(These containers remind me of portholes on a ship.)
Look, Milani's new Bella eyeshadow singles are perfectly decent. I'd give them a B or B-minus; they're like the student essays on which I write, "You make some interesting points that don't quite cohere." I don't feel that I've wasted my money. Each eyeshadow costs $4.69 (though I bought these two during a BOGO sale at CVS), and they're actually better than what I'd expect for that price.
What does annoy me is the misleading name of the product. "Bella Eyes Gel Powder Eyeshadow" leads you to expect some sort of cream-to-powder formula with a moist consistency, and Milani's ad copy heightens that impression: "What makes it a gel powder? Well, the formula starts as a gel and then is transformed by a special process into a stunning powder eyeshadow with pure color and power wear." I assume that "starts as a gel" means "starts as a gel in the manufacturing process," but anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the eyeshadows start as gels when applied, then dry into a powder finish on the lids. Luckily I did my research before buying Bella Rouge and Bella Taupe, so I wasn't surprised to discover that they were standard powder shadows. You've been warned.
The Bella Eyes range contains 30 shadows in three different finishes: satin matte, shimmer, and metallic. Bella Taupe (05) is classified as satin matte, and Bella Rouge (19) as metallic. Bella Taupe is a gray-leaning matte taupe, and Bella Rouge is a rich reddish magenta with a metallic sheen. I trust you can guess which is which.
Swatched with just one swipe, they're decently pigmented, though Bella Taupe in particular looks dry and powdery at the edges.
Two swipes. Here you can really see the powdery quality of Bella Taupe, which I'd recommend layering over a primer to prevent fallout (though I wear a primer with most of my powder shadows anyway). Isn't Bella Rouge pretty, though?
Let's start with the more versatile of the two: Bella Taupe.
Color-wise, Bella Taupe is warmer than Tough as Taupe, darker and cooler than Selfish, and darker and warmer than violet-tinged Lhasa. What really strikes me about this photo, though, is the difference in consistency between Bella Taupe and the other two powder shadows. See how smooth and finely milled Selfish and Lhasa look by comparison? The color coheres perfectly, and there's no loose powder at the edges of either swatch. Granted, Bella Taupe is much more pigmented than Lhasa (that's two swipes of Milani and three of NARS); but unlike Bella Taupe, Lhasa can be built up layer upon layer without compromising the integrity of the color. Unfortunately, that's the difference between a $5 eyeshadow and a $25 one. Even if the $25 one is criminally overpriced. (Which it is.)
Bella Taupe is not a perfectly flat matte like Tough as Taupe, but it doesn't have the sheen of Selfish or Lhasa, either. It's what I'd call an "atmospheric" color: designed to fade into the background, like easy-listening music. Here it is applied over NYX HD primer and paired with NYX Slide On eyeliner in Jewel:
Over primer, it lasted all day with very little fading; I haven't tried it without primer, though.
Next, a closer look at Bella Rouge.
I don't own many eyeshadows that are close in color to Bella Rouge. If I were back in my own apartment, I'd compare it with Maybelline Pomegranate Punk and the matte fuchsia from Wet n Wild's Spoiled Brat palette (swatched here by Makeup Withdrawal), but I don't have either of those with me in San Francisco. All I have are a couple of plum shades that emphasize how PINK! Bella Rouge really is. Left to right: right side of NARS Habanera duo, Bella Rouge, theBalm Sexy.
I bought Bella Rouge because of the old saw that reddish eyeshadow emphasizes green eyes, which turns out to be true. (It also emphasizes my undereye pigmentation and all the red tones in my complexion, but hey.) Here I've applied Maybelline Bad to the Bronze over my entire lid, then blended Bella Rouge into the outer half. The metallic finish of Bella Rouge keeps it from looking like pinkeye, or so I flatter myself.
If Bella Taupe is easy-listening music, Bella Rouge is--I was going to say "glam rock," but it's a little too subtle for that. Glam rock played at a lower volume than its creators intended? There we go.
The Bella Eyes formula has inspired a lot of enthusiasm in the blogging community, but I'm not ready to hail it as The Best Budget Eyeshadow Ever. Yes, these eyeshadows are smoother and more pigmented than most drugstore shadows I've tried (cough, NYX, cough). But that's a pretty low bar, since drugstore brands still seem to lag behind high-end ones when it comes to eyeshadow formulas. (This is odd, given how many high-quality lip products have appeared at the drugstore in the last few years. Are smooth, pigmented eyeshadows more costly or challenging to produce than smooth, pigmented lipsticks? I can't figure it out.) In any case, I should have trusted my own experience, in which no Milani product has ever blown my mind. But no, I had to see for myself.
Overall, I'd recommend the Bella Eyes line for unusual statement colors like Bella Rouge. There are many such colors in the range, from pale orange to deep metallic navy. For staple colors that you plan to use constantly, though? Save up for something a bit more special.