Feb 04 2015

A Mixed Bag: Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette


By now, I think we are all aware of the mixed reception surrounding the release of the Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palettes. I purchased before seeing any reviews, the day they were released for VIB Rouges on Sephora. However, my palette just arrived last week because I had to wait for a friend in the U.S. to send it to me.

According to Hourglass, these “palettes flaunt five complementary shades of soft and airy, finely-milled formulas in a curated selection of shades, finishes, and textures” designed “with the innovative multi-press technique”. They promise to be “exceptionally buildable in color…giving you unprecedented control over the intensity of your look”. The are seven Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palettes offered and Sephora describes them as follows:

  • Obscura (Earth Tones) – cream, smokey brown, rose gold, coffee, cool bronze
  • Monochrome (Rose) – warm ivory, rose nude, peony pink, light mauve, dark chocolate
  • Infinity (Warm Neutrals) – warm ivory, dusty rose, bronzed mauve, cool taupe, dark cocoa
  • Graphite (Smokey) – warm ivory, copper gold, deep brown, gun metal, silver
  • Exposure (Plums) – champagne, aubergine, bronze, black violet, lilac
  • Color Field (Olive) – warm ivory, champagne gold, taupe brown, golden olive, forest green
  • Atmosphere (Cool Neutrals) pale ivory, pale pink, taupe, espresso, charcoal

With a price tag of $58.00 USD and considering my current low-buy, I settled on one: Exposure. If you’re interested, Temptalia has posted her round-up of all seven (7) here.


Hourglass Modernist Palette Review Exposure


Having had to wait a while to receive Exposure, I had time to catch snippets here and there of the reviews on the Modernist palettes as they rolled out.  And it wasn’t looking good. Of course, I’ve not read every review that’s out there but based on the dozen or so that I’ve seen, its clear that feelings are mixed. There are those that love it for its subtle, creamy formula and those that think it is a powdery pigment-lacking mess.

The packaging is signature Hourglass (and notoriously difficult to photograph!)


Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Packaging


Unless you see these in person, most will be surprised by how small they are. Despite seeing comparison photographs of the eye shadow palettes next to the Ambient Blush palette, I was still shocked when it arrived. I put mine next to a MAC lipstick:


Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Size Comparison


Does that help?

Anyway, the first night I got it – I took the photos right away so I could have a play with it – not on my eyes, but just using a brush to my hand. I just had to know for myself – was it that bad?

Using a fluffy blending brush to pick up the product, I definitely noticed the kick-up/powder that everyone was talking about. When I tried to apply the shadow onto the back of my hand, I watched as the  pigment blended away into almost nothing. At that moment I thought, oh no, this ain’t going to work. Then, I tweeted. 🙂


Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Review


Here are the shadows swatched using fingers and swatched using a fluffy brush. Bear in mind, the skin on the hand is different in texture than the skin on the eyelids (and, actually, I think texture on the lids helps colour cling better).


Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Using Fingers

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Flash

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Using Fingers Flash

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Brush

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Using Brush

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Flash

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Swatches Using Brush Flash


The next morning (first time applying to my eyes), I happened to use a different crease/blending brush that’s denser and it worked much, much better. I actually experienced absolutely no fall out and great pigmentation. However, I did notice, as others had said, that the colour in the pan doesn’t show up quite the same way on the eyes. The deepest purple almost looked brown. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting some horrible experience. And, it’s worth noting that the softer finish of the shadows will appeal to those who have that preference.

The brushes I used:

Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Review

As I applied the shadows that morning and as they went on smoothly, I thought, “oh, I’m going to keep this after all”. But then a strange thing happened. To finish the look, I smudged the aubergine shadow onto my lower lash line. Immediately, my eyes began to water and burn like crazy. This has never happened to me with eye shadows. After about 5 minutes, the sensation became bearable (allowing me to take photos), but there was definitely a dull sting that lasted for the next 20 minutes. It was insane.

This is look I came on with on my first go with the shadows. I used the first four (champagne, aubergine, bronze, black violet). In both looks, I didn’t use anything else besides the shadows in the palette and mascara:


Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Review Exposure Eye Look 1


The next day, I tried again. This time I was very careful when applying the shadow to my lower lash line. It didn’t sting as badly, but I definitely experienced some moderate irritation. For the second look I used the first two and last shadows (champagne, aubergine and lilac):


Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette Exposure Eye Look 2


As far as my reaction to the shadow goes, I’m not sure if it’s chemical or physical. In other words, if it is an ingredient or the nature of the product being so fine like dust…thus mimicking the effect dust would have when it gets in your eyes.

Unfortunately, this was the deciding factor for me. The powdery-ness of the formula didn’t bother me. I was satisfied pigment-wise. Application (on the eyelid anyway) was normal – very smooth, even. I enjoyed most of the colors. Lilac, in particular, is stunning and multidimensional. But at the end of the day, I cannot deal with something that’s going to burn my eyes the way that it did. Sadly, therefore, I’m going to return this. This is not a decision I take lightly. In fact, I can count on one hand in the 15+ years I’ve been shopping at Sephora, how many times I’ve actually returned something.

My final thoughts are: the shadows in the Exposure palette performed well enough on the eyes but based on the irritation I experienced, I would suggest testing first if you can.



Did any of you pick up the Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palettes? What are you thoughts? Please share in the comment section below!





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  1. Wow I am surprised at the size. Thanks for showing it next to the MAC lipstick.
    It’s a shame that this caused you irritation in your eyes when you used it. I hate it when that happens, but I’m pleased that you’re able to take it back.
    Ting | The Ting Thing

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:57 am
      • Reply

      Thank you, Ting. Yeah it was so strange…part of me wants to give it one more shot. I always feel so guilty returning things which is why I do it so rarely. 🙂

  2. It seems so tiny for $58 – and for it to have mixed reviews. Meh. :/ I just had a reaction to a product the other day too, and I had the same feeling happen to me. I felt like my face was burning and after about 20 mins it became bearable. Its a good thing you can return it. I really do like that Lilac color though!

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:56 am
      • Reply

      Oh no! That doesn’t sound good. Was it skincare or makeup? I rarely have reactions to makeup so it really surprised me. And yes, I will grieve the lilac shadow for sure. xo 🙂

  3. Oh no, that reaction doesn’t sound good! It’s such a pity, because the colours are fab on you!

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:54 am
      • Reply

      I know! I’m still getting over it and having to part ways with this beauty.

  4. Too bad the shadow caused irritation because it looks so great on you!

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:54 am
      • Reply

      Aww, thank you Rebecca! The photos were basically my first two attempts using the shadows. 🙂

  5. Beautiful palette!! Such a shame you reacted to the shadows. I will keep it in mind and test it first before even thinking of buying it. x

    Renata | Speaking Beauty UK

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:52 am
      • Reply

      I love the look of it so much that I may try one more time…I dunno. The dilemmas of a #makeupjunkie

    • Jen on February 4, 2015 at 11:32 am
    • Reply

    I’m also surprised how small it actually is. That’s a shame it gave you some irritation. :/ The packaging looks beautiful. I had high hopes for this product, it definitely disappointing to see how small it is for the price.

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:51 am
      • Reply

      I know! I’m so sad because it will is one of the most stunning palettes I’ve ever seen! 🙁

  6. Wow, this palette is so much smaller than the previous photos I’ve seen, thanks for the scaling 🙂 The shades themselves in the palette look gorgeous but the difference in what tool you use for application is huge and I’m sorry you reacted badly to them 🙁



      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 11:58 am
      • Reply

      Thanks, Karen. I was the same way so I thought showing it next to the lipstick might help. An yes, with these shadows, the kind of brush you use really makes a difference!

  7. Ohh how interesting! This looks really lovely in the pan but definitely a shame about the irritation, I have sensitive eyes so this would definitely affect me too! x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm
      • Reply

      🙂 I wish I could figure out whether it’s an ingredient or just the dust like feeling — the powder is so super, super fine!

    • Lia on February 5, 2015 at 4:30 am
    • Reply

    the packaging is fascinating but i wonder on the application differences it has shown in above picture.

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm
      • Reply

      I think, generally speaking, a brush will do a better job applying the shadow to the eye rather than the hand. But still, I wouldn’t recommend super fluffy brushes. 🙂

  8. Oh noes, so weird about the reaction it caused :-O From what I’ve seen on Temptalia I knew the quality wasn’t exactly great, so the palettes never went on my wish list…

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 12:03 pm
      • Reply

      Exactly. I’d ordered mine before she had her reviews up but after they started to post, I got more and more depressed, lol. I didn’t have exactly the same experience as Christine did, but I do agree with several of her observations. 🙂

  9. Packaging looks very nice. My wife likes such things, although I very rarely buy. If not a secret how much all this cosmetics cost?

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm
      • Reply

      I think I listed in the post, it retails for $58.00 USD. And I believe it’s selling in the U.K. for £56.00. Hope this helps.

      1. Yes exactly, you said above about the price. Thank U.

          • Kimmy on February 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm
          • Reply

          You’re very welcome! 🙂

  10. Ugh wow, I am SO sorry to hear your eyes were irritated! I got Color Field and I’ll try to blog about it this week. I did use it on my lower lash line as well. Some of it even got onto my lower lash line which is notoriously sensitive, but nothing happened. I guess everyone is just different! I really like the looks you came up with. I think you’re right tho: this texture is picky with brushes. I used my LMdB eyeshadow brush, which is soft enough so that’s fine. If you use anything remotely scratchy, it’ll probably kick up a lot of powder.

      • Kimmy on February 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm
      • Reply

      Yes! That’s the word I should have used..scratchy! Lol. Scratchy and too fluffy is a no go with this formula I think, not just for picking up the shadow but applying it. I was so surprised by my reaction as well. My eyes are not particularly sensitive. I’m glad to hear that you seem to be getting on better with it though. 🙂 xo

    • kpsays on February 6, 2015 at 2:11 am
    • Reply

    Wow, that palette really is small! While I think it is a gorgeous creature, it doesn’t appeal to the OCD nature of my personality. I like everything in a compartment. I started thinking about if I hit pan on one section. then would it crumble, and what if they smeared together, etc, etc. And got too stressed to order it. Yay! My neurosis saved me some money! Honestly, that is the reason I passed! Yes, girl. Send it back. Not worth having eye irritation.

      • Kimmy on February 6, 2015 at 12:10 pm
      • Reply

      Hehe. You’re too cute. I get it – I wouldn’t classify it as neurosis. It’s just your makeup preference thing. 🙂 Lol. xo

  11. The palette looks absolutely gorgeous! I am sorry to hear about the trouble you had with it. I saw a post someone had done using the Monochrome one and it was gorgeous too! <3 xo

      • Kimmy on February 9, 2015 at 10:34 am
      • Reply

      I just sent it back with my friend for her to return it and I’m having a little of anxiety about it, ridiculous I know. But I think, for me, I made the right decision. 🙂 I thought Atmosphere looked quite nice as well.

      1. Well whatever you feel good about. Just think of something you really want to buy with the money you get in return. Something you know is great and that you will love 🙂

    • Silke Laura on February 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm
    • Reply

    That’s just too bad that you had a reaction after using this palette.. I personally love the look of this palette. But it is so small, and I am rather shocked seeing your comparison with the MAC Lipstick. My god, I don’t think I can make myself spend that amount of money on a palette. It’s even more expensive here in England!

      • Kimmy on February 9, 2015 at 10:37 am
      • Reply

      I should have pointed it out in the post but yes, aesthetically, these are some of the most beautiful palettes I’ve ever seen (and the beauty of it almost made me keep it just to look at). But small, right? I’m glad the MAC lipstick comparison seems to be helping people get an idea of the size. Also, another thing I forgot to mentioned, some are saying these shadows work better for oilier lids. 🙂

  12. OMG this is really, really bad! I’ve read many mixed things but I’m always on the positive side and wanted to think these would be good after all, but such a terrible reaction isn’t to take lightly. Such a shame because it looked amazing on you! 🙂 xx

    Gyudy’s Notes Of Beauty

      • Kimmy on February 9, 2015 at 10:39 am
      • Reply

      Girl, I know exactly what you’re saying. As the reviews were coming out, I tried to ignore them and be like “oh, mine will be good”. And actually, as I said, I didn’t really have negative feelings about how the formula performed in terms of how it looked. If I didn’t have the sensitivity to it, I would have kept it for sure!

  13. OMG this palette looks stunning! I love everything about it. The design of it is just gorgeous and they look pigmented too! xx

      • Kimmy on February 9, 2015 at 10:41 am
      • Reply

      Hourglass really did nail it with the design of these palettes, they are a work of art for sure! 🙂

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