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Why Is Every Beauty Product an Oxymoron?

Are all these liquid powders and solid foams useful? And more importantly, are they fun?

No longer can our liquids just be liquid, our powders powder, our mousses mousse. Transformative products are the hot new thing — mousse to oil, powder to cleanser, powder to lipstick, powder to sunscreen (what can’t powder do?). Gel to little water droplets on your skin. Powder to still powder, but it feels wet, even though it isn’t.


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Shit’s silly, but damn, is it fun. So in a world gone state-change* crazy, and moisturizer still moisturizer even with six paradoxes in its name, what fun is worth buying into? We went to an expert, someone who knows state changes: a high school science teacher. Dr. Alice Lurain, chemistry teacher at Brooklyn’s Packer Collegiate Institute, helped us rank the weirdest. Below, our hot, then lukewarm, and finally stone-cold takes.

*Not really — as Lurain points out, none of these are actual state changes, which are reversible.

Very Fun

J.One Hana Cream, $50

Someone anonymously ship these to the philosopher Kondo, because poking these little balls sparks perpetual joy. Created by South Korean actress Ha Ji-won to address the pressing issue of how much moisturizer to apply, the Hana cream looks like bizarre, beautifully-scented skin caviar. Grab a lightly slimy pod, roll it between your hands and you’ve got moisturizer.

How fun is it? Very. Rave reviews from Lurain, and, according to Christine Chang, co-founder of K-beauty site Glow Recipe who was involved in overall strategy and development for the brand, customers are just as delighted.

"The creams are definitely gaining in popularity, just because it’s so visual and fun. And then there’s that social, sharing aspect of skincare, that hasn’t always been so easy to do as makeup — where the visual aspect is actually really great for people to be able to share the experience online," says Chang.

"It’s ‘skintertainment.’ It’s really about a holistic approach to skincare, and part of that are these sensorial, really fun products that when you use them, you’re getting joy out of them."

More J.one is here And yes, that Hana Cream IS in the shape of little round capsules that you melt with your fingers

A photo posted by MEMEBOX USA (me-me-box) (@memebox_usa) on

Too Cool for School Egg Mousse Body Oil, $20

One of the most user-friendly state-change products and another Korean import, the Egg Mousse squirts out as a mousse and sinks to an oil as you rub it in. This is part of the brand’s master plan to avoid long oil-absorbing wait times (sure), and the verdict is in: fun.

"The mousse is kind of fun, it does sink in and smells nice," says Lurain. "I would definitely smile every time I use the Hana balls, they’re just so cute. This is pretty fun, though, I’ve gotta say. This is definitely second fun."

Good news, because that fun factor was crucial in development, says Young Kim, creative director for Too Cool For School. "It’s a matter of evolution. In order to stay competitive, brands are launching more efficient and convenient beauty products that are fun to use."

Like most things, the trend’s been driven by social: As people are exposed to product after product, plus a "magnificent amount of online content," Kim says their development team first looks at consumer needs, then at the science they can use to make an innovative, unique product happen. Just as important as creating a working product, though, Kim says is creating an experience that people want to show-and-tell.

"When the transformation is visually intriguing, it means it's ‘Instagramable,’ which is a big plus for marketing. This leads the product development team to ask, ‘Is this Instagramable or not?’ when developing a new product."

Travel Essentials while here in Haleiwa, Hawaii. Find more from our Egg collection at @Sephora.

A photo posted by TCFS US Official (@toocoolforschool.us) on

Prescriptives *magic Liquid Powder, $42

Billed as an "ultra-lucent powder" that "dusts on like a mist to set and enhance the effect of foundation," Prescriptives’ *magic Liquid Powder sets the bar high with their supernatural oxymoronic claims. But they deliver — the powder does have a cooling feeling going on, thanks to science (no magic).

How powders feel is going to do with how small the granules are, and how much they attract each other, Lurain says. A lot of beauty chemistry focuses on striking that balance, where you want the product to stick to the person, but not too much to itself (when you rub and rub, but a powder refuses to show up on your finger).

Put your fingers in water, and the particles stick to you really well, but also themselves. The sensation of "wetness" are those particles sliding against your skin, Lurain says, which the powder mimics with superfine particles, giving it that flowy feeling around your fingers. The main difference between it and literal water is, the particles are barely attracted to each other, but very attracted to you — making the powder hardcore cling to your skin.

The final word: "This is fun. Still not quite as fun as the balls of moisturizer, but this is definitely ahead of the Egg Mousse Body Oil, or at least tied with it."

Some Fun

Stila Magnificent Metals Foil Finish Eyeshadow, $32

These came out in the yesteryear of 2014, back when one Ulta reviewer heralded it as "An eyeshadow revolution!" That hasn’t happened, but these are still pretty good. The brand says that combined with a few drops of the accompanying primer, the duo creates "long-lasting adhesion to lids." There’s also a mixing pan included, which really drives home the scientist feel.

Mostly working in its favor is the fact that it does work (the bar is very low). "You could use it either way, and the advantage over a regular cream is it really does feel dry, it’s stuck on there for sure. I may not be getting that off," Lurain says. "It doesn’t feel like it’s just a gimmick, it actually has a reason. That’s kind of fun, I would use that."

Stila magnificent metals foil finish eyeshadow in metallic jade #eyeshadow

A photo posted by Lauren (@liefslaurenx) on

Less Fun

Moss Halo Sun Protection Powder, $45

A pale yellow powder that you mix into any oil or lotion to turn it into sunscreen, Moss’s Halo Sun Protection Powder is great in concept, less in practice. Like foundation drops, highlighting drops, and boosters, the tradeoff for customization is another step — it’s time-consuming at first, and people are pretty bad about using sunscreen in the first place.

But if you’re already applying a favorite, SPF-less moisturizer or oil in the morning and just found out about skin cancer, it’s a good fit. "There are so many women (and men!) excited to play beauty alchemist by mixing their serums and facial oils or adding a few drops of facial oil into their moisturizer in order to achieve something ideal for their skin," says Megan Schwarz, founder of Seed to Serum, which carries the line.

If you have the right medium, the light, blurring coverage is great. To get the promised SPF of 30 to 40 there should be a slight white cast, and it works as foundation if you’re pale and lazy (hello). Yet, how natural it looks pivots on the powder matching your skintone. Zinc oxide, the powder’s star player, needs to literally cover your skin to protect it, and while it’s one of the most protective physical sunscreens, sheering the blend out loses some SPF. It doesn’t have the range (needs more colors), but Lurain liked it in theory.

Meet our newest addition from MOSS. Halo lets you transform ANY face oil or lotion into a sunscreen. It's up to you how high or low of an SPF you desire. The more you add the higher the SPF. Here's @clean.beauty.junkie experience with this amazing product. #repost ❤️ "So I've finally gotten my hands on this gem from @mosskincare. This is Moss Skincare's new Halo Sun Protection Powder. I've suffered with acne since high school and the debate for me is whether or not I am willing to accept another set of nasty breakouts in return for one day's worth of sun protection. I have COUNTLESS sunscreens from the commercial brands and each one of them irritated my skin. Ever since last summer I gave up on wearing sunscreen just to avoid anymore blemishes. After months of cringing at the sight of the sun, I have finally found the breakthrough sun protection product!!!! The creator, Celestyna, crafted her line MOSS: Modern. Organic. Sacred. Skincare, for those who deal with rebel skin. She knows her skincare like no one else since she dealt with acne in her early years. As for the product, I love every single aspect of it! First off, it is in a powder form and you just mix a bit of it with your favorite face oil and you're done! Also, Celestyna incorporates only the most skin-loving ingredients such as "blemish-fighting white willow bark, skin soothing bamboo, and antioxidant rich green tea and mattifying, non-comedogenic sericite powder. And to top it all off, Halo's Main ingredient is Zinc Oxide, which provide the most comprehensive blockage of UVA and UVB rays! This product is suitable for daily use or just a day at the beach!" #greenbeauty #mossskincare #moss #organic #sacred #skincare #clean #beauty #healthy #noncomedogenic #sunscreen #sun #luxury #acne #halo #powder #sensitiveskin

A photo posted by @aurorabeauty on

Honorable mention: May Island Bubble Bean Cleanser, $30. Dehydrated balls of cleanser that are good for travel, but more work than fun, and because each ball is single-use, the jar’s days are very consciously numbered. Counterpoint: You won’t have to cut anything open to get all the product out.

Questionable Intentions

The Estee Edit Flash Illuminator Fluid Powder, $32

The Fluid Powder’s name talks a big game, but here it’s a bit of a misnomer — while the Prescriptives has that wet feel, Lurain was unimpressed with the Powder’s fluid properties. She noted that it is very creamy, which The Estee Edit’s creator, Sarah Creal, credits to the "slurry technology" used to make it — cream is poured into a pan, and then "transformed" from a liquid to a powder.

"This is what makes the formula so soft and creamy, not dry and cakey. The entire process takes about two days," says Creal. "This type of a fluid powder formula applies to the skin in a less powdery way, so skin looks fresher and imperfections are less obvious." The truth comes out: This is just a nice powder, not a science class project at all.

Play time with The Edit Eyeshadow palette. #beautyattitudes #rg @beautyinnewyork

A photo posted by The Estée Edit (@theesteeedit) on

Dr. Jart Water Drop Moisturizer, $36

The Water Drop Moisturizer speaks to the Instagramability Kim mentioned — it looks awesome. When you rub the lotion into your skin, "encapsulated droplets burst upon contact with the skin, giving you a refreshing boost of hydration without the actual heaviness of the typical hydrating moisturizer," says Dr. Sung Jae Jung, a certified dermatologist and chief advisor of Dr. Jart.

But despite the product’s initial coolness, Lurain rated it low on the fun scale — she was skeptical of the chemistry, as most moisturizers work by creating a barrier on the outside of your skin to keep moisture in, not putting it on top. "If you want water on your skin, you could turn on the faucet. I give it low marks for science and fun-ness."

Honorable mention: Touch In Sol Chroma Powder Lip Tint, $20. A powder that turns to cream on contact with your lips’ moisture, it’s fun until you taste it, and then it is not fun at all.

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