Urban Decay -- www.urbandecay.com
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I think I can safely say that Urban Decay is hands-down my favorite "high-end" brand. The vivid and creative shades of eyeshadow and eyeliner, as well as the quality and staying power, are hard to match. I also love the edgy and glam feel of the packaging and presentation (in fact, this is what drew me in).
This brand has a bit of a cult following, with fans ranging from very enthusiastic to downright crazy obsessive. More than any other brand, I see fan comments saying, "I only wear Urban Decay." Personally, I wouldn't go THAT far. There are a few things to dislike about the brand.
One common complaint is the frequent repeat colors in the highly sought-after UD eyeshadow palettes, especially the annual Book of Shadows. Because of this marketing tactic, collectors are enticed to buy colors they already have in order to get a few new exclusive colors. Lots of people also hate the large pieces of glitter in some of the colors (Midnight Cowboy, Midnight Cowboy Rides Again, Uzi, Maui Wowie, etc.), and some of the lip products have odd tastes or smells, although this seems to have improved with the new Lip Junkie lip gloss. Overall, their most universally popular products are the 24/7 Glide-On eyeliners and the eye shadows with fine glitter or without glitter, and of course, the famed eye shadow primer potions.
TheBalm -- www.thebalm.com
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I love TheBalm because it usually provides high-quality products for a very reasonable price. I also love its simple and retro-styled packaging, and consider it to be an underappreciated brand. I think it's best known for the Shady Lady eye shadows and the Plump Your Pucker lip glosses. Other popular products include Mary Lou-manizer (a luminizing powder) and powder blushes. My favorite product from TheBalm is the Read My Lips lipstick. If I had to complain about TheBalm, I would say that they should have more colors and more variety. Also, their website doesn't seem to list ingredients, although most are listed on Sephora.com.
LUSH fresh handmade cosmetics -- www.lush.com
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LUSH makes amazing products. I love their prominent use of essential oils, absolutes, and infusions from fruits, flowers, and herbs. I also love their reduced use of packaging. Many products that traditionally require packaging, such as shampoo, conditioner, hand cream, massage oil, and bubble bath, are sold in solid form from LUSH and packed only in a plastic wrapper. Rather than putting the product in pretty packaging, they make the product itself pretty. They sell reusable tins and cloth giftwraps, and use their outdated newspaper-style catalogues as packing material. Every product comes with an illustrated ingredient list that links to a whole glossary of ingredients!
However, LUSH Cosmetics only makes bath & body products, skincare, and perfumes. They have a few lip tints and a few shades of foundation they call Colour Supplements, but they are not a make-up line. I would love to see the philosophy behind LUSH extended into more make-up products.
Shiro Cosmetics -- www.shirocosmetics.com
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Shiro Cosmetics is an independent brand which started within the last year and skyrocketed in popularity. Although the owner is developing her own website, at the moment she still sells all her products through etsy. This is not isolated by any means -- it is quite possible to grow a business quickly mainly using internet tools. I also love the vegan ingredients, which are all carefully labeled. (Urban Decay and LUSH helpfully point out which of their products are vegan. TheBalm has a charity vegan lip balm to benefit pug rescue. But Shiro is the only one that uses only vegan ingredients.) I love Shiro's quirky and nerdy personality and nostalgic themes, and I can't wait to see new products.
Of course, I have many other influences besides these brands, but these ones stuck out to me. I'm hoping to incorporate the elements I like while developing a unique style.