From Indie To Industry, Urban Decay Continues to Deliver

Published on November 14, 2013 by   ·   2 Comments

00 Manic PanicI remember when I was a young, fresh queer and I used to dye my hair some new crazy color every few weeks; in those days, I made a lot of trips to the local head shop to get a little jar of fabulous, otherwise known as Manic Panic hair dye.  I tried most of the colors.  From week to week, no one knew if my hair would be Electric Lizard or Tiger Lily, Plum Passion or Lagoon Blue (a color that has either been discontinued or, I suspect, renamed Bad Boy Blue).  My favorites were the pinks and reds – they always seemed to turn out the best and last the longest, I’m not sure why.  Pretty Flamingo was a regular feature on my scalp during my undergrad days, with occasional forays into Cotton Candy Pink, New Rose, and if I was feeling really bold, Hot Hot Pink.

As I was perusing the aisles of alternative rock and not so cleverly disguised bongs and one-hitters, I noticed something else that drew my attention: a small collection of makeup in one of the glass cases.  The lipsticks came in gold casings that looked like shotgun shells, and the colors were bold and different. The Nail polishes were electric, and all of the products had names that would make Elizabeth Arden blush.  From the Urban Decay website:

Sandy, David and Wende unleashed Urban Decay in January of 1996 with a line of 10 lipsticks and 12 nail enamels. Inspired by seedier facets of the urban landscape, they bore groundbreaking names like Roach, Smog, Rust, Oil Slick and Acid Rain.

Of course, Urban Decay wasn’t the only brand at the time that was cashing in on the mid-90s love of outrageous color: Hard Candy Cosmetics, which started as a line of unique nail polishes available at boutiques and high end stores like Nordstoms, launched in 1995 and even brands like Max Factor and MAC were starting to dip their toes in the water with exotic colors of lipstick, lip gloss, and nail polish.  But there was just something about Urban Decay that made it worth paying the $12 dollars (a shocking amount to me in my early drag days, used to the cheaper but more traditional offerings of Avon and various Walmart brands) for a shiny gold tube.

There are three lipsticks from those early days of Urban Decay that I love, love, loved more than almost any other lipstick in my stash (including my adored MAC Viva Glam, which felt extra fancy because I had to travel all the way to Winnipeg to get it and because it was purchased in the days when MAC’s matte lipsticks were actually seriously matte): Gash, a shimmery blood red/maroon that toed the line of being burgundy (puke) but never went that far; Uzi, a silver glitter lipstick that actually offered a good amount of coverage (opposed to most glitter lipsticks that were just waxy with some specks of glitter scattered throughout); and my absolute favorite, Burnout, a light pink with maybe a halo of coral and a ton of gold shimmer.  I have never found anything quite like it since, and I mourn its passing.  I still haven’t quite forgiven Urban Decay for discontinuing it!  In fact, one of my main critiques of the brand is that its lip products haven’t kept pace with its eye products (though there are some new lip products that were launched earlier this year that look to be pretty good…more on that later!)

So here are my thoughts on some of the best products this line has to offer.

Getting Naked And Finding Your Vice

0 NakedWhat I am currently obsessed with, more than even my OCC Lip Tar’s, is the phenomenal quality of UD’s shadows and the creative and sophisticated presentation of their palettes.  Where to begin?  UD has some amazing palettes for every taste, but perhaps one of their most well known is the gorgeously neutral Naked palette.  The original Naked has what the UD website describes as “bronze-hued” neutrals, and it is perfect for creating a variety of looks from natural freshness to smoked out nudes.  I’m fairly addicted to color, but even I find myself dipping into this palette for a gorgeous highlight or a gunmetal crease.  The palette has been so successful that UD put out a Naked 2 palette, filled with taupe-hued neutrals, and is getting ready to launch the Naked 3, this time a collection of rose-hued neutrals.  The palettes are super posh, every detail thought out to create a cosmetic product that not only does its job but also looks sleek and amazing.

And though Naked it good, Urban Decay is definitely known for outrageous and sexy color choices as well.  This fall, they put out the Vice 2 palette, a collection of 20 shadows that run the gamut from bright pink (X-rated) to super metallic silver and gold (Shellshock and Strike), deep rich green (Damaged) to vivid blue-violet with intense shimmer (Betrayal), a copper-coral shimmer (Toxic) to a navy stunner with unexpected green sparkle (Prank).  This collection is totally my newest vice!

0 Mother LoadFor those who like more flexibility, UD also does a lot of build your own shadow quads: you buy a metal palette casing (which usually includes a limited edition shadow – something neutral but pretty) and you can put in any of the UD eyeshadow shades which conveniently pop right out of their individual pots.  This allows you to curate your own looks; some of their special edition palettes, like the Theodora and the Glinda palettes (released to coincide with the release of Oz The Great And Powerful), allow you to pop the colors out and mix and match however you like.  They occasionally put out other small collections of classic shadows like the Ammo palette (10 shades), the Shadow Box (9 shades), and more.  Of course, their individual shadows are gorgeous and highly pigmented, if you just want to add another color to your kit or want to try out the brand without jumping all the way in.  And for those who absolutely must have it ALL, this holiday season they released a limited collection called The Mother Lode: all 68 of their wild, intense, breath-taking shadows in one box for the bargain price of only $600! Anyone still trying to decide what to get me for Christmas need look no further…

Although some of the collections do cheap out a bit and include sponge applicators (gross), most of the larger palettes have brushes, and these brushes are fantastic – soft, versatile, with virtually no fallout.  It makes you wish that Urban Decay did more collections of just brushes (be on the lookout for an upcoming post about brushes, coming soon to the Makeup Forum!).  The brushes with the Naked palette and with Vice 2 are particularly lovely and sometimes I sneak them out to play with other shadows as well.

Primed and Ready

0 PrimersThe product that got me back into Urban Decay in the first place is now one of the few products that I must have EVERY time I do my face: Eye Primer Potion.  This amazing primer allows the vibrant colors of Urban Decay shadows (and any other shadow your pair it with) to not only shine through, but to last and last.  I’m a big sweaty mess when I perform, and I don’t lose any of my shadows the whole night through now that I’ve started using these amazing products.  What makes them even more fun is that there are 4 to choose from: Original, a mostly sheer matte affair; Eden, a beige nude that dries to matte perfection; Sin, a shimmery champagne that can be worn by itself or played up with some of the darker Naked colors; and Greed, another shimmery shade in a bright yellow gold, perfect for metallic and jewel tone looks.

There are a lot of face primers out there (see my review of 10 of them available HERE) but not quite as many eye primers, and I haven’t found any that work as consistently well as the Urban Decay primers.  I have very few products that I consider 100% “Must Haves” in my makeup kit, but these primers definitely fit into that category.

Between the Lines

0 LinersRounding out their amazing line of eye products, UD also offers a great selection of eyeliner pencils. I never was a big fan of eyeliner for the longest time because I found it really hard to put on, the tips would always break as I was applying, the color was either too watery and soft or too stiff and claylike.Then I found Urban Decay’s 24/7 liners.  They are the perfect consistency – they glide on and the colors are just as vibrant and amazing as the shadows.  My personal faves are Freak, a bright neon green pencil with drop dead gorgeous shimmer, and LSD, a navy with hardcore shine; Covet, a deep green-blue, and Ransom, a shimmery blue-violet that pairs perfectly with Betrayal from the Vice 2 palette, are also top contenders.  Their metallic are fantastic, and Perversion, their black liner, is the most to die for dark black liner I’ve ever found.

Lip Lust

Now before you decide that I’ve been hired by Urban Decay to fawn over their makeup, let me just say that I really do love everything about their eye products.  They are fast becoming my go-to products for a gorgeous eye look and I’ve never received anything free from them (though I’m not opposed to freebies…are you listening Urban Decay execs??) – I really do just love their eye products.

When it comes to their lip products, however, I have much less personal experience.  As I mentioned earlier in the article, I adored my old school UD lipsticks, especially Burnout which I still occasionally light a candle for in the vain hope that it will somehow be reintroduced to the lineup of lip products.  For a while, UD seemed to have discontinued all of their lip products focusing on their stunning eye products.  But recently, Urban Decay has gone back to their roots with a new line of lip products that may reel me back in, at least for a shade or two.

00 Revolution LipstickThe big news recently was the release of Revolution lipstick, their newest line of lip products.  The reviews I have read have been generally positive, but from what I have seen the formulation is very creamy and can tend towards the sheer.  This is fine if you like sheer lipsticks that apply somewhere between a traditional lipstick and a gloss, but for me I would worry about the color payoff as well as how well it lasts, especially under stage lights and me running my mouth and drinking backstage for an entire show.

I’m more positive about the 24/7 line of lip liners and plan to add some of them to my kit very soon.  If the lip liners are as good as the eyeliners, I’m sure I will be thrilled with their quality and performance.

Urban Renewal

All in all, I think of Urban Decay as a solid brand that has translated well from its indie beginnings to the corporate makeup world, though its lip products still have a way to go to catch up with the consistent quality of their eye products.  For the super cost-conscious, you may want to start with an eye primer or two and look for special palettes and collections, or clearance sales when they update their lines in order to build up your collection (when they recently re-released their line of eye pencils, I got a ton of the old pencils for only $6 each!); their products are not expensive by high end brand standards but are definitely on a higher pricing scale than some of the more recognizable brands.  However, the quality and wearability of these products more than justifies the price point and you wouldn’t go wrong investing in a little something glamorous for yourself.

Now, if only I could convince them to re-release Burnout…

Now Go Forth And Get Painted!

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Readers Comments (2)
  1. Nicole Quam says:

    My sister Amanda has used Naked and now Naked 2 for years and it’s gorgeous. Also, for our Midsummer Night’s Dream production I dyed Christel’s hair Purple Haze!!! LOL. and I just threw out my old Vampire Red. Hahaha!!!

  2. […] face products (including eyeshadow primers that are on my Must Have list!).  I mentioned in an earlier post about the brand that I was interested to see what they were doing with their launch of Revolution […]





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