Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

NYX Purple Smokey Look Kit
NYX Purple Smokey Look Kit

More Purple Than You’ll Know What to Do With

NYX Purple Smokey Look Kit ($11.00 for 0.32 oz.) is an eye and lip palette; it contains nine eyeshadows and two lip colors. If you’re a fan of cool-toned, purple eyeshadows, this is a palette with your name on it! The palette includes: a smoked, blackened purple with violet sheen; brightened navy blue with a subtle sheen; softened fuchsia lilac with a satin sheen; light fuchsia pink with satin sheen; gray-tinged brown with cool undertones; pinked brown with sheen; softened violet with sheen; red-toned, medium purple with violet shimmer-sheen; and dusty brown. The lip shades included a pinky nude cream and a metallic bronze.

The majority of the eyeshadow shades were nicely pigmented, but three were on the sheerer side — the pink brown, softened violet, and dusty brown. The dusty brown was pretty pitiful for me; extremely sheer, almost chalky, and wasn’t working for me whatsoever. The other eight shades were much more workable, though, so it’s easy to forgive a palette of nine shades for only one bad apple. I liked that only a couple of the shades had a frostier finish, while the rest had a low satin sheen. Shimmers/satins are easier to blend but sometimes you can get too much of a good thing!

I didn’t like the lip colors very much–they’re a little sticky and the shades themselves don’t seem to fit with the palette. A metallic bronze lip is lovely, but I’m not so sure about pairing it with such cool purples. I wouldn’t grab this for the lip colors, but I do like that they’re in a separate pull-out drawer, which means they won’t get any cross-contamination from the powder eyeshadows. The included double-ended applicators aren’t anything to write home about; the bristled one is sparse and a little scratchy, while the sponge-tip is thin and a little scratchy.

The palette itself is housed in a square black palette, so it manages to look sleek and compact, and it would work really well for traveling. It’s a good palette overall, and for $11, it’s obviously a real gem!

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  • Product: 26/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: The quality is good overall with just a couple of misses but enough hits to make it well worth the price.

AVAILABILITY: NYX

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Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Estee Lauder Surreal Violet Eyeshadow Palette
Estee Lauder Surreal Violet Eyeshadow Palette

Estee Lauder Blue Dahlia: Surreal Violet Eyeshadow Palette

Estee Lauder Surreal Violet Eyeshadow Palette ($42.00 for 0.27 oz.) is a purple-hued palette from the Blue Dahlia Collection, which debuted for fall. It includes five shades: pink-lilac with soft sheen; dusty gray with mauve in a matte finish; shimmery white; darkened eggplant with a matte finish; and a sparkly cool-toned purple.

The palette’s interior design is similar to Guerlain’s Eyeshadow Palettes, but the outer packaging is entirely different, and Guerlain’s palette does include a sixth shade along the right hand side of the palette. None of the five Guerlain palettes released for fall resemble either of the two palettes released by Estee Lauder, though–there might be one shade overlap at best, but they are all pretty different from each other. As far as texture is concerned, Guerlain’s is a little smoother, but the pigmentation is similar across both brands with some shades slightly sheer and others more opaque.  Again, even though at first sight, the two brands seem similar, the color schemes for their palettes deviate quite a bit, so it may not curb your desire for an $84 palette.

Both of the matte eyeshadows are a touch dusty but very workable when used with a brush–just make sure to tap excess off to avoid fall out–while the pinky lilac shade is absolutely gorgeous, because the sheen is just right. The frosted white shade may be garish on darker skin tones, and the high-shine finish works better on the lid than on the brow to highlight. The sparkly purple shade is pretty but a little sheer and a good portion of the sparkle seems to disappear by the time you apply it to the lid.

My favorite part about the palette is how well the colors work together.  This is not a palette that has too many dark shades, not enough available textures, or colors that just don’t work together.  It’s well-designed to create both lighter purple-based looks as well as smokier looks.  The inclusion of both matte, satin, and frost finishes allows for the creation of looks with depth.

P.S. — Is it just me or are white sponge-tip applicators incredibly cheap looking?  I don’t like sponge-tip applicators in general, but white just seems to scream cheap to me.

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  • Product: 26/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: If you’re a purple fiend, I think you’ll get a lot of use out of this palette.  There’s a good mix of both warmer and cooler shades, as well as lighter and darker shades, to make this a rather versatile palette.

AVAILABILITY: Nordstrom

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Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Taking a Long, Windy Drive with Ocean Eyeshadow Duo

I really loved the coloring of Dolce & Gabbana’s Ocean Eyeshadow Duo ($36.00 for 0.17 oz.)  LOVED! ON SIGHT!  It’s a mix of lilac-periwinkle and dusty, navy blue.  And so I was greatly disappointed when my first attempt to use it proved as difficult as the Divine Eyeshadow Quad.   Instead, Ocean did this weird thing where it clumped up in spots and went really sheer in others.  I also packed on the color FIVE times before throwing up my makeup brushes in frustration.

AHH, AHH. I FOUND THE KEY. BURIED. LIKE TREASURE!

Oh, yes, I finally found the key to success with these more finicky eyeshadows, but I’m pretty frustrated at how I did find it–which was completely by accident.  I had the compact open by my bathroom sink, and I accidentally splashed water on it.  Since I was about ready to throw in the towel, and there was already a wet spot, I figured let’s try it–let’s dare to use it wet.  TA-DA! VOILA! LIGHTBULB FLASHFLASH!

I don’t typically use powder products wet unless I know it’s designed with that in mind, because some powder products will have a “wet spot” left behind, which just hardens and looks gross.  Mind you, I had previously called the Dolce & Gabbana counter at Saks NY and the artist on the phone said that these could not be used wet.

So I started to hunt around on the ol’ interweb to see if I could find more insight on using these eyeshadows wet, since it worked a treat.  Buried on the Dolce & Gabbana website–but only under the eyeshadow duos–within the “application” tab is a quote from Pat McGrath:  “Achieve multiple looks from a single colour: applied dry, the shadows appear softer and more transparent, but with a wet brush, they become opaque and intense.” This information doesn’t appear on Saks’ website nor under the eyeshadow quad area of Dolce & Gabbana’s website at all.

I’m sad to report that using the eyeshadows wet for the Divine eyeshadow quad I reviewed a few weeks ago didn’t do much for improving the color, but it did make the color apply more evenly and look smoother–so I did go back and amend the review briefly and raised the grade up two notches.

But I think what really killed me was that even though I called to ask, the artist (at least the one working that day) explicitly told me to NOT use these wet or else I would ruin the eyeshadow.  If I had paid for this, I don’t think I would have ever risked it.

The one problem I did encounter by using the duo wet was that it made it more difficult to blend out–you have to work really quickly, because once it dries, it sets and stays as vibrant as it went on initially, but it’s a pain to diffuse after that.

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  • Product: 25/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: If you don’t mind using your eyeshadows wet, then I think this could be a really good duo–they’re two shades I feel like I don’t see that often.

AVAILABILITY: Saks

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Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Chanel Tentation Cuivree Eyeshadow Quad
Chanel Tentation Cuivree Eyeshadow Quad

Chanel Holiday 2010: Tentation Cuivree

Chanel Tentation Cuivree Eyeshadow Quad ($56.00 for 0.24 oz.) is new for holiday, and just like everything else in the collection, it is also limited edition. It’s a rather neutral quad with a smoky brown edge. I actually mean neutral in overall color scheme while the undertone is slightly warm but not much so.

The quad consists of a medium-dark cocoa brown with flecks of silver and bronze shimmer-glitter; softened champagne with a frost finish; high-shine light-medium pink with subtle yellow undertones; and a dark cocoa brown with flashes of molten bronze shimmer. Chanel’s eyeshadow quads can be used wet or dry (with no effect on the eyeshadows themselves), and the two lighter shades look about the same regardless, while both browns deepen. Funny enough, when used wet, the darkest brown seems to loses some of the copper flecks.

Overseas, the circular eyeshadow pans are the norm, while U.S. quads come in square pans typically. I’m not sure whether the change is just for holiday or going forward. I think I prefer the square pans; perhaps that pyramid shape lends it a bit of sophistication that the circular pans lack. It almost looks like a knockoff to me, but I imagine that’s also due to the fact that I’m not used to seeing it that way more than anything.

I don’t love this eyeshadow quad, and I don’t think it’s exactly the same in texture as other quads. It’s not quite as buttery or as smooth. I had some trouble with the medium brown swatching dry, though it sure came together when used wet. This quad is shimmer-heavy, with both of the brown shades having more of a micro-glitter effect than shimmer/sheen, so there is a touch of fall out, which I don’t usually associate with Chanel.

It’s nice but not knock-your-socks-off stunning. I like but don’t love, you know? The quality just isn’t quite there for me, and the abundance of shimmer and frost (and even a bit of glitter) came as a surprise. It’s worth taking a peek at, though!

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  • Product: 26/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: I think warmer beauties will find it very easy to use and a good go-to for smoky brown looks. It will still be nice on cooler skin, but it may not feel quite as complimentary (if you find warmer browns go red on you, I’d skip this).

AVAILABILITY: Chanel

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Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Dolce & Gabbana Divine Eyeshadow Quad
Dolce & Gabbana Divine Eyeshadow Quad

Dolce & Gabbana Divine Eyeshadow Quad ($59.00 for 0.16 oz.) looks like a beautiful, elegant mix of feminine colors that seem neutral–not too cool, not too warm.  I’ve always liked Dolce & Gabbana’s eyeshadows in the past (like Dazzling, Gold, Laguna), and I really haven’t had trouble with application of them.

In addition to having trouble with this palette, I also found similar issues with Ocean eyeshadow duo (also from fall, to be reviewed separately).  I thought perhaps it was due to my usage of NARS’ Smudgeproof as a base, so I tried Urban Decay’s Primer Potion, and I experienced the exact same issues:  sheer, faded colors that looked lovely at first but seemed to fade away as quickly as I applied them; slight muddying of color when blended.  It’s like there was nothing to bind the shadow to my lid, despite the eyeshadow base.

The best solution I was able to come up with was to use a shimmery, white gold cream shadow base (Shiseido Lemon Sugar).  Cream bases can sometimes be more adhesive, which can help softer or more difficult shadows stay on better, and shimmery bases always seem to emphasize colors in my experience.   It’s better–decent to just below good–but it’s not fabulous.

Divine consists of a barely-there beige with a subtle cool tone; medium mauve-tinged beige; frosted cotton candy pink; and darkened blue-toned purple with a semi-matte finish.  After using the quad in three look attempts, the lightest shade was my favorite, because it worked really well as a highlighter on my skin tone.  Though the pink shade swatches the best, it is the worst performer of the bunch, because despite its brightness in the swatch, it looks faded and flat on the lid.  The other three shades are more on the matte/satin side, so they already have a softer look and don’t fall flat when used.

I’m also mildly amused that the Eyeshadow Duos contain 0.17 oz. of product for $36, while the quads hold 0.16 oz. and go for $59.  This quad was a total miss for me, and I really wanted to love it.  It’s stunning when you first open the compact, but it’s such a let-down in practice.  Nothing will get a product onto my skip list faster than requiring me to give it three tries just to yield decent results.  As they say, three strikes and you’re out!

I mentioned it previously, but the nude shades worked just fine; they’re soft, smooth, and apply the same.  I don’t think they’re going to work well on anyone that’s medium-dark to dark in skin tone–they’re just going to be way too light and look chalky rather than subtle.  These shades would work well on light to medium skin tones for a contoured nude eye.  So in a sense, half the palette is… palatable (ha, ha).  I already spoke on the pink shade, and the purplish shade is so-so; it applies smoothly, but it seems to go sheer and fade pretty quickly.

Edited 10/01: Despite calling the Saks’ Dolce & Gabbana counter and being told not to use these eyeshadows wet or else I would ruin them, I did use them wet–it did solve a lot of smoothness/evenness of the eyeshadows on the lid, though the colors were still a bit faded and flat.  I changed the product grade from 20 to 23 as a result, which raised the overall grade from a C- to a C+.  A new issue, as a result of using them wet, was a bit of difficulty in blending out the darker shade.

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  • Product: 23/30
  • Value: 7/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: I’d rather get two lipsticks for the price of one eyeshadow quad. (I have reviewed many of Dolce & Gabbana’s lipsticks with happy results!)

AVAILABILITY: Saks

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Monday, September 20th, 2010

Guerlain 2 Place Vendome Eyeshadow Palette
Guerlain 2 Place Vendome Eyeshadow Palette

Is this palette worth $84?

I know that it probably sounds funny, but after reviewing and being disappointed by Guerlain’s Rue de Francs Bourgeois Eyeshadow Palette, I felt the need to determine whether the palettes were a miss in general or perhaps just that particular combination was underwhelming. I decided to go with Guerlain’s 2 Place Vendome Eyeshadow Palette ($84.00 for 0.25 oz.), which is one variation that seemed to stand out more than the others (to me).

The palette includes six eyeshadows in varying shapes and sizes.  It’s housed in a beautiful compact with a filigree pattern on the cover that’s actually see-through.  There’s a black plastic piece that lifts open to reveal the eyeshadows themselves (and on the inside, there is a mirror).  A dual-ended miniaturized brush is also included, and while not something I’d use under regular circumstances, is nicer than many other palette applicators I’ve come across.

This is a rather cool-toned palette, which would make it most suitable for those who lean cool, but it’s still wearable on warmer skin tones, since they’re closer to neutral than very cool.  There is a pale white-beige with a satin finish, muted gray-brown with a satin finish, medium-dark ocean blue with soft sheen, antique gold with a hint of taupe base and frosted shimmer, cool-toned charcoal brown with a semi-matte finish, and darkened purple-black with flecks of violet shimmer over a semi-matte color base.

I think the pigmentation on the eyeshadows is nice overall, but it’s not rich and intense and luxe to me.  I really don’t get the luxury feel from the texture, but these shades are more impressive in their subtle nuances than in Rue de Francs Bourgeois.  I’m not keen on the level of pigmentation in the lighter brown shade, which is a little sheer; though the charcoal-brown shade appears sheer when swatched, it applies just fine with a brush on the eyes (say in the crease).

I’m still not as wow-ed as I’d like to be with these palettes, and while the palette’s case is most assuredly gorgeous, the eyeshadows don’t quite match it.  The texture could be finer, richer — I think this is what makes me go, “Hmm, I want to like you, but it’s not quite there,” because they don’t feel as buttery as Guerlain’s singles, duos, and quads’ eyeshadows do.  I do like that these have nearly no fall out, and they do apply very smoothly and evenly.

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  • Product: 26/30
  • Value: 7/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 5/5

RECOMMENDATION:

AVAILABILITY: Sephora

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