This year has been a lot, y’all.
I started the year trying out a low buy, and failed miserably after just a few months. I might do a separate post about the whole experience, but it was a combination of all kinds of things including saturating my media consumption with bad examples to follow and a lack of desire to follow through on the project. Oh yeah, and the fact that I am an emotional shopper and I didn’t have a contingency plan for dealing with those. I guess I thought that I would just conveniently stop having them? Yeah, didn’t work.
So that was the beginning of 2019. How are we ending the year? With a review of one of the most bougie brands in the mainstream makeup world: Natasha Denona.
I’ve long had a sort of perverse fascination with Natasha Denona; it started with her $239 (that is absolutely not a typo) 28-pan “Green and Brown” palette, which is so expensive that I can’t even fathom it, but it’s green so immediately I’m lusting after it like a fucking makeup Gollum. I like to sit in my room in perfect silence and think about what kind of life it must be like to just go into a store and drop almost $250 on an eyeshadow palette without vomiting all over the counter. I told myself that if I ever got a promotion I would buy this palette as a celebration, but even then I’m not sure I could do it. I’m ridiculous in how I spend money on makeup, but even I’m not that ridiculous.
When the brand started putting out 15-pan palettes for $129, it got a little less ridiculous, but still beyond what I felt comfortable with. Plus, there wasn’t really a color story that I connected with. The Lila palette is really pretty, but I don’t actually use purples that often. When I first saw promo images for the Gold palette, I thought it looked boring AF. It was a couple of teals and like 13 shades of brown and gold. I couldn’t believe that there was anyone will to spend those kinds of prices on this neutral of a palette. Were there really such suckers out there?
Spoiler alert: there is, and that sucker is me.
My attitude started changing the first time I saw one of these palettes in person and swatched it. This palette suffered from the same problem that the Too Faced Life Is A Festival palette did: it just doesn’t photograph well. I think that’s a problem for most duochrome shadows, actually. The shades in person are much more varied and interesting than they appear in the well lit, perfectly produced photos put out by the brand. There is a gold with a reddish undertone and a greenish shift that is so stunning. The white shade is actually a yellow gold candlelight shade. Even the neutral matte browns were more velvety and luxurious once seen in person. I was hooked, and I thought about that palette for most of this year. I almost pulled the trigger several times.
So what got me to finally dip my toes?
A goddamn coupon.
That’s right: the VIB Rouge $25 of $75 holiday coupon came out and I decided that it was finally time to embrace the bougie bitch within and pick up some Natasha Denona for my mug. I also had some Sephora card cashback rewards, and because they can’t be combined with the coupon (and because I have no chill when it comes to makeup shopping) I also decided to get the Mini Gold eyeshadow palette and the Bloom Blush & Glow palette. Smart financial decisions? We don’t know her.
Let’s start with the lesser evils, i.e. the mini palette and the blush/highlight palette. For the blush palette, I didn’t put down any primer, foundation, nothing. Just swatched it with a finger right on bare skin. That’s not how I would wear it, obviously, but I just wanted to see what the colors were like. I don’t review a lot of blushes because most of the time if a blush is really good, it should almost disappear into your overall look. But here we are, and I paid good coint for this palette so I’m swatching it. Don’t like it, take it up with the complaint department.
L to R: Glow Cream Base, Cream Blush, Glow Extreme, Duo Glow (shade names do not appear on the palette)
The Glow Cream Base is just that – a base to build color on top of. It’s very, very sheer. It’s got a glowy peach color with some gold reflects, pretty but definitely of the “barely there” variety. The Cream Blush is a deep blue-toned red, almost tipping over into a very deep magenta pink. It’s pretty, but a little goes a long way, so lunless you are doing draping or a more editorial look, just go slow to build up the color you want. This one is bright, and it’s hard to get rid of once it’s there! The Glow Extreme is a really pretty peachy gold highlight, sheer enough to make a subtle, wet look highlight, but doesn’t take much effort to build it up to a really striking highlight. The Duo Glow is the real winner here. If you are looking for a dupe for Nars Orgasm, this is a pretty good one – although this palette is more expensive than just buying Orgasm, so I’m not sure why you would do that. It’s really pretty, and I’m not sure if it’s available as a single, but I think that this is the best of the bunch and it saves the palette from being rather “meh” to me. Even a duo of the last two products would be amazing. I don’t love cream blush/highlight products, so this isn’t something that’s going to make it on any of my “top product” lists, but I think I’ll get some good use out of this.
For the eyeshadow palettes, I swatched both over the Crayon Case Glue Stick eye primer with a finger swatch on the left and a brush swatch on the right. The top photo is under my studio lighting without a flash; the bottom photo is the same lighting with my camera flash. First up, let’s talk about the Mini Gold palette.
L to R: Lodge, Dark Sepia, D’or, Bia, Antheia
I think those are the correct names – they are printed on a clear label in tiny print and then adhered to a shiny, metallic gold surface. Maybe I should have made the effort to look them up and confirm…but maybe Natasha Denona should have printed them so they could actually be read. More on this sort of thing at the end of the review…
Lodge is a medium brown, not overly warm or cool, and very soft. Dark Sepia is a lovely deep chocolate brown shimmer. D’or is a bright, brassy gold shimmer metallic. It has a softer, more crumbly texture than the other shimmer shades in the mini palette. Bia is a matte army green, a little patchy, but a pretty color, very swampy and rich in tone. Antheia is a brown-based shimmer with strong green shifty shimmer to it. This is my favorite of this group, and it’s pretty unique.
Let’s take a look at the star of this show: the Gold palette. Swatches are done the same way described as above. The shade names are printed on a clear plastic sheet that is affixed between the mirror and the palette itself. It’s a protective layer, I guess, but it makes using the mirror more awkward.
L to R: Lime Chrome, Python, Sparks, Aria, Cava
Lime Chrome is a gold shimmer with a strong lime green shift. It’s really pretty, and not surprisingly this is one of the shades, once I saw it in person, that convinced me to pick up this palette. There are a lot of green shifty metallic that have a red or brown base, but not that many with more of a true gold base. Python is a pretty deep teal matte. It looks a little patchy towards the bottom, but that’s just the fade from where I laid down the swatch. It went on pretty smoothly, and it had the least problem with the primer (which I’ll talk about more at the end of this review, after all of the swatches). Sparx is a sheer shade, perfect for adding a little sparkle over another shade. Aria is a medium tan brown, matte, but can darken to almost a chocolate brown. Cava is a coppery gold shimmer metallic, very glittery and pretty.
L to R: Aurora, Dijon, Oro, Log, Varis
Aurora is a teal shimmer metallic with a silvery glitteryness that is pretty and works well with a brish. Dijon is a medium brown with strong mustard tones (appropriate name!). Oro is a bright gold, almost a little coppery but not too much. Very 70s disco vibes. Log is a deep cool brown matte. Varis is a milk chocolate brown shimmer, very smooth and lovely.
L to R: Brass, Sandstone, Alchemist, Teak, Aurum
Brass is a light yellow gold metallic shimmer, very bright and pretty. If you need a true yellow gold, this is an amazing example. Sandstone is a light tan brown matte. Alchemist is a copper metallic shimmer. Teak is a medium warm brown matte, and the one that struggled the most with the primer. Aurum is an antique gold metallic shimmer.
So, let’s start with the most obvious positives – the shimmers. They are metallic and shimmery and bright, and I love them. These shades help me understand why people are so obsessed with this brand and willing to pay the premium prices. They feel so smooth and the swatched out beautifully with both a finger and a brush. Some are a little soft and tend towards being a little crumbly, but not in a way that I think is a problem. It’s a luxurious consistency and they are really beautiful, and I was surprised that all of those metallic golds and coppers and other shades were as different as they ended up being.
The mattes were much less cooperative. They are soft and silky, but not overly creamy or wet feeling. That dryness is similar to the formula of the mattes in the ABH Norvina Pro palettes, and the issues that I had were similar: the mattes would hit the primer, stick, and darken. That’s why the swatches look so inconsistent: it’s not that they are bad shades, but they really don’t like to play well when applied over a tacky primer.
In the beauty space, this is where some goddamn know-it-all would feel the need to put a snarky comment about how I wasn’t “using them right.” Sorry sweetie, but I don’t think so. If you have a process that you like to follow and you feel comfortable following, you don’t need to break that process to use a product. The makeup doesn’t get to wear you – you wear the makeup. If you really love a product or a certain shade and you want to change up your process to one that works better with that product, that’s fine. But it’s not “wrong,” anymore than these are “bad” shadows because they don’t really work that well with the process that I like to use. In fact, I think there isn’t actually all that much makeup produced that is actually bad; rather, there are just products that work with your style of application and products that don’t. I think we need to lighten up on how we talk about products that don’t fit in with our standard process, but on the flip side we also need to respect that some people don’t want to change up how they are comfortable doing things just to make a product work. I’m going to make this palette work, because I paid for it (even if I did have a coupon!), but if you haven’t purchased this palette and you like a tacky base, don’t feel like you need to get it. These shimmers are gorgeous – but they are still gold and copper and brown shimmers. The mattes are still just brown and tan mattes. There is nothing in this palette that you can’t find somewhere in a formula that’s more user friendly to you. And if you love a dry, set primer, then this palette is going to make all of your golden girl dreams come true!
Another thing that I appreciate about this palette is that it’s magnetized: all you have to do if you want to depot and rearrange the shadows is pop them out and arrange them to your liking. That’s standard issue for ColourPop, but I think more high end brands should do this as well – what better way to make your expensive purchases feel more bespoke and customized than to let you arrange the shadows exactly how you want them, and even swap them between palettes from the same brand? I put my teals and shimmers on one side and the mattes on the other in an arrangement that just makes more sense to me. And a palette that makes sense is one that gets used.