Review: Shiseido Essentialist Eye Palettes



As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ll be embarking on a low-buy for 2019, which means fewer new collection reviews. Instead, I’ll be reviewing the many many products I have and purchased in the past year that are still fairly new, but unfortunately, already considered old in the beauty industry.

The Shiseido Essentialist Eye Palettes are one of those products. The whole Shiseido make up line was revamped last year for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to me. I thought their makeup pre-redesign was fantastic and already underrated as it was. The old eyeshadow trios were beloved by many (including myself), and their blushes were supposed to be fantastic, though I never had a chance to try them myself. I always thought their formulas were innovative and well thought out, though ultimately they started to lose their edge as influencer marketing and fast collections – a new exclusive! Limited edition! Special packaging! Collection released by brands seemingly every week.

I think they wanted to appeal to a younger generation and bring out some new formulas and products – and that they did – although I’m still not convinced they’ve been able to generate a lot of new interest in their line. And I don’t think it’s  an issue unique to Shiseido. All of what I call the classic department store lines – think Shiseido, Estee Lauder, Lancome, even Chanel – have not kept up with the trends, marketing, and influencer marketing as well as brands like tarte, Urban Decay, etc. Some brands have tried, and we’ve certainly seen Estee Lauder and Chanel try to appeal to a younger generation. Chanel, for example, launched their welovecoco instagram, designed to create a community appealing to the younger generations. To some extent it’s worked – it has on me, at least – but I can’t say how well it’s worked for the brand as a whole. I think it has to do with the overall image these brands have built over the years, and the legacy they have. How many of your moms wore Estee Lauder, or Lancome, or Chanel? My mom certainly did, and she wore a lot of Shiseido too.

All this is to say that I don’t think a brand could change its image and legacy so easily simply by doing a brand relaunch – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I have my fair share of criticism and negative opinions about influencer marketing (though I fully realize I am complicit in that) – and I plan to write about it at a later date. I just think that these “old school” brands have made consistent products for the most part without succumbing to the crazy trends that happen from year to year. And Shiseido especially isn’t boring to me by any means. In the universe of the standard department store brands, their formulations have always been different due to their origin as a Japanese line, and while they have maintained a relatively small selection of products, they have a loyal following. I used to use their sunscreen religiously (before they reformulated that, too), their powder color products have always been amazing to me – and they’ve been one of the few Asian makeup brands that have even made it into the mainstream makeup market.

Yet I suspect because they had different formulas, they haven’t quite had the success of other mainstream department store brands. I think that didn’t help them once these brands started falling behind in a new age of influencer marketing and social media. The packaging of their revamped brand, which is much sleeker and modern, looks as if it’s trying to appeal to a younger generation – people like me, and even younger. I’m not sure how well that’s working, to be honest. It’s working for me, but I’ve always liked Shiseido. At the same time, they’ve never been a brand that’s consistently at the top of mind when I go shopping for makeup.

However, when they relaunched everything in their makeup line, and launched a bunch of new products, I was intrigued.


The first thing that caught my eye was the sleek black packaging. It speaks to my love of sleek and minimal design, and their eyeshadow quads really don’t have much wasted packaging. I like the appearance of the other products, but this review is really about the eyeshadows, and they are what I was most excited about. They are super thin compacts, yet they still feel sturdy. They retail for $34 and come with a total of 5.2g of product, or 1.4g per eyeshadow. I think this is pretty standard for brands around this price range, and it’s a price level that I feel is worth the quality of the eyeshadows.

The new shade ranges are also really exciting to me. It’s hard to even track down the full range, because my go to Sephora doesn’t have them all, and for some reason, neither does the Shiseido website. Other department stores seem to stock more of the range, and I purchased mine from Macys. But there are neutral quads, red toned, blue, purple,  and green quads. When I first saw them at a counter in Macy’s I swatches some of them and was really impressed.

I ended up getting two quads, though I am interested in getting more at some point. There is one important thing to mention about these eyeshadows – swatch in person if you can because there’s some magic in the shades that all swatch and meld with my skin tones in a way that makes them look way more flattering than they seem in the pan. It’s a phenomenon I notice with some Asian formulas, which are typically sheerer and natural than many Western brands.

I say this because some of the quads have seemingly strange color combinations. I noticed this especially with Miyuki Street Nudes, which has what appears to be a cream, a cool grey shade, an apricot peachy shade, and then a warm shimmery red toned brown. All shades that I would not want to wear together. But when I swatch them, the shades turn into a cohesive set of shades. The grey warms up into almost a cool taupe shade, the apricot looks like a light tan that’s very much like MAC Soft Brown, and the dark shimmery red brown turns into a sheer reddish brown that doesn’t look quite as intense. And somehow they all look like they belong together.

Even Jizoh Street Reds, a quad that does look more cohesive, looks even better swatched and on the eyes. The pinky peach mellows into a more neutral rose gold shade, the bright gold diffuses into a sheerer more coppery shimmer, the red turns more plummy, and while the dark brown-black is intense, it blends out easily into a more subtle shade, and also builds up to be a liner.

In application, they really feel so silky, and they blend out really nicely. I had no issues whatsoever with patchiness or building up the eyeshadows, and as I mentioned earlier, the shades just blend together seamlessly without turning muddy. I am definitely a fan. I will say that in comparison to their previous formulas, which were very soft and sheer, the new formula feels slightly more dense and hard pressed, but they are still sheer and blendable. They definitely don’t feel dry at all.

Swatches of Miyuki Street Nudes (4 shades on the left) and Jizoh Street Reds (right)


I also remembered to take a photo of a look I created with these two palettes yesterday. I used all the shades of the Miyuki Street Nudes palette – the peach in the crease, the copper brown in the outer corner, the cream to highlight, and a little bit of the cool taupe in the inner lid. I also added a bit of the pinky peach shade in the Jizoh Street Reds quad on top because I wanted just a bit of shimmer on the lid.


Other products worn:

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer
Chanel Loose Powder
Marc Jacobs Tan-tastic bronzer
Surratt Beauty La Vie En Rose blush
MAC Redhead mineralized skinfinish (LE product)

Physician’s Formula Liquid Lipstick in Coral Mineral (review on these coming soon)

Overall, I think these quads are fantastic, and I’m loving how the shades translate onto my eyes. I definitely plan on purchasing more if I can fit them into my low-buy budget this year. I think they have the whole package – great functional packaging, unique shades, good formulas, and a good value. The only part that I still remain ambivalent, and a little concerned (because I lovethe brand!) about is how Shiseido as a brand continues to remain relevant.

Final Rating:
Packaging: 10/10
Shades: 9/10
Formula: 9/10
Value: 9/10

Have you tried any of the new Shiseido products? What are your thoughts on how the brand has relaunched its products and image?

As always, thanks for reading.


6 thoughts on “Review: Shiseido Essentialist Eye Palettes

  1. Excellent review and the colors look great on you! I’ve tried one of the new gel lipsticks in Code Red, it’s a stunning shade and so comfortable even on my dry lips. I do hope Shiseido stays the course and doesn’t try to keep reinventing itself to appeal to a younger crowd – sure, it’s not the flashiest line but it was never meant to be. I loved their old formulas and was also puzzled as to why they were re-branding. I look to Shiseido for sophistication and timelessness but with modern, high-quality formulas, not the latest fads. Yes, they need to stay current so it doesn’t become one of those brands associated with old ladies (cough Elizabeth Arden cough cough) but right now I think they’re doing great in terms of packaging, shade selection and formulas.


    1. I have one of the new gel lipsticks too! I haven’t had a chance to wear them too often though. I completely agree with you on Shiseido. The new packaging is nice but their old stuff was great to me!


  2. I’m late to respond. I bought Shiseido Essentialists palettes that arrived in the mail from Sephora today. I am new to the brand. I love the eyeshadows. The packaging is really special. It feels great in my hand, and I love how it opens. Not to mention I adore the sleek lines and the shiny black and red. The palette reminds me of a sleek sports car. the shadows themselves are so good. I love them. I own a lot of eyeshadow but this formula is very special. It goes on beautifully and you are right, they are different once they go on. They look better than they do in the palette. I love them. Great post. Thank you for posting.


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