AB Goes to Birmingham (and Ulta)

Greetings from Birmingham, Alabama! I’ve been here for a few days to see my boyfriend, who is visiting his parents. This means, of course, that I’ve also been to Ulta. The company has no outposts near where I live, and I have yet to see one in San Francisco, where my parents live, so what was I to do when I finally found myself in physical proximity to an Ulta? Not go? Come on.

The great and unusual thing about Ulta is that it sells both drugstore and high(ish)-end products, as well as a few brands that I normally have to buy online, such as NYX and Zoya. The more expensive brands at Ulta (e.g. Urban Decay, Too Faced) tend to have a young target demographic: no Guerlain or YSL or even NARS, more’s the pity. I tend to be less interested in those shelves than in the drugstore stuff and the overwhelming selection of nail polish. Today I picked up three nail polishes and a lipstick:

Left to right: OPI Eurso Euro (a birthday present for my stepmother–I already have a bottle), Butter London Wallis, Zoya Normani, and NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama (!). I’ll eventually review the things I bought for myself, but for now, a few quick notes:

Eurso Euro, whose praises I’ve already sung here, is my favorite nail polish on earth. A vibrant cobalt blue creme in a smooth, self-leveling, long-lasting formula: could there be anything better? World peace, perhaps.

I notice, looking at the bottle now, that the official name of this polish is “OPI…Eurso Euro,” which means I should have referred to it in the first instance as “OPI OPI…Eurso Euro.”

Butter London Wallis is a greeny-gold shimmer polish that I’ve wanted for at least two years now. I often develop long-term lemmings, but today I decided that for this one, at least, enough was enough. I think Wallis is a perfect color for fall: it looks like moss in an enchanted forest.

In direct sunlight:

Normani is a purple-gray-mauve creme, the darkest shade in Zoya’s six-piece Naturel collection, which came out early this year. The idea of the collection was to provide six variations on the theme of “nude.” Normani had never caught my eye until I saw it in person today; it looked like a nice take on the gray-taupe nail polish that shows up every fall.

Speaking of Zoya, the order that I placed during the July 4 promotion took three weeks to ship, meaning that it arrived a few days after I left town. And since I’ll be gone for the next month, I just have to hope that the package will still be waiting on my doorstep in late August. A week after I ordered, I called Zoya to ask why I hadn’t received so much as a confirmation email, and was told that it could take as long as five weeks for the orders to be processed and shipped. I’m not exceedingly happy with Zoya right now. (So, of course, I gave them more business.)

Finally, NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama is a dark brownish red that looks very similar to Rimmel Across the Universe. I could have lived without the NYX, but I mean, I’m in Alabama right now; I just had to get it. Plus, experience has taught me that I prefer lipstick bullets to liquid lipsticks, and NYX makes my very favorite matte lipstick formula. Too bad the product comes in such cheap-looking packaging:

I admit that the shiny bullet with its perfectly crisp edges makes up for a lot.

That said…well. I know I’ve mentioned that I don’t care much about packaging as long as the product works, but NYX really tests the limits of that principle for me.

Ulta also had a small handful of NYX’s new Macaron Lippies in stock. I’d been curious about Lavender for a while and was excited to see it on the shelf, but the only one available had obviously been used. In fact, it had a smear of another lipstick on it. This is why drugstore makeup needs testers, people! Why can’t American stores provide them? I’ve been consoling myself by reflecting that the Macaron Lippies have received unenthusiastic reviews, but I suspect I’ll end up with Lavender sooner or later.

I also wanted to show you my makeup from last night, when my boyfriend and I went to dinner with his undergraduate adviser. I had a hard time finding decent lighting for a photo, so I had to content myself with a car selfie. I’m wearing Maybelline Bad to the Bronze cream shadow, theBalm Silly powder shadow, and Maybelline One by One mascara on my eyes; Illamasqua Zygomatic cream blush on my cheeks; and on my lips, Maybelline Vibrant Mandarin lipstick, which transforms from a red-orange coral to a pink-red coral within five minutes of application. Wizardry. It was the first time I’d worked with powder eyeshadow in almost a month, and picking up a brush again felt daunting, like those nightmares in which you’re about to perform in a play without having memorized your lines.

A bathroom-mirror outfit photo, featuring a Zara dress from last year, an Old Navy blazer from, ahem, 2008, and hair courtesy of Birmingham’s magical limestone-filtered tap water:

Today is my last day here. This morning we went to a farmers’ market held in an old Dr. Pepper bottling plant, and I had a peach that practically glowed. Apparently, Chilton County grows some of the best peaches in the country.

I always enjoy the dominant architecture of Birmingham: lots of 19th- and 20th-century brick buildings, many of them repurposed factories or warehouses.

I liked this hardware store, too:

Tomorrow I move on to Florida, where my mother has been visiting my grandmother for the past week. I still haven’t finished that article, and Internet access at my grandmother’s house tends to be spotty, so my blog might be semi-quiet for a while. I seem to have lost some of the blogging energy I had at the beginning of the summer, as well as the inclination to wear more than four products at a time in this heat and humidity. And it’s always the same four products, and you’ve seen most of them on this blog already. But I’ll be in San Francisco before long to see my parents, and the colder weather might snap me out of my beauty malaise. We’ll see.

12 thoughts on “AB Goes to Birmingham (and Ulta)

  1. I like Ulta! If you become a member, you get $3.50 off every $10 purchase of their drugstore products, which comes in handy a lot. Have you ever considered taking the ferry over to Alameda when you're visiting your parents? There's a huge Ulta there. And you get to take a ferry.


  2. Ooooh you got Normani, that one is such a beauty! I've been wearing that shade a lot lately, together with Rue from the same collection. It's a bit lighter and more pink.


  3. :O~~~~ Look at that glorious looking peach! I haven't eaten a juicy ripe peach in forever.Have a safe trip to Florida, AB!I don't have an Ulta anywhere near me. I feel like a whole major part of my beauty life is missing and/or inaccessible to me. 😦


  4. I hadn't had a peach in forever, either! Good peaches are just so hard to find outside the South. And yes, going to Ulta for the first time two years ago was kind of a revelation. This was before NYX was sold at CVS, and I was like WAIT I CAN JUST BUY A NYX LIPSTICK IN PERSON?? I have a pretty low bar for extreme excitement.


  5. Ah, that's good to know! I've never been to Alameda (for someone who grew up in SF, I have truly pathetic firsthand knowledge of the greater Bay Area), but I'd like to make it over there sometime. Also, I love your username. 😀


  6. OK, so I was reading through this post, thinking of all the things I would say (and the witty and sparkling prose in which I would couch them, obviously) and then you had to go and put in a picture of a peach.It is a little known fact that peaches are the absolute best food in the entire universe. If I could subsist solely on peaches for the rest of my existence, I would happily do so. I have attempted this feat before but was defeated by the season changing and peaches becoming prohibitively expensive. I even had to supplement with nectarines, cherries and blueberries. I mean – the horror! ;-)Also: looking awesome in the pics! I'm not sure why you 'ahem' about your blazer – I've been enjoying a 3/4 sleeve purple tartan trenchcoat from 2000 recently! 😛 (Oh God, it could even be 1999…)


  7. Haha, the \”ahem\” has to do with the fact that the blazer isn't in mint condition. You can't see it in the pictures, but the lapels have started to fade at the edges. Plus, I wore the blazer for all my big events during senior year of college (Phi Beta Kappa induction, thesis presentation, etc), so I feel 21 whenever I put it on. And despite what a certain clothing company would have you think, being forever 21 is not an unalloyed good. ;)The problem with peaches, for me, is that a good peach is sublime, but a bad peach is really, really bad. There doesn't seem to be much in-between territory for peaches the way there is for, say, apples.


  8. Isn't Wallis stunning? August in San Francisco feels so much like fall that I'm sure I'll have no qualms about wearing Wallis and Normani there. (I'm far too strict about seasonal colors, I know.)


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