Kat Von D is another charismatic figurehead who has always set off my narcissist detector. I've been hearing great things about her makeup for years, but I've also been hearing terrible things about her for years. (I don't feel like rehashing all her controversies here, though they're easy enough to find if you're interested.) What bothers me about brands like Kat Von D is that the founder's reputation and personality are so intimately bound up with the products. When I buy a lipstick, I don't want to have to think about whether Kat and Jeffree are friends or enemies this week. I simply don't give a shit. At Whole Foods a few months ago, I complimented the cashier's bright purple lipstick. Instead of just saying, "Thanks, it's by Kat Von D," she began gushing at length about how great Kat was. I'm not sure I trust any beauty brand that stirs up such passion. I just want some good makeup, you know? I'm too old and cynical to worship the person who makes it.
So I never bought anything from Kat Von D until this past summer, when Sephora reduced the price of their Studded X Duos from $15 to $7.50. Each duo contained two minis: a KVD Studded Kiss lipstick and a matching Formula X nail polish. I knew I liked Sephora's Formula X brand, and I'd long been curious about the Studded Kiss line, which had received mixed reviews but featured a range of unconventional matte and metallic shades. By the time I found out about the Studded X sale, there were four shades left: Coven (matte lavender), Slayer (matte black), Poe (metallic navy), and Mercy (metallic berry). For once in my life, I ordered the color I was most likely to wear:
It's cute that the drawings on each box match the shade inside! I'm not a huge fan of Kat Von D's 2EDGY4U aesthetic, but I do appreciate well-thought-out packaging.
|What is this image tho.|
Unfortunately, these Studded X duos are no longer available, but you can buy Mercy as a full-sized Studded Kiss lipstick for $21. Whether you should, well...keep reading.
I'm a total sucker for miniature beauty products, and these are done very well. Here are the Mercy lipstick (1.2g) and nail polish (4ml) next to a MAC lipstick (3g) and Essie polish (13.5ml) for scale:
When closed, Mercy doesn't look much smaller than a full-sized MAC, but the bullets tell a different story. I don't mind that the mini Studded Kiss tube is deceptively bulky: that makes it friendlier for a clumsy, large-handed person like yours truly. I love the stud pattern, by the way. If that makes me tacky, well, tell me something I don't know.
The Mercy lipstick has a rusty berry base with fuchsia shimmer. In an arm swatch, you can see the individual sparkles, but on the lips Mercy looks more like a berry/fuchsia duochrome. I detect a very faint vanilla smell, but no taste.
L-R: NYX Cabaret lip pencil (more on that in a second), MAC Eugenie, KVD Mercy, NARS 413 BLKR, Revlon Red Velvet. Essentially, Mercy is 413 BLKR with a fuchsia shift, but it reads much cooler on the lips because the shimmer is so pronounced.
After the first wear, I was forced to confront reality: I needed a lip liner. Now, I am the most anti-liner of lipstick addicts. I will go to incredible lengths to avoid scribbling all over my mouth, ingesting a woody taste that brings me back to second-grade art class, and inevitably drawing one side of my top lip larger than the other. So when I say a lipstick needs a liner, it really needs a liner. On its own, Mercy is a bit patchy and feathery. Like Poe, which I tried on in July, it doesn't want to adhere to the inner part of my lower lip. It doesn't look terrible from a normal distance, but it wears off more quickly than such a dark color should. Here's Mercy without liner, in direct artificial light (top) and indirect natural light (bottom):
Not terrible, but not great. Because of my anti-liner stance, the only lip liners I owned at the time were dark purple, mauve-brown, and metallic orange, so I checked out the NYX section at CVS and found a liner that looked similar to Mercy: Cabaret, a muted wine red. (I swear NYX meant to name this shade "Cabernet.") It turned out to be slightly warmer than Mercy, but no big deal: I just wanted a thin layer of a similar color. Here's Cabaret on its own, above, and under Mercy, below:
Layered over Cabaret, Mercy is surprisingly long-lasting. It barely transferred at all onto a cup of coffee, and it even stood up to an apple, though this might speak more to the efficacy of Cabaret in holding the lipstick in place. The NYX formula has a very slightly sticky finish that grabs lipstick well.
Here I am wearing the Mercy/Cabaret combo, along with Urban Decay Cover eyeshadow and Whiskey eyeliner, Sleek Flushed blush, and ColourPop Might Be highlighter. I assumed Mercy would look more dramatic than it actually did, hence the painfully boring eye makeup:
The nail polish is burgundy (less brown than the base color of the lipstick) with very fine burgundy shimmer. I'm disappointed that Formula X didn't make more of an effort to match the lipstick: a wine-red polish with fuchsia shimmer would have been beautiful. As it is, the Mercy nail polish is nice, but nothing more. It applies smoothly, dries quickly, and reaches opacity in two coats. Unfortunately, the shimmer gets lost on the nail unless it's in direct light (right). In the shade (left), Mercy just looks like a very shiny merlot:
|I hate how short my nails are, but they've been breaking like crazy lately. :(|
I could live with all this if the polish were not also very prone to chipping. The usual caveat applies—few polishes stay pristine on my nails for longer than two days—but I found myself with a couple of large chips before 24 hours had passed. And when I say "large chips," I mean that half the polish had somehow fallen off one of my nails.
That said, I'm happy with the Mercy duo overall. The nail polish is pretty, if not what I expected, and the lipstick alone is well worth the $7.50 I paid, though I doubt I'd drop $21 on a full-sized version. That beautiful fuchsia shift elevates Mercy above the "dark red lipstick for the holiday season" category. But with this experiment over, I'm back to avoiding the Kat Von D brand: her personality is radioactive enough that I wouldn't feel great about patronizing her further. Do you share my distaste for brands headed by big personalities?