Saturday, October 11, 2014

Essence Cosmetics : Dark Romance Collection

Calling all vampires!!  Essence's Dark Romance Collection is all about thrilling trysts in Gothic castles, and forbidden love in haunted ruins... Jane Austen's wide-eyed heroine Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey would be all about this, what with her naive fascination with Gothic novels bordering on hallucinatory obsession.  The Brontë sisters would undoubtedly approve as well.  But do be sure to accessorize properly with a shadowy gloss and unearthly lacquer when you curl up with Wuthering Heights, or maybe Jane Eyre, for a good October thrill... ;)  A spiced tea will be in order as well.  Purrrrr...

As Essence is a German company, the Dark Romance Collection was actually released as early as January 2014 in various parts of Europe (definitely Poland and Romania), but only just debuted in the United States.  According to the Essence website it was supposed to be a September limited edition release, but it only hit my local Fred Meyers on October 2 so it would seem that schedule has been pushed back a month.  I immediately pounced on every item Fred Meyer is carrying (except for the tattoos, they were a bit too biker chick for my taste) though the full collection also has one more each of the eyeshadow quad, lipstick ("Painted Love"), and nail polish (a gray), as I recall.  Ah well, I'll take whatever I can get!  I LOVE Essence's Limited Edition collections (though I rarely get to avail myself of them, seeing as they are available so sparingly in the U.S.); they do them monthly, and yet they are always consummately imaginative and original.  The themes are quite wide-ranging and the packaging is always adorable.  Not only that, the products generally quite excellent (at minimum, they are above average for a drugstore line), and are amazingly inexpensive!!  So much love for this brand, I has.

Oh, you demand to see this stupendously seductive collection, do you?  Well, okay.



Dark Night Starlight

"Dark Night Starlight" is an imperial iris violet polish twinkling with iridescent flakies flashing fuchsia, azure, and gold, and glowing with fine magenta shimmer.  On the nail more so than in the bottle, the violet acquires deeply blue-toned edges that approach indigo in hue.  It is a majestically magical lacquer whose complexity quite belies its modest price tag.  The formula begins sheer but flows on the nails evenly, and builds to opacity in three coats.

Essence "Dark Night Starlight"

Essence "Dark Night Starlight"

Gothic Gold

"Gothic Gold" is a cool pale gold metallic polish blended with faint silver shimmers that dries to a textured finish.  This is what I would consider a "retrospective" texture (yeah, I just made that up), because the effect is achieved by lumpy particles added for the express purpose of creating a texture, seemingly as an after-thought.  "Inherent" textures, or what I think of as a true texture, is achieved or at least contributed to by the characteristic behavior of glitter constituents, that serve to define the polish's color in addition to its finish.  A retrospective texture is essentially the same concept as an popcorn wall finish, so of course I don't care for it as much (I mean, what a terrible era for interiors that was).  That said, I think it does contribute a certain edginess to "Gothic Gold" that is fundamental to the personality of this collection, and the end effect really is quite striking, so I'll give this a pass.  "Gothic Gold" is incredibly opaque and would be perfect after one coat if not for the sparse particles creating a scattered pockmarked surface; two coats is the way to go in order for the texture to be pleasingly dense.

Essence "Gothic Gold"


Red Romance

"Red Romance" is a muted boysenberry red crème, so plush and rich that somehow even liquid in the bottle it reminds me powerfully of velveteen suedes.  It is intended to dry down to a matte finish (or as Essence writes it, "matt"), though it looks it resembles more the wax finish made famous by Cult Nails, and to the touch reminds me of the satiny finish of Scotch tape.  "Red Romance" manages to be smart and sexy in equal measure, like an Oxford pump.  I think I used two coats for this?  Definitely no more than three (oopie, I haz the dumb :P ).

Essence "Red Romance" + "Gothic Gold" accent nail
Essence "Red Romance"


A Romance To Remember // Foggy Love


Essence "A Romance To Remember" eyeshadow quad + "Foggy Love" eye pencil

"A Romance To Remember" Quattro Eyehadow : (1) cool dune beige matte, (2) metallic graphite shimmer, (3) shadowy blackened teal shimmer with alluring iridescent twinkles, (4) imperial iris purple shimmer with tiny pink sparkles.  All of the eye shadows are of medium pigmentation, with a silky texture that is easily buildable.  This palette is reminiscent to me of many of the shadows released by M.A.C. this fall with their A Novel Romance collection, namely "An Amorous Adventure" quad and the "Highly Charged" Electric Cool Eye Shadow single; with the name "A Romance To Remember", it fits right into the collection!

Essence "A Romance To Remember" eyeshadow quad

"Foggy Love" Glitter Eye Pencil : cool medium storm cloud gray with tiny silver sparkles.  A gorgeous, contemplative color not as dark as I might usually seek in an eyeliner, but that surprised me with its wistful loveliness on the eye; a softer version of a smoky smolder.  The formula is easily above average for a drug store pencil; quite soft, with moderate pigmentation that I like to build up with a few strokes.  The little blender nib attached is a nice touch.

Essence "Foggy Love" eye pencil


 Light Up! // Painted Love // Red Romance // Black Shadow


"Light Up!" Cream Highlighter : fairest buff cream illuminated by an ethereal sunrise pink shimmer, with the fine glowing effect of a seashell.  Silky smooth and beautifully blendable, this highlighter has a breathtaking immortal rose glow when light hits the cheeks right.  Absolutely stunning, and a great new favorite of mine.

Essence "Light Up!" Cream Highlighter

"Painted Love" Velvet Mousse Blush : a true scarlet (bright red with warm orange undertones) that starts sheer and builds a bit from there.  With an old-world rouge appeal, "Painted Love" has an incredible light fluffy mousse texture that blends wonderfully into a lively cherry tint on the cheeks.  My swatches show this layered quite thickly; blended more thoroughly it becomes so subtle, and flatteringly radiant!  I am completely in love with this product; it has all the Moulin Rouge joie de vivre without the, ah, painted lady appearance ;)  If you love Butter London "Piccadilly Circus" you may just love this one even more! (gasp)

Essence "Painted Love" Velvet Mousse Blush

"Red Romance" Lipstick : a boysenberry red crème in a cool, muted tone that is just plummy enough to appeal even to those of us who don't care so much for red.  Richly pigmented and opaque, though using a light hand you can achieve a gorgeous red raspberry tint on the lips for a softer look.  Excellent buttery formula as per usual, though without the bright fruity fragrance of most Essence lipsticks.

Essence "Red Romance" lipstick

"Black Shadow" Lipgloss Effects : sheer charcoal gray gloss brimming with glassy iridescent shimmer flecks that flash aqua and magenta.  It's a bit odd looking in the tube, certainly, but it goes on like a fascinating veil of smoke.  It is intended to layer over a lipstick, but my boyfriend and I both really like its sultry look solo as well.  The Essence lipgloss formula is awesome, sleek and smooth and not sticky in the slightest.  "Black Shadow" is scented with a jolly watermelon fragrance, which is fine though I think if they were going to scent it something like a smoldering sandalwood vanilla would have suited its mood better.

Essence "Black Shadow" lipgloss effects

Essence "Painted Love" blush, "Light Up!" highlighter, "Black Shadow" lipgloss, "Red Romance" lipstick

Essence Dark Romance Collection

So what do you think, otherwordly beauties??  As I mentioned with "A Romance To Remember", in some ways I think this collection might bring some succor to those of us who loved M.A.C.'s A Novel Romance Collection but couldn't shell out for the price tag.  Speaking of price tags, the cost of these might surprise you.  Nail polish - $2.49.  Cream highlighter - $3.99.  Velvet Mousse Blush - $2.99.  Eyeshadow quad - $3.99.  Eye pencil - $1.99.  Lipstick - $2.99.  Lip gloss - $2.49.  I mean, WOW.  And all genuinely great products!!  They're really all worth picking up if you're in the market for these colors, but my absolute do-not-miss picks are (1) "Painted Love" Velvet Mousse Blush, (2) "Black Shadow" lipgloss, (3) "Light Up!" Cream Highlighter, and (4) "Dark Night Starlight" lacquer.

I purchased my Essence at Fred Meyer; that, plus Ulta and Walgreens are the only United States retailers that Essence recognizes on their website, though I've yet to visit a Walgreens that carries Essence, and Ulta only carries a limited range so I think your best bet is Fred Meyer and unfortunately they don't sell Essence online :(  I wonder if FM would ship this to you if you got on the phone with them??  If anyone knows, I'm sure we would all be grateful to hear about it in the comments (I definitely will be, once I'm out of FM range again)!

What is YOUR favorite romance, Gothic or otherwise?  xoxo <3 


  1. Fantastic review, I love it! No detail escapes you, Marisa, and though you may think of this as a baby blog, there's nothing amateur about what you have to say and the way you say it. I think there's all kinds of blogging success for you out there if you want it.

    I really like that you can see all of the particles shimmers in Dark Night Starlight -- it has an almost indie sense to it that way. Shimmers are my favorite finish, and never more so than when I can actually see the components. And I LOVED your mini-treatise on textures, you're so right! Texture for texture's sake is never the same as a textured polish built on concept and folks can detect that kind of postmodern self-referential bs a mile away. You were kind to give Gothic Gold a pass, but your reason for doing so is so sound I'll give it a pass too. ;-)

    Even though I don't wear much makeup these days I still love it so I have to say that I'm totally with you regarding the Painted Love velvet mousse blush, it looks like a fantastic product and I adore the idea of creating an "in from the cold" flush of color with something like this. It's looks perfect for that!

    Good stuff!

    1. Liz, your words are like a balm to my heart. I've come to look forward to reading your thoughts; one, because you have such a beautiful, intelligent written voice (which is just so exceedingly rare on the internets), and two, because you speak to my lacquer-loving soul like an arrow to a target! <3 Shimmers are my favorite too!!! Yuhssss!! Do you ever feel like it is more "cool" to prefer crèmes, or dark duochromes, or whatever? I mean, I like those as well, but nothing stops my heart like a good complex shimmer (and you're right, Dark Night Starlight most certainly is this! It does have that sophisticated, inspired look that we've come to expect from indies in particular.) And I am SO GLAD that someone else has noticed the gaping difference between texture types!! You said it; one just feels more intentional than the other. That's why Gothic Gold gets a "C"; it does achieve its intended look and attitude, but the method of it just isn't as genuine to me. And this is starting to sound like an 20th century architecture critique ;) Painted Love is the BEST! (Plus, the packaging is so sexy!) I wish we had gotten Red Romance as well, but that's just dithering. "In from the cold" is the most excellent description of it's look! That's precisely what it is!

      Thank you ever so much for your beautiful words of support <3 <3 Hahah ah yes, my baby blog, so little amongst all of the beauty blog giants out there. I look at them and know that I have a ways to go, which is tricky being a full time student and/or working full time. And yet, meeting other darlings such as yourself who cherish the tiny little twinkling details that make nail polish and cosmetics magical has already been worth it to me :) It warms my spirit!!! XOXO