A lot of E.l.f. products are usually hit or miss. Though I don't own too many of them, I know for a fact that their $1 brushes are absolute miss! Most of them are nightmare – they shed and are scratchy but the $3 ones from the Studio line are pretty decent. If you are looking to try their brushes, definitely pay a little more and go for the Studio line. As for the product I'm reviewing today, it's a hit in my opinion but in no way is it a perfect product from the get-go. With a little bit of practice and a right tool, you can make it work. :)
I picked up their Contouring Blush & Bronzer duo in St Lucia from Target. There are two other shades in the selection but I find St Lucia to be a better fit for my Asian skin tone. There is no denying that this product resembles the famous NARS Orgasm and Laguna blush and bronzer duo – the black packaging, the structure of the 2 pans, and even the color of the product itself – you'd think they are identical. Upon closer inspection, though, they are quite different in so many ways – the texture, performance, as well as the color – they are completely 2 different products. You'll see a comparison swatch later in the post but for now I'll be focusing on the E.l.f.
As mentioned, E.l.f. Contouring Blush & Bronzer duo comes housed in a matte black plastic packaging. It feels to be sturdy and of good quality to me for the cheap price. The compact is sleek and the lid snaps shut securely with a click. There even is a generous-sized mirror inside, too! I mean, for a $3 product, the packaging is well beyond decent. Inside the palette contains 2 pans of cheek products – one blush and one bronzer.
The blush is a warm peachy pink shade with tiny gold shimmer. It looks extra shimmery in the pan but once applied on the skin, the shimmer is barely detectable. In terms of texture, it isn't buttery soft, it can also feel slightly dry and powdery but it's nothing too terrible.
The pigment is on the light side and on my medium complexion, I find myself packing on more than a few brush swipes for the color to show up. It is buildable, though, and blends well so I have no complaints. Sometimes I enjoy using blushes that are not too pigmented since I don't have to be too careful. For this E.l.f. blush, it's hard to overdo but if you load too much on your cheeks, the shimmery sheen can be noticeable. I like to apply it with a fairly dense angle brush such as MAC 168 or Sigma F40.
With a few swipes on, there is enough pigment to make my cheeks look naturally flushed, in a healthy and flattering way. It doesn't turn red nor does it make my face look shiny or greasy (because of the shimmer). I wanted to say it gives me a subtle glow, too but that's only noticeable when lights hit at a certain angle.
And here's one thing that seems to go against a lot of other reviews – on my skin, E.l.f. blush does stay on the entire day, if there's any fading, it's not visible to me. I don't know if it's just my skin, or the weather, or something else, but I don't find it to disappear on me at all.
The bronzer is tricky and requires careful application. I'd describe it as a dark golden brown with tiny gold shimmer but similar to the blush, the shimmer is barely detectable once on the skin. The texture of the bronzer is much softer and crumbles easily so do be gentle with it.
Now, the problematic part lies in the pigmentation. This bronzer is almost too pigmented! If that's even possible but it seems that way to me. Together with the powdery soft texture, I can see why one would overdo during application and not even realizing it because you already apply too much. The key is to use a brush with sparse bristles such as Smashbox fan brush #22 or MAC stippling duo fibre brush 187, together with the lightest hand. And then not only do you need to tap off the excess, you sometimes have to tap the brush lightly on a piece of tissue too to make sure you are not picking up too much product. Sounds like a lot to do, but not really, it just needs a very little amount to show up on the skin.
To me, the problem with this bronzer is the fact that it can be patchy and dry making it a little difficult to blend. You have to be very careful and very patient when using this bronzer otherwise it can get unnaturally-looking. Especially if you have pale skin in which the color would show up much easier. The key here is to use the product sparingly, with a light hand, and with the right tool.
As for the staying power, it lasts on me throughout the day, just like the blush counterpart so the longevity is good and I have no complaints.
Comparison to NARS blushes
The shimmer in the E.l.f is similar to NARS Orgasm but the color of the blush itself is closer to Deep Throat. I also find E.l.f. blush a bit more pigmented than Orgasm (*gasp*!)
Comparison to NARS bronzers
E.l.f. bronzer is definitely more matte than Laguna and Casino and more brown and less gold but it's the most patchy among the three.
For $3, you can't possibly expect this duo to perform miracles. The packaging and the nice mirror inside is probably worth already half the price, so really this thing is so cheap for what it has to offer. I will admit, I purchased this for fun and just to see what the fuss was all about but did it disappoint me to no end? Not at all. It just needs a little extra work to make it work. :)