Hard Lacquer: Fall 2015 Beauty Trends and the Mystique of Micellar Waters


Header by Rory Midhani

Welcome to Hard Lacquer, your source for beauty news and reviews at Autostraddle. The world of cosmetics is a vast and shimmering sea filled with mermaids and wonders and ships in the night; but in its fetching waters as on land, we suffer a certain invisibility compounded by the narrow social canon of femininity.

Hard Lacquer turns the tide, providing a lush cosmetic isle for beauty-seeking queers who want a bay to call their own. Each post in the series will kick off with a short roundup of the latest in beauty, followed by a deeper dive into a few special products.


+ Guess who got an exciting packaging makeover? If OCC lip tars are your favorite love/hate product due to super pigments in lo-fi packaging, you might want to give their revamped version, Lip Tar / RTW, a go. You’ll definitely pay for the convenience of a new tube and the doe-foot applicator, but I think we all know the answer to the question above (and I’ll take one in Hoochie, thank you very much).

occ lip tar tw

+ Eyebrows may be our most important feature, according to science, but $925 semipermanent tattoos important? Check out first-person accounts here and here (if you dare).

+ Bellaoggi’s Gel Effect Keratin Nail Polish and Fast-Dry Effect Top Coat are the best polishes I’ve tried in ages, and easily the least expensive at about $5 apiece. A single coat gives you rich, even, chip-free, long-lasting color, and the top coat can quickly dry a bottle of Seche Vite under the table. Sad news for those of us stateside, though, because this affordable Italian brand isn’t sold here. At least I picked up one bottle, superchic Bitter Sangria.



+ Remember when I was all, “Glossybox, you bore me to tears, get out of my life?” It turns out I can no longer live without this ultra-creamy bluish grey eye pencil from Face Stockholm they sent me. As a liquid liner devotee, I don’t even know who I am anymore! It’s such a gorgeous, soft smoky way to play up my brown eyes, and somehow delivers a sharp little kitten flick despite a dull, unsharpened tip. I take it all back.

+ I once bought like six Cargo blushes/bronzers at once because sales will make you do weird stuff sometimes. In 2008, pals. For what it’s worth, I don’t actually use them, but for reasons that also defy explanation I haven’t tossed them in the bin, either. Here’s an easy guide to follow for cleaning out your makeup drawer:

As with everything else beauty-related, opinions — professional, scientific and otherwise — vary wildly, so use your best judgment and if anything looks, smells, or seems off or has separated, better safe than sorry!


Hey-o, it’s the second edition of Hard Lacquer, beauty tubes! Get out your notepads and make sure you have plenty of space for new tabs in your browser, because we have a lot of material to cover. Let’s look at the best of what Fall 2015 beauty trends have to offer! After a cursory look at the best of A/W 2015 Beauty Trends, I’ll walk you through the hype (and science) behind mystical micellar cleansing waters.


The kind of amazing thing about eyeliner this fall is that it does not require precision, nor is it meant to be pretty, even. How refreshing! While full-on rocker chic, kohl-rimmed, fall-out-and-see-if-I-care liner is a big deal, the graphic lines and flippant cat-eyes below are something else entirely. All I see in this look from Anthony Vaccarello is an upside-down cat ear. HECK YES.

Meanwhile, a single jewel-toned slash through the socket, haphazard flicks winged out to the temple or flying high above the waterline, or straight-up What is even going on there? doodling over the entire eyelid — truly anything goes, no steady hand needed.


Forget contouring. Forget it. Forget heavy coverage, forget loads of concealer, forget ultra-matte powder, forget all of that. Imagine a glowing canvas of radiant skin, and now imagine that a little butterfly with a tiny baby feather duster with the itty bittiest trace of blush just sort of grazes it against your cheekbones. That’s what fall’s fresh faces are all about. Your skin, a hint of color, and a very light hand.

For a glowing base, I love mixing a drop or two of liquid luminizer or highlighter into barely-there liquid makeup or moisturizer for sheered-out, ultra-dewy coverage. If your current coverage is on the heavier side, you can play with adding more sheen by mixing in something light, like Embryolisse or a few drops of face oil, as well. If you’re a little wary, try mixing up small amounts on the back of your hand and blending it into your cheekbones first, and see how the light hits it, adjust accordingly. You can always buff a small amount of coverage in with a brush if you accidentally went overboard. Fan brushes and I don’t get on too well, but they’re a safe bet for this season’s barely-there blush.

hard lacquer fresh faces fall 2015


A nod to mod with spiky lashes, top and bottom! I love the super wearable version below, but there were bolder takes on the runways: clumpy lashes, spiderleg lashes, you name it. Bonus points for tightlining the lower lid with white, ivory, nude or peach eyeliner to make ’em pop! Rimmel’s is great, and inexpensive. You can always give yours a boost with a set of falsies — these ones from Shu Uemura look perfect.

Giambattista Valli Fall 2015 lashes

via Harper’s Bazaar, Giambattista Valli Fall 2015

Those are just a few, but they’re my favorite because they’re not a lot of work and you don’t necessarily need to rush out and buy a brand new product to achieve the looks. It only takes a little creativity and willingness to experiment and baby step outside of your comfort zone. Still not sure which A/W makeup trend you should try? Here’s a handy dandy quiz that’ll help you figure it out.

Just remember, there are still 28 summer days left before you start making apple picking and leaf-pile-jumping-in-cozy-sweater dates! Honorable mentions to the following tends that didn’t make the cut:

What are you excited about? Anything you think is just pure ridiculousness? Need more tips for getting it right? COMMENTS.


As legend has it, this non-rinse, soap-free, micelle-molecule rich cleansing water has been a standby in French pharmacies and makeup artists’ kits backstage at runway shows since the dawn of time. They just feel newish because they’re suddenly everywhere. Reading up, the first thing I realized was that almost no one says in plain English what soon becomes obvious: This is glorified makeup remover created 100 years ago to help fancy French ladies deal with incredibly hard water.

Fair enough. Neither soap nor water nor soapy water nor toner exactly, it’s kind of like a very mild cluster (the micelles) of the things that make soap soap (surfactants) suspended in soft (as opposed to hard) water. Since the micelles are attracted to dirt and oil, when you douse a cotton pad with the solution and slide it across your skin, it removes the impurities and you’re good to go — no rinsing or harsh soap necessary.


A most excellent illustration of what goes down when you wash up. (NOT MICELLAR WATER.) via Lab Muffin

Its proponents claim this makes it gentler and more moisturizing for sensitive or dry skins, but I wouldn’t be so sure — it took far too many cotton pads, a healthy amount of pressure, and my face felt not just not clean but also pretty dry and kind of like it’d been through the ringer. For the record, I had on Perricone’s No Foundation Serum, a swipe of mascara, and a hint of Becca’s Beach Tint Shimmer Souffle on my lips and cheeks — by no means a substantial amount of makeup. I have a medicine cabinet full of scrubs and exfoliants and a bloody Clarisonic that feel gentler than using micellar water did!

To be fair, I’m also a religious nighttime face-washer, and rarely ever crash with makeup on. (Even then, I usually keep a pack of organic makeup wipes on my bedside table, plus a bar of Lush’s Full of Grace serum to stay hydrated through the night if push comes to shove.) This may very well be a godsend for those of you who can’t bear the whole makeup removal routine at night, or folks with skin that pitches a fit with traditional cleansers and makeup removers.

CWACRF Woman washing face

CWACRF Woman washing face

In short, there’s nothing wrong with micellar water — it dutifully removes all but the most stubborn makeup with a little elbow grease, gets skin reasonably clean, and most formulations are extra-gentle. It’s no miracle product, though, and not a 24/7 replacement for actually washing your face. Most reviewers said they do indeed follow-up with a traditional cleanser (even the French ones), and that’s how my daughter’s using hers as well.

I think it’s probably best to consider this something of a Makeup Remover +, rather than a miracle product that can remove makeup and thoroughly cleanse and moisturize the skin. Check out some options I rounded up below.

hard lacquer micellar water roundup

THE HIGH TECH | Perricone MD Blue Plasma Cleansing Treatment, $39 for 4 oz.
THE ORIGINAL | Bioderma Hydrabio H20, $12.95 for 8.45 oz.
THE ROSE | Nuxe Micellar Cleansing Water with Rose Petals, $22 for 6.7 oz.
THE SENSITIVE ONE | Darphin Azahar Micellar Water, $40 for 6.8 oz.
THE STEAL | Simple Cleansing Micellar Water, $5 for 6.7 oz.

Did I leave out your favorite brand? Are you going to try it out, or do you think I should give it a second shot? Let me know in the comments, and we’ll see you back here in two weeks. I think we’ll talk eyeliner basics and dig into my all-time favorite body oils, to help keep our skin healthy and hydrated as the weather starts to turn!

Aja Aguirre is a perpetual late bloomer from SF who writes about style, fashion and beauty for Autostraddle. Her award-nominated style blog, Fit for a Femme, takes on both coasts' signature styles and draws on her experience as a personal stylist. Check out Instagram for her latest looks, and Twitter or Tumblr for QPOC Speakeasy x Femme Power vibes.

Aja has written 45 articles for us.


  1. My girlfriend has forced me to use a little brush to apply castor oil like liquid liner on the top of my eyelids before going to bed every night. The results are impressive-I now have eyelashes!!! My albino skin makes me look like I don’t have eyelashes and this has been a surprisingly effective way at growing darker, longer lashes (latisse style). I thought of it bc the way you mentioned long, natural looking lashes being “in” and I wanted to throw a bone to the girls out there breaking a sweat over not having lashes! Google it, castor oil…who knew?? Cheers! (ps: We bought a giant bottle on amazon for around $12 make sure you use cold pressed organic) (pps: My gf has naturally dark long lashes has used it too just for fun and has noticed a serious uptick in the amount of people who call her “dear/sweetie” since her lashes have gotten longer/fuller-fair warning!)

    • Haha, that’s kind of the most hilarious/best warning ever, and I appreciate the bone AND the tip. I haven’t found any science to support it, but the testimonials are VERY compelling — like yours — and I’m glad you’re both having such good results!

  2. 1. Super glad crazy eyeliner is in right now cuz I can’t manage a “classic” cat eye for the life of me
    2. Also barely there vs full coverage is a win in my book
    3. Yeah you can throw out your mascara after 6 months…or you can add a drop or two of saline solution when it inevitably dries out and keep using it FOREVER (and keep your fingers crossed that old mascara doesn’t cause you to get some terrible mystery eye infection)
    4. I was ABOUT to purchase some micellar water and now I think I’ll pass, so thank you for the review!

  3. This is one of my very favorite new columns. I cherish it!

    I almost pulled the trigger on an Ipsy subscription today. Do you have opinions about the best beauty bag subscription? I’m mainly into makeup and very into color.

    • I’m so glad you asked! Two things you may want to know before signing up for Ipsy:

      I had no idea until another femme gave me a heads-up, but Michelle Phan’s lost the support and respect of both fans and Ipsy subscribers due to cultural appropriation and offensive comments in her videos; I haven’t followed her or the controversy in ages, but it could be something that impacts your subscription choice!

      Before I knew any of that, I subscribed for three bags and was underwhelmed, personally. I’m excited about Sephora’s box, even if it’s in limited release right now, but I’m planning to do some research on what else is out there! I wish I had a solid, “This $5-$10/mo. box is a MUST-HAVE” recommendation for you, but perhaps another reader will jump in with a suggestion!

      • Ugh that’s very good to know about Michele Phan. I am on the waiting list for Sephora’s Play subscription. I tend to love their makeup, especially their high-pigment dupes for the super fancy brands, so I’m hoping it will be awesome. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it when they start sending out goodies!

    • IMHO, Ipsy is bad if you’re into color. I had a subscription for about six months and they sent me nothing but “nudes” and neutral colors. I’m a big fan of bright bold shadows, liners, and lipsticks and I found very little usable makeup. They also sent me a lot of skincare and hair goop that was completely inappropriate for my oily-ness. The only things I kept from my subscription time were the little makeup bags, two brushes, and the tiny mascara samples.

      Now if you have $10 a month to spare, I guess it’s not so bad, but that was my basically all I had to spend on makeup and I’d rather stalk clearance sales and dollar stores trying to find things I actually like instead. There’s only so many just-exactly-my-skin-tone eye shadows I need.

      (Also hi, first comment. I guess I felt strongly enough about this to de-lurk.)

    • I subscribe to ipsy and Birchbox, though now I am reconsidering my ipsy subscription. For what it’s worth, I LOVE Birchbox. It does lean more on the skincare/haircare side, but you can set up your profile to have your box be more makeup based. Their points system is great (much better than ipsy)–you earn between 50-60 points for reviewing your box each month, which you can then redeem for anything in the shop. 100 points= $10 in the shop. Birchbox also concentrates on higher end brands, so the overall value of each box has been much higher compared to what I get in my ipsy bag. They also do collaborations with different lifestyle bloggers and have done a great job varying up the theme of each box. Hope this helps!

  4. Garnier’s micellar water is absolutely fantastic and also really cheap. (Is it available in the US? It’s available in Australia, anyway.)

    Read the label before you buy, though – I bought one from Sukin, but it turned out to have alcohol in it! Ick!

    • I so agree about Garnier – I bought my first bottle of micellar water months ago and it’s still going strong. I do only use it for my eye makeup and wash my face conventionally afterwards, but it’s an absolute miracle product.

      I’m away this week and only brought makeup wipes for easier travel, but they’re rough on my eyes and I can’t wait to get back to my micellar!

  5. Crazy duochrome indie mineral make-ups, please! This has been my go-to makeup for a year-ish. Use it on lips, eyes and cheeks with a little fixative (although I’m a total hippie about everything else and just do some light oil cleansing in the shower, no soaps or toners on this skin!), plus it’s great for costume/show face. I love pretty much anything by Aromaleigh, particularly some of their pop culture inspired lines like This Is My Design, influenced by TV’s Hannibal. Ravenstag is the shit, looks like crow feather iridescence!

  6. I am so excited about this column!!

    And I know summer is almost over, but eyeliner transference is a year-round problem for me and I could use some words of wisdom. I use primer (currently the Urban Decay anti-aging formula, though I prefer Too Faced’s), then eyeliner (UD 24/7), and have been experimenting with UD All-Nighter over it, though that seems to make everything worse. Help?


    • I have extremely oily skin, and my eyelids are no exception. Plus I’m a server, so my work is currently also my workout, so I sweat and I’m “glowing” and “strobbing” naturally all day every day. So. I feel you! I also use urban decay eye primer, but I use the original formula. It feels drying at first, but I know in a few hrs it won’t matter. For eyeshadow this seems to work with any and all brands and formulas, and I don’t get creasing, or worse. For eyeliner I use bobbi brown gel eye liner (again with the UD primer), and it lasts without transferring maybe 6 hrs. Which, for me, is a win. Not a full work day, so I’ll wear fancy liner on days I anticipate will be “slow” so less sweaty, but I can work with that!

  7. I’ve heard good things about micellar waters, but I haven’t tried any simply because I’m already happy with my makeup removal routine. I use coconut oil, and that works really well for me – takes everything off and leaves skin feeling moisturized, rather than stripped. It’s very affordable too! I know it is one of those trendy things that seem too good be to true, but coconut oil is a genuinely amazing product. It’s also the only thing I’ve ever tried that allows me to shave my legs without developing horrible razor burn and infected hair follicles. It tastes good too 🙂

  8. $925 on eyebrow tattoos? But they could have paid my rent though…for two months…And still had some leftover for a whataburger gift card.

    How do you guys wear makeup in the summer? It’s easier for me to wear it during the month of fall and “winter” we get, but I am always sweating buckets from March until the end of October. I like foundation and concealer, but they never stay on. Any tips on what to use?

    • Okay so a disclaimer for this is that I don’t wear makeup on a day to day basis, so that might cange it a little bit. BUT, I do frequently have to wear stage makeup which causes A LOT of sweating. My fave foundation products are the Mary Kay primer and matte foundation… They always stay right in place and the primer feels amazing on your skin! 🙂 I hope this was at least mildly helpful!

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