ABH Subculture: Who Is Makeup For?

WARNING: this is largely a stream-of-consciousness post. Proceed at your own risk.

I don’t need more eyeshadow palettes. I don’t! But sometimes we want things we don’t need. It was my birthday yesterday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEE) and my awesome mother-in-law gave me my present early, making it possible for me to jump on the ABH Subculture bandwagon (is it still a subculture if it’s so popular?) the day it was released. Throw in a little extra $ for extradited shipping, and !BAM! before the weekend even rolled around, I was the happy new owner of the much-hyped Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture palette ($42/.28 oz).

Except not so happy. See, when I flipped the lid, one of the shadows (Untamed) popped out — and no matter how hard I tried to press it back in, it wouldn’t stick.

Maybe that eyeshadow got wind of the reviews and was trying to flee the scene of the crime –“I’M NOT PART OF THIS. I DIDN’T DO IT. I DON’T KNOW THEM.” Or maybe it was just staying true to its Untamed roots (heh) and making a break for it.

Regardless, I will be exchanging (maybe returning?) my palette. Yes, I know I could probably just hot glue or superglue it back in … but you know what? It’s a brand new palette. Fixing a brand new item is not my job, any more than it would be my job to mend a hole in a brand-new blouse or dye my towels if they arrived the wrong color. The ABH quality control team needs to know that this happened. (We’ve been doing a lot of stuff with quality control statistical calculations in my Econ Stats class, so I feel it is my duty to help ABH gather accurate representative data regarding quality control issues.)

Would I have returned/exchanged it otherwise? Well … yeah, probably. The reviews sure have me spooked — it’s been near-universally panned (or in Alissa Ashley’s case, literally panned), and these are from folks whose job it is to put makeup on their faces in skilled and artistic ways. If Christine-of-Temptalia has to restart her eye look THREE DAMN TIMES to get something that works, there’s no way I — timid, slow, and easily defeated* — am going to ever come up with something that makes this palette worth keeping.

See, I’m not a makeup artist. Not even a little bit. (This should not be a surprise to you.) I love makeup — boy do I love it!** — but no one is ever going to accuse me of being particularly artistic or talented when it comes to makeup application. That’s okay! I’d venture that most people who wear makeup — almost all, even — aren’t particularly artistic or talented. My mom and many sisters wear makeup daily (one sister even wears false lashes and contour on the daily because she is gorgeous and daring), but they view makeup as ancillary to their lives –supportive of their goals, but not the goal or hobby itself.

If I thought one of them wanted to expand their eyeshadow repertoire, I’d feel fine recommending the ABH Modern Renaissance palette — its awesomeness was due primarily to the fact that it took hard colors and made them easy. Prior to the MR palette, it would never have occurred to me to walk out of the house wearing red or ochre or burnt orange eyeshadow — but once I realized that doing so wouldn’t leave me looking like I’d been crying and/or was getting over a black eye, it opened up an avenue of color that hadn’t been available prior. Sure, MR was on the powdery side, but in a way that made the colors easy to blend — not in a way that made them apply patchily or layer poorly. (I mean, I probably still do look a little bruise-y when I wear ochre … but at least it’s a well-blended bruise, okay?)

I guess what I’m getting at is this:

On that rare day when I have just enough courage to put something weird in my crease, or a full hour of downtime to sacrifice to the makeup gods, I want a product that won’t sabotage me from the beginning.

This palette is not that palette. This palette is finicky. It’s tetchy. It’s high-maintenance as hell. But most of all, it’s unpredictable. There’s enough unpredictable shit in my life already; when I tap a flat shadow brush into a powder and then place that powder on my eye, I don’t want to have to wonder whether it will stick to my lids or layer nicely with other shadows from the same palette.

Now, Norvina (of ABH) took to Twitter to suggest that those who disliked the palette weren’t using it correctly.

The weird thing is, it’s not folks like me who are calling this out. So …

Who is this palette for?

Makeup artists? Sure, makeup artists have the skill set and physical tools to make even a crap palette look good — heck, you could probably give them literal sidewalk chalk and plastic dollar-store paintbrushes and they’d still come up with something amazing!

Problem is, most of the reviewers complaining about this ARE makeup artists (if not necessarily professionally certified/licensed ones) — the aforementioned Christine-of-Temptalia does colorful smokey eyes every day (often two at once!), and she struggled to make this work over different primers, bare skin, incorporated with other shadows, applied with various styles and fibers of brushes, applied with various techniques. It shouldn’t take softly tapping a $200 blue squirrel brush into an eyeshadow pan to avoid panning said eyeshadow upon first use. It shouldn’t require extensive testing over multiple bases to find the magical combination that will work. It shouldn’t require a MUA-level set of skills. Not for a widely-marketed, mass-release product like this.

So no, I probably won’t keep this palette. Do I want to wear mustard and sage and forest and dark teal on my eyelids this fall? Yes! Badly! But if I’m going to work up the courage to wear one of those shades in the first place, I want to know that I can at least rely on the formula of the product to help make it look good.

*when it comes to makeup, at least. There are many other hills upon which I would die.

**I spent twelve hours sorting and organizing my makeup last week and it made me so happy

Fortunately, Anastasia Beverly Hills is not the only company that produces eyeshadows; and fortunately, many of those other companies produce eyeshadows with good-to-great formulas.

Here are some possible alternatives. I don’t own any of them (yet — I expect to place a CP order to replace my ABH palette), so it’s more likely than not that these are NOT exact dupes — but if they’re not identical twins, they’re at least in the same family. You might notice that most of them are from Colour Pop; that’s partly because CP provides decent swatches on multiple skin tones for each product, but mostly because they’re super cheap! At the current $4/pop, you could build your own palette for about the same price as an ABH premade. If I couldn’t find a close dupe on the CP site, I wandered over to Makeup Geek to see what they have to offer — and at $6/each, they still won’t break the bank.

So without further ado, interesting fall mattes that might be easier to work with:

Swatch photos from ColourPop, MakeupGeek, and Anastasia Beverly Hills.

Instead of ABH Rowdy, try … ColourPop Cloud Nine
Instead of ABH Edge, try … ColourPop Paper Tiger
[I couldn’t find a great match for ABH Untamed; MUG Enchanted Forest is too green, while MUG Time Travel is too blue — maybe if you mixed them?]
Instead of ABH New Wave, try … ColourPop Running Late
Instead of ABH Fudge, try … ColourPop Lil’ Boat
I couldn’t find a good eyeshadow dupe for Electric — but MUG Electrify is a duochrome highlighter that is interesting, albeit less sparkly. [Ed. : ColourPop’s Play By Play would probably work?]
Instead of ABH Roxy, try … CP I Owe You (more orange) or CP Flowerboy (more coral) — I suspect you’d get a similar shade if you mixed them!
Instead of ABH Axis, try … CP Burnout (only available in the Weekend Warrior palette — but the $12 price tag includes three additional shadows, including a matte grey-lilac, matte blackened purple, and satin light pink!)
Instead of ABH Mercury, try … CP Take The Lead (probably not quite as khaki-green as Mercury, but it’s a good bet?) or MUG Dirty Martini (definitely more green than khaki, but still has that dirty green quality to it)
Instead of ABH All Star, try … CP Cute Alert OR the infamous Makeup Geek Cherry Cola — everyone seems to love this shade!
Instead of ABH Adorn, try … CP Board Shorts (just in case you don’t already own a metallic bronze?)
Instead of ABH Destiny, try … CP Team Captain
Instead of ABH Dawn, try … Makeup Geek Beaches and Cream
Instead of ABH Cube, try … NYX Snow Rose Duo Chromatic Illuminating Powder. Not an eyeshadow, but a gorgeous duochrome pink-pearl highlighter that might work just as well! [Ed. : CP On The Fence might also work!]

These are just some that seemed similar to me — if you know of any good dupes, feel free to chime in! Also, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about finicky palettes — do you think their existence is justified by the fact that Very Skilled Makeup People can “make them work”? Should I just try harder? Please discuss.