Zara Beauty review: Is this the best high street beauty launch yet?

From lipsticks to eyeshadows, we put the brand’s debut range through its paces

Ellie Fry@iEllieFry
Tuesday 11 May 2021 11:16
<p>We considered shade ranges, packaging, formulas and wearability </p>

We considered shade ranges, packaging, formulas and wearability

No longer the reserve of clothes, shoes and accessories, Zara is launching its first-ever comprehensive beauty collection, and it hasn’t held back.

Available online and in stores from 12 May, the Spanish fashion giant has joined forces with Diane Kendal – an international make-up artist renowned for her work on editorial campaigns and runway looks for the likes of Balenciaga, Tom Ford and Carolina Herrera – to design the range.

Boasting 130 colours, the debut line spans six lip formulas of varying finishes, a range of six-shade eyeshadow compacts, shadow duos, bronzers, blush palettes, highlighters, an eyeliner, six make-up brushes and a whopping 39 nail polishes.

The collection, simply named Zara Beauty, has been 18 months in the making and stays true to the retailer’s mid-range high street price points, with the new products ranging from £5.99 to £17.99.

But perhaps most impressively, Zara has managed to launch a colossal first collection with sustainability as a priority.

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As a fast-fashion brand, the latest launch by no means eradicates the work that Zara has yet to do to become sustainable more widely, but its beauty line is almost entirely refillable, with a few outliers being housed in recyclable glass packaging. All the formulas are vegan and free from silicones and mineral oils, too.

Bringing editorial looks to the high street in true Zara fashion, expect everything from azure blue eyeshadow to chocolate brown lipstick. Kendal said of the collection: “To have this breadth of colour and sense of playfulness, while also being clean and using high-quality ingredients, is something that hasn’t really existed before.” The minimalist white packaging is rather modern too – each compact and brush is slanted to reflect the “Z” in the brand’s name.

When high street fashion brands pivot into the make-up sphere, it can be hit or miss. While Zara’s collection seems well thought out and eco conscious, the products themselves need the efficacy and wearability to become a hit.

We got our hands on a selection of products from the launch to put them through their paces, judging shade ranges, packaging, formulas and the wider identity of the collection, to decide if it can cut through the noise as a new trailblazer in affordable beauty.

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Zara Beauty face colour in 1 refillable bronzer

Housed in a glossy compact, this bronzer rivals some of our favourite high-end formulas that cost twice as much. Available in four shades (we hope to see this expand) the powder is infused with a subtle shimmer that makes the skin look lifted rather than flat. It’s the perfect balance; matte enough to add definition without looking chalky, and with a hint of shimmer that adds dimension to the skin without being disco-ball-esque.

The colour pay-off is impressive (a little goes a long way, and you will experience a slight kick-back in the pan); it blends effortlessly (a characteristic that many affordable bronzers fail to achieve); and the shade we tried looked natural on the skin, imparting a subtle glow while warming up the complexion. With refills costing just £11.99, this has fast become one of our favourite bronzer formulas in the drugstore price bracket.

Zara Beauty cheek colour in 3 refillable cheek palette

Continuing the complexion theme, this palette is perfect for when you’re on the go. Featuring the same bronzer formula as above, it also includes a blush and a highlighter powder in pans that are reasonably sized considering the size of the compact. We tried the “impeccable touch” trio, the lightest offering of the three colourways, and found the blush to be a very close dupe for Nars’s orgasm shade – with the same iridescent flecks of gold shimmer and the cool-toned coral hue. 

Much like the bronzer, the blusher blended effortlessly with enough pigment for a rosy finish while being subtle enough to build. The highlighter is definitely on the more muted side, but if you’re scared of a full-blown sheen and want a subtle pearlescent finish, you’ll be impressed.

Zara Beauty ultimate refillable matte lipstick, original

We never expected to find our new favourite red lipstick at Zara, but this formula is quite revolutionary. Usually a red lipstick involves compromise: for long-lasting pigment that doesn’t budge, you often end up with a very drying formula; or you’ll use a more comfortable satin formula that smudges as soon as you walk out the door. Not with this one. A true blue-toned red, the balance of colour pay-off and comfort on the lips is a real marvel. It imparts a beautifully bold pigment and looks velvety smooth on the lips without any bleeding around the edges, but doesn’t feel drying either.

The definition of a comfortable matte, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t dry down completely, so you may want to blot it, but it lasts brilliantly and doesn’t smudge throughout the day. There’s plenty of other colours to snap up in this formula and, with refills costing just £6.99, we’ll be stocking up. The lipstick compact has that wonderfully satisfying magnetic lock that’s typically associated with higher-end products, too.

Zara Beauty cult satin refillable satin lipstick, pretty bizarre

Can’t hack a matte finish, no matter how comfortable? Zara’s range caters to you satin lovers too. Much like its clothing line, the brand has thought outside the box with its shade offering and we love this rich, warm-toned purple that transcends seasons. The formula feels cushiony on the lips without being too glossy and lasts surprisingly well for a satin; we didn’t have to top up until lunchtime. The hydrating formula feels comfortable to wear and doesn’t compromise on colour pay-off – one swipe is enough for serious coverage.

Our only bugbear is the shape of the lipstick bullet itself: it’s quite wide, which makes it challenging to hug the contours of your lip shape, but with a bit of extra patience we got there. At this price, it’s a small complaint.

Zara Beauty eye colour in 6 refillable eyeshadow palette

The eyeshadow offering is where Zara Beauty has really pushed the creative boundaries, particularly for a debut launch. There are five colour stories to choose from, with these eyeshadow palettes, with some being more unusual and contrasting than others. Grey shimmers have been paired with hot apricots in the “till dawn” palette, for example.

But we tried the “clash out” compact, packed with a myriad of purples and golds. The shimmers are more muted on the eye than in the compact, with a creamy finish that looks iridescent and slightly opaque; but this plays into the editorial-turned-accessible feel of the whole line. The shadows blended well and the yellow gold stayed pigmented on the eye all day. These are great for anyone who feels daunted by colour but wants to give it a try, as they are very easy to work with.

Zara Beauty stiletto refillable demi matte lipstick

Out of the three we tired, this lipstick formula was our least favourite – but we’re really splitting hairs here. Dubbed a “demi matte” finish, we’d say this look and feels far closer to a satin than a matte, and delivers a sheer wash of colour that makes the lips appear pillowy and plump. Unlike the other lipstick formulas, this one has a crayon-eseque scent that is slightly off-putting, but we loved the thin shape of the bullet as it made the lipstick incredibly easy to apply.

The formula feels weightless on the lips, and the “nude premiere” shade is that perfect, your-lips-but-better pinky nude. If you’re looking for a stronger colour pay-off, you can build this serum-like formula on the lips but it’s the best choice for those looking for a natural sheen.

The verdict: Zara Beauty

To be frank, we’ve never been so impressed with a high street beauty launch. Defying all the stereotypes of a fashion brand that enters the make-up market, Zara Beauty is a conscious, comprehensive collection that feels achingly cool with its millennial packaging and daring colour stories. The decision to employ Dianne Kendal’s creative direction shows that Zara knows it’s not a make-up-first brand, but wanted to get it right, and it’s a move that’s paid off in spades.

There’s truly something for everyone in this collection, and its sustainability goals feel refreshingly well intended, not to mention well priced. With a concealer and mascara formula currently in production, we can’t wait to see what Zara Beauty reveals next.

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