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.

6 looks for 6 months

Man, I derive so much joy from doing makeup. I just sit down, fire up the Young Turks, and meditatively pile color upon color onto my face. I’d never had any kind of craftsy hobby before I took up makeup at age 28, so it was an opportunity to develop some visual skills, to learn the basics of shape and texture and color. This year, I’ve been having the most pleasurable time with this hobby so far. I don’t struggle with technique as much anymore, which allows me to just enjoy the ride.

Over the past six months, I’ve worn a lot of looks that I loved–alas, photography is not my strongest suit, so most of them were lost to history. However, I managed to snap a few–here are six of my favorites. Some of those looks are kind of psychedelic, but I did wear them all “out on the town,” even the blue lipstick one. As much as I love putting makeup on my face, I hate doing it “just for myself”–if I don’t go out that day, I don’t wear makeup at all. Two looks are my office faces, and the rest are for date nights or other outings.

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Eyeshadow blending is overrated. Well, I like waving my blending brush around as much as the next guy does, but sometimes a neon splotch is enough. The contrast of orange (Urban Decay Slowburn) with a plummy shade (Zoeva Alloy) was inspired by this orange-and-purple look by Karla Garcia. The zombie lipstick is Thistle by Bite Beauty, part of the Amuse Bouche line. I love those suckers–they’re slippery, but pretty moisturizing and comfortable.

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Red, red, red. This was a time in my life when I was wondering: why do I even bother wearing colors that are not red? Lucia Pica of Chanel knows how to honor this color, so naturally, she was my inspiration for this look. Here, Lucia combined the red with a little bit of purple, so I did a halo with the epic Anastasia Modern Renaissance palette and the purple shade from Shu Uemura Cool x Chic.

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This blue. NYX Liquid Suede in Jet Set is so flowery! I refuse to call this color crazy or corpsey or weird. Such blues (as well as deep blacks and greens) should have the same “classic” clout that red lipsticks do. Aside from the lipstick, there’s also the fact that in 2017, I rediscovered black eyeshadow. I don’t remember which one I wore for this look, but I can say for sure that the best, baddest one in my collection is Urban Decay Blackout.

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All of the looks so far have been kind of nsfw (“weekend faces” for me), so here’s one I wore to the office. My best friend says I look so 90s on this pic. This was the only time in recent memory I wore matte grey eyeshadows (the central quad from Kat Von D Shade and Light). I also wore my favorite blush, Too Faced Baby Love, which is seriously awesome. This blush is quite pigmented, but so soft and malleable that it’s impossible to mess it up. The lipstick is Give Me Mocha by Wet n Wild, from their new liquid matte line. It’s much cheaper than Kat Von D and TheBalm liquid lipsticks, but pretty much the same quality-wise.

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I’m only starting to explore the wondrous world of Urban Decay Moondust glitters. On their own, they are pretty subtle, but on top of some glitter primer… now we’re talking. Besides the blue Magnetic glitter, I’m wearing the Kiko lipstick in 436 Cold Brown. It brings memories of running around with my best friend, who bought the same lipstick when we visited Kiko together. On her, the color looks like a mysterious, medium dark taupe/mauve/purple, and on me, it pulls more earthy and zombie-like.

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Reddish eyeshadows in a fuzzy-edged shape and sheer lipstick. This is the kind of face that I often wear on a day-to-day basis, so it’s fitting that I chose this pic to announce the Spiders and Caterpillars blog project on Instagram. The palette I used for this look is TheBalm Meet Matt(e) Trimony. I haven’t written much about it on this blog, but this palette is one of my favorite products. Coming up with interesting looks with just Meet Matt(e) Trimony has been a challenge, but it truly shines when combined with metallics or shimmers.