Tuesday, February 2, 2016

KEVYN AUCOIN Essential Starter Kit and The Contour Book The Art of Sculpting + Defining

The KEVYN AUCOIN brand has undoubtedly reached more people than ever with continued interest in contouring and highlighting. Kevyn Aucoin, in his heyday, was probably the ultimate master of this technique and certainly the most high profile one.

I haven't personally bought much from this brand although I had heard quite the buzz about his makeup brushes. I own several of them, including the large powder brush and a mini brush kit in a brush roll. I must admit though, I haven't touched those brushes in years.

Wanting some kind of reintroduction to the brand, I thought it fitting to purchase the Essential Starter Kit and The Contour Book The Art of Sculpting + Defining from Sephora. I took advantage of discounts when I purchased both items so it didn't hit my wallet quite as badly as it would have if I had purchased them both at regular price. I also bought the contour brush (but separately) since that is the brush recommended for applying the highlighters in The Contour Book.

Instructions in The Contour Book

With the two, trial sizes are all you get. The brand is generally expensive to start with so if you're getting a variety of products for the price of a full-size sculpting powder, I think that the price point is totally understandable. The total content is 0.36 oz for the six powder products in The Contour Book. It's on sale now for $40 so I'd say the price seems to make sense if pitted against, say, 0.11 oz of The Sculpting Powder for $44. There's packaging to consider, I suppose.

The Contour Book

Both The Contour Book and the Essential Starter Kit come with a set of instructions detailing what you're supposed to do with the products. To judge the items for say, a review, I think that one should give the provided instructions a shot.  You can do whatever you want with the product, just bear in mind its recommended use. I feel like you can't really write a review saying the product is horrible if you're using it for a completely different purpose than what was recommended by the manufacturer.

Kevyn Aucoin Essential Starter Kit

A little background. I had been working with the Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base and BECCA Lowlight/Highlight Perfecting Palette Poured prior to purchasing these KEVYN AUCOIN products. I find that both items that I had been using previously satisfied the lightest bit of contouring that I feel like doing on occasion. I have bronzing powders and highlighters of different kinds at my disposal, including the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Face Sculpt & Highlight which I purchased at the same time as The Contour Book. I find that the KEVYN AUCOIN items are the ones that I reach for the least, among similarly priced brands. I'm trying to analyze why and here are my thoughts.

Essential Starter Kit items:
Matte Bronzing Veil in Desert Nights on left, The Celestial Powder in Candlelight on right

This is how the Contour Brush from KEVYN AUCOIN fits into the pan

Laura Mercier Pony Tail Brush fits better on this pan of Candlelight

It's not the size of the pans, or is it? Kevyn's contour brush is the perfect size to fit into the pans of The Contour Book. They even fit the miniscule round pans of the items in the Essential Starter Kit which are under an inch in diameter. They are tiny pans but the accompanying instructions only mention using the KEVYN AUCOIN contour brush (for the highlighters) and if that's what these pans were designed to fit, you can't knock points for that. I found it much easier to use Charlotte Tilbury's Powder & Sculpt Brush for the KEVYN AUCOIN sculpting powder though. The pointy end fits and I'm able to get enough product by swishing the brush around or having it on its side.

But... this is a big but, unfortunately, I happen to really like my Charlotte Tilbury highlighting and contouring products. The entire Killer Cheek Bones set: the compact, sculpting shade, highlighting shade and brush, work so much better for me. The KEVYN AUCOIN products aren't getting much love because they simply don't look as good on me.

The Creamy Glow in Bloodroses, The Flesh Tone Lip Pencil in Bloodroses

Swatches from the Essential Starter Kit:
L-R: Desert Nights Bronzer, Candlelight Highlighter, Bloodroses Creamy Glow, Bloodroses Lip Pencil (2 lines)

Let's talk about the look then. When I followed the enclosed instructions in the Essential Starter Kit, I feel like it gave me a very dated 1990 look. It's the Bloodroses that killed it for me, I think. Candlelight is a lovely highlight color. I can't complain about the Bronzing Powder. It's very nice. As a matter of fact, I much prefer it to the Sculpting Powder. I rarely use cream blush but I think that the texture and overall application of The Creamy Glow in Bloodroses was superb. Even dabbed on the lips, it didn't seem drying like some lip and cheek cream products can be. It's just that I don't like the color on me. Once I had put on the Lip Pencil and mixed it in with The Creamy Glow, it just went downhill. It's not a look that would make me buy these products, especially not together.

Bag of Essential Starter Kit

The Essential Starter Kit items

My overall thoughts on The Essential Starter Kit are that while the bronzer and highlighter are nice, they are redundancies in my collection. I have many products that perform similarly for me and I don't find the two to be far superior in any way. The Creamy Glow in Bloodroses applies nicely but it isn't a shade of cream blush that I would buy and I highly dislike the lip pencil provided. The mascara was just ok. Trying it didn't compel me to buy it in full size. I also didn't care for the bag. The products are very small, which gives the entire set the feel of a 500-point perk at Sephora. If to you that's worth paying $32 for, then by all means grab it. In the end, this kit wasn't worth it for me.

The Contour Book swatches L-R:
Brighten, Starlight, Dark Brow shade, Warm Brow shade, Candlelight, Sculpting Powder

The Contour Book includes 3 eyeshadows, two of them double as brow color and the other is a white highlight. There are two other highlighters, Candlelight in the round pan and Starlight on the upper right with the eyeshadows. Then there is the Sculpting Powder in another round pan. The book gets points for the pan of Candlelight and Starlight, as both are nice. The dark brow shade works well enough for my purposes although I have no real use for the warm one unless I wanted it for eyeshadow so it's fine. The Sculpting Powder is not a favorite as it tends to look a bit muddy on my skin. I look like I smeared ash on my face whenever I put it on. No matter what brush I use or how I blend it, it just looks off. The white shade is neither groundbreaking nor bad, just not something I reach for. The package is cardboard so low scores for that. The mirror would have been a good inclusion but I wish that they had really thought it over well. I actually can't use it since there's nothing to prop it up. Honestly, it's all too heavy to hold or carry around with you. Overall, I disliked more products in the book and the two that I did like, aren't particularly unique so this just gets moved around from bag to bag for now and when I'm done trying to make it work, it's going to get shoved into the back of a drawer somewhere. I should probably just return it but I may get someone to show me other things to do with it in the future so I'll keep it, if only for archival purposes.

The Contour Book on left, removed from the sleeve on right

I'm in a position to afford more of what the brand has to offer now, compared to when Kevyn Aucoin popularized these contoured looks. I was really young in the 90s and the looks made popular by the brand did not suit me. Now, practically 40, armed with a little more information and years of makeup use, I think I could give the whole contouring thing another shot. Unfortunately for the KEVYN AUCOIN brand, there are also many, many options now when it comes to HAC products and some are vastly more affordable.

I feel like this style of makeup needs a lot of personalizing so while the provided instructions are nice, a real novice would need a lot of practice to achieve the most flattering look to suit his or her purposes. In my case, I'm not usually putting on makeup to be photographed or to film so I don't want heavy contouring. I'm happy to keep all the contour kits and occasionally do the lightest bit of face contouring, but these KEVYN AUCOIN items would not be the items that I reach for first. I'd be happy to go back to my Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base and embrace my new Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Cheekbones Set for that. It's just a matter of personal preference, I guess.

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