Sunday, August 17, 2014

La Vita è (Not Exactly) Bella: New Milani Eyeshadows in Bella Taupe and Bella Rouge

Damn it, Milani! You've done it again. Lured me in with the promise of a revolutionary makeup formula at an implausibly low price point, only to deliver mediocrity. Will I ever learn?


(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.


Since I've become one of those Beauty Bloggers Who Love Taupe Eyeshadow, I had three comparisons at hand. Left to right: Maybelline Tough as Taupe, theBalm Selfish, Bella Taupe, and NARS Lhasa. Tough as Taupe is a cream shadow; the others are powders.


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.


By the way, I think Bella Rouge is a pretty close dupe for Urban Decay Woodstock, in both color and finish. If you want to try a bright pink metallic shadow for $5 instead of $18, this is your chance!

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.


Another angle:


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.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reviews. I was wondering about them myself.
    I don't know if you've tried L'Oreal Infallibles. That is pretty much the only range I really like from the drugstore offerings. (Oh, and those old Almay trios before the reformulation. They work almost like Dior eyeshadows. Now the new ones are so crappy, I don't know what went down.)
    I think both colors look very pretty on you and I'm jealous that you can pull off reddish color like Bella Rouge so nicely, but I have to agree that drugstore eyeshadows in general are not as great as lippies.
    I love Lhasa too, and the comparison swatches shows how complex and unique this beauty is. If you're into pure pigments packed in hard/sheer formulations like NARS pressed powder products, it would be even harder to find drugstore counterparts. You might like WnW eyeshadows, for example, if you like UD ones, but that might be just how little I think of UD eyeshadows. ;-/

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    1. I haven't tried the L'Oreal Infallibles, though I've heard good things about them! The only other drugstore powder eyeshadows I'm familiar with are Revlon, WnW, and NYX, and I haven't been terribly impressed with any of those. In general, I think you get so much more complexity with high-end or indie eyeshadows than you do with drugstore. Duochromes, subtle shimmers, nuanced colors like Lhasa--it's hard to find any of that at a budget price point, unfortunately. I'm still looking for a replacement for Selfish, though! Maybe MAC Satin Taupe?

      I've occasionally been curious about UD's eyeshadows, and I almost bought Woodstock at one point, but I'm kind of indifferent to the brand as a whole. I have one of their new Revolution lipsticks, a really pretty peach, but I'm less crazy about the formula than everyone else seems to be.

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  2. SO BUMMED THAT THEY DON'T START OUT AS GELS. Why is the middle so squishy, though, hmm Milani?? Ugh. But L'Oreal Infallibles, like the person above commented, are INCREDIBLE. I wish they were CF because I'd buy them all out in a heartbeat.

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    1. The middle just looks squishy. Total misdirection on Milani's part. They never actually *say* the eyeshadow has a gel-like texture when applied, they just imply it in about 483579 different ways. I like the little dimple, though! So cute.

      Alas, the non-CF thing is what's keeping me from trying the Infallibles. I don't want to find any more HG products that I have to feel guilty about repurchasing. :(

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  3. Thanks, I think you just saved me what might turn out to be $14 up here (I haven't seen these here yet but guessing they'll be at least $7 per shadow). They look so nice in the pan but it's a shame they don't deliver on the claims. I thought that the dimples were your thumb prints, like you couldn't resist squishing them to really test out the texture, lol.

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    1. I'm glad I could save you some money! From the swatches I've seen online, some of the colors do look intriguing (I might try Bella Navy at some point), but the neutral colors are all pretty dupeable. I wish Milani hadn't raised expectations with such hyperbolic claims, because these are pretty good eyeshadows--but then again, "pretty good eyeshadow" isn't a phrase that inspires much confidence. I'm reminded of the French press I bought a couple years ago, which touted itself as "probably the best way to brew coffee"...

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  4. I like that they came out with a range of bold shades, and for the price I think Bella Rouge might be worth having, just because true red pinks are so rare. I always get frustrated when I swatch one and it turns out to be basically brown, just like when purple lipsticks turn out to be plum/burgundy...

    It's a shame that the pigmentation is a bit iffy, although I think it looks pretty spiffing in the looks you have here with it! I think it emphasises the green in your eyes more than the redness/undereye circles, for what it's worth :-)

    I wish we could just go into drugstores here and have an array of brightly coloured shadows...

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    1. It really is nice to see so many bold eyeshadow singles at drugstore prices! I think palettes are sort of overrated these days; I'd rather have a few singles I've chosen carefully than a palette with a couple of colors I love and several I'll never use.

      I'm actually glad Bella Rouge isn't more pigmented, since it's nice to be able to build up the color at will! I also love the word "spiffing." :)

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    2. It's one of those words, like 'top hole', and the phrase 'old bean', that will never get old, I feel. Not while Wodehouse is one of my favourite writers, anyway. Obviously, this means forever ;-)

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