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making faces :: ysl's sahara style

as you may have heard, yves st. laurent has recently revamped their collection of 5-shadow palettes with a new formula and colours. there are eleven permanent palettes, plus a limited one for summer and another limited one [imminent or just arrived, depending on where you live] with the fall collection. it didn't take me long to get my grubby little hands on one of them, either, and the only reason i've delayed in posting this review is because i wanted to give myself the chance to really play around with the shades, to see what i could do with them. after all, if they're sticking around, there's no great rush.

the design of the palettes themselves- the interior- is inspired by st. laurent's famous "mondrian dress", created in 1965 and based on the french designer's interpretations of the dutch painter's work. mondrian, an important part of the de stijl movement, believed in the reduction of art to its elements- straight, clean lines and primary colours. st. laurent likewise became famous for refined, elegant styles in fashion. that's a lot to distill into the presentation of an eye shadow palette, but nonetheless, there is something visually striking and pleasing about the layout of the five colours. it's nice to see some imagination going into the details, because, when you're talking about a prestige brand like ysl, details are important.

each palette is laid out the same way: in the upper left corner, there is a base colour; in the upper right corner is the highlight shade; the two lower corners are the "colour" shades, intended for use on the lid or as accents; finally, the centre colour is supposed to be the crease or liner colour. the extent to which this works varies a little from palette to palette and, of course, will depend on personal preference. there is a great variety in terms of the colours available from soft neutrals to vivid shades and I was drooling over almost all of them at first glance.

affordable by art standards
however, i have learned that it is important to proceed with caution and decided to try a basic one that i was likely to use a lot in order to evaluate the formula. this is that evaluation.

the palette i picked up was #4 "saharienne", a collection of softer neutrals that lean perhaps a little cool compared with most other neutral collections. i'd really say it was balanced between cool and warm, but when you look at it next to #2 "fauves", the latter is much warmer.

the first thing that struck me about the new formula was how incredibly silky it was. it really does remind me of a feather-light diaphanous silk scarf brushing against my skin. i've really never felt anything like it. the pigmentation is medium at first swipe, but builds easily if you want something more opaque. whatever level of coverage you choose, the lasting power is great. i mention that in particular, because it's rare to find a shadow that can be applied semi-sheerly and still look the same after seven or eight hours. in any configuration [and i've tried several, as you'll soon find out], there was precious little difference between the way my eyes looked at the outset and the way they looked when i finally removed the day from my face.

the colours have enough powdery slip that they're easy to blend, but you'll want to do so delicately as they are also easy to over-blend. [also, as you might have guessed from the palette picture above, they kick up a fair amount of dust when touched with a brush.] they're very forgiving if you have to build up the intensity and never looked cakey to me.

so how do the individual colours stand up? glad you asked.

shade #1, the base shade, is a soft peachy neutral with very fine yellow and pink shimmer- it appears mostly matte on the lid. it's a little deeper and more orange than my skin tone, but still pretty close. it's great for evening out the colour on my lids. although it can be hard to tell against my skin, the pigmentation is actually excellent on this shade. on a darker skin tone it would definitely work as a highlight or lid colour and, i suspect, would add a lot of brightness.

saharienne #1
because of the mysterious shimmer, which affects the final colour without looking like shimmer, it reminds me a bit of the limited edition mac shade "nanogold". it likewise has a peachy base with yellow and pink sparkle, but it's more crumbly and you can definitely see the twinkling in use.

l to r :: saharienne, mac nanogold [l.e.]
shade #2, the highlight, is a white gold with a very shimmery finish. on the skin, the finish reads as more of a glow and can be softened so that it's appropriate for daytime wear or left to dazzle. i didn't find this one quite as smooth as shade #1, but it's very good all the same.

saharienne #2
there are a lot of white gold colours around, the closest in my collection being mac "manila paper", another limited shade, which is whiter and lighter. the permanent shade "nylon", which i no longer own but remember quite well, is more yellow and much frostier. [the heavy frost finish of that shade was why i eventually gave it up. incredibly unflattering on me.]

l to r :: saharienne, mac manila paper [l.e.]
shade #3, the first of the lid colours, is the reason i chose this palette. it's a soft, smoky grey with a purple undertone. as you build up the shade, the purple becomes more pronounced and the overall colour reads as cooler. it's an intriguing and beautiful colour and i know i'll be using it not just with the rest of the colours in this palette, but with some purple and silver colours as well.

saharienne #3
there are some similar light, smoky plum shades, but most of them pull more towards other colours. nars "lhasa" is deeper and more purple. edward bess "storm" is a little deeper and more brown/ warmer. the ysl shade perches itself delicately between the worlds of grey, brown and purple, light and dark. breathtaking.

l to r :: nars lhasa, saharienne, edward bess storm [d.c.]
shade #4 is a medium brown taupe. it has a gold patina to it, but it's still quite cool. it's difficult to make an ugly taupe and easy to make a pretty one, so i shouldn't be surprised that this one is as lovely as it is, but even after the thrill that i got from shade #3, this was exciting. built up, the colour can get surprisingly dark without seeming heavy.

saharienne #4
the world is full of gorgeous taupes, but i had a hard time matching this one, because most similar colours i have are either lighter or warmer. burberry "pale barley" is both. mac "satin taupe" looks almost reddish-plum next to the much cooler ysl shade.

l to r :: burberry pale barley, saharienne, mac satin taupe
finally, shade #5 is the deepest colour, a cool-ish tree bark brown with a satin finish. it's very smooth and rich, but i found that this shade was also the most prone to sheer-ing out, even when lightly blended. the overall effect with this shade will always be more medium than dramatic. if you're using it for a smoky eye, it'll be the sort of smoke you can get away with at the office.

saharienne #5
it's quite similar to rouge bunny rouge "umber firefinch", which is a little lighter but can be applied darker. in the pan, the ysl shade looks warmer, but that doesn't seem to translate on the skin.

l to r :: saharienne, rbr umber firefinch
so what can a girl do with all those neutrals? quite a lot, it turns out. here are a few of the things that i came up with...

"the kate" :: i've talked about how i tend to default to a neutral eye/ berry lip when i don't know what else to do and this palette is a boon for those sorts of looks. here i've used shade #1 all over with shade #3 in the crease and on the outer third of the lids. i used shade #5 to darken the lower part of the crease a little and blended #3 over it, so you get more of an impression of shadow and not a third colour. i dusted shade #4 along my lower lash lines.

the cheek colour i have on is mac "amazon princess" and the lipstick is armani rouge ecstasy "attitude".

"liner led" :: i'm a little hesitant to do looks that focus on the lower lid and lash lines not just because saying "lower lid and lash lines" sounds vaguely like a sex act, but because anything that emphasizes the underside of the eyes [which sounds kind of dirty as well] can tend to be aging on a woman of my, ahem, vintage. my eyes are already cloaked with heavy lids, so they don't need the extra gravitas/ gravity. that said, i do really like some of the looks i've seen where colour seems to curl up from underneath, so i thought i'd try that kind of approach.

the liner used here is stila "lionfish" and i've placed it not just along my water lines, but also to create a smoky effect on the outer part of my eye. it's a simple trick, just scribble some liner in a hashtag type pattern where you want it to be darkest and then blend it out with a short, dense brush. i then placed shade #5 from "saharienne" along the lower lash line and over the smoky/ smudgy bit in order to soften things. on the lids is a combo of shades 1 and 3 and shade #2 is used lightly along the brow. i think this conveys how quiet the shimmer in these colours can be when blended. [it also conveys my clumsiness, since you can see exactly where i stabbed myself in the eye with the liner during application...]

the blush in this case is chanel "rose initiale" and on the lips, i'm wearing chanel "intrigue" glossimer.

"daytime smokey" this was the type of look i spoke about earlier, where the totality of the blended colours is still appropriate for daytime situations. in this case, i've applied the base colour all over, then used shade 5 along the upper and lower lash lines. shade 3 is on the inner third of the lid and shade 4 is on the outer corners. shade #1 is used as a highlight and on the inner corners of the eyes.

i can't tell you the blush i'm wearing here, but the lipstick is armani "dolci" rouge ecstasy.

"the layered look" one of the things that i learned talking to my friendly neighbourhood ysl makeup artist was that they recommend layering the shades as well as blending them, so i thought i'd take a shot at a metier de beauté-style "couches des couleurs" approach. i used shade #1 all over the lid, up to the brow bone and then brushed on shades 5, 4 and 3 from darkest to lightest, one over the other. i didn't use a heavy application of any of them, but i did put enough that each shade would have an impact on the final look. what you get is a gorgeous, prismatic taupe with gold and pewter highlights that's very subtle and sophisticated. the colours do not get muddy as you build them up and they do not become patchy.

i decided to spice up the mix a bit with stila sparkle liner in "electric" [review of the formula, albeit in a different colour, here] and a pop of bright lipstick- chanel rouge coco in "cambon". you'll have to forgive these photos, as i was having an allergic reaction to who knows what, so my skin and eyes are kind of inflamed. it's not the eyeshadows' fault.

so after all that, what's my verdict on the palette? the formula and wear are top-notch, which makes me want to collect more of these little lovelies. the shades in this particular palette are the sort that anyone with a neutral-to-cool complexion will be able to wear without a second thought and there's enough that you can do with them that there's no need to get bored. these are not densely pigmented or bright colours, but they are real workhorses. if it's classy, sophisticated neutrals you want, without the usual copper and warm tan tones, this is an excellent investment.


Sara BeauTime said…
Hi Kate,
Saharienne looks so stunning on you, as if it was made for you! I believe this palette is most suitable to fair complexions. On me (although I am light to medium) it looks kind of ashy, I didn't give up yet though, I am trying harder to make it work.
Kate MacDonald said…
Thanks Sara! Sorry to hear that your experience wasn't quite as positive, although I look forward to seeing the results of your experiments. Then again, I always think that you shouldn't have to work hard to get a cosmetic product to look good for you. Lots of things in life are hard. Makeup should be easy.
I love the looks you have created with this. I really like the palette as well, the wear is really good, as is the new blush formula,I'm looking at YSL in a whole new light, think I'll pick up the green eye palette next :)
Kate MacDonald said…
I haven't tried the new blush formula yet, but I'm excited for it. I already liked YSL blushes, but it seems like they're improving as a brand with every launch. Can't wait to hear (read) what you think of them!

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