Ethical Beauty: TheBalm Brand Overview

I’m finally reviewing one of my favorite discoveries since focusing on ethical beauty products. I’ve heard of TheBalm for years but since it isn’t carried in the stores I usually go to, I’d never actually played with any of the products. Like Benefit, theBalm’s products are often packaged in cardboard packaging (which is great for the environment since they’re biodegradeable) and also like Benefit the packaging is very cutesy and the product names are pun-y. I admit, the packaging is not to my taste but once I started using the products, I could care less because TheBalm has a great line of products at a very affordable price. (Especially if you stock up during their 50% off flash sales on TheBalm.com and Hautelook!)

Face Makeup

  • timeBalm Foundation is a medium to full coverage creme foundation. It has a sticky, thick texture very similar to concealer. The coverage is great but I found it somewhat challenging to blend out to a natural finish. It’s not a great choice for someone who is a foundation novice since it can easily look quite heavy-handed. However, if you are a fan of MAC’s Full Coverage Foundation and are used to blending it out with a wet BeautyBlender type sponge, then this would be a really good cruelty-free alternative.
  • BalmShelter SPF 18 Tinted Moisturizer gives sheer to light coverage. Not quite enough for me (I prefer medium coverage) so I ended up using this as a base and then blending the creme foundation over areas that needed extra coverage. This tinted moisturizer actually has a broad spectrum sunscreen which means it actually can replace your sunscreen (although personally I prefer SPF 30). It comes in a generous 2.15 fl oz tube so it’s actually a great deal at $25 when you consider that most tinted moisturizers come in 1 oz tubes and at 50% off it’s a steal that rivals drugstore prices with department store quality.
  • Sexy Mama is a translucent pressed powder suitable for setting your foundation and touching up through out the day. Unfortunately, it only comes in one color so I’m not sure how well it would work on darker complexions but it gave me a weightless and invisible mattifying effect. Since the packaging is cardboard, this compact was actually really lightweight to carry around in my purse.

Eye Products

  • Meet Matt(e) Nude Palette – This is easily my favorite TheBalm product. As the name suggests, it contains a selection of 9 neutral colored, matte eye shadows. Each pan contains a full-sized eyeshadow – a 0.1 oz size, which is double the size of MAC’s full-sized eyeshadow pans. The colors are buttery soft, super pigmented and a dream to blend. Really a gorgeous, gorgeous palette.
  • Nude ‘tude Palette – This palette is theBalm’s answer to Urban Decay’s bestselling Naked palette. It contains 12 neutral tone shades – 8 shimmery, 4 matte. It’s not quite as generous as Meet Matt(e) nude – each pan is 0.03 oz – but it’s still a really good deal, especially compared to the price per ounce of Urban Decay’s Naked palettes. I actually prefer this palette to UD because it has a gorgeous aubergine shade and a burgundy-gold smokey eye is one of my favorite looks. (If you’re eyeing Charlotte Tilbury’s Vintage Vamp palette, you can create a similar look with this palette for a fraction of the price). Like the Meet Matt(e) Nude palette, the shadows here are highly pigmented and a breeze to blend. There IS some fallout from the shimmery shades but still the quality of theBalm’s shadow formula is definitely up there with the best of the high end brands.
  • Mr. Write (Now) eyeliner pencils are retractable pencils with a sharpener included in the base. They’re quite soft which means they’re easy to blend and smudge BUT it also means that the tips break off quite easily, which is annoying. I don’t find them much of an improvement over Jordana’s similar eyeliners, which are a fraction of the price.
  • Put A Lid On It eye primer – I’ve never really used eye primer before so I can’t speak to this primer’s performance compared to other brands but I can say that my eye shadows definitely lasted longer when I used this as a base. I only wish that it had some pigment as I have some visible blood vessels on my eyelid that I’d love to cover with primer rather than using both primer and concealer or foundation on my lids.

Cheek Products

Along with the Meet Matt(e) Nude palette, TheBalm’s cheek products are my favorite. They come in an array of beautiful colors and finishes and blend beautifully.

  • HotMama! is theBalm’s answer to NARS’s iconic Orgasm blush – it’s a gold infused peachy pink that gives you a gorgeous glow. I actually prefer the formula to Orgasm, which I find somewhat chalky and unflattering on my skin tone.
  • FratBoy blush is a matte peachy color. It gives a gorgeous, natural look to my cheeks.
  • CabanaBoy is a pinky plum with just a touch of shimmer to give it dimensionality (you don’t see the shimmer on the skin). You can wear it sheerly for a natural flush or build it up to give that just in from the cold glow.
  • DownBoy is a matte, neutral pink color. If you only buy two blushes for a natural every day look, I would go with FratBoy and DownBoy as between them they will go with the majority of your lip products (I pair DownBoy with the cooler toned colors like berries and cool-toned reds and FratBoy with warmer toned colors like corals and warm-toned reds.)
  • BahamaMama is a matte bronzer. In the pan it looks scary dark but if you apply it with a really loose brush (like a fan brush) with a very light hand, it can work for even fairer complexions.
  • Betty-Lou Manizer is a shimmery bronzer/highlighter for that golden, sun-kissed look.
  • Cindy-Lou Manizer is a champagne-pink highlighter and it looks lovely when you’re going for a slightly cooler toned look.
  • Mary-Lou Manizer is my favorite of the highlighters – it’s a champagne gold color that works beautifully in the corner of your eyes as well as on your cheekbones. Apply it with a damp BeautyBlender style sponge for a truly luminous, strobing effect.
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Ethical Beauty Brand Overview: ColourPop

This week I’m reviewing one of my favorite cruelty free brands – ColourPop. Considering this brand has only been around for just over a year, it’s really impressive how quickly it has achieved dominance both in my personal collection and in the larger beauty blogger/vlogger community. A lot of that has to do with the affordability of the products (so far, everything is under $10), the unique formulas and the temptingly vast array of colors the products come in, including off-beat colors like green lipstick. They should just call it ColourCrack because once you Pop, you can’t stop.

Super Shock Shadow

ColourPop’s eye shadow formula is really one of a kind. Not quite a cream, not quite a powder, it has a mousse-y texture but looks like a powder on the lids. I think it’s my favorite of all of ColourPop’s products because the staying power, even without primer, is phenomenal. It does take some getting used to the texture of the product as it is slightly sticky meaning it can be a bit of a challenge to blend, but since the pay off is the wear, it’s worth it! I mean, the shadow has held up to a sweaty summer workout and a shower. The only finish I’m not crazy about is the metallic, which can be prone to fall out. It’s not a deal maker as for the most part I can work with it, but for this reason I tend to gravitate to the pearlized when I want a color with shimmer.

  • Where the Light Is eye shadow set. Where the Light Is is a set created in conjunction with vlogger Kathleen Lights and it creates a gorgeous bronzey gold smokey eye that is beautiful for summer or daytime wear but can be amped up for a sexy evening look. I created a look with this set and the Brink lip liner that is easily my favorite of the looks I made with ColourPop products. The only thing I don’t love about the eye shadows in this set is the glitter fall out from Blaze. Apply that color with caution – using a dabbing motion rather than a swiping motion so that you apply the color precisely where you want it. I also apply the color a little at a time and build it up because if I put on too much it ends up in my eyes (which can really be a pain with my contact lenses) or on my face. The colors in the set are:  Glow (creamy vanilla/matte finish), Kathleenlights (bright golden copper/pearlized finish), Blaze (cocoa-bronze with multidimensional glitter/metallic finish), Cornelious (mid-tone warm caramel/matte finish). 
  • Shaaanxo x ColourPop. Seriously, ColourPop’s collabs are my favorites of ALL their products. Part of it is that the person who helps create the set usually does great tutorial videos that help you figure out how to use the colors together. I wish ALL eye shadow sets came with tutorial videos on YouTube! I honestly can’t pick a favorite of the sets – both Shaaanxo by ColourPop and Where The Light Is are soooo gorgeous. Shaaanxo by ColourPop comes with four colors: XO (light champagne/pearlized finish), Selfie (mid tone peachy brown/matte finish), Rebel (mid tone khaki green/matte finish), Deluxe (warm red bronze/pearlized finish). I’m obsessed with Rebel – even though it’s definitely green, it comes off as a neutral and really makes my hazel eyes pop. This is a really flattering color combination that is much easier to work with than Where the Light Is because it doesn’t have a glitter shadow in it. 
  • Hanky Panky (matte finish) – Hanky Panky is described as a soft, cool-toned taupe. I have visible blood vessels on my eyelids and Hanky Panky gives a great, even base of color on them. You can just barely see it – it looks very natural. So on days when I want to do a no make up look, I use this to even out my skin tone on my lid.
  • Truth (satin finish) – Truth is described as a neutral light beige. It doesn’t so much shimmer as glow, which makes it a great natural-looking color. It’s another option for a no makeup look as a lid color. Or if you want to do a more subtle light color around your tear ducts or on your brow bone.
  • On The Rocks (metallic finish) – On The Rocks is described as a vibrant true bronze with gold and violet glitter. I found that this metallic shadow did not have as much of a fall out problem as Blaze. I used this as a crease color in the look below.
  • Downtown (matte finish) – Downtown is described as a deep, cool-toned taupe. It’s one of those classic colors that is very versatile. You can use it on the outer v for a softer smokey eye, or in the crease. I find that the color is a touch green, which really brings out the green tones in my hazel eyes. 

    #FOTD A visit to the gym AND a shower and my @colourpopcosmetics eye makeup is clinging on. Faded but still present.

    A post shared by Mei-Lu 美露 (메루) (@meiluwho) on

Lippie Stix

ColourPop’s Lippie Stix seem to be by far their most popular products and I can understand why that is so. Although they only cost $5, the pigmentation and wear of the lipsticks easily rival the that of lipsticks that cost $20 or more. The Lippie Stix come in an impressively wide selection of colors from black (they actually have a couple of black lipsticks) to green to the more traditional reds, pinks and nudes. They also come in a variety of finishes (matte, satin, cream, glossy, sheer, glossy, hyper-glossy, pearlized). The most exciting thing about these lipsticks is that mattes are truly matte yet don’t dry lips out at all! And they wear really well – overall, I’d say ColourPop excels in creating products that are long-lasting. Unfortunately, the lipsticks are all formulated with ethyl vanillin, a synthetic vanilla flavor that is three times more potent than natural vanillin. Although I don’t normally care for flavors or fragrances in lipsticks, usually vanilla doesn’t bother me. However, to my palate the strength of ethyl vanillin in these products is intolerably unpleasant – it actually tastes a bit rancid or off to me. I can not bear to wear the lipsticks for this reason. Even though the scent wears away quickly, every time a bit of the lipstick gets in my mouth I taste it again. It actually makes me gag sometimes. HOWEVER, if scents or flavors never bother you, it’s definitely worth risking the $5 for these lippies because they are so fantastic. My favorite was probably Fighter, an absolutely perfect movie star matte red. (Jessica Chastain premiered it on the red carpet and it looked divine on her.)

Lip Pencils

Almost every ColourPop Lippie Stix has a matching lip pencil to go with it. Thankfully, their lip pencil formula does not contain ethyl vanillin so if you’re in love with a color but hate the flavor/scent of ethyl vanillin, this is a good alternative

Super Shock Cheek (Blushes)

I love ColourPop’s blushes, but there is a caveat. As with the eye shadows, they have that sticky, mousse-y texture that can be a bit of a challenge to blend. I find it best to apply the blushes with a stippling brush or a damp blending sponge (one of the rounded ones based on the Beauty Blender). However, once you make that adjustment in technique, this blush is fantastic! It has great wear and comes in a wide selection of colors and finishes.

  • Sticky Sweet (pearlized finish) – Sticky Sweet is described as a deep violet with a pink duo chrome finish. Although I would categorize Sticky Sweet as a blush, it is actually the highlighter formula and is gorgeous as a highlighter on darker complexioned ladies. The highlighter formula is more forgiving and blendable than the regular blush formula but the trade off is that it is slightly sheerer. I say slightly because this color is still very pigmented! A little goes a loooong way. I actually love how using just a little bit of this gives me such a rich, just worked out glow. And the duo chrome is sooo pretty – it definitely catches the light. I am wearing Sticky Sweet in the picture of Fern above.
  • Jelly Fish (pearlized finish) –  Jelly Fish is described as a red-toned coral and it really does work beautifully with corals and warm-toned red lip colors. I am wearing Jelly Fish in the picture of Chi Chi above.
  • More, Please (pearlized finish) – vivid fuchsia with violet-blue duo chrome. I love my bright deeper-toned pink lipsticks and this pairs beautifully with them. The color is long-lasting and the duo chrome gives it a flash of dimensionality. 

Super Shock Cheek (Highlighters)

After the eye shadows, the highlighters are probably my favorite ColourPop products – I just can’t get over the variety of colors and finishes. I want them all!

Super Shock Cheek (Bronzer)

ColourPop has a really nice selection of bronzer colors in two finishes – satin and matte.

  • Skinny Dip (matte finish) – Although normally I prefer matte bronzers, I failed to take into account ColourPop’s signature mousse texture. The stickiness of the texture is more pronounced in the matte products so this one was a little challenging to blend. I recommend the satin finish bronzer, which I will review in a future post.

And there it is! My ColourPop brand overview. Because this brand is only available on the website and does not accept returns, I recommend being conservative with your first order. Luckily, there are LOADS of videos on YouTube with ColourPop products so you can see them in action. I found watching the videos really helpful in selecting products. It’s also a good idea to do a Google image search for the colors you’re interested in so you can see them on different skin tones and lighting scenarios. However, if you want to gamble and not bother with all that legwork, the good news is these products are so affordable that you can afford to gamble a bit.

Note: In order for a personal care brand or product to be written up in my #EthicalBeauty posts it has to be independently verified as cruelty-free and made in North America (where I live). ColourPop has been certified cruelty free by Logical Harmony.