This is just a quick list I’ve thrown up to link people to, it’s not at all professional or compelling if you don’t actually know me. Having said that;
Feel free to comment or use the contact form for questions or swatch requests, and;
Feel free to not comment or use the contact form for disagreements that are a matter of preference.
Glossary and Preface
- “Samples” can mean one of four things, depending on the store:
- Sample baggies with anywhere from a few applications’ worth of powder to enough for years.
- Sample clamshells, which are similar to the plastic clamshells Ulta, Sephora, etc use for their samples. These can be 1g, 3g, or 5g, and are always smaller and less expensive than the larger sizes from the same store. They’re also kind of messy to deal with, so if it’s a shade you’re gonna use a lot and you don’t fancy anything that makes loose powder even more messy, try to avoid them. I personally dump baggie/clamshell samples into jars from TKB Trading if I’m using the shade so much it calls for it.
- Sample jars, also called things like “Petits,” or sometimes just called “3g jars” (full-size is almost always 5g). Sometimes these are filled full, sometimes they just have a fairly generous trial amount (usually 1/4th of a teaspoon). Some companies put sample amounts in 5g jars, it’s important to always read the listing.
- Most of indie cosmetics is eye shadow, but there are other products. The above applies to eye shadow, and to an extent, powder blush, finishing powder, etc. Most loose powders. Samples of blush and other facial products might come in larger jars, larger baggies, or clamshells. The average full-sized jar for a blush is either 10g or 20g. Samples of anything semi-liquid (creams, lip products) may come in jars, clamshells (less common), or mini-tubes that fit the product. For example, many lip color samples come in tiny tubes, maybe two inches long, and with some kind of applicator in the lid. Sometimes they come in clamshells, but that’s much less messy than with powder.
- How much is in a sample baggie, jar, or clamshell is always in the listing. It may not say an exact measurement, just “a generous amount,” which I wouldn’t trust from an unknown brand, but would trust from an established brand.
- 3g jars/clamshells don’t hold 3g of product. 5g etc etc don’t hold 5g of product. It varies according to the exact ingredients in each shade of product, but 3g usually hold 1-1.5g, 5g usually hold 2.5-3g, 10g is anywhere from 6g to 9g, etc etc. I can’t remember why they’re called 3g/5g/ etc if they don’t hold that much. Exceptions are with odd sizes, like Sugarpill, I don’t know the name of that size of jar, I just know the net weight is 4g.
- OTM – “Of The Month,” COTM – “Color Of The Month.” Only made in a small batch, and once it’s sold out, it’s sold out, unless it’s so popular they decide to make more.
- “OTM,” “COTM,” anything with one of those in it (“CCCOTM”), and anything regarding a subscription is LE. Some are much more difficult to get than others. Glamour Doll Eyes’ COTM subscription sells out so fast, they announce the date and time more will be listed. Innocent + Twisted Alchemy, being not as popular, has some COTM shades available still, going back to late 2014. Most companies will hold an LE shadow for a bit, although not always the current COTM.
- Glitter, shimmer, sparkle, all of those mean different things:
- Glitter is larger reflective/sparkling pieces. There are different sizes of glitter, some sites sell different sizes.
- Sparkle refers to very tiny pieces of glitter, difficult to spot with the naked eye unless it happens to be reflecting light.
- Shimmer usually refers to a dense amount of very very tiny sparkes, so dense it gives the shadow an appearance of a frost.
- Glitz refers to either small glitter or largeish sparkles
- Color-shifting can be two things; either a single shift, caused by either a pigment in the shadow or a large enough amount of glitter that, when the glitter catches the light, it changes the shade.
- Most other terms are the same as corporate makeup. Matte, semi-matte, frost, sheer, etc.
- Indie shadows are usually more complex than even the nicest corporate shadows. Comes with the territory. Madd Style Cosmetics, for example, basically all of their shadows look one way when brushed one way, and slightly different when brushed another way. They’re closed, and I can’t think of an open store that has shadows that do that to the same degree. There’s also a hell of a lot of color-shifting and all that, plus a lot of indies look completely different over a black base.Some companies do an awesome job of showing the product, some do not. If you’re feeling picky, Google for swatches. Image Search (as in Google) is usually quickest, bloggers tag their images so they’ll come up in image search. By “picky,” I mean “It looks exactly like that in all lighting.” If you’re fine with variation (I always am), load that cart up.
- “TAT” means “turn around time,” and it’s the length of time from when you click “order” to when they dump your package in a mailbox. Doesn’t include actual shipping time, but that’s only ever a few days in the US. A TAT of “one week” is seven consecutive days, a TAT of “one business week” is five business days. Basic stuff, but it can be confusing when everyone else is talking about TATs and you’re the only one who doesn’t know what it means.
Personal favorites have a heart (♡) after the brand name, brands I currently have in my collection (I’ve given or traded a lot away over the years) have a star (✪) after the brand name.
Bad Bitch Cosmetics – Basic, good-quality eyeshadows. The name and attitude are silly, imo, but the shadows are good.
Baroque Cosmetics – Super-gorgeous shadows, highlighters, and blushes. Including a lot of pressed shadows, the ability to make a custom palette, etc.
Beauty From The Earth – Lots of good, pretty shadows, many are “basic,” but not all. They also carry a mineral powder foundation line. I personally did not like it as much as Meow, but that doesn’t mean much, since different products work best for different people. Haven’t tried their lip stuff, but have heard nothing but good things. Blushes, contouring powders as well.
Blackbird Cosmetics – Pretty shadows, blushes, and contouring shades, basically everything comes in both pressed and loose. I’ve tried them enough to know they’re very good, but I really need, oh, a couple hundred bucks so I can properly investigate them.
Dark Heart Designs (link #2) ✪ – “The shop is closed permanently” just means “We don’t know when we’re gonna open,” because usually shops close for vacation with a fixed end-of-vacation date. The owner of DHD is amazingly motivated, and amazingly talented. Besides eye shadows, she’s made good primers, bases, lip colors, gel liners, lip balms, blushes/luminizers/bronzers/finishing powders, mascara, and tons of other things.
Darling Girl Cosmetics ♡✪ – Seriously gorgeous shit. Seriously sparkly shit, too. Probably 4th-best at making color-shifting shadows that are high quality. Everything is gorgeous and super-pigmented and long-lasting. In addition to shadow, they carry blush, highlighter, bronzer, lip stuff, all kinds of shit. If you want to try them and don’t know what to get, get some of the “Pretty Mistakes.” They also always have a GWP, either a shadow or blush.
Dawn Eyes Cosmetics ✪- The site is pretty much the worst, but the makeup is legit, and inexpensive. Their “Spearl Mattes” are excellent, their “GPS” purples are excellent. I haven’t tried much else, but they’re legit. It’s easier to just use search if you’re looking for something specific, as the layout and categories are kind of insanely, uselessly complex.
Femme Fatale Cosmetics ♡✪ – Australian-based company that carries over 100 gorgeous, super-amazing quality, often super-color-shifting shadows, as well as blushes, primer, and amazing nail polishes. They also carry multiple other brands, but they do that so non-Australian brands are more accessible to Australians. The only reason for a non-Australian to order something non-Femme Fatale from them is if it’s lightweight (cheap shipping), not available elsewhere, or you’re not-Australian but it’s still cheaper than other options. Some Femme Fatale products are also available at Shiro’s website.
Femme Fatale does calmer-but-still-vibrant duochromes better than any other company. Fyrinnae tends to be brighter and more super-sparkly, which they’re the best at, and Innocent + Twisted Alchemy tends to do more subtle duochromes (still lots of sparkles).
Glamour Doll Eyes ♡✪ – Good quality, loose and pressed. Eye shadow, blush, lip stuff, plus a really good foiling liquid called “Foil Me.” Well-run, reasonable prices, GWPs (best thing ever). They also sell PRESSED eye shadows, but those go fast as heck. Has a subscription service.
Hello Waffle Cosmetics – Another one that’s very good, just not super-amazing-the-best. But only a few can be super-amazing-the-best. Has shadows, finishing powders, blushes/bronzers, and lip products.
Innocent + Twisted Alchemy ♡✪ – Mostly eye shadows, some gorgeous blushes. I+TA is the best at subtle, non-ravey colors (they do have ravey colors and they are good, though) with color-shifts and sparkles.
Kiss My Sass Cosmetics ✪- Tons of gorgeous shadows, face powders, and lip color. They also sell bath and body stuff, which I haven’t tried.
Lucy Minerals – Yet another company with a mineral foundation. This one is almost as popular as Meow’s, possible more popular by now. I haven’t had the opportunity to try it, and haven’t been trying too hard for that opportunity, since I’m thrilled with Meow. Both offer samples, though, and both are non-comedogenic. Lucy’s shadows I have tried, and they own.
Meow Cosmetics ♡✪ One of, if not the, oldest indies that has never had an issue. They also sell an amazing range of things. Foundation comes it three types of coverage, all buildable: Sheer/Light coverage, Light/Medium coverage, and Medium/Heavy coverage. I have “Munchkins” (same size as BareMinerals’ largest jars, but half the price or less if you catch one of the frequent sales) of sheer/light and light/medium in my skintone, and I cannot imagine what the heavy one does. It has to be like, a complete gesso canvas of powder. Plus matching concealers (under-eye and regular), and color-corrective powders. Everything is non-comedogenic.
Their actual shadows are just freaking amazing. I’ve never bothered to count how many they have, as it’s a lot (as in hundreds), and they take some collections in and out of rotation to make sure they (a duo) can keep up with business. Everything from soft neutrals to metallic vibrant jewel tones to sparklebombs in every shade to a specific line of powder liners. Plus blushes, bronzers, illuminators, finishing powders. Everything can be sampled before paying full price, including blushes and highlighters and whatever else I missed. Samples are $1, but again, less if you catch them during a sale.
My Pretty Zombie ♡✪ – Not a lot of sparklebombs, and what is super sparkly is more visible glitter and less tiny sparkles. Super good quality, my personal favorite line of blushes (not just because they’re named after drugs, either). Has been branching out into lip color and nail polish, and various finishing powders. Also has some of the best prices in indie, if you decide to buy from MPZ, find the “Sets and Samples” page. You can get discounts on full sizes and samples, and she doesn’t care if you buy a shitload of samples. Another thing I love is that you can buy any shadow, however you want. Want one shade from a collection? You can buy it singly. Want more than 4 shadows? You can use the discounts on the Sets and Samples page, and buy any eye shadow. They also have good GWPs, at least one good-sized thing, and a few samples, often one full-sized thing and multiple samples.
Note: “Pretty Zombie Cosmetics” is not “My Pretty Zombie.” PZC opened long after MPZ was established. Someone asked the owner if they were concerned about taking business from MPZ that they’d earned with quality over time, and the owner said “I hope I do.” I don’t buy from assholes.
Notoriously Morbid ✪ – Tons of shadows, blushes, and lip products, all good. Not the best ever, but
good, reliable, and prettty.
Portland Black Lipstick Co. ♡✪ – Lip color only, but really good, and weird, lip colors.
Pumpkin & Poppy Cosmetics – Has a massive amount of variety of products for an indie, and I’ve tried most. Powder shadows are good, cream shadows are good (and have preservatives, thank god), all of their cream products are good. I haven’t tried their powder blushes, but if they’re the same quality as the shadows, they’re very good.
Saucebox Cosmetics ♡✪- All pressed shadows, more of a store to check a few times a year than anything, as they don’t carry much at once. Their Midnight Garden, Forbidden Fruit, and Creme De La Creme palettes are all discontinued, but all very very good, if you happen to stumble across one up for grabs. Apparently they’re selling refills of the Creme De La Creme palette. Temptations palette is good too, though of limited usage, and on sale right now. Haven’t tried the Etude palette, because I don’t need more neutrals. From what I hear, the Art Nouveau palette is just as good as the earlier palettes. I believe I have all of their single shadows, in one palette or another. Their pans are freaking huge, 4g, same as Sugarpill. $7 flat shipping is fucking steep though.
Scaredy-Cat Cosmetics ♡✪- Just eye shadows, and not the largest variety, but all very good, and you get enough of a given shade in a full-sized jar to last for freaking ever. Their Trial Vials are similarly insane, $1 each and you get more than any other indie sample I know of. I’m still working through Trial Vials from 2012. They also have a “Custom” option, where you can blend a shade and a glitter.
Shiro Cosmetics ♡✪- Gonna go ahead and give them the title of “best overall eye shadows.” Every company on this list is good, but most of them are great at one or two particular things and they stick with those things. Blushes, shadows, lip color. I have a couple of the Nic Cage lipglosses, which are more like liquid lipsticks than gloss. The quality is just through the roof. One of Shiro’s “High Scores,” called “i tried.” I wear constantly, use it with my Naked 3 palette to get a super-sparkly neutral eye.
Shiro also carries other brands, similar to Femme Fatale. Femme Fatale is one of the brands they carry, although they don’t have everything. VDisco is there, but lacking, and the only other brand I’ve tried is Detrivore ♡✪, which I also totally recommend. Detrivore is really good at soft-shimmer shadows, not many sparklebombs. She also has a formula that jams in a ton of pigment, without the quality or applicability being affected. Her “Embalming Tubes” lip balms are my favoritest lip balms ever, super moisturizing and delicious (I love the chai tea ones). Blushes are just as pigmented and high-quality as shadows.
Spectrum Cosmetics ♡✪ – A ton of basic shades, including very good mattes, at very affordable prices. I like that they offer full sizes in both 3g and 5g, as well, I wish everyone did that. They also sell nail polish, bath and body stuff, including scents, and lip products. I’ve tried a little of everything, it’s all good quality.
Star-Crushed Minerals ✪ – Another “good but not insanely great” shop, mostly sells gorgeous, not-very-complex colors.
Sugarpill Cosmetics ♡✪- You’ve probably heard of Sugarpill, but I’m putting them here anyway. Super good quality, does loose and pressed eyeshadows, I think maybe a blush or two. Some polishes I haven’t tried, and some of the most amazing re-usable false lashes ever. I just figured out false lashes a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been wearing my ridiculous Sugarpill ones because I can. Prices are high, but you receive large pans/jars, so by the gram they’re cheaper than about half the indies out there. If you’re getting a loose shade you’ll never use half of, split the cost and the shadow with someone else.
The Chequered Lily Apothecary ♡✪ – Absolutely gorgeous eye shadows. And an amazing formula. If not top-five, then definitely top-ten. Or top-seven. I have a bundle of samples but no full sizes (yet). Makes truly gorgeous “starter” shades.
Tick:Tock Cosmetics ♡✪ – Good quality, eyeshadows and the best bases I’ve ever tried (Infinity Eye Shadow Base). A lot of indie shadows look completely different over a black base, somewhat different (or at least more bright) over a white base. Average prices.
Madd Style Cosmetics ♡✪- One of the first indies I tried. I own waaay more MSC than any other one brand. They closed down D: No drama, the owner was just tired of it. Understandable (although I’m still 100% mad at her on one level, I want more pretties). Mentioning them solely because of the amount of trading/selling that goes on.
Moon Rabbit Cosmetics ✪- Another closed one that had very good products, worth keeping your eye out for if you trade or buy within the community.
Victorian Disco ♡✪ – One of the last indies I’ve tried. Fucking amazing product, but there were issues with packages being sent out on time. They’re technically open through Shiro, but there’s only two blushes for sale right now. I hope they make a return, but if not, there’s trading.
Recommended with Caution, Warnings
Aromaleigh Minerals V2 – It’s “Version 2” because they closed down for a while, re-evaluated everything, and relaunched. There was drama with Aromaleigh V1, but that was before my time. Hasn’t been any issues since the reboot, and they sell very pretty shadows, facial products, and lip products.
Black Rose Minerals ♡✪- Fucking amazingly gorgeous eye shadows, but unfortunately, they go over TAT. They do this A LOT. Shadows are amazing quality, definitely grab anything you like that’s being resold. Just be wary of ordering from them if you like your packages to arrive on time. Apparently they’re on hiatus anyway (hopefully to get things together).
Concrete Minerals ✪- Good shadows, occasional bad service. I personally had a bad time with my sole order from them, they’re one of the two bad experiences I’ve had. I waited past the stated TAT. I emailed. No answer. Emailed again two days later. No answer. Went and made noise on their public FB page. Got an email response. Told it was being mailed out, got a tracking number. Waited a couple of days because I know the PO can be slow, then emailed again. No answer. Went straight to FB page and fussed.
That got me another email, one in which I was told the PO had “held” multiple packages for insufficient postage.. In my experience, insufficient postage packages are mailed, and then person who receives them is expected to pay what’s owed.
I didn’t really mess with the shadows, once they finally got here, for over a year, because of the disappointment. I finally quit ignoring them because I’d paid for them, and discovered they’re actually really good. I’m almost out of Rocked, I’m glad it’s not especially difficult to dupe. I got a few regular shadows and a few of the Pro Mattes, both are very good. And most of the time, CM has not shipping issues. They just might, which I dislike.
There’s also the fact that the shadows are more pricey, because CM is one of the few companies that only has one size, and that size is a 10g jar. 5g is enough of almost any shadow to last forever, I’ve only used up a few 5gs, all of which I bought in 2012. You have to use it almost daily for about three years to use up a 5g. I split Rocked with someone, which is why I’m almost out. All the other shadows are mostly full. Which is nice, but there are equally nice mattes out there in 5g jars for less money. And most of the non-mattes are dupable.
I may break down some day and try another order from CM, but I’m also going to let it be known why I’m warning people.
Impulse Cosmetics – Lots of past issues with swatches not matching the shades received, at one point all of her lip “swatches” were the same pic, photoshopped to match whatever color. Also was touting “100% matte lipcolor,” when you actually had to buy an additional little jar of powder to mattify them. Hell with that, you can use most any finishing powder to mattify a lip color. It’s been awhile since they’ve had issues, I’ve not tried them, and some people are big fans, hence “warning” and not “BAD BAD BAD.”
Lime Crime ✪- History of bad products, photoshopped images, stolen images and other IP theft, be very wary.
Medusa’s Makeup – I’ve only tried a few of their pressed shadows, which are good quality. They’re on “Warning” because I simply don’t know that much about them.
Virus Insanity ✪ – This company is under “Warning” because, imo, they are misleading about the appearance of their duochromes. The non-duochromes are pretty spot-on, good quality, and pretty. The duochromes don’t have nearly as much shift as the average indie duochrome, or as much as the site implies. I bought some of their regular shadows from a friend who didn’t want them. Mostly neutrals. They were gorgeous and applied easily, so I bought a few more regular shadows, plus some of the tempting-looking duochromes from the store itself.
I was disappointed by the duochromes, to be honest. They do all have a ve a shift, but not likemost other indies. They also went over TAT with me, and as a bonus for waiting, they included one, single, damn, sample. They were only a couple days over TAT, and had a legitimate reason (illness in the family), I’m just used to indie shops that DROWN you in free product when they go over TAT.
So, basically, I wouldn’t buy any of their duochromes. Even if you like the shade in the picture and don’t want the shift, there are less expensive places to get dupes. If you want to get the “regular” shadows, they’re good, but not great. I’d advise going to the “sale” tab and getting the 5-shadows-for $20 deal, on principle.
BAD BAD BAD
Bitchslap Cosmetics – Complete disregard for their customer’s safety, and also for like, any shred of decency. They’re out for money. At one point, they were selling body-paint wheels as EYE SHADOW. Yeah, people’s eyes got messed up. Not permanently, but still too much. They also commit hell of IP theft and most of their stock is straight from AliBaba, marked up 1500% or more.
Crush Cosmetics – Idiots tried to make a cream shadow a few years ago without preservatives. That turned into a moldy hell, and they tried to blame the people who had purchased the cream shadows and then had them grow mold within a few weeks, by saying they must just be filthy. There was never an apology, or recognition of their mistakes, which to me, means they don’t give a shit if their makeup becomes a health hazard.
EightBitCosmetics – Numerous issues with batch consistency, bad enough that I think they’re one of the companies that just eyeball all the measurements. Formula issues too. Not worth messing with.
Geek Chic Cosmetics – Sanitation issues, thumbprints and cat hair in eye shadows, and rudeness forever.
Pretty Zombie Cosmetics – drama, asshole attitudes, blatant copycatting of other brands’ shades and palettes.
Mon Ennui ✪- Owner of this one is also a drama bomb, and definitely more untrustworthy. With LC, you’ll get what you ordered, even if it’s not the quality you were expecting. With ME, the owner will be posting on Facebook about how she needs more orders so she can pay the shipping for the last batch (and if you ask what happened to the shipping, you get blocked), and simultaneous posting on her Tumblr about the great new clothes she rented or bought. If you protest her holding orders hostage in an attempt to get more orders, you’re blocked. If you do anything at all besides kiss ass, you’re blocked. On top of which, her formula is craaaaaaap.
Pop Rox Cosmetics – Sanitation issues, plus a bunch of triflin’ drama when people want their orders.