Why I Failed to Make a Dent

Back in November, I decided to participate in Project Make-a-Dent, the creation of Helen at Lola’s Secret Beauty Blog. Quite a few people on my blogroll have joined in this project, which aims to curb excessive consumption by forcing us to pay attention to the products we already own. The idea is to choose a handful of makeup or skincare products we’ve been neglecting, then either use them up or “make a dent” in them. Since I have more lipsticks than any other kind of makeup, I chose seven that struck me as suitable for fall and winter. Here’s the photo I took originally:

Left to right: Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer in Across the Universe, Revlon Plum Velour, NYX Perfect, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, Revlon Fire and Ice, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, and YSL Glossy Stain in Rouge Gouache.

Now that two and a half months have passed, it’s high time I updated you on my progress–except that I haven’t made much progress at all. Instead, I’ve achieved some insight into why I’ve kept neglecting most of these lipsticks, and why Project Make-a-Dent might be a poor fit for my temperament.

  • Rimmel Across the Universe: I’ve concluded that I just don’t like liquid lipsticks. I love the color and staying power of Across the Universe, but the formula is so fussy. The spongy applicator deposits too much product and doesn’t make a sharp enough outline, and the lipstick is so pigmented that if any of it strays outside my lip line during application, I have one hell of a time cleaning it off my skin. This isn’t the kind of lipstick that encourages quick compact-mirror touch-ups, either. In fact, Across the Universe is so irritating to use that I’ve made a new rule for myself: no more liquid lipsticks, ever. Not even a Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet when I go back to the UK. Not even an OCC Lip Tar. Nothing!
  • Revlon Plum Velour: I planned to use this one up within a few weeks of writing my original post. Nearly three months later, it’s still clinging to life. But I’m allowing myself to be fine with this. If I’d forced myself to use it up in November, I wouldn’t have been able to wear it more recently, on days when I really wanted to.
  • NYX Perfect: Here’s another rule for myself: no more NYX Round Lipsticks. The formula is too thick, too slippery, and too drying. My lips hate it. As soon as I find a better lipstick in a similar color (mauve-pink with a hint of brown), Perfect is going in the purge pile.
  • Revlon Sultry: This was the one lipstick that Project Make-a-Dent helped me appreciate again! Having put it aside during spring and summer, I’d forgotten how versatile it truly is. Sultry’s dark berry-rose color can read either neutral or bold, depending on the makeup I pair it with, and its matte-yet-plush formula is perfect for hiding the perpetual winter dryness of my lips. Accordingly, this tube is showing definite attrition.
  • Revlon Fire and Ice: I’ve worn this exactly once since my first Make-a-Dent post. I think I’d reach for it more often if it were matte, but the glossy finish combined with the intense coral-red color is a lot of look. Project Make-a-Dent has really backfired here, because the very act of putting Fire and Ice on my list has made me want to seek out a matte version. I’m eyeing ColourPop’s Lippie Stix (Stick?) in Frenchie, which is only $5, though I guess I could try blotting Fire and Ice to mattify it.
  • Revlon Cherries in the Snow: I’ve worn this only once, too. I don’t know why! It flatters me! I just! Don’t ask me to explain!
  • YSL Rouge Gouache: I still think my sole Glossy Stain outclasses me, to say nothing of the places where I spend most of my time. But I feel more motivated to finish Rouge Gouache than the others on this list, because glosses have shorter lifespans than lipsticks.

Now for a few conclusions. First, I don’t like the idea of guilting myself into wearing certain items. I put enough pressure on myself in other areas of life; I want my makeup to be a safe haven from self-criticism. I want it to be fun. What’s the point of makeup if it’s not fun? I usually wake up with an idea of which lipstick I want to wear, and it gives me a little thrill to take that lipstick from one of my boxes and put it on. Why should I force myself to wear another? What’s really at stake here? So long as I’m cycling through my stash and not constantly seeking out new lipsticks, I’m fulfilling the purpose of Project Make-a-Dent.

Second, I naturally do cycle through my stash. The best example of a lipstick that I repeatedly forget and rediscover is MAC Up the Amp, which I’ve owned since spring 2012. It’s one of my most flattering colors: a medium mauve-purple with a hint of gray, which sounds less wearable than it is. It harmonizes well with both warm and cool eye makeup. It’s subdued enough for fall and winter, but bright enough for spring and summer. Perhaps because it’s so agreeable, I overlook it for long periods of time, but before six months have passed I find myself wearing it constantly again. I can’t predict such whims with a Make-a-Dent list: they happen when they happen. That’s how my brain works. I need to trust my brain to do its thing. Dents will be made whether or not I plan to make them. Or, in the words of John Donne:

The heavens rejoice in motion; why should I
Abjure my so much loved variety,
And not with many youth and love divide?
Pleasure is none, if not diversified.

The speaker of Elegy 18 is talking about lovers and not lipstick, but I think his point still holds. (Not Donne’s finest moment poetically, though: he sounds like a hedge-fund manager.)

Third, Project Make-a-Dent seems to overlook the idea of sunk cost. I can’t return any of the makeup I have, and most of it is too cheap and/or too well-used to be desirable in a blog sale. If I don’t want to use up a lipstick, and I make myself use it up anyway, am I not losing in pleasure more than I’m gaining in dollars and cents? NYX Perfect is a good example. I know I want to replace it with a lipstick in a similar color, and I know that continuing to use Perfect will bring me little if any gratification. I’ll only be delaying the inevitable expense by a few months, and in the meantime, I’ll be grumbling every time Perfect dries out my lips. I just don’t think the annoyance is worth it, especially as I rarely spend more than $15 on a lipstick. Again: makeup should be a pleasure, not a burden.

So, no, I don’t see the point in using Project Make-a-Dent to make myself finish lipsticks I don’t feel like wearing; after all, I might return to loving them in a month or two. But I do value Project Make-a-Dent for reminding me why I originally fell in love with certain colors. Today, in preparation for writing this post, I wore YSL Rouge Gouache for the first time in months. And it made me so happy. The pinky red flattered my complexion, the color and shine lasted for hours, and the formula smoothed over my dry lips without irritating them.

On my eyes I have NARS Lhasa. One of my 2015 resolutions should have been to use Lhasa less often, but I just can’t help it! It complements almost all of my lip colors, harmonizing beautifully with cool reds and plums and providing a subtle contrast with corals and oranges. No mascara because I forgot to put it on, as I do about half the time. A light dusting of NARS Coeur Battant blush on my cheeks, and two coats of Rouge Gouache on my lips. I love the long-lasting unnatural finish of the Glossy Stains: it makes me feel like a porcelain doll, or perhaps an Edwardian cyborg.

(By the way, I’m trying out a new hair product: DevaCurl B’Leave-In, a thin gel designed to emphasize “fine, delicate curls.” I love it so far! It makes my hair feel full and bouncy.)

So, whither Project Make-a-Dent? I propose a modification. In the next month or two, I’ll commit to using lip colors that might not be long for this world, either because they’re glosses (which tend to spoil in a year or two) or because they’re lipsticks that I bought a few years ago.  I can’t promise that I’ll hold myself to this resolution, but I might as well try. The concept of sunk cost applies here, too: if I end up not enjoying these colors at this particular point in my life, I won’t make myself keep wearing them. For now, though, here are my choices:

Left to right: YSL Belle de Rose, Revlon Embellished, Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Revlon Adorned, MAC Up the Amp, Revlon Fire, YSL Rouge Gouache.

Every time I take Adorned from my jar of glosses, I marvel that any human being could neglect this:

You’re not even seeing it in its full glory, since I took this photo on a very overcast day. Am I a monster? I think I might be.

Lest you come away from this post with the wrong impression, let me say that I still believe Project Make-a-Dent is a great idea: I appreciate any exercise that makes people think critically about their consumption habits. I’m just not sure it’s the best way for me, specifically, to approach my makeup collection. Thoughts?

15 thoughts on “Why I Failed to Make a Dent

  1. I personally don't like Make A Dent for the reasons you mentioned, along with the fact that I lack the will power to attempt such a feat. I do a different thing where I show an \”Almost Empty\” once in a while with the stuff I've put a dent in unknowingly and can realistically finish. Very few makeup make it into such a pile though. :)Nice job inserting Donne into a makeup post, and for a mauve-pink with a touch of brown, I suggest looking at the new Maybelline matte lipstick called \”A Touch of Spice!\”


  2. I have Colourpop Frenchie, the lipstick and the pencil! 😀 I plan on wearing it tomorrow if all goes well (ie, I don't get sick or too busy).Rouge Gouache looks fabulous on you, wow.


  3. I always think I have more willpower than I actually do. Then, when it comes time for me to use that willpower, my brain turns into one of those toddlers who ask \”But why?\” all the time, and sometimes I don't have a great answer. I like your \”Almost Empty\” idea a lot! I'm more likely to use something up if I'm not consciously trying to use it up…or maybe it just feels that way.It's amazing how many things you can insert Donne into when you have a mind to. Touch of Spice looks browner than I was hoping for, but thanks! I'm looking for a color along the lines of NARS Anna or Tom Ford Pussycat, so maybe not brown at all?


  4. I am also not a fan of these projects for all of your reasons, especially sunk cost and the idea that makeup should be fun, not a guilt trip or anything like that. And what is the point of using something up if that just means I buy another one when it's used up? Might as well enjoy the variety I have, since the desire for variety is what motivated the initial purchase anyway. But everyone's different, and it takes all kinds, after all.


  5. I think such projects would be more appealing (and more useful!) if they were cast in terms of appreciating your stash instead of using it up. I've mentioned my opposition to the concept of dupe-hunting, but I think there's a big difference between actively seeking a dupe for a certain product and recognizing when you already have a similar product. If I want MAC Ruby Woo and I don't have another matte red lipstick, I might as well buy Roby Woo instead of forcing myself to use up my sheer and satin red lipsticks first. But if Project Make-a-Dent reminds me that I already have a perfectly good matte red lipstick, then I'll feel less inclined to buy another.I also think these projects work much better with non-essential color makeup than with base makeup or skincare, which really should be as close to perfect as possible–and if it's far short of perfect, you shouldn't be using it!


  6. I am so glad I am not the only one who doesn't see the point of the project. Many of my favorite bloggers do it, and I don't think I have any say in what they do with their own make up. But I do dislike the idea of stressing over things that should be fun! There is a time I rediscover something neglected, but it is always by coincidence or change of preference, but never by forcing and discipline myself!I do see many people feel satisfied with this project, so I will just quote something from my favorite movie, \”Billy Elliot\” – \”Please yourself, darling!\” 😉


  7. I think the project could be useful for someone who has a real problem with buying lots of stuff that they don't need, either because they've forgotten what they already own or because they're addicted to the thrill of newness (as we all are, to some extent). And even for me, it's nice to be reminded of all the great items I've collected over the years. But this project definitely has the potential to become more negative and self-defeating than positive and self-affirming. I love that Billy Elliot is your favorite movie! I remember seeing it with my dad when it first came out. Enjoy this snowy day! 🙂


  8. Ah, the constant tug of war between wanting to try the new stuffs and not wanting to neglect others… I started off this year seeing how long I could go without repeating a lipstick (like you, they're my problem area) and I have gone almost the full month (yay me), but at the same time, I feel like there are new-ish shades that haven't gotten their proper time in the sun as a result. Of course now, I absolutely need Rouge Gouache. It looks sooooo lovely on you.


  9. It would look lovely on you, too! And I seem to recall that you like the Glossy Stain formula. I find it hard to wear glossy reds when it's not a \”special occasion,\” so I keep trying to come up with ways to make Rouge Gouache look casual. But I'm not sure a glossy red *can* look casual, at least until the gloss wears off.Going a month without repeating a lipstick sounds like a fun exercise! I've thought about doing that myself…


  10. I like the idea of challenging myself to wear a greater variety of products, but, like you, I have my tried and true every day basics, and every now and then I like to dip into the rest. It's makeup! It should be fun! No liquid lipsticks ever, though? Not even the new Bourjois Rouge Edition shades coming out in April (so I hear)? EVER? KIDDING 😉


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