No Oasis In The Sea Of Beige: Is Tarte Really As Bland As They Seem?

Published on August 6, 2018 by   ·   No Comments

I’ve given more than my fair share of shade to tarte for their lack of color selection and their inability to make a palette that isn’t, like, 100% neutrals.  In fact, I was living for the brand Face Candy and their dupe of the tarte palette that should have been, the Icy Betch (Face Candy’s version is called Atlantis, and you can see my review HERE).  But is tarte really as one-note as they present themselves to be?  Not too long ago, the Rainforest of the Sea eyeshadow and highlighter palettes dropped into the Sephora Weekly Wow, so I decided it was time to find out.  After all – they’ve done Unicorns and Mermaids (though not always super successfully, especially that bland af mermaid palette that only had three colorful, non-neutral shades in the whole thing!) so can they really be so bad?  I thought there had to be something I was missing, so I got out my debit card, hit the sale section, and ordered up a whole buffet…of beige.

Let’s start with the highlight palette.  I decided against the Rainforest 1 highlight palette and just got the Rainforest 2 palette – it’s actually called the “Skin Twinkle Lighting Palette” but…ugh.  This one has 4 pans, 5 grams each, for a total of 20 grams of product.  It was on sale for $25, so that makes my investment $1.25 per gram.  The regular price on this palette is $42, making it $2.10 per gram.  Not super expensive at regular price, but it just wasn’t that special to me that I would have probably ever picked it up at the higher price.

Sea 07
The main pro on this palette is that the design of the outside packaging is quite lovely, with a sort of abstract wave pattern in shades of blue, purple, and teal.  It’s one that actually kind of looks like it goes with the whole “Rainforest of the Sea” theme.  The rest of the packaging is a metallic gold plastic, the type that has fingerprints all over it the minute you glance in its general direction.  The four shades, left to right, are Daylight, Skylight, Spotlight, and Candlelight.

Sea 05
L to R: Daylight, Skylight, Spotlight, Candlelight

I mean…call me a bitch, but is that the most boring, basic collection of highlighter shades you’ve ever seen in your life?  You can’t even really tell the first two apart when applied.  Daylight has maybe just a tiny touch of pink to it, but they are both a pretty standard pearl/pale gold highlight.  Spotlight is the most interesting, a golden peach highlight, and Candlelight is a bronzey shade that will work with more medium or dark skintones best.  There is absolutely nothing here to surprise or delight; for a second I thought spotlight was going to go on like the dreamsible orange shade from the Nicole Guerrero x ABH Glow Kit palette, but it blended out to your standard peachy gold.  It does have that kinda yummy vanilla bean smell that you would recognize from the Swamp Queen, Unicorn, and Mermaid palettes.

Now on to the eyshadows:

Rainforest of the Sea – Volume 1

Sea 10
The art on the cover of the palette looks like peacock feathers…and what the hell are peacocks doing in the ocean?  Do you ever feel like tarte is just wrestling with too many (bland) ideas, so they sometimes just decide to go with all of them?  This one is beige with a size of pale pink – clockwise from the top shade in the palette we have Seashell, Wave, Abyss, Reef, Starfish, Cove, Sand, and Mermaid.  The math is the same for all 3 eyeshadow palettes is the same: 8 pans at 1.5 grams per pan, or 12 grams total.  At $36 regular price that works out to $3.00 per gram, or $2.08 per gram if you bought them on the $25 Weekly Wow sale.

Sea 04
L to R: Seashell, Wave, Abyss, Reef, Starfish, Cove, Sand, Mermaid

Seashell and Wave are the only two shades that are not some sort of beige/brown/gold bullshit.  Seashell is a pale pink shimmer that is pretty but also pretty basic.  Wave is not bad – it’s a taupe shimmer that has some purplish undertones.  They could have used some stronger tones though to make this palette pop of anything.  Abyss is a cool-toned brown with a subtle shimmer, and Reff is it’s warmer, more chocolately sister.  It almost has a subtle red tone to it…gawd, I wish it had something to make it more interesting!  Starfish is a basic mid-toned brown shimmer.  Cove is a light tan matte.  Sand is a cream highlight shade, and it’s matte and patchy as fuck.  Mermaid is sort of a golden brown color, light and shimmery with maybe…maybe…just a hint of pink.

I’m going to keep the rant until the end.  Let’s move on to volume two.

Rainforest of the Sea – Volume 2

Sea 09
With this one, I almost thought they were going to get their shit together.  The artwork, featuring a lovely coral pattern, is the most cohesive to the theme of the collection, and while it’s still pretty neutral the color story is the most unique and sort of interesting of the three.  Clockwise from the top, we have Conch, Sunset, Marina, Seaside, Siren, Breezy, Riptide, and Pearl.

Sea 03
L to R: Conch, Sunset, Marina, Seaside, Siren, Breezy, Riptide, Pearl

Conch is a bone shade that is matte and blends nicely…it’s what they should have done with Sand in the last palette but apparently couldn’t get to work out in time.  Sunset is a beautiful golden metallic, very blendable and a subtle coral undertone in the shimmer.  Marina is a matte camel shade, darker and better performing than Cove from volume 1.  Seaside is a warm medium brown; I think it’s supposed to be matte but it’s more of a smooth satin or velvet kind of finish.  I know those things aren’t the same or interchangable, but the cosmetics industry will label things that are metallic as “mattes” so get off my back, willya?!  I’m just trying to describe this sea of mediocrity I see before me.  Siren is a gorgeous deep brown shade that almsot has a red undertone to it.  Breezy is a shimmery taupe gray.  Riptide is a deep gunmetal gray – I think that if it had included a navy undertone it could have been something really special, but it is one of the boldest shades in the palette.  Pearl is a white shimmer.

This one seemed to pick up a little bit, and if they had followed this up with something with even a little more variety it might have made this collection something to really consider.  But they didn’t do that.  Instead, they did this.

Rainforest of the Sea – Volume 3

Sea 08
Is it scales?  Is it layered feathers?  More peacocks?  Who knows…and who the fuck cares.  Just look at that color selection.  It’s like volume 1, with the tiny shred of personality in that palette sucked out.  Clockwise from the top we have Escape, Tiki, Heatwave, Malibu, Rays, Compass, Jewel, and Treasure.

Sea 02
L to R: Escape, Tiki, Heatwave, Malibu, Rays, Compass, Jewel, Treasure

Escape is a basic champagne shimmer.  Tiki is a pale beige matte, for transition.  Those two shades alone are so fucking boring, it’s all I can do to even write the rest of these descriptions – but I’ll soldier on.  Heatwave is a light metallic shimmer pink, a blush that’s like Escape but with a pinkier tone.  Malibu is a brown shimmer.  Rays is a gold metallic shimmer, Compass is the same color with slightly more yellow, and Jewel is the same color with a deeper copper tone to it.  And Treasure, ironically named, is a pearl shimmer shade.

Let’s break down why I’m so fucking annoyed with this collection.

First, it’s supposed to be “Rainforest of the Sea.”  When I think of Rainforests, I think of lush, green landscapes with red and turquoise exotic birds, bright copper-colored monkeys, yellow snakes.  When I think of the ocean, I think of deep blues and greens, light blue horizons on sunny days.  Nothing about either of those things makes me think beige/brown.  It’s like when they made a mermaid palette and tried to make pretty much the entire thing beige and brown.  They are putting forward these themes, but the themes meaning nothing to them.

Now, abuse of the theme aside, it would be one thing if the RFOTS collection was known as their neutrals collection and the rest of the line had some variety.  But every damn palette they do is beige/brown!  The tartelette palettes are all beige/brown.  Their Park Avenue palette was beige/brown.  Everything they do feels like the same damn thing!

Now they did recently add to their mystical-themed palettes with Love, Trust, & Fairy Dust (I know…gag), and it has some pinky plum vibes that are tired as hell but at least new for this brand:

Fairy Dust
Possibly and interesting change, but look at how many of those shades are also beige or brown.  it can be hard to miss them, because your eye is drawn to the pinks and that little flash of burgundy at the top, but it looks like a full half of these shadows are just more beiges and browns (obviously, I’d want to see these swatched to see how they come up when applied).  It’s a step in the right direction…but it might also be too little too late.  The Swamp Queen palette was…well, no shade to Bunny, who I love, but those shadows were absolute trash.  The Mermaid palette was boring with just a couple of predictable cool pops.  And this collection, though the shadow quality is generally pretty good, just didn’t have any sort of range.  There were no shades that inspired me or challenged me or made me want to create with them.  If you need a good quality, basic bitch neutrals palette in your collection and you don’t have a ton (or any) options already, I would recommend either the volume 2 or the volume 3.  Even better if you can find them on sale!  But I’m not sure I’d go much further than that on recommending these.  As for the highlighters, you can do better for cheaper elsewhere and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

So what do you think?  Are you living for tarte and all of their neutral realness?  Or are you ready to cancel their subscription because you just can’t handle all of their issues with color?  Are you off the brand since the whole Shape Tape foundation debacle?  Are you a new makeup maven and thinking about giving them a try?  What products of theirs are you lusting over?  let us know in the comments down below!

RFOTS 4
Now there may be a small silver lining to this story: as I was grabbing links from the Sephora site for this post, I saw that they’ve released a volume 4 palette in the collection, and this one seems to have some orange/peach/pink vibes going on with only a couple of super obvious beige/browns.  Of course, I’m going to want to see it in person first and see how they swatch, and I’m pretty reluctant to spend the full $36 on this one, but this might actually be a step in the right direction.  I’m glad that they seem to have remembered that pink exists, and I hope they can rediscover all kinds of new colors!  The Rainforest is a colorful place, and the Sea is deep, dark, and cool-toned.  Let’s hope tarte can start representing the real color stories of these amazing locales!

Now Go Forth & Get Painted!

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