Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Clarins’ Palazzo d’Oro Collection:  Gold Attraction Eye Quartet

Clarins Gold Attraction Eye Quartet & Liner Palette ($66.00) is a limited edition holiday palette from Clarins’ Palazzo d’Oro collection, which was “inspired by the light and sumptuous radiance of the architecture of Venice.” It’s a very minimalist collection with four pieces: an eyeshadow palette, a face palette, a lipstick, and a mascara.

The Eye Quartet includes a soft, shimmery milky pink, high-sheen peachy-gold, subdued taupe brown with subtle gold shimmer, and a richer, chocolate brown with just a smidgen of gold specks in it. It also has a black-brown cream liner included with the palette. All four shades are pigmented, and the eyeshadows themselves are smooth to the touch. They blend easily, and this combination of shades is actually very easy to use, because they work so well together. It’s not quite a neutral quad–almost like a neutral quad with a kick, I suppose. It’s perfect for the holidays, but it’s a palette you could easily continue to use throughout the year.

The packaging is stunning; it’s a heavy metal-ish compact that looks like gold. I may even go as far as to say I like the packaging more than the contents! It’s just particularly lovely and well-done, and I am happy that the insides didn’t disappoint.

I only found one drawback for this eyeshadow palette, and it’s the price. The price is really tough to swallow, even for Clarins. Even though you are getting 0.17 oz. of eyeshadow in the palette, it still works out to be $388.24/ounce–which prices it above MAC and NARS, but around the level of Givenchy and Chanel. They sell eyeshadow quartets as part of their regular line-up at $40 each, so I do think you are paying quite a bit on top of this for the packaging itself.

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 6/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 5/5

Recommendation: If you’re a sucker for packaging, Clarins’ Gold Attraction palette just might sucker you in!

Availability: Clarins, Nordstrom

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Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Holiday Glitz & Glamour with Dolce & Gabbana Gold Smooth Eye Colour Duo

Dolce & Gabbana Gold Smooth Eye Colour Duo ($36.00 for 0.17 oz.) contains two eyeshadows housed in a “gold” compact and two sponge-tipped brushes.

The two shades included are a shimmery, true yellow gold with a metallic sheen and a coppery bronze shade with a metallic/frost finish. I already know what you’re thinking — because I thought the same, too — these are exact dupes of MAC’s Goldmine and Amber Lights eyeshadows. And you know what? They are and they aren’t. The gold shade in this duo is truer gold, a little yellower (less orange), and it’s not as frosty. The coppery shade is smoother, not as coppery (slightly more golden), and also not as frosty.

At the end of the day, they are reasonably similar, though, so it’s a matter of what poison you prefer. These are ultra smooth, silky shades that blend effortlessly and both shades pack plenty of color pay off. I recommend you check out a swatch of Goldmine and see how it differs, as well as do the same for Amber Lights.

Surprisingly, Dolce & Gabbana provides you with a good amount of product in this eyeshadow duo. You get 0.17 oz. for $36 or $18.00 per 0.085 oz. eyeshadow (or $211.76/oz.). This makes Dolce & Gabbana (by the ounce) less expensive than MAC ($290.00/oz.) and NARS ($314.29/oz.). I love comparing by the ounce, because it gives you a way to compare across any and all brands and just see how much you’re getting for your money. For some of us, the amount isn’t really that important, because we know we’re unlikely to finish an eyeshadow! (You know, maybe it’s not “us” but it’s me, and I feel better if I believe I’m not alone.)

Bottom Line: Dolce & Gabbana surprised me with how high quality their eyeshadows were. When I first started trying out their products, I had a fear that they’d be gimmicky and very reliant on their name rather than their product, but I was completely wrong. I’ve been pleased with the majority of their products, and the Gold Eye Colour Duo is no exception. The eyeshadows have a smooth texture, lovely metallic finish, and color pigmentation is very true.

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation: I love that you’re getting your money’s worth in eyeshadow, even if I may not use it all up myself, and I happen to adore these kinds of shades (hello, I’m a total gold-eyeshadow girl!). I think if these shades appeal to you, it’s worth checking out. If they don’t, maybe check out one of their other duos!

Availability: Saks

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Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Bobbi Brown Chrome Palette ($75.00) is the stunning eye and lip palette include with Bobbi Brown’s Chrome Collection, and it is also limited edition (of course!). The palette includes ten shades of eyeshadow and four shades of lip glosses.

For Eyes

  • White Eyeshadow is just that, a matte snowy white. It’s slightly cool, but it isn’t frosty or cold.
  • Polar Ice Eyeshadow is a soft, light gray with a blue tinge and silver shimmer. It goes on a bit sheer, but it can be layered for a slightly more solid look.
  • Storm Cloud Eyeshadow is a sparkly medium dark brown. It doesn’t really have anything special about it to make it unique, but it still looks pretty (you just may already have something similar in your stash).
  • Iron Eyeshadow is a matte slate gray. It didn’t go on as smoothly as the White eyeshadow, and it felt a little more dusty.
  • Thunder Eyeshadow is a glittery dark gray with a touch of black and silver shimmer. This reminded me of MAC’s Knight Divine, though not quite as glittery or gritty.
  • Moonlight Eyeshadow is a glittery soft pink with a little champagne tone. Bobbi Brown describes it as a cool purple sparkle, which is clearly not. The back of my palette shows that this is where Moonlight is supposed to be, but I really feel like this and Foil were misplaced/mislabeled.
  • Cyber Grey Eyeshadow is a slightly purple tinged smoky silver shimmer shade.
  • Foil Eyeshadow is a glittery soft purple-gray — very similar to Cyber Grey, but it has more of a glittery texture. As I mentioned earlier, I think this is really Moonlight and Foil is the other one… as Bobbi Brown describes Foil as “a pale bronze.” Again, I’m just going off the back of my palette (and Bobbi Brown’s website).
  • Chrome Eyeshadow is a silver with a little brown thrown in – kind of reminds me of Pewter Chrome Eyeshadow, but not nearly as pretty. (Sorry, I *love* that eyeshadow, so not much can compare.)
  • Charcoal Haze Eyeshadow is a matte medium gray-black. This one had the same texture as Iron, but it did seem a little smoother.

For Lips

  • Pink Mist Lip Gloss is a medium yellow-pink with multi-colored sparkle. It’s pretty sheer, but I found I could actually see some color when I swatched it on my skin (which I barely could with the Earth Metal palette).
  • Winter Bronze Lip Gloss is a copper sparkled bronze shade. On lips, it looks a bit burnished, but it’s not ultra pigmented so it’s more wearable than it looks.
  • Berry Lip Gloss is a muted plum-berry with soft sparkle. I liked this shade the most, as it seemed opaque enough to add color to lips, but still soft as I’d expect from Bobbi Brown.
  • Chrome Pink Lip Gloss is beige-rose with gold sparkle. It’s pretty, and it’s a shade I could see people loving for everyday.

You know me — I don’t like lip palettes. I don’t like them alone, and I don’t like them when attached to eyeshadow palettes, either. They’re just a no-go for me. I will say that the gloss in these are more pigmented than in Bobbi Brown’s Earth Metal Eye & Lip Palette, which is a plus.  I’m not going to drop points on this product because of that personal bias, so I’m judging on the product included itself, which is better than a lot of lip palettes I’ve tried.

In the palette, you get 10 eyeshadows, each weighing 0.02 oz. (total weight of 0.20 oz.), and you also get four lipglosses, each weighing 0.03 oz. (total weight of 0.12 oz.). A single Bobbi Brown eyeshadow retails for $22 for 0.10 oz. and a single lip gloss retails for $20 for 0.14 oz. The reason for all these conversions is to see exactly how much you’re paying for what and whether it’s worth buying a palette if you like a few shades or if you should look towards Bobbi Brown’s permanent line-up instead. The eyeshadows (by weight) would yield about $44 in value, while the lip glosses yield about $17 — which gives you a total “value” of $61. The palette is priced at $75, so I do think it’s a bit steep, even when you consider the fact that you’re getting a variety of shades all housed in a pretty chrome palette.

I also don’t think there’s quite enough variety between the ten shades of eyeshadows — a few are quite similar (like Cyber Grey and Foil). This is definitely a cool smoky eye palette with a little purple kick. I like that they included three different matte shades in the palette, because I think mattes are often missed in palettes. I do wish they had included a highlighter shade, as I think the White eyeshadow will be too garish on bolder skin tones to work well as a highlighter. In a palette of this size, I’d expect a really obvious highlighter shade.

For me, this palette is just okay. It’s not the best value, and I think Bobbi Brown has better shades (or the equivalent) available in her permanent range. In fact, I definitely recommend her Chrome Eyeshadows (and duh, my #1 recommendation would be for Pewter!) if you’re not liking the majority of the shades in this palette. The eyeshadows are soft, have a smooth texture, and they’re all pigmented. There is nothing wrong with them, but I’m just not loving the color combination overall. Nice but not amazing, you know?

Bottom Line: for those who DO love the majority of the shades in the palette and don’t mind lipgloss in pan form, I think you may like this. It’s housed in chromed-out package (which does hold fingerprints, FYI!), offers plenty of smoky eyeshadow combinations, and is appropriate for the upcoming holiday season.  I also think Bobbi Brown fans may enjoy this more than I did, and I think it’s worth at least a peek next time you’re near a Bobbi Brown counter to see for yourself.

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 24/30
  • Value: 7/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation:

Availability: Bobbi Brown, Nordstrom

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Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Tarte Femme Naturale Eye Palette ($44.00) is an eyeshadow palette that contains ten different shades of Tarte eyeshadow from their fall collection. (Tarte also released the Femme Fatale Eyeshadow Palette with this one.)

  • A pale champagne with slight sheen. This one is a paler version of the color next to it and has more of a frost finish.
  • A champagne with the lightest champagne shimmer. It’s a soft shade, and it makes for a perfect highlighter within this palette.
  • A subdued, semi-matte rose-mauve. I like this shade for two reasons: it’s a subtle way to incorporate a pinker color into your palette without worrying so much it may make you look like you’re crying; but also because I don’t see this particular shade very often. I also dig the finish.
  • A sparkling mix of peachy-gold and soft rose. This reminded me of MAC’s Say Yeah eyeshadow, but a little dark, which is just fine in my book. Say Yeah was always one of my go-to shades. This one has the most frosty/glittery appearance, but I didn’t find it had a lot of fall out issues as glittery shades often do.
  • A deep forest green with a little bit of a grayish tinge. This one had amazing pigmentation and texture–very soft, smooth, and gives you plenty of intensity without having to pack it on.
  • A semi-matte reddish brown. There’s not a whole to say about the shade itself, but it doesn’t read too warm to me (maybe even cool, actually). It has really good pigmentation, and it is surprisingly not chalky for a shadow with such a matte finish.
  • A light, peachy-brown with a frosty finish. This one is similar to the other neutrals in the palette, as it has that frosty look. It’s pigmented and feels soft to the touch.
  • A chalky, cool-toned lilac-pink. Personally, this shade is one I’d find difficult to pull off on my skin tone, but I think those with cooler skin tones will appreciate it. It’s chalky, but I’d say half of it comes from how cool the shade is along with the matte finish.
  • A plummy rose with gold glitter. This color is so stunning! It’s this gorgeous shade that I envision being perfect for fall or holiday. I love the way the gold flecks sparkle in the plummy base. This one wasn’t as pigmented as the others, but it still was pretty good.
  • A rich bronze with gold flecks and a frost finish. This one has a very nice feel to it–very soft–and goes on like butter and has intense pay off.
  • A dark, smoky blue-black with a gray cast. This one was the least pigmented out of the ten shadows, and it kind of dragged a bit when I swatched.

This is a solid palette that gives you a ton of product for under $50. Tarte shadows themselves are high in quality and still affordable.  They’re soft, smooth, and they’re usually easy to blend. The only thing I really wasn’t jazzed over was the product’s packaging.  It just feels tacky to me, and I hate that fingerprints get stuck all over the casing.  The “rose” attached also presents some storage woes.

Each eyeshadow is 0.06 oz., and the palette itself is refillable. Tarte refillable eyeshadows retail for $10 a pop. The palette itself yields you a cost of $73.33/oz. whereas one refillabe Tarte eyeshadow will run you $166.67/oz. Buying these together means you get twice as much for half the cost! :)

  • Product: 25/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 2/5

Recommendation:  If you’d like some neutrals–but not just neutrals–Tarte’s Femme Naturale palette offers a good combination to get you started.

Availability: Sephora

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Monday, October 5th, 2009

Guerlain Imperiale Holiday Collection

Guerlain Bal de Nuit Eyeshadow Quad ($58.00) is the latest limited edition palette to be launched with the Imperiale Holiday Collection this October.

This is a stunning, incredibly elegant combination of classic shades that are perfect for year-round, but the shimmer and sparkle make it particularly fitting for the holiday season. This is not necessarily the most original eyeshadow quad of all time–it’s, at the very least, four shades of neutral-toned eyeshadows.

It includes four shades: a soft, sparkling gold-tinged white; a peachy-pink champagne with a frosty finish; a neutral-cool dark taupe brown with brighter bronze shimmer; and a warm-toned chocolate bronze with gold shimmer. All four shades have good color pigmentation, and as is standard with Guerlain eyeshadows, they feel silky smooth and apply like butter. They’re very blendable, and all four shadows work extremely well together. (Sometimes you’ll get a beautiful quad, but it’s not so easy to work with on its own.)

For me, this is just an easy, no-brainer eyeshadow quad that looks good, works well, and great for travel. I can just use the lightest two shades for a quick swipe of lid color, or I can use the two darker colors to add depth to the crease or go for more of a smoky eye. The quality is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Guerlain, so overall, I’m pleased.

It’s pricey, but as far as value goes? These eyeshadows are the same price, by the ounce, as MAC eyeshadows are. This eyeshadow quad contains roughly 6.7 oz. of eyeshadow, which is pretty good for a palette. With Guerlain, you do get the velvety soft case and the luxe, slighty hefty gold-esque packaging. It just all requires more of an initial investment than smaller-sized MAC eyeshadows.

Bottom line: This is a great, easy-to-use eyeshadow quad that has soft, silky colors that are natural and suitable to many. It’s practical and looks elegant while the shimmer is sophisticated.

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 5/5

Recommendation: If you’re in the market for a travel-worthy eyeshadow quad or a great set of neutrals, Guerlain’s latest just might work.

Availability: October 2009

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Friday, September 25th, 2009

Urban Decay Book of Shadows, Vol. 2

Urban Decay Book of Shadows Vol. II Review, Photos, Swatches

Urban Decay Book of Shadows Vol. II ($48.00) is the second installation in the Book of Shadows eyeshadow palette series. It is also part of Urban Decay’s holiday offerings. You can view my review on last year’s Book of Shadows for comparison, as well.

First, the palette includes sixteen eyeshadows. The new and exclusive shades are AC/DC, Nylon, Mushroom, Sphynx, Jinx, Homegrown, Misdemeanor, and Perversion. The existing shades are Sellout, Gunmetal, Ecstasy, Midnight Cowboy Rides Again, Twice Baked, Half Baked, Flipside, and YDK. Each eyeshadow is 0.03 oz., compared to single eyeshadows that are 0.05 oz. and retail for $16.00 and the deluxe eyeshadows that are 0.09 oz. for $18.00. All of the existing shades are single eyeshadows (not deluxe), so it’s best to compare to that.  Just to put it in perspective, by the ounce, these are about half the price (by ounce!) as the full-sized versions.

Shade Breakdown

  • Perversion is a nearly matte charcoal black with just a tiny dust of silver sparkle. (I know Urban Decay says it’s matte, but it seemed like it had some sparkle to it every time I looked at it.) This shade was also included in last year’s palette.
  • Gunmetal is a frosty, silvery-gray with lighter silver sparkle.
  • Ecstasy is a shimmery cool-toned medium purple with lighter pinky-purple shimmer.
  • AC/DC is a burgundyish-plum with a dirty silver sheen.
  • Nylon is a medium bronzy-brown with softer bronze shimmer and has a frosty finish.
  • Sellout is a frosty, intensely pigmented champagne-nude. I really liked the color pigmentation of this shade in particular, and it felt very, very smooth.
  • Mushroom is a dark, cool-toned taupe-y brown with cool bronze shimmer. This is sort of similar to the cream eyeshadow of the same name.
  • Sphynx is a lightly brightened cotton candy pink with an icier pink sheen.
  • Half Baked is a coppery bronze with a golden bronze metallic sheen and shimmer.
  • Twice Baked is a dark, semi-matte chocolate brown with just a light dusting of bronze.
  • Midnight Cowboy Rides Again is a glittery confection of light taupe brown and champagne. This eyeshadow had the worst texture of the bunch — very gritty, very glittery.
  • YDK is a medium-toned cool-toned brown with a reddish tone and a frost finish.
  • Jinx is a bright, medium freshwater blue that goes on very pigmented and smooth.
  • Flipside is a green-teal, mermaid-esque shade with a frost finish.
  • Homegrown is a bright, grassy green with a golden-green sheen.
  • Misdemeanor is a dark, blue-green shade that is reminiscent of peacock feathers with a soft, green micro-shimmer.

At first glance, I thought the two palettes were too similar for my liking, but after comparing them side-by-side, that was definitely not the case. The only repeated shade is Perversion, but otherwise, the shades are different. Some of the shades themselves are similar, but there are no obvious repeats. I always like Urban Decay’s palettes, because they are always high on value and variety. I like being able to try out a bunch of shades without having to actually purchase all of those individual shades (particularly since it’s very hard for me to finish an eyeshadow, so I don’t actually need a whole pot of it!).

I also like that Urban Decay mixes about half in new shades and half in existing shades. With sixteen shades in total, there are many different eyeshadow combinations one could come up with within this palette. I will say I wish Urban Decay had a better highlighter shade included in this palette or found elsewhere in this, because the closest we come is Sellout, which has a very high metallic/frost finish so it can be garish on the brow bone at times. I could also go with seeing a few matte or semi-matte shades for more texture variety.

These are all minor complaints, mind you, because for the price, it’s a great deal whether you want to travel with it or just use it at home. (If you’re using it at home, the highlight and matte complaints are worthless — just mix it with products you already have.)

The shades are well-pigmented, smooth, and nearly all of them have a frost/shimmer finish. (If you don’t dig that, you won’t dig this.) The only shade I had any real issue with was Midnight Cowboy Rides Again, because it is extremely glittery, so it has fall out issues. Otherwise, the shades were impressive, and clearly there is a lot of color to play around with in this palette. This makes a great gift for yourself or a friend, too.

The packaging is just so-so; I found last year’s packaging prettier and more cohesive. I found both palettes to be a little bulky, and I wouldn’t mind something that just open and shut, rather than pulling out a drawer of eyeshadows. The inclusion of a miniature sized UDPP as well as Zero and Bourbon eyeliners is just icing on the cake–all three are handy in application and for travel.

  • Product: 8/10
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 8/10
  • Packaging: 7/10

Recommendation: If you’ve always wanted to try Urban Decay eyeshadows, their palettes are always a choice way to do so. You get great value and good variety!

Availability: Urban Decay

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