Review: Lancome Definicils High-Definition Mascara

My relationship with mascara is probably more complicated than that of the majority of mascara users, and possibly even the tiniest bit pathological.

Having recently come to the end of a tube of Lights, Camera, Lashes, I thought I’d take the opportunity to play around with some mascaras I’d been meaning to test. I’ve been loving on LCL so long that I felt just a little anxious and disloyal trying another brand. Really! Actually anxious. I had to talk soothingly to my new and unopened tube of LCL and reassure it that I wasn’t going to leave it and that we weren’t even really “on a break.”

That doesn’t sound normal, does it? No, I didn’t think so.

First up: Lancome Definicils.

The nice thing about mascara samples is that you almost always get enough to actually test the product more than once. In some cases I have enough mini tubes to add up to more than a full-size product! My mini tube of Definicils has lasted several weeks now, although I haven’t worn it every day. It applies reasonably smoothly and is nice and black. The brush is the standard-looking mascara wand; it’s supposed to be patented but I haven’t been able to see what’s so earth-shattering about it. I prefer one coat for daytime wear, and it does one coat perfectly serviceably. It does seem to make my lashes clump more than LCL, though it’s not egregious by any means.

This mascara mostly removes with cleanser and water. The problem is that you can’t always tell whether it’s all off or not, until the next morning when you go to put mascara on again and your lashes are stiff and gritty. This hasn’t been too much of a problem, but it’s one I never have with LCL, which removes like a dream. With two coats of Definicils, I also got some flaking, and I’m not at all fond of the look. Very clumpy.

Naked lashes:

(Pfft! You can’t even see them!)

With one coat of Definicils, top lashes only:

With two coats on the top and one light coat on the bottom (I don’t usually put mascara on my bottom lashes, but I thought I would here just for kicks):

I’m good with one coat, but I had a hard time with the second one.


Lancome Definicils High-Definition Mascara: $24.50 for full-size product

Provenance: Sample with purchase.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): For the full-size product, Good.

Purchase again? Meh. Many people like it and it’s won lots of awards, but I still prefer my LCL.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Smashbox Iconic Eyes Kit


Dear Smashbox, I was *so* not going to get this kit. Really. Wasn’t gonna do it. Then you sucked me in with that gorgeous, gorgeous picture of the blue-and-brown smoky eye. And I admit it, I was tempted. Mostly because of the blue. That’s a really nice shade of blue. And then unfortunately I happened to stop by ULTA to pick up some facial cleanser (my brand of which they no longer appear to carry, WTF?) and there was the display/tester setup of the products in this kit. And because I was annoyed about not being able to get my facial cleanser, I decided that I would just test out that blue shadow, you know, just to see. Because the trip shouldn’t have been for nothing, right? And dammit AGAIN, that blue was a really nice shade on my hand. And the other colors in that palette were nice too. Crap. Smashbox, you suck.

Of course I bought it. What do you think I am made of, stone?

So. This little wonder-in-a-box contains the following: a mirrored eyeshadow quad (the shades seem, oddly, to be unnamed, but there’s a blue, a chocolate brown, and two highlighter shades, one peachy, one pinkish), a dual cream liner pot in “Infamous” (blue/brown), a deluxe sample size of Smashbox’s Photo Finish eyelid primer, a full-size Bionic Mascara, and two brushes (one shadow, one flat liner). Really, it’s quite a lot of product for $47, and it comes with instructions on how to create the various looks shown on the front of the box.

The four shades in the shadow quad are all quite nice; the darker shades are well-pigmented and the blue maintains its blue color and doesn’t go grey on skin (a pet peeve of mine about blue shadows). The highlighter colors are very light; it’s possible to blend the shadows to get a nice gradient from light to dark but you will need a bit of patience since they’re so far apart to start with.

I was excited to try the Photo Finish lid primer, and I used it instead of my regular TFSI. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a win for me, since I had some creasing and some color loss in the shadow as the day went on.

I haven’t had a huge amount of luck with Smashbox creme eyeliners; on me they have tended to smudge and fade. But, as with another recent review product, I haven’t tried them since I started wearing MAC paint pots as eyeshadow bases. So I’ll be trying them again, hopefully with better results. The brown half of the liner is a nice rich color; the blue half looks great in the pot but does that thing that I hate and turns to blue-grey on my skin. (I’ll be sticking with my MAC Petrol Blue Pearlglide eyeliner pencil for a blue liner.)

I haven’t broken out the mascara yet, only because I already have a mascara open and since they go bad more quickly than other cosmetics I like to only have one going at a time. In case you are curious, the “Bionic”-ness of it is explained by Smashbox as follows: “BIONIC is the first-ever ionic formula mascara. The primary ingredient in BIONIC is a chain molecule with a positive charge. The friction caused by sweeping the mascara brush across lashes causes a negative charge. Since opposites attract, the positively charged formula adheres to the negatively charged lashes for a dramatic effect that lasts all day.” (We will ignore the fact that the first listed ingredient in the mascara is, er, water.) Since the Bionic mascara is also sold on its own, I may review it when I get around to changing mascaras.

I like Smashbox brushes a lot, though I’d have preferred a slanted liner brush to a squared-off one, since I find these easier to use in applying cream liners. The shadow brush is nice: not too large, grabs product well, blends well, no prickly bristles on sensitive eyelid skin.

Products and swatches:

Liner shades on left, shadow on right. You can hardly even see the two highlighter shades on my skin; that’s how light they are.


Smashbox Iconic Eyes Kit: $47

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. If all of the products were as good as the shadow, it’d be Excellent.

Purchase again? Yes; in general I like their kits though I rarely have 100% success with all the products in them.

(Have you used these products? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Want ’em? Give a holler in the comments!)

Beauty on the Cheap: The $50 Drugstore Start-Up Makeup Challenge

Gauntlet for the Left Hand by unforth.So, a few weeks ago, Froggy challenged me to put together a start-up kit of makeup, using drugstore products, for $50. (Well, using the word “challenged” makes it sound like she came to my house, called me out, threw a gauntlet on my front steps, and told me to pick my second as we would be dueling at dawn the next morning. It wasn’t like that. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if Froggy owned a gauntlet. ;) )

I am pleased to report that I did it! and came in $1.50 under to boot. OK, so I didn’t count sales tax. And I did the majority of the shopping at Target and (hides face) Wal-Mart. I know! I know! But getting a whole face full of stuff for under $50 is hard! If you don’t want to shop at Wal-Mart, you can call it an under-$60 challenge and do it wherever you like. I live quite near a Wal-Mart but I didn’t realize how small the beauty department at this particular store was; only two aisles, and short ones at that. So you may have even more options than this!

Below I’m going to give you the basics and what they cost. Tomorrow, there will be suggestions for adding on to or changing products out of this collection.

For $48.50, according to prices in-store and online, you can get a foundation, a concealer, an eyeshadow quad, an eye/brow liner, mascara, a blush, a lipgloss, and brushes. That’s pretty darned good, I think.


It will be no surprise to regular readers that I’m going to go for the Almay SmartShade Anti-Aging Foundation (SPF 20) for $10.97. I use this myself and like it very much; the sunscreen does not break me out, the product does not clog my pores, and the shade matching works very well. (I reviewed an earlier version of this product here.) It comes in only a few shades, but the color-matching technology is good enough that it should suit most people. If you prefer a mineral powder foundation, I’m opting for L’Oreal Bare Naturale, which I’ve also reviewed previously; this was available at my Wal-Mart for $10.50.

Other popular drugstore foundations at the moment include Revlon ColorStay ($12.99 at and Cover Girl Advanced Radiance ($10.99 at


Again, sticking with a on old standby that has worked well for me for both undereye circles and for blemishes: Cover Girl CG Smoothers concealer stick, $5.99 at Target.


There are a few products on the market that do double duty as eyeliners and brow liners. (Obviously, they are brown.) Brown eyeliner looks good on anyone, and if you get something that also matches your brow color (or, preferably, is a tiny bit lighter), then you’ll in effect be getting two products for the price of one. Can you use a regular brown eyeliner, one that’s not specifically made for brows, as a brow pencil? Sure — but because those formulas are usually a little creamier, it might smear.

Because cost was a primary concern, I went with Cover Girl Brow and Eye Makers 2-pack for $2.86. The package even comes with a sharpener, which is handy. Maybelline makes a comparable product which does not require sharpening and costs $4.48. Getting this one instead will put you 12 cents over the $50, but I have to say I think it’s worth it. For the sake of the challenge, my official pick is the CG for $2.68, but I strongly suspect the Maybelline product is superior. I have to admit that if I weren’t aiming for a $50 target, I’d probably have recommended separate eyeliner and brow powder/pencil, just because it’s hard to get something that’s the right texture for both different uses. Prestige Cosmetics makes excellent inexpensive eyeliners in a variety of colors (if you go to their website, don’t be distracted by the fact that they are picturing lipliners instead of eyeliners; they look just the same and the color selection tab at the bottom works properly to show eyeliner colors); they are $5.39 at ULTA but can usually be got cheaper elsewhere.


In terms of mileage for the buck, you can’t do much better than a nude trio or quad. Most lines make some version of these, so you’ll have options. In general I think neutral shades are safe to buy in the drugstore; I tend to go high-end if I want something that’s bright, bold, or highly pigmented. (And, I admit, it is luxurious to have some high-end neutrals too.) Here I’m going with Rimmel’s Color Rush eye shadow in Smoky Brown (or Smoky Brun, depending on whether you’re looking at the product or the display!). You get two lid colors, a highlighter color, and a crease color, all for $4.28. You don’t have to use all four; you can just use one lid color and call it a day. But at least you get options.

I chose the nude quad because everyone looks good with a natural eye. But if you’ve got some brown shadows at home already and are looking for something different, you can get similar sets of mauve- or blue- or grey-tinted neutrals. And take your skin tone into consideration — some lines’ nudes lean a little warm, and some a little cool. Again, I’d stay away from the ultra-brights if you’re just starting out.


This is a category I thought a lot about, and I have to confess that my eventual recommendation is not actually a mascara I’ve tried, but it’s one that’s gotten very, very good reviews, and quite a lot of them. For several years I used Maybelline Lash Stylist, until it was discontinued, and around that time I switched to Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes!, which I love and so I don’t see myself going back to drugstore mascaras anytime soon. Because I stuck with Lash Stylist for a few years, I missed a lot of the other mascara releases that happened during those years. So, take it with a grain of salt, but know that I read a lot of reviews.

The product I’ve picked for this challenge is Cover Girl Professional All-in-One Curved Brush Mascara, which retails for $3.99 at Target. It also comes in a waterproof version for the same price, if you prefer that, but I don’t tend to recommend waterproof mascaras as a first option as I find they are more likely to irritate my eyes and are harder to remove. (And at Target, if you want to get the straight brush instead the curved one, you’ll save another 10 cents! Srsly — it’s $3.89 while the curved brush is $3.99.)

Right now there’s a lot of buzz about Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara, which is a little pricier, but one of the things that people commonly complain about in regards to Lash Blast is that the enormousness of the brush makes it difficult to control application of the product. If you’re looking for a starter set, it’s probably better not to get something that hands you a steep learning curve straight out of the package.


Here I went with Maybelline Expert Wear Blush ($4.48), because they offer a wide range of colors: 13 blush colors and 3 bronzer colors if you prefer a bronzer instead of a blush (same price). Revlon also offered some nice-looking blushes, but the color range wasn’t as wide and prices were in the neighborhood of $8-8.50 instead of $4.50. They do look like interesting products, though, and they offer cream, powder, and mineral formulas, so if you don’t find anything in the Maybelline aisle that suits you, I wouldn’t hesitate to hop over to Revlon.


For someone who’s new to makeup, a gloss is IMHO a much better bet than a lipstick or lipstain — easier to apply, less worry about smearing or smudging, less worry about the color being too strong, etc. Glosses do come in a wide range of pigmentation (more is better) and stickiness (less is better), and after carefully perusing the options, I went with Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss, which Wal-Mart had for $5.94. I actually purchased the Cherries in the Glow shade I’d mentioned the other week in the Drugstore Red Lippies and Glosses post, and like it very much. It’s very sheer and I can’t think of anyone who couldn’t wear it. It definitely does not scream “HELLO MY LIPS ARE VERY RED!” like some lip products can. They also have a variety of other tones: pinks, corals, and nudes. P.S. — Dear Revlon, I still hate your website. Plz fix it. OKthxloveyoubye! — Voxy.


So, since you’re going to throw out all the applicators that come with those packages (right? you are, aren’t you?), you are going to need some brushes — at least for the blush and eyeshadow, and possibly to smooth out the foundation or apply concealer in hard-to-reach spots as well. Fortunately, there is a perfectly priced set of Essence of Beauty brushes available at CVS (their exclusive retailer, so you won’t find them elsewhere): a six-brush travel pack of face brushes for $9.99. This package contains the following: powder brush, blush brush (either of these can really be used for blush), eyeshadow brush, shadow eyeliner brush (in case you want to use the dark shade out of your quad as an eyeliner), smudger brush (so you can blend the colors in the quad together), and concealer brush. Voilà! Everything you need. Like Ecotools, Essence of Beauty brushes are far better than their price point might lead you to believe. I just bought two sets of EoB brushes for myself — not the travel set I’m mentioning here, but a two-pack eye brush set and some dual-ended face brushes.

So, where do we stand with the math?

Almay SmartShade foundation: $10.97

CG Smoothers concealer: $5.99

CG Brow and Eye: $2.86 (but really, think seriously about the Maybelline; I’ll send you the twelve cents. If you get the straight brush mascara instead of the curved brush at Target, there’s a dime right there, so you’d only be TWO cents over!)

Rimmel eyeshadow quad: $4.28

CG Professional mascara: $3.99

Maybelline ExpertWear blush: $4.48

Revlon Super Lustrous lipgloss: $5.94

Essence of Beauty brush pack: $9.99

TOTAL: $48.50

Note: In addition to tomorrow’s post on possible additions to or substitutions for items in this list, I’m planning to do another one of these kind of posts for higher-end products, probably a $100 Sephora challenge. (I can’t do it on $50.)

Review: Run Don’t Walk to Sephora for Tarte’s “Maureen’s Favorites” Set

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have a pretty serious crush on Tarte. Like, the blushing and stammering kind. The kind where I don’t want to be caught looking but can’t stop myself. The kind where I write “Voxy + Tarte 4Ever” in little hearts all over my notebook paper.

(I totally don’t do that.)

As is the nature of crushes, I find myself wanting to talk compulsively about the wonderfulness and magicalness of the object of my affections. Now, I am the first to admit that there have been some Tarte products I have not been too crazy about in the past, and their packaging still leaves me baffled on occasion (purple snakeskin condom mascara). And I am not too wild about their lip products for the most part. But nobody’s perfect! I mean, are you going to hold it against Dustin Hoffman that he once agreed to star in Ishtar?

Okay, yes, I am too, I admit it. Bad example.

Anyhoo, this new set, exclusive to Sephora and for Beauty Insiders only — and if you aren’t one already, for heaven’s sake join — is so perfect for me that I refer to it as Vox in a Box. (Well, it’s actually Vox in a Bag, but that doesn’t sound as good.) It’s called “Maureen’s Favorites” because the products are apparently the picks of Tarte’s founder Maureen Kelly. I first saw it online, but for once had the good sense to step away from the computer and check it out in person at a Sephora store before buying. And it is fabulous.

This package of delightfulness contains the following:

• Full size Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara (the purple snakeskin condom thing)

• Full size Natural Lip Crème Pencil in shade Peaceful (limited edition)

• Slightly-smaller-than-regular-size Lock & Roll Creaseless Eye Shadow Duo in shade Deep Amethyst (new, and also limited edition AFAIK)

• Deluxe sample size Natural Cheek Stain in shade Exclusive (limited edition)

• Deluxe sample size Mineral Powder Bronzer in shade Park Ave Princess

• a purple bag for putting things in, with a purple flower pin which they say you may wear out in public but about which I am HIGHLY DUBIOUS

So, lookit. The mascara by itself costs $19. The lip pencil by itself costs $24. So at $39, this kit is less than the combined cost of the two full-sized products, and you get the others basically for free!

I reviewed the Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara previously, and I still like the product very much, although I have not warmed up to the … er, wrapper … at all. I also reviewed the Natural Lip Crème Pencil previously, and although I was disappointed by its lack of staying power, that bothers me much less in a product that’s nearly nude to start out with. In the swatches at the end of this post you’ll see that on my skin it looks like quite a bold terracotta color, but lips are darker than skin, so on my lips it is a just slightly tawny nude.

The Lock & Roll Creaseless Eye Shadow Duo is a clever product that has a cream shadow on one end and a matching powder shadow on the other end (which comes out in a ROLLERBALL, which you know contributes to my giddy excitement). You put the cream shadow on first, then set it with the powder, and it’s supposed to last for 12 hours. Most of the permanent Lock & Roll shades are quite light, so you could use them on the whole eye. This dark amethyst is a gorgeous deep warm purple, so using it over the whole lid is out of the question, but near the lashline this will be a great accent color. The size of the product in the kit is 0.12 oz of cream shadow and 0.04 oz of loose shadow; the full-size version is only a tiny bit larger — 0.14 cream and 0.05 loose — and retails for $17.

If you’ve missed my previous posts on Tarte’s cheek stains, these are some of my favorite products on the planet. Most of the ones I’d previously accumulated (True Love, Berrylicious, Tickled, Blushing Bride) were red or rose-colored, with Blissful (apricot-peachy-red) and Tipsy (a less complicated apricot) being the exceptions. This new “Exclusive” shade is a perfect slightly brown neutral. For a no-makeup look, I can’t really think of anything better. I’ve only ever seen the Tarte cheek stains in two sizes: the full-size (1 oz) version, which retails for $30, and these smaller sizes (0.24 oz), which you can only get as parts of samplers or other combination packs. I have sample sizes of Blushing Bride, True Love, and Tipsy, and haven’t even made a dent in them, so I think this will last anyone a long time.

The last product in the lot is the Park Ave Princess Mineral Powder Bronzer. Confession: As a fair-skinned, slightly cool-toned girl, I am scared of bronzers. I have not found a one that has not made me look either dirty, orange, or both. So I looked up some reviews of this product before purchasing and found several from other fair-skinned women who said this was the only bronzer they’d ever been able to wear. So, we’ll give it a go. This is the lighter of the two shades of Mineral Powder Bronzer Tarte offers; on skin it does swatch out a pretty pure bronzy-gold color and doesn’t look orange.

Oh, yeah, and there’s a bag. With a purple flower pin. (I hate these bags that come with kits. Almost all the time they’re useless — and in fact, the last time I bought a Tarte combination set, it came with a bag that was so heinously ugly I kept it just so I could use it to scare off thieves, vandals, and small children. Dear cosmetics companies: Please stop making cheap bags that don’t hold enough product to make it worthwhile; it’s wasteful and adds no value to the package.)

Pics and swatches!

Left: Cheek Stain in “Exclusive”

Right: Natural Lip Crème Pencil in “Peaceful,” which goes on my lips as an almost invisible tinge of warmth

Lock & Roll Creaseless Eye Shadow Duo in Dark Amethyst

(left: cream shadow; right: powder shadow)

(still trying to figure out why skin on my wrist is differently toned in these photos than the skin on my arm; must keep working on photography skillz)

Bag, for those of you who like these things.


Tarte “Maureen’s Favorites” Exclusive Value Set: $39, exclusive to Sephora

Provenance: Purchased, gleefully.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent! Fantastic!! Amazing!!!

Purchase again? I’d definitely buy individual components again, but I doubt I’ll be running out anytime soon (except for the mascara, of course, which I would repurchase).

(Have you used this set? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Guest Post! Should Auld Products Be Forgot?

Thanks to Inthelab for providing this guest post!

Should auld products be forgot?

We think not. Here for the New Year we eulogize some products we’ve grown fond of, only to have them rudely removed. We hope some company reps might see this post and reconsider reissuing these great products.

1) L’Oreal Le Grand Curl Waterproof mascara. The best, best waterproof curling mascara ever. Washed off easily. Priced right. Colors were terrific and naturally emphasized lashes. Why do companies have to tinker with perfection?

2) MAC Pearl Glimmerstick in Gingerroot. One of 2 lip color lip liners we’ll be lamenting. I have a fondness for wind-up lip liners, since one can carry them around without fussing with a sharpener. We also have a fondness for lip-color liners that go with most of our lipsticks/ lip glosses.

3) Laura Mercier Automatic Lip liner in Terra Cotta. Another great YLBB (your lips but better) lip liner in a wind-up format. I liked to use it as base layer under lipsticks too.

4) Redken Fresh Curls Curl Activator. Just a hint of coconut in the scent, a lot of curl reactivation without hard crunch in your hair. The new product doesn’t hold a candle to it.

5) Laura Mercier eye shadow singles. I liked the easy-open pans and buying single colors instead of palettes. The new pans are hard for me to open.

6) Oak moss. Though not a product, it’s an essential ingredient in the chypre/green floral/ fougere families of fragrances. For some reason, the European Union’s safety committee singled out oak moss for exclusion from scents. This is because oak moss may act as a photosensitizer: spray fragrance with oak moss on your bare skin, expose skin to sun, you might get a rash. Well, guess what EU safety committee? There are literally hundreds of photosensitizing or otherwise allergenic molecules in fragrances, in cosmetics, and in food. Food! Lavender is allergenic, those with hay fever should avoid chamomile, and oil of bergamot (which comes from the Seville orange and gives Earl Grey tea its inimitable fragrance) is a skin sensitizer par excellence. Singling out oak moss (which means bye-bye to the great Guerlain classics Chant d’Arome, Mitsouko, and so many more) is sheer lunacy. The discerning fragrance consumer knows not to wear fragrance on bare skin when out in the sun. What’s wrong with an education campaign?

7) Chanel Glossimer in Praline. The best rose-beige color, and Glossimer glosses lasted on me a long while.

8) Lancome Bienfait Total Hydration for Oily Skin SPF 15. The best product for skin when using topical prescriptions for acne, so my daughters say. Nothing else like it on the market comes close to it.

Dear readers, this is by no means a comprehensive list. Please feel free to add your own late lamented products. I didn’t include products from the Prescriptives line because I wasn’t sure which ones Estee Lauder might still sell, otherwise Comfort Cream would have been listed here too.

In Search of the Perfect Mascara, Part II


Onward to Avon’s Daring Curves Waterproof Curling Masacara in Black. This was on sale at the Avon site ( for $2.99. The brush has an interesting spiral, instead of the curved brush I’ve come to expect from curling mascaras.

The Avon site describes it:

New tri-curl brush lifts and holds lashes all day, even when wet. Get lashes up to 59% curlier, 400% fuller. Flakeproof. Waterproof. .21 oz. net wt. All Avon mascaras are hypoallergenic and opthalmologist-tested.

I wonder how they measured curliness; I sure would like to see the before and after photos of the eyelashes. On to the test now. I did the test with full eye makeup regalia, being I had another engagement to attend earlier today (a neighbor’s daughter, must be something in the water …).

Now I am all in favor of a plastic seal around the tube so you know your mascara is fresh and new, but this seal was ridiculous. Its perforations were impossible to lift and break without chipping my fresh manicure; the seal was too tight to use the blade of little manicure scissors to open. I had to resort to using my dental pick to create a tab along the perforations so I could break the seal, which ran along the entire length of the tube. This is not how I want to use mascara. I usually buy several at once, tossing every 3 months then reaching for the next tube. I should not need an arsenal of instruments and a plan of attack to open the next tube. Seriously. Applying the mascara was fairly easy, though without instructions on any special way to use the triple spiral brush, I didn’t know if I should just stroke or roll the mascara, or if it even mattered. Sometimes more is more.

I don’t know about daring curves; daring lift is more like it. As in, most of the lashes are lifted rather than curled, giving me a bit of a startled look. However, the lashes at the outer corners are not lifted, though they have mascara; they tangle in the lower lashes. Not a comfortable feeling, especially if I’m anticipating meeting and greeting guests while photographers are snapping away. I’m at a loss for how Avon can say it makes lashes 59% curlier and 400% fuller. The lashes are a bit fuller but not curly, just lifted. The black is a little more intense than the black of the L’Oreal Panoramic mascara.

The preliminary verdict: My daughter the bride told me my lashes looked very clumpy, which seemed to get worse as the day wore on. By the end of the day, my eyes felt somewhat irritated. The mascara came off easily with Neutrogena oil-free eye makeup remover.

Update: Today I’m trying it again. I rolled out the brush under the lashes, which seemed to give more of a curl plus uplifted effect. I was more careful in applying at the outer lashes, so that helped with the tangling I had yesterday. It definitely has a tendency to clump, which in my experience is unusual for a newly-opened tube of mascara. Usually when I have had clumping (with Le Grand Curl or Courbe Virtuouse), it signified time for a new mascara tube.

Final verdict: I rate this mascara good, downgrading it due to clumping and the difficulty I had removing the plastic seal. I know my eyes are more sensitive than other folks’ eyes, so I’m leaving itching/irritation out of the ratings. Repurchase? Probably not, since there are other options from which to choose. Provenance: purchased.

In Search of the Perfect Mascara, Part I

I realize that perfect is really relative; what’s perfect for me may not work at all for you. So let me start by saying I have a new mascara need. My older daughter became engaged late October. An early March 2010 wedding is planned. So I am furiously involved in wedding preparations, as well as stepping up my beauty routine.

Now I am one of those folk with long thick s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t eyelashes. Stick-straight. It’s a family trait. We actually do recognize relatives on my father’s side (scattered across 3 continents due to World War II) by the eyelashes. Add to this my dire aversion, no loathing, for eyelash curlers. So when curling mascaras came out about 10 years ago, I was sold. Le Grand Curl by L’Oreal, waterproof, was it for me.
Fast-forward a few years. I was out in Los Angeles for a nephew’s bar-mitzvah. While wandering through Beverly Center, I realized I hadn’t packed Le Grand Curl. (Good thing I was in Bloomingdale’s when this realization hit.) I hied me over to the Lancome counter (hey, it was promotion time) and checked out Courbe Virtuouse. Not waterproof, but gave me an amazing curl. And came off easily with oil-free eye makeup remover (I use either Lancome Bi-Facils or Neutrogena and recommend them equally). And one more feature: it felt gentle and soothing, absolutely no irritation whatsoever. This is important because my rosacea has spread to my corneas and I can’t tolerate any irritation around my eyes. Even some eyedrops burn. But Courbe Virtuouse has one drawback that makes it unsuitable for March 2010: it is not waterproof. And I am positive I will wind up crying at some point during my daughter’s wedding. And I am also positive that the moment I appear with raccoon eyes and try to scurry off for a quick repair, I will be waylaid by a guest, needed to fix some catering emergency, or captured in photos forever.

Thus I am in search of the perfect mascara: curling and waterproof. Ergo I bought L’Oreal Panoramic Curl Mascara (Waterproof) in Black. At $7.99, it’s one of the less expensive mascaras out there.

The L’Oreal site says this about it:
Unique waterproof formula curls and separates your lashes to the extreme with Panoramic Curl™ Extreme Curl & Separating Waterproof Mascara. Patented Liftcurl Brush plus Flexi-Tech polymers hold lashes for an eight-hour curl and separate lashes 360°, creating the ultimate eye-opening panoramic lash effect.

* Waterproof.
* Ophthalmologist-tested and allergy-tested.
* Removes easily with waterproof eye makeup remover.
* Suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.
* Flake-proof and fragrance-free.
I liked the brush, the color (the black is soft, not too harsh against my fair skin) and yet gives enough definition to my lashes that I think would work for photos. That’s the good. The bad? The curl was not as pronounced as I would like (not like the curl from Le Grand Curl unless memory deceives and nothing like Courbe Virtuouse). The worse? After several hours of wear, my eyes began to itch. This has never happened to me before in my entire history of mascara-wearing. The future? I’m going to try it again. Maybe my eyes were tired that day, maybe I was exposed to some irritant in the lab.
The verdict? Price for value, I’d still rate it good. There was some curl there, definitely. As a basic mascara it is fine (I did not test its waterproof property though). It did not come off quite as easily as Courbe Virtuouse using Neutrogena remover, but then it has a different formulation. I would say it came off fairly easily. Repurchase? At this point, possibly (I bought 2 tubes in case I loved it). Provenance: purchased.

Update: Gave the mascara another try while wearing full eye makeup regalia for daughter’s engagement party. This time I had no itching whatsoever, impressive lashes, and a little more curl (I think the secret is in how I wield the wand). And it came off like melted butter when I used Bi-Facils eye make-up remover.

Final verdict redux: for the money, this is a good to excellent mascara.

I’ll be test and reviewing more curling waterproof mascaras, so stay tuned.

Review: Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes! Mascara

tarte sample size 1I’ve always been a drugstore mascara girl. As far as I can recall, this was not the result of any trauma with a couture mascara product or anything; I never ran out into the fields, thrust my fist up at the coppery sky, and cried throatily, “As God is my witness, I’ll never buy high-end mascara again!”

Over the years I tried a lot of drugstore brands, and most of them were more or less OK. Some were definitely “less,” but I thought that the brittle lashes and the undereye smudging and the little flaked-off bits of mascara that would get in my eyes at the end of the day and irritate the crap out of them were just what happened with mascara. So when I bought the “My First Makeup Kit” from Sephora (how I wish they would change that name!) and saw that it included two mascara samples, my eyelashes did not exactly prick up in anticipation. But my duty to you, dear readers, required me to at least pretend to be excited enough to try the products. Thank you for being so easy to blame things on, by the way. I appreciate it.

Of the two deluxe samples, the one I tried first was the Tarte “Lights, Camera, Lashes!” mascara, shown in the picture in its sample-size version for reasons that will become clear shortly. (The other sample was Korres’ Deep Colour Mascara, which I haven’t yet opened.) This mascara was a pleasant surprise, and/or I was very naive. As it turns out, brittle lashes, undereye smudging, and eye-irritating flakes are NOT automatically part and parcel of the mascara experience. Huh. Who knew?

Given how thick and bushy the brush is, Lights, Camera, Lashes! goes on surprisingly easily and cleanly. I expected there would be clumping, but not so. The brush does a good job of separating lashes and the formula goes on smooth and dark and lasts all day. My natural lashes are entirely unremarkable — not particularly long, or thick, or numerous, or curly. In short, thoroughly average. This mascara definitely makes them look both longer and thicker, though neither effect is outlandish. (Tarte refers to the product as “a push-up bra for your lashes.” I think I liked it better before I read that description.) According to Tarte, it is a “4-in-1” product: it lengthens, curls, volumizes, and conditions, and is clinically proven to increase lash volume by 430%. Statistics like that are kind of meaningless to me; not only do I not know what “lash volume” means exactly, but 430% of an eyelash is not really a quantity I can wrap my brain around.

On teaching days, my mascara is usually on before 8 in the morning, and Lights, Camera, Lashes! lasts over 14 hours without smearing, flaking, or making my eyelashes hard or brittle. It comes off relatively easily with cleanser and water, though I have to use a makeup remover if I’ve also used liquid eyeliner or heavier eye makeup. One coat is plenty for a daytime work look; I haven’t yet tried to build up multiple coats for evening but I suspect this product will perform well. A lovely side effect of its non-flakiness is that since I no longer have little black particles getting in my eyes every evening and irritating them, my eyes in the morning are less red than they usually are. (My eyes are on the dry side and have always been a little too bloodshot for my liking; I didn’t realize how much my flaking mascara was contributing to the irritation.)

I have nothing but praise for the product inside this tube.


When you buy one of the “Sephora Favorites” sampler kits, you get a coupon inside for an extra 50 Beauty Insider points if you buy a full-size version of one of the deluxe samples in the kit. The Sephora Friends and Family sale was coming up, so I could get this for 20% off and get an extra 50 points to boot! Which I did. The packaging of the sample was so clean and classy; as I said in yesterday’s post, I am a sucker for good packaging. For some reason — don’t ask me why — I expected the full-size version to have the same packaging as the sample size, except, well, bigger.


I have purchased a mascara that I love to wear but that I would not be caught dead carrying in my purse. Here is the full-size product. You may wish to avert your eyes.

tarte full size eek

It is metallic purple faux snakeskin. It is perhaps one of the most unappealing product exteriors I have ever come across. I’m really trying to think of a product exterior that’s worse than this and I just can’t come up with one. In addition to being fugly, the snakeskin wrapping makes the product annoyingly bulky and unwieldy; it has a SEAM, for God’s sake. Mascara should not have a seam. It’s just wrong. And speaking of “wrong,” I can’t believe I put the following words together in a sentence: metallic, purple, faux, snakeskin. The exterior of this product makes me feel like I should be putting on a pair of fringed cowboy boots and dancing the Electric Slide at a country & western bar. Which I have no intention of doing, so don’t even ask.


Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes! Mascara: $18.00

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good, but I’d prefer to spend less money and lose the dubious benefit of the purple metallic snakeskin mascara condom

Purchase again? Yes, but only for use/display in the privacy of my home

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Let us know in the comments!)