Remember when Urban Decay used to be the edgy, cool girl that everyone wanted to fuck with?
I do. Those were the days. I used to have to go to head shops and find my way through the maze of skateboards and glass cases filled with bongs to look at lipsticks shaped like shotgun shells with names like Gash and Burnout and an amazing purple blue duochrome eyeshadow called Asphyxia that is still being created with new names by every brand out there to this day. There was something outsider about Urban Decay, and they used to be the go to brand for colorful, wild colors.
I was much younger then, and so was the brand. And unfortunately, Peter Pan, everyone else has to grow up sometime.
I don’t know why the new Stoned Vibes palette from Urban Decay is causing me to think so much about my younger days, but hopefully this will all make sense by the time I get to the end. It’s hard to say – this pandemic is messing with my emotions, and it’s easy for me to go down a spiral pretty quickly.
The packaging of the palette is everything that I love about this new, more mature version of the brand: the 3D detailing with molded crystals and rainbow holographic in a sleek but high quality pale gold palette. It’s a pleasure to look at. Even if the quality isn’t always where it used to be in terms of pigmented shadows, they always kill it with their packaging. The Wired palette was another recent palette that was a little ho-hum in terms of performance (and in living up to its predecessor, the Electric palette) but had super sleek and attractive packaging that managed to be bright and colorful and neon, without losing a certain level of sophistication.
The Stoned Vibes Mini is simplified, to be sure, but it retains the best of the larger palette: the plastic is traded in for sturdy cardboard with a subtle holographic finish on a pale gold that mirrors it’s big sister. The rainbow holo makes an appearance in the Urban Decay logo.
When I first say the inside of this palette, I will admit that I was more than a little hesitant; in fact, I had written the palette off until I saw a couple of reviews because I thought the shimmer shades in the palette might be pressed glitters (which I hate, and have complained about ad nauseum, so I’ll spare you that right now). Once I saw that those shades were actually a flaky metallic shimmer, I was much more interested. I wanted to see if I could recapture that edgy, colorful feeling that I used to get from the Urban Decay of my youth.
For the swatches, I did them over the Original Urban Decay Primer Potion with a finger swatch on the left and a brush swatch on the right. The top photo is under my studio lighting with no flash, the bottom photo is the same lighting with a flash. The mattes are swatched with my standard swatching brush using my typical process. The shimmers are swatched using the smaller end of the brush that came with the palette, and I sprayed it with setting spray dipping into the palette. I’ll talk more about the reason I did this below.
L to R: Good Karma, Jade, Opal Aura, Tiger’s Eye, Vibes, Antidote
Good Karma is a matte bone shade, pretty basic and a little sheer, but not chalky or hard to blend. Jade is a gold and green metallic combo. Opal is a pale silvery blue with hints of pink and lilac shimmer. Tiger’s Eye is a pale peach metallic with notes of light gold. Vibes is a light mauve with pale gold shimmer. Antidote is a peachy nude matte.
The shimmer shades are pretty, but they are tricky to work with. I tried to swatch them with a dry brush, and that was a disaster. You get pretty much no product to stick to the synthetic brush that’s included. If you had a natural hair brush, you might get some more traction, but I don’t know if it would really help that much (and the palette came with a synthetic brush, so it should work with that). I don’t like sticking wet brushes into pans, as I feel that can affect the shadows and I’m always worried about getting rust on the metal pans, but for these it’s a formula that is best used wet anyway, so I sucked it up and did it. You get a lot more color payoff with the wet brush, as you can see in the swatch, but the tradeoff is that the application is thicker and a bit chunkier. Finger application is a little more even and consistent, but you don’t get the same color payoff. You just have to decide what look is going to work best for you, and how much you want to fuss with it.
L to R: Hexed, Bloodstone, Ojo, Raw Energy, Meditate, Third Eye
Hexed is a medium warm brown “matte,” though the two mattes on this row are more of a satin finish than a true matte. Bloodstone is a fun red-based shade with strong green metallic shift. Ojo is a bright true blue with silvery shimmer. Raw Energy is a light purple with silvery reflect. Meditate is a brown base with pink metallic shimmer. Third Eye is a deep browned eggplant, and it’s the least matte of the matte shades (definitely satin, bordering on a shimmer!).
I swatched the mini palette using the same technique as I did with the larger palette.
L to R: Radiate, Attraction, Seeker
Radiate is a dusty rose base with a pale gold metallic shimmer. Attraction is a pale rose matte. Seeker is a bright blue with paler blue metallic shimmer.
The mattes in this palette are much more truly matte, and feel like a slightly drier formula. I prefer the mattes in the mini palette to the ones in the larger palette.
L to R: Optimist, Energy, Eclipse
Optimist is a bright vanilla matte. It’s definitely different from Good Karma; this shade is a little deeper, a little richer, and has a more yellow tone than Good Karma which is a true bone or ecru matte. Energy is a mixture of deep green and pale yellow gold which leads to an interesting duochrome metallic combination. Eclipse is a deep cool brown matte, very consistent and lovely.
I like these palettes. I want to say that first, because I’m also going to say that Urban Decay just isn’t that edgy, cool girl that hangs out at head shops. She used to be a revolutionary, but she grew up and she traded all of that in for a corporate job and a 401K. And that’s ok. And for the people who didn’t take that path and are still hanging out with the cool kids at the skate park who all think Urban Decay is a sellout, that’s ok too. I don’t think that a brand (or a person) has to stay who they were. We’re allowed to grow, and change, and evolve.
This Stone Vibes collection is more subdued. You have to work harder to recapture that wild, youthful love of color that use to be this brand’s signature. It’s not necessarily bad (though I’m not 100% in love with how much work you have to put into these shimmers) but it’s just not the same as what it used to be. And maybe I’m just a wannabe revolutionary queer from the 90s who has also lost my edge, but it’s always sad when the things you loved for their distance from the boring, squishy mainstream center have shifted closer to that center…and may have taken you with them.
This post is getting maudlin. That wasn’t the plan.
Would I recommend these palettes? Yes, if you want a metallic shimmer palette that’s a little fussy but has a level of sophistication and safety that is harder to find from the more adventurous indie brands that are all over the makeup scene these days. It’s not there to remind you about how to be young and hip and on trend; it’s there to remind you that anyone can play with colors and trends, that makeup should not only be fun, but also accessible.
There isn’t an expiration on being one of the cool kids…
(I’m not sure what sort of shame spiral just happened, but let’s end on a high note: here’s Angelica Nyqvist – from Sweden! – trying out the palette on her channel)