We live in an age where a product being pigmented is synonymous with that product being great. A fully opaque finger swatch is the hallmark of a stellar product. Putting aside the fact that finger swatches on the back of a hand are probably the least accurate representation of a product (a finger is not a brush, the back of your hand is not your face/cheek/eyelid/etc), somebody needs to address this pigmented=great myth. Opacity is not always the number one priority. Let’s consider face products, for instance. Do you want a fully pigmented blusher, or bronzer? Imagine picking up pure pink pigment and placing that down on your cheek. Blending that out would be a NIGHTMARE. The same goes for bronzer. A light watercolour wash is generally what’s desired here, unless you’re doing stage makeup, which actually requires a much less pigmented formula that may not swatch so impressively, but will apply much more easily, blend out much more seamlessly and look much more natural on your face.
Most people seem to know that though. Where people seem to get a little carried away on the pigmentation procession is usually with highlighters and eyeshadows.
We are now seeing highlighters that swatch with full pigmentation of colour, and people (read: YouTube beauty ‘gurus’) are raving about them. If that’s what you’re going for, then just buy a shimmery eyeshadow. I promise, it’ll look exactly the same. But I also promise you that, away from the gazillions of studio lights that these same gurus use, in natural outdoor lighting or regular indoor lighting – you know, the kind that 99% of people are under 99% of the time, it looks pretty horrendous. It doesn’t look like a glow. It looks like a stripe of shimmery eyeshadow on your face. Not to tell you what you want, but you probably want something with much less base pigment/colour, and more of that reflective, glossy shine. This won’t swatch as impressively on the back of your hand, and certainly doesn’t swatch impressively in YouTube videos, but don’t be fooled. Life isn’t a YouTube video.
Eyeshadows are the worst culprit for pigmentation equalling quality. If an eyeshadow isn’t pigmented, or doesn’t swatch smoothly on your hand, it’s automatically cast aside as terrible quality. But, in the majority of cases, this simply isn’t the case. One word: Subculturegate. My review of ABH’s Subculture Palette is here, if anyone is curious, but while I didn’t hate the formula and I actually love the palette still, it got a lot of bad press for the amount of fallout, the difficulty of blending for the shadows and oxidation on the skin. All of these problems arose because of the amount of pigment in the shadows and the lack of filler. It is filler that makes shadows more ‘hard’ (resulting in less fallout), and allows shadows to glide more easily (resulting in easier blendability).
Regardless of your opinion of Morphe as a brand, their matte shadows, with more filler and less pigment, as opposed to Subculture’s, swatch pretty poorly, but build up beautifully and blend dreamily, allowing anyone to use them and end up with a seamless look.
Again: makeup is going on your face, with a brush, not on the back of your hand with your finger. Finger swatches rarely tell the full story. YouTubers, with several studio lights shining on them swatching free makeup, very rarely tell the full story.