Hourglass Modernist Eyeshadow Palette in Obscura - review and swatches


While I only reintroduced this product to Project Dent yesterday, it has been in rotation for the past week and I kept notes from last time I dented it, so after playing with it again this morning, I'm more than ready to review it.

Plus I've had it for something like two years and I had a reasonably good idea of what I thought about it before picking it up again last week, although it's been good to use it after mucking around with my Marc Jacobs palettes because I love that formula and it's been helpful to compare these Hourglass quints to those.

Do note from the outset that these have recently been discontinued, but you can still buy them from some websites and of course on eBay. I wanted to get my reviews in quickly, though, because soon they'll be gone for good so my comments will be redundant.

Also note that this is one of those situations where not all of the available quints are made equal. I bought Monochrome ages ago and absolutely loved that (I've reviewed it here), and it's that palette that inspired me to buy two more. But I don't love Obscura or Exposure as much. More on that below.

Hourglass claims/product details:

  • An artist-inspired eyeshadow palette with seamless colour transitions, offering effortless blending in a single pan
  • Innovative multi-press, three-dimensional design
  • Fine, creamy consistency
  • Introduces a new level of control for blending and picking up pigment
  • Available in seven curated colour palettes
  • Complementary colours for base, crease and eyeliner allow for endless customised looks with one palette
  • Each shade and finish is specifically calibrated to work with the other formulas within the palette
  • Formula is exceptionally soft, long-wearing and crease-resistant 
  • Shimmer shades may be applied wet for more dramatic colour
  • RRP $92 AUD for 5g (yikes)

There's the palette, direct sunlight:

Swatches, direct sunlight:

Indirect sunlight:


While there are things I do like about this palette, I don't think it's worth the price-tag so I wouldn't buy it. You don't need to spend this much to get decent eyeshadows, and in any event, not all of these are decent.

Let's talk about each shadow in turn.

Shade one is fine. I think it's a waste to have a cream shadow in a quint but I know a lot of people can't live without one, so it makes sense to include it. It's matte but not quite matte: there's a slight sheen to it, which makes it good for use underneath the eyes because it's brightening. It has a soft, smooth and silky texture, and although the pigment isn't great, it serves a function and it applies and blends well.

Shade two isn't great. It's soft, smooth and silky in texture, but it doesn't apply or blend well. It looks patchy on the skin and I'm left with uneven stripes on my eyes if I try to apply it through the crease and blend it out. I like the colour in theory - a cool-toned matte brown with a slight sheen - but in practice I can only use this on my brows or as eyeliner. Not a good shadow.

Shade three is bloody gorgeous. While it might look like a standard light bronze, there's something different about the tone and I would love to find a good dupe for it. On the eye it's more of a pale bronze-copper with golden undertones. It offers a beautiful sheen without obvious sparkle so it's fine for everyday wear, although you can build it so it has more of a metallic finish. It applies and blends well, but the lasting power isn't fantastic and you'll need a good primer.

Shade four isn't great either. It's a dark, plummy brown that's warmer than shade two and it's matte but it also has a slight sheen. It's harder and drier than the other shadows in this palette, and it doesn't apply or blend well. Like shade two, I get patchy eyeshadow when I try to use this and I can't blend it through the crease for the life of me. The only way I can use this is as a liner because it's too warm for my brows, and to be honest I don't use liner much so I may never finish this shadow. We'll see.

Shade five is stunning. It's a golden bronze with finely milled micro glitter running through it. It's fine for everyday wear but you can build it so it has more of a metallic finish. It applies and blends well, and the pigment is good. It has a soft, smooth and silky texture, and it looks beautiful on the eye because the golden yellow undertone adds a flattering warmth without heading into orange/red territory. I have enough orange/red bronzes, and I prefer the look of this yellow/golden one on my colouring.

Overall comments: I'm not the first person to have said this, but I have no idea why Hourglass picked two dark browns that are quite similar to go into one quint. There's no point in that: in a quint like this, every shadow needs to play a role. One of them needs to be switched out for a light or medium matte brown that you can use through the crease and then fade out as a transition. Having two dark browns is redundant, and I always need to reach for another palette when I use this.

Also worth noting is that both shimmers irritate my eyes. I didn't have this experience with Monochrome, but the one shimmer in that isn't the same formula as these two (it's a lot less intense) so there's something in these that doesn't agree with my eyes. Same goes for the shimmer in the centre of Exposure, which has the same formula. Also irritating. Funnily enough, I've seen two other reviewers mention the irritation so that's worth noting.

Overall I don't dislike this palette but it wasn't worth the money. What saves the show is the two shimmer shadows, which are stunning on the eye. I love them both: I have nothing like them (despite the fact that they look like hundreds of other shadows in the pan) and I plan to get myself into Inglot at some point so see if I can find dupes for them. Yes they make my eyes sting a little when I apply them, but that dies down quickly so I can wear them. The rest of the palette, I can take or leave.

Don't bother.

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