Saturday, September 05, 2009

Illamasqua Eye Liner Cake: Zeal

Illamasqua is a makeup brand from across the Atlantic that was recently debuted here in the US as a Sephora exclusive. Illamasqua's moto, Makeup For Your Alter Ego, and their bold nighttime looks put them on the young and edgy side of the makeup spectrum. They seem to share their aesthetic vision with MAC, which is not really my thing, but there's a reason I'm writing a beauty blog, and an unending curiosity about all things color is a big part of it.

I've scoured the Illamasqua range for the most interesting products and chose their eyeliner cake in Zeal, a color justly described as "pine green" (ignore the swatch on the Sephora website. They make it look like teal, but the product is a true green, as you can see in my photos).

Cake eyeliners seem to be a tricky product to make. There aren't too many on the market, which makes sense considering how almost any eye shadow can become a cake liner with the help of liquid. The products that are available vary greatly in quality. I wasn't impressed with Chanel's offering, while Laura Mercier makes an excellent one. These liners are basically a very dense and pigmented powder (much more than a regular eye shadow), that when mixed with water or a waterproofing solution gives the intensity and control of a liquid eyeliner. Makeup artists seem to favor these cakes because of the precision they allow and for hygienic reasons. Dry powdered products are not the germ breeding ground that cream and liquids can be when they come in pans and pots.

Illamasqua has a sealing gel that is made to use with these liners. You're supposed to mix them together and make a paste. The problem is that every time I looked, the gel was sold out online. But since they suggest you also use the cake eyeliner with water, it wasn't a serious issue. I also tried using it with Paula Dorf's Transformer (a product that anyone who likes playing with color needs to have in her stash. It transforms any pressed eye shadow into a waterproof liquid liner), but it was a big dud. The pigment didn't dissolve well, the consistency was off and the color looked muddy. So no-go with the Transformer.

Using plain water was a much better choice. I made a thin paste in the corner of the cake and set to work. This time the color was right and very true to what you see in the package: a beautiful dark pine green. It applies easily and looks very much like a regular liquid liner, especially when you get more practice and figure out what eyeliner brush suits you best. I tested several brushes, thin, thick, straight, angles, natural fibers and synthetic. The ones I liked best (and it's a personal preference depending not only on performance but also on desired results in terms of line width and color intensity) were slim angled brushes, both natural and synthetic (the latter are the ones traditionally used for gels, creams and liquid products, because it's a lot easier to wash them off). I like a thicker line when using colors other than black, and these brushes are perfect for that. The ones made of natural fibers gave a softer result and helped blend the line with my eye shadow.

I've found that using an eye primer is an absolute must with the Illamasqua liner, otherwise you end up with green smudges and flakes. The primer fully solves this, so it's a non-issue. Staying power is decent, 8 hours and more if set with a matching eye shadow. It's acceptable, but compared to gel eyeliners like the ones from Bobbi Brown, Cle de Peau (review coming soon) or Lancome, this isn't very impressive.

Bottom line: Zeal is a cool color, the product is nice but too fussy and high maintenance.

Illamasqua Eye Liner Cake ($21) and other products are available from Sephora online and exclusively at the Times Square store, if you can deal with that place.

Both Photos are mine.

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