Makeup Geek Review

In under a month it will be two years since Marlena Stell rebranded Makeup Geek and two years since I started purchasing their products. I have some experience with the original shimmer eyeshadow formula, thanks to a sale they were having of their older products, but I cannot compare the original mattes to the ones now. For some reason, I use these shadows once and then go 3-4 months before I use them again. The cycle of use and disuse continued until September 2021 when I committed to thoroughly testing them once and for all.

About half of the square pan eyeshadows were purchased within a few months of the rebrand. The remainder were purchased during new launches like the Soft Focus Colors Collection and Fall Scenes Collection. The face products were purchased at different points in 2021, but I consider them fairly new, especially the bronzer since the shade I purchased was just released in September.

Makeup Geek Individual Shadows (old and new)

All swatches above Caitlyn Rose are from the older collection. The shades with an asterisk in front means it came from the All The Glitters Palette, which I depotted. The “Blue My Mind” color is stated as the name on the palette, but the actual name printed on the bottom of the pan (which I saw when depotting) is “Surf’s You Right.” I don’t know if this was a simple name change at the last minute or if it’s an example of quality control issues Makeup Geek may have had in the past.

I haven’t worn all the older shadows, but I’m very impressed with the ones from the All That Glitters Palette. The exceptions are Venom and Hype which are satin shades and they don’t feel as nice as they did when I first bought them, so I think it’s actually time to toss them. Same goes for Plot Twist and Caitlyn Rose which are beautiful but crumbly now.

I have to also mention the pigment in Blue My Mind is insane! The formula feels wet like a cream to powder shadow, but I have no idea if it’s supposed to be like that. It’s so opaque, sparkly, and intense, but the texture makes me a little concerned as to whether it’s time to throw that out as well. I purchased all the older circle pan shadows in March 2020, so it’s not unrealistic for them to be going bad by now.

I don’t have many of Makeup Geek’s current foils, but I actually prefer the sparkle and shine level of the original foils over the new ones. I even like the older formula better because I have creasing issues with Mystical and especially Medieval. Medieval isn’t as smooth as Mystical either. Illuminaughty, Grandstand, and Epic don’t crease as much. I really like those shades. The foils are described on the website as being a cream and powder hybrid. Perhaps the cream element is what gives it the tendency to crease. While I’ve always had some deep lines around my eyes which is natural to crease a little, Mystical and Medieval move so much to the point of leaving blank spots. It’s quite disappointing since they were the two shades in the rebrand I was most excited to buy. One issue all the new foils have though is that the shimmer dulls after a few hours. This isn’t completely unusual for me, but when they aren’t super sparkly to begin with, they basically look like satins by the end of the day.

Regarding the mattes, the only eye base I’ve tried that works well with them is the MAC Paint Pot. In the photo below, the top half shows where the mattes patch off the lid after being worn for less than an hour. The bottom half shows how the shadows looks after the same length of time when redone over MAC Paint Pot. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better. I don’t remember which shades I used here because the eye photos were taken at least six months ago.

Most of the mattes don’t have pigmentation issues. A few that I own are a thinner more powdery formula than others (like Chickadee and Peach For the Stars), which do fade me on quickly. Even those that fade will still leave a hint of color all day if I use the Paint Pot as a base. I learned though that the absolute best results are just like the face powders and look better if the eye has been set with a powder layer first. These are definitely not creamy mattes, so my eyes can look extra dry and ashy with some of these lighter shades. I think the dryness is what I initially couldn’t pinpoint as to why I was underwhelmed by MUG shadows.

These are some of the looks I’ve done prior to reviewing. I don’t remember which ones I used. I had a few additional shadows that didn’t make this review because I didn’t like them or they were too similar to other shades I purchased. I sold Daydreamer, Wine and Dine, Creme Brulee, Current Obsession, and Latte as Usual.

The best of the Makeup Geek mattes blend nicely and easily and show up opaque the way I like. The downside is that whatever shade it looks initially will turn into a darker variant of brown after a few hours. Had Me At Yellow turns into a mustard yellow-brown. Back To The Fuchsia turns purple-brown. Curfew turns dark brown almost black. I don’t mind these changes as much considering the brown-blends still look pretty and they mostly last all day.

Courageous, Unleashed, and Invincible are part of the Power Pigments formula which are supposed to be the most saturated and most pigmented mattes Makeup Geek have. They give more opaque results right away compared to the other mattes, they are more vibrantly colored, and they have a drier rougher texture. The last one is to be expected when using actual pigments over micas and dyes. The Power Pigments used to be more expensive than the regular mattes at $7.99, but were lowered to $5.50. I think this was a good decision because I don’t believe they are that much more special than the regular mattes considering most of them can be built up to the same level of opacity.

Contour in Scandal (discontinued)

Makeup Geek does not currently have contour products available for purchase, but I got it during a sale shortly after the rebrand. This is a great contour color for me, however, this product doesn’t blend very well. Wherever the powder first touches my skin is where it will stay. Every time I use it, I have to apply a finishing powder to blend out the edges or foundation to sharpen where it got too spread out from me trying to blend it. It still looks heavy even when applied with my softest most loosely packed brushes. This product was probably created at the height of contouring when it was popular to be ultra pigmented, sharp, and intense. If Makeup Geek brings the contours back, I hope there’s a formula change to produce a more natural or airbrushed look. I can make it work, but I likely won’t use it again. The sale price was under $2, so I can’t complain too much.

Bronzer in Chestnut

The color in the pan looks great for me. Unfortunately, this shade looks almost identical to the contour when I actually apply it to my skin. It has a golden sheen with fine gold specks throughout, which gives it the appearance of warmth, but the actual base color is deeper and neutral toned at best. When I apply this, most of the gold is brushed off the skin and what I’m left with creates a shadow and very little warmth. The swatch photo in the blush section shows how similar Chestnut and Scandal look when blended.

The bronzer blends easier than the contour, but the only way it looks nice is if I’ve set my face with a layer of powder first before I blend the bronzer on top. Powdering first gives a softer nicely blended look that I want. However, since 2020, I pretty much stopped using setting powders except under my eyes. If I use a powder at all, it’s a finishing powder which is the last step in my makeup routine. Because it’s not my usual style to set my foundation before I apply the rest of my face products, I don’t see myself reaching for this over the other bronzers I own. However, if I was willing to switch up my style, I know I could get a really beautiful end result. I did end up purchasing the shade Burnished during Black Friday, which is much more cool toned of a shade and just barely deep enough to show on my bare face. I have not yet had the chance to try Burnished over foundation.

Blush in Chivalry

Chivalry is a pretty terracotta brown shade. It performs better than the bronzer on unpowdered skin, but I’m still not completely impressed with the finished look unless it has that powder layer underneath it. Then it looks quite beautiful and almost airbrushed. This technique reduces the amount of pigment I get on the cheeks at once, but it also prevents me from getting darker patches where my brush first touches my skin. In the photo below, the left set of swatches were done with my finger and the right set were blended with a brush to demonstrate the blend without powder (though the sticking issue would have been more prominent if the swatches were applied on top of foundation).

Because powdering isn’t an absolute necessity with the blush and I can still get it to look nice if I take my time blending and use fluffy airy brushes, I could see myself continuing to use this beyond testing purposes. It has good staying power and can be applied lightly for a subtle flush (if powdered first), medium intensity on unset foundation, or built up to a fairly deep shade.

I purchased Covet during the Black Friday sale and I like it even more than Chivalry because medium pinks tend to be my favorite.

Also, unlike the bronzer and contour, the blush leaves a bit of kickup in the pan.

Highlighter in Midnight Sun (discontinued)

This highlighter color is discontinued, but I very happy I could get it because I think it’s a flattering shade on me. It’s quite funny that I like it so much considering this is listed as being best suited for fair skin tones. It does look pale in swatches, but as the cheek photo shows, a highlighter for someone lighter than me should look way more bright and stark. Then again, this isn’t a blinding type of formula. A shade actually geared toward my skin tone would probably not stand out on my cheekbone as much as this color does, which is just the right amount for my taste. Of all the face products, I like the highlighter formula the most.

Full Spectrum Eye Liner Pencil in Plumeria

This is another last minute Black Friday addition to this post. It did not arrive early enough before my trip for me to thoroughly test it. I watched how Marlena used this pencil and was drawn not only to the color, but the fact that it could be smudged out as a shadow color or base and is supposed to be almost water resistant. That element worked well on my arm. After giving it some time to dry, it couldn’t be moved by rubbing it with my finger. Even after wetting it, it didn’t smudge, smear, or run. However, for some reason this pencil did not last on my eyes for even an hour. I do have oily lids, so perhaps this is the reason. I tried it one time on bare eyelids with no primer or other eyeshadows. I put it all over the lid, blended out on my eye like a cream shadow. In an hour, about a third was gone. When I checked a few hours later, there wasn’t any of it left. Since it worked on my arm, I’m guessing this is a “me” problem and anyone who does not have oily eyelids will be able to use this pencil. In the future, after testing it thoroughly, I will update this post if I found a way to keep it on my eyes.

Customizable Compacts

I couldn’t end this review without discussing some of the things I noticed about the compacts offered by Makeup Geek. Whether you get the clear or gunmetal lid of the mini palettes, they both have a magnet of standard thickness and rounded edges. The square pan face powder singles fit perfectly inside them. On the other hand, the “Travel Vault Palette” with the gunmetal lid that anyone who makes a custom 9-pan palette will get, has the kind of magnet I get from the craft store in thin sheets with the peel off sticker on the back. As can be seen in the photo above, mine was not cut properly to the size of my palette. It arrived with the edges lifted up and when I press to stick them back down, they still don’t lay perfectly flat and are curved. When I watched reviews during the rebrand, I saw plenty of other people had warped magnetic bottoms like mine. The actual palette packaging is well constructed, sturdy, and beautiful. The mirror in the lid is a nice quality and a great size. However, I believe Makeup Geek cut corners (literally and figuratively) with the magnets. At one point I had four of these palettes and three out of four were not cut, laid, and stuck properly. When you have expensive eyeshadows, the last thing you want is to have to worry about the whole sheet lifting off and your shadows breaking. I have two of the travel palettes left and I took the better glued one on a trip with me and had no issues. However, I cannot say what would happen if someone keeps their shadows in there at all times.

The main reason I don’t keep my Makeup Geek pans in there is because of all the wasted space. I can understand the older circle pans not fitting better into the palettes considering their shape, but I expected the rebranded new shadows in their mostly square shape should be made to fit the palettes. They still only fit 9 shadows. I understand wanting enough space to be able to easily take the shadows in and out, but it doesn’t look good in my eyes. It looks like I took another brand’s shadows and tried to put them in Makeup Geek’s palette because they’re so ill-fitting. It bothers me when a pre-made palette is larger than it needs to be, but having dividers between the shades indicates it was intended to be that way. Custom palettes without those dividers look untidy on the part of the one who made the palette. Me.

In addition to the eyeshadows not fitting well, there is only room for one face product; if you put one face product, you can only add a maximum of 5 eyeshadows that are still widely spread out. One of the things I love about making custom palettes is having things line up and looking orderly. If it can’t be orderly, I enjoy at least filling up as much space as possible, so it’s a pet peeve of mine that they are this way. The only brand’s shadows that fit nicely in the Makeup Geek palettes are the mini circle shadow pans from Colourpop such as the pans from the Blue Moon, Lilac You A Lot, Star Wars The Mandalorian The Child palette, etc.

There is one other palette type for sale called the Mega Vault Palette. It’s the Matrix Shadow Palette that holds 28 shadows, and those at least fit nicely on all sides with a reasonable amount of extra space. When comparing the 9 pan palettes (whether old version or travel vault version) to the Mega Vault, it’s clear to see a palette of that size should have been made to hold 16, not 9. Marlena has expressed her struggles keeping her brand afloat, so I can see the desire to reuse packaging or try to drum up buzz by announcing a rebrand. I just wish the shadows-to-palette aspect was better planned out for the 9 pan palettes. Then again, perhaps this is why the custom palettes are so deeply discounted.
In case anyone is wondering, I kept my Makeup Geek shadows in a custom magnetic Juvia’s Place palette, which I don’t believe is available for sale anymore. I kept them there until I bought the Mega Vault.

Whenever I review a brand from an Influencer, I disclose whether there are any personal feelings involved. I started following Marlena on YouTube shortly before her rebrand and although I only watch a quarter of her videos, I do like her as a person and I’ve improved my eyeshadow skills because of her live demonstration videos. At the same time, I was also very unhappy with the situation between her and Tina (The Fancy Face) which played out after I already made my initial purchase from the brand. Because of that incident, I did not want to review the products on my blog. However, this was two years ago and my opinion of Marlena returned to a neutral state. I wish her and her brand success. Even though the products aren’t a perfect match for my skin type or my application style, I’m still interested in seeing what else they create in the future and am likely to continue purchasing from them.

That’s all for today! I’m grateful you’ve taken the time to read my review and I hope the information was useful.

-Lili

6 thoughts on “Makeup Geek Review

  1. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one getting creasing with the foiled shadows. We can all have different experiences with products, but it is still nice when you aren’t alone lol.

    I hope that Marlena can improve some of these issues with formulation and revamp the empty palettes for a better fit and better quality magnets. My fear is that they just didn’t get enough business in 2021 to invest in changes. They did launch some new products and maybe Marlena hoped that would give them enough of a profit margin to work with, but no one really talked about those launches so I doubt it. I hope she surprises me cause the performance on those matte eyeshadows and the bronzer is very disappointing.

    I was also upset about the situation with the Fancy Face and it gives me pause every time I’ve purchased from Makeup Geek since. She could have handled that situation better. I do still hope the Makeup Geek brand can put itself back on the map.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think part of the issue may be that she’s tailoring her products to her personal makeup style and taste. And while it’s still generally good, the formulas reminds me of old school urban decay and things that were popular at least five years ago. Even the eyeshadow colors she comes out with a classic tones but very few really stand out as unusual or special. I think she could benefit from having other people helping her with the creative aspect of her brand. New eyes. New perspective. I respect that the quality is something makeup artists would probably like, but where indie brands get a lot of hype is how innovative and different they are and what new things they bring to the table. I think she still wants to be in the realm of MAC but between MAC and Makeup Geek, I’d prefer to stick to the tried and true with MAC. And as you said, I think she hoped to catch hype with her new launches but they aren’t the kind of items that are popular right now. A new mascara, face oil/primer, and eyeliners were her new non-eyeshadow launches this year and that’s not enough. And yes, I definitely do wish her the best and hope she can revive the brand. There’s still potential.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a great point I hadn’t considered, she does need more interesting and unique products. Now that you mention her want to be like MAC, she did build her whole company by duping them. So maybe she never had the ability to innovate, to begin with.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not aware of the situation between Marlena and Tina. I used to follow Marlena a LONG time ago, when the brand first launched. I’d love to see the brand do more innovative textures like other Indie brands. I still might do a custom 9-pan sometime. I dunno, part of me thinks the makeup community just isn’t interested in the brand anymore…I rarely see people posting or talking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d love to see different textures and formulas as well. I hear she may be releasing brushes or a new product in a few days. I hope it goes well. I want her to do well, but I honestly feel she isn’t able to keep up with trends and at the very least, she isn’t taking risks or being innovative. While it’s true that some brands you and I like can afford to play it safe, like Nars, but MUG can’t compete with a Nars. I agree with you fully that she could try to go the route of other indie brands. As for what happened. Essentially in Marlena’s video about Influencers she used to work with, she showed a screenshot of an email that had Tina’s last name (which was never publicly listed elsewhere) and I believe also her private email address but that last one I’m not 100% on. In any case, Tina messaged Marlena on social media to have it removed (Marlena later says she and her team never saw it). Nothing happened so Tina didn’t pursue it further. Then maybe less than a year later when MUG announced they were rebranding, that video Marlena did on Influencers started to trend again and trolls were starting to hound Tina. So Tina filed a privacy complaint (which does not strike the channel) through youtube in order to get that part of the video edited out. Marlena felt salty about it (not knowing why it was important to Tina) and retaliated by doing a copyright strike on one of Tina’s car chat videos. Then Tina posted about it on social media (fearing that additional strikes could lead to the removal of her channel) and how it was a talking video with literally nothing copyright shown and therefore was a false strike that could endanger her channel. People then started tagging MUG and Marlena’s response was “It had ‘makeup geek’ in the title which is a trademarked name,” as justification for issuing the strike, which everyone knows is not how that works. She received backlash for that response and then changed it to “I didn’t know it would endanger her channel.” She eventually retracted it and apologized to Tina, but it still revealed a side to her (pettiness and willingness to lie to save face) that had me questioning her character. And I know smaller YouTubers who don’t have an audience to back them up who have had to deal with false strikes so it rubs me the way to see claims used inappropriately like that. I also know Marlena was going through a great deal of stress at the time, so it’s one of those things that is a human weakness type of moment and I don’t think she’s a bad person. It just took a while for me to see her in a neutral light again. And me not really being wowed by the products was another reason I didn’t complete this post until ages later! Thank you for stopping by! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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