Friday, September 30, 2016

September Favorites

September was a fun makeup month for me. I tired several new products that really impressed me, couldn't get enough of old favorites, and was able to talk myself out of buying several hyped and unnecessary purchases.

But a few things stood out among the rest, and they were certainly favorites this month. 

Morphe 35OS palette

This was my biggest surprise of the month. Several months ago I purchased and reviewed the Morphe 35T palette, and my general thought was "it's good for the price, but not that great overall." Many of the shimmers were gorgeous, but my two biggest complaints were that the matte shades were pretty bad and that there were many shades that looked exactly the same. 

There's a store where I live that sells Morphe palettes, so I have the uncommon opportunity to personally see the colors and swatch before I purchase. After my experience with the 35T palette (which I have since depotted and gotten rid of all but nine shadows), I was pretty positive I would not buy any other Morphe palettes. 

It's difficult for me personally to trust the majority of positive Morphe reviews (especially from those with affiliate codes) because those reviews differ so greatly from my own experience with the formula. I will admit, though, that the color scheme of the 35O always interested me. I love beautiful orange, rust, copper, and bronze shades. That palette was perpetually out of stock online, and even though it was inexpensive, I just didn't think it would ever be worth it since I would only ever like the shimmer shadows. 

And then the 35OS was released, and every single shadow was of a shimmer finish. As soon as I swatched it, I knew I had to have it. And in all honesty, this is all I have been really wanting to wear this month. That is highly unlikely for me. I have a pretty large palette collection and usually don't wear the same palette two days in a row, but I have just not wanted to stop using this palette. Every single shadow is beautiful and great to work with. I still have a similar complaint that there are certainly not 35 unique colors, however. Many colors look exactly the same as several others, and that is a downfall. 

It is also important to note that for me, this is absolutely not a stand alone palette, and I do have to bring in matte shadows to complete any look. With it, I have exclusively used...

Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye palette

This palette has really been fun to use this month. I've primarily used the warm (far right) quad, but have also gotten a lot of use out of the neutral (far left) quad as well. 

As I have said many times before, in my eyeshadow looks, the shimmer shade on the lid gets the attention, but the mattes are the unsung heroes the really make a look work. And that was absolutely true this month especially while I was using the Morphe palette. 

This palette is one of my top two favorite all-matte palettes that I have ever tried. The other favorite is the Viseart Neutral Matte, and to compare the two, I find the Kat Von D more intense in pigmentation. Sometimes the pigmentation is way too much, especially if I am wearing a more subtle look. On those days, the Viseart shadows are perfection. But on the days when I have a foiled shadow on the lid (like I did for most of September) the Shade and Light Eye is the palette to perfectly complement and balance the intensity. 

L'Oreal Pro Matte and Pro Glow foundations 

Little known fact about me is that I have only very recently dipped my toes into the liquid foundation game. I have never been one to really want or need a ton of coverage, and I have very sensitive skin that is prone to irritation or breakouts when exposed to new products. As a result, I have almost always been exclusively a powder foundation wearer, and my go-to was the Laura Mercier Mineral Powder. 

As the seasons changed, I found myself looking a little too powdery with the Laura Mercier, and I wanted to explore some other options. 

Months later, I tried the L'Oreal Pro Matte foundation. There was so much that I liked about this foundation. The coverage was good but not too much (especially when sheered out with a bending sponge), the finish was nice, and it stayed on my skin throughout the day. 

But, it was just a little too matte for me. 

I then tried the L'Oreal Pro Glow foundation as it had received really great reviews and seemed a logical deviation from the Pro Matte. This one had all the same positives of the Pro Matte, except with a much more beautiful finish. I really liked how my skin looked. 

However, within a few hours, I was looking really, really shiny. Not even oily, as my skin isn't excessively oily, just too shiny. Like I had applied highlighter all over my face. 

So I decided one day to mix the two foundations together, adding just a little more Pro Glow than Pro Matte. And, I have to tell you, the result was perfect. The finish was exactly what I wanted. Dewy, but not greasy. I'm sure there is a better foundation out there for me where I wouldn't need to mix two to get the finish and coverage that I like, but for right now, I have these two and I am perfectly happy mixing them. 

Laura Geller Baked Balance and Brighten Foundation 

Now, this could be cheating since I haven't actually used this product on its own this month. I have no idea how it would perform alone, but I have to guess that it would be pretty great. 

I have used this exclusively over my Pro Matte and Pro Glow combination and under my Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light. As soon as I put the Balance and Brighten on my skin (applied lightly with a fluffy brush), my skin looked incredible. Healthy. Lit from within. 

I had previously been using my MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural, but quickly tossed that one aside because the Balance and Brighten was superior. 

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Bronzer

This is an old favorite, but such a beautiful product. This is what gets me through the season change because it truly mimics the way I look when sun kissed. I don't use it too much in the summer because it would be excessive with the actual tan I always seem to get, but when it gets a little dreary out (like today), I like to wear it and pretend it's warm and I've been on vacation. 

Hands down if I could only have one bronzer, this would be it. 

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Exposed 

This is another product that has been talked to death, but is actually very new to me. A few years ago, when this was all the rage, I went to Sephora many times to swatch it on my hand only to be disappointed. It looked like nothing on me. It didn't matter how much I dug into it, it was nothing. 

I realized, however, that with a warm olive complexion, this kind of shade is the most flattering, more so than pinks or corals or peaches. Despite my negative experiences in the past, I finally decided to purchase it. 

And I have worn nothing else since. It is the perfect color on my skin. 

But if left me wondering why it always looked like nothing on me in store. This is my best guess. I have owned one Amazonian Clay Blush before, and I ended up getting rid of it because the color was a bad match on me and because the color payoff seemed lacking. But what I think happened is that it developed hardpan. And I would have to assume that the testers inside Sephora get hardpan nearly immediately from everyone always touching it. (Kind of gross when you think about it.)

This may be a formula that I have to observe and make sure that no hardpan is forming, but for right now, the shade is perfect for me, and I love it. 

Smashbox Primer Water

This one was a surprise as well. I have only heard mixed reviews on this item. It either really works and people love it, or it does nothing at all and seems a giant waste of money. 

I'm happy to say I'm in the first camp. I love this stuff. I bought the travel size originally, just to see if I would like it, and I've already gone through nearly half the bottle in just under three weeks. I'll absolutely purchase the full-size when I run out. 

I use this under my pore-filling primer as well as over my entire face to set everything and bring down the look of powder. The combination of all of my face products is working really well right now, and everything stays on and looks great well into the night. 

It has a nice, soft spray (unlike MAC Fix+ that would leave globs of water on my face), doesn't have any detectible scent, and doesn't feel like it dries out my face. I've really been enjoying it. 

These products have been my favorites of the month, and I think I may start a new "One Week, One Palette" series in October and really get some use out of all the products I already have while talking myself out of all the new releases. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Kylie Cosmetics The Bronze Palette | Kyshadow

As a makeup enthusiast, I have been fascinated by the growth and hysteria (not even hype) surrounding Kylie Cosmetics. This was the first time I had ever seen people set alarms on their phones for a makeup release, refresh their browser as if once-in-a-lifetime concert tickets were on the line, and then see an entire stock of product sell out within minutes. 

And I have to say, as controversial as this statement might be, I think all the hype has to do with mega-famous Kylie Jenner and not at all about the quality of the items. 

So, when Kylie Cosmetics released a Kyshadow palette, I was less than impressed. 

And I won't be buying. 

This eyeshadow palette features nine fairly basic neutral shadows. They are so basic that I have every single one of these colors in my collection already, a few times over. In fact, the only thing that I find even a little bit interesting about this palette is the box it comes in. 

Now that is some cool and beautiful packaging that I haven't seen before. 

But that's about as far as my interest toward this palette goes. 

What I can say is that I think the selection of colors here (again, not this exact palette) would be great for a beginner who doesn't yet have any staple neutral shadows. Considering most of Kylie's fanbase is younger, I think the color selection here makes a lot of sense. 

But I think this palette is too expensive for what it is. 

The Bronze Kyshadow palette costs $42 before shipping, which is a whopping $8.95 for domestic and $14.95 for international. 

I'm sorry, WHAT?? That means this palette is $51 for anyone in the US and $57 for international buyers. And without even touching these shadows, I can tell you that price is exorbitant. 

The Kyshadow palette has been compared a lot to the BH Cosmetics Shaaanxo palette, which features nine eyeshadows and nine lip colors. 

Shaaanxo palette
Photo: Glamupgirls

Comparing the two palettes, there are similar colors, but I would not say they look the same (color-wise) by any means. But, the layout of the packaging does look exactly the same, which looks pretty inexpensive. 

For reference, the Shaaanxo palette (which includes the nine lip colors as well) is $12.50 before shipping. That price difference is pretty steep. 

Reviews of the Kyshadow formula have not been generally favorable. The quality seems to be comparable to BH Cosmetics and Morphe, whose prices are considerably cheaper. 

It is also worth noting that the Kyshadow palette does not come with a mirror, which is uncommon for a palette with such a high price tag. Yes, the packaging has a really pretty design on the box and on the front of the palette, but it is still made of thin cardboard and is not very substantial. 

When thinking about palettes with a similar color scheme, the first that came to mind (obviously) was the Morphe 35O palette. 

The Morphe palette includes 35 shadows, likely of comparable quality to the Kyshadow palette, for $23. 

In my own collection, I found a few palettes that have similar color schemes, all for similar or lower prices. They are:

Kat Von D Monarch palette (discontinued). This was $46. 

Zoeva Cocoa Blend. I paid around $35 including shipping from Germany to the US. 

Too Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly palette. This is $36. 

Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye palette. This is $46.

For the exception of the Too Faced palette, all of these palettes contained more shadows than the Kyshadow palette and were around the same price. And I can guarantee that the quality of all of these palettes is better. 

But, the one thing I cannot take away from the Kyshadow palette is that it has Kylie Jenner's name on it. And for some people, that name means everything. When I was younger, if my favorite celebrity came out with an eyeshadow palette (or anything, really) I would have purchased it in a heartbeat (as long as my parents let me, ha) no matter the quality. I wouldn't have cared at all if it was the best thing on Earth or the worst. My fandom would have blinded me to it all. So, I definitely understand that aspect of this brand. 

But, for people who are drawn to these colors, I hope they can see that there are many other options out there for either less money or much better quality. And for me, I have grown out of that phase in life when I am blinded by fandom, and I can evaluate products objectively and based on quality. This palette is just way too basic and expensive for what it is, and I have better things in my collection. So, I won't be buying. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Urban Decay Full Spectrum Palette


Urban Decay just announced a new eyeshadow palette to be released this holiday season along with the (somewhat boring and uninspiring) Naked Ultimate Basics palette. 

And like the Ultimate Basics, I won't be buying. 

Urban Decay is having an interesting moment right now. They're releasing a lot of things. They came out with the enormous Vice lipstick line and Moondust palette, just came off a collaboration with Gwen Stefani (that included an eyeshadow palette, blush palette, lip products and brow products), had the Alice Through the Looking Glass palette, the Ultimate Basics palette, and now this. 

The thing is, I really can't remember the last time Urban Decay came out with a palette that was both hyped and celebrated. Naked 3 was pretty big, but as time has passed, a lot of people have remarked that they don't like that palette too much because it requires a pretty specific skin tone and eye color to be really flattering. Naked Smokey wasn't a huge success. Last year's Spectrum palette as well as the Gwen Stefani palette went on major sale to get rid of stock. The Alice palette (which is also limited edition) is still currently in stock as well, months after its launch. 

Personally, I no longer own any Urban Decay palettes, and I doubt I ever will again. In the past, I have owned: Naked, Naked 2, Naked 3, Naked Basics, and Gwen Stefani. I decluttered all of them because I just don't like the Urban Decay formula. These shadows have so much fallout and many are packed with glitter. I find the shadows to be pretty dry when compared to some of my favorite formulas, and I've never been a fan of their matte shadows. 

But, I will say, as soon as I saw the first pictures of the Full Spectrum palette, I was immediately drawn in by the colors. 

And it instantly reminded me of Kat Von D's very coveted holiday 2015 palette, Mi Vida Loca Remix. 

If the Mi Vida Loca Remix palette was still available, that would get my overall vote because of the different finishes (matte, shimmer, and satin) as well as the inclusion of neutral shades. Since the Full Spectrum palette will only have shimmery shadows, the Mi Vida Loca is a more cohesive and comprehensive palette, but it is no longer available. And people who missed out on it will probably be thrilled for the Full Spectrum palette, which also offers more practical packaging than the Mi Vida Loca.

Personally, as much as I love looking at these bright, beautifully colorful palettes, I know that I would little to no use out of them. That is why I passed on the Mi Vida Loca last year. I considered it several times, but knew it wouldn't be a smart purchase. And honesty, I have never regretted not having it. 

My two most colorful palettes are the Juvia's Place Nubian 2 and the Viseart Dark Mattes: 


Although these are not the most colorful palettes--and certainly don't look like the Full Spectrum palette--they completely satisfy any and all need and want for color in my collection. 

But for those very unlike me who would love to have a colorful eyeshadow palette, there might be some other considerations to keep in mind when thinking about the Full Spectrum palette. 

The first is cost. The Full Spectrum palette will cost $58, which is a very typical price for a palette this size from Urban Decay. Still, $58 is expensive for an eyeshadow palette that may not have the best quality. And that's the second thing to consider. 

Urban Decay feels very hit or miss lately, leaning more toward misses. The Gwen Stefani, Alice, and Naked Ultimate Basics palettes have not received unanimously glowing reviews. They all seem to fall into "meh" territory, where they are not bad necessarily, but they are not great either. For some people, "meh" is perfectly acceptable, especially when they are fans of the brand, but for $58, I personally want better quality than that. 

The Full Spectrum palette also reminds me quite a bit of the Alice Through the Looking Glass palette (still for sale). 

18 shadows in the Full Spectrum palette are said to be new to Urban Decay, and three shades are repeats, including two (Hatter and Metamorphosis) from the Alice palette. It concerns me that two of the shades are the same from the Alice palette because I wonder if the quality with be the same as well, which was lackluster. 

I think everyone always has high hopes when a new makeup item is released, but unfortunately, it seems as though Urban Decay's quality has slightly slipped as of late. I would hope the quality of the Full Spectrum palette would be different, but it's hard to say with confidence. 

For a less expensive palette that has received mainly positive reviews, I would recommend Juvia's Place Masquerade palette. 

Although it doesn't cover the "full spectrum" of colors like the Urban Decay palette, there are certainly some nice, bright, beautiful colors in here. I've been really impressed with my Nubian 2 palette, so I imagine the quality of the Masquerade palette is the same. 

The Full Spectrum palette is really going to boil down to personal preference. If you love color and have been salivating for the Kat Von D Mi Vida Loca Remix palette, this might be an excellent addition to your collection. If, like me, you don't wear color too often, this palette might be an easy pass. I am hopeful that Urban Decay improves the overall quality of their shadows and that this is a nice offering, but I won't be buying. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Marc Jacobs About Last Night Style Eye-Con No. 20 Palette Holiday 2016

Marc Jacobs has come out with another $99 holiday palette, and although I think it's beautiful, I won't be buying. 

Actually, scratch that. I think most of it is beautiful, or perhaps my eye is drawn to the shades I think are beautiful and I'm ignoring the rest. But upon first look, there are at least five shades in here that I would never use, which makes the high price tag hard to swallow. 

So, this is something that I struggle with. I see colors I like and colors that will complement my skin, and I'm immediately drawn to it and start wanting it. The hype builds and builds, and somehow, the rest of my collection slips out of my mind and I think I can't do makeup without this one product. 

But here's the thing. I know these colors will look good on my skin because I already have them. And at this point, I have tried nearly everything, so there really isn't ever going to be a collection of colors I haven't tried or owned. 

Another really important factor to consider when buying a palette is how much use you'll get out of it as well as how much use you'll get out of each shade. I know that sounds obvious, but when the hype train in strong, I think we forget this a lot of the time. 

Before I talk about that further, I want to share another picture of this palette as the PR photo of the palette (above) looks a little different than what it really looks like. This happens so often, and I find it really frustrating. It's only when PR samples are sent out or the palettes show up in stores that we can actually see the correct colors. 

Photo: Temptalia

The above photo was featured on Temptalia's review. This picture looks quite a bit different from the press picture above. The colors (especially the rose ones) look much more muted. 

There are still colors that I gravitate toward in this photo, but the pull is not as strong. And this was important for me in realizing why I didn't want to buy this palette. As I said, upon first look I thought there would be about five shadows I wouldn't really use (the third and fourth shades in the third row and the middle three shades on the bottom row), but in this more realistic photo, now I can see more. 

I probably wouldn't use most of the top row because the shades are so light and wouldn't show up on my skin.

I wouldn't get much use out of the gold shade because it's much more yellow than I thought and wouldn't flatter my skin. 

I wouldn't get much use the white and pink shades in the second row as they would be too light. 

And I probably wouldn't use the purple shades in the third or fourth row since I prefer gold, bronzes, and mauves more. 

So, in this $99 palette, I would probably get a good amount of use out of only six shadows. I like several of the other colors, but I wouldn't use them that much. 

The color scheme of this palette is also a little confusing to me. It doesn't feel very cohesive and doesn't feel like the colors naturally go together. Apparently the colors work in rows, with each row creating a look. Personally, that's not my favorite way to put a palette together. I prefer when most of the shadows play well together instead of a layout like this. 

I think this palette would also be a little redundant if you purchased the holiday palette from last year. 

Photo: Temptalia

Though there are subtle differences, the two palettes have a very similar feel to me, and there are several tones repeated in both. 

More than anything, I think this palette is just too expensive for what it is. Yes, it is a good value when you compare the prices of Marc Jacobs' other eyeshadow palettes, but it is still too expensive for a palette full of colors I already have and can find in cheaper--and good quality--palettes. 

If you like the general color scheme of this palette, I would recommend getting the Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons palette instead. (And if you already have Bon Bons, I would recommend passing  on the Marc Jacobs.)

The Chocolate Bon Bons palette has similar pink, purple, and dark brown tones while also being a more cohesive palette. At $49 this palette has 16 shadows, so only four less than the Marc Jacobs palette, for half the price. 

The bottom line is that I don't love every single shadow in the Marc Jacobs palette, and for a palette that expensive, I would need to love close to every shade. And the shades that I do love I already have. It's a beautiful palette--packaging and all--but I don't need it. I have plenty of shadows I already love, and I won't be buying a palette I feel lukewarm about--hype or not. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Laura Mercier Fall in Love Illuminator Collection Holiday 2016

For the holiday shopping season, Laura Mercier has released a palette with four smaller-sized pans of their Face Illuminator Powders. 

And I won't be buying. 

The powders, honestly, look gorgeous. There's something about the density of the powders, how they're not flat and flush with the pan, and the texture that reminds me of crinkled satin sheets. They're so beautiful and make me want to own them without a second thought. 

But. And this is something that has taken me a while to fully comprehend and admit to myself. 

A highlighter is a highlighter.  

I know that might come across as blasphemy to the majority of the beauty community, but as someone who has owned many highlighters, I feel confident in saying that there is so little discernible difference of the look of different highlighters on the skin that it really doesn't pay to own more than one or two. 

I have owned highlighters from Becca, Dior, theBalm, Lorac, Laura Mercier, and Anastasia Beverly Hills. And I have used shimmery eyeshadows as highlighters just to see if there's a difference. And ultimately, there really isn't much. 

I've found this to be true (at least on my warm olive skin tone) with different shades of highlighters as well. Typically, unless the color is too dark for my skin, the effect of every highlighter is exactly the same. It's beautiful, glowy, and gives a nice sheen or shine to the skin. But I don't specifically notice the color. 

Right now, there are eleven pans of highlighter in my collection. However, eight of them are part of two Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kits (Gleam and Sun Dipped). That means I only own three individual highlighters. They are:

  • Becca Moonstone
  • Becca Opal 
  • Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight 01

I have decluttered the rest of my highlighters, not because I didn't like them or thought the product was inferior, but because I just don't need that much of the same thing. 

All of the highlighters in my collection are different enough for me to justify keeping. The Glow Kits have shades that closely (if not exactly) match Becca Moonstone and Opal, but I enjoy having the individual pans of highlighter for when I travel or just want to grab something quickly. 

When I swatch the highlighters in my collection with my finger onto the back of my hand, I see a difference in color between all of them. However, when sheered onto my cheekbones, they all look really, really similar. 

The Laura Mercier Fall in Love Illuminator Collection is $58 for 0.44 ounces of product. That feels very expensive to me. Laura Mercier claims that this is a $65 value (which isn't much of a value anyway). However, the full-sized Face Illuminating Powders are $44 for 0.35 ounces of product. So I have a hard time figuring that 0.09 ounces of product is worth $21. I imagine that number was calculated based on the palette offering four shades instead of one, but since Laura Mercier does not sell deluxe sample-sized pans of this highlighter, it's hard to see how they calculated the palette's value. 

Frankly, I just don't think this palette is a good deal. If you don't have many (or any) highlighters and wanted to try several different shades, or if you were intrigued by the color selection in this palette, I instead recommend the Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit in Sun Dipped. 

If you were to swap the upper left and lower right pans, the shade selection would be nearly identical, and I would imagine completely identical once sheered out on the skin. 

Sun Dipped offers 1.04 ounces of product for $40, so it is a significantly better value than the Laura Mercier Illuminator Collection. And Anastasia Beverly Hills offers some of the most beautiful highlighters I have ever worked with. I wouldn't be surprised if these performed better than the Laura Mercier palette. 

The only pro the Laura Mercier palette has over the Anastasia Beverely Hills Glow Kit is the packaging and the way the powders look in the pan. Sure, I like my makeup to be as pretty as possible, but not for $18 more for less than half the product. 

I have enough beautiful highlighters in my collection that I don't need the Laura Mercier Fall in Love Illuminator Collection, and I won't be buying. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Tarte Pretty Paintbox Holiday 2016

In holiday marketing season tradition, Tarte has released another giant book-like palette that is overwhelming in size and selection and lacking in quality and practicality for everyday use. 

And I won't be buying. 

At first glance, this seems to be totally the opposite of the Hourglass holiday offering that was quite (in my opinion) the ripoff. Tarte boasts that this palette is a $418 value for $59. If that seems to good to be true, it's because it absolutely is. 

As I mentioned in my post about the Tarte Color Wheel holiday blush palette, the values of these palettes are incorrectly calculated since the quality is not the same as items in their permanent collection. If these shadows were the same quality as the Tartelette in Bloom palette, and the blushes the same as the ones in their permanent line, this would absolutely be a steal. But they're not. At all. 

Tarte's eyeshadows and blushes that are a part of their permanent line are made in the USA. These huge holiday palettes are made in China. The formula and quality is not the same as that of their permanent line. And because of that, saying this is a $418 value is wrong. 

The Pretty Paintbox looks very similar to last year's holiday offering: 

Let's compare close-ups of the two.

Holiday 2016
Photo: Musings of a Muse

Holiday 2015

As you can see, the color selection from the Pretty Paintbox is quite similar, nearly identical, to the holiday 2015 palette. If you have the holiday 2015 palette and were hoping for new colors to add to your collection, the Pretty Paintbox is absolutely not the palette to get. 

And these are also shades that we've seen time and again from Tarte. It seems as though very little thought has gone into this palette, which again, doesn't give the palette much value. 

If you have much of a makeup collection, you absolutely already have these colors in your collection. And if you're new to makeup and thinking this is a great way to get a bunch of shadows at a low cost, you are better off buying better quality eyeshadows. 

Reviews for the Pretty Paintbox have been pretty bad. There have been numerous complaints about pigmentation, especially in the lighter colors. The texture has been described as dry and very dissimilar to Tarte's traditional texture. Some reviewers have even said they are retuning this palette because the quality is so bad that it did not justify the price. And that's the $59 price, not the inflated $418 value price. 

To be fair, even as an eyeshadow junkie, holiday palettes have never really interested me that much. And it's because the quality just never felt the same. I don't care about holiday packaging or holiday-themed color names. I don't have the "fear of missing out" because I see all the reviewers get every holiday palette or because the palettes are limited edition and I won't be able to get them once they sell out. I want a quality product, and I've always found the majority of holiday releases to be lackluster. 

I have two limited edition palettes in my collection. Both are great, and one of them is from Tarte. It is the Rainforest of the Sea palette, and I purchased mine soon after it was released in March. As of late September, it is still for sale. 

Because of this palette, I absolutely cannot give Tarte a pass on such a bad quality holiday release. The Rainforest of the Sea palette is one of my absolute favorites. The packaging is gorgeous, compact, and functional, and the quality is the best I have seen from the brand. The formula of the shadows reminds me of the Make Up For Ever Artist Shadows, and those are among my all-time favorite. I was really hopeful that Tarte was going to adopt this incredible formula into all of their future releases, but it looks as though it is tied exclusively to the Rainforest of the Sea palette. (It is also worth mentioning that the Rainforest of the Sea palette was not made in the USA, like the shadows in Tarte's permanent line. It was made in Italy, and nearly all of the best shadows I have ever tried have been made in Italy.)

Because Rainforest of the Sea is so good, it is immensely disappointing that this huge holiday offering is so bad. But, for what it's worth, even if the Pretty Paintbox had received glowing reviews, I still would not have purchased it. And the reason for this is because I already have all of those shadows in my collection, and this palette is so bulky. It would not be convenient for me to pull such a huge item out to do my makeup on a regular basis. 

It may seem simple, but in the future, I hope Tarte learns the simple lessons of less is more and quality over quantity

If you were really interested in the general color scheme of the Pretty Paintbox and wanted to dip your toes into Tarte's eyeshadows, I really recommend the Tartelette in Bloom palette. 

This is the number-one palette I recommend to people. I think it is a perfect palette and perfectly curated. There are shades that will flatter all skin tones, from light, medium, and deep, to those with warm, cool, neutral, and olive undertones. There are only three shimmers, but they are (in my opinion) the perfect shimmers colors to build beautiful looks. 

When I see Tarte have the ability to make a palette like Tartelette in Bloom and Rainforest of the Sea, the Pretty Paintbox looks like nothing more than a waste of money. And I won't be buying. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Hourglass Surreal Light Ambient Lighting Edit Palette

Hourglass has come out with another palette of their loved ambient lighting products for holiday 2016, and this one was the biggest disappointment of the season for me.

And I won't be buying.

The cost of this palette is a whopping $80 for .30 ounces of product. To put that in perspective, one full-sized Ambient Lighting Powder is $46 for .35 ounces of product.

So this Edit palette costs nearly double the price for less product than one full-sized powder.

According to Temptalia's review, the Edit palette contains $53.30 worth of product. For $80. That is one hell of an upcharge.

The palette contains:

  • Surreal Light, an Ambient Lighting finishing power
  • Surreal Glow, a blush 
  • Surreal Effect, a blush 
  • Surreal Bronze Light, a bronzer
  • Surreal Strobe Light, a strobe (highlight) powder
There are a few things I would like to address.

Let's start with the positives.

I like the packaging. I've heard some people refer to it as "bathroom tile" packaging, but I personally really like the marble look to it, and I prefer it over the typical Hourglass packaging that quickly becomes covered in fingerprints.

I like that you get to sample so many different finishes within the Ambient Lighting line. You get a finishing power, blushes, a bronzer, and a highlighter. For the very few people this would work for, it would act as an excellent travel palette as you have everything in one small compact.

Now onto the negatives.

Frankly, this product is a blatant ripoff, and as a consumer and longtime fan of Hourglass, that tactic does not impress me.

Typically during the holiday season, brands will give customers a value with their seasonal offerings, with some claiming to be as high as a $350 value for $49. So it truly baffles me that Hourglass does the opposite. They give you a $53 value for $80. That I just cannot understand or support.

What is especially frustrating about this is that I absolutely love Hourglass products. My all-time favorite finishing powder is the Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light:

All-time favorite blush is Mood Exposure:

And all-time favorite bronzer is Luminous Bronze Light:

I love these products. I have used Dim Light daily (literally) since I purchased it, Luminous Bronze Light is by far my most used bronzer, and I wear Mood Exposure almost exclusively during the colder months (about half the year). 

I would have loved to own a travel palette from Hourglass so that I wouldn't have to carry these three large compacts with me, but I absolutely cannot justify the price. 

Another point worth mentioning is that I've heard reviewers say that the colors only work for very fair skin. That also is so disappointing. 

With all-in-one palettes, it can be difficult to figure out the right audience. The palette is either going to absolutely perfect for one specific skin tone only, or different parts of it will work for different people with all people being able to find something that works for them. The biggest problem with the second scenario is that most people won't be able to use the entire palette, only the parts that work for them. 

I honestly don't know which is better. In a perfect world, there would be complete palettes of the same idea that come in different classifications for different skin tones. It would be great if a palette such as this could come in a light, medium, and deep selection. But I am yet to see that from any brand. 

I do find it inherently obnoxious, however, that when brands do decide to go with the first scenario and make a palette perfect for one skin tone, it is always for a light one. I have a light-to-medium skin tone, and most of the shades in this palette wouldn't even show up on me, let alone the spectrum of medium and deep skin tones. 

The only value I could see in this palette is if you have the exact skin tone this palette has targeted and you personally find value in having your Hourglass powders in one compact. If you are willing to pay $80 for that convenience, this would probably interest you. 

But to me, it feels like a ripoff with no consideration for diversity, and I won't be buying.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Kat Von D Metal Matte palette

Kat Von D's offerings seem to be the most coveted every holiday season. Last year's Mi Vida Loca Remix palette was a huge success and garnered largely positive reviews. It seems this year's Metal Matte platte will also be a hit.

But, I won't be buying it.

Generally speaking, I'm a fan of Kat Von D shadows. The Shade and Light Eye is one of my favorite matte palettes. The shadows have great color payoff, have some substance to them, and play well with some of my favorite shimmer shadows.

I also really enjoy Kat Von D's metal crush eyeshadows. Thunderstruck has been a favorite of mine for a while.

So, a palette made up of her metal and matte shadows? Perfection.

But I don't need it.

What I like about this palette is that it doesn't look like everything else we've already seen ten times over and certainly doesn't look like other holiday palettes offered this year. It also appears to flatter a multitude of skin tones and will look especially beautiful on people of color. I appreciate that Kat Von D's two latest palette releases seem to carefully consider more than light skin tones.

The biggest reason why I'm skipping out on the Metal Matte palette is because I don't think I would personally get a ton of use out of it. My skin tone is warm olive, and this palette leans a little too cool overall for me.

I already own the Viseart Dark Matte palette, so I don't have any need for dark matte colorful shades. And even then, that is one of my least used palettes because I don't make a dark colorful look very often. So, the dark half of the palette wouldn't get much use. And in order for this to be a "complete" palette for me, I would want different light matte shades. A warm peach or tan shadow is my favorite to blend most colors, so I would have to pull from other palettes to get a look I really like. And the light half of the matte shades would also go largely unused.

The shimmer shadows are beautiful, but I wouldn't regularly wear half of them (the blues and teals) and already have colors similar to the other half.

The only concern that I have with this palette is that Kat Von D as a brand traditionally has had quality control issues. When the Serpentina palette was released, there was not consistency in the shadows or across palette batches. Many people found Serpentina to be patchy and difficult to work with.

But, assuming that there are no quality control issues, I can see this being the "winning" release of holiday 2016. It's different, has colorful and neutral shades, has a mix of beautiful finishes, and looks as though it will flatter most skin tones.

There is certainly a lot to love in this palette if you will get use out of it. And that becomes the real decider on this one. I personally wouldn't get much use out of it. And as much as my gut tells me, "It's pretty! I need it!" I don't actually need it.

I give Kat Von D credit for making a really interesting palette. But I won't be buying.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Too Faced The Chocolate Shop Holiday 2016

For me, arguably the most disappointing holiday releases come each year from Too Faced. And this year's "Christmas in New York" Chocolate Shop collection is no different.

I won't be buying.

Unpopular opinion alert: I don't think I really like Too Faced shadows. Hear me out.

I've been a makeup (and specifically eyeshadow) enthusiast for going on seven years now. I am embarrassed and a little ashamed to admit that I have owned nearly every major eyeshadow palette that has released during that time.

From Too Faced, I have owned: the Chocolate Bar, Chocolate Bon Bons, Boudoir Eyes, Natural Matte Eye, and Peanut Butter and Jelly palettes.  Of those, the only ones I have not decluttered are Chocolate Bon Bons and Peanut Butter and Jelly, and I'm really close to decluttering PB&J.

When compared to my favorite shadows (Viseart, Tarte, Make Up For Ever, Kat Von D, MAC), Too Faced shadows aren't up to par for me. I found the Chocolate Bar to be very dry, and the mattes weren't the easiest to work with. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I didn't like it because it was such a beloved palette. It's only been in recent months that more people have been outspoken about how the Chocolate Bar doesn't work for them either.

Too Faced seems to be a brand that can drum up hype to an unparalleled degree. Nearly every single palette they launch will sell out of stock immediately and leave consumers salivating until the next restock. Part of this, I think, is purely smoke and mirrors. It's the packaging, the cute esthetic, and the gimmicky scents. It's smart marketing, but I don't personally feel the quality lives up to some of my other shadows.

As a result, I've never been wowed by a Too Faced holiday or limited edition release. And that's for two reasons:

  1. They all look the same. 
  2. The quality is not on par with their permanent line. 

Let's address point one first. Here is the Chocolate Shop palette for holiday 2016:

Here is Too Faced's release for holiday 2015:

Photo: Temptalia

Here is Too Faced's release for holiday 2014:

Here is Too Faced's limited edition Stardust palette with Vegas Nay:

And here is Too Faced's most recent limited edition palette, The Power of Makeup by Nikkietutorials:

To me, ALL of these palettes look like variations of the same thing with minor differences. As many reviewers have said, "If you have one Too Faced holiday or limited edition palette, you don't need another." 

That is what's funny to me about Too Faced. They are seen as leaders in innovation and being on top of/setting trends, but then their holiday releases are so lackluster. And it seems to me that they place more importance, creative energy, and innovation on the packaging than they do the product. 

Which brings me to point two. The quality. 

At this point, it is pretty well documented that Too Faced holiday palettes are not up to par quality-wise with their permanent range. Many shimmer shades feel gritty and are full of glitter and no pigment, and matte shades swatch with barely any pigmentation. 

For the Chocolate Shop, the matte shadows seem to be the worst offenders according to the reviews I've seen thus far. So while the shimmers might be nice, that's at least half the palette that isn't very good. 

But more than anything, the reason I don't need this palette is because I already have more than enough basic natural shades, and in far better quality than what the Chocolate Shop offers. I have champagnes, silvers, bronzes, coppers, golds, and a plethora of matte browns that span the cool- and warm-color spectrums. I have a ton of matte brow bone shades and shimmery inner corner highlights. 

This palette offers nothing for me other than cute packing of a pink box with a vague connection to New York. And that's something else I don't really understand. It seems Too Faced is going for two themes with this palette: "Christmas in New York" and "The Chocolate Shop."

As someone who lives in New York City, I don't at all feel a connection with the city and this palette. I feel the connection is stronger with "the Chocolate Shop" seeing as the shadows are chocolate scented and are various shades of chocolate or chocolate foil wrapping. I've heard people say they will buy this palette simply for the New York connection, and that, to me, is just silly. Because it doesn't seem like that connection is really present here. 

This is just another lackluster holiday release from Too Faced that we have seen year after year. It's boring, the quality is lacking, and it's all packaging and chocolate-scented smoke and mirrors. 

And I'm not gonna buy it. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What I'm Not Buying: Lorac Mega Pro 3

I figured I'd get a head start on this one as the palette isn't launching until October. (That's one positive I'll give Lorac--that they are releasing their holiday palette a little closer to the actual holiday season than the majority of cosmetics brands.)

The Lorac Mega Pro 3 will be a hit, I'm sure. Tons of people will run out and buy it, and we will be swamped with hyped review after hyped review. Part of this, I feel, is residual hype left over from the original Mega Pro release that most people were unable to get. Since they missed out on that one, people will make damned sure they get this one. 

When I first saw the teaser images Lorac released of the Mega Pro 3, I'll admit I had an immediate reaction of "MUST BUY!" But then I let my rational side come out. And I won't be buying this palette. 

There's no denying it. The Lorac Mega Pro 3 looks beautiful. As I have mentioned before, gold, bronze, copper, cranberry, peach, and mauve are my favorite shades, and all those are present here. So, of course, when I first saw it I wanted it. Of course. But will it fill any void in my collection? Absolutely not. 

That's the thing about having more than a minimal collection. You are likely to already have most colors in new palettes. And if you have a minimal collection, you probably already know what you like and don't want to add to it. 

When I look at the Mega Pro 3, I see a beautiful assortment of colors... that I already own. There is not a single color in the above picture that I don't already have a least one, if not five or more, in my collection that look exactly like it. 

I know the Lorac Pro formula is a favorite of many, but I'm not one of them. I purchased the Lorac Pro 2 earlier this year to try out the formula. I really enjoyed the shimmer shades, but I think shimmers are pretty easy to make and most brands have nice shimmers. I wasn't a fan of the matte formula. I've said it before, but mattes are the workhorses and unsung heroes of all of my eyeshadow looks. And the Lorac Pro matte formula wasn't that great to me. I found they were very powdery with a lot of kickup. The formula was light and airy, but didn't feel substantial to me. I tried look after look using the Lorac Pro 2, and each time I found the matte shades to look muddy on me. The formula reminded me a lot of the Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette, which I also sadly didn't like. I like my matte shadows to have some substance and weight to really cling onto my skin and then blend creamy and seamlessly with other colors. I didn't feel like the Lorac Pro matte shades were able to do that. 

Since I don't like the Lorac Pro matte formula, that's half of this palette that I wouldn't really enjoy using. That, right there, is reason enough not to buy. 

Let's look at the other two Lorac Mega Pro palettes: 

Lorac Mega Pro (original)

Lorac Mega Pro 2

When I compare the first two Mega Pro palettes to the third, I feel there is not much new going on. If anything, it is slightly reminiscent of the first Mega Pro, but even then, if given the choice, I would pick the first one over the third. 

Something else to consider is how much use you'll get out of one of these palettes. I've heard from countless reviewers that they hardly ever use either of their Lorac Mega Pro palettes because the palettes are so big that they are inconvenient. Or that the palettes have too many options and are overwhelming. 

I've also seen these palettes make an appearance in a lot of eyeshadow palette declutter videos. What's interesting is that the person decluttering will mention that they hardly ever use the Mega Pro palettes, but also can't bring themselves to part with them because they were so hard to get. 

More than anything, I think people need to get off the hype train with these palettes. If you're not going to use them, there is no point in buying them. And really, no one in the real world is ever going to know what eyeshadows are on your eyes, or know the difference between the Lorac Mega Pro 3 or shadows from Too Faced or Urban Decay. 

Most people will likely lose interest in this once the next big release happens, and they you will have a giant, unused palette. 

Finally, something that worries me about the Mega Pro 3 is quality. It was widely noted during the release of the Lorac Pro 3 that the formula that most people loved had been changed, and not for the better. The Pro 3 is also the only palette of the Pro line to receive a good amount of negative reviews. I worry if Lorac has changed the Pro formula to something cheaper (while also increasing prices). And as I've mentioned before, I also wonder if Lorac will source this product out to a cheaper lab, which will also cause a discrepancy in formula. 

Had the release of the Lorac Pro 3 been highly positive, I don't know if I would be worried so much about quality. But since it wasn't reviewed well and it is a permanent item, I wonder if there is a definite change in Lorac Pro quality. 

For me, I didn't care for the matte formula anyway, so it doesn't really affect me, but it would be highly disappointing for people who love the formula if it has been changed. 

Either way, despite it being a beautiful palette, and despite knowing that in a month most people will be raving about this product and the hype will be insane, I've got to say no to the Lorac Mega Pro 3. I won't be purchasing.