A Different Take on What is Beautiful

On top of all the usual, our office in downtown Washington, DC is moving (planned pre-COVID, then delayed, now inevitable, unfortunately.)  LOL I just deleted the rest of this paragraph because nobody needs to read my tale of woe.

I’m writing this post over the weekend while I have time.  Phase One of a two-week move process, which I’m in charge of, is scheduled for Tuesday, and by Tuesday night I’ll either be celebrating an initial success or (far more likely) none of the IT is up and running, and I’m hammering away at that while looking forward to a future point at which I can laugh about it all.

Today, I’m in the mood for writing about Makeup, the Unusual Shades Bonus Edition.

I’m still working from home, lots of Zoom meetings, and makeup application has been a daily – sometimes hourly — form of self-soothing, a far less problematic choice than some others I could be making.  It speaks to my love of color and attention to detail, and my interest in art in many forms.  I’ll take my time putting on an eye look and choosing a blush, then wipe it all off at lunch, and do something else for the afternoon – similar to the way I sometimes wear perfume when I’m on a fragrance bender. The meticulous application of, say, varying shades of green eyeshadow from pale chartreuse to deep olive is just what I need to get me through the day right now.  I don’t always have the time to do something more elaborate, but the effort never feels wasted to me; its low-stakes impermanence is part of its charm, rather like fragrance.

Here’s the thing, and also the topic of today’s post.  Like niche perfume, makeup sometimes allows us — forces us, even — to re-evaluate our definition of what is beautiful to include the unexpected and unfamiliar.  None of these items is deliberately ugly or anti-makeup or an attempt to deface us.  To the contrary, I’d argue that we’re in a mini-Renaissance of makeup artistry right now.  Sure, the makeup mainstream chugs along, and more power to it; I still love a good peach blush, and pretty pinky-nude lips, and taupe eyeshadow.  But in mainstream makeup right now there’s also a wave of imagination and riotous color and a re-examination of what can be called beautiful, and I am absolutely here for it.  For example, Fenty, with its bold, boundary-pushing lewks, is at mall-friendly Sephora and at a price point that, while not cheap, is not wildly expensive either.  Colourpop and Juvia’s, both at Ulta and inexpensive, have built their brands on high-quality product with unconventional color stories.

Rituel de Fille – glow for the gods.

With that in mind, here are some brands, and some specific products, that fall at various points on the odd-but-beautiful spectrum. They may be acquired tastes and not suited for everyone, and that’s just fine – makeup, like perfume, doesn’t need to appeal to everyone.  If you were sitting here with me at my makeup desk, and you said show me some cool stuff! the way people do about my less-mainstream fragrances, this is what I’d hand you to play with.

Rituel de Fille. Run by three sisters with an interest in astrology and the occult (one of them a makeup artist), their whole line has a chic Morticia Addams vibe, dark and alluring rather than goth-grunge, and not a single product that makes me think, oh, I’ve got one just like that already.  For $15 you can buy samples of five products, which comes with a coupon for $10 off a future purchase.  They have gorgeous multi-tasking balms and powders, as illustrated in this photo from one of their ad campaigns.

Smashbox x Vlada LE duochrome highlighter in Prismatic Petal.  I love shiny things — eye and face products that gleam, shimmer or sparkle. Among like-minded makeup lovers there’s this jokey phrase of “glow for the gods” and it’s no surprise that highlighter is in this post. The other two highlighters in the Vlada release are lovely but more conventional (I wear the deep bronze-pink Rosemantic as a glowy blush, actually), and then there’s Prismatic PetalIt’s a warm copper with a strong pink-purple duochrome shift, and goodness, it’s stunning on the skin.

Fenty Killawatt highlighters

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle highlighter duo in Sand Castle / Mint’d Mojito (pictured in the photo at right).  For makeup lovers, Fenty Beauty has been a gift of imagination that keeps on giving.  If you love makeup (or are just makeup-curious) and you haven’t dipped your fingers in Fenty’s less-typical options for cheeks and lips, you are absolutely missing out. Just look at those shades. Why would you want a foiled cheek highlighter duo in taupe and mint green?  Man, why wouldn’t you?  To clarify – I’m pale with cool pink undertones, and I think this looks truly beautiful on a wide variety of skin, pale to deep, with undertones that work with silver jewelry. (Hey, if all else fails, the duo is gorgeous as eyeshadow.) Sure, some Fenty stuff looks bad on me – the orangey-coppers and warm golds, for example – but they’re not for me.  Rituel de Fille has an even more blinding, surreal version of this highlighter in blue, by the way.

Dose of Colors Cutting Edge

Dose of Colors Cutting Edge eyeshadow. This grungy palette just came out and I couldn’t get my credit card out fast enough — honestly, with green or brown eyes it’s ridiculously beautiful, online photos don’t do it justice.  Or, if you’d like to try something fresh and colorful that’s also pretty easy to get ahold of, at least here in the states, I recommend this palette duo (on sale half off!) from Juvia’s website.  The formula is easy to work with, and the shades are so, so beautiful.

An unexpected shade of blush.  I love blush, and I have plenty of perfectly standard shades.  But there are times and places when I want something a little (or a lot) different, whether it’s the focal point of an otherwise-muted look, or as a complement to my eye makeup.  Some less common options:  NARS Exhibit A (bright red matte,) NABLA Adults Only (a deep, bronze-red shimmer), purple (Fenty Drama Cla$$, Lorac Ultraviolet, Lime Crime Virtual Orchid), orange (I’m better with a peachy and/or muted orange, like Flower Beauty Nectar, Anastasia’s Miami, or Kosas’ Papaya; for a stronger, warmer orange there’s NARS Taj Mahal, MAC Bright Response, or Fenty’s Fuego Flush or Chili Mango) or hey, even yellow (Rituel de Fille Wasp below).

Rituel de Fille in Wasp

Lipstick.  Lipstick is arguably the item most commonly cited and/or available for going outside your comfort zone.  I’m constantly trying offbeat eye or cheek looks, but an exotic lip shade is in general not something I like on me, although I regularly find myself appreciating it on others. I love a strong red or a hot pink, and I’m dabbling in some interesting brown-y burgundies, but that’s about as wild as it gets.  Maybe this is my growth area.

Whew!  Not a “typical” shade in the bunch! Are you interested in makeup brands, or specific products, that fall at various points of the unexpected-yet-beautiful spectrum?  What are your favorites? Now I’m feeling like doing a post on some long-time, conventional loves as well, the makeup equivalent of comfort scents.


  • Patty says:

    My face does not lend itself to anything weird. not sure why. Too plain vanilla midwest looking? Probably. I try a fun lewk, and it’s just scary on me. I love them, they just make me look like a little girl trying to be a clown. So I have like three eyeshadow themes that work for me, and that’s it.

  • Portia says:

    WOW March! Love that you are really taking a make up plunge.
    I’m so boring. Been using the same things in my makeup box for decades. All my mad experimentation happened late 80s early 90s. In the end I found a couple of looks I love and rinse repeat them.
    Portia x

  • Musette says:

    omg. this fabulous post is, at once, both intriguing and hysterical because YOU KNOW MY FACE! So. I watched GlowUp, Season 2 and, just like Season 1, it triggered a desire to Try More Makeup. My face backed away like I was trying to put battery acid on!
    I said ‘hold still! I wanna DO this! March does this on the daily!’
    Face said ‘bish! you. ain’t. March. Get if off NOW before we leap off your skull’. So I did.

    Face: 1 Musette: 0



    • Patty says:

      Samesies. I even bought a highly recommended blush crazy color thing. The orange and pink on me are just hideous. But they look really cute in the box!

  • Dina C. says:

    I was just watching season two of “Glow Up,” a makeup reality competition on Netflix last night. They do amazing, artistic things with makeup. I’ve done bold makeup for stage performances or modeling way back in the day, but my everyday looks are pretty natural and subtle. I should try more more bold colors.

  • MMKinPA says:

    I’m such a coward when it comes to colorful makeup. Especially timid with lip colors. I tend to look better in cooler tones, which makes all those warm toned things less appealing; although I have a Natasha Denona mini gold eye palette that has amazing grungy green. I really should be messing with my colorful palettes these days as I won’t be going back to work (preschool) until November at the earliest.

  • Cinnamon says:

    Oh, March, lovely post and so timely (for me) as I’ve told by GP I can get my hair cut! Which is happening in a few weeks. Seven months of growth will go and I’ll return to my graduated bob. But, and this is why this is so timely for me, I’m going to let my hair colour grow out (it’s already doing some of that), meaning I’ll see my ‘natural’ colour for the first time in years. It’s going to be darker than what I was and I’ll see how the grey decides to come in. All meaning I’m likely to need to look at different makeup colours — what I own may no longer work. I may yet choose to start colouring again, but not for a good long while. Such food for thought. I’ve been eyeing a Natasha Denona small eye shadow palette. Maybe now’s the time …

  • Well in some cases you need to creative and yeah you need to try something different. You need to look yourself from you eyes rather then always relying on what people say.

  • Tara C says:

    Not so much into wild face colours, but I do love purple lipsticks of just about any hue. And despite my age I love highlighter. 🙂

    • March says:

      Oh, any shades you’d care to name? I have an Urban Decay in a pinky-orchid and I think purple would probably be something I’d try.

    • March says:

      Also, I don’t think highlighter should be any more frowned-upon than blush. It brightens up the face, and anyway it’s fun!

  • Sarah Patton says:

    Hi March! Veerrry tentative when it comes to makeup. I’ve only ever bought it when I can sit in the chair and have a nice lady at a beautiful department store put it on me. But eyeliner and eyebrow pencil (o my poor disappearing eyebrows, it’s so sad) are not optional at this point and I need to order some new ones. Taupe eye shadow? That sounds like I need it to! Would be happy to read about your faves for these.

    • March says:

      LOL I have such thin eyebrows and I never plucked them either. I’m very fond of the Beauty Pie eyebrow pomade because it looks so natural (harder to achieve on barely-there brows) and I personally find it easier than pencil. I think a shade match is key for whatever you pick. There’s a million great taupes at various price points, but again, the right taupe (or pale brown) IMO is the quickest, easiest way to add some definition to the eye. A one-and-done cream or gel you can pat on with a finger is fabulous — it covers redness, evens out discoloration and looks like you worked a lot harder than you did!

      • Musette says:

        You know I have close to nearly-nonexistent brows (and without them I end up looking like an undertoasted crumpet)… and I used to spend waaay too much time trying to fab a ‘natural brow’ – then, as cat eyeliner and beauty marks and brows came back into vogue I said ‘squoo it’ and decided to go with a glam brow – and have yet to look back. I dust those bad girls down with a bit of mineral powder, then use my MUF brown/black pencil and BOOM! done. A slick of eyeliner completes the look.


  • Carolyn says:

    How did I not know about Ritual de Fille. My wallet is gonna be weeping tears after I work my way through some of your suggestions!

    • March says:

      I like to go over there and just stare at their stuff. The only thing so far I’ve not loved is one of their lip sheers, the colors are stunning but they’re surprisingly dry which doesn’t work for me.

      • crikey says:

        The eye soots are unggggh so good. I only have serpent de mer, but, I lust after the others with my grabby little heart.

      • Stella Luna says:

        ‘Scuse me, just butting in here: i second the observation of their lipsticks being dry altho, not terribly uncomfortable and reasonably long-wearing (just definitely not gonna satisfy if you love creamy lipsticks). Their blushes, ash and ember eye soots, and highlighters are all superb. They’ll advise on shades and they really nailed it for me, I’d worn no makeup in 15 yrs and had no idea wtf to get but man did they hook me up. Everything I’ve tried is surprisingly easy to wear, not nearly as strange as you might suspect from a staring contest w/ shades in the pan. I’ve been drooling over the color nectar balms for a while and wondering how long I’ll last…