After my mixed experience with four Super Shock Shadows back in February, I resolved not to order any more glitter eyeshadows from ColourPop. I do like a little shimmer or a metallic finish, but ColourPop doesn't seem to produce eyeshadows that fall between matte and Ziggy Stardust on the glitter spectrum. So, for my second order, I chose one of the candy-colored matte shadows released this spring. Cowboy (I remain baffled by ColourPop nomenclature) is a very pale lavender that I hoped would be an opaque, matte version of Kiko 251.
Alas, it's not. It's also not a very good eyeshadow in its own right, which is evident even from arm swatches. Left, three passes; right, one pass. You can still see my veins through three layers of product!
On my eyelid, Cowboy blends into my skintone and looks more white than purple. It would be a good accent or highlight color for a darker, more pigmented shadow, but I was hoping for an all-over lid color, and it's just not suited to that. It also doesn't have much lasting power, and applying it over primer does nothing for either its pigmentation or its endurance. I suppose primer is meant for powder shadows and not creams, but cream shadow generally doesn't need a primer.
I don't hate Cowboy, though. Its subtlety actually makes it more versatile, because it looks like a neutral when worn. Plus, anything purple makes my eyes look greener. For my first experiment with Cowboy, I applied it all over my lid, then blended NARS Lhasa into the outer half and along my lower lashlines. Here Cowboy functioned as a sort of primer for Lhasa, as well as a highlight to keep the gray from looking too smoky. I'd definitely wear this look again.
My other makeup, as seen in my previous post, is Illamasqua Zygomatic blush, ColourPop Monster highlighter, and Maybelline Nude Lust lipstick. (Incidentally, this is the sort of look that my mom hates most on me. I can hear her now, telling me how "washed-out" I look and insisting I put some color on my lips.)
For my second experiment, I gave Cowboy a chance to prove its worth as the focal point of an eyeshadow arrangement. This time I applied it over NYX eyeshadow primer and smudged some matte black shadow around my lashlines for a reprise of my recent mod look. Here it is after two or three hours:
Wait, where did it go? You can't tell that there was ever any lavender on my lids! It looks like I applied matte black haphazardly and smudged it around. Granted, this was taken on a hot day, and it's a tenacious eyeshadow that can stand up to the triple threat of heat, humidity, and my multiple deep eyelid creases. So I wasn't expecting perfection...but I also wasn't expecting this. I'm tempted to say that the primer actually made Cowboy disappear more quickly, because wtf.
On to the next! The Lippie Primer has the same slender packaging and vanilla scent as the brand's regular lipsticks, as well as the same heavy, slightly waxy feel. ColourPop claims that the lip primer "contains mango, avocado and shea butter for moisture and Vitamin E, which soothes your lips," but I actually find the formula slightly drying. Story of my life, unfortunately.
I tried the Lippie Primer under two lipsticks, both of which have issues with opacity and lasting power. Topshop Rio Rio looks opaque when applied, but it wears off even when I'm literally sitting in a basement filing old letters and not eating, drinking, or talking. After a few hours, it sinks into lip lines and looks a bit sloppy. Applying it over the Lippie Primer was more of a challenge than I expected, since the waxy texture of the primer created a good deal of friction with the usually slippery lipstick. I ended up having to touch up the corners of my mouth with a lip brush. I wore the Lippie Primer + Rio Rio combination out for cocktails and a salad, and the lipstick did stand up to both eating and drinking. It had faded by the end of the evening, but much less than it would have without primer, and I noticed less color coming off on my glass as well. Not perfect, but the primer definitely made a difference:
Unlike Rio Rio, Maybelline Lilac Flush is milky and semi-sheer, so I wanted to see if the Lippie Primer would make it more opaque. Here's a couple of layers of Lilac Flush without primer:
And here's the same amount of Lilac Flush over primer:
Different lighting, taken on different days, but there's a visible change in evenness and opacity. (Well, there's more of a difference IRL than there is in photos. You'll just have to trust me.) Lilac Flush also lasted an hour or two longer over primer. The Lippie Primer hasn't blown my mind, exactly, but it does pretty much what one would expect it to do. I don't anticipate using it very often, though, because of the hassle of having to apply primer and lipstick every time I need a touch-up.
Now for a bit of a rant:
ColourPop sends more press samples to Instagrammers and YouTubers than it does to bloggers, so it's hard to find substantive reviews of the brand. On Instagram and YouTube, we get some swatches and a quick remark or caption, and the photos and videos usually go up before the reviewer has tested all the products for wear. Most ColourPop products look great in swatches; the true test comes with repeated wear and experimentation, but Instagram and YouTube aren't the places to find that sort of thing. There's an emphasis on continual consumption, one wave of products quickly superseded by the next, one "holy grail" dislodged by the next. And ColourPop has positioned itself to do well in that economy. It sells very small amounts of product at very low prices and doesn't allow returns. It's not focused on creating products that can be worn, loved, and replaced for years. Hell, who knows if ColourPop will even be around in a few years?
The founders of ColourPop, whoever they are, wouldn't dispute this conclusion. The website of ColourPop's creator, Seed Beauty, touts a business model that "utilizes the 3 simple steps of Si2 Product Development™: generate idea, make trial, evaluate and repeating [sic] the cycle as quickly and as many times as possible. The focus is on SPEED, not perfection. Perfection comes from creating as many trials as possible." At the same time, Seed Beauty claims to be "backed by a company with over 50 years of experience." Experience in what? Not in the cosmetics industry, surely, or ColourPop wouldn't need to go through so many experimental launches with us as the guinea pigs. Why not name the company? Is it Halliburton or something? I'm starting to understand why so many people on Reddit find this brand shady.
[Update, 9/2/15: The "company with over 50 years of experience" is Spatz Labs, which seems to be a manufacturer of generic makeup and/or cosmetic plastics. Though ColourPop claims that its products are made in LA, Spatz boasts of its "80,000 square feet of R&D and production in the U.S. with a new facility in Nanjing, China." If you're avoiding makeup made in China, you might want to avoid ColourPop, too; even if the products are assembled in LA, the ingredients might well be produced in China. Thanks to this Reddit thread for the tip!]
And here we come to the point of this rant. The scarcity of detailed ColourPop reviews drives potential customers to consult the reviews on the ColourPop website, which is what I did before buying Cowboy. Now, looking back at the website, I'm amazed at the chasm between my own experience of the product and the experience claimed in the reviews. There are currently 17 reviews of Cowboy on the ColourPop site. 16 of the reviews give the shadow 5 out of 5 points and gush about its smoothness and pigmentation:
So perfect I can’t even believe it! I never thought an eyeshadow could look like this! I’ve been looking for a shade like this one my entire life! Def a candidate for the PERMANENT line. There’s nothing like it!
I love this shadow so much I am getting 3 more as back up! I have never done this in my life! It’s just the most perfect lavender. Please please please make this a permanent color ColourPop Gods! I beg of you!
Giddy up for this shadow, people! We all know it is IMPOSSIBLE to find a pigmented, matte, pastel eyeshadow with staying power. This is it!!! The holy grail!!! Put it in your cart!!
And so on. Only one reviewer is at all critical, awarding Cowboy three points and noting, "Kinda hard to get the color to show, tried several bases but it just looks white." Yeah, that makes two of us.
Now, I realize that no two people can perceive a beauty product in exactly the same way. Our eyes differ, our expectations differ, and our intended uses for the product differ. Maybe my standards for an eyeshadow are higher than the standards held by 16 out of 17 people. But I doubt that, and I really doubt that 16 out of 17 customers—that's 94 percent—would award Cowboy the highest possible rating. It's just not that good, and people just don't get that unanimously excited about anything. Quite a few beauty brands allow customer reviews on their websites, and most of those reviews are a mixture of positive and negative, even for cult products. It makes sense: we generally don't go to the trouble of reviewing a product unless we're deeply impressed or deeply disappointed. But there are almost no truly negative reviews on the ColourPop website (though this lipstick has a couple). Now, maybe I'm a censorious bitch who focuses on the negative. Or maybe ColourPop is deleting negative reviews and making its employees boost the average score of each product with positive writeups. I can't prove that this is happening, but I have my suspicions.
For a few reasons, I'm going to avoid ColourPop for the foreseeable future. First, because they're not the champions of affordable, high-quality makeup that they claim to be ("We think that whole barrier between fancy and affordable is absolute nonsense"). Their products are hit-and-miss, while their prices per gram are comparable to mid-range brands like MAC. Second, because they take such obvious pains to conceal their origins. Third, because engaging with their website in any meaningful way turns me into a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, and I have better things to do. Changing out of pajamas, for one.