ABH Subculture Palette Review

I’m a bit late to the review and swatch party for the new Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture Palette, but I’m finally ready to share my thoughts. I’m sure most of you have already read a lot of the reviews on this palette and chances are that most of them have been pretty negative. There’s quite a bit of controversy regarding the pigmentation, blendability and just overall mess this palette creates. So the drama is real with this one.

IMG_2691Usually when I want to review a new product launch, I’ll actively avoid reading or watching what other people are saying about it. I like forming my own opinion on things and don’t want my thoughts to be swayed because of what someone else may have said. However, taking this approach with the launch of the Subculture palette has been quite hard. Everywhere I look someone on YouTube or in a blog has something to say about these shadows.

Just to jump right in, I want to quickly talk about the packaging of this palette. It’s very similar to the packaging for ABH’s Modern Renaissance Palette. The outside of the compact is a turquoise soft velvet, with “Subculture” written in a bold mustard yellow. I know this kind of packaging isn’t for everyone because the velvet has a tendency to collect lint and make-up. But I personally like the look of it and think the velvet makes the palette feel a bit more expensive. The actual structure of the compact is made of a thick cardboard. Again, not everyone’s favourite and I can understand why. For $55 CAD. I would like to see something a bit more high-end or lux than just cardboard. On the plus side, however, I will say is that the packaging is quite sturdy, for cardboard anyways, and is light for travel.


This palette contains 14 eyeshadow pans (3 metallic and 11 matte shades), a decent sized mirror, and a duel-ended eyeshadow brush. In terms of product amount, each pan contains 0.02 oz of shadow, which totals 0.28 oz of product for the entire palette. The pan sizes and product amount are also consistent with that of the Modern Renaissance palette.fullsizeoutput_8be

The one negative I want to mention at this point, is how sloppy the shadows are
pressed. I’m not sure if this is something everyone who owns this palette will experience, but the shadows in my palette definitely have some gaps between the shadow and the pan. I’ve also noticed that other pans have some major overhang of shadow from where the press and the pan did not align properly. Aside from messy ascetics, these things typically wouldn’t be an issue for me. However, the overhang of shadow in the Subculture palette tends to crumble and flake off from time to time  during use, leaving a bit of a mess on my clothes and carpet.

Before we get into swatches, I want to quickly talk about the ingredients used in this palette. I think it’s worth mentioning because what’s in the shadow will ultimately determine how it’s going to preform and affect more sensitive skin types. One of the first
things I notice is that the main ingredient is talc. Let me just start by saying that I can understand why a lot of companies tend to use talc, especially in eyeshadows and
powders. It’s a cheaper ingredient that absorbs moisture, smooths or softens products, prevents caking, and can give make-up more opacity. But what I think most people don’t realize is that talc is not great for the skin. It’s been known to cause irritation, clog pores IMG_2724and can contribute to break-outs. For more mature skin, talc can also intensify the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and creping. In comparison, the Modern Renaissance palette is talc free and contains mica as its first and main ingredient. Based on my own research, mica has a more reflective property, giving powders a shimmery effect, and is generally considered a more natural and safe cosmetic ingredient. In saying that, I think it’s only fair to mention that Modern Renaissance does contain a few more shimmery shadows than Subculture and could be the reason ABH chose mica over talc for that palette. Regardless, I’m not super jazzed about the high concentration of talc in Subculture.

Alright, who’s ready to talk swatches?! I’ll just kick this off by saying that the array of colours is easily my favourite part of this palette. I think ABH did a great job with selecting a mix of neutral, dark and bright shades to create a fairly well-rounded palette. I really love how well all of the colours go together and compliment one another, making it easy to select a couple of shades for a put together look. I also think that while some shades are in the same colour family, no two shades are the same. I also like that they didn’t overdue it with too many foiled metallic shadows. I find that palettes with a crazy amount of metallic shadows don’t allow me to create everyday work-appropriate looks the way that palettes with more mattes shades do.

subculture combine swatch

When I first swatched this palette, one of the first things I noticed was how soft the shadows were. It’s almost like the shadows were not pressed into the pans firmly enough or like ABH didn’t use enough of a binding agent to hold them together. This is not to say that the shadows are dry or chalky, because for the most part they aren’t. In my opinion, the majority of them are quite the opposite and have a smooth, creamy texture to them.

Can we also just take a minute to talk about how insanely pigmented these shadows are?! My goodness! Even with finger swatches, a little goes a very long way! I have to say that I think there is some truth to those reviews that say this palette is pigmented to a fault. There is definitely such a thing as “too pigmented” and this palette sadly falls into fullsizeoutput_8bfthat trap. I found that I couldn’t use the Subculture shadows in the same way that I’ve used others. Swirling my brush in the pans as i normally would results in a lot of colour that is almost impossible to blend without things getting pretty crazy. Even after a few weeks of using this palette, I still find myself blending tirelessly in an effort to tone down and diffuse the bold pigment. So ladies and gents, do yourself a massive favour and use a super light hand with this one. You’ll be grateful that you did!

The extreme pigment of these shadows can also cause some of the colours to turn muddy. There are some shades that would look beautiful together but instead end up turning muddy as I try to blend them together. I think the shadows are so pigmented that they just overpower each other and fuse together into one ugly shade.

As I was doing swatches, I also noticed that a couple of the shadows stained my skin slightly. This happened the worst with Axis, which isn’t surprising since it is such a bold and intense shade of blue. Staining also happened with All Star and Untamed but not as bad. This likely has a lot to do with how fair my skin is, but I thought I would mention it for all the other fair skinned beauties out there.

Now comes the hard part. We need to talk fallout, and it isn’t going to be pretty. Sadly, the rumours are true. The shadows in this palette produce quite a bit of kick back and there really isn’t a lot you can do to avoid it. I can’t say that I’m surprised. I find that most products containing a lot of pigment suffer from fallout syndrome. Although, I have to admit that these shadows take it to another level.


Even when I consciously used a lighter hand, I found myself still battling some pretty major fallout. Eyeshadow literally gets EVERYWHERE. I’ve tried different application methods with little success. I’ve just come to accept that using these shadows means I’ll have to do a bit of under eye clean up, especially when using the darker shades.

I also think that some shadows produce more kick back than others. For me, Dawn is one of the worst offenders in this regard. You can see from the photo above that the fallout is on a SERIOUS level. Since I mainly use this shadow as a transition shade, I have to be really careful with how much pigment my brush is picking up. Axis is another shade that kicks up quite a bit in the pan. I’m extremely careful with this one. Not only will the fallout coat your brush with a lot of pigment and ruin your look, it will also get everywhere! Believe me when I say that blue eyeshadow is one of the worst things to get out of clothes, carpet and blonde hair.

I hate that I’m about to mention this, but I also think that the brush that is included in the Subculture palette doesn’t help with the crazy fallout of the shadows. I actually really love the brushes that ABH includes in their palette. I think they do a really good job with applying and blending shadow. The problem is that the Subculture shadows are so soft and already produce so much fallout on their own, that using a fluffy courser brush like the one they include in the palette is going to just produce more fallout.


There are some reviews that mention hitting pan upon first use. Some people believe that this is due to the softness and kick back of shadow, while others think that those reviewers are just using a heavy hand and need to be more careful. I’m not really here to comment one way or the other on that. What I will say is that this palette does come with its cautions, so do your homework before running out to purchase this.

So what’s my final verdict? Well, I can totally understand why people are throwing shade at this palette. I admit, the shadows are tough to work with. Using a super light hand feels really unnatural and the blending time needed to make these shadows look decent is a bit much. But I am a big believer in making things work and these shadows can work if you put in the effort. I will even go as far to say that some of the shades in this palette have made their way into my regular rotation. Make-up is super personal, so you just need to find out what works for you.

Product Overview:

  • Brand: Anastasia Beverly Hills
  • Price: $55 CAD.
  • Living Blonde Rating: cropped-lb-site-icon.png cropped-lb-site-icon.png cropped-lb-site-icon.png