Hard Lacquer: Self-Care Valentine’s Day Gifts For Every Kind of Lover


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.


+ Apparently, everyone on planet earth would like to copy Lady Gaga’s Superbowl makeup. Thankfully, Pixiwoo has answered the call, using mostly affordable products. Here’s another tutorial if you’re stuck on Valentine’s Day (or just first date) makeup. Still not sold on red eye makeup? Maybe this’ll convince you to change your mind.

+ If you have medium-length or long hair, it can be useful to have a few updo tricks handy. Among my personal favorites are ones that look gorgeous and complicated but require very little prep, materials or skill (if I’m honest, I don’t have all that much patience in this department). This one is great!

+ Going stir-crazy from all the snow and thinking of going blonde? ME, TOO. (Kidding. Mostly.) Here are some gorgeous shades to consider if you’re salon-bound. I think Gigi Hadid’s cool bronde is my favorite (brunette + blonde if you’re scratching your head and saying, “That is NOT a word, girl”), but my hair is so healthy and shiny right now from laying off the bleach that there’s no way I’m going down that road just yet.

+ If dry, patchy winter skin is giving you the sads and screwing with your makeup game, try dabbing in a bit of facial oil after moisturizer but before your makeup. Tapping in a tiny bit of balm or salve into the dry patch — think Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant, Weleda Skin Food or Lucas’ Papaw Ointment  — could do the trick just as well.

+ On that note, a few pals reached out to myself and another beauty expert this week: Old man winter was seriously harming their normally well-behaved skin. Suddenly they’d become extra-sensitive with big, puffy pink or red, even ruddy patches that weren’t soothed even after doing a makeup detox and switching to gentle cleansers and derm-recommended moisturizers like Cetaphil and CeraVe. A thick layer of Eucerin and rosehip oil at night seemed to help one of them, but a thorough detox like this one could be a godsend for folks struggling with similar issues. Want more tips? Make sure you’re using only cool water to cleanse and rinse with the gentlest of cleansers, apply products from thinnest to thickest to increase efficacy, and keep an eye out for ingredients like ceramides (to strengthen and repair the skin’s barrier), antioxidants (to help fight skin’s worst enemies) and hyaluronic acid (to boost moisture and reduce inflammation). And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget the SPF!

Beauty department junkies tend to love pretty much any occasion that justifies pulling the trigger on whatever they’ve been coveting lately. The fantastic thing about frivolous holidays like Valentine’s Day is that they’ve become the perfect excuse to go ahead and treat yourself.

Have a Valentine? Better pick up kiss-proof lipstick for a dreamy date with your dreamy dreamboat! 

Don’t have a Valentine? Heck yes, you SO deserve a new lipstick for being single, independent and proud! 

More of a Galentine’s Day gal? Can’t let your squad down, time for a sick new Lip Tar!

You get the picture. This week, just for funsies, Hard Lacquer is pairing clever V-Day gifts with their beauty-full counterparts, one lover’s motto at a time.

Valentine’s Day motto: Let’s get it on…

You could wear a dingy old California King pillowcase with holes cut in it for arms and legs and it would still somehow look sexy on you. It’s urban legend that you were born with a perfect fire engine red lip and when you fall out of bed, it looks like you’re pole dancing. Are you scared of a little lingerie set that combines your signature color in sweet-as-pie velvet dots with a naughty split crotch and ouvert knicker? Pfft (insert hair toss). You can definitely sneak in one last roll in the hay come Monday morning with this all-in-one palette on hand, even if it’s just you and Lady Hitachi in bed.

Valentine’s Day motto: People break up all the time! 

Well, they do! Anyway, it’s not your fault you’re unapologetically single and ridiculously good-looking and other people’s girlfriends seem to fall into your lap. You’ve been there, done that, ditched the babe but kept the t-shirt and now you can have the makeup bag, too. Made of durable canvas, super roomy (I’m talking up to 8.5″ x 8.5″) and lined with vintage screen-printed fabric, these puppies from Breakups to Makeups are built to last (unlike your last relationship). Love is for suckers!

Valentine’s Day motto: The heart wants what the heart wants.

When it comes to matters of the heart, you always go for the gold and pull out all the stops. Your impressive go-getter gumption means you’ll wine and dine, dazzle and delight, stun and surprise the object of your affection until she can no longer resist your many charms and sees what a big-hearted, glitter-dusted, magic-making unicorn angel you are. Get even more bang for your buck with this shimmering leave-in conditioner from Dry Bar; you’ll leave ’em all sighing “What a catch!” in your gilded faerie dust wake.

Valentine’s Day motto: Too Cool 4 School


Too School for School Dinoplatz Dear Brachiosaurus Blotting Paper ($8), Loose and Silly Powder ($36) and Lip Balm ($15, shown in Peach Melba), available at Sephora

You’re young at heart, a little bit of a punk scrapper, and can’t be bothered with all that vapid romance garbage. You’d rather go to town on some pizza, watch a movie or play video games, and chill just like on any other night — with or without a babe around to help you eat the last of the crust. (And trust, if there is a babe around, she feels exactly the same way. Hello, why else would you be “hanging out” with her?!) Since you’re not a total lesbro, you’ve got a few staples from the Dinoplatz Collection on hand to keep things copacetic: blotting papers to soak up pepperoni grease, barely-there lip balm for soft lips, and a loose powder to keep any oilies at bay. Plus, dinos are the coolest.

Valentine’s Day motto: You’ll be back…when the hunger knows no reason!

Alright, so your special way of showing love borders on creepy sometimes, so what? It’s not like you’re wearing a vial of human blood around your neck. Once you push past the macabre, all you really mean to say is I Love You…Forever. Just maybe rein it in a little, though. Try a skull ring as a gentler ’til death do us part keepsake for bae and some Gash nail polish for you. That way whenever you’re tempted to grab her and say you’d rip your own beating heart clean out of your chest for her, you can just look at your dark blood bluish-red mani and remember to keep that part to yourself (for now, anyway).

Valentine’s Day motto: I’ve always been a guy (or gal) with a sweet tooth and that girl was just like a king-sized candy bar.

You’re 100% low-maintenance chic, but love to spoil your crush rotten. Sweet and thoughtful and forever in puppy dog love with someone who makes your heart skip a thousand beats, you know that candy hearts and roses are for amateurs. You’re more likely to gift a box of decadent gluten-free, certified Kosher macarons clad lovingly in recycled wrapping paper with a dozen handprinted love poems written on both sides and tied with organic cotton ribbon, and expect only uninterrupted meaningful eye contact in return.

Here, tint your lashes with this totally cuddle-proof Weekend Lash Stain from Milk Makeup — it’s guaranteed to last through 48 hours of nonstop sweet nothings. D’aw. 

Valentine’s Day motto: No, seriously, I’d rather be reading.

You’re too smart for most Tinder nonsense but have one of those Pinterest quotes about not fucking someone who doesn’t own books set as one of your photos anyway (just in case). When you’re on a date, the inside of your brain trills like a Las Vegas slot machine anytime someone mentions NPR or the New Yorker, but the truth is most of your socializing lately happens on GoodReads. Like clockwork, your friends collectively groan when you skip Sunday brunch (again) because you haven’t finished your crossword puzzle. Since you’d rather take really good care of your skin and just skip makeup entirely, you might want to add this Double Dose of Genius set to your weekend routine, smarty pants.

via Vogue Ukraine

via Vogue Ukraine

Hope y’all enjoyed that, and that you have the squishiest Valentine’s Day weekends ever. Next time we’ll be back with everything there is to know about sheet masks — let’s get these pretty mugs ready for spring!

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. Hard Lacquer is one of my absolute fav columns, and while I don’t usually like v-day themed posts, this is amazing!!

    thanks for covering a whole range of situations, and helping me add to my ‘things I want’ list 😀

  2. This whole paragraph was perfection:

    “You could wear a dingy old California King pillowcase with holes cut in it for arms and legs and it would still somehow look sexy on you. It’s urban legend that you were born with a perfect fire engine red lip and when you fall out of bed, it looks like you’re pole dancing. Are you scared of a little lingerie set that combines your signature color in sweet-as-pie velvet dots with a naughty split crotch and ouvert knicker? Pfft (insert hair toss). You can definitely sneak in one last roll in the hay come Monday morning with this all-in-one palette on hand, even if it’s just you and Lady Hitachi in bed.”


    This whole column, really. I love your writing style. And this article made me smile and feel good about my upcoming single girl’s Valentine’s Day, which is definitely a plus.

    • Everything’s just painfully exquisite, isn’t it? Claire Kinder, Polly Wales, Satomi Kawakita and Lauren Wolf are some of my absolute favorites.

      If you really want to torture yourself, go have a look at Esqueleto or follow them on Instagram, they’re based in Oakland and carry the most metal, gorgeous stuff. Rebecca Overmann is another incredibly talented designer to look out for!

  3. Me at lunch: “Oooh, a new Hard Lacquer! I’ll read it before I start working again.”

    1 hour and $54 at Sephora later…

    I just had to get that Dinoplatz lip balm…why can’t more makeup be dinosaur themed?!?!

  4. I love this whole thing! The Too Cool for School one was my favorite (Dinosaur makeup and Heart-shaped pizza, yes please!) And I love the Sleater-Kinney quote, and I’m curious about this 48 hour eyelash thing. Great column all around! I got my girlfriend some AS merch for Valentine’s day.

  5. I’m feeling the urge to be blond-er and I’m doing it with the thing they tell you never to use — SUN IN. But my hair color/type is pretty much what sun in was made for, so SHRUG. I’m just not as blonde as I was in sunny SLC now that I live in Portland, and it fixes that.

  6. I can here to cackle because the Lesbro Aesthetic and Creepy Aesthetic were my aesthetic last Valentine’s Day.

    Looked like a vampire at local pizza parlor whose pizza makes ya feel like a Mutant Teenage Ninja Turtle. I may have scared some grandparents, but their grandaughter thought my claws were pretty and was not scared at all because little kids are fearless and all about the shiny like less fuzzy raccoons.
    Then I later played video games while still post coitally naked and got hand fed discounted Valentine’s candy as to not interrupt the game play.

    Also came to say when I femme my femme is pretty creepy now that I think about it. Every thing is black, white or the colour of coagulating blood. Any red I own I refer to in terms of states of blood.
    How did I not notice this before? o_O

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