Battle of the Weird Holographic Highlight Palettes: Kat Von D Alchemist vs. Zoeva Spring Strobe Spectrum

[Curious about my absenteeism? Want to read about my thoughts on…everything that isn’t makeup? I’ve been prepping my pop culture blog, Sara Watches Stuff. Check it out for more lengthy rambling!]

Back in May, I wrote about the BH Cosmetics Backlight palette. At the time, highlight-mania was reaching an all-time peak, and I was dipping my toe into experimentation with fun colours. All of the points I made in that review still stand: it’s a decent palette but the differences of weird colours are always going to be minimal once they’re on your skin; the palette is good value but the colours wear away fairly quickly and vary vastly in quality. I mentioned the Kat Von D Alchemist palette as my high end lust object. Two months later: here’s two oddly coloured highlighter palettes, that one included. Let’s talk about them.

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Kat Von D Alchemist Palette; Zoeva Spring Strobe Spectrum Palette

The Kat Von D palette retails for $50AUD on the Australian Sephora website, which is a considerable sum. I received it at a Sephora opening, so thankfully I spared myself that pricetag. I bought the Zoeva palette for definitely less at the time (I seem to recall it being $39? Perhaps I used a voucher), but it’s now on Australian Sephora for $45.  If you’re after the prestige of a certain brand, the difference in price is minimal – either is still a lot of money for four very similarly coloured highlight powders. How similar?

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Pretty similar. If you’re pedantic about makeup – I know I am – you’ll appreciate that the similarities of the colours in the pans translate to the colours really only differing in their shifts. The Kat Von D palette has shade names and the Zoeva one has confusing codes, and while I’m sure they contain similar amounts of product, the pans in the Zoeva palette do look considerably larger. I will note that one shade in each palette has no directly similar shade, so the two palettes aren’t close enough to be called dupes, but they do have extremely close finishes on the skin. The things we need to look into are accessibility, quality and colour. Swatches, first and foremost. Confusingly, they are in reverse order to the above palette. I am nothing if not baffling at every turn.

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From top to bottom: Zoeva SP040, SP030, SP020, SP010 – Kat Von D Amethyst, Opal, Saphyre, Emerald

How nice would it be if I had a good camera and less hairy arms? The arm part is a joke. I shave my arms for no one.

With the KVD palette swatched on the lower portion of my forearm and the Zoeva palette on the upper, you can see the basic correspondence between certain shades. Emerald and SP010 are close, but I would say that SP010 has slightly more yellow/gold to it once applied. Likewise, Opal and SP030 are very alike in their soft duochromatic pink. The blue in the Zoeva palette, SP020, sits somewhere between Kat Von D’s blue and purple shades (Saphyre and Amethyst) – Saphyre, as a blue, is notably icier and leans more towards white, while SP020 brings some purple tones through. Amethyst is aggressively purple, but the base is not dark enough to warrant it not being more of a blush. SP040 has no direct dupe in the other palette, but it’s a pretty boring colour – it’s a white base with a yellow gold reflect. Nothing to get excited about there.

In formula, the two palettes are remarkably similar. Kat Von D’s powders are predictably smooth to swatch while Zoeva’s are always firmer, but they pick up the same with a fluffy brush. I use a Real Techniques Setting Brush for highlighting with these, because I get more of the interesting shift than I do with a fan brush, and I can build them up more easily. Kat Von D’s palette is explicitly marketed as multi-use, and it is beautiful layered over lipsticks or eyeshadows, but despite the lack of marketing there on Zoeva’s behalf, their powders work for that as well. Don’t take that as advice – I have no idea as to the, say, lip safety of the product – but I am saying that if you live somewhere that one brand is more accessible than another, I don’t see there being a real reason to pay extra or stress out over getting the other.  They both apply smoothly and have the same degree of translucency to pigment, and the only real difference in quality I can see is that the Zoeva palette requires a slightly firmer touch to build and wears for a slightly shorter amount of two.

That’s my main takeaway. Two palettes, both alike in concept, in fair Sephora where we lay our scene. If you’re a highlighting fiend, I would recommend either of the two over the BH Cosmetics palette, but that is definitely a more affordable and accessible option. Speaking of accessibility, I know Zoeva and Kat Von D are both brands with huge difficulties in access in different countries – Australia just happens to be one of the few where, excluding the markup, we can pretty easily get the two.

A lot of people opt not to buy Kat Von D, and I understand that – her past associations with Actual Neo Nazi Jesse James don’t sit well with me either, but for all of my struggles with the impossibility of ethical consumption under capitalism, I am at this stage not willing to judge women on gross men they once dated (I’ll cut her the same slack I cut Sandra Bullock). There is the problem with her being the face of and directly associated with her brand, so it’s the kind of situation I’m always monitoring because if anything comes out later, I could very easily become uncomfortable. It’s harder to disassociate a brand face being, say, anti-semitic than a distant CEO a la Revlon. Zoeva, on the other hand, is not a brand that would be appropriate for vegans and also just like…Europeans. The US-centrism of the online beauty world is consistently irritating to me.

So look: both palettes are really good, but you don’t need either of them. If I had to pick one? I’d probably pick the Kat Von D palette, because I prefer the purple shade to that yellow gold, and I like the softness of the formula. They’re lovely dusted over a complementary lipstick, or patted over darker shades of eyeshadow. Nice on the cupid’s bow or the cheekbones, under the brow or on the inner corner of your eye. It’s a fun change from your everyday boring highlighters in golds and rose golds and other kinds of gold. I wouldn’t buy them blindly, and if it was’t something I’d use a lot I would be perfectly content with the BH Cosmetics palette. Sadly, here I am with three highlight palettes, and I’m pretty happy. Live your life.

BH Cosmetics Backlight Highlight Palette Review

I saw this palette launch and managed to hold off on pulling the trigger for a while. I don’t own, but have lusted over, the Kat Von D Alchemist palette and the Anastasia Beverly Hills Moonchild Glow Kit (or its more recent iteration, the Aurora Glow Kit). Anastasia is notoriously rough to get a hold of in Australia if it’s not stuff that’s stocked in Sephora, and the trickle through is slow and inconsistent. Kat Von D…stock is limited to Sephora, and it either launches fast and sells through nearly instantly (this seems to have been the case with the Alchemist palette) or comes very late and with far too much stock (a la Serpentina and the Metal Matte palette). The biggest issue, and the thing that underpins most “anti-hauls” concerning highlighters – please treat yourself to Kimberly Clark, idea originator, tackling the highlighter influx – is that the differences between highlighters are so small on your face that it isn’t really necessary to have 22 different kinds. I have highlighters that I love! I’ve written about Mac’s Soft Frost, for example, over here, and it’s one of my absolute favourites. I’ll talk more about my favourite formulas for reference later. I can say that there are objectively good and bad formulas out there, but instead of spending upwards of $50AUD to splurge on some interestingly coloured highlighters, I waited til one of the roughly weekly BH Cosmetics sales and snapped this palette up to fill the spot in my heart.

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Let’s kick this off with a terrible photo! There are six shades in the Blacklight Highlight palette. Their names range from fine to utterly cringeworthy, and they have quite strong bases. I don’t have individual swatches – the website ones are pretty accurate – nor face swatches, because my camera quality is honestly not going to add anything anyone’s not already done better. Instead, here’s my little discussion of the colours because all I have to give to the world are words.

My favourite colours in the palette are definitely the less conventional ones. I’m actually wearing Laser today – it’s a green shift on an almost white base. There’s glitter in all of these shades but in all of the three here, it’s small and doesn’t over-emphasise skin texture. Having quite strong bases, none of these are going to be subtle or particularly forgiving – you go into a formula like this knowing that. I feel similarly about Kween, which to spite its terrible name is an icy blue highlight and really flattering. And then possibly my favourite shade, Illusion, which looks pink and has a pink base but has a beautiful blue-lilac shift and shimmer. It’s one of the smoothest shades, very wearable, but still something that catches eyes.

I’m less of a fan of the other shades. On Point is a lovely colour but the base is a little too strong of a purple for me to pull of ordinarily as a highlight. Electra is nice, but I don’t tend to go for yellow or golden tones unless I’m wearing a very specific kind of look. Then there’s Strobe – Strobe is easily my least favourite shade of the bunch. It is by far the most standard shade, a classic white highlight, but it is also the most opaque and the chunkiest as far as glitter goes. It makes for a great formula in terms of eyeshadow, but perhaps a little too stark for a highlight. It’s very hard to not make this shade just look like a stripe on my face, and I think that’s due to the opacity of it.

Miscellaneous points to note: Don’t buy this palette for its full price. BH is perpetually on sale, and if this is not marked down to at least $12.74USD (25% off the “full” $16.99), you should wait a week. The mirror is good and it feels decent quality, which is a perk for the price. Some reviews comment on a weird smell and my palette didn’t have any of that. I wish it wore longer – by the end of the day, it looks like a generic highlighter, rather than something a bit more interesting.

I’ve been reaching for these a lot. It’s fun to play with them and to have them in the one place, and it’s fun to have the full array of weird colours in the one place. I don’t have an overwhelming need now for anything else. To fulfil my desire for the especially weird things, I have my Femme Fatale Gemtone powders – Fire Opal, for example, has an amazing Red Shift, and I love that they are all shift with no base. The formula is not exceptional – it’s just that little bit too quick to fade, that little bit too glittery (I’ve heard that complaint with the ABH ones as well, while the Kat Von D palette seems very smooth), that little too icy for me. If you have a lot of highlighters, you absolutely do not need this. I’d say coloured highlighters are only something worth buying if you are absolutely keen on experimenting, but I’m glad there’s an affordable and easily accessible option around. I do recommend checking out the Femme Fatale options, because you can buy them as singles, but I personally am useless with loose powders. The more expensive ones will undoubtedly be higher quality, but really do evaluate the frequency with which you’ll use them and what else you have in your collection. Someone with less use for strange makeup than me but a collection of my size would absolutely not need this palette, but for my needs I’m glad I picked this up.

 

 

 

Bite Sized Five: Basics and Bases

Links are just for relevance and ease of access, particularly for things that can be harder to find in Australia. No one is giving me money for this, as much as I openly encourage being given money in any context.

I’ve had all of these products for quite a while. The fact is that I find first impressions reviews to be just as valid and a lot more useful when they’re a little more substantial and come as the culmination of several uses. Especially with skincare, which is one of my favourite things to write about, it’s very difficult to tell how you feel about things after one use. Instead, here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve been using a lot. Some of it is newly released in Australia (like the Zoeva Strobe Gel) or fairly new pickups for me (the It Cosmetics powder), others I just finally feel like talking about. Let’s dive in.

NYX Angel Veil Primer (30mL; $16USD in stores – I got mine from Ulta in Oregon during Black Friday sales or from the NYX website; in Australia, this is next to impossible to get a hold of. It’s $26 plus shipping from ASOS but currently sold out, or if you have $65 yearly unlimited international shipping from the Selfridges website, it’s $18.50) – I picked this primer up on a whim while wandering through Ulta, mostly because I vaguely remembered Kathleen Lights likening it to the Hourglass Mineral Veil primer, which I ran out of while I was abroad. I wouldn’t say that they are “dupes” – I think that makeup “dupe culture” has gone a little wild – because Angel Veil is definitely a tangibly thicker and has a far more prominent pore filling effect. I’d say I actually prefer this one, honestly. If it weren’t that it’s a nightmare to get a hold of in Australia, I’d be far more likely to come back to this one. Hopefully by the time I run out of it, the Australian NYX offerings have expanded to include this over their current lackluster primers. I find my foundations wear better and look nicer and I just really do quite like it.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% (30mL; Deciem themselves sell it for $12.70AUD from their website and in their standalone stores and it’s the same now it sells in Myer, but you can find it cheaper at other online retailers but then there’s shipping) – There was a period of time where everyone on the internet who was into skincare would not shut up about The Ordinary. All the big names were fascinated by it, not to mention the hype it garnered on places like reddit and youtube and all of the other skincare communities. I completely get it: most people who enjoy skincare will reach a point where they lose enthusiasm for the marketing and jargon of the skincare industry, and just want stripped back, simple things that work. Deciem really tapped into that niche with The Ordinary, offering actives at affordable prices – skincare enthusiasts can easily go “hey, I want a stable topical Vitamin C/a simple retinol/a non-glycolic AHA/niacinamide for hyperpigmentation” and get exactly that. It’s got a clean aesthetic and very little focus on branding and marketing, which in itself is a very effective strategy for word of mouth in a community so driven by recommendation. Everyone I know who has tried The Ordinary, prior to its availability in Myer, has done so on blogger/friend recommendation. I do know that now the hype is calming down, people are becoming a little more disillusioned with the bases that they use, and I think it comes down to the products being very much hit and miss for different people. I would definitely advocate doing your research with these and finding out what has worked for people with similar product profiles to you. Knowing that I personally can’t use glycolic acid in any kind of leave on capacity without it causing irritation to my skin, I was seeking out some kind of alternative to the overly expensive and paying-for-the-hype Sunday Riley Good Genes. This is more active and far more transparent in terms of what it actually contains, and you can definitely buffer it through combination with a cream, but my skin is now pretty seasoned to lactic acid so I risked it with the 10% after patch testing and I think the combination with the Hyaluronic Acid makes it nearly perfect for what I need. It does smell very strong, but not in a way I consider unpleasant. I think the combination of this and the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Liquid 2% BHA is what has my skin at peak smoothness right now.

Physician’s Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer Light (This is $29.95 at Priceline but almost never in stock in store; it is around $18.30 on iherb even with shipping, and they often have sales, but I’ve never bought from them) – Physician’s Formula has the most ostentatious packaging out there and every time I pick this bronzer up I  shudder a little. However, it is beautiful. It actually reminds me a lot of the Body Shop Honey Bronzer in 03, once the top layer is worn off – it’s really soft and blends beautifully, hard to go to over the top with. There’s a reason this is perpetually sold out and raved about online. BUT: oh god, there are so many things that I wish. I wish this didn’t smell so strongly of fake coconut. It’s strong. I can still smell it on the brush, not just in the compact. The weird sponge thing they provide is also absolutely useless, and I’m not even sure what you’re supposed to do with it. It is too thin to place product at the educe and too stiff to blend contour as you would if you were using a blending sponge for contour. If they nixed that and streamlined the packaging, eased up on the scent, this would be inseparable from higher end bronzers. It’s got a lovely tone to it, which is where the real praise comes from – it’s got warmth that allows it to be a nice all over bronze but because of the satin, lit-from-within finish and a lack of excessive orange, it can still be used for soft contouring in warmer toned looks or on more neutral people. Even though shadows run grey, if you use too taupe of a shade on someone with neutral-yellow colouring, you can end up with some interesting end results. The problem with that, then, is that this bronzer only comes in two shades, one of which is widely available in Australia (excluding iherb). I’m not 100% sold on this, as you can tell. I do really enjoy it. It’s great for easy makeup days, and when I’m not doing full on drama sometimes all I need is that bit of warmth on the temples and around the edges of my face. Sadly there are just too many hurdles for me to be fully into it, and I do wish I could build it up a little more if I wanted to.

Zoeva Strobe Gel in Aureole ($24 at Sephora Australia with free shipping over $55 online; Selfridges has it for $15.50AUD with that same year round $65 shipping option that I’ll never spring for; really anywhere you can get Zoeva so I got mine in store at Sephora) – I’ve many times admitting to often having the approach to makeup of a collector, which is admittedly not the healthiest attitude. I’m absolutely the product of the capitalist machine. I did not buy this gel/mousse texture highlighter because the name reminded me of areola, because that would be absurd. I did, however, get reeled in by the texture of this. I have long had difficulty working with liquid highlighters – I absolutely loathed the much raved about Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops, and passed my Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecting Liquid on to a friend – but I love the intensity of shimmer, and after relative success with the Milk Makeup Holographic Highlighter (which is cream to powder), I thought I might have better luck. Plus there’s the novelty – if you look to the clips of this on instagram, you’ll see this returning to its form after being tampered with by a brush or a finger. It is a ridiculous reason to buy a product and I would absolutely not advocate it, but considering I liked the colour and I wanted to try the product, I will note that it is intensely satisfying. It’s got a lovely peachiness to it but it does read on the warm side on the skin, so if you’re stocked on gold highlights, you absolutely do not need this. It’s a lot easier to work with than the aforementioned Cover FX liquid highlighters, because it sheers out more easier, and I do love it with a bronzed base and golden lips and minimal eyes – it’s quite instinctively editorial, but I appreciate the capacity to turn it down. I have not reached for it that often, though, because the medium becomes a little difficult to work with, and if I’m not going for a bronze toned look, the colour can be a little dark to use as a plain old highlighter on my skin. I suspect it will also be worse value in the long run, because it’s the kind of product far more prone to drying out than an easily sealed bottle of liquid or (obviously) a powder.

IT Cosmetics. Bye Bye Pores Silk HD Micro-Powder ($39 from Sephora Australia but like all other things at Sephora, usually sold out) – I just needed a new pressed powder. That’s it. I fully intended on buying the pressed version of this to set my makeup with and then Sephora had no stock and I could not deal with another broken Rimmel Stay Matte lid and the Australis Fresh and Flawless powder didn’t have my shade and…here we are. I like this powder enough – it does the job at actually setting makeup – and I especially appreciate how finely milled it is, with its really nice smoothing effect on my pores on initial application and for a little while. I do find, however, that this powder does not do particularly well in terms of wearing well. Compared to my standard Body Shop Face Base, or even the Australis Fresh and Flawless, I found I got oily noticeably faster on days I was wearing this powder. I also, generally, dislike loose powders because I am a messy and uncoordinated person (I cannot blame it all on the early onset arthritis). I prefered the By Terry powder to this one – my deluxe sample is nearly done, so it’ll be in an empties post soon – because I could at least see a noticeable difference to my skin with that one, even though it left a bit of discernible shimmer and costs an ungodly amount of money that I will never invest. This one? It’s okay, but for $39 for some silica powder, I want it to at least keep me looking nice for a longer than my day to day stuff.

More to come! I didn’t stop there with The Ordinary, and I’m formulating some thoughts on some new Australis products.

 

Bite Sized Five – Things I bought abroad

Obviously, I bought a lot of things in the USA. I did elaborate on some of my thoughts on the products in that gargantuan post, but I’ve been using some of the products for longer and with greater frequency, and a lot of thoughts have really had a chance to form about some things. A couple of the products here have been in my daily rotation, and others are super buzz-worthy at the moment, so it felt like as good a time as any to bring back the Bite Sized Five.

Milk Makeup Tattoo Stamp (Star) – This feels like such an obvious novelty product that it must exist already (and a quick google tells me AliExpress has them in spades), but for someone who likes to do graphic liner and has arthritis induced unsteady wrists, I appreciate the ease of eyeliner stamps. I’ve expressed my feelings on Milk’s gimmicky deal and Cool Girl aspirations before, but I’ve drawn stars with liquid liner before, and it’s downright irritating. As to the formula of this, it’s great as a stamp, but I would hate it as a felt tip because it’s hell to remove. Getting this off takes bioderma, an oil and some more bioderma. It stains blue. It’s great for specific looks and special occasions, but wow.

Sunday Riley Good Genes – While I was in America, my skin was utter trash. I’m putting it down to travel and disruption to my usual routine, mostly. That said, my skin is now the literal best it has ever been. I have about one pimple going on and this has never happened. Is it the return to routine? Back to the BHA exfoliation? Probably. I’ve also started using Good Genes every night. That, and cleansing with a Foreo. The only actual changes. I don’t know whether this Sunday Riley product has anything to do with how fantastic my skin looks and feels right now, but I’m too hooked on my skin looking good to change anything. Feeling it. It doesn’t smell great, but it feels nice and it’s gentle and it doesn’t break me out.

Mac Extra Dimension Skin Finish in Soft Frost – I love highlights that aren’t super glittery and have something a little different about them, and Soft Frost fits the bill pretty perfectly. It is ridiculously expensive – though fairly priced against the US, unlike a lot of MAC products – but it is giant, and it has that really lovely pink/blue shiftiness. I appreciate the lack of large physical glitters because when you have a shift like that, I don’t think you need all that extra highlighting of skin texture or flashiness. I also like that I can layer this over a cream product (which I’ll mention below) or even just build it vs. diffused application with my Smashbox fan brush to really decide how dramatic I want it to be. This was a splurge purchase, but it’s not one I regret.

Milk Makeup Holographic Highlighter – I don’t like cream cheek products. I knew this was a gimmick – that’s Milk’s whole thing. I know that “holographic” is a buzzword and I resent it and I hate that this was sold out everywhere and I had to snatch this up as the last thing on a display. I hate that it’s a product that works best over bare skin. And yet – on a bare skin day, slicking this on and looking vaguely alien? It’s all base, little shift, but it’s so very cool. I hate it, but I love it. Hard to get precision, and of course it will shift around anything you use beneath it, and it blends away to nothing if you properly blend at it, but when you just swipe it on and pat it with your fingers? Such a strong look. Dust some Soft Frost over the top and you too can be a fairy goddess.

Foreo Luna Play – Now it is absolutely not necessary to spend buckets of money on a device with which to wash your face. I am terrified of the Clarisonic, which looks genuinely painful to me (she of delicate, sensitive skin and easily broken capillaries), but I was intrigued by the Foreo and its more-than-passing-similarity to a vibrator. Indeed, it feels really nice to cleanse with, but it won’t foam anything up – it’s more like a soft exfoliation, which is great when manual exfoliation is too much for you a lot of the time. This one doesn’t recharge, which is irritating, because the size is super convenient and I appreciate how sanitary it is (a major turnoff with the Clarisonic, for me), so I doubt I’ll be rushing to repurchase it. That said, my skin is – as I mentioned – looking and feeling fantastic right now. I’d be hugely shocked if this happened to have anything to do with it, but if it did, it’s an investment I’d be willing to make. I cannot believe I’m washing my face with what is essentially a vibrator.

That’s five of them, but I’ll continue using stuff and talking about it. I’ve definitely got some feelings on some products I’ve been reaching for.