Rouge Reviews: ABH SUBCULTURE-GATE (ft. Project CAT)

Rouge Reviews: ABH SUBCULTURE-GATE (ft. Project CAT)

Don-don-donnnnnnnnnn! *cues dramatic music*

It’s the forsaken palette of the Internet, Anastasia Beverly Hill’s new Subculture eyeshadow palette. I’m sure you’ve heard the controversy surrounding this eyeshadow palette by now, as it took over the internet for a solid week or two before it was released. Beauty bloggers and YouTubers were savage 🐯 with their reviews about Subculture to the point that it was almost unbelievable how negative the reviews were. I think there had not been this much internet buzz about makeup since the first Naked palette. There were times that I wanted to jump into the screen and yell “It’s just eyeshadow, mes chéries!” I did really like the colors of this palette, so I waited for Subculture-gate to die down a little (and for new batches of the palette to be released) before I went to purchase my own palette at Sephora.

In this Rouge Review, I’ll be talking about the popular opinion about this palette, the packaging, the formula, the application, and the versatility of the colors. Now before we start, just know that I’m a bit of an odd one because I didn’t fall in love with ABH’s Modern Renaissance palette, but immediately fell in love with Subculture when photos and beauty guru reviews first hit the internet. The colors and grungy theme of the palette remind me of everything I love about street art. So, I figured I bring both elements to this post and feature one of my new favorite murals in SoHo. I’ll include more information about this mural at the end of the review.

The Internet’s Opinions

Pardon the fact that these eyeshadows have already been used prior to being photographed, but I was trying to debate if I was going to keep my palette or not depending on how well this batch was made. So since we’re talking about usage and batches, let’s get into the public opinion about this palette:

  • colors are difficult to use/create a look out of
  • formula is way too powdery
  • too much kickback when you dip your brush in/swirl it (also, don’t swirl mattes genuises… that’s why you’re all getting insane fallout and kickback!)
  • eyeshadows oxidize on your eyelid depending on what you have on your eyelid (nothing, primer, concealer, foundation, moisturizer, etc)
  • not a practical everyday palette
  • not a palette of colors most people can use easily
  • does not live up to the Modern Renaissance palette in terms of colors and formula
  • overly pigmented

Of course, all the YouTubers were being hella extra and dramatic with their opinions about this palette. Some loved while some despised it, pretty much starting WW3 over these shadows. I understood where they were coming from though, since ABH has held themselves to very high standards in the few years they’ve entered the market and disrupted the beauty industry with their incredible products. But to be fair, there is no palette that could live up to the same hype as the brand’s one golden star. It’s the law of averages. On top of that, neutral matte eyeshadow is easier to create than colorful matte eyeshadow. Matte eyeshadow is already powdery by nature. Add a difficult color formula into it and it’s normal for the shadows to have a little more kickback than usual. Just don’t abuse the pan by swirling your brush.

My Opinions

I’ve spent a little over a week playing around with this palette (Do you guys want a tutorial? Comment below if you would like one!) to truly test it out and see if all the drama is really accurate. I used it daily for a number of days in a row, trying all the colors before reaching the following conclusions:

The Packaging

The packaging is identical to the Modern Renaissance. The way the mirror bends backwards makes it easy to prop the palette up. However, the fuzz on the packaging tracts powder very easily, so be mindful of fallout or tapping your brush against the palette.

The Formula 

I do see why many gurus were angry with the formula of the Subculture palette. The shadows are a little bit more powdery than Modern Renaissance ones but probably twice as pigmented but the mattes are buttery smooth while the glitters are creamy. The kickback isn’t bad if you’re light with your brush and pat instead of swirl (as you can tell in my previous photo). There is little to no fallout on the face when you apply the shadow. However, if you primed your lids, the shadow sticks immediately to whatever was applied prior to it which can create a wet stain look and become hard to blend.

The Application 

A little bit of the shadow goes such a long way, so tapping your brush ever so lightly tracts enough shadow. I’m not sure which batch codes were the “bad” ones, but it seems like the ones out in stores now are perfectly fine. As of these latest batches, no palette is so powdery that you hit pan immediately which some gurus had issues with.

When applying this eyeshadow, I noticed slight oxidization of the colors. It’s normal for eyeshadows to look slightly different from the color in the pan, but this palette oxidizes more than any I’ve ever seen. I tried a few tricks to see how to maintain a color close to that in the pan and discovered that applying primer, concealer, and foundation beforehand make the shadows oxidize rapidly. If I was just to apply the eyeshadow to my bare skin, it was only a little bit darker than the color in the pan.

Blending these shadows is a bit of a bitch, I’m not going to lie. There are two problems that come into play.

  1. If you primed your lid in any way, you have to blend as you initially apply so it doesn’t have a wet stain look.
  2. If you did not prime your lid, it’s so powdery that no matter how lightly you blend it fades into a grungy dark shadowy blur of the original eyeshadow colors.
  3. You will need to pack on the colors layer by layer after blending if you want the colors to show through in a pigmented look.

One word of advice: apply the crease first before adding the main lid color on top. It’ll make it easier to blend your shadows seamlessly.

The Colors

I’ve inserted a photo with natural lighting and one with LED lighting for you to see the swatches. The leftmost swatch is barely visible, as it is a white and pink glitter duochrome (Cube). You can see how they’re true to color on non-primed skin.

I fell in love with Subculture because of the colors and how well they suit this autumn season, so I’m a little biased when it comes to this section of the review. However, from an everyday standpoint, this palette is not necessarily suitable. It is definitely an artistic palette for the makeup guru who wants to explore different looks with different colors. It’s also an edgier palette. The artist (I use artist here, but I mean any person using makeup) who would use the Modern Renaissance palette is not necessarily one who would use Subculture, despite the fact the same does not apply vice versa. It is not ideal for a basic and quick daily look.

Subculture is marketed as a palette that dives into the grungy colors that has an “underground edge” so to speak. I highly agree that this aura does show through these photos and the formula. However, it is not for the amateur makeup artist. If you are still learning how to apply eyeshadow and create looks, this is no easy palette for the beginner. That is not to discourage beginners to really push their boundaries by purchasing this palette, but rather a warning that it seems to be tailored towards the more seasonal makeup artists and gurus. The colors do not all mesh well together. You really have to pick and choose a few to use and where on the lid to put them so they don’t clash.

In terms of who this palette is best suited for colors-wise, I would say it is better tailored for someone who has a yellow undertone or beige to dark skintones. These colors can look very harsh against paler skintones with pink undertones, whereas olive or beige tones in the skin help soften the harsh pigments of this very bold palette.

I’ve inserted finger swatches in soft yellow lighting for you all to see what the eyeshadows look like at night, as this is a good palette to use for nights out. This allows you to see if the colors will look good in dimmer lighting or if it’ll just look like you have a blurry gray-black smear all over your eyelid. It’s safe to say you can definitely still see the pigment of each dark color in dim lighting.


Overall, I give this palette a 3.8/5 stars. I deducted 1.2 stars strictly for the versatility and usability at the price it is sold ($42). It’s a difficult palette and for the patient artist, that is for sure. But once you learn the tips and tricks on how to get the most out of the Subculture palette, you’ll find yourself reaching for it on a daily basis (my daily look is with Dawn, an oxidized Edge, and sometimes a little Fudge). If you are someone who likes a challenge and has $42 you don’t mind spending, I would not discourage you from picking up this palette. I don’t think Subculture-gate was unjustified, but it was definitely over dramatized purely because ABH is a highly regarded cosmetic brand and had the Modern Renaissance palette to live up to.

I hope this review helped! Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, mes chéries (unless it’s from me of course 😉 haha just kidding!). Subculture is a misunderstood palette that I have grown to highly appreciate. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you want to see a tutorial using this palette!

About The Mural + OOTD

This mural is painted by an artist named Sonny and is under The LISA Project for Project CAT. The LISA Project constantly helps put up street art for the sake of art. They teamed up with Project CAT and Sonny for this mural in July 2017 to spread awareness about the beautiful endangered species, resulting in this stunning mural.

When I first saw this mural, I immediately thought of the Subculture palette because of the colors. In fact, I having been drawing makeup inspiration from this mural! I think the detail on the tiger’s face is not only mesmerizing but also very powerful. To be honest, I’m not sure what message it sends out to bypassers, but the fact the colors are melting off patches of the endangered animal’s face mid roar makes a loud statement.

Being a blogger, I had to snag a few OOTD photos with it before I left. Mind you, the mural is so large that I am a single pixel in these photos. I also haven’t worked out consistently since end of April and have been locked indoors in an office all month, so please excuse the fact I look very tired and resemble a not-toasted loaf🍞. Other than that, my outfit consists of an ALLSAINTS dress, Vera Wang shoes, and my Michael Kors purse. I added a simple accessory, my Baume & Mercier watch, to finish off this look. I’ll be featuring the dress again in a future lookbook, so there will be more details coming then!

I hope you enjoyed this combined beauty and art post. Enjoy the rest of you weekend and stay tuned for my August vlog coming to you next week. Bisou, bisou…






Erica Huang
Erica Huang

Based in New York City, Erica Huang is the creator and voice behind Bouge & Rouge. This blog is a playground of her thoughts where she invites you to join her on her journey through her 20s. Erica shares her lifestyle, fashion and beauty tips, adventures, and personal thoughts with the goal of inspiring others to always persevere and be unapologetically yourself.

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