Making Up The Magic-Safari Palette Ewa Bilinska
Posted in The Magic

Safari Palette Review – Back To Smoky

Another season, another palette. Another reason to buy… When something new and on the leading, bleeding, cutting edge comes out, I just have to add it to my pile. The world is just a big evolving pile of ideas and we are here to add to it, endlessly. So ’tis the season to be smoky, the classic way. For explanations read on.


Before the Modern Renaissance palette, there was Charlotte Tilbury (a makeup artist) she’s the original originator of the modern orangy-reddish smoky ( I have a few magazines from the early naughties, where she created her style to prove my case). And before doing her own line, she created the original Tom Ford palettes like Cocoa and Cognac (now discontinued). Those palettes trickled down to birth Modern Renaissance and pretty much every palette concept worth it’s Instagram salt: a warm crease colour, a pop of shimmer, and deep smoky shade.

A few Kevyn Aucoin classics to get us in the mood of the Safari Palette.
Use Shea, with a black cream liner and Aya on the lid to get the look.

But before that… YES there was a before… It was the classic smoky with taupe, grey and brown eyeshadows. It was a look perfected by Kevyn Aucoin, and I think he would have loved this palette. It’s hard to explain how it works, unless you’ve dabbled into some smoky palettes and made a few looks with minimal shimmer. There is a poetry to matte taupe’s, grey and brown shades. These colours can pull in any direction… By pull, I mean the taupe can pull to a pink tint, or a green tint or beige. A grey can pull blue, or orange, or pink. Shadowy browns can pull reddish, blue or mauve. A classic smoky is based on the subtle interplay of these undertones. That is what this palette is about!

Cindy Crawford by Kevyn, use Shea to line and Desert Date, and Tamarind.

 To get a blue-black, blend a hint or Fata Morgana to your black and blend out with some Dove and Lotus to get the upper lid effect. 

I don’t know how many people worked on this palette, but they obviously know colour and they understand how to pull apart colours and give them to you, so you can remix them as you wish. The Safari palette is a mixology base for any matte shade you could wish for, almost any… For example: the top row is dedicated to grey. You can blend the different shades together to get 50 shades of blue-grey, or taupe-grey, or dove-grey, depending on what shadows you blend together. 

Use shades like Amhara and Desert Date with Thorn to get this look

The “colourful” shades of the palette double as “pulling shades”. Take Lotus (a dusty pink) it looks deceptively like a pretty pastel pink, but if you mix it with a grey like Rhino or a taupe, it will pull pinkish while preserving the grey. Use Amhara (a warm pinkish terracotta ) to pull deeper grey’s to a pinker-warmer tone. Use Desert Date to add a peach undertone to browns and taupe’s. Add Tribe (a burnt orange) to Shea to make it pull reddish and create a Modern Renaissance type shade, or use it with Thorn to make it pull even warmer. Use Maasai to pull browns and taupes into cooler red/mauve tones. You can also use these colours on their own or to blend out deeper shades: they blend into fair/medium skintones really well.

Making Up The Magic-Safari Palette Ewa Bilinska

Then you can mix the other neutral shades together to get different variations. For example mix Tamarind (a pale ocher with a pink undertone) with Savanna ( a khaki taupe) to make it into a warm taupe-beige. Or Thorn with Savanna to get a taupe-red shade. Rhino with Masai to get a cool violet grey. The possibilities are endless for shading eyes. I used the palette on un-primed lids to get the smoky effect. The oil of the skin makes them less powdery. But you can lay them over a base and you will get a more true to pan colour… and a more powdery look! If you’re going to use this palette to create a base for a smoky look, then I would apply it directly on pale to medium skin tones. I did a wear test without primer and it lasted the 10 hours I wore it, and it stayed put–even on the bottom lids where it can get smudgy for me.

The standout shades to me are the browns. Thorn is a warm brown that pulls red-orange (it’s the only shade I have a dupe for: Filthy Rich by Buxom is pretty spot on, but a tad lighter). Shea is a perfectly balanced neutral brown. Voodoo is a cool violet-reddish-brown and Maasai can be used as a cool burgundy right on the edge of brown. When I compared them to similar shades I own, in my two main smoky palettes, I realized that these have no ashy/taupe undertone. They are pure colour. They are simply perfect because they add depth in a luminous way! Shea has to be the most well-balanced deep brown I own in powder form. And just to test how balanced it is, I swatched all the browns I own, and then some more at Sephora (Anastasia, looking at you). It’s a deep neutral brown ever so slightly warm and it photographs beautifully too, instead of a black to deepen the lash line.

These eyeshadows buildup slowly, that way you can layer them to get the right shade on the eyes. The blend is seamless and with a fluffy brush you will get a perfect gradient.

I also asked a Sephora cast member who had a medium deep skin tone to swatch them for me on her skin. The colours had a pastel effect, I think on deeper skintones the brown shades would be more like a taupe, and you would need a cream base to achieve something deeper. Ironically, they might appear more colourful on deeper skin tones.

Traditional smoky mattes ( M.A.C. shades) have a bit of shimmer because it looks less dry if you pack a lot. These will look dry, especially over a concealer base, so go lightly. I also think it’s missing a deep smoky green, I tried blending Fata Morgana with Tamarind, but I get a cool grey taupe and not enough green. Where are the greens? I can’t seem to find a good matte green from any brand… and I’m not talking about lime-green.

 These colours might look vibrant under that Sephora lighting, but they are muted and will look grey or taupe-y or brown when blended together, and…that’s the point!!! I checked on Instagram for swatches and I wouldn’t trust them. These colours are not bright at all, and you can’t make a Huda/Kim/Instagram starlet makeup with this palette alone. Use it to make a matte base and then apply all those shimmers and glitters and pops of colours and liner over it.
The Safari palette just might be the ultimate sexy-smoky eye companion for working makeup artists that need to do truly neutral eye looks. You can create multiple shades of brown, taupe and grey to suit all eyes, smoky styles, and skin tones within the medium-fair range. From applying it on myself, the result is more luminous and dimensional than traditional sooty, smoky eye-shadow formulas. The catch 22 is that, to fully appreciate this palette, you have to have already made a few monochrome smoky’s of your own. God Bless Natasha for bringing back some Kevyn Aucoin goodness.

Available at Sephora and Natasha Denona.

Making Up The Magic my smoky palettes Ewa BilinskaI photographed my two favorite smoky palettes in the same lighting conditions. Both are  discontinued, one is the Tarte Holiday set 2014 and the smaller is the Stila In The Know. You can see how you can create some colours by mixing and matching shades from the Safari Palette. My older palettes have that sooty quality that can turn into panda eyes or a muddy mess quickly. But with the safari palette, it’s easier to maintain a luminous quality when doing a classic smoky or when shading.