I have a stockpile of Morning Aura in my makeup collection – Victoria’s illuminating face cream from her first foray into beauty with Estée Lauder a few years ago. It’s gold pump cylinder packaging is a dream to use. It’s price tag was undeniably high. But the resulting glowy (without resembling the tin-man) effect on my skin was, and is, better than most of it’s rivals – which is why I continue to play Russian roulette with this sold-out product’s expiry date.
The two Lauder releases included a whole bunch of hit products, and they weren’t sitting on department store counters for long. There was talk of whether VB would collaborate with them again on future collections, but most saw this success as the springboard (and viability confirmation) for her own collection, under her own name. And so, partnering up with Sarah Creal (former head of global make-up development and marketing at Estée Lauder), and available exclusively from the VB website (save for a couple of pop-up shops), Victoria Beckham Beauty dropped it’s initial makeup offering: a ‘clean’, crudely-free, environmentally minimalist, undeniably beautifully packaged, eye makeup collection.
Getting to that clean label in a minute, let’s talk about the packaging first. It was always going to look good. While her Estée Lauder collection was lots of vintage gold and black ribbed heavy compacts, on the larger side, Victoria Beckham Beauty is altogether dainty. The palettes and pots are wrapped in tortoiseshell-esque patterned glass, weighty but small, housed in recycle-friendly white boxes and presented in lovely monogramed cloth bags.
To the issue of cleanliness. Many cosmetics companies (and consumers) are of the opinion that while not all natural ingredients are good, not all synthetic ingredients are bad. And so while VB Beauty isn’t a natural makeup brand, it has labeled itself as clean in that it has a list of excluded ingredients (in addition to the approx 1300 currently banned from being used in cosmetics in the EU) that it vows to not formulate with. Their website goes on to state that “any ingredient that is deemed harmful or has questionable or inconclusive safety data will be avoided.” You can check out the list of excluded ingredients and an ingredient glossary on their website. They don’t claim to be perfect, and this is an area of cosmetics that is constantly learning and evolving, but when it comes to transparency and education I see the addition of such information being made available directly to consumers as a step in the right direction. As always, do your own independent research if concerned, but being transparent and in open discussion about ingredients can only be a good thing in helping us be more informed about what we’re putting on our skin, and what effect it may have.
I am personally not a fan of the term clean, because not only does it suggest the exclusive use of natural ingredients when that is not necessarily the case, but also because it implies that perhaps larger cosmetics companies are dirty. In my mind, clean is nothing more than a marketing buzz word not disimilar to the likes of miracle broth. If you’re looking for products that are solely naturally formulated, or exclusively organic, you need to be your own detective in checking out ingredients lists. And don’t be deterred from some of the more established brands that have decades of experience in research, customer feedback, regulations – and the risk of lawsuits – backing their goods. As in all industries, the big corporations also have the big watchdogs shining very bright spotlights on them.
Ok, to the nitty gritty: my first impressions of the loot I picked up. What started as a small online shopping basket quickly grew amidst the frenzy of the website going live.
The Smoky Eye Bricks, a.k.a eyeshadow palettes, are undeniably beautiful to look at. What is also undeniable is these are small. Like, so much smaller than I expected from the website imagery. The pictures gave me vintage cigarette case vibes, but to hold, these feel positively doll-house sized. Once you get over the shock of the dainty, barely-business-card size, you discover the satisfying, weighty feel of them in your palm, and a mirror that opens flat. The size means they’ll be great for travel, unlike other bulky eyeshadow palettes, but one niggling grievance with the packaging is inconsistency. Of my three compacts, the gold outer edging is noticeably nicked and bent on some, and while the tops and bottoms of some cases align perfectly, others have gaps meaning the shadows are not completely sealed shut. Something you mightn’t mind in budget makeup, but don’t expect from a luxury brand. The slightly imperfect nature of these allow a nagging feeling to deepen; that perhaps this collection has been released a touch premature, before it was really ready.
The beautiful shade options are grouped into four edited, easy-to-wear looks. I picked up Tuxedo; a cool-toned grey to black set, Signature; your classic brown-nudes, and Royal: a 70s-feeling mix of striking blue hues. If you’re familiar with VB’s Lauder eyeshadows, this pop of blue isn’t a shock. The autumnal Tweed was the one that I skipped as the plum and burnt red aren’t for me but might appeal to those heading into the fall season. There’s been some criticism for forgoing individual pans in place of having the shadows side-by-side. Time will tell whether these bleed into each other with more use, but at first impression I’m not overly concerned, and it allows for a far smaller compact overall. What is appreciated is the double quantity of the lightest, base colour in each set – no more using up all of your beige shadow first.
The powders themselves are lovely to use; pigment is easily picked up on the brush and good colour payoff on the lids. I’m loving the cool-toned 60s vibe of Tuxedo at the moment with a generous wash of the base ivory shade all over the lid. The deeper shades are great for a smokey liner.
As for that nagging feeling, I had heard a couple of reports of some palettes having a bad odour, so it was with trepidation that I examined each of mine. Sadly, the Royal Smokey Eye Brick did indeed have a strong, unpleasant, sulphur-like odour. Think rotten eggs. I’m currently awaiting a replacement for other products (see below), which, given the lengthy delivery times outside of the US, is a disappointing experience, but for the Smokey Eye Bricks I was solely offered a refund. It is clearly a quality issue that needs to be resolved and although it obviously shouldn’t happen, I would stress that the customer service team have been excellent and efficient at handling this issue. I suggest you check your products before use and make sure to contact the brand rather than just accepting it’s the way it is – it’s not.
I expected the Lid Lustres to be highlights for me. I love a glittery cream eyeshadow topper. Think Hourglass Scattered Light, Marc Jacobs See-quins, Armani Eyes To Kill Stellar, etc. Despite my preference to give a glowing, faultless review, I was really disappointed to have two of my four Lid Lustres arrive broken – and not just a little broken. I’m not sure if it’s a formulation issue, or a transporting issue with varying temperatures, but Onyx arrived all cracked and crumbly, and Blonde appeared to have almost melted and separated entirely from the pot – the whole contents lifting off with the lid. I know I’m not alone with this experience, and with a luxury beauty price tag it really shouldn’t happen.
Blonde was the hue I was most excited about, but Mink and Midnight are what I’ve been able to test so far. The texture is very, very soft, and prone to crumbliness – make sure you don’t discard the interior lid. I’m weary of how they’ll last over time, but on first use these are different to others in my collection and those rivals mentioned above. This isn’t just a sheer, glittery eyeshadow topper but a full impact, dense wash of high-shine colour. Worn alone, these are pigmented eye colours that can vary with application from shimmery to oil-slick. The pots are small, flatter than competitors, and no doubt stylish. Mink is a universally usable bronze colour and Midnight a striking bright blue that amps up your look after
using the Royal smoky eye brick. I prefer to use these sparingly rather than covering the entire lid, as they can hide the beauty of your varying eyeshadow tones underneath if spread all over.
A mascara is no doubt missing from this release of eye products, but if you’re into natural (not clean) beauty Westman Atelier have recently released their 96% natural mascara to solid reviews. Last but not least, the eyeliners. Not the most exciting part of the collection, but I love the addition of a lighter, bronzey-gold tone rather than just your standard black. These crayons are beyond soft, which makes them extremely easy to apply – no dragging of the skin if your lids are on the crepey side – and effortless to blend. I love the addition of the smudgey brush end so you can easily do a smoky eye with minimal tools. Bronze is a great choice for fairer complexions or those with small eyes who find a dark eyeliner closes the eyes or makes them appear smaller. The option to add or eliminate the accompanying sharpener from your order is a nice step in reducing plastics from a brand that clearly has sustainability and change on its radar.
My initial impressions of these eye products are a mixed bunch – with a side of disappointment. They’re expensive, to be sure, and with that price tag comes high expectations. VB’s previous work with established Lauder no doubt also puts these products on a pedestal to which they perhaps were always going to be vulnerable to criticism. I love the concept, look and shades of the eyeshadows, but foul-smelling powders are simply not on, the liners perform well and the lid lustres are something new to my collection – if that formula or delivery issue can just be tweaked a little. There’s a lot to like here, but there are also big issues preventing a rave review; that niggling feeling that the release was simply a touch premature before textures and packaging quality were really perfected to be just right.
I expect we’ll see tweaking and only improvement from this brand, and hope that they’ll happily listen to their consumers and take on the valuable feedback as any new brand should. Victoria Beckham Beauty state they’re a brand “in motion”, promising to “continuously evolve, improve and challenge ourselves to be better”, and their mission statement around inclusivity and sustainability is commendable. With two successful women joining together to create another cosmetics powerhouse, we should all be cheering for their success.
There’s a lot more to come from Victoria Beckham Beauty – lips have just launched – but with this first drop selling out within days of it’s release, cosmetics success seems unavoidable for the style icon. I’m most looking forward to what they’ll do with their skin and complexion collection – Morning Aura 2.0? We can only hope.
Find Victoria Beckham Beauty at Victoria Beckahm