Splurging on luxury makeup is all well and good, but I do love a bargain. More than that, I love a bargain that delivers. I’d rather spend more cash on something that does the job, but if a cheaper dupe is just as good, why wouldn’t I give it a go?
For me, Essence has been a brand that fits that bill. It started off as simply being convenient — if I run out of mascara unexpectedly, I can pop into Wilko when I’m in town and pick a new one up for a couple of quid. Then I realised the products actually work really well for the teeny tiny price!
So far, I’ve kind of stuck to little extras — nail varnish, mascara, setting powder… things that are difficult to get wrong. But if this brand manages to deliver across the board, I could have a whole load of new favourites on my hands!
I dug into the Wilko’s website to see how inexpensively I could get a potential full face of makeup. This took a while because there was just so much to scroll through! Essence has so many different varieties for each makeup item, but I didn’t just want to choose the cheapest thing; I tried to bear in mind the kind of thing that I would go for personally.
In the end I went for:
- Stay Natural Concealer in ‘Soft Nude’
- Mattifying Compact Powder in ‘Perfect Beige’
- Soft Touch Mousse Foundation in ‘Matte Sand’
- All Eye On Me Multi Effect Mascara in ‘Black’
- My Must Haves Eyeshadow in ’01’
- My Must Haves Eyebrow Powder in ’20’
- Tint & Colour Shot in ’05’
I also already had the Extra Long Lasting Eyeliner Pen in ‘Black’ in my makeup bag.
Altogether, the makeup totted up to £17.50… less then twenty quid!
Soft Touch Mousse Foundation in ‘Matte Sand’ | £3.80
‘The make-up range with a super delicate mousse texture gives your face a smooth and natural-looking matt complexion while allowing your skin to breathe freely.’
I didn’t bother with a primer because I don’t always wear a primer, so the first product I put on my face was also the most expensive of the lot: the mousse foundation. It gave me pretty intense flashbacks to my Dream Matte Mousse days when I saw it on the website, so I knew I just had to get it, and when I was dabbing it on my face, it gave me such strong nostalgia.
The texture of a mousse foundation in general was a lot thicker (and weirder overall) than I remembered. Back in the day, I’d just rub it on my face with my fingers like some kind of caveman, so I wasn’t sure how best to proceed. I decided on using a sponge, which didn’t work brilliantly, so I switched between the sponge and my fingers as needed. The texture felt so alien and it was hard to layer up, so coverage wasn’t the fullest, but the overall finish was better than I expected. The colour was also a nice match to say there wasn’t much choice, a problem which extends to the other complexion products by the brand — four or five shades of fair/mid-beige doesn’t constitute a shade range at all, let alone a diverse, inclusive one!!
The only problem I think I have with it myself is that it doesn’t mold to the skin in the same way liquid foundation does. It kind of sits on top of your skin in a very flat way and doesn’t feel flexible. It does look good, but it’s not as ‘seamless’ as I am used to. As far as foundations go, it’s a different formula and could be so well suited to other people, but it’s not my exact cup of tea!
Regarding durability, I didn’t wear it for all that long but I’ll probably do so on my Instagram stories some time soon, so watch out for that! The actual appearance of the product and packaging was also really nice and well made, with a sturdy thick-glass pot and finely embossed logo on the side.
Stay Natural Concealer in ‘Soft Nude’ | £2.00
‘Its tried-and-tested texture contains vitamin A and is easy to apply accurately thanks to the soft brush. This way, skin imperfections and dark circles under your eyes are perfectly concealed. ‘
The next item I used was the concealer, which takes inspiration for its design from holy grail concealer, YSL Touche Éclat, i.e. a long ‘pen’-shaped device with one end that twists, pushing the concealer up through the brush on the other end. It’s obviously not as glamorous to look at and to be honest, it didn’t exactly wow me until I put it on my face.
It took a fair minute or so of twisting to get any product out — I was beginning to think I’d received a dud! — but once it did, it was the right shade and so thick I was worried it would be cakey and cause creasing. Actually, the formula was spot on; I love a thick concealer to cover a multitude of sins, and this blended out like a dream with my makeup sponge, brightening up my under eye area and lifting the other areas of my face that I like to contour.
I didn’t need to apply anymore or less than I normally do, and it didn’t feel cakey or greasy at all. Again, I didn’t do a wear-test so I don’t know about creasing, but honestly, it’d have to be made of actual magic to not crease in my smile lines!
I will definitely be using this up, if not repurchasing!
Mattifying Compact Powder in ‘Perfect Beige’ | £2.00
‘The popular powder delights all girls who are dreaming of a matt complexion. Its delicate, powdery texture spreads smoothly for a natural, matt complexion as if created by a professional make-up artist.’
Thanks to my oily skin, a mattifying powder is an absolute must for my makeup routine if I don’t want to end up looking like I’ve dunked my face in a plate of cheesy chips.
That being said, there’s not much that can be said about this powder — or any powder, really. It’s soft enough, if a little chalky in texture, but it set my foundation to give it a matte finish and got rid of any shine. I’d expect to re-powder throughout the day so longevity doesn’t really come into it. It has minimal coverage, but I don’t like pigmented setting powders anyway. It also has a really pretty design in the pan.
What else can I say? It works!
Tint & Colour Shot in ’05’ | £2.50
‘The pleasant, light tint-texture stains the lips […] and offers a velvety-matt finish with medium coverage as well as a subtle boost of freshness. The Tint & Colour Shot comes in a cute little bottle with a flock applicator to ensure a soft and accurate application for long-lasting colour on the lips.’
The second priciest item on the menu was this lip tint. There wasn’t much choice of shades (a recurring pattern) so I went for a classic cherry red — it’s a lot brighter in real life than in person!
First impressions: it’s really quite small. I wasn’t anticipating such a tiny bottle, or dinky wand for that matter. I think if I’d seen it in the shop, I wouldn’t have gone for it as one of their more “expensive” (if you can call £2.50 expensive!) items given that it is so small. However, it’s sturdily packaged and I like the design, so it’s not all bad.
I’d never used a lip tint so I didn’t have high expectations. Turns out I quite liked it! The wand made for quite tricky application, especially as I knew it would leave a stain, so I had to be really careful when trying to put it on. The consistency was also thicker than I thought a lip tint would be, although it did dry down to a soft matte reasonably quickly with minimal stickiness.
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to leave it on or wipe off any residue, so I tried both. The former obviously made for a bolder, brighter colour like a semi-matte liquid lip; whereas wiping it off left my lips looking plump and perky with a flush of colour. I really loved the effect. I think it would look gorgeous with a slick of lip gloss over the top for a proper sexy, kissable summery look.
I also had a go at dabbing it on my cheeks for a makeshift blush, which was slightly less successful. It looked alright-ish but I ended up looking a bit doll-like, and not in a good way… I think it would probably be better with a peachier colour!
My Must Haves Eyebrow Powder and Eyeshadow | £1.50 each
‘The soft powder eyeshadows are easy to apply, blend fabulously and provide long-lasting results.’
My intention with these products was so multi-task: the eyebrow powder would be my contour and eyeshadow crease colour, and the shimmer eyeshadow would double up as a highlighter. One worked, one didn’t.
Starting with the eyebrow powder, when I was looking at the shades online, I could only find one, which I thought was strange. But it looked cool-toned enough without being ashy, so I went with it. When it arrived, the shade is described as being ‘ash blonde’ or something along those lines, which immediately put me off.
As a contour on my skin tone, it’s definitely not right. It’s too light, too cool-toned and just looked ashy and mucky. That being said, it’s a lovely texture and really buildable, and it gave some subtle definition to my eyes when blended in my socket crease.
The eyeshadow is stunning. The formula is much better than you’d expect for £1.50, really soft and buttery and very blendable. It works really nicely as a highlighter for me even though it’s lighter and more silvery than the pink-gold shade shown on the website. It’s not the best highlighter I’ve ever used in the world (hello Ofra!) but it does the job well, and it’s a savvy little item worth knowing about in a pinch. It’s lovely as an eyeshadow as well, just a smudge on the centre of my lids; it’s just not my favourite shade. I’d prefer something warmer, so I’d definitely be up to looking at other shades!
Extra Long Lasting Eyeliner Pen in ‘Black’ | £2.00
Unfortunately this eyeliner pen just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. This is the second one I’ve bought and I feel like the formula must have changed, because it just doesn’t feel the same as it used to!
Good points are: the nib is soft and flexible and makes for a lovely precise flick. The barrel is also a good size, not too chunky or too delicate, so you can wield it confidently. It’s let down by the fact that it’s just not black enough. It’s a colour that I can only describe as grey — and yes, before you ask, I have picked up the right shade! It goes a bit darker if you manage to layer it up right down to the very end of the flick, but still not dark enough. Bit of a miss, if I’m totally honest.
All Eyes On Me Multi Effect Mascara in ‘Black’ | £2.00
‘This all-round talent provides volume, length and curve. Since it can also withstand sweat or tears, it’s ideal for sporting activities or girly movie nights with your best friends.’
This is another product from Essence that does exactly what it says on the tin, as simple as that. It’s not mind-blowing and it probably isn’t anyone’s favourite thing in the world (the poor sausage) but it performs as advertised.
It claims to add length, volume and curl to lashes and it does exactly that, just not in much abundance. The formula is very black and the right consistency to cling to the lashes without being clumpy, and the effect improves if you layer it up. For low-impact, natural-looking lashes, this is great.
I think with a different brush you could get a bit more oomph with it rather than splashing out on something more expensive. I probably won’t be repurchasing, but I’ll definitely use it up!
Overall, I’m quite impressed! Nothing I bought is completely hopeless and would definitely work for some people or do the job at a push, whereas other things (like the concealer and the lip tint) I love!
What’s even better is that Essence clearly take their cruelty-free duties very seriously. From their main homepage, it takes just two clicks to find their clearly labelled cruelty-free policy, which is pleasingly detailed and well explained. Click here to have a read!
I think if you’re going to stock up your makeup bag at Essence, it may be worth going to a counter in Wilko’s or wherever else and having a look at the product in person, and perhaps being a bit selective. Things like mascaras and lip products you can’t go massively wrong with and Essence appear to do these excellently; if you happen to fit the very narrow margin of shades they have available for foundation or concealer, you can definitely cash in there; their nail varnishes are also gorgeous and they have absolutely loads of them, as well as other nail- and hand-care products.
I’d say it’s a great brand for young teenagers starting out in makeup and those who prefer a more natural look rather than anything too dramatic — lots of simple, inexpensive products that, importantly, perform well.
Have you tried Essence makeup before?