FOTD inspired by Jorge Balzaretti feat. Becca Lilac Geode

Lately, I’ve been using the blues and greens in my eyeshadow palettes more. Those shades are usually the least exciting to me (except for maybe the greys), but my loved ones say “Do blue! Do green!” every single time I ask them which color scheme I should pick next. So I’ve been paying attention to blue and green, and finding inspiration in various glitterbomb and “block of color” looks. Jorge Balzaretti of SUQQU recently created a fantastic “colorful makeup” story for ELLE, and I decided to copy his combination of blue on the lid and green underneath the eye:

Last beauty story for ELLE! ❤️

A post shared by JORGE BALZARETTI (@jorgemakeup) on

Not sure which eyeshadows Jorge used, but I reached for my Sleek Storm palette, a decent one for jewel tones. The dark blue shadow, Electric Storm is a little thin and sheer, so I amplified the shine with Vega, the blue glitter from the Urban Decay Moondust palette. Underneath the eyes, I thickly applied Urban Decay Dragon (the green from Vice 3) and blended Sleek’s forest green, Storm Cloud into the lower lashlines. Here is the whole look:

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In most of the selfies I took, the eyeshadows appear flatter and drier than in real life. I got preoccupied with trying to capture my highlighter (read on), so I posed in ways that would allow the sun to hit my cheekbones instead of my eyes. Here is a rare pic that showcases the eyeshadow texture better:

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Next time, to make metallic or glittery eyeshadows look shinier in pictures, I’m thinking of applying them wet (with the elf makeup mist) or piling on a couple more layers.

My lipstick (OCC Dash lip tar) appears similar to what Jorge chose, but for the cheek makeup, I went for something different. I thought this would be a good #fotd for showcasing my splendid birthday present to myself: the Becca Lilac Geode highlighter.

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This is what you call “my precious.”

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The brand describes this Ulta-exclusive color as “cool pink with golden pearl finish,” but on my cheeks, it’s more of a… pale gold, I guess?

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It unexpectedly flashes greenish when sunlight hits it.

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Texture-wise, Lilac Geode is surprisingly different from the other highlighters that I own, from Becca Opal and TheBalm Mary Lou-manizer to the Sleek highlighters. All of those are kind of thin, whereas Lilac Geode seems “creamy,” like the ABH Modern Renaissance eyeshadows. I am looking forward to wearing it on my lids!

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My (Ongoing) Makeup & Photo Journey

I am a late bloomer as far as makeup is concerned. Well, I started wearing makeup at around 13 years old, but I didn’t have any interest in developing my skills or following trends until I was pushing “dirty thirty.” But once it started, it immediately went zero to sixty. I blame my awesome sister, who asked me to buy her popular items such as the beauty blender and the Naked Basics palette. “If she’s so gaga about all this stuff, there must be something about it, right?” Makeup turned out to be a perfect hobby for me: for as long as I can remember, I’d had a mindset for collecting and analyzing stuff.

From the very beginning, I’ve been reading beauty forums and blogs. As someone with an irrepressible urge to write about things I enjoy, I got a desire to, um, “participate in the conversation.” But here I ran into a problem: makeup being a visual medium, to be a blogger, you have to take photos! Daaaaaaamn… At the outset of my beauty hobby in 2014, my selfie chops were at the same stage of infancy as my makeup skills. I still struggle (mightily) with photos, but looking at my first experiments in capturing my looks, I see that I’ve made significant progress. Sometimes, when I feel down or stuck, I can look back at this post and see that with time and practice, any skill can be improved upon, even if you start at zero.

2014

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This was taken very early on my makeup journey. The lip color is hard to see, but it’s Artificial Amethyst by Portland Black Lipstick Co. My makeup collecting was at first pretty haphazard. I just bought random items that I thought were fun, which mostly meant dark and sparkly lipsticks and eyeshadows (me being the office goth and all.)

I also was a complete noob in the picture department: not a “visual” person to begin with, and also terrible at posing (I still am.) There is a reason why my favorite art is of conceptual persuasion. Looking back at it, I was too much of a believer in the “magic of selfies.” As in, selfies are something that you SNAP–just turn your face in various directions, click click click, and a perfect picture will somehow come out. Lighting? Wha? Never heard of it.

But even though the makeup colors and textures are hard to discern, I smile when I look at some of those old selfies. I look obviously pleased with myself for discovering a fun new hobby, and proud to be building a new skillset. And I am grateful to my husband, sister, and friends: even though those selfies were not good, my people were always supportive and helpful.

2015

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As my interest in makeup grew, I changed my approach and made steps to get that hobby systematized. I think 2015 was the heyday of “Instagram baddie makeup,” and I fully took in this style with all its million rules. Such as: “wear 4 transition colors for each eyeshadow look,” “blend blend blend, and then blend again,” “ground bright shadows with neutral colors,” and of course, the good old “face makeup is primer/ full-coverage foundation/ powder/ contour/ blush/ highlighter/ setting spray.”

Nowadays, my style is more chill and less product-heavy. I prefer unblended eyeshadow looks to overblended ones; I rarely use more than one cheek product; and I don’t care for face primer or full-coverage foundation, even if it means that my rosacea and mild acne will be showing. But I am still grateful to have had that “Instagram makeup” experience, as it taught me a myriad of little tips and tricks. I learned how to tightline, which brush motions are best for blending, etc. And because I had bought so many different products, I now have a much better knowledge of what’s out there and how it all works.

At the same time, my photo skills improved only marginally. I started to consider lighting, but I still hadn’t developed the necessary attention to detail. Now, I look at those photos and go: why so blurry? why are my bangs so messy? why is my face not centered? But back then, I just did not give a damn.

2016

Last year, I started to come into my own, and better understand which styles work for me. For example, I realized that I do not want to outline my lips, at all. In general, I became more relaxed about “rules,” as outlined in the previous section. Of course, I cannot just credit myself for this development, as “it was in the air.” (We all like to say we think for ourselves, but we don’t live in a vacuum.) In particular, 2016 saw the rise of playful brands such as Milk Makeup, which promoted everyday versions of anarchic editorial looks (such as their endless unblended smears of bright eyeshadow.)

I also upped my selfie game that year. Instead of “magical thinking,” I began to consciously tie my photo-taking to natural lighting conditions, and notice various details. I analyze data at work–why not analyze my selfies?!

Regarding those pesky details, I got more comfortable to post my pictures on Instagram, because–frankly speaking–I learned some tricks for subtle retouching, such as spot healing. Yes, those tools are problematic, but it can’t be denied that they helped many women with “problem skin” feel more confident in their online self-presentation. It’s up to each individual to decide what they are comfortable with.

2017

These days, my pics look kind of like this:

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Still not perfect, as I’m stuck with taking selfies whenever I can, instead of whenever the natural lighting is best (I’m at work during those times, yo.) But I’m trying to do my best with whatever I’ve got.

I’ve also made an executive decision to stop spot healing. Again, “it is in the air”–feels like there is a “real skin”  movement emerging right now. See conversations prompted by well-known bloggers such as Elia Chabakaury in Russia and Katie Jane Hughes in the U.S. I don’t mind seeing edited photos from bloggers (see above), but for myself, I think I’ll let the breakouts and pores be.

Recently, I started to experiment with new ways to take selfies: direct sunlight, closeups… Some of my recent pics are among the best I’ve ever taken:

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The one on the right actually features my natural facial expression, as I’m not a smiler (to the chagrin of men in the street who tell me to smile.)

I’m hoping to do more photos like that (and better ones) when time and lighting allows. It’s still a journey. In general, this blog post can be summarized in one photo collage:

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FOTD: Urban Decay Ember + Becca Dahlia

This look is based around one of my favorite eyeshadows at the moment, Urban Decay Ember from Naked Heat. Just like the Heat palette itself, it’s really stunning, but not without faults.

Ember is a medium dark brown metallic that flashes red and creates an almost wet effect, especially in electric light.

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Quality-wise, this shadow has two issues though:

1. It creases easily, even on top of a primer. Looks like it’s a common issue with metallic shadows that have a heavier, thicker texture (the metallics in the Viseart Petit Pro palette are another example).

2. It doesn’t blend out beautifully–just to a dull, random gray. That’s why I only pat Ember on, and that’s it, baby.

In the look above, I’m wearing another Naked Heat shadow, Low Blow in the outer crease. Low Blow is one of those soft mattes that “blend itself,” which is cool, but the dust kickup is truly something to behold.

My inner corner highlighter is the classic, Becca Opal, and my liner is the Pixi Black Cocoa pencil fluffed up with a dark brown shadow, Lorac Chocolate. I’d been wanting a brown eye pencil that wouldn’t drag on my crepey lids, and Black Cocoa is it. Pixi’s pencils are gel-based, extremely pigmented, and smooth. However, you need to be careful with them: the other one I have, Deep Plum broke very easily in my sharpener.

Here’s the full face:

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The blush I’m wearing is Becca Dahlia. It came in a flying saucer.

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Inside it looks like this:

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Yep. This product was made for much darker skin tones than mine. But I still purchased it, because… RED. Well, technically, Dahlia is “wine,” but it still falls under a broad rubric of “red” for me. I had a moment earlier this year when I wanted to wear everything red: eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks… (Wait: HAD a moment?.. Now that I’m writing this, I want to slap some juicy reds on right now!)

Since Dahlia is so saturated and strong, I had some blunders before I figured out how to deal with it. And it’s not the most forgiving product, either: once you accidentally pile it on too heavily, blending is really hard. I now tap the pan with my fluffy Real Techniques powder brush, remove the excess if necessary, and swirl the blush very lightly onto my cheekbones. Difficult product as it is, I like the effect created by Dahlia. It has a “natural,” non-powdery finish, and an earthy tone. I find that earthy-toned cheek products flatter me more than pink ones do, as the latter veer too close in color to my rosacea. However, I sometimes wear pink, too–when it comes to makeup, I’m an “anything goes” kind of person. (Well, unless “anything” means white-based pastel lipsticks…)

And now, more full face. My lip product here is the simple Hurraw lip balm in Cinnamon. If you look closely, you will see our collection of Twin Peaks funko pops in the background: Bob, Leland, and Laura (and the Log Lady hidden by my hair.)

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FOTD: Into the Gloss-inspired Red Eyeshadow

Unlike many beauty nerds, I am neutral about Into the Gloss. I do not fawn over it, neither do I consider it the devil incarnate. To me, Into the Gloss is just another “rich girl lifestyle” publication. I do not find that lifestyle stiflingly aspirational, probably because I never aspired to it, and considered it a parallel universe. That said, Glossier makeup (not skincare) seems attractive to me, and the website has some inspiring articles. Including this old one about red eyeshadow! I feel like Into the Gloss shines most when it tries to popularize, umm, wearable versions of high-fashion looks.

Today I decided–one year too late, he he–to try the first look from the piece, the one where makeup artist Grace Ahn used Kat von D’s Raw Power single. I don’t have Raw Power, but Temptalia lists Zoeva’s Warm Notes (Cocoa Blend palette) as one of the dupes. Here’s the result, plus the steps outlined in the article:

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Blend out until the concentration is so slight, it almost looks taupe.

Well… whatever I have on my lids, is definitely NOT taupe!! More like the color of a beautiful ripe strawberry. I used a fluffy brush by Sugarpill to apply and blend, and then a clean blending brush by It Cosmetics to go over the edges.

Neutralize any redness under the eye.

Yeah, because this is supposed to be an office-friendly look, and most workplaces wouldn’t want their employees to resemble Helena from Orphan Black. (No shade thrown at those who love ghoulish gothic looks–I do them too sometimes!) Since my eyelid space is small, whenever I apply eyeshadow in broad, blendy motions, it piles up below the inner and outer corners. Redness in the outer corners is what makes me appear sickly, so I used loads of eye makeup remover on q-tips to make sure the corners were completely clean of red eyeshadow (and also, to fix the shape on my right eye, where I habitually overblend).

For the lower lashlines, Grace used MAC Omega, which is a brownish shadow without any hint of redness to it. I don’t own Omega, so I applied two browns that are kind of greenish: Matt Rosen and Matt Wood from Meet Matt(e) Nude by TheBalm. The highlighter in the inner corners is also a very light greenish gold: Subsolar from the Sleek Solstice palette. To get more of those “healthy! not sickly! not Helena in any way” vibes, I swished a bronzer onto my cheeks (Subtly Suntouched by Pixi).

Accentuate with Rosebud Salve on the lips.

Yes ma’am!

Here’s another pic of the full face. No filter! The cloudy San Francisco morning provided lighting that was positively angelic.

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FOTD: My New Goodies by Kevyn Aucoin, Sleek, Wet n Wild

I recently got myself a few makeup gifts for my upcoming birthday, and decided to write up some first impression reviews. Here’s the full look:

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Kevyn Aucoin Volume Mascara

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Uh… you can’t really see the mascara in the FOTD photo. That’s because my lashes are naturally short, sparse, and not very visible in selfies, even with volumizing mascara on. However, I can say that Kevyn Aucoin Volume works just fine! I didn’t have time to take an eye pic, but hopefully, I will put one up on this blog soon.

In another post, I mentioned that I had sworn off expensive mascara after trying Essence’s cheapo volumizing mascara, I Love Extreme. However, since I learned that Kevyn Aucoin is cruelty-free, I’d been wanting to add something by this brand to my collection. (Who doesn’t love Kevyn Aucoin??) I needed a mascara the most, so… *shrugs*

Unlike I Love Extreme, the Aucoin mascara does not create that spidery effect. It’s actually surprisingly understated, producing a look that’s kind of a “middle road” between the Essence and my other mascara that just expired, Milk Makeup Ubame. Like the latter, the Aucoin mascara separates the lashes very well and makes them, um, “fluttery.” But it’s clearly a black mascara, whereas Ubame had hardly any color to it.

I also love that the Aucoin wand is really small and delicate, which allows me to cover my lashes fully. I had a hard time getting to the roots with the hammy Essence wand!

Sleek Hemisphere Highlighter

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Did you know that the British brand, Sleek is now sold at Walgreens? At least one Walgreens in San Francisco: the one on Fillmore, by SF Japantown. I actually entered that store to look for Royal Calyx, the new lavender highlighter by Wet n Wild. (I recently had my interest in highlighters rekindled by Russian blogger Elia Chaba’s bombastic posts.) Turns out Royal Calyx is only available on the Ulta website, but no problem–I got the legendary Sleek Solstice palette, which also has a lavender highlighter! It’s called Hemisphere, and Temptalia lists it as a Royal Calyx dupe.

On me, Hemisphere doesn’t read as “boom! lavender!”, but its super cool tone creates a strong contrast with my skin. I love it. Besides Hemisphere, I’ve tried one other Solstice highlighter so far: the creamy beige called Ecliptic, which is very subtle and translucent (like a plastic bag). From what I know, the Glossier stick highlighters have a similar effect.

Wet n Wild Video Vixen Liquid Lipstick

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I’d never heard the term Video Vixen before, and I assumed that Wet n Wild was just inspired by the 90s (“VHS era”) dark lipstick. But I now see that the term has a large and contentious cultural history.

As for the product itself–I’d long, long wanted to own a fully matte dark lipstick, and Wet n Wild had been a strong contender since the release of the Liquid Catsuit line. Video Vixen didn’t disappoint–just like the other Liquid Catsuits I’ve tried, it’s relatively light and not devastatingly dry. Which, to me, means it’s a good liquid lipstick. Here’s a post where I express all my thoughts on the whole genre of liquid-to-mattes).

However, Video Vixen has a large and glaring issue: with the way I apply liquid lipstick (in a light layer on top of a balm) it comes off easily, and it doesn’t look too hot when worn off. As in, Video Vixen completely disappears in the middle of the lips. And when you reapply, the finish gets uneven and clotty. I haven’t figured out how to deal with this yet. Maybe apply a more emollient lip product on top?..

The other problem (a small one, this time) is that Video Vixen, like other Liquid Catsuits, dries down really quickly. So, if you’re the one to blend your lipstick after application, that needs to be done swiftly, one lip at a time.

Cruelty-Free Body Sunscreen: Bare Republic Mineral SPF 50

Of all the beauty product categories, sunscreen is the one I have the most fraught relationship with. On the one hand, skincare culture (or, should I say sunscreen culture?) evokes feelings of inadequacy like nothing else can. To do sunscreen perfectly, you’re supposed to: 1) Find a product that doesn’t make you look greasy, sting you in the face, or break you out, and if you prefer buying cruelty-free, that’s another layer of complicated. 2) Reapply every few hours–how d’you navigate this if you’re wearing heavy makeup? But on the other hand, no action makes me feel “Hell yea, I’m taking care of my skin” as much as applying a ton of sunscreen does. After all, sunscreen is said to be the most effective skincare product for skin cancer prevention and anti-aging. (Oh wait, we don’t use the term “anti-aging” now. Okay I guess, it’s the best product for “toning your skin up.”)

I am pretty diligent about putting on face sunscreen every day. My “holy grail” product is the Paula’s Choice SPF 30 tinted moisturizer, which also mattifies my T-zone and partially covers my rosacea. But I don’t know much about suncare for the body. It’s chilly and windy year round in San Francisco, which means long skirts, pants, hoodies, and scarves even in sunny weather. On the occasions I need body sunscreen, I usually borrow my husband’s Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer.

However, for a recent trip to St. Louis, MO to visit family and see the solar eclipse, I decided to check out cruelty-free body sunscreen options. In St. Louis, the weather is scorching in August–pushing 100 degrees!! Holy shit! I am not TOO sunburn-prone, but I do burn when it’s aggressively sunny like that. The only cruelty-free body sunblock I’d ever tried was the Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen (the one in the green tube), which I used on a road trip to Death Valley two years ago. It had the consistency of toothpaste and was absolutely disgusting, but hey–I wore it in DEATH VALLEY and didn’t burn! But for St. Louis, I decided to get something more comfortable and as they say, “cosmetically elegant.” So I purchased the Bare Republic mineral (aka physical/inorganic) sunblock at Target.

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It came with a little body serum with aloe, various oils, honey, and oats, which you are supposed to apply after sun exposure. I only used the serum once and didn’t notice any discernible effects. I guess it might serve as a light hand cream. The rest of this review will focus on the sunscreen…

First things first: if you are strongly against fragranced skincare, stop reading now. The Bare Republic sunscreen has a distinct fruity scent, like an air freshener. (Their tinted face sunblock smells the same). The smell dissipates quickly, and is not very discernible on wear. If the fragrance aspect didn’t scare you off, read on.

A note on my sun protection needs: I spent a lot of time in the car (the Midwest, duh) and 2-3 hours strolling around outside each day, wearing a tank top and shorts. So I won’t be able to say how well the Bare Republic performs as a beach or sport sunscreen. (What beach? What sports? I am a couch potato and office goth.) I also never put it on my face, as I have special face sunscreens meant for sensitive skin. I reapplied the Bare Republic on my arms and legs after a couple of hours in the sun, and slathered on a decent amount each time. I don’t think the amounts would scale up to the recommended “shotglass of sunblock for the whole body,” but I wasn’t stingy either.

I gotta say, in the aforementioned conditions the Bare Republic performs reasonably well. Most importantly, I didn’t burn, and if I got a tan, it was a negligible amount. I got two small dry patches of heat rash on my shoulders, but I am not sure how they relate to the sunscreen.

What about the cosmetic elegance aspect? Unlike the Alba Botanica, which is greasy af, the Bare Republic rubs in efficiently and doesn’t feel heavy. For a mineral sunscreen, mind you–when I was in a rush once and didn’t have much rub-in time, I still reached for the chemical/organic Neutrogena. I think that the Bare Republic’s relative ease of use is due to the alcohol, which is number one on the list of inactive ingredients. Which alcohol? Alcohol denat? I’ve heard conflicting theories on alcohol denat from skintertainment personalities. For example, Paula Begoun claims that it’s drying, while the Beauty Brains say it’s totally ok. Well… for what it’s worth, I can mention that in the several days I used the Bare Republic heavily, it didn’t dry out or irritate the skin on my arms and legs.

If it’s just sunny out, the Bare Republic feels relatively dry and comfortable. However, try sweating or reapplying in muggy weather, and that’s where the problems start. It feels like all that sunblock grease rises up to the surface, and the skin gets oily and blah. Also, the white cast. It’s not “in your face” right after application, at least on my light, yellow-toned skin (however, I gotta mention that the Bare Republic did make my skin look lighter.) But, if the conditions are humid, the whiteness comes back. It pools up in the elbow creases and palms of your hands, dirtying up everything you touch.

For those reasons, I’ve decided to completely swear off mineral sunscreens for the body. I’m going to finish up the Bare Republic in my chilly SF Bay Area, but next time I head to a super hot and humid place, I’m going to look for a cruelty-free chemical/organic sunblock. I hope it proves more comfortable!

Whoa, I just noticed that this post has only one photo! Here’s an extra pic–of my husband and I having fun in the sun in the St. Louis Forest Park.

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Dragon Eyes: Battle of the Palettes

Since the warm tone eyeshadow trend started a few years ago, I’ve been following it closely. I have quite a few palettes in my collection that allow me to create “burn a hole through you” eyes, and I thought it would be interesting to compare them. I debated whether to include Too Faced Semi-Sweet and Viseart Petit Pro, but eventually decided against it, as they lack an important element: reds or reddish tones.

I have four quintessential fiery palettes: Sleek Sunset, Anastasia Modern Renaissance, Zoeva Cocoa Blend, and the newest addition to my collection, Urban Decay Naked Heat. I really like all of these, but if you’re of a mind to get only one, I know which one I would recommend. Read on till the end. I will list the palettes in order they were purchased–or, in fact, received as presents, as three of them were birthday gifts from various years. Thank you sister, husband, and best friend.

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Sleek Sunset

L-R: … (all shades are nameless). The #10-12 are also photographed with flash.

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It looks like the brand’s intention for the i-Divine series of palettes is to create exhaustive arrays of colors around specific themes. Sleek loves including a bunch of similar shades in their palettes, but with different undertones and/or finishes. Sunset is an ancient product by today’s standards (released around 2013), but it has all your bases covered when it comes to metallic reds, coppers, and rose golds. Sleek metallics are pigmented but thin and light, not like the rich and creamy formulas in newer palettes such as Modern Renaissance and Naked Heat.

The issue with Sunset is that it lacks matte eyeshadows, except for a black one for lining. This makes the palette seem very old-school–the OG Urban Decay Naked wasn’t big on mattes, either. But that’s ok. I suspect that eye looks with a bunch of mattes blended into a perfect ombre have hit their saturation point, and we will see much more messy all-shimmer and all-metallic looks. Same thought about Sunset’s lack of neutral shades. My crystal ball predicts more looks with statement colors, that are not “grounded” with browns, beiges, or mauves.

Sunset in action. Black (#1) as a smudgy eyeliner. Purple (#7) on the lid and in the crease, topped with translucent golden veil (#10) on the lid. Rose gold (#11) in the inner corner. 

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Zoeva Cocoa Blend

L-R: Top – Bitter Start, Sweeter End, Warm Notes, Subtle Blend, Beans Are White. Bottom – Pure Ganache, Substitute for Love, Freshly Toasted, Infusion, Delicate Acidity.

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What about those who like arid desert matte browns? Then Cocoa Blend is your buddy. I can’t get enough of the orange brown, Substitute for Love, and the reddish brown, Freshly Toasted. Something like Freshly Toasted is what I was missing with Too Faced’s OG and Semi-Sweet chocolate bars, which seem to have inspired Cocoa Blend. The other mattes in this palette, Bitter Start (light beige) and Beans are White (dark brown) are very common shades, but they’re executed very well in terms of saturation and blendability–something that (incredibly) not all brands have learned how to do. As for shiny lid shades, Cocoa Blend has a nice variety of those, with a red, a brown, a purple, and a gold.

The Cocoa Blend shadow texture is something… contentious, especially if one is used to stiffer formulas such as the Naked 3 and the chocolate bars. It’s similar to Lorac Pro and TheBalm eyeshadows: very soft and dusty, but kind of dry.

Cocoa Blend in action. Ombre from Sweeter End to Warm Notes to Freshly Toasted. Beans Are White as chubby liner.

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Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance

L-R: Top – Tempera, Golden Ochre, Vermeer, Buon Fresco, Antique Bronze, Love Letter, Cyprus Umber. Bottom – Raw Sienna, Burnt Orange, Primavera, Red Ochre, Venetian Red, Realgar. 

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Along with Too Faced Sweet Peach, last year’s Modern Renaissance is the most iconic palette release since the first UD Naked collections. It has totally eclipsed the original “red palette,” Lime Crime’s Venus. My theory is that Anastasia recognized the huge demand for a Venus-like palette by people who didn’t want to buy from a controversial brand like Lime Crime. (And now, Anastasia has released the Subculture palette–the one where the shadows are said to fall apart on first touch–which is its answer to Venus II).

The “heart” of Modern Renaissance are the juicy, super bold red, berry, and orange shades. The palette also boasts beautiful neutrals, such as the light purple Buon Fresco and the rosy brown Antique Bronze. I also like Vermeer and Primavera, the highlighter shades that look molten. The shadows are dusty and blendable like Zoeva’s, but the formula is exceedingly smooth, almost greasy. The new ColourPop pressed powder shadows are similar.

My main gripe with Modern Renaissance is specific to my own tastes and preferences. I like using all shades in my palettes, but I can’t figure out what to do with Golden Ochre and Burnt Orange. All of the looks I’ve tried with those two, I hated. So for me, Modern Renaissance is not the easiest product in terms of coming up with color combinations.

Modern Renaissance in action. Love Letter on the lid and in the crease. Warm Taupe as a blending shade. Antique Bronze on the lower lashline, with Cyprus Umber in the outer corner. 

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Urban Decay Naked Heat

L-R: Top – Ounce, Chaser (They are invisible in my swatches, but they make a damn good subtle highlight and blending shade, respectively), Sauced, Low Blow, Lumbre, He Devil. Bottom – Dirty Talk, Scorched, Cayenne, En Fuego, Ashes, Ember.

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Naked Heat came out very recently, and I bought it pretty much right away. Some of the colors I’ve used more than others, but I can already say that this palette is one of my favorite makeup toys of the year. I find it very easy to come up with looks. Yes, Naked Heat is really one-note in terms of color selection, more so than the other palettes I’ve reviewed here. But it all depends whether you like reddish browns or not, and I truly love them. I find it useful to have three of varying depths and undertones: He Devil, Cayenne, and En Fuego, plus an rosier brown, Sauced. All the colors in the palette are very well balanced–those are not the kind of reddish shades that would give one an infected/allergic look.

Of the classic trio of Naked palettes, I have Naked 3 (the rosy one), and its texture is much harder. As many reviewers have noted, Naked Heat is closer in formula to Modern Renaissance and ColourPop shadows, than to the older Nakeds. I like the richness of those shadows and how they “melt” into the skin–but hoo boy, holy DUST!! Especially when it comes to the mattes. In general, all of the palettes I’m reviewing except for Sleek Sunset, suffer from this issue.

Naked Heat in action. He Devil all over and all around. Chaser to soften He Devil in the crease. Scorched on top of He Devil on the lid. Ounce in the inner corner. Lumbre in the inner half of the lower lashline. Ember on top of En Fuego on the outer half of the lower lashline.

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Okay… so what’s the best one?!

I wouldn’t say the BEST one… but here’s what I would recommend to a novice:

ZOEVA COCOA BLEND!

Why? I think that Cocoa Blend simply has the broadest selection in terms of color and textures. There are both metallic and matte shades, and the metallics are sufficiently different from one another to allow for a wide variety of looks.