Monday, March 12, 2018

What I'm Not Buying: Tarte Be a Mermaid and Make Waves Eyeshadow Palette

Coming off the heels of the Shape Tape Foundation backlash, Tarte has released a new eyeshadow palette that is not inclusive and looks exactly like every other eyeshadow palette they have ever released. This version of it, in clamshell packaging, is called Be a Mermaid and Make Waves. 

And I won't be buying. 

Before I get into why I won't be buying this ridiculous palette, I just wanted to share briefly why there hasn't been too much activity on the blog recently. As I mentioned in my last post, I recently made a cross-country move, and I am still settling in and dealing with newness growing pains. Added to that, I have been experiencing some health issues related to the surgeries I had last year, so I've been focusing on my health. 

Thank you to those who continue to tag me in posts of new products, including the person who tagged me in a post about Be a Mermaid and Make Waves, which might be the most unnecessary name for a platte I have seen. 

So, let's talk about Tarte. 

Tarte is a brand that seems to look at everything that Too Faced does, sees that as successful, and emulates it. 
  • Too Faced made their palettes smell like chocolate; Tarte made their palettes smell like vanilla
  • Too Faced serialized their Chocolate Bar palettes; Tarte serialized their Tartelette palettes
  • Too Faced made gimmicky packaging and product names; Tarte made gimmicky packaging and product names
  • Too Faced focused on mermaids and unicorns; Tarte focused on mermaids and unicorns
  • Too Faced caters to white people; Tarte caters to white people 

And Be a Mermaid and Make Waves is no different. 

First, let's talk about the elephant in the room, the clamshell:

This is the outer packaging of this palette, which seems to be a faux leather or vinyl multi-color clamshell. Now, if I'm being totally honest, when I was a very young child (we're talking under 11 or so), I would have begged and begged for a compact that looked exactly like this. Not an eyeshadow palette, but a compact. And that's because I would have loved it for when I was playing pretend that I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid

This would have made an amazing toy for me as a child. As an adult woman, and for $42 plus tax, this is not something that calls to me as being practical or something that has any kind of longevity. 

Let's look at the inside:

The eyeshadows are shaped like pieces of coral, maybe? Or kind of like a mermaid tail? A little? I'm not totally sure what the idea is behind the shape (please let me know if you know), but I can tell you that the way these pans are shaped indicates that Tarte is not expecting people to use up entire shadows. 

I get that Tarte is trying to have an interesting-looking palette that people will want to buy for the novelty of it, but it is common knowledge that the easiest pan shapes to functionally use are circles and squares. If you've ever watched videos of people who use up entire eyeshadow palettes, you'll know that when the pans are oddly shaped (like this), it makes it challenging to use. 

At first glance, the color scheme of this palette is pretty. The colors look nice together. But when you look at it again, and really look at it, you'll see that there are a ton of duplicate colors in it. There are four reds, five pinks, two golds, a blue, a green, and a purple. So in your 14-shaodw palette, there are really only six distinct colors, making more than half the palette repetitive. 

Let's look at the colors away from the packaging and design as just pigments:

When I look at this picture, I see one potentially interesting shade, and it's in the second column, the third shadow down. That reminds me a bit of the way Colourpop Glass Bull looks as just a pigment, and that shadow has quickly become a favorite of mine. But otherwise, these colors all look more of the same to me and like something I have several times over. 

Let's look at swatches:

So, this is the picture that literally made me laugh out loud. I've mentioned this before, but swatch pictures are supposed to make a consumer enticed to buy something. Swatches are so crucial, in fact, that most brands will alter the images to make them look that much more impressive. But when I saw this picture, any positive feeling I might have had about this palette completely vanished. 

I encourage everyone to look at this picture and then cover up the first two or three shadows on the models' arms. when you do, you'll see a whole bunch of bland and repetitive shades. The top three colors are easily the most interesting in this entire palette, and what's great is if you are drawn to those shades, you can get them as singles from brands like Coloured Raine, Makeup Geek, or Colorpop that will be great quality and reasonably priced. 

This color scheme has a lot of problems, the most basic of which is that it is boring. It's basically ABH Modern Renaissance if Modern Renaissance was less pigmented and had three pops of color. The next problem is that the quality looks poor, especially since this is the brand's PR swatch image. The colors don't look very pigmented, and especially on the lightest skin tone (where the colors were not applied as heavily to make them show up), you can see that the colors are patchy. 

This is also evident in the PR images of models wearing the shadows:

The colors look sheer and ashy on both models instead of richly pigmented and foiled like they do in the pan and (somewhat) in the swatches. 

And finally, the biggest problem with this palette is that it is not inclusive whatsoever. Like almost everything that Tarte releases, this palette was only made with light skin tones in mind. And while that is absolutely not surprising at this point, it is nevertheless continually disappointing. It is also not surprising whatsoever that Tarte applied the few colorful shades onto the model with deep skin. That's because the rest of the shades in the palette would have not worked or shown up on her skin. 

With the disaster that was the Shape Tape Foundation release (you can read my anti-haul on that here), you would think that Tarte would have halted or aborted the release of this palette since it is so obviously not inclusive. To release this kind of a palette at a time when people are demanding better tells consumers that inclusivity absolutely is not a priority of the company. 

And what's worse still is that Be a Mermaid and Make Waves looks like almost every other palette Tarte has released. At this point in an anti-haul post, I typically show other palettes that share the same or similar color scheme. But for Be a Mermaid and Make Waves, I'm going to compare it ONLY against other Tarte palettes. 

There's Make Believe in Yourself:

Rainforest of the Sea Volume III:

Dream Big:

Swamp Queen:

Tarteist Pro:

Tartelette in Bloom:

Tartelette Tease:

And Tartelette Flirt:

So not only is Tarte selling a boring, poor quality, non-inclusive palette, but they are also selling a palette that they have sold to you many, many times before. Be a Mermaid and Make Waves might as well be Make Believe in Yourself. They just traded a gold-green and purple for a yellow gold and several duplicate shades. And again, when you take out those three pops of color, it just becomes every other palette listed above. 

Without doubt, Tarte has to be the biggest brand right now that is the least interested in providing interesting, unique, and inclusive products. Instead they are trying to compete for Too Faced's target audience, which is white teens and white young women. 

And I suppose that is perhaps why this palette, especially, is a disappointing release. Tarte has quite a few products that have positive or uplifting names: Dream Big, Make Believe in Yourself, Be a Mermaid and Make Waves. These are important messages to give a younger demographic, especially young women, compared to Too Faced's names like "Better Than Sex" and "Glow Job." But that message is completely ruined when you exclude everyone other than the privileged. 

To end this post, I just want to share a story of something that happened during a recent Sephora trip in Los Angeles. A young woman of color who was disabled was shopping with her mother. The two were trying to find makeup that would work for the young woman, and, frustrated, she finally blurted to her mother, "I know nothing is going to look good on me because my skin is ugly." 

I was shopping near them, and that comment completely stopped me in my tracks. The mother did not dispute the comment, only agreed that there were not going to be options that worked for her. 

People who have the privilege of choice know that others do not have options. But that thought is pushed to the back of their minds because they know that they will have an option. And they think that if there is one option that works for someone else, while there are 50 options that work for them, that it is enough. And since they don't know what it is like to be without options or to be degraded based on skin color on a daily basis, they don't have empathy or see the desperate need for immediate change. 

I don't know what it is like to be without options. And hearing that small conversation between mother and daughter genuinely made me so upset that I had to leave the store. This is why brands like Fenty Beauty are crucial—brands that are created and owned by women of color, have a wide range of inclusive products, and are available in store for people to try. And why brands like Tarte are part of the problem, not the solution. 

Be a Mermaid and Make Waves is a bad release. It is a gimmicky product that is so transparently a lazy money grab created from existing Tarte palettes that is more about packaging than it is about quality or inclusivity. The brutal truth is that it is not hard to be inclusive. And at this point, brands that are not inclusive are not out of choice. There is literally nothing that I like about Be a Mermaid and Make Waves or Tarte, so I won't be buying. 


  1. yes, yes, yes, 1000 times yes. I've only gotten into make up in the last year, and that last year I've learned so much - especially about inclusivity, or the lack thereof it in this industry. Every single tarte palette looks the same anymore, and i'm sick of it. After the shape tape foundation debacle i'm done. I used to use the shape tape concealer, but truthfully it's too drying on me with dry skin, and after that I said F*ck tarte, i'm done. I gave my fairly new tube to a friend and went with creamy radiant. my skin looks amazing, but i am upset about Nars' decision last year to sell in china, and therefore test on animals. I'm finding I can't win a whole lot in make up. I just found your blog this morning, and you are amazing. It's so nice to find someone like minded who highlights the real ethical problems in the cosmetics industry. Thank you! I hope you feel better and are adjusting well in your new home.

  2. I hate the name of this palette. Such a mouthful. The mermaid and unicorn stuff bothers me, it's like companies see us as dumb and infantile and I say this as a person who enjoys cartoons!

    The latter part of your post is thoughtful. I've been getting irritated lately over two new releases and the commentary around it. I saw that when ABH released the Amrezy highlighter there were scores of people claiming that this was a 'dumb' or 'pointless' release because it looked too dark for fair skin. The same thing happened with the newest Huda highlighting palette, which caters to darker skin. Even Kristen Leanne stated that she thought this product was bad because there isn't a shade for white skin. This frustrates me to no end. I am a fair skinned white woman, but not every product has to be 'for' me or even be usuable to me. I found the whole thing to be pretty disgusting actually.

    Anyway, hope you are settling into your new home and the warmer climate. Looks like you missed all those Nor'Easters!

    1. I'm not buying the Amrezy highlighter not because it probably won't flatter my skin tone, but because when I looked up who she was (i didn't know who she was until the ABH collab) I found a pretty disgusting video over her screaming like a lunatic. That said, I love the pan size, the color looks beautiful, but I have to think about who I'm supporting with my money. I was actually excited by Huda's darker highlighter palette and my first thought was, wow that's awesome for the darker skinned girls. kristen should have remained silent on the issue.

    2. Wow. I can't believe there are (still) people who actually say stuff like that, how can some white people be so ignorant? I applaud Huda for her latest release which caters to mainly darker skin. Kristen Leanne.. what even? You'd think someone who has quite a big following would be more aware of racial issues and being inclusive.
      I googled Amrezy and I think the same video which sctigergirl mentions popped up, wow, she seems really full of herself; . It feels like so many youtubers are either ignorant of just full of themselves.. Which is one of the reason I don't really watch them.

      Anyway I really enjoyed reading this post. The last part made me sad though. It is horrible to think that the young girl feels like that and that there are white people who still have the audacity to complain if not every product is suitable for fair skin.. ugh.

  3. The story at the end is very upsetting, not just for the sake of exclusivity and not being included as a thought, but also because the daughter thoughts that just because there was nothing for her, she must be ugly. Her skin must be ugly. NO no oh my god so much NO.

    Not on the same caliber but similarly, growing up I had very long, thick, curly fluffy hair. Now that sounds divine, and I am sure it is, but I come from a country where the ideal is to have smooth, straight blonde hair. It always made me feel bad and I begged and begged my mother to get me an ironing tool, but I was lucky to have a mother who always has told me and keeps telling me how beautiful and rare my hair is. I hope this young woman finds out one day how lovely her natural skin is.

    1. I'm a nurse and in my peds rotation we went to an intercity school that was predominately black. One of the kids told a fellow student that she wished she had her white skin and that it was beautiful. It made us so sad because even early on they see the divide and see themselves as undesirable

  4. The shape of the pans look like scales to me! I am all about cute makeup packaging and this visually appeals to me. But it's a hard pass. 10 of the colours look like dupes of each other in different finishes. I DID get make believe in yourself on sale because I didn't have any shimmers - this one looks so similar but with 90% less unique shades.

  5. 10/10 would buy this for that packaging. 10/10 also would not buy this because I don't like wasting money.

  6. The end of this post made me cry. Honestly, I went into the eyeshadow Shades inclusivity topic with ignorance and this shed so much light for me.i completely understood inclusive shade ranges for skin products, blushes bronzers highlighters etc. But I didn't understand what eyeshadow had to do with skin color. I would think, shes a free woman, she can wear whatever color she wants and rock it. I would always be confused when I heard people talk about it, thinking, "what do they mean that an eyeshadow palette doesn't work for WOC? Women of color can wear whatever eyeshadow they want. It shouldn't matter to anyone else." What it meant to me was'black women can't wear that color' which i found to be extremely offensive and extremely confusing as they were advocating inclusiveness. But now i realize just how privileged I am to even have that thought process,to possibly think that shades WONT EVEN SHOW UP on a certain skin tone never occured to me because I have never had this issue personally. So grateful for this article and the understanding it give on inclusiveness.