em Michelle Phan: The Good, The Less Good & The Game-Changers

Michelle Phan inspires rabid fangirling and bow-to-the-queen respect, but does her makeup line?

Gather round, children. Pre-2007 was a primitive, lawless world without beauty tutorial videos, forums, dupes, or swatching. Those of us who were curious about makeup had to watch our mothers and grandmothers apply makeup instead of learning from strangers on the Internet! We had to pore over Making Faces and come up with makeup looks all by ourselves! Uphill both ways!

The rise of blogging and vlogging ushered in a new era; makeup artists and enthusiasts could finally broadcast the good word to the population at large. Michelle Phan was one such prophet, a digital early adopter perfectly poised to ride the unprecedented wave of YouTube popularity. Her accomplishments are frankly kind of staggering: she turned herself into a brand and empire, founded Ipsy, wrote a book, and became Lancome’s Official Video Artist. (I’m tired just writing that.) Her most recent coup: em Michelle Phan, her own makeup line (“em” is an affectionate term for “you” in Vietnamese).

I got a change to test em Michelle Phan. Herewith, the good, the less good, the standouts, the game-changing 36-pot palettes, and a sample look.

The Good: A wider than usual shade range.

em Michelle Phan includes everything from primers to complexion and color products--and the site includes swatches. It also boasts a wider range of shades than many brands do: foundation is classified into fair, light, medium, med/deep, and dark categories, with eight shades belonging to each.

The Less Good: The color products weren’t super pigmented.

Hear me out: I actually didn’t miss it. Intense pigment gets bandied about in the beauty world as the be-all, end-all of desirable eye shadow qualities. And don’t get me wrong; there are certainly times when dense, vibrant color is necessary. But every single shade in the collection is flattering--none of those “WHO WOULD USE THIS?!” shades typical of large palettes. And all of them blend beautifully with very little effort, which makes them ideal for beginners or lazy morning routines. You’ll need a good primer to make ‘em last all day, but that’s fairly standard.

Standouts: Concealer, waterliner, and a handy Chiaroscuro Stick.

I love the em concealers. The Great Coverup has a nice creamy weight to it, great pigment, and has already become the tube I reach for to clean up underneath my eyebrows. They’re also further categorized into warm, cool, and neutral undertones. The warm undertones were quite warm compared to other brands, which is awesome for Asian/olive-toned skin.

The Shade Play Concealer Mixing Palette includes a yellow redness neutralizer, peach corrector for dark circles, lightweight concealer in three shades, and a highlighter.

The Waterliner pencils are super-soft and live up to the long-lasting promises made by a product called Waterliner. And of course you already know about the Chiaroscuro Stick--its super-easy highlighting and contouring has made it a permanent addition to my to-go makeup bag.

The Real Game-Changers: The 36-Pot Life Palettes.

Yeah, dude: 24 shadows, 8 lip colors, and 4 blushes. Here’s the really cool part: you can create your own smaller palette from each Life Palette (there are six varieties: Beach Life, Love Life, Party Life, etc.). The individual pots lift easily with the included pointy thing (technical term), everything is magnetic, and the smaller “travel palette” has room for six shadows, one blush, and two lip shades.

For this look, I just snagged the shades that spoke to me and popped them in the travel palette as pictured: Posh and Chic lip shades; Corporate Card, Sheer Ambition, Inbox: Full, Running Late, and Espresso Bean shadows; Polished blush. I’m also wearing CC Cream in Fair, The Great Cover Up in fair neutral/cool, Chiaroscuro in Light, Waterliner in Black Night, and Lash Gallery Dramatic Volume Waterproof Mascara.

The palette goes for $59, which breaks down to a really impressive value when you consider how many shades and products you’re getting (plus the empty travel palette that's included). The pots also hold up to everyday use quite well, and I like branching out with the shades I wouldn’t normally go for. I’d call the collection a success--but only if you’re in the market for pretty, wearable colors that blend easily; this is not a high drama line.

So, are you a Phan (sorry)? Are you as annoyed with your mid-2000s self for not creating a YouTube channel as I am? You just never know, you know?