Poor tarte, they just can’t catch a break!
I’ve been ragging on them for years about being 50 shades of beige, and I stand behind that. Their tartelette and tarteist palettes series are nothing but a huge collection of repetitive beige, brown, and champagne shades. I bought the Rainforest of the Sea palettes 1-3 when they were daily deals on Sephora.com just so that I could see if they really were that basic, and trust me: they were. That’s tarte’s thing: they do basic neutrals and, at least according to people who tend to go for that sort of look, they do them really well.
Then there was the foundation debacle. If you don’t know what that is all about, I’ll let you scour the dregs of YouTube drama channels to get the full scoop, but basically they released a much hyped foundation companion to their best-selling Shape Tape concealers, and the initial shade range was nothing short of pathetic. 15 shades, and only 2 shades that were even remotely deep or dark. Their translated their 50 shades of beige palettes into a foundation and it didn’t go well. Then to make matters worse, when people started calling them out on it, they came up with some sort of excuse that people are lighter in the winter and then wear a darker shade in the summer. Ummm, ok, but brown people are still always, you know, brown. It was tragic, and tarte ended up on the cancelled list for many beauty influencers.
Since then, they’ve been trying to get back in the good graces and even seem to be listening to feedback, but is it too little too late? This past holiday season, they finally tried to make a foray into color with the tarteist Pro Remix palette:
Let’s give credit where credit is due: there is actually a full rainbow in this palette! There is very clearly a pink, a red, an orange, a yellow gold, a green, and light and a dark blue, and a purple. For tarte, that’s a pretty wild color story. But that’s the problem – it’s only wild for tarte. For some brands this is just another day at the office; for others, it’s a slow day at the office! And I might have picked up this palette if there had been more variety in the neutrals that make up the other half of the palette. Looking at this promo pic, some of those shades look indistinguishable from one another. Are you kidding me? This palette was an attempt at color, and I’m sure some people added it to their collections, but I didn’t see it pop up much in the YouTube beauty space…well, except in anti-hauls.
And that’s what I mean about tarte bringing out the worst in all of us: people love to savage a brand for any misstep that occurs, but they rarely want to follow up and give a brand any sort of praise or acknowledgement when they take steps in the right direction. I used to love a good anti-haul, at least the ones in the style of Kimberly Clark who started the trend: she talked about what a product was and why it was that she didn’t need it. It wasn’t just an excuse to complain and mock brands for any little thing. I don’t mind a little light roasting in an anti-haul either, but the form has sort of devolved into a constant litany of “This brand had a shitty foundation release a year ago, so this palette is trash. Ha.” Umm, unsubscribe.
And as someone who has blasted tarte for ages about their lack of color, I’ve actually been pretty impressed with a couple of their recent efforts: the High Tides & Good Vibes palette (which I’ll be diving in and reviewing below) and the Icy Betch palette. I think both of these palettes are great examples of tarte listening to consumer feedback, and instead of getting any kind of acknowledgement for stepping out of their comfort zone (whether the reviewer is planning to purchase or not) they just get more mean-spirited snark.
Let’s start with the Icy Betch palette. This is the result of the worst self-punk in cosmetics history: last year on April 1, tarte posted a pic to their Instagram of a yummy blue and green eyeshadow palette in the tartelette style, called Icy Betch:
The interwebs went bananas: was tarte, basic bitch central, really doing an all cool-toned green and blue palette? Turns out…no. A little later, they posted an update that was like, “Just kidding! April Fool’s!” Turns out the only fool in that scenario was tarte. There was immediate uproar, and a pretty savage dragging of the brand for hating on blues and greens when they could use a real color infusion. Face Candy, one of the dupe brands from the currently MIA Hush app, even put out the Atlantis palette, a dupe for Icy Betch:
Fast forward to March 2019 and just one day before Jeffree Star’s latest palette, Blue Blood, dropped tarte announces that they are finally bringing out the Icy Betch palette! Well, sort of:
No longer a tartelette-style 12-pan palette, this version of Icy Betch may be cool-toned but it’s a straight up hot mess. Reduced to 9 pans of eyeshadow and one inexplicable pan of duochrome highlighter, the pans are different sizes (some of us are still getting over the trauma of the Kristen Leanne Kaleidescope palette from Urban Decay!), the layout is inconsistent, and there are two sets of shades that are alsmost the same (the three longer pans across the bottom and the top right dark blue). The top didn’t have the gorgeous packaging that was teased, but rather a holographic sticker. Le sigh.
Listen, I want to be saying nice things about tarte here, I really do. But they just keeping throwing obstacles in my path! If they were going to go ahead and release the Icy Betch palette, why not do the palette that they teased? Why not just say, “Hey, we heard you! Sounds like you really loved this design – I guess the joke was on us! Here’s Icy Betch!” But instead they put it through a really horrible redesign, reduced the shades and made them much less interesting, slapped in a highlighter because why not, and tried to pretend like it was just a new product. Don’t they know the internet is forever?
But because tarte is tarte, it wasn’t enough for the interwebs to just let this be another bungled product launch. No, now the Jeffree Star stans had to come out of the woodwork and accuse tarte of “copying” Jeffree Star’s Blue Blood palette. First of all, until this last year or so in the beauty space, I haven’t heard this many accusations of copying since I was in third grade, and frankly I think those third grade claims had more merit to them. Even if you ignore the amount of time it takes to develop and design a palette, have the components manufactured, etc., tarte announced the Icy Betch palette over a year ago. If you were going to accuse anyone of “copying,” it would have to be Jeffree Star Cosmetics that was copying tarte, not the other way around.
But accusations of “copying” are stupid because it’s been clear for a while now that cool-toned palettes were going to start trending. As if the uproar over the Icy Betch “joke” wasn’t a big enough indicator that consumers were ready for some icy glam, blues have been big for the last couple of years, showing up as the obligatory “pop of color” in like every neutral palette ever, and blue shades are an easier sell to the average makeup consumer than either greens or purples. Greens have been popping up more and more the last couple of years, true, but they tend to be swampy, acid greens with a lot of yellow undertones; the same with purples, which have tended to be more red-based violets than cooler toned, blue-based purples. This was going to be the year for big cool-toned releases, and blue was the most obvious choice. Tarte and Jeffree Star just both happened to be working on the idea at the same time.
But stans will be stans, and tarte got roasted again.
Now let’s talk about the palette that actually came out before Icy Betch, one that mostly flew under the radar despite the fact that it is, in my never-so-humble opinion, the perfect blend of the typical tarte aesthetic and the demands of the current market: the High Tides & Good Vibes palette.
Go with me for a second, because I actually think this palette is really, really smart. Let’s cover it in three sections: the triangle of neutrals in the upper left, the more colorful shades in the lower right, and the glitters across the middle. Unlike the Icy Betch palette, the asymmetry in this palette isn’t maddening, because the shades in the upper left and lower right mirror each other, and the pans in the individual sections are consistent with consistent packaging around them (instead of pans just floating in a random spot in the plastic).
L to R: Buried Gold, Galapagos, Aloha Beaches, Beach Therapy
The upper left is for the basic bitches who need their peachy/beige transition shade (Beach Therapy – you’re welcome), and there is another matte and two pretty standard shimmers. But unlike the shades in the Pro Remix palette, there is some variety here. The champagne shimmer Buried Gold is pretty standard fare, but the matte below it, Aloha Beaches, is a terra cotta shade with reddish tones instead of just another brown. Galapagos is a pretty standard bronze shimmer, but it’s not overly warm or have too much gold shimmer, which tends to happen in “summer palettes.” On the lower right you’ve got another sort of neutral shade, South Beach, but it’s a pink shade, a little peachy but not so warm that it won’t blend well with the other shades in this quad. Dive In is a deep teal shimmer, Surf’s Up is a beautiful minty green matte, and Deep Blue is a rich royal blue matte. With these two corners, you actually have a pretty wide range of looks you can do, from all neutral to all colorful, but the shades have depth and different intensities and are an even balance of matte and shimmer.
L to R: Dive In, Surf’s Up, South Beach, Deep Blue
Now in the middle you’ve got four pressed glitters. These are a trend now, so even though I hate them we have to admit that someone must be buying them (or at least, no one has figured out yet that there are awful, and they’ll stick around a little longer because of the long lead time for development and manufacturing). There are two cool shades, a silver (Turtlette) and a teal green (Aquaholic), and two warm shades, a champagne gold (Champagne Beach) and a pink (Beach Daze). These glitters are really well selected to pair with the shades, diversifying the looks that you can create with this palette even further. You can do whole looks without the glitters, or add in the glitter to just punch it up.
L to R: Turtlette, Aquaholic, Champagne Beach, Beach Daze
I loved the idea, and it seemed like tarte was maybe, actually listening to consumer feedback. So I bought it.
Overall I didn’t think the palette was too bad. I hate the glitters, as I expected, but for pressed glitters they aren’t that bad. I would say that they are pretty similar to the glitters in the Too Faced Pretty Rich palette, so if you liked the way those glitters handled, you might like these as well. As for the shades in the palette, only Surf’s Up was a disappointment. I think it will be ok with a white base or concealer underneath, and the finger swatch wasn’t too bad, but the brush swatch up there is really pale and sheer, and that was after dipping into the pan 4 times. I really struggled to build up much in the way of color with a brush, but I don’t like finger application much in general, and especially not for matte shades!
Beach Therapy grabbed the primer in a weird way and was pretty inconsistent, but I think it’s workable. It’s a tan/camel kind of shade, which I hate, but it should work for most of those basic transition shade desires hiding out in your little old heart. The shimmers are generally pretty good, and the two blues are actually more different in person than they appear in the pictures. I also really like South Beach; it’s a pretty coral pink matte, and I think it pairs well with both the cooler tones in the bottom and the warmer tones in the top. That with a little Beach Daze glitter can easily feminize a neutral look.
Plus the packaging is cute – it has a turtle on it! And the top has liquid in it that moves around like waves. It’s actually pretty adorable.
Oh tarte, I just don’t know what to do with you. You bring out the worst of the beauty community, and with the toxic cancel culture that seems to have overtaken the beauty space, I’m wondering if anyone is ever going to get over your rocky Shape Tape foundation launch (which now comes in 50 shades, by the way, but no one seems to have mentioned that). I searched out the palette on YouTube, and I found a few videos, mostly from smaller influencers (most of the videos that were there had between 1000-5000 views), but not a lot. As I said before, I do recall seeing this in a couple of anti-hauls.
What do you think of cancel culture, and what are your thoughts on tarte as a brand? Are you over them, or are you cheering for them to listen to feedback and make some positive changes? Tbh, I’ve never been that invested in tarte as a brand anyway, but I don’t like when people pile onto a brand or an issue because they’re trying to use that clickbait for views, but then they don’t keep an eye on them or do any follow up to see what’s what. Let me know your comments down in the section below!