Sunday, July 15, 2012

Best and Worst of Essence Cosmetics

With their shockingly low prices, Essence Cosmetics is like a beckoning stranger with candy to many Australian beauty enthusiasts. But to me, Essence is a familiar friend. I became acquainted with it in Switzerland, in a department store called Manor in Lugano's centro piazza. What drew me to Essence and its bright array of products were the prices- they proffered prices which their neighbours Rimmel, Revlon and L'Oreal could not beat. I wasn't very interested in cosmetics in December 2010, but my Swiss friends were- we went to a birthday party and after jazzing up the house, the girls filed into the bathroom to beautify themselves for the festivities, pulling out mousse foundation, heavy-duty mascara, light blue eyeshadow and eyeliner. This piqued my interest, and a few weeks later, while with another Australian girl perusing some nail polishes at Manor, I poked around the makeup and skincare displays, scrutinising the wares and translating the Italian labels. I picked up a couple of Essence products back then, and they served me well- the French manicure polishes graced my nails for three school formals before undergoing retirement earlier this year, but I don't know what became of the concealer I bought to hide the consequential acne that came from eating too much Swiss chocolate, as the colour match was terrible, and I gave it to my fair-skinned host sister (Ciao Giulia!).

German in origin, Essence caters more for fair skintones, and its displays are becoming increasingly common in Australia, expanding from Target to Priceline outlets. Their trend editions are a big attraction given their limited edition nature; some of the more popular ones include Vampire's Love, Sun Club and Marble Mania. 

Quite a bit of my collection is comprised of Essence products, but one thing of theirs that I haven't touched is foundation. I'm open to drugstore foundations, but I'm limiting myself to the ones with the most positive reviews, as I'd really like to save my money to buy some high-end products sometime (Laura Mercier Mineral Powder, please!) because ideally, if it's going on my skin, I would much rather use quality stuff. And Essence foundations haven't exactly been kicking up a fuss in the beauty blogging world. Oh, I forgot to say: Essence trades off packaging for price- their packaging is nothing flash or pretty- minimalist but it does the job. And they don't waste money with puffs or sponge-tip applicators with their powders or eyeshadows (they sell those separately: packs of sponge-tip applicators, and I think their brush range consists of a grand total of 2 face brushes and 3 eye brushes) which I'm sure many people would appreciate since you usually chuck those out anyway.

I've drawn up a general guide for Essence as a brand, working from the more disappointing end of the spectrum to the glowing praise.

I don't reach for my Essence eyeshadow quad ($5.95) as I own better products which are better value for money. This is a product I regret purchasing.
I was sent this Get Big Lashes volume boost mascara as part of the Essence prize pack for the 'Rainy Day' competition, but it flakes. I've found my HG mascara in Maybelline Full 'N Soft Waterproof.
Liquid Eyeliner
I bought and tried the 'Japanese technology' Liquid Eyeliner Pen ($5.00) and it's just not pigmented enough. Application is easy but better eyeliner pens can be found, for example, K-Palette or Dollywink liquid liners. Bourjois Liner Feutre is made in Japan, much-hyped and is available on ASOS for around $10. Although it's double the price of Essence's version, if I were to dabble in eyeliner pens again, I'd try that one.

In the middle, and those to which I feel indifferent:
Eye Brushes
I own the Smokey Eye brush ($2.55) and the Eyeliner ($2.95) brush. The quality is not the best, but for the price, they're tolerable.
Eye Pencils
I own quite a few of these, in brown, blue, green, white and yellow (longlasting mechanical pencils are $2.95, kajal pencils are $1.95), but don't use them often. I get the most use out of the white one, which I use to brighten up the tear duct and lower lashline area. I don't touch these partly because I bought bright colours which I don't often wear, and partly because I own an Estee Lauder Softsmudge Pencil Liner (which I love), but I will have to turn to the brown one (Teddy) when I am running low (inevitable) and want to prolong Softsmudge's lifespan. 
Lip Gloss
I'm a big fan of the hourglass-shaped applicator that's in the Stay With Me lipglosses (mine was $2 on sale), but I'm not enamoured by the scent. It's much too sickly-sweet for my liking. The pigmentation and consistency are alright. Preferring my tinted balms over gloss, I'll only use this once in a while.
I liked it when I first got it, but have since become indifferent about Essence Stay Natural concealer ($3.95). I don't need to conceal my undereyes because I ensure I get enough sleep, and I don't like this for blemishes- I have better concealers for that purpose.
Nail Polish
A wide selection of colours, easy to apply and almost streak-free, cheap. This is in this category because NYC and Ulta3 can do one better by offering 13mL for $2 while Essence is 5mL for $2.55, but Essence does some standout shades, eg Blue Addicted.
Lip Liner
I bought this one day because I didn't want to leave empty-handed. It's a pretty bad reason, and this is a pretty bad lip liner ($1 on sale). I place it in this category only because I believe it might help a lipstick's staying power if drawn all over the lips before lipstick application. I would not repurchase this, as I seldom wear lipstick, much less lip liner.

Gel Eyeliner
My first gel liner ($5.95), and I will have no other. Pigmented, waterproof, smudgeproof, budgeproof, available in a choice of shades. Italian-made, this is a definite star of Essence's range.
Illuminating Make Up Base
I received the illuminating makeup base ($7.50) in the 'Rainy Day' prize pack, and didn't like it because I didn't know how to use it, but figured it out over time, and I love it now. The pink tone to it is reminiscent of Benefit High Beam, but this is more of a cream consistency, as opposed to the liquid High Beam. Super easy to apply with fingers, my only gripe is that the pump is not the best and can be inconsistent with the amount dispensed.
The Silky Touch blushes ($4.95) are lovely. I have the shade 20 Babydoll and it is so easy to apply, the colour is pretty, the texture is soft and the powder refined, and the result is a natural, pretty everyday cheek colour for under $5. Made in Germany, I don't have the added worry of China-made dodginess like I do with the BYS blushes. I'm eyeing the shade 30 Secret It Girl next, for a peach blush option. Stay away from shade 40 Natural Beauty though, as it's said to be a disappointment colour-wise.
Blush Brush
I bought this as a cheap and cheerful alternative to the Sigma F40 Angled Contour brush. I don't reach for it often, as I prefer my Ecotools blush brush, but it is as soft as Ecotools (though nowhere near as dense), and the angle is perfect for a cheek contour. Not that I do it often, but for $5.50, this is one of Essence's better products.
Cream Shadows
The Stay All Day long lasting cream shadows ($5.50) are relatively easy to apply (with a slight tendency to clump in patches, but nothing a little blending won't solve), pigmented and super pretty. I own the shade Glammy Goes To... which is the most appealing shade to me, but there are also some silver and copper shades available. With the Maybelline Color Tattoos being released in Australia- I think this is closest to Bold Gold. I would definitely buy one if I didn't already own this.
*I've changed my mind about the Stay All Day cream shadows since: the consistency and application is a disappointment in comparison to the way the Maybelline Color Tattoos (post here). Save your money and get the Maybelline ones instead. ;)

This was so much fun to do, but I think Essence is the only brand that I've tried this comprehensively- I don't think I can do another post like this. Not for a long time, anyway.

I hope this was helpful, and that you can use the information to guide your purchasing! Take care, and God bless! xx


  1. Great post/review!! I haven't got the chance to try out essence products as it just made it's way to Canada a couple months ago to a local chain drugstore. The last time I went there, most of products that appealed to me the most from reading blogs were gone :( so I'll have to revisit sometime again with better luck lol.

    Love your blog and thanks for the commenting. Just started following you!! :) <3

    1. Thank you- your blog's lovely! Hope you find the products you're after- it's definitely hit or miss with Essence, but the prices are very encouraging! :) xx

  2. I need an angled blush brush, might think of giving this Essence one a go. I have sampled quite a few Essence products, my favs are their eye and blush souffles, Teddy Kajal liner, gel eyeliner and nail polish. I've not tried their cream lip glosses or powder blush, but I'm tempted to ... as well as the concealer. I am not a huge fan of their powder eyeshadows, though I don't have any palettes. Their e/s singles are probably a bit better but not something I use a lot. Their products are so cheap that it's tempting to try whatever catches your fancy even if you end up regretting it in the end :p

    1. I'm so sad that I didn't catch Pas De Copper before they sold out! And as much as I like the colour of the Stay All Day cream shadow, the texture is a bit clumpy and more difficult to use than I'd like. I might end up getting Bad to the Bronze if I swatch it and prefer the texture. I want to use a colour like that for an everyday eye look- I was looking at L'Oreal Infallible Sahara Treasure today but I don't think I'd use it often because the pigment seems a little fiddly. :/

    2. Agreed, I bought Glammy to Go on the weekend and wasn't thrilled about the texture (or the colour, in all honesty). Maybe I just need to find a way to make it work for me. I usually gravitate to something a little darker as lighter shades don't really do anything for my eyes. But I tried it as a base and it did seem to intensify the eyeshadow I put over it. Bad to the Bronze is highly recommended, despite the frostiness. It's got a much better texture than the Essence and excellent staying power. The Infallible eyeshadows are quite fiddly, but the pigmentation and shimmeriness and packaging hooks me anyway :p So you can find Sahara Treasure in a local shop? I searched high and low for it at first, and found a single pot miraculously in Target. But I did see it a couple of times in other shops after, but not recently. I believe it's LE. Buy it if the shade appeals to you, it's quite hard to dupe :)

  3. I love this post! I am a huge fan of Essence, mainly because it is so cheap and even if I don't end up loving the products it's not like I've just emptied half my bank account! I love the Essence eye souffle in Pas Des Copper and the gel eyeliner is incredible.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad Essence kickstarted my beauty habit because I was pretty poor and the affordable products were welcome additions to my collection, but as I learn more about makeup, I'm seeing the 'you get what you pay for' side of things too. I love the texture of the eye souffles but sad I didn't catch Pas Des Copper in stock! Thanks for following! x

  4. I know this post is old but I'd just like to say how happy I was when I saw an Essence stand in my Walgreen's in Ohio!!!

    1. Awh, thanks for commenting! I was super excited to find one the first time I saw it- these days the new collections can be iffy but there are some gems hidden around!