Monday, June 29, 2015

ColourPop Cowboy Eyeshadow and Lippie Primer, and a Sneaking Suspicion

Today I'm reviewing the second half of my recent ColourPop order: the Super Shock Shadow in Cowboy, a matte lavender, and the Lippie Primer, a clear lip primer that, according to the CP website, "enhances the wear of any lip product and keeps your lips looking and feeling healthy!"


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.

19 comments:

  1. Yep, those sound like fake reviews. So annoying. I'm actually getting bored with Colourpop's products, and I don't even have any! Oversaturation. It's great to read your reviews, though, since you weren't send them for free. That's valuable information to put out there.

    I'm another person whose lips regularly get dried out by products that other people describe as "super-hydrating!" Boo. I tend to just ignore those claims now and consider myself lucky when anything is comfortable. Also on the subject of lips, if you have any lip products that bleed, lining outside the edge of your lips with waxy primers like that can help prevent it.

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    1. I'm getting bored with ColourPop as well. I've seen so many photos and swatches at this point that I feel like I have many more ColourPop products than I actually do! I assume the hype will eventually fade away, just like the hype surrounding the Revlon Lip Butters and YSL Glossy Stains and Dior Fluid Sticks and and and...

      I consider myself lucky when anything is comfortable, too. And thanks for the tip! I used the primer today with Revlon Raspberry Pie Lip Butter, a very bleed-prone dark pink, and it's looking great.

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  2. OMG thanks so much for the much needed honest review and rant! I'd been wanting to make an order, but found it so difficult to find a good mix of reviews for the items that caught my eye. Ultimately their limited international shipping has stopped me from throwing money at them, but now I might just not get anything at all. Seems like their lip products need more work and I totes agree about their extremes in the finishes of their ES, really nothing much in between. I guess as a business model for lower priced cosmetics, CP's use of Speed, IG and YT is def a smart move, but for spending consumers, it does seem almost deceitful.

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    1. Yeah, I don't think it's worth paying international shipping for these products. The glitter eyeshadows are great for what they are, but if you don't like tons of big glitter particles, you're out of luck. I haven't tried all of their lipstick formulas, but the matte one doesn't tempt me to branch out. I couldn't believe how quickly their new line of liquid lipsticks sold out this week! I wonder if they deliberately produced fewer than they knew they'd need, or if their advertising is just that effective. Neither one would surprise me...

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  3. Fake reviews are SO common. I don't even bother with reviews on a company website. Or basically any website. It's hard to even trust a lot of bloggers these days, especially the swish, slick, super highly edited ones. Temptalia is basically the only one of the big bloggers I trust at all, mainly because I never see the same brands getting consistently great reviews which is a tell tale sign that something is up. I feel like all this lack of trust is completely putting me off buying any makeup at all. I haven't bought anything for months and I scarcely even wear makeup these days. It feels like half the fun, of sharing new finds on the internet and getting honest reviews from people on the other side of the planet, has vanished and with it most of my interest.

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    1. Wow, that's a little extreme and sad. :(

      Have to agree with you though, I always look to temptalia. If I have to look at another well known blogger, I always try to figure out if they're biased first.

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    2. Aww, that does make me sad, but I know exactly how you feel. The beauty blogging community was a lot more vibrant and honest a few years ago. I hope you won't let that put you off makeup entirely, though. There's still so much to be inspired by. One of these days I'll get around to that k-pop post I've been planning to write...

      Temptalia is awesome. I've been reading her for years, and she's always honest, even if I don't agree with some of her criteria and assessments.

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    3. Obviously that's not the only reason why make-up has become something of a chore to me but I really miss the creativity - the real, honest to God creativity - of, say, r/makeupaddiction a few years back. I'm just really finding it hard to muster up the enthusiasm about new products and new looks. I think part of it is that the trendy look of the moment is just so completely not me. Contouring and brows and all that shebang are just not me.

      I just miss the days of my teens when I would happily show up to college with a full face of 18th century make-up XD

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  4. Well, you made me feel like buying monster. :p

    I think that all these hyped up indie cosmetic companies are getting very repetitive, constantly putting out the same few kinds of color make up. I don't need another 20 blushes or glitter bomb shadows. I like NYX in this regard: always putting out something weird, like the wicked/macaroon series, or their colored mascaras at such low prices. but as of now I can't think of more interesting stuff I wanna buy to paint my face with.

    Conversely one brand I like for its marketing direction is lipstick queen, somehow. Even if the item itself is not so unique (eg medieval is basically a sheer red lipstick) the angle they go for and the branding works. For me, at least.

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    1. Yes, there are a few smaller companies that continue to do their thing in a classy, creative way! I agree that Lipstick Queen is one of them (though I've never tried anything from LQ), and I'd put OCC, Besame, and Illamasqua in that category, too.

      I sometimes wonder who wears all those glitter-bomb shadows. I NEVER see women wearing super-sparkly eyeshadow, and I spend a fair amount of time in NYC and San Francisco as well as in my little college town. It would seem to be an Internet-only thing, for the most part.

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  5. Giddy up for this shadow, people!

    what the eff is happening in this sentence

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    1. I KNOW. Unfortunately, that's the ColourPop house style, which is why I suspect so many of the reviews were written by employees. I'm not sure I could bring myself to compose a sentence like that if I weren't getting paid.

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  6. I've had my reservations about ColourPop for similar reasons. It is truly difficult to find reviews not affected by hype. When they announced the liquid lipsticks I knew a lot of people who were excited (and the swatches did look beautiful), but I'm hesitant to try any when so far the only reviews are from Instagrammers and YouTubers who received them for free. I do still want to try Monster, though, and I might just ignore my hesitation and throw one of the liquid lipsticks into my cart too. If it sucks, 6 bucks down the drain isn't the end of the world. (Though I wonder if that exact line of thought drives a fair amount of their profit.)

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    1. I think that line of thought is exactly what drives their profit! Though that's not necessarily a bad thing--we all have that thought at least sometimes. I do like the look of Koala, the lavender liquid lipstick, but if I buy a matte liquid lipstick I'll probably choose another brand.

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  7. ColourPop's obnoxious marking has really put me off of them as well (and their international shipping). They just seem...off. I especially don't want to buy from them when the Canadian dollar is low.

    I'm glad you put this out there.

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    1. "Off" is exactly the right word. A tumblr friend speculates that they'll be the next beauty brand to have a Lime Crime-esque scandal, and I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be true. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my Monster highlighter...

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  8. Ha, I am glad I read another reassuring(not for th brand but for my own skepticism)review. The brand just hit several of my bottoms of do-not-want. 1. Cheap pacakaging (loreal singles are the same price but they don't look like they will fallapart like wet n wild/nyc) 2. Got hyped to death(I don't follow overly enthusiastic bloggers because they feel like obnoxious preteen in the e-playground). 3. Shipping fee (not sure what their pricing is but I think I would rather pay for Japanese ems, which gets here in 2-3days.

    Oh if you like lavender shadow as an allover lid wash, you might like loreal infallible in liquid diamond(a tarnished silver-lilac with gold cast). I found it quite brighting for my dark eyes (makes them more brown and less black). That shade was temptalia-approved as well.

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    1. Edit: ok, their shipping actually aren't expensive at all(I assumed it because several bloggers I read from were blogging from China. So duh...)I was just looking for excuses to bitch, need to change that habit.

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  9. I know I am late to the blog but I just ran across this when looking up Colour Pops lip primer. It is nice to find an intelligent and honest review. While I do like a couple of the Colour Pop lip products, I found the eye shadows mediocre. But at the price point I wasn't too upset, but I am sure that is part of the business model. After watching too many You Tubers touting their "holy grail" product of the week, and the makeup looks that would take an hour to apply I now just stick with a few blogs. I am adding yours to my list. Temptalia is one I also use, and don't always agree but the blog seems to be honest and not sponsored. Another is the Unknown Beauty Blog, another intelligent and honest blog that talks about many indie products, and also for us women of a "certain age".

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