“It matters but little that the artifice and trickery are known to all, so long as their success is assured and their effect always irresistible.” – Baudelaire, C., 1964. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays
Okay, so the internet lost its shit recently when Harvard biz entrepreneur Grace Choi took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in NY to present Mink, a “printer that prints makeup.” (Her words—watch the video presentation in the link.) The user snaps a pic of a color she likes (a friend’s lipstick color, the color of a dress, a picture from a magazine), downloads it to any photo software program, and prints an actual cosmetic product of the exact shade.
The “hocus pocus” behind the beauty industry
Print your own custom shade of eyeshadow, foundation, or lipstick? All this time beauty companies and makeup artists could just have been printing all that makeup—instantly! Don’t you feel stupid now, L’Oréal.
All it took was a disaffected business school grad who can’t even be bothered to spellcheck the slides she uses in her world-debut presentation to “disrupt” the industry!
So Choi seems to think that the $55 billion dollar beauty industry just never thought of a “3D cosmetics printer.” (Side note: 3D printing still sounds like science fiction to me, but based on my limited understanding I’m not sure the term is applicable here; what she’s describing is more like conventional printing.) She goes on to call the whole cosmetics industry “bullshit,” and to tell the printer businesses she’ll be attempting to sell this half-baked idea to that they’re “dying.”
Okay, so I know next to nothing about how makeup is made. And the laserjet I fought with for 45 minutes on Tuesday would tell you that I probably know even less about how printers work. But I do know about makeup.
If cosmetics are about color and color only, why do we have thousands of competing brands, years and years of formula research and testing, or, hell, beauty blogs and makeup professionals? Anyone who’s spent 20 minutes in a Sephora can tell you that color is just one of endless considerations in choosing the right product. A cursory perusal of any one of thousands of beauty blogs reveals infinite subtleties in formulations, ingredients, and preferences.
Grace is apparently playing her cards close to the vest, since she’s in the process of filing a patent and doesn’t want her “proprietary hardware” or idea getting stolen. The “demo” she presents at TechCrunch is a mockup of how the process might look. The way she speaks about the project doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, though, and in response to the panel’s softball questions, all she deigns to say is, “I’m just breaking it down for you.”
Break this down
How will a machine “the size of a Mac Mini” produce liquids, creams, and powders interchangeably?
How on earth could one machine be able to produce such extremely different substances?
It’s one thing to imprint something superficially with customized “ink,” but how will the pigment and the substrate be mixed adequately?
What about the incredibly high temperatures necessary for color solubizing?
What about the cooling, setting, and molding process?
How will ingredients be regulated?
What about the chemical interactions between certain pigments and ingredients?
How can you get an exact match of someone’s skin or lip color from one pixel?
How will you account for photographic discrepancies, like lighting?
What will the color payoff be like? How long-lasting will it be? Will opacity be adjustable? How about glitter or a matte vs. glossy finish?
What about sensitive skin and ingredient allergies? How many formulas will there be?
How will the mechanism be cleaned and sanitized between uses?
Look, I’m the first person to shout, “Shut up and take my money!” at a new cosmetics innovation, but this is just silly. Maybe there will be massive technological innovations that make this kind of thing feasible in the future, but don’t hold your breath. You’ll pass out.
Hey guys! As I explained forever ago, I started writing for Beautylish in October 2012. Now I’m in contract as a writer for Sephora.com, which is, you know, just sorta my dream job or whatever. Since Sephora and Beautylish are a bit of a conflict of interest, my articles for Beautylish will be no more. It was wonderful freelancing for Beautylish, but it’s time to move on to health benefits and free snacks — not to mention being a cog in the wheel of the company that’s basically my religion … NBD.
Anyway, all this is to say that I’m able to pick up this blog again! So many companies have sent me amazing product that wasn’t approved for review, but now I can write about the stuff I loved that you should try. I’m also on the front lines of beauty combat now (i.e. I know which products and trends are gonna be MASSIVE this year), so you’ll have that to look forward to. I’m not gonna be spilling any Sephora secrets (I’m not about to get sued, yo), but I’ll share what I can.
I’m also in the process of revamping this weird little site, so it may look a bit different. Welcome back to profanity, horror movie jokes, and obsessive beauty writing!
Hey, what’s up. Haven’t seen you around these parts in a while. Oh, me? Not much. Blogging at Beautylish; they pay me. I don’t see you writing me any checks, okay? Gosh.
Come back! I was just kidding. Here, have another The Fuck is on Your Face. I love you. I mean. I like- Unless you… Okay, yeah. No, totally.
Sorry about me. So I asked another dude friend to write one of these, and this is what he gave me. I don’t think he understood the assignment, but it made me laugh, so read it:
Here is a conversation that has never happened:
Dude: Yo, didn’t you have a date last night?
Dude: With that girl from the thing?
Dude: How’d it go?
Bro: Yeah. Very face-fuckable. Big eyes, big lips, button nose.
Bro: Yeah. Great rack, flat stomach, ass you could bounce a quarter off.
Bro: Yeah. Except…
Bro: Well, her elbows.
Dude: What about them?
Bro: They were too… sharp.
Dude: Oh, yeah. I know what you mean. I hate that, too.
Bro: Yeah. I don’t think it’s going to work out.
Dude: I hear you. That’s a dealbreaker.
Bro: Total dealbreaker.
It’s been said a million times: we all have our imperfections, things we don’t like about our bodies. In our world of glossy dual-page spreads and celebrity idolatry, those imperfections—the things, as it’s been said a million times, that make us human—inevitably merge with what we dislike about ourselves and become the very things we cover up, disguise, minimize, lament.
I once heard Natalie Portman bemoan her sort-of sideways-looking ears in a DVD commentary voiceover. Natalie Portman. A woman whose beauty The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane once described as “so disabling that you should not attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery for twelve hours after viewing (her).” A good friend of mine who is by all accounts gorgeous remains as self-conscious about her large hands and feet at age 30—her birthday was last month—as she has been her whole life. I’ve tried to reassure her that men complain as often about big feet as they do about sharp elbows—to no avail.
Me, I’ve never worried all that much. And trust me, it’s not because I don’t have my fair share of asymmetries, blemishes, and peculiar nipplage. I guess I’ve always just had bigger problems to worry about.
Lately, however, when my obsessive-compulsiveness (one such bigger problem, incidentally) has flared up and rendered me particularly obsessive and/or compulsive, I’ve taken note for the first time of all the imperfections I previously merely noticed. My response has been neither lamentation nor the happy acceptance the same beauty magazines that airbrush their models exhort their readers to feel (“Embrace your curves!” and the like). Rather, I’d classify my reaction as one of… let’s call it amused curiosity. I look at my nipples and think, “Damn, that’s some fucked up shit right there. Nice going, Dad.” I suppose I view my nipples as proof that nature has a sense of humor.
Here is further proof:
- When I urinate, it comes out in a spiral. I shit you not. (I piss you not?…) It’s true that once it hits the toilet bowl (or misses), it has already normalized into what I presume is the more traditional “taut spaghetti” form. But right out of the eye, it’s shaped like a helix, and it’s been like that as long as I can remember.
- I have freakishly large pupils. An ophthalmologist once told me I had the biggest pupils he’d ever seen, which is akin to having the largest feet a podiatrist has ever handled, or the most delicious vagina Michael Douglas has ever tasted. In other words, it’s saying something. Anyway, we all know what they say about guys with big pupils… That’s right: they have terrible red-eye in photos. I’m not the most photogenic person to begin with; eyes that glow like tale lights don’t help the cause. It’s ridiculous, really. If you were to look through my old photo albums, as I do whenever my unnecessarily dilated pupils don’t prevent it, you would find dozens of group shots of me with the people in my life. There—those are my family and friends, smiling and presenting as normal, happy people. And that there—that’s me, with my arms around them, looking like the spawn of Satan himself.
- My fourth toes curl under my third. That may seem impossible given the mechanics of upright locomotion, and you’d think the same thing were you to see my toes (be thankful you haven’t). But there’s really no better way to describe it: each of my fourth toes doglegs inward and slips neatly under the middle of each third toe. And the only effect it’s had on my locomotion is on the shape of my footprints. Apparently the condition is genetic: my paternal grandmother’s toes did the same thing.
- I can turn my tongue upside down. This is another one I’ve heard is genetic. (My dad can do it; my mom cannot.) I can only flip it clockwise, though, and it’s far less exciting than the cherry stem thing (which my sister can do).
- When I cross my legs, man-style (i.e., ankle on knee), I can only go left over right. I assume this is a flexibility issue as opposed to a genetic one, but the disparity between the two positions is extreme. It’s not so much a preference as a physical limitation. I literally cannot put my right ankle on my left thigh without lifting it with both hands and then simultaneously pushing down on my right knee with my elbows. Maybe yoga would help. There it is: that’s my New Year’s resolution for 2017.
- My left nut hangs lower than my right. I am pretty sure yoga will not fix this, but I’m not overly concerned, since apparently most men suffer from some asymmetry on one side or the other. (Yes, I looked it up.) (What, like you wouldn’t have?) My own discrepancy seems to be rather extreme, however, and widening every year. By 2019, when I have that right-over-left thing mastered, my left testis will be bouncing off the sidewalk. On the bright side, it’s a well-known fact that left-nutted people boast superior quantitative and spatial skills. I credit the 800 I got on my Math SAT to my testicular imbalance.
- There’s a strange hair that grows out of my stomach, at the bottom left can in my six-pack. It’s all alone and perfectly white and longer and finer than any other strand on my body (or head, for that matter). It’s at least an inch, I’d say. And whenever I pluck it out, boing!—it sprouts back at some random time, seemingly to full length overnight. I’m looking at it now, as I type this, and wondering if perhaps I should leave it alone this time, if it might not be a source of some power I just haven’t harnessed yet.
- I cannot straighten my pinky fingers. When I hold out my hands in front of me, as flat as they will go, the pinkies remain slightly bent at the first joints, forming perfectly imperfect 170-degree angles.
- My left ear sticks out farther than my right. I noticed this particular irregularity a while ago, but it didn’t occur to me until a few years ago what probably caused it: sleeping on my right side my whole life. As resilient as the human body is—I assume it does what it can to maintain maximal symmetry—20-plus years of eight-hour load-bearing sessions will do that to a flab of cartilage. When I realized my sleeping habits were to blame, I immediately attempted to reverse two decades of misbalancing sleep habits by trying to fall asleep on my left side. And because I actually prefer the aesthetics of my somnambulantly altered ear—the “natural” one sticks out too much—sleeping on my left side into the mid-2030s would actually create an artificial symmetry more handsome than the original. Plastic surgery without the cost or bandages. It doesn’t seem to be working yet, but I’m hoping that will change. My toes are crossed.
So there you have it. Yours truly—in both senses of the word—warts and imbalances and freakish disfigurations and all.
Now it’s your turn. I hope you’ve read this and become inspired to catalog and then reveal your own endearing deformities. Be loud! Be proud! Strip down and take inventory at the busiest intersection in your hometown. Sing the list from the top of your apartment building. Take him through your top five on your next first date. Or, at the least, anonymously post a few of them in a comment below.
The readers of this blog might respond by growing brave themselves, and it could snowball into some revolutionary sociological experiment that eventually puts every glossy beauty magazine out of business. That’s what my magic stomach hair is telling me, anyway.
M. Lane Stevens (which I told him was the most boring pseudonym ever to which he responded “I have my reasons” [which I suspect means he’s Catfishing someone] and then proceeded to make fun of my boring-ass white girl name [RUDE]) is a writer who honestly has much better hair than this picture would indicate.
I will not be publishing my list. It’s too long. I do have remarkably un-sharp elbows, though, so I have that going for me.
Mom, sorry there’s a penis on my blog.
There’s been a lot of discussion around Dove’s latest self-esteem video. It’s a six and a half minute short wherein a bunch of women describe themselves to a sketch artist, then someone else describes those same women to the sketch artist, and then they compare the two images. The thesis of the piece is that women are too hard on themselves. Right? Duh. We know this, it’s nothing new. But it’s an interesting visual illustration of the disparity between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
The problem, though, is with the underlying message: You are more beautiful than you think.
Look, your face isn’t as fat as you think. Look, you have fewer wrinkles than you thought you had. Look, your freckles aren’t that noticeable. Do you see? By saying, Look, you’re not that bad, Dove is saying that there is a beauty standard and that it matters—you’re just not as far away from it as you thought you were.
Well fuck that. Fuck your cultural beauty standard.
This whole thing made me wonder about my job, you know? I write for an online beauty blog (not this one, the one I get paid for): tips and tricks and how-to-look-better articles. Reviews about products you must buy. By its very nature, it reinforces conformity, right? Buy this eyeliner because your eyes should look bigger, this foundation will make your skin smoother, this lipstick will make you look younger.
But who’s to say all those things are beautiful? Who’s to say you have to be beautiful?
This weird, consumerist culture we live in says that a woman’s value lies in her perceived attractiveness. We know on an intellectual level that this isn’t true. But that does nothing to alleviate the constant, crippling pressure to conform. Not for me, anyway. Not for most of us.
I don’t have an answer for where my job fits into this whole mess. But I do know that beauty products make me fucking happy and I have fun playing with them. They’re divorced from this whole sick conformist cycle for me (body image is a whole other story, believe me). I use beauty products because I enjoy them. They’re fun. They’re silly. I write about them because I like sharing my knowledge with people who are interested in such things.
You’re more than just beautiful. You are more than your capacity to be beautiful.
But if feeling beautiful makes you feel happy, then follow happy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Then again, maybe I’m too entrenched in that world. What do you think? I really want to know.
Holy crap, I’ve been gone forever. Sorry, guys. But if you’ve been waiting around for me to post, well, get a life.
Just kidding! Love ya, mean it.
I had to post because I just did something AWESOME. I soaked these Muji compressed face sheets ($2.95) in my Laura Mercier Perfecting Water Moisture Mist ($38, but lasts forever) and wore it around for a while. It looks totally serial killer-y (we should definitely make that a verb) but when I took it off after 15 minutes, my skin GLOWED. So you should do it. Japanese sheet masks are nothing new to the beauty savvy, but I haven’t seen them as cheap and easy (hey-o) anywhere else. Muji is amazing. Bonus: You can soak them in anything; DIY face masks, serums, toners. Not virgin blood, though, that’s just gross. Plus, who knows any of those anymore, am I right?
TRY IT. DO IT.
Sorry for the nightmares!
Y’ever try a new product and it’s amazeballs and you’re like “Aw fuck, now I have to buy it”?
That just happened to me today. Twice. I got a sample of GLAMGLOW Super-Clearing Mud Mask Treatment ($69), and I’m in love after only one use. I’ll keep you posted on the next two applications I hope to scrape out of my sample jar, but I expect I’ll only fall further in love. Sigh. Love hurts (my wallet).
So the deal with this stuff is it looks like an Orc vomited up his breakfast of volcanic rock and Hobbit liver (see because that movie based on that one book just came out, right, topical!). You smooth it on in a thin layer (luckily for my wallet) and leave on anywhere from 5-20 minutes (I left mine on for 20 because that’s just how I roll, yo). The ingredients are purported to actually draw out toxins like blackheads and whiteheads from your skin, tighten pores, clear breakouts, absorb oils, and do your taxes. You wash it off with water, then admire yourself for hours in the mirror afterward. I know I’m not supposed to touch my face, but you guys. It feels awesome. Like baby skin. Like a baby with really good skin. And my skin is dry combo, so don’t worry about it drying you out. Just moisturize afterward. It can also be used as a spot treatment overnight, yay!
So after my religious experience with GLAMGLOW, I used my sample of Erno Laszlo’s Phormula 3-9 Repair Balm ($245, ouch). It immediately hydrated and soothed my skin, and now I’m basically glowing. The company says it has a protective “Health Dome”, whatever that is. It does feel protective, like I could go hang out in a sandstorm and come home still looking hot. I’m not really the Burning Man type, though. The point is that this stuff feels amazing on my dry skin, and I’m just crazy enough to need it.
Anyway, now I’m in the market for a Sugar Daddy. Anyone wanna furnish my expensive taste?