Friday, December 15, 2017

What I'm Not Buying: Morphe 39A Dare To Create Eyeshadow Palette

As part of their holiday collection, Morphe has released a 39-pan limited-edition eyeshadow palette, called 39A Dare To Create. 

And I won't be buying. 

Morphe has been... kind of surprising me lately. For me, the surprise started around the time they launched the Jaclyn Hill palette, because the packaging was different and nicer than what I had seen the brand put out before. And then in an unexpected (at least for me) move, Morphe products moved into select Ulta stores and the popular Jaclyn Hill palette was given even better packaging. An added bonus was that people who bought this palette at Ulta didn't have to pay the crazy high costs for shipping. 

And then Morphe came out with the 39A, which looks different from any other Mophe palette I have seen and also appears to have better packaging. 

It shouldn't be all that surprising, I guess, considering Morphe's growth. I don't claim to be an expert by any means, but from my understanding, a lot of brands private label when they first start out, and as the business grows, they are able to start becoming more independent. And it's certainly not surprising that Morphe has grown as much and as quickly as they have because of their selection of partnerships with some of the biggest beauty personalities on YouTube. 

I've mentioned this before in several blog posts, but I have owned a few things from Morphe. There is is store where I live in NYC that has sold Morphe items in-store for years, and I was able to swatch and look at items before purchasing. 

I purchased the 35T and 35OS palettes, but both palettes have been decluttered because they smelled really bad, the mattes were terrible, and the shadows irritated my skin and made my eyes water. That was pretty much enough for me, and I didn't really have an interest in getting anything further from the brand. 

About a month ago, I was gifted the Jaclyn Hill palette, and it was purchased from Ulta, so it had the upgraded packaging. I'll be honest and say that I was expecting the worst, but the palette surprised me. It didn't have any of the issues I had experienced before. The mattes aren't the best I've used, but they aren't nearly as bad as those in the 35T. I still find the general color scheme to be repetitive, there is a lot of overlap among shades in the palette, and I think it's overpriced. I still wouldn't have purchased this myself, but as a gift, I've been enjoying it. 

But here's the thing with Morphe. Since the release of the Jaclyn Hill palette, they have released the 35O2, which has the same cheap packaging as most of their other 35 palettes. And it makes me wonder if the formula is also the same—the formula that smelled bad, had terrible mattes, and irritated my skin. There doesn't seem to be a lot of consistency in what the brand releases, which doesn't give me a ton of confidence as a consumer. 

But their latest release looks different, and with Morphe, I have come to feel that different is a good thing.

Let's look at the palette: 

When I first saw this palette, I didn't really know what to think. I wasn't sure if the bigger pans in the center were supposed to be face products / a mini highlight and contour kit, or if this was all just eyeshadow. I've since learned that the bigger pans are "super-sized transition shades," so I suppose the logic here is that consumers use those shades more and therefore want more product. 

This is a pet peeve of mine, because I don't like it when a brand decides which shadows or colors I'm going to use the most. For example, the color I personally use most as a transition shade is Colourpop The News, which is a mix between pink and coral (sadly, it looks as though Colourpop has discontinued this color, but Costal Scents Petal Peach is similar), and I don't see any shadow in the 39A that looks similar to this, and certainly not in the transition shade row.

To put it bluntly, these "super-sized transition shades" are several shades of beige and brown that don't vary too dramatically. That would be my biggest complaint with the Jaclyn Hill palette as well, which is that there seems to be so many repeated tones. It's as if Jaclyn Hill/Morphe were anticipating the shades consumers were going to run out of and so they decided to put duplicates of those shades in the palette. And that's just not something that I want in a palette. When I look at the 39A, I see the same kind of issue, just with bigger pan sizes. 

Of course, this is an issue across every single large Morphe palette that I have seen, and it is also an issue in other sections of this palette. There are multiple dark browns, blues, reds, and oranges. And while, yes, I can see that there are different tones of those shades, on the eyes, it doesn't always translate to something distinct. 

Let's talk about price. This palette retails for $32, which is higher than most Morphe palettes ($23), but less than the Jaclyn Hill palette ($38). Morphe shipping costs around $8 for domestic orders, and they offer free shipping for domestic orders over $50. So, not including tax, this palette will cost upwards of $40, which is putting Morphe into the mid-range price scale. 

And, here's the thing with this palette. When I look at it, it seems somewhat unique. And that's because it has 39 shadows in it. You can cover a lot of ground with that many shadows. It's got two rows of warm-toned shadows, a row of "transition shades," and two rows of cool-toned shadows. Most palettes have considerably less shadows, so the color schemes aren't exact. 

Nonetheless, palettes that have similar color schemes include NYX Earth:

Urban Decay Vice 3:

Juvia's Place Masquerade:

On the cool-toned side, it looks like NYX Water:

On the warm-toned side, it looks like NYX Fire:

And Colourpop Yes, Please!

Similar tones can be found in Urban Decay Heavy Metals:

And, this one is really important, so many of the shades in the Morphe 39A are also in the Jaclyn Hill palette:

Let's talk about this last one for a moment. I know that a lot of people get attached to packaging. I have been there myself, and, in fact, I've only met one person (a dear friend) who loved the look of my custom palette with depotted shadows so much that she wanted me to tear all of her palettes apart and do the same thing. And it's in the nature of the beast of buying palettes that you will get some overlap. It seems people are constantly torn between the hypocritical nature of "I want this palette to have more unique shades!" and "Ugh, why doesn't this palette have my favorite brow bone highlight or warm brown transition shade?"

There are some palettes that I've had no problem depotting, others that I don't want to, and others that I just can't because of how they are made. But I learned the biggest lessons from Morphe when I depotted the 35T and 35OS palettes. I took all of the shadows out, and when I went to put them in a custom palette, I couldn't tell the difference between so many of the shadows. I then started swatching, only to find that there were several instances of the exact same color being in the palette a few times over. 

If you own the Jaclyn Hill palette and are considering buying the 39A, I suspect that you will find quite a bit of overlap, especially in the first three rows of the 39A. 

Packaging is a thing. We all know that it is. That doesn't mean that we all fall for packaging, but we know that brands use it to manipulate us into buying things. I was envious of that friend I mentioned earlier. She visited me recently and was looking at my palettes and was drawn to my duped Desert Dusk palette:

Since she knew she couldn't recreate this exact palette, she asked me if I thought she should buy the palette from Huda Beauty. And I said no. Instead, I told her to get the Coloured Raine Queen of Hearts palette, since so much of my custom palette is just that palette depotted. So we went to this same store in NYC that sells Morphe, and she was able to buy the Queen of Hearts palette in-store. Without missing a beat, when she got it back to my place, she handed it over to me and asked me to take it apart. Just like that. She had absolutely no connection to the packaging or to how it looked with the colors arranged in the palette. So I depotted the colors for her, along with some of her other shadows, and she spent the next couple of hours rearranging her shadows to create a perfect palette for her. 

Seeing her have zero attachment to packaging just really hit me. And it made me realize just how often we all look past buying the same things over and over and over again because it makes us feel comfortable seeing all the colors together in a way that "makes sense" to us. 

On the whole, I'm still not really on board with Morphe. I feel like their brand is generally moving in a better direction with these two not-so-obviously private labeled palettes and selling their products in Ulta where people can swatch and return. But the Morphe shilling is still way too much for me to really be on board with the brand, especially when a lot of people they work with are incredibly problematic. 

With 39 eyeshadows, the 39A is an overwhelming palette. There's a lot of color there. If you're new to makeup, don't already own much, and are looking to experiment with warm and cool tones, I can see the appeal in this palette. Years ago, the Costal Scents 88 palettes were incredibly hyped, and some people still talk about those palettes fondly and credit them with helping them to understand color. Those huge palettes never appealed to me personally, but I can understand the impulse of wanting to try a lot of colors without having to buy several expensive hyped palettes. 

But for people who already have a solid collection of eyeshadow (or who own one or more of the above palettes), the 39A just isn't needed. I think people still think of Morphe has this inexpensive brand, but when you're looking at upwards of $40 plus tax for this palette, it's not inexpensive. And if you have some or all of these shades already (and, let's be honest, most people probably have the browns, reds, and other warm tones), there's not really any need to get this palette. 

I don't personally want to add another 39 shadows to my collection, especially when most (if not all of them) are shades that I already own. So, I won't be buying. 


  1. I cannot believe just yesterday I was thinking if I should get this palette and wishing you would write about this. This is great, I can skip this palette since I already have the Jaclyn hill one. I like morphe paletteS, they cater to my love for affordable makeup and wide colour one point I have almost all the 35 pan palettes, 35T, 35F, 35K, 35P, 35O, 35R. I even have the 25 pans. But after a year of owning all those palettes, I realise I don't use them. They are too bulky, and the colours are too similar. You can only get one look out of each palette no matter which colors you choose in the palette. The mattes are not very good, and it just became too much of a pain to store them.

    I have only the 35F and 35O left, and I love the 35F but I'm about to get rid of the 35O. The 39A has the same problem to a lesser extent, too many browns. Seeing that many similar colors really puts the brakes on creativity. In the end, morphe palettes aren't the great value they seem. I was attracted to the different colour story in each row of the 39A, but that's nothing I don't already have with my Juvia's place Masquerade palette.

    Thanks for the well-timed post :)

  2. Great article! I'll tell you why I DID buy this palette though. I use one or two colors from each of my palettes and a (close enough for me) dupe of each of those is included in this palette. I picked it up for $32 on, had $15 in rewards dollars and free shipping. It cost me $17 out of pocket, and I can sell my barely used Naked 3 or Tartelette for that much. I will be depotting this beast into my ZPalette, sanitizing and selling my other palettes, and cleaning up my eyeshadow collection. This palette has everything I need right now and I'm thrilled it was released. It's WAY too big though, and you're right about those transition shades. I'm a cool toned person and I'll never use the majority of them.

  3. its has become one of my favourite palette. as a woman of colur, i never get enough of nudes and browns, all the colurs are absolutely lovely. but my besties are Juvias place. my advice is to mix and match colurs, a bit disapointed with urban decay palettes though but i have learnt to mix colours, so i am enjoyinf it. :)