Welcome to Face Cadet, a beauty review column wherein we slather various pigments and tinctures on our facial zones, then let you know if they’re worth it.
In this edition of Face Cadet, I find the perfect moisturizer and the perfect highlighter.
eXO Bio.digital Perfection Moisturizer, $118, eXOskinsimple.com
What it’s supposed to be/do: “Our responsive formulation heralds a major biotech innovation, superserving skin with next-gen natural ingredients and 150 million+ Zen3 exosomes for groundbreaking anti-aging, hydration and brightening.”
What it actually is/does: This formula is a rarity: It feels and looks actually light, not as though I greased up my face like a cake pan, which is the effect most lotions have on me. Instead, this moisturizer makes my skin velvety, and is quite balancing, complexion-wise—softening and buoyancy-imparting without the Pam-spray effect. My rosacea visibly gets its act together when I put this on. Texture-wise, it’s a gel in a cream disguise. It’s certainly the best new moisturizer I’ve used in a while, maybe thanks to all those “Zen3 exosomes”? I’m no scientist, but the people who made this claim to be—or at least to have “more than 30 years of biotech innovation.” Whatever the case may be, I actually wear this moisturizer every day, and it makes my makeup look better over it, though I’m inclined to wear less with this on. It’s an AM/PM product, which is nice, but since it doesn’t have SPF, I have been using it in the great indoors only. No amount of “Zen3 exosomes” can cure sun damage!!! (I think?)
Dr. Jart+ Firm Lover Rubber Mask, $12, Sephora.com
What it’s supposed to be/do: “A firming two-step rubber mask that delivers actives into the skin while providing cooling benefits for a visibly more defined and contoured complexion.”
What it actually is/does: PRO: I feel like an S&M Pepto Bismol nightmare baby in this mask, which is all thanks to its petrifying and baffling packaging. CON: This ripped apart really easily, which is made tougher by the fact that the sheet insistently sticks to itself when you’re taking it out of the package. On two separate attempts, I failed to get it onto my face intact. Even more irritating was that, in the attempt to cutesify the mask itself by making the mouth cutout a chat bubble, the company ignored the fact that the little slit/notch necessary to that shape causes the bottom half of the mask to tear almost instantly.
Outside of momentarily resembling a rubber-fetish novice with all the wrong ideas about how to “ease in” to the genre, this mask had no visible or spiritual effect. I will say that the ampoule did feel cool and refreshing on my face, like aloe. (Do you know what an ampoule is, just in case? It is like moisturizer got promoted at work, and it’s a part of some multi-step South Korean toilettes.) If you’re enticed by the idea of a novelty mask, $12 is too expensive for a single-use version that doesn’t seem to do anything; try these Gudetama (sad, lazy egg; personal hero) or tiger/panda ones instead. Or just go to Party City.
Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick, $46, Sephora.com
What it’s supposed to be/do: “A long-wearing foundation stick with the coverage of a concealer, fluidity of a liquid, and weightlessness of a powder for invisible, full coverage.”
What it actually is/does: This slender, pointy twist-up tube of cream foundation replaced all the other complexion-based evener-outers in my makeup bag, except on days that I wanted my concealer to be slightly lighter than my foundation for highlighting purposes. It spackles on pretty easily, and blends well, though the fullest-of-full coverage aspect means that if you have any active-volcano zits, this’ll look like a little too much over them, since the formula grabs onto any texture it finds. If you like to use blush, bronzer, highlighter, and whatever other facial colors and tints you might employ, this foundation provides a uniform base on which they’ll look especially prominent. Since I am all about a two-for-one, this foundation/concealer hybrid made sense to me despite its nearly-$50 price, and the packaging means that you can take it along during the day, should you need to touch it up—though I usually don’t until I’m going out in the evening.
Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick in Icon, $10 for a mini, Sephora.com
What it’s supposed to be/do: “A richly pigmented, silky-smooth, matte lip color that delivers 14 hours of continuous wear without smudging or dryness.”
What it actually is/does: This shade isn’t quite working against my “negative space” pallor, as you can see, but that’s a “me” problem. The formula is beautiful—sticky only while you’re applying it; imperceptible after it dries. When it does settle, it becomes a slightly different color: it doesn’t flatten out, exactly, but it becomes something that belongs to you for however long until you manually remove it. It settles down and looks somehow more comfortable than most lipsticks, and this makes sense, because it doesn’t feel like you’ve got a thing on. It’s cool. If this shade works out for you, $10 is eminently reasonable for an Hourglass matte that’s rich in color and hangs out with you all day.
Lipstick Queen Lipstick Chess in Pawn, $24, Dermstore.com
What it’s supposed to be/do: “A full coverage lipstick with a silky and matte finish.”
What it actually is/does: I looked like an Avon lady in this, which is to say, “Good, and well-complected, but not like a member of nobility, as the company name suggests.” When I want a lipstick that feels this way—like I’m Mary Tyler Moore stashing it in her desk at the news station as though lipstick were an actual vice, or a neighbor kid’s mother melting it lusciously in the center console of her car as she drives you all to the town pool—I always go with Revlon. This tastes and is tactilely similar to these more confident neutral lipsticks, but the Lipstick Queen is more expensive. The shades I tried—Pawn, above, and a slightly deeper brownish pink called Knight, were both lighter than they look in the packaging, and a little grayer, somehow. They felt soft and well-formulated, and the color payoff is nice if you like these colors, which I didn’t—the two purportedly different shades I tried were barely distinguishable from each other in a product line of six available colors. If you’re looking for a true long-wearing matte that will rule out over a value meal from Burger King (one of my many dubious/legitimizing concerns, makeup-wise), it’s wisest not to buy Lipstick Queen. Na-HEXT!
No7 Match Made Bronzer in Golden Sand, $13, Ulta
What it’s supposed to be/do: “No7 Match Made Bronzer creates a natural looking healthy glow with a matte finish that lasts all day. The silky soft powder blends and builds effortlessly with your natural skin tone, allowing you to achieve a perfectly bronzed finish.”
What it actually is/does: This bronzer didn’t exactly come to play around. The color layers and builds almost too well, which feels a little redundant when the pigmentation is already so rich and vivid. If you are using this to contour or highlight, be careful, because you’ll risk quickly veering into looking like one of those diagrams included with “contouring 101” makeup palettes—the graphics where dark brown slashes under the cheekbones and down the nose indicate where to put bronzer—rather than someone who’s actually blended the demonstrated product onto their face. The color is a little too tawny to “sculpt” much with anyway, as I learned in this GIF. It’ll serve you best if you dust it onto the edges of your hairline and the apples of your cheeks. I tried all three, and liked them very much for a goldenizin’ approach to blush.
I liked this bronzer well enough, but I wonder how you’d find the correct shade for you, given how near-to-identical these looked in the package and how utterly dissimilar they were as applied to my mug—kind of the inverse of my Lipstick Queen critique. Since this is from the drugstore, I don’t think this is a brand you can try on before you buy it (at most places, anyway). But this bronzer’s mad good if you’re able to guess your best shade correctly.
Rodial Instaglam Compact Deluxe Highlighting Powder, $57, Bloomingdale’s
What it’s supposed to be/do: “Highlight facial features with a pearlescent glow with this illuminating face powder. In a universal champagne tone, dust over the face to add a lit-from-within glow. Micronization technology and fine pearls give skin a silky texture and ensure even application. Lightweight on the skin, it will give a radiant finish to the complexion.”
What it actually is/does: This is the best highlighter I have ever used. I own or have at least fooled around with all of ’em—all the stupid “we ground the moon into a powder and baked you a makeup cake with it” ones; your von Ds; your Beams both sun and high; your holograph-in-a-bottles. I’m no longer going to use anything but this. Fuck the moon!
This highlighter looks deceptively too-glitzy before you put it on. It’s impossible to even misperceive it in that way for a long-ass time, too, given how impossibly it’s packaged—Jezebel Senior Producer Jennifer Perry, who was shooting these GIFs, had to pry open the lid for me the first few times I used this. I felt like an especially stupid raccoon contending with a driveway trashcan. However, once I got the hang of it—you touch the rim above the lid with the fingertips of both hands, one set for each side, and barely press them together on each side to lift; yes, this is as convoluted as it sounds, ask Jennifer—it was miraculous.
My facial structure is matched to Mrs. Potato Head’s (not a knock on her nor myself, just a reality). Plainly, this product makes me feel so good about its actual shape, as in the placement of my bones and whatnot. It makes the case for the way you’re set up, and is one of the only cosmetics I’ve ever used that actually delivers on the popular makeup-marketing maxim that’s like, “Showing off your natural beauty, not hiding it!!” When I use it, I look like I washed my face with supermodel sweat, but am still exactly myself. You can barely see it once it’s on, but it has a colossal effect on the overall polish and architecture of how it makes you look. I guess that is $57 at work!
I tested this product on friends to see how it translated on non-mes, and I swear it makes every face blaze with its full meaning. The one thing you must do is blend it as vigorously as though you’re trying to get a stain out with your makeup brush. Otherwise, it just looks like glitter (in fact: like every other highlighter, regardless of however much you blend/pray/swear). That effect isn’t bad, but there’s more to this luminizer. If you have $57 to get this, or want to go halves with a roommate or something, I encourage you to go forth and be alternately vexed and thrilled by this packaging and product.