullshit anti-aging claims, these products were both pretty satisfactory up until they turned me into the Elephant Man.  I don't have photos of the products in use because I am not brave enough to put them on again even long enough to take a photo of them (and the mascara is long since expired by now anyway), so you get a gif-party instead.  If you happen to not be allergic to Bobbi Brown, as I am, and if you are willing to pay money to someone who sells her crap with pseudoscientific crap, then probably you will like these a lot better than I did.  

I'll just stick to her highlighters, I think.