e.l.f. Back To School Beauty Books 2010 {Review}

Pros: Several great shades, some colours have good saturation
Cons: Book format incompatible with small purses, cheap packaging, loose and powdery consistency, excessive fallout, lacks good selection of matte shades, excessive glitter

In my last post, I wrote on (finally) finding e.l.f. at an Iowan Target during my recent vacation trip. While there, I discovered a half empty, aisle end cap display touting an e.l.f. limited edition “Back To School” promotion. I waffled, but didn’t buy any Beauty Books or the Mini Makeup Collection (renamed the 27 Piece Starter Palette, specially priced at $10 USD instead of the usual $15 USD).

There were displays for four different Beauty Books: three eye and one lip edition (one of the eye editions had already sold out). The books are the Smoky Eye Edition, Neutral Eye Edition, Eye Brights Edition, and Lip Edition.

I’m not a fan of e.l.f.’s palette lip products, and I didn’t see anything special about the Smoky Eye Edition, so those two were easy to put back, but I was impressed with the Eye Brights Edition. I figured I might try it if I came across the palette later.

Once I arrived back home, I did some interwebs searching and found many of the new promotional products had been added to the Target website. When I searched for local Targets that carried e.l.f., one of my local Targets popped up (another claimed the products were out of stock, but I find it more likely they didn’t carry anything in the first place). My local Target currently only carries the Back To School products—no budget or Studio products. I’m still upset about that, but maybe the Cedar Rapids Targets will get the hint that people do like e.l.f.

Anyhow, I found all four Beauty Books in stock. I made up my mind to get the Eye Brights Edition because some of the shades, including a green colour, looked gorgeous. The Neutral Eye Edition, previously unavailable at the Waterloo Target, was too pretty to put back, filled with browns and pinks. It’s no wonder the palette had already sold out at the other store.

Product Concept

Each “Beauty Book” contains twelve different shades, a mini pencil liner and applicator. As mentioned earlier, this season’s book–or encyclopedias–collection consists of four different sets: Neutral Eye Edition, Smoky Eye Edition, Eye Brights Edition, and the Lip Edition.

After comparing the Beauty Encyclopedias with the Back To School Beauty Books, I’ve discovered that the latter are almost identical to the former. The main difference, besides the covers, is the inclusion of a mirror at the top of each “book” that comes at the cost of actual product.

Click on the images below to compare the original Beauty Encyclopedias with the re-released Beauty Books.


I’ll be blunt. I don’t like the palette format. And I don’t like get the e.l.f. “book/encyclopedia” concept. Plus they’re bulky. I purposefully didn’t buy the original Beauty Encyclopedias Target sold during the 2009 Holiday promotion because of my dislike for the format. Just thought I’d mentioned my bias up front.

Front and rear covers of the e.l.f. Beauty Books:
Neutral Eye and Eye Brights Editions

Like the previous elf Beauty Encyclopedias, the palettes are presented in faux book format. Though not particularly sleek, I find it an improvement on the original Beauty Encyclopedia design. Each Beauty Book has their individual colour and resemble a wire-bound notebook, complete with faux scraps of paper and product photos attached with faux paper clips. The front lists the the brand, name of palette and a fairly accurate photo representation of the palette. The back of the palette has a short description and ingredient listing.

e.l.f. Beauty Book – Neutral Eye Edition.
Note the clear plastic flap over the palette.

The inside of the Beauty Book is magnetized, so no worries about the book flying open at inopportune moments (but keep away from the CPU). There is a transparent, plastic flap that covers the entire palette when not in use to keep the sparkles (mostly) in their place. The clear dots that seal the plastic flap to the palette while on the Target floor display are not easy to remove and leave behind a very sticky residue. The flap will stick to the inside front cover and remove parts of the paper over time. _(=_=)_

The inside of the front cover demonstrates one (very detailed) method to apply eyeshadow. I’m dubious one could pull off this look with only the included double-tipped sponge applicator.

The paper/cardboard packaging is a little low quality. Plastic may be better, but would surely raise the price. However, the overall kit and caboodle feels sturdy enough. I haven’t dropped either of my Beauty Books (yet), so I don’t know what will happen to the pressed powder. Some will undoubtedly crack and/or break. I assume the lip gloss would be just fine in such a situation.


Each spot holds a fair amount of pressed powder product, especially for the price. Compare the amount of shadow in this palette for $5, then compare it to the Brightening Eye Color for $1.

I’m getting tired of mentioning this, but the shadows are very powdery. The metallic shades with chunkier glitter are particularly loose and soft. I wonder why. It doesn’t have anything to do with the lack of a quality vegan pressing medium (I’ve used plenty of high end vegan shadows and not had this problem), so it must be involved with e.l.f.’s price control.

Back To School Beauty Book: Neutral Eye Edition

Simply put, this is a great palette. The shades are gorgeous and all but one work with my skintone (the copper shade, second from the left on the bottom row). They run the full gamut of colours from beige, pink, brown with purple undertones, gold, and dark brown. Also included is a mini pencil eyeliner in Brown. This palette was originally sold as the Beauty Encyclopedia – Basic Eye Edition.

Something to consider. Almost every shadow is pearl or shimmer (the two darkest shades may be shimmer as well, it’s difficult to tell for sure, but I consider them matte). The metallic shades tend to have larger metal flakes that hinder the powder from adhering to itself. Due to this, a few of the metallic shades feel “creamy”.

In the end, I still recommend this palette. I think the colours could work for most skintones and it’s a good value, even with all of the product’s drawbacks.

On a side note, I’ve been debating as to whether I should buy the recently released Vegan Palette by Urban Decay. I’m ecstatic Urban Decay finally released a vegan-friendly palette, but I’m not feeling colours. The browns are a little weird and I don’t want yet another teal. The e.l.f. Beauty Book – Neutral Eye Edition is what I would love to see in an idealized Urban Decay vegan palette (I don’t think it will happen).

Back To School Beauty Book: Eye Brights Edition

Kind of an odd name since some of these shades are fairly dark. I’m glad I bought the Neutral Eye Edition, because I would have had a very different view of the Beauty Book line if I hadn’t. This palette features a wide variety of shades, including green, teal, grey, white, brown, purple, and black. The included mini eyeliner pencil is Black.

This set was originally released as the Beauty Encyclopedia: Sparkle Eye Edition, with two additional cream shadows—looks like a pink and beige.

As the original name states, every single shade contains glitter. The big, obvious, chunky kind. In itself, that’s not so bad. What’s bad is the awful consistency of nearly every shade. The glitter appears to restrict the shadows from properly adhering to themselves, resulting in a very, very loose powder with lots of fallout. Some of the eyeshadow can be worked around. Others cannot.

For example, the lightest color in the top left corner looks a lovely snow white, but tuns out to be the worst powder eyeshadow I’ve ever had the misfortune of trying. I don’t say this lightly and I don’t intend to be sensational. It appears to have white glitter in a white base, but I can barely get base to colour to show on my skin, even for swatches. When I first tried it as a brow highlighter a few days ago, all I could see was white sparkly flakes everywhere. It’s the first time I felt like a disco ball. I honestly don’t see how someone would wear this shade for anything but parties and Halloween. Unfortunately, the adjacent tan shade to the right is nearly an egregious offender as the white, only the sparkle isn’t as terrible and the base colour shows up a little on my skin.

Not all of the shades are terrible. The green, teal and the two bottom purples apply well. The black, despite the glitter, is good. I am particularly fond of the dark brown on the far right of the middle row.

This palette will surely appeal to the Sugar Kiss crowd.
Edit: looks like the Sugar Kiss product line has been removed completely from the e.l.f. site.

Final Thoughts

Of the two Beauty Books I bought, I say go for the Neutral Eye Edition and skip the Eye Brights Edition, unless you see a shade you absolutely can’t live without.

While I have admittedly not tried the Beauty Encyclopedias, I contend they are a better deal because you get two additional (large) products for the same cost. I already carry a mirror with me, so I don’t need another in the palette. I’d much rather have another row of product.

I did take another gander at the two palettes that I didn’t purchase—the Smokey Eye Edition and Lip Edition—and I still stick by my decision. First, I just don’t like the shades in the Lip Edition. They’re all weird and muddy. If I did decide to get a lip palette, I’d rather get the Beauty Encyclopedia – Lip Edition instead to have the additional glosses. Second, the Smoky Eye Edition is not appropriately named. While searching teh Interwebs, I discovered that the palette originally launched as the Beauty Encyclopedia: Everyday Eye Set. The actual Neutral Eye Edition should have been called something like the Dramatic Eye Edition.

A Product Suggestion from Fantasyland

I think it would be really neat to have an all blush Beauty Book/Encyclopedia featuring about 6-8 shades. Even better is an all-inclusive face palette containing concealer, face powder, blush, bronzer, eyeshadow and lip gloss. There could be a line of four different skintones.

If that doesn’t work, there could be cool, neutral and warm face editions featuring only eyeshadow, blush, bronzer and lip gloss. Like the Mini Makeup Collection, but in book form, and three options for skintones.

I discovered a Beauty Encyclopedia: Face Edition, but it only four shimmer creams (e.l.f. Studio Shimmer Palette?), four cream concealers, and a blush/bronzer combo (e.l.f. Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder?), not the full face palette I’d want.