From time to time–usually after I’ve reviewed a more buzzed-about product, like the recent Urban Decay Wired palette, and found it disappointing, some readers will ask if it’s the worst product I’ve tried, but there’s often been worse.
Consider this post a master list of some of the most memorable (for all the wrong reasons) products that I can recall that I’ve reviewed on the blog. I’ve focused on formulas and palettes that were unbelievably bad as a whole, rather than just one really bad shade in a formula that was otherwise solid.
Reflecting back to past product releases that were epic failures shows that just about any brand can and has some flop in their history, which is why critical reviews that share pros and cons from a variety of people who have tried the product are invaluable when someone is researching a product for possible purchase.
I spoke at length on the importance of truth in reviews a couple of years ago here, so I’ll keep it briefer here, but I’m a big believer in sharing reviews for products that rate highly as well as the ones that rate poorly and all the middling releases in-between. For someone like me, who effectively reviews at a professional level, it offers greater insight into my reviewing criteria and methodology but also that I can be critical across a variety of products and brands.
Estee Lauder London Victoria Beckham Eye Palette ($75.00 for 0.28 oz.) is a deflating release from a collaboration that was known for its higher quality–that while incredibly expensive, the majority of products delivered on their promises, but this was a total and utter disappointment. Read full review.
MAC Studio Eye Gloss ($22.00 for 0.50 fl. oz.) is one of those products that really mystifies me, because I don’t know why it’s launched and included in consumer-geared collections. I wish they were touted as lipglosses, because at least they might be wearable (though the texture is like glue). Read full review.
Makeup Geek Sparklers ($12.00 for 0.14 oz.) is supposed to be an ultra-fine loose “glitter” (“uses reflects to create a glitter effect”) that’s safe for usage on the eyes, edited 1/31/2020: per the brand. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so deeply disappointed in a brand, but I can’t believe these were launched in the existing packaging, at full price, and are being marketed as they are. Read full review.
Lancome Audacity in London Eyeshadow Palette ($69.00 for 0.576 oz.) includes 16 eyeshadows and most of them are terrible. Even when they swatched decently–which is probably being generous–they applied worse on the lid, as the thin, dusty textures did no favors on my lids. The eyeshadows applied unevenly, patchily, and often looked like faded versions of the way they did in the pan, which meant that they tended to muddy and lose contrast as they are more muted colors to begin. Read full review.
Urban Decay Wired Pressed Pigment Palette ($39.00 for 0.40 oz.) is a new, limited edition palette that includes six eyeshadows and four pressed pigments (which are “not for use around the eye”). The pigments are easily identified and split up within the palette, which was a welcome update and something I wish more brands would do. That was the best part of the palette –it only went downhill from there.
The performance of the palette is drastic departure from the original Electric palette, which wasn’t perfect but was significantly more workable. If this palette was the full spectrum of colorful eyeshadows available, I’d give up wearing colorful eyeshadows entirely, but thankfully, that’s not the case. What year is it?? Read full review.
Ciate The Jessica 9 Shade Eyeshadow PaletteCiate The Jessica 9 Shade Eyeshadow Palette ($39.00 for 0.48 oz.) is a new, limited edition palette that features nine shades with three mattes and six shimmers. There was not one shade that was good; decent would be a stretch for maybe one or two shades–it might even be kind to say it’s mediocre rather than what it really is: a prettily packaged piece of garbage that Ciate should be ashamed to have put on the market, let alone marketed to add “va-va-voom” to one’s look. Read full review.
Chanel Trait de Caractere Eyeshadow Palette ($70.00 for 0.31 oz.) is a smoky, earthy set of shades housed in a black compact. I wanted to like it, as it was a more unusual set of shades for the holiday season, but the formula is just so powdery, prone to sheering out, and short-wearing that it left me incredibly disappointed. More often than not, Chanel’s 5-pan palettes are unimpressive, and it always makes me wonder why they didn’t just make a quad instead, where the formula is stronger. Read full review.
Make Up For Ever Let’s Gold 18-Pan Eyeshadow PaletteMake Up For Ever Let’s Gold 18-Pan Eyeshadow Palette ($45.00 for 0.54 oz.) is a subtle, neutral palette with a mix of shimmers and mattes across browns, greens, and coppers. If you’re familiar with the Artist Color formula, forget about it because this palette is nothing like those and isn’t advertised similarly at all — if you go in expecting the pigmentation and quality associated with Make Up For Ever eyeshadows over the last decade, you’ll be disappointed. Read full review.
MAC Lo-Fi Jeremy Scott Eyeshadow x29 Palette ($75.00 for 0.51 oz.) is an example where there’s a lot of attention paid to the packaging but not enough toward the actual product inside. Read full review.
Per the brand, it’s supposed to be a “magically-transformative liquid eyeshadow” that has “color-flip pigments” that give it a “unique, color-changing, megawatt finish.” It is supposed to be “long-wearing” with “minimal fallout.” There’s no specific callout about coverage level, but the brand’s swatches shown fairly pigmented skin swatches and then opaque coverage on their model eye swatches. Read more…
The formula is supposed to have “intense, ultra-creamy colour payoff” with an “ultra-smooth gliding texture” that has “even colour distribution and payoff.” Just in case you weren’t totally on-board with the idea that MAC meant for these to be pigmented, they also go on to describe these as having “an explosion of colour.” Read more…
Chanel L’Intemporel de Chanel Eyeshadow Palette ($80.00 for 0.24 oz.) includes five shades of muted, smokier shades. It was a complete and utter disaster; not worth $8, let alone $80. Described as a “rich palette” with “an absolute black” and “brilliant green and plum shades,” I don’t know what palette they’re speaking of, because these were sheer, dusty, and uneven applied to the skin. Read full review.
Kat Von D Bonnie + Clyde Shade + Light Blush DuoKat Von D Bonnie + Clyde Shade + Light Blush Duo ($25.00 for 0.317 oz.) features a cool-toned set of shades in a very light pink and a darker pink. The blush formula is supposed to “stay vibrant for a full 24 hours of wear” with “silky powders” that “blend effortlessly into skin for a flawless, buildable finish.” The texture of both shades left something to be desired as they were thin, chalky, and difficult to blend. Read full review.
The formula is supposed to have “insane glide” that is “creamy upon application” but sets. The brand says that they can be used as eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick, or lip liner. I found the performance to be underwhelming both on the eyes and lips, though on lips it was particularly disappointing. Fenty has been fairly consistent, and where they’ve missed, it’s usually not a total failure, but I had no luck with this formula at all. Read more…
Too Faced White Chocolate Bar Chocolate Bar Eye PaletteToo Faced White Chocolate Bar Chocolate Bar Eye Palette ($49.00 for 0.42 oz.) is a new, limited edition eyeshadow palette that is available for Rouge/VIB members from 11/21 to 11/22 and then releases for everyone on at 11/23. It’s one of Too Faced’s worst palettes, and it’s still a mediocre, not-worth-$5 palette used over their own primer. The formula used in this palette is so dry that shades are often dusty, chalky, or powdery (or some mix) with many shades applying with little pigmentation, sheering out as soon as they’re touched, and have little wear time (even over primer!). Read full review.
The Showstopper Creme Stain formula is supposed to be “long-lasting” and “highly pigmented and offers effortless, buildable coverage.” Highly pigmented and buildable make it confusing what the coverage actually is, since something that is buildable means that it is less pigmented but can be layered for greater coverage. The majority of shades were medium to semi-opaque in coverage, hard to build as they often pulled up the first layer and shifted color around. The formula rarely applied well; it was streaky, dried so fast that there was no time for corrections (and attempts to correct just made it worse), and clingy. Read more…
NARS Soft Touch Shadow PencilsNARS Soft Touch Shadow Pencils ($24.00 for 0.09 oz.) come in four shades for the holidays: Empire (black), Heat (teal), Silver Factory (aluminum), and Trash (vivid purple). Silver Factory is limited edition but the other three are permanent.
If I had a makeup nemesis, I imagine it would look a lot like NARS’ Soft Touch Shadow Pencils, because it’s one of the worst products I have ever seen, and I get frustrated every time I use a new shade in the same disappointing formula. I wish I could tell you that the latest four showed improvement, but I can’t. They’re as awful as expected. I have reviewed these thoroughly. I have tried them in various ways; as a base, alone, over a base, over a primer, over eyeshadow, under eyeshadow, as eyeliner, as brow highlighters. Read full review.
The formula is supposed to be a “cream-to-powder blush” that has “buildable color” and a “creamy, velvety texture” paired with a “radiant-matte finish.” The consistency felt creamy to the touch, but it also felt a little powdery. It had a candy-coated shell initially–very shiny–but after one or two uses, the texture looked more matte and felt a lot drier. It seemed almost as if it was drying out over time, so ultimately, it felt more like a powder going on most of the time. Read more…
Too Faced White Chocolate Chip PaletteToo Faced White Chocolate Chip Palette ($26.00 for 0.25 oz.) includes 11 eyeshadows in a small, compact case. I had no trouble getting an average-sized eyeshadow brush into each pan, but the quality of the palette was actually surprisingly bad–there was a cheapness to the formula that made colors look lighter and more white-based to the point where half the shades looked alike once on the lid. Read full review.
NARS Endless Orgasm Multi-Use Face PaletteNARS Endless Orgasm Multi-Use Face Palette ($49.00 for 0.48 oz.) is a new, limited edition palette that features six cream shades that can be used on eyes, cheeks, and lips (and I’ve rated them across these three areas and then taken an average score for the ratings seen below). The formula is supposed to be buildable and can be blended “with a fingertip or a brush” to be applied as a standalone product or layered with other products.
The problem with these multi-tasking formulas is that they often don’t work well across all the areas, and in this case, it didn’t perform well on any area. It was just varying degrees of amused horror (insta-crease formula on the eyes, horrifying in its quickness but not really a surprise), vague surprise (they weren’t the worst product on my lips), and distinct disappointment (wow, they don’t even apply well as a blush???). Read full review.
The formula is supposed to have “transparent color” and a “wave of glossy shine” that “imparts a cushion-like, conditioning tint.” It has a “sheer color core” surrounded by a “hydrating balm.” The product screams gimmicky, and the performance was so dismal that I can’t help but think that’s all it is. On my lips, I did actually see differences in tints–warmer, cooler, pinker, redder–but anyone with more natural pigmentation will likely find that harder and harder to determine. The transparent aspect was accurate, and the sheerness was really as expected based on the marketing. Read more…
Fenty Beauty Pastel Frost (8) Snap Shadows Mix & Match Eyeshadow PaletteFenty Beauty Pastel Frost (8) Snap Shadows Mix & Match Eyeshadow Palette ($25.00 for 0.21 oz.) is a new, permanent all-shimmer palette that proved disappointing. The newer Fenty palettes were inconsistent, but the matte eyeshadows tended to be more workable and easier to use all-around, while the shimmers were all over the place.
These were some of the worst as they were thicker and stiffer in texture, which yielded weaker coverage and poorer application in most cases. They don’t improve much over primer; they have to be really pressed and worked onto the lid with fingertips or dampened brushes just to be decent. Read full review.
Melt Cosmetics Ultraviolet Blushlight (Trio) ($22.00 for 0.28 oz.) is a jumbo-sized blush compact that contains a pan that’s been split into three distinctive shades. The brand says that it can be used “on face and around eyes as desired” (I wonder if “around” is code for “not for the immediate eye area,” though). As a blush formula, the heavy, denser, and thicker consistency made it difficult to pick up product, left them often looking thick and textured on my cheeks, and ranged from “make it stop” to “don’t apply in a rush” levels of difficulty. Read full review.
It is supposed to be a “long-wearing, crease-proof” formula with a “velvety matte finish” that “glides smoothly” with “high impact.” The formula is certainly an improvement from the Soft Touch Shadow Pencils, which were some of the fastest-creasing products I have ever tested. This formula doesn’t crease as quickly, though wear is only five to six hours, which isn’t stellar. Read more…
Laura Mercier Watercolour Mist Eye & Cheek Palette ($58.00 for 0.332 oz.) contains six eyeshadows and two cheek… Read full review.
The formula is supposed to be a “lightweight, cream-to-powder blush” that is “pore-smoothing” with a “barely-there feel.” The texture has a thicker, more clay-like feel to it, where there’s creaminess to it, but there was also a drier, more velvety/powdery feel present as well. It was a tricky formula to work with, as it was dry and prone to crumbling/flaking off my skin when I tried to use it with my fingertips (which is what the brand says to use with the product). I had the best luck working with a stippling brush, but the drier texture made it more difficult to pick up product with a brush. I did not like how they applied on my skin; they were uneven and sometimes caught on any dryness or flakiness. Read more…