Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Trouble With Taupes

I recently had a lovely reader lament over purchasing an eyeshadow that looked like it might be the perfect taupe for her after reading one of my reviews.  When she purchased the taupe and swatched it on her skin, it turned into a completely different color.  How disappointing! She's not blaming me, but simply sharing her experience.  And let's face it, making a mistake on an expensive Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadow is painful to not only your taupe loving soul, but to your wallet.  I know that computer monitors may distort colors and don't always show them as accurately as they should be, but to go from a taupe that was described as a brown/grey taupe on one person to a grey lilac on another, well, let's face it.  That's just weird.

my swatch of RBR Solstice Halcyon
Or is it?

I admit that I try to do the best I can to describe the color that I see with my own eyes on swatches on my own skin, but therein lies the problem.  My skin color may effect the way the shadow looks. 

Yes. Really.

The undertones in our skin, be they warm or cool or olive or neutral or yellow or pink all have an effect on the way colors look against our skin.I am very pale with cool to neutral undertones.  I have more pink in my face than I do in my arm, but for the most part eyeshadows look the same on my eyelid as they do on my arm.  Someone else with warm undertones may make the color look completely different on her.  Also, lighting and monitor settings take its toll as well.

When one is unable to see an eyeshadow in person, shopping for the right color can be a challenge.  Like many, I have no Rouge Bunny Rouge counters near me to test shadows, so I must rely on swatches I see on-line from other bloggers.  I have taken the liberty of showing you some images from different bloggers that are swatching the same taupe shadow, Solstice Halcyon from Rouge Bunny Rouge, just to show you the differences that you can see from blog to blog.

Lola's Secret Beauty Blog shows you a line of of several taupes, comparing them for you in one picture.  She's awesome that way, just like her blog!

Modesty Brown shows you how Solstice Halcyon looks compared to 2 other Rouge Bunny Rouge Taupes.  She also has a great Taupe Comparison post you should check out.  Modesty Brown is my sister from another mister when it comes to taupe shadows! I ♥ Her!

Zuzu's Petals from The Everyday Beauty Blog has a couple of Solstice Halcyon comparisons for you showing how lighting and comparison shades can make the shadow look different.  I hope her schedule clears up so she can start blogging again. I miss her blog very much!

The Delicate Hummingbird Blog always has wonderful pictures of taupes and here in her comparison we see 7 popular taupes compared side by side.  He blog is absolutely lovely but sadly she stopped blogging...however her blog is still a great resource for all types of beauty products.

L-R NARS Ashes to Ashes, NARS Cairo, Wet N Wild Trio, RBR Solstice Halcyon (center), RBR Atlas Swallowtail, RBR A Major/fis Minor, Chanel Safari
The Indigo Kir Royale blog is new to me, but I have already bookmarked it and have started to read it with much admiration.  She blogs mostly high end makeup, and has a great swatch comparison for Solstice Halcyon that will really make you understand how lighting and skin tone can change a color.

L-R: Becca Lame, Becca Surah (from the Enigma Palette - Fall 2011 collection), Burberry Rosewood, Rouge Bunny Rouge Solstice Halcyon, Chanel Fauve (taken outdoors in natural light + flash photography).
At the Blooming Beauty Blog she does us all a favor of comparing a variety of Burberry Eyeshadows with other similar colors from other brands.  This incredibly helpful post breaks down by color and you can see how Solstice Halcyon looks compared to Burberry Rosewood and others. Not only is her blog awesome but she does a lot of comparison pictures, which I find really helpful!

L-R: Chanel Fauve, NARS Lhasa, MAC Satin Taupe, Burberry Rosewood, RBR Solstice Halcyon, RBR Bohemian Waxwing
The Renee Hearts Blog, or as I called it "Renee Loves", stopped publishing in 2011, but she still has a decent archive for reviews and swatches. She has a nice comparison of Solstice Halcyon with another popular Rouge Bunny Rouge shadow called Delicate Hummingbird.  Her picture shows how compared to the purple of Delicate Hummingbird, the Solstice Halcyon shadow really looks like a warm brown.  

So as you see, lighting, skin color and even monitor settings really can skew your results when searching for the "perfect taupe" shadow. Heck, even on-line swatches from the manufacturer can be incredibly deceiving. What should you do to make sure you don't pick a dud that can't be returned?  I recommend a google image search of the color, that way you can view multiple pictures at the same time and then reading more than one blog post to see how the blogger describes the color.  In the linked reviews above you will see that some bloggers call this brown while others say it has a mauve color to it and even others find it slightly grey to purple.  Of course there is no fool proof way to buy a shadow sight unseen, but at least you will have done your research and if you still end up getting a dud, you can always give the shadow to your daughter, mom, best friend, or me! (Just kidding on sending me shadow. I really do not need it!)

What have been your experiences with purchasing cosmetics on line without having an opportunity to test them first.  Did you ever get any big surprises when the color on line didn't match the color you see in real life?


  1. Thank you for such a comprehensive post. I agree, it's a crap shoot when you have to purchase something sight unseen. But still, I can't imagine taking the leap without seeing blog reviews first. If all we had to go on was the company or reseller photos ... omg. The horror!

    Off topic, but have you purchased anything through the new RBR webstore? I notice that it looks like Zuneta isn't stocking much of the line anymore - probably because RBR doesn't want competition.

    I was thinking of placing an order, but I was curious what other people's experience has been.

    PS, welcome back!

    1. Hi! Good to be back! I have not ordered thought the RBR website yet. I can get stuff through so I order there, but it's been a while since I purchased any RBR makeup. :-/

  2. This is a wonderful post and with complex colours like taupe that can contain a lot of different shades (grey, brown, purple, pink) it's certainly true that your skin tone will affect which elements predominate. I always like to check through blogs (which is fun in itself) to find shades that I already own or at least know to see how they look on the blogger compared to me, since that gives me a bit of a baseline.

    It's always a risk ordering things unseen, but I have to say I've been pleasantly surprised more often than not.

  3. Like Kate, I look for blog pics that compare shades to ones that I own or know how they look on me. It is also a boon if you can find a blogger whose skintone is similar to your own. (On a personal note I hope that Zuzu at Everyday Beauty is able to blog again as she is very close to being my skintone twin.) That gives me a slightly better idea of how it's going to look on me.
    All in all though, purchasing sight unseen, is still a risk. If I do purchase sight unseen I try to go through a vendor that I have some recourse if I absolutely can't stand the color.
    I am eternally grateful to bloggers who take the time to put together blog posts, especially those with comparison pics, so that there is an online reference for those of us who don't have local RBR, Becca, Armani, etc. counters. It has opened up a whole new world of choices that I never knew I had. And I've found some great items because of them!

  4. I think this is such a brilliant way to demonstrate that it's important to look at as many swatches as possible - and thanks for the mention, taupe sister ;).

    I first realised how much swatched colour could vary when I went shopping with Get Lippie, we swatched the same colour and it would look completely different on us both. I agree with Kate that it's particularly tricky with complex colours like taupe, where skin undertone will determine how a colour looks when applied. Lipstick is also another tricky thing as lip pigmentation will affect the final colour.

    I'm wracking my brains now trying to think of any online purchasing disasters. They've definitely happened but I'm pleased to say I've had more hits than misses.

  5. What you point out is very good to point out, but also just the beauty of makeup in general. It customizes to the wearer quite often for exactly the reasons you mention.

    Personally, I love comparison shots for this reason. But I so rarely have the energy to do my own. :)

  6. One of the definite advantages of blogs is being able to look for bloggers who have a similar skin colouring and I'm definitely with you on the Google image search. This post reminded me a lot of the swatches of lipsticks and eyeshadows on the Illamasqua website, which because of skin tone, mean pretty much nothing to me.

    A great post for helping people to think about what they are seeing when they look at a swatch. x

  7. I don't buy online for many reasons, but this is one of them. No brand is so fantastic that I'm willing to buy something I can't test, in whatever capacity, be it color, quality, texture, etc. I think if a brand really wants my money, they'll make the product more readily accessible. There are just too many wonderful products at the ready for me to indulge in, and I just focus on those.

  8. Thanks for this post! I found it really useful... I am a big fan of taupe eyeshadow, but sometimes my olive skintone (I am Spanish) seems to reflect certain colors and absorb others.

    Recently I got a lovely YSL shadow in Amethyst Grey, which in online swatches looks like a greyed mauve with a bit of brown. On me it's a light grey, with no hint of taupe or mauve (but it's still very pretty!).

    Thanks for the all the comparison pics!

  9. I've had this problem with taupe too and sometimes the swatch looks one way on my arm and another way on my eye. Talk about weird! lol It doesn't look bad, just different and I use the shadows anyway. I don't think it's feasible for those of us in the US to purchase directly from RBR as their shipping is 20 euros. We'll survive! :)

  10. Its like buying a fragrance, it's different on everyone.

  11. Good news and personal conclusion: on me it looks like it looks on you :)

  12. RBR is sucha nice brand.. More then anything else I love their packaging the most <3 Im loving your swatches xxx

  13. Super helpful, and insightful post!!! I'm one of those with a skin tone that tends to change the color of things. I just got a bunch of RBR shadows for the first time, and my swatch of Solstice Halcyon is very different than yours...probably looks closest to Lola's. But I tend to turn thing very warm. Especially lipsticks!!! OMG if I had a penny for every :-) I remember I kept telling my good friend about how lipstick colors turn on me so it's difficult to find colors I like (even seemingly sheer colors). She didn't believe me until one day I showed her with a lipstick I purchased when we were shopping together. She was completely gobsmacked!!! Anyway...thank you for your post!! When I did the RBR swatches, I noted to readers that I tend to turn things warm. After reading your post, I really need to remember to say that for every post, so that people who aren't regulars can be forewarned!! Thank you!!! :-)

  14. I think my skin tones are getting cooler as I get older. My taupes that I rocked even a few years ago now make me look tired.

  15. Excellent post! Thanks for the shout-out and including my swatches! I think that Photobucket should have given you fair warning! When I received your email-- it looked like this as well!

  16. I saw this before half the pictures were taken away and it was fascinating to see the differences. Sadly I couldn't wear Solstice Halycion even though I can normally wear taupe without a problem. It's the only RBR that I actually gave up.

  17. Taupes just are so funny and that is why they are so lovely. For example I'm warm/neutral toned and on me MAC Satin Taupe is brownish taupe and on a friend that is cool toned it's more silvery/grey.

  18. Hi there!

    Apart from differences in skin tone which as you say can certainly play a strong part in the end result of the shade, certainly we can do all we can to capture the true colours under the right lighting, but at the end of the day, the viewer's screen also has to be calibrated properly, and we have no control of that. Definitely always best to try and see in person, or view a number of swatches as you suggested to get a closer idea. :)

    A great topic & an excellent post. Also, thank you so much for looking at my blog and mentioning it. ^_^

  19. It is so, so important the bloggers learn how to use their cameras and do custom white balance to ensure photo accuracy. Some of the photos above are clearly not white balanced. This is far more important than their skin undertones to rendering a color accurately.

    1. I agree that the white balance is very important. I forgot to mention that in my post, but I was going more for how 1 taupe will look different on different people. Excellent point tho!

  20. This is am amazing post - and it purely demonstrates why I rarely swatch products. I don't find it nearly as helpful as I once thought!

    My daughter did an experiment where we did the exact same makeup (except for foundation) and not the cheeks, nor lips, nor eyes looked at all the same. I believe that makeup looks so different on everyone depending on the things you said (skin tone), but then add in eye color, age, etc., it really is so individualized. I should probably do the experiment and post it to demonstrate it with the images.

    I am so glad to hear you "get it" too. I sort of thought I was the only one noticing this!

  21. Really good post, and I love that you included so many examples to show how different a product can look depending on all of the variables! I usually both look at blog reviews/swatches AND the product itself, in person, before buying. However, there are some cases where I'm pretty sure I'll like the product, even if the colors aren't exactly what I had expected (especially with palettes--I recently purchased both Urban Decay OZ palettes based on reviews and swatches, without actually having seen it myself).

  22. I certainly hope that it was not my comment that precipitated all this work, expecially after you just got better. But sadly, I'm afraid it was. As you said, I certainly do not blame you, it is my taupe obsession that led me to try a new brand sight unseen. I knew the risk I was taking. And I did see several of the posts you document in this amazingly researched blog!! Guess that's why we love you!! Happily, my daughter has turned 14 and is finally showing a slight interest in makeup. Not only does she love this color, but she loves it on me!! So our eyes not only see things differently, but judge them by the taste that is in our brain, not our skintype!! She's also taking French, and simply loves the name of this company!! So Solstice Halcyion will always have a home in our house. So funny that the way it shows up in Indigo Kir Royale's Swatch, is closest to how it looked on me, and that is one that I did not know about. Thanks for your incredibly thorough research. But these pics do make me feel a little less crazy. And now I have that many more sites to check out. Be well!!!


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