Westman Atelier: A Really Thorough Makeup Review
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
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The WA packaging is bar none. I would even place bets that this line will end up in the MoMA archives. As a design nerd I’m living for this packaging. Truly no detail was overlooked. Even on the underside of the caps, there’s the brand name or logo etched into it. There was an Apple level of product design going into the packaging. Every product feels good in your hand. It’s an inviting tactile experience. Even the twist-up mechanism feels like well-oiled machine. Like, this is peak engineering for beauty packaging. It’s minimalist without feeling brutalist. It’s industrial without feeling unapproachable or cold. There’s a refreshing elegant masculinity to the approach.
I feel like a broken record saying how blendable these products are. I thought I knew super blendable products, but no. It’s crazy how the products are this seamlessly blendable without silicones. There are trace amounts of silicones as part of their biomimcry technology, which means that the pigments that give the products their punchy pigmentation are encapsulated in silicone, to act as a barrier between your skin and the pigment particles. Why do we care? Well, in the pigment producing process there are heavy metals involved and they're not great for the body.
And while I didn't fall head over heels in love at first sight upon using these products, the more I use them over time, the more I've come to appreciate how fantastic the formulas are. It's not a hard, fast love, it's the long-lasting slow burn kind.
The performance of the products have been very good on my skin. While most of the foundations in my collection never look bad by the end of the day, my skin isn't as plump at the end of the day because it's been quite a few hours since I last put on my skincare. My skin tends to get oily at the end of the day and the acne scarring becomes more apparent when my skin is dehydrated. Not with this makeup! Yes, I'm a little dewier 12 hours later, but I'm not left feeling greasy or like I have some layer on my face I want to rinse off. Sometimes it's not the makeup, that's just how my skin is throughout the day. So, the skin-sceptic in me is a believer now. Gucci isn't lying when she says the actives are at efficacy levels. My skin only looks like this with skincare. It feels like, yes, this stuff has science behind it, as opposed labelling it all as "magic".
I get why this stuff is expensive. There have been no short-cuts taken to get these products out. The packaging is beyond luxe. The formulas are concise yet efficacious and can hold their own against conventional formulations in terms of performance. I get it. I get why it's priced like this. This is what I would call the complete package. Every aspect of the user experience has been thought through. That's luxury.
I do not recommend buying the products from this line if you're looking for pure product performance. You can find that elsewhere for much less. But if you're looking for a complete luxury experience that truly raises the bar, you've found it here.
Improvements to be made:
I believe that it's important to point out shortcomings of brands, without calling people to arms to cancel/boycott them. I think Westman Atelier is doing a lot of things right and with the right intentions. Their customer care is well done and is appropriate for their price level. There are lots of resources and content online to make their products feel approachable. The published content never takes the fear-mongering route that is common with clean beauty brands. They acknowledge that X ingredient isn't 100% proven to be bad for Y reason, but to be safe they've left it out. They have also had promotions where 100% of the proceeds from a product goes towards a charity. One hundred percent. That is people over profit in action. With their brand positioning I think it's absolutely appropriate that their promotions are about donating money rather than dollars-off for the customer because it means those dollars are being reallocated to people in need.
They might not have a big shade range right out of the gate, but I believe they did what they could with the given resources at the time, and are now prioritizing doing better. I think as long as they did the best they could for the situation, and they are actively trying to be better, we can cheer them on to continue on the right track.
The Face Trace and Bronzer are two products that really need new shades for medium-dark skintones.
I know that they are working on expanding the foundation line ASAP, but it'd be nice to know an approximate timeline and what shades they are working on. Also the Vital Skin Foundation needs many more shades in general. Fourteen just isn't nearly enough. I also found it disappointing that they don't have the undertones listed under the darkest 4 shades. I can't stand when companies don't put a real shade description and just use a shade name. Like, I have no idea what "butterscotch" or "caramel" means and what the difference is.
I know that this is in the works, but I wish they fought harder to have this from the beginning. I know there was probably a lot of pressure to please Barney's, but look who isn't around anymore. It's hard to balance wanting to do what feels right with what the big boss man is demanding.
Baby Cheeks Blush Stick 68 CAD/ 50 USD
There really isn’t a shade that doesn’t appeal to me. I picked up the shade Petal because it’s the most popular and seemed like a good place to start. Also, I have a friend who is launching her clean beauty brand this fall, so I already know I’m going to add two more cream blushes into my collection. Which brings my cream blush collection to… too many to use up.
This blush…is SO. GOOD. I didn’t expect it to be this soft and blendable. You can swipe this directly from the bullet without applying pressure, and you can blend it out by just tapping it out. It won’t disturb anything else you have on because it’s just so darn blendable. I find that if you use a big brush to blend it in, it will blend into pretty much nothing. So fingers or a more precise blush brush is the way to go.
As for longevity people have said that this lasts all day on them, but for me, it’s pretty much on par with my other favourites.
And in the same formula we have the ...
Face Trace Contour Stick 64 CAD/ 48 USD
Contour is definitely one of those “nice to have” things. However, there was space in my collection for a great contour product. Again, my preferred form is a super blendable cream to powder stick, and I hadn’t found one I really loved… until now. I’ve used other stick contours before and they’ve been difficult to work with. They’re patchy and require some hardcore blending. It’s always felt like I had to make contour work for me. Face Trace basically contours for you.
It is the perfect neutral contouring shade for fair to medium skin that’s not too warm, not too grey and blends seamlessly. I’m hardcore in love with this product.
Start at around 16:09 and both are swatched at around 17:50
Foundation 88 CAD/ 68
The foundation blends out like a dream and into something so skin like that I’m like… where did it go? Is it doing anything? It takes work to make this look makeup-y. The only way I kind of know that I’m even wearing makeup is that my skin toned is evened out and pores are less apparent.
My favourite foundation in my collection has been the Hourglass Vanish stick foundation. It was the first foundation I tried in my Sephora Play box, and at the time I had never heard of Hourglass. I didn’t realize that all foundations aren’t this amazing. I love how you just dab it on your face (no long stripes, just dots), and it blends away super easily. For me, it just works. Also the shade Porcelain is the perfect shade match for me.
Compared to my beloved Hourglass Vanish stick foundation, the Vital Skin is harder to build up. At first I didn’t think I could build it up for any signficant amount of coverage on some spots, but with a lot of tapping with the foundation brush, we got there. You really have to work in layers, there’s no real shortcut like a full coverage concealer, where you can just smack it on top. I find to get the fullest coverage, I apply it straight from the bullet and blend with the brush, do the rest of my makeup, and then touch up in spots where I need it.
It's been a longer "getting to know you" journey with this foundation compared to others. Most of the time I try a foundation and I'm like "Wow! This looks amazing!" and then a few hours later I'm like, "alas, it was lust, not true love". I swear this foundation looked its "worst" right upon application and got better as it sinks in overtime. The exact opposite of my experience with Pat McGrath foundation that looks mind blowingly good upon application and 6 hours in my face feels like a dehydrated grease ball. The active ingredients in this foundation kept my skin looking amazing and hydrated up until I went to take it off.
Foundations that I have used most frequently have been the BeautyBlender Bounce (1.1), CoverFX Power Play (N20), and the Bite Beauty Changemaker Foundation (L15). In the above picture, I have also included the RMS foundation and the Kosas concealer; swatched on the left and blended out on the right.
For even more swatches, I compare the WA shades to some other popular products I have (Glossier Stretch Concealer, Tarte Shape Tape, Nars Creamy Radiant Concealer) at about 37:52
Lit Up Highlighter Stick 64 CAD/ 48 USD
This is the only product I do not have. From looking at the descriptions and other reviews, I just know it won’t be a favourite. I just don’t like balmy highlighters that don’t dry down, so I just wouldn’t use this. I don’t want my makeup to move, and I don’t love wet look highlighters on me enough to justify another one. From my lookings around on the interwebs the Lit Up stick swatch looked a lot like the Nudestix highlighter I have in Half Moon (possibly has more glitter flecks), and also reminded me of Milk Makeup's holographic stick in Super Nova (definitely more purple).
Instead of getting this highlighter, I opted for a second Super Loaded shade. That’s logical, right?
Also, my friend's brand Minori is launching two highlighters in the fall that will be cream to powder, which is my favourite, so I’ve already made the space for those in my collection. I have a lot of highlighters but my all time favourite is RMS’ Magic Luminizer. It's more disco than dewy, which is more my style.
Super Loaded Tinted Highlight 98 CAD/ 75 USD
I got two of the three Super Loaded shades because I had a feeling this would be a product I used daily. I didn’t get Peau de Soleil because it seemed a little too golden for me and didn’t seem like something I could wear year round because I am very fair. I just embrace my ghosty nature in the winter. I may be wrong. But I need to come up with these excuses because I might like the Super Loaded highlighters a little too much and the idea of having all three is a level of extra-ness that makes me uncomfortable.
In a virgin compact, they look like a powder, but they are actually a cream product.
I don’t think that this product can be described as just as straight highlighter. It’s like a sculpting, highlighting, magic product that can be layered, and used all over the cheek. I use Peau de Peche all over my cheek for the magic wash of color with some subtle definition, and will use Peau de Rose just at the top of my cheekbones. Peau de Rose does have tiny bits of glitter in it that isn't apparent until you swatch it. In the winter, I will probably use the Peau de Rose as an all over cheek color, depends on how noticeable the glitter is (I haven't decided if it's at acceptable levels or it just looks strange to find random specks here and there).
I was really wary of putting a highlight type product all over my cheeks because the pore/scarring situation isn't something I want to emphasize. But holy guacamole, it has not made the situation worse. In fact, I think my skin looks fantastic. Like, my skin is still looking plump and hydrated hours later. I really do roll my eyes at most claims of the magic of X ingredient in a product, like "OooOooO hyaluronic acid!", but this product has 100% proved that their claims are not just marketing. The good stuff is in there.
If I were to recommend one product from this line, it would be the Super Loaded Tinted Highlight in Peau de Peche. These also look amazing on the eyes, so for lazy eye makeup people, skip the Eye Pods, and use either Peau de Soleil or Peau de Peche as an easy wash of eye colour.
As of right now I'm not loving applying these with the WA blender brush. I feel like the blender brush isn't picking up enough product without me really having to work the brush in the pan. I've had more success going in with my fingers or my trusty ol #99 Sephora Pro brush.
Swatched between 12:05 and 14:06
Bronzer 98 CAD/ 75
I can’t say I’ve ever been a heavy bronzer user. I really love GW’s approach to bronzer. It’s very different from the YT/IG tutorials I see, where it’s all concentrated on the top of the cheeks and forehead. I like to use it wherever I would get the most sun. AKA where I would burn the most. I'll never forget the time someone complimented me on my eye shadow when I wasn't wearing any. I was like, "Thanks. It's sunburn."
GW applies bronzer more horizontally and in a “W” shape than the "3" shape that I see more commonly practiced by beauty gurus and influencers.
This bronzer is like butter. I’ve never used a powder product that blends as weightlessly and seamlessly as this one. Out of all pressed powder products I’ve ever tried, this one reminds me the most of… wait for it… Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer. So off I went to grab my PF classic, and used the WA powder brush, and they function and blend pretty similarly. While they both have some kick-up after I run the brush back and forth a couple times, I did notice more powder kick-up with the PF formula. I LOVE the PF Butter line, but talc contamination really freaks me out, so if I use it, it's just for funsies and I take it off right away.
As I continue to use this bronzer it's developed acne?? It feels bumpy to the touch, but the product is still working fine. I reached out to Westman Atelier and they said that this is not normal and offered a replacement. Their customer service is the best. :)
Lip Suede 114 CAD/ 85 USD
I’m a lip product hoarder and always have been. What I don’t like is how this isn’t a great product to take on the go with because you have to carry a lip brush, or use your fingers. Being able to mix a custom colour is really fun, but for a lazy girl, sometimes I just want to apply something straight from the tube.
When it’s new, it really does look like a suede texture on top. I was confused the first time I saw this product because I couldn’t tell if it was a cushion, or a lipstick palette situation.
This little palette packs a punch. I like to apply it with my fingers for a little wash of colour and use what is left over on my finger to dab it onto the apples of my cheeks. It is so staining, your lips are gonna be fine even after a nice greasy meal. There is zero concern of uneven fading.
The formula isn't drying, but it isn't my favourite of all time. I'm just not mega stoked to reach for it. I wish it smelled better. However, the biggest plus is that since lipstick is something you end up consuming, I do feel like this still has a place in my collection because of its high performance and clean formulation. It's nice to not have to worry that I'm ingesting something that's ominously described as "classified as expected to be toxic or harmful" by the EWG.
Update: So, I've really come to love how the product looks via finger application. I dip my fingers into 2-3 shades for a custom color, and then I use my finger to smush (tap?) it into my lips. It's like a no lipstick-lipstick look I didn't know I needed. It leaves a very long lasting stain, but somehow keeps my lips hydrated at the same time. What is this witchcraft? Probably the cherry and marula oils. It is one of the lightest weight lip products I have ever tried. Again, mad respect for the fact the active ingredients are working as advertised.
Go to 30:30 for the swatches of the lip suede. I also show what they look like sheered out.
Eye Love You Mascara 82 CAD/ 62
I rarely buy full-sized mascaras. I’ve gotten enough through bundles and boxes that I haven’t had to purchase one in years. My favourite mascara is Caution from Hourglass, and I just manage to keep getting the deluxe sample of it and subsist off those.
By my best estimation, I’ve purchased maybe a dozen full-size tubes of mascara in my life. Tops. I have always just gotten by on GWP mascaras since high school, with the occasional tube of waterproof mascara thrown in. And a tube of mascara was an annual purchase. I just don’t go through a lot of product? And I prefer slightly old mascara - I don't like them as much fresh... My sister on the other hand goes through an entire tube every 3-4 months, right on schedule with the use-by dates, which blows my mind. $34 every 4 months. So I feel a little less bad about the $82 when I compare myself to her annual spend.
So to say this item is a splurge for me is a big understatement. How impressed was I with the formula? Well, it was really good. But I'm not in luurrvee with it yet. What I've found works best is combing the product through your lashes root to rip, with a slight wiggle of the wand, and build it up while it's still wet. I find the look of this mascara to be a really natural looking mascara. It won't give you a falsies, or a mascara-y look.
The brush is big, but I can still get it to work for me. I'm not a fan of jumbo brushes because the product ends up all over my eye lids and it becomes a really messy situation. I apply this looking down into a mirror instead of having a mirror right in front of me. From that angle it's easier to manipulate the wand without getting product all over my eye lids. GW passed on 45 brushes before settling on this one.
I took some pictures to compare Eye Love You to my top two most frequently used mascaras.
Update: I fell asleep with my makeup on (I swear this never ever happens) and I found that this mascara had flaked all over the place. I don't know if this indicative of it's wear time, or what might happen when the tube gets a little older. Make of this information what you will.
Eye Pods 118 CAD/ 88 USD
You would be hard pressed to find a more expensive eye shadow. In terms of net product weight to price… this is like a Three Michelin Star dining experience - You'll get like 12 courses of 1 bite of food. This isn’t makeup. This is an eye color experience.
The only way I know how to do eyeshadow is with my fingers. Gucci Westman wanted to recreate the kind of putty shadows that have lots of silicones in them. I loovvee putty like textures, so I was so stoked about the release of these shadows.
So, from my first impressions of all the products… this one had me the least impressed. The texture is amazing, it has a high level of blendability, but I was just expecting a little more oomph when it comes to color payoff. It’s hard to really build the color up with your fingers, the default is just sheer, which is fine, but it doesn’t have the flexbility that a highly pigmented shadow might have of being able to wear it opaque/sheering out a tiny bit of product.
Each little pod is very smol. The pan is small and the pod itself is deep. There is almost no way that you would be able to use your fingers with these guys if you have nails. And when I do use my fingers, most of the pigment is on my fingertip and it doesn’t really like to come off onto my eyelids. I feel like product is then wasted on my finger. To build it up, you really need a brush, which is disappointing because the texture is something you just want to touch.
The pods themselves are lighter than I was expecting because of the heft of all the other product, but by no means do these products feel cheap or plasticy.