Smokey Palettes pt.2

Last time I showed you a few of my favourite smokey palettes, some drugstore and economical, some more expensive. I’d like to cover a few more. Again, we’ll go from inexpensive and easily available, to more pricey and Limited Edition. Have you used any of these? Any preference? Leave me a comment below!

Smokey Purple by Collection

In theory, I love the concept of this palette. Portable, purples and gunmetal colours. Colour nr3 does look an interest desaturated light purple with a satiny finish that I’m not sure I’ve seen elsewhere.

I said in theory I love it. In practice, not so much. I know I shouldn’t expect much from a £3.99 palette, but the formula feels “thin”, buildable but thin. I’m also not sure that having most of the pans as satin/metallics, even the darker ones, is a good idea, as a lot of people (myself included) prefer to use non metallics for crease and outer v areas.

Don’t get me wrong, you can totally create a few pretty looks with this, and it feels soft on the skin and finely milled. But I might be spoiled as it’s proven hard to work with, doesn’t seem to blend that well, and needs a LOT of build up to have any colour depth as in the look I’m attaching below. I can see it being incredibly frustrating for less experienced users. The exact same applies for the Smokey Grey palette from the same company.

Get this if….

You know, just don’t. Don’t get this. If you have not used a smokey palette before and you want to start without spending too much, you’d only feel aggravated when trying to use it. To be totally honest I would skip it altogether, and get the Sleek one.

Bad Girl i-Divine Sleek

Now this is the opposite: super pigmented, really smooth. Great quality for the price, a nice greyscale plus a pop of soft pink, and a selection of the most common “smokey” colours for variations, two of each: purples, blues, and rather uniquely, metallic desaturated greens. All for less than £10. Not all shades apply equally. A few will need a bit of buildup once you start applying them on the eye, but they will get there eventually, and blend rather well.

My one complain with this palette is that all but the lighter purple are metallics or at least satins, so it feels like it’s missing a few mattes. If you can pair this with a neutral palette, like one of the neutral Urban Decay minis, or even the Huda Beauty I reviewed on the previous post, you could extend the versatility even further. Sleek’s own Goodnight Sweetheart might also be a good complement, although it also has far more metallics and satins than mattes.

Get this if you want to experiment with smokey coloured looks without breaking the bank.

Melt Cosmetics’ The Waiting Room

This one was a limited edition one, for Melt’s Beetlejuice collection, but they sometimes re-release colours with the same formula in other palettes later, so worth talking about. This is really two palettes in one, with a red row, and a greyscale one. The formula doesn’t swatch that well on my arm, but works brilliantly on my eyes. I’ve loved nearly every look I’ve done with it… but I find it difficult to create diverse looks. The first time I tried a red and black look I didn’t like the result. The second time I tried a different grey and red I didn’t like it either, and it was because for some reason, when going on my eyes, the colours didn’t look like they belonged together. Colours changing on my eyelids is nothing new, I’ve had that since my days exploring Aromaleigh eyeshadows, but it’s still frustrating. The greys have an almost swampy undertone, which goes perfect with the theme. I think that undertone gets amplified on my skin, causing the clash with the reds. I’m sad I won’t get to use this palette as the colour story it was designed to be, but I am happily using it with stunning results for monochrome looks, and with other palettes.

For me the showstopper is Lydia, the metallic true red. I haven’t really seen a similar colour on its own, they are all a bit more blue or a bit more orange or not metallic, but if you are after just *that* colour, you can get an extremely close dupe by using Love+ and Kiss Kiss from Sugar pill layered on top of each other.

Right now this palette is sold out and probably won’t be back on sale. But if you do find it or they re-release it, get it if you REALLY love reds, if you want murkier, grungy greys to use on their own and complement other palettes, and of course, if you are a Beetlejuice fan.

Final Words

Sadly, my favourite smokey palette is not made anymore: Urban Decay’s Naked Smoky. You can see a look I made with it on the left; it’s rich and warm, while still keeping to the fundamental nature of the smokey look with the shades of black. I really wish they brought back that palette.

And the undertones are the key for a great smokey look, I think. It’s amazing how many variations of black and grey you can find, and how different these variations can look on your skin. But you should figure out which looks best on you first, whether it’s warm or cool ones, taupes or greens, and how they all interact together, otherwise things can get very messy (or muddy) very quickly.

If you want to start experimenting with smokey looks, I think I would recommend starting either with ColourPop’s Baroque (or their recently released “of Quartz”, which seems to have a similar colour story just with a mauve undertone), or Sleek’s Bad Girl palettes, which would allow you to play without breaking the bank and are roughly around the same price point and quality. Both have good, blendable formulas that make them accessible for beginners. I would personally bypass a more expensive palette and get really good brushes, including at least one pencil brush, and one crease blending or fluffy brush, particularly if you’re closer to my age than to the average beauty guru’s. You can always get a more expensive smokey palette with different colour stories later, although to be honest, I can’t think of any available now that I would recommend above the ones I featured.

Start learning what shape works best for your eye, practice drawing the shape with a single colour and blending it all out, once you are comfortable with that use a crease colour first for the blending then fill in with your main colour and blend them into each other. Once you are comfortable with blending the two colours, you can start adding more. Or leave it at that and work with different colours to have more options. It might not be traditionally “smokey” if you’re not using greys, but the same techniques give brilliant results regardless of colour. Let me know in the comments if you’d like a video of this technique.

As with everything, practice is important! Don’t wait until half an hour before your next performance to try a new complicated technique! Get together with friends, paint each other, or do it via video chat, offer critiques, and overall, have fun!

Smokey Palettes pt.1

Last year was difficult for all of us, for different reasons. Isolation was a big one, particularly for those who live on their own, or are more sociable, or were shielding for safety. One thing I set up with a few friends was a regular makeup session, to chat and try out techniques and colours and basically aiming to play with all the colours in my palettes. That has proven *fun*, as I’ve basically put on a full face of makeup, then moved on with the rest of my day with the makeup on, including niceties like making bread, or prepping food for a week. Those don’t mimic the stress of performance under lights or on stage, but it’s as close as I could manage to stress test the cosmetics.

When posting the results on Instagram and Facebook, quite a few people asked about the palettes I was using, and techniques. So you can expect a few posts with palette reviews, from the point of view of vibrancy and longevity, not just price and pretty swatches and packaging. Today I want to start with that staple of dancer’s makeup bags, smokey palettes. I’ve written about four of them, ranging in price from inexpensive to mid-range. There will be a second post exploring a few more, coming up. In the meantime, take a look at the four palettes below. Any catches your eye? Which one is your favourite smokey palette? Have you used any of these, and how did you find them? Leave me a comment!

ColourPop’s Blowing Smoke

I enjoy ColourPop’s palettes. For those in the US, or able to catch one of their few “free worldwide shipping” days, they are brilliant value for money. Their 9-pans are also magnetic, so you could, theoretically, put together the palette of your dreams (or suitable for your performance/trip) in a single little palette.

I did just that and took Smoke Show to use at Serendipity 2019. It performed well, was easy to work with, lasted all night (if you’ve ever been to Serendipity, you know the parties are legendary!). However, not all is rosy, I’ve got a few minor complaints. One, and this has far more to do with me than the actual quality, is that while most of the darker grey tones have a hint of warmth in them, the lighter tones are very neutral, and to my eye, look a bit harsh when used with the darker colours. That silver really is the only colour that somewhat works for a pop of brightness on the inner eye for me, and I feel it looks a bit harsh on my skin. A second complain is that, beautiful as it is, “Let’s Do It” (bottom left black with pink glitter) had *horrible* fallout and needed cleanup. And most of the colours go either dark or light on my skin, so mid-tones are an issue, but this will be different on everybody.

Get this one if you love the more classic dark smokey look, or if your skin has a neutral or pink undertone. Be ready with a very light warm shimmer to add more range to it. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming video showing how I did the look on the third photo!

ColourPop’s Baroque

This one surprised me. I was expecting mostly blue-based greys but some are a bit more purple than blue, they just don’t photograph that true to colour. This palette has a couple of light faint duochromes (light but pigmented colour, a hint of duochrome in them). It allowed me to create some surprisingly light looks with a hint of smoke in them as well as more traditional smokey looks with different undertones. So far it’s been the most versatile of my CP palettes, and I am sad that right now it’s out of stock/not available for purchase. The colour story won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it worked really well for me, and blended like a dream. Lasted well into the 7-8 hour mark without budging, and the look in the full face photo I took after filming a dancing video, with 3 takes in full sunlight plus several false starts and corrections.

Get this one if you can find it, if you want your smoky looks warmer, with the option of going for light day looks. Also if you have Blowing Smoke and want something to complement it

Huda Beauty’s Smokey Obsessions

Another 9 pan palette, ultra compact. I’ve taken this one with me when travelling and it works wonderfully. Quality with Huda’s Obsessions palettes is hit and miss, but this one, to me, is one of the best of that first collection, and I imagine it has remained so. But truth be told, it’s not *smokey*, more cool and warm browns, with pops of silver, black, and warm gold (the tone of the look photo lies, I had blue light on me when I shot that look). The darker brown is brilliant as eyebrow filler too, and the black as eyeliner, so the tiny palette (7.5cm/3″) is great when space is at a premium. If you’re doing traditional FCBD® style makeup, in browns darkening to black (see this post for details), this is a great option for travelling, as you can do a lot of neutral to warm day looks too with it. It feels lovely on the skin too, very soft and creamy, and lasts well.

Get this one if really small packaging with minimum plastic use is important to you, or if you want to support a ME-woman-owned company (Huda has had her controversies, though, and I am aware of this). Also get this one if you want options for more variation on neutral looks in a compact package. And talking of smokey brown looks…

Melt Cosmetics’ MaryJane

Melt Cosmetics’ long standing tradition of releasing pot-related collections for April 20th has had their issues. I am not going to comment on this. I also know that some people did not enjoy this palette. But truth be told, my experience has been entirely the opposite. Yes, a couple of shades are chunky and difficult to use (MaryJane and Kali), although once I removed the hard pan they came with via washi tape, they became more usable. I also only use them with my fingers, although I want to try mixing some scraped powder with Mehron mixing medium. The rest of the metallics I’ve had no issue with, and the mates are out of this world. There’s also a nice range from light to really dark, and with some cool and some warm based tones. You can say that since this palette is substantially more expensive than the previous ones, it should perform better. But there’s also more product in each pan. I suspect this is one of the cases where the behaviour of each individual shade will change a lot depending on the user’s skin. In fact, I liked it so much that I used it almost exclusively for a month, from light day looks to smokey, heavy ones, and except for the situations described above, performed brilliantly.

Get this one if the pot reference doesn’t bother you, you want to support women-owned business, and you love the colour story, although I would wait until their Black Friday sale to get it for less. Also get this if you want smokey browns in shades that veer more towards colder or greener shades, and less warm than Huda’s palette.

Review: Shimmy Sista’s Shrug

Shimmy Sista Shrug

Shimmy Sista Shrug

I’ve heard plenty of good things about ShimmySista, but since they are based in the US, I didn’t want to order, to avoid expensive shipping and risk being stung by Royal Mail with huge taxes. Luckily, someone I know in the US did order one, and found it a *little* big, and knowing her personally, I knew it would work for me. I purchased it new from her and shipped it reasonably, and didn’t get any taxes on it.

The shrug is an interesting shape, as you can see in the photo. It is a touch big on me and I will need to reduce the bottom, but that doesn’t make it fit too bad. The cut frames the bust beautifully too. The material is good stretch cotton, seams are all overlocked properly with a 5-thread serging and a healthy seam allowance (no hair-thin seams here!), and the finishing on the open edges is an overlocked rolled hem that creates a teensy bit of a lettuce effect on the stretch. The only thing I would suggest is that it requires a wash before first use… I wore it straight into my ATS class, and when I inevitably removed it halfway through, I had black fluff all over my armpits and inner elbows, which wasn’t attractive.

This is a shrug that might not work for all styles, but if you wear standard tank-tops and want something to cover up for class, it should be really useful. And the asking price is more than fair. I am just sad it doesn’t come in any other colours or options… a black mesh or stretch lace version would be quite useful and pretty, and I wish there was a clubbing version made with something more interesting or textured, like irregular big hole stretch mesh, to combine when I go to gigs or the like.

So if you’ve been eyeing these, give them a try! I’ve found I am not using mine as much for actual class but it’s a great way of covering up to wear before or after, and I’m pretty sure it should be quite cool over a decorated bra and paired with cotton tribal trousers or the new FCBD Bessie skirt for a light summer costume.

You can purchase the Shrug at Shimmy Sista’s store, here

Addendum: On Thursday, I came back from class, went to remove the shrug, and one of my nails -which aren’t sharp, and are maybe a couple of millimetres long, so pretty tame as far as talons go- went through the stretching fabric, just like that. I am *not* happy about it, but there’s nothing I can do other than fix the tear. It’s the first time I ever have something like this happen with a piece of clothing, and suggests to me that the fabric in the area was a bit too thin, which is ironic seeing that it was very close to the area where I was thinking of taking it in as it was too loose. Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to mention this. And I think that I will re-evaluate any future purchases.

Review: Bellydfance with Fan Veils

Belly Dance with Fan Veils DVD coverI was excited when I got this, but my excitement soon turned into disappointment.

Let’s start with the technical aspects.
– there’s two dvds, one for single fan, one for double fan
– there is a trailer for the dvd you’ve just purchased at the start of each DVD. Not real information, just the trailer you can see on YouTube and that probably prompted you to buy. I can’t really see the point of this, not doubled.
– the DVD was filmed and then voiced over. There is no instruction from Jehan while doing it, so sometimes the voice over talks about doing something and the image has moved way past that and into something else
– the single fan dvd has a warm up; very pretty arms and hands movements on this, among other things
– the costumes that Jehan wears throughout are black; this wouldn’t be that much of an issue except that she’s standing in front of a black theatrical curtain, and particularly the begining is lit in a rather “creative” way. The image is clear (on the demonstrations, I’ll tackle the performances separately) but while I understand the black costumes to attract the eye to the fans, with the black background and the lighting it can get a bit lost sometimes. Also, the skirts are obscuring the leg movements.
– the “chapters” in the first dvd are Trailer, Warm-up, Instructional Single Fan, Close-up tips and tricks, Performances, and Promos
– the chapters in the second dvd are Trailer, Instructional Double Fan, Performances, and Credits. This means that if you want to go to a particular section of the instructional where she does something, you will have to fast forward from the beginning or fast rewind from the performances, because the instructional itself isn’t broken down; this is a particularly annoying problem, because throughout the video we are encouraged to stop and practice on our own, but if we have to leave the DVD on pause or have to ffw every time, it can get tiring.

The “instructional”
I am writing instructional between quotes because I don’t believe this is anything of the sort, except maybe a small section at the beginning and the Close-up tips and tricks. We are told how to handle the fan in the opening section. Told about flutters and figure eights and circles (with lots of affirming thoughts about your beauty and the sacred shapes and whatnot). And… that’s about it. The rest of the 40+ minutes on each DVD demonstrates combos but doesn’t really break them down or go over exactly what is happening, let alone why. Barrel turns? rapid turns? dervish turns? You can see them, there’s some token “you should let yourself go in a trance-like movement” but on the technical implementation of it? You’re on your own (as an aside, I recommend Petite Jamilla’s double veil instructional or Ashe’s Wings of Ashe videos for this). Turns with a gypsy kick? mentioned with a word about “getting to them later”. They do get to them… just to show them again. I didn’t see any explanation of what was meant by that. On the double fan dvd there’s an explanation on how to do a “sun barrely turn” and the explanation amounts to “do a barrel turn with the fan held this way”. Yes, this isn’t a Bellydancing 101, I wasn’t expecting that, but since the props do affect the way you might want to carry out certain movements, even a glossing over the technical differences would have been welcome.

A lot of the combos shown are basically using wrist circles, figure eights and flutters, and we’re shown a few with a comment on what is happening. But as I said, while the audio is fine, the voice is quite often not on time with what is going on.
There’s also a lot of repetition of the same thing with different colour fans or with different in and outs. There are also quite a few cuts that fade to black before we get to see the final pose or result.

It all has much of a feel of a session where Jehan decided to show people what can be done, as opposed to instruct people on how to do it. However, the cherry on top for me was when approaching a poi-like move. We are told about the sacred dance uses of the poi in New Zealand, but when it comes to explain the not-so-easy 3-way weave, which could REALLY have done with a breakdown or slow explanation? We are told to look it up on YouTube. I’ve just purchased an instructional video that is telling me to look up how to do something on YouTube, there’s irony for you.

The Tips and tricks on close-up are a good idea, particularly the opening of the fans. I wasn’t too keen on the headband hold, for reasons that are amply demonstrated with the impromptu beehive gained by the dancer using it on the Gypsy Fire performance. But for the most part? It felt a lot like common sense and nothing you couldn’t figure out with a bit of a play by yourself.

Also, technically… I am no expert with the fans, but I found the tendency to leave a fan “dead” while doing something with the other fan a bit disturbing, as it didn’t look aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eye; a small gentle flutter would have sorted that out, but that wasn’t explored. And some of the movements and combos shown required very vigorous movements that, again, aesthetically were questionable. I am not sure how comfortable I would be trying to include them in a routine of my own.

Finally, the camera seemed to focus a bit too much on Jehan’s ample bosom, or on close-up of the fans but without a real grip on WHAT to show that is of interest to us (like the swirling of the hands). This was distracting, and while it happened often, it wasn’t a constant occurrence.

The performances
– some performances were obviously filmed with low quality video; the editors tried to compensate for this by adding blurry filters that are frankly distracting
– one performance has sections that were filmed and then edited to show backwards; obviously whatever is happening on the screen can never ever happen on a stage.
– another performance is very obviously shown in slow motion, but the music is at the right speed; this is another example of something that can’t be achieved on a stage.
– yet another performance suffers from a case of creative editing, where for some reason there are cuts with a “hypnotic” swirl, and then we see the performance has gone, in the space of 1 seconds, from being flat on the floor swirling closed fans to standing up with open fans and in the middle of a swipe movement. There is no obvious progression from one to the other, and lead me to think that it wasn’t as much a full performance as several bits that were “knitted” together with the editing.

overall? It’s worth buying used, and worth watching a few times, but I have strong doubts on how suitable it is as an instructional. I would definitely not recommend it, and gave it the 3 stars because obviously the production values are good. You can check the trailer for it below.

(the above is a copy of the review I left at when I first purchased this DVD, back in 09/2011; I would like to add reviews of the fan veils DVDs I’ve got so for completion’s sake I’ve added this one)

Review: Aromaleigh Mineral Make-up

Aromaleigh's Eye shadowI don’t often review make-up because I am a creature of habit, and I am rather settled in what I use, so there’s little “new”. Of course I could write about what I’ve chosen to use and why, but mostly, I just forget. Not this time. I was introduced to Aromaleigh, a mineral make-up company, a few years ago, and immediately loved the aesthetics they offered. I was new to mineral make-up and also new to applying pigments, and slowly, with the help of the people in the community, I became quite better about the treatment I gave my skin, and far more adventurous with make-up. And when I started dancing, I came armed with a bit more knowledge, a good set of brushes accumulated over the years, and a penchant for the dramatic.

There are two types products of Aromaleigh that I use the most, the first being their finishing powders. I am not a fan of foundation, they almost invariable oxidise on my face, so I was after something that I could use to add just a layer of “barely there” correction. Their “Glamoured” finishing powder fits the bill, being what other brands present as “mineral veil”; they have light diffusing particles that make your skin look a lot smoother, and if you have, like me, one of those difficult tones, it can help you give a unified, radiant skintone, It looks fantastic on photos, it doesn’t run when performing, and these days I wouldn’t use anything else. I normally use it as a final cover, and finish setting it with a couple of pumps of Lush’s Aqua Roma (lavender and rose water).

If you are after something that finishes and corrects but without the extra ethereal soft focus look, their Coquille product is the ticket. Both it and Glamoured come in different colours, and of course if you have specific areas that need different correction, the beauty of the minerals pigments is that you can do a mix or apply differently to get what you need. And if what you want is some sparkle, their Laluna powders will do the trick. Unlike most body glitter, which has a definite golden or bronzing base, or big and harsh glitter, Laluna comes in a very fine powder in a pale base with white/silvery sparkle, and in different size glitter, so you can go for a “barely there” illumination to your nose, chin and forehead, or an all out for arms, collarbones or wherever else you want.

Aromaleigh's Eye shadows 2The second product I use of theirs is eye shadow. Aromaleigh’s range of colours and finishes is FANTASTIC, there’s something for everybody, and even more, they regularly release limited collections inspired by a central theme. The previous ones include Ancient Egypt, which has a rich deep gold colour (Bast) which you just HAVE to have if you’re a belly dancer, one inspired in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series called Brilliant Deductions, and the latest inspired by The Hunger Games, called “Ever in Your Favor”. The pigments are very finely milled and stay on without creasing or dropping, which is a problem I’ve found with a lot of the cheaper drugstore pigments out there (Barry M, I’m looking at you!)

Aromaleigh's Ever in Your Favor “Ever in your Favor” appears to be another brilliant collection, with bright, bold colours along rich deep ones. You can take a closer look at the collection here, along with swatches and close-ups. Their swatches are accurate, although how the colours will look on you will depend a lot on whether you use primer, your brushes and application technique, and your underlying skin-tone.

The little jars last forever, although you can just order samples, which are enough to test a colour, or have if you can’t see yourself using it that much. Shipping to the UK is reasonable, but only cost-effective if you place a big-ish order, so if you want to just give it a try, get together with friends who also want to try it. Every single time my make-up has been praised, it’s been a either pure Aromaleigh, or a mix of Aromaleigh with Illamasqua, so if you’re looking at building up your make-up bag, it would be well worth a try.

What I am using in the photos: on the eye, two colours from their Brilliant Deductions collection, called “Recreational Scolding” and “Surveillance Status”, and one from a previous collection called Tutu. Sleek’s Ink Pot gel eyeliner, Illamasqua’s Vow eyeliner in the waterline, Illamasqua’s Eyebrow Cake in Thunder, and L’óreal’s False Lash Architect mascara. My face has Garnier’s 5 sec Perfect Blur and Aromaleigh’s Glamoured in Triteleia.

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