THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY: THE HIGHS & LOWS OF MAKEUP RELEASED IN 2020
If there’s one thing that’s got me through 2020 with *relative* ease, it was focusing on my passions. Whether that be writing, content creating, photography, baking – you name it – being actively attentive to things I love has almost been a sanity saver during a year that’s been nothing short of unsettling and isolating for us all. While I’ve definitely had large stretches of time where I’ve gone makeup-free over the past 10 months, I’ve tried so many incredible products that have been freshly released onto the market, and others that haven’t been as great as I thought they would’ve been – and I’m going to share all of these with you right now. I’m going to categorise the makeup I’m talking about as a ‘Hit’ or a ‘Miss’, explaining my decision for each one. So, without further ado, let’s get into it…
This may seem like a weird place to start, but I’m going to kick off my Hits & Misses of 2020 with eyeshadow palettes. Personally, while complexion products are an essential for me in order to feel as though I look my best, eyeshadow is my favourite and it’s the product-type that I invest the most money and interest in. While I have a beloved collection of palettes ranging from 35-pans to beautifully designed quads, there have been some releases in 2020 that have slotted into the gang beautifully. One, however, was a little underwhelming…
HIT: NATASHA DENONA BRONZE PALETTE
I’m probably going to contradict myself further into this article, but the Natasha Denona Bronze Palette has probably been my favourite makeup release in general this year. Every bronze colour you could ever want or need is in this palette, meaning you can choose whatever tone of bronze you want to suit your eye colour, outfit, favourite lip colour, and even the time of year. The formula’s so pigmented and easy to blend – it’s a staple and a new classic that I think will become an industry bestseller as time goes on.
MISS (…KIND OF): NATASHA DENONA LOVE PALETTE
I have a serious love-hate relationship with this palette, as I’ve alluded to before. While the quality is there, I was underwhelmed by how some of the colours look when swatched in comparison to how they look in the pan. Some of the metallics have a lot of fallout and, if I’m truthful, the shadows – both regarding colour and texture – didn’t look as luxurious as the price would suggest. However, this is not a bad palette – I just don’t think it’s Natasha Denona’s best one. I have to say though – the silver metallic is stunning.
HIT: JACLYN HILL X MORPHE VOLUME II EYESHADOW PALETTE
Just like her original, Jaclyn Hill’s second 35-pan palette with Morphe has been a huge success, full of top-quality pigmentation that blends like a dream. I particularly love how this is a brightly coloured palette which focuses mainly on yellows, oranges, purples and pinks, which are personally the colours I’m most comfortable using when experimenting with new eyeshadow shades. The sparkly shades aren’t as intense as I thought it would have been – they’re beautiful, but definitely require some layering to build up them up to full opacity, and I actually see this as a good thing: They’re perfect for light washes of sparkle and for people who want to vamp it up for a night out.
HIT: HUDA BEAUTY LILAC OBSESSIONS EYESHADOW PALETTE
While I’ve had the Huda Beauty Lilac Obsessions palette for a few months, I actually had no idea when it was released and was so excited to find out that I could include it in this article. Purple is my favourite colour, and I was ecstatic to find a palette that had a colour story that I love from start to finish. What I particularly appreciate is how this palette contains some warmth – this helps to ensure that purple eyeshadow makes you look lively, awake and healthy, as alone, purple shadows can make you look tired and even though you’ve been punched. What’s more, these are all fairly medium-toned shades, which makes them easy to use and perfect for everyday makeup. For my makeup lovers with darker complexions, I wished so much that there were a couple of deeper tones to make this palette more inclusive to all skin-tones, and hopefully a richer version will come in the future. The metallics have an extremely fine, hard-pressed formula, which prevents fall-out, and because of this they need to be built up for full intensity, but regardless, they’re all beautiful.
HIT: CHARLOTTE TILBURY COPPER CHARGE LUXURY PALETTE
Buttery, smooth, pigmented, and easy to blend, the Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette in Copper Charge has to be one of my favourite purchases this year. There we are, I’ve already contradicted myself ha! Trust me, it’ll happen again.
Back to the palette: I’s the warm little compact I’ve been waiting for – perfect for simple, easy-to-navigate makeup, and it’ll come with me when I next travel without a shadow of a doubt. I’ve never seen such pigment intensity within one of Charlotte Tilbury’s Luxury Palettes before. I’m also a huge fan of their ‘Pop’ shades, so I was delighted when I saw one was included in this gem of a product. I love a gentle wash of sparkle – it never fails to look effortlessly pretty.
HIT: NARS AFTERGLOW EYESHADOW PALETTE
I’ve spoken about this palette a few times now, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. The NARS Afterglow eyeshadow palette is perfect for natural makeup lovers, and for people who love warm tones, but occasionally like to dabble in the cooler, more pink-toned side of eyeshadow. If you’ve had your eye on it (excuse the pun), remember it’s limited edition and it’s been out for a few months now. I’ve been so happy with mine, and the matte brown called ‘Shadow Hill’ has become a crease colour I use all the time even when I’m using shades from different palettes. I can’t wait to see what other eyeshadow palettes NARS have in the pipeline.
HIT: NARS POWERCHROME LOOSE PIGMENT (‘SLAM’)
While I’m (evidently) clearly an eyeshadow palette lover, I have a strong affinity for potted glitter/shimmer cream-to-powder single shadows. From Kylie Cosmetics to Hourglass, I love the differences in formula and colour options, and one of my favourites has to be ‘Slam’ by NARS. While everybody has been going crazy over the shade ‘Shock ‘Em’ – a lighter tone with chunkier glitter – I’ve been using the finer rose-gold option like there’s no tomorrow over the past year. By “fine”, I don’t mean skippy or patchy – the pigmentation intensity is perfect, while also having a creamy and smooth feel, as well as a high-shine, sparkly finish. I cannot recommend this product enough. Also, this particular colour specifically isn’t loose at all, despite what the name might suggest, so please don’t worry about it spilling everywhere or being messy to use.
HIT: CHARLOTTE TILBURY JEWEL POTS (‘WALK OF NO SHAME’)
I love glitter, but there are some circumstances where intense sparkly eyes probably isn’t the most appropriate thing to wear. Enter: Charlotte Tilbury’s very own version of the cream-to-powder pressed glitter-shimmer single shadows, but this time with a sprinkle of sophistication and maturity. While the shade Walk Of No Shame is definitely shimmery, it’s the most toned-down looking formula out of all the different types of these kind of shadows that I own, making it PERFECT for when you want to sparkle but keep it low-key. Normally, while I love rose-gold tones, I despise distinct gold-to-pink shifts when shimmer shadows are reflected at different angles when they hit the light, but this is an exception – I can’t begin to tell you just how pretty it is.
HIT: NARS CLIMAX EXTREME MASCARA
I can totally see why the new NARS Climax Extreme mascara has got mixed reviews – it’s intense, and has the potential to be a black, liquidy, smudgy, uncontrollable mess (I’m really hyping this up, aren’t I?). Simply, you just have to be careful – for me, I have to scrape the edges of the brush as I’m pulling it out of the tube, otherwise there is way too much product and so it can be difficult to apply neatly and without sticking all your lashes together. Some people will probably see this as a negative, but personally it really doesn’t bother me, especially since I get complimented on the length and volume of my lashes every single time I wear this mascara. I’ve never been a black mascara girl, but this has definitely converted me to the dark side. Also, I’ve never known it to smudge if my eyes get watery, which is always a win.
HIT: CHARLOTTE TILBURY AIRBRUSH BRONZER (‘FAIR’)
Powder bronzers virtually never work on me, and I always thought that my skin type and texture was the problem. From lifting much-needed coverage to significantly exacerbating texture and the smallest pimples that I didn’t even know I had, I had firmly categorised myself as someone who couldn’t use powder bronzer at all. When I saw that Charlotte Tilbury were creating a range of products based on their coveted and award-winning Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder, and one of these happened to be powder bronzers packaged in the most beautiful golden, shell-like cases, I thought “Oh, why not – let’s give this one last go.” I knew that if these didn’t work, I wouldn’t try again.
For me, the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzers are probably the best products to have been released this year (there we go again with “the best” and “my favourite” haha!). They are smooth beyond belief, and since the powder is pressed so hard into the pan, there’s no fallout whatsoever – this means that, instead of buffing the product across your cheeks, you can simply get the powder onto your brush, gently press the excess off on the back of your hand, and lightly press the product around and into the hollows of your cheeks. The firmly pressed nature of these bronzers also means that they’re sheer, but with a buildable quality. There’s also no disturbance to your foundation, concealer and/or setting powder, meaning this product is perfect for textured skin or skin that’s suffering with acne or scarring. What’s more, there are four colours, one of which is called ‘Fair’ – and I’ll tell you this: I have exceptionally fair skin, and this colour even works on my skin tone.
MISS: NARS MATTE BRONZING POWDER
When I first tried the NARS Matte Bronzing Powder in the shade ‘Vallarta‘, I had firmly categorised myself as someone with a skin-type and texture that couldn’t really handle powder bronzers with ease, and this powder became a go-to to lightly set my liquid bronzer (I use the Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Concealer in the shade 5N). Don’t get me wrong – these powders can be used brilliantly to do that job. However, after experiencing the formula of the aforementioned Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush bronzer, I can’t categorise the NARS Matte Bronzing Powders as a hit when, in my experience, they don’t perform nearly as smoothly as the Charlotte Tilbury one. While they can easily exaggerate the appearance of texture, they are not a bad product, it’s just a miss in comparison to Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush formula, which is the only other new powder bronzer I tried this year. (Sorry, NARS, I do love you a lot).
BLUSH, HIGHLIGHTER & CHEEK PALETTES
HIT: JACLYN COSMETICS MOOD LIGHT LUMINOUS FACE POWDER (‘BRIGHTEN UP’)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the midst of my hunt to find the best highlighters on the market. For me, highlights need to be smooth, enhancing and something that truly makes you look healthy and radiant, and anything that remotely looks powdery or cakey on the skin immediately gets chopped from the list.
One product that really caught me by surprise this year – and I’m so glad I’ve found it – is the Jaclyn Cosmetics Mood Light Luminous Face Powder in the shade ‘Brighten Up’. These light pink-to-nude iridescent powder is as versatile as it is stunning in every way you use it. From being able to dust it lightly all over your face with a fluffy brush to taking a smaller, more dense and compact brush and creating a stunning glow across your cheekbones, the Mood Light powders are right up there with the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzers as one of the best new makeup releases. They’re silky smooth and settle onto the skin beautifully – it’s a natural makeup-lover’s dream.
While the Mood Light powders were a part of Jaclyn Cosmetics’ Highlighter Holiday Collection last Christmas, I believe they’ve made their bang throughout 2020. Unfortunately (and downright painfully), they’re not available at the moment, however Jaclyn herself mentioned that they’re planning on expanding the shade range, so I’m assuming we all have to stay tuned to see what happens next!
HIT: PATRICK TA MONOCHROME MOMENT VELVET BLUSH (‘SHE’S SEDUCTIVE’)
Another classic product that I found this year has to be the Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Velvet Blushes. Again, these were technically released at the end of 2019, but as they’re such incredible products and I only found them in 2020, I have to include them in this list. Like the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzers, these are also pressed incredibly hard into their pans, meaning they’re sheer but buildable, but again without any fallout, meaning they’re super easy to blend and look neat across the cheeks. They don’t lift coverage or exacerbate texture, and Patrick Ta himself said that the best way to apply them is to take plenty of product on your brush, press the excess onto the back of your hand, and then press across the cheeks. Funnily enough, despite the fact that I have such fair skin, my favourite colour out of the two I own so far is ‘She’s Seductive’, a nude mauve that pairs beautifully with my Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzer. I can’t wait to try the other colours and I hope Patrick Ta continues to expand the shade range.
HIT: NARS OVERLUST CHEEK PALETTE
The NARS Overlust Cheek Palette is perfect for natural makeup. With three options for blush, there’s a colour that will suit a variety of eyeshadow looks and lipsticks, whether they be nude, pink, peach, brown or even on the cooler side of the spectrum. The highlighters brought my attention to a gel formula, which is a type that I’d never tried before. After trying – and failing – to apply these three highlighters with a brush, I eventually figured out that all I needed to use were my fingers. While this can lift foundation and concealer up across your cheekbones, I’ve never known it to be noticeable, and since this palette is great for more natural makeup looks, letting a little bit of your own skin shine through isn’t a problem at all.
HIT: NARS AFTERGLOW LIP BALMS
I mean…WOW, just wow. These beautiful and hydrating tinted balms go with me everywhere I go – even if I’m just going for a walk. I know I’ve already said this about three or so products already, but these balms are one of the biggest standouts within the beauty industry this year. While the original shades – Clear Cut (clear) and Orgasm (a peachy pink) – had been available for a while, the shade range only expanded this year and what a treat that has been. From ‘Fast Lane’, a pinky mauve, to ‘Dolce Vita’, a deepened peachy rose nude, these balms have become a firm favourite of mine and I really hope NARS come out with more colours ASAP! There’s even a red, ‘Turbo’, which is just stunning. 10/10.
MISS: FENTY BEAUTY SLIP SHINE SHEER SHINY LIPSTICKS
Ok, ok, ok… these are not bad products – in fact, I use them, albeit not often, and enjoy them too. I’m going to post an in-depth article reviewing and comparing the NARS Afterglow lip balms and the Fenty Beauty Slip Shine Sheer Shiny Lipsticks, as while both are tinted lip balms, they’re completely different in formula, texture and performance, and which one you’ll prefer will completely depend on your preferences and skin-type on your lips. For now, in short (so I don’t sabotage my own future blogpost!), I’ll say that while there are some pluses to these sheer balms from Fenty, they’re fairly difficult to apply, especially if you suffer from dryness or have deep lip creases. Of course, there’s more to it as to why I’ve classed these as a miss even though they’re not bad products, and it’s largely due to the fact that, in comparison to the NARS alternative, they’re not as good in my eyes.
HIT: NARS OIL-INFUSED LIP TINTS (‘REEF’)
While I’ve had one lipstick from NARS that didn’t work particularly well for me personally (namely ‘Cruising’), I firmly believe that they create some of the best lip products on the market. After reading reviews in respect to their Oil-Infused Lip Tints, I became aware that some people thought that this product didn’t do very much – however, I couldn’t disagree more. While they are a more sheer product, they are perfect for people who love natural makeup, and they make your lips shine to the high heavens. The shade ‘Reef’ gives my lips that look of pure hydration and is a fantastic product if you love the ‘wet makeup’ look.
I believe that I’ve mentioned before that I have a slight raspberry sensitivity. These products technically do have raspberry extract in them, but they’ve never caused a problem for me – however, if you’re also sensitive, please be aware of this before purchasing! This is probably a great time to remind everyone to always check the ingredient list before buying a product, because with these, I didn’t and luckily I didn’t have any reaction whatsoever, but I know from personal experience with a variety of skincare products that lucky escapes aren’t always the case. So just be diligent!
HIT: CHARLOTTE TILBURY COLLAGEN LIP BATH (‘PILLOW TALK’)
The Charlotte Tilbury Collagen Lip Bath had been on my wishlist for what feels like years, but I never actually purchased one – however, when it got released in the iconic Pillow Talk shade, I decided it was finally time to grab it and see what it’s all about.
Whereas Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Lustre’s are densely pigment and more of what you’d describe as a classic gloss, the Collagen Lip Bath’s are a sheer alternative. Unlike the NARS Oil-Infused Lip Tints, the Collagen Lip Baths have the texture of a gloss – with a tacky feel, these are not sticky, but rather have a lasting power that’s hydrating, light-reflective and, by all accounts, filled with goodness for your lips. It’s described as a plumping formula, but I haven’t personally felt that typical tingle that you get with many plumping-type lip products – it does, however, make your lips look full.
HIT: PATRICK TA MAJOR GLOW LIP SHINE (‘SHE’S EXPENSIVE’)
I’ve quite clearly been on a gloss/balm wave this year! I honestly hadn’t realised how many your-lips-but-better/natural makeup lip products I’ve tried this year until I starting writing this section of the blogpost! In saying that, I can’t complain because so many of these products have been amazing and I now use them on an everyday basis. The Patrick Ta Major Glow Lip Shine in ‘She’s Expensive’ is no exception – with fine flecks of neutral golden and silver shimmer woven throughout this pearl-to-translucent gloss, your lips are instantly given a wash of glass-like, light-reflective, high-shine power. I was apprehensive about the shimmer, but after first applying the gloss, all my worries and pre-conceived ideas were quenched. With a balm-like texture, this gloss has a cooling feel, and is great worn on its own or as a topper.
HIT: VIEVE MODERN LIP DEFINER (‘VELVET SANDS’)
Last, but certainly not least, enters VIEVE – YouTuber Jamie Genevieve’s brand new makeup line. I’ve watched Jamie for years, and with two of her regular partnerships being with NARS and Charlotte Tilbury, I was super excited to see what her own products would be like. While I’ve actually got my hands on a range of the products from her first launch – namely the neutral Essentials Eyeshadow Palette, matte lipsticks and one of the three highlighters on offer – I haven’t yet photographed the products due to a lack of sunlight here in the UK during winter, and therefore haven’t managed to try out these goodies. I have, however, tried the lip liner, which has quickly become a staple in my collection.
The Modern Lip Definer in the shade ‘Velvet Sands’ is a stunning nude that isn’t too warm and isn’t too brown and isn’t too dark – it’s just great and I find myself grabbing it regularly. The formula reminds me of a hybrid between Charlotte Tilbury’s – which have incomparable lasting power and are firmer in consistency, being able to be worn highly pigmented or more sheerly depending on the pressure applied upon application – and Kylie Cosmetics’ – which are incredibly soft and creamy. All in all, Jamie’s done a fantastic job.
And that’s it for beauty in 2020! While, of course I can’t wait to see what products brands have up their sleeves for 2021, it goes without saying that I hope the world begins to settle down again after what’s felt like the most unimaginable year yet. I’m an optimist by nature, but the past few years has dealt me some cards that threw me into pockets of pessimism. When life changes, it’s hard not to lose track of where you are, and while many online blogs and social media accounts are promoting productivity, I really just hope that you’re all remembering to be kind and show patience to yourself and one another. Together, we’ll get through this, and one day it’ll be over. With that said, I’m sending all my love for the New Year.
With love always, T x