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Makeup by Natasha Denona.
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Sephora Can't Keep This $200 Eyeshadow Palette in Stock

Natasha Denona doesn't embrace Instagram, but her palettes are there anyway.

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The Natasha Denona 28 Eyeshadow Palette costs $239. Created by the Tel Aviv-based makeup artist of the same name, the palettes aren’t just pricey, they’re popular. Her Sunset Palette, which costs $129, has been selling out at retailers like Sephora in under an hour, and the buzz around her Lila Palette, dropping at the same price on September 12th, has already garnered serious buzz. Why?

At first glance, the textures, colors, and pigments are gorgeous, but that doesn’t explain what could make a single product worth four of the Huda Beauty Rose Gold shadow palettes or five of the brand-new Urban Decay Naked Heat palettes. To understand why the shades retail for so much — and why makeup collectors can’t get enough — you need to understand not only Denona and her background, but also how her shadows’ texture, quality, and pan size make her palettes a makeup artist’s dream (and also user friendly).

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Born in Croatia and later settling down in Tel Aviv, Natasha Denona has been a force in the beauty world, even if you haven’t heard her name before. She’s been a makeup artist for almost two decades, working on everything from artistic shoots to straight-up celebrity red carpet looks. She’s reportedly Bar Refaeli’s personal makeup artist, and has in fact worked on many of her shoots. (Refaeli’s reps did not return our request for comment, but Denona’s marketing materials state she has spent “15 years as the personal makeup artist to Bar Refaeli.”)

Nils Johnson, owner of Beautylish.com, confirmed that Denona does work regularly with Refaeli — as does Beautylish. The site, known for its tight-knit community of avid makeup artists and junkies alike who leave detailed reviews akin to those on r/MakeupAddiction, is just one of three retailers to carry Natasha Denona Makeup: British site BeautyBay.com offers her products, along with Sephora.com and select Sephora locations.

Initially, Natasha Denona only made products for the students who attended her Tel Aviv-based namesake makeup academy, which opened in 2002. It wasn’t until 2015 that she decided to launch her own line. And although her products have been at Sephora since the end of 2015 — which you could arguably call her entrance into popular beauty vernacular — they first arrived to little fanfare.

But the buzz came this summer when she released her Sunset Eye Shadow Palette, at the cost of $129. The palette sold out in less than an hour. “I was fully shocked,” Denona tells Racked, “so I called Sephora to check it. Five minutes later, I got a ‘Yes,’ that it had indeed sold out.”

Beautylish experienced something similar. The day before the palette dropped, the site sent out a notification to Natasha Denona fans who had requested one, reminding them of the price and time of launch and offering a few words on Denona’s signature formulation.

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“[The Sunset Palette] contains 15 new shades in Natasha’s signature eye shadow formula that are ultra-blendable and packed with pigments for an amazing payoff,” the notification read. The site also included a shot of swatches that were swoon-inducing for any makeup fan, pro or amateur alike, priming their customer base even more.

The following morning, May 12th, Beautylish sent an official email to all of its customers letting them know the Sunset Palette was available, with no mention of timing. Later that day, a rather personal email came through with Johnson apologizing for an early release of the palette. Apparently, many loyal customers who’d been waiting for the palette to drop on time logged on to only discover it had sold out. In the letter, Johnson wrote that he didn’t “want to get into the details of why it released early the decision was mine and a mistake [sic].”

Seemingly, Johnson had far more demand than supply — interesting for a relatively under-the-radar but quite expensive makeup brand.

The Sunset Palette has been sold out ever since. Shannon Soyad, a brand experience coordinator for Natasha Denona in New York (and Denona-trained makeup artist), told Racked that “nine out of every 10 questions I get are [about] when the Sunset Palette is going to be back in stock.” Denona has promised to make the product permanent, though no restocking date is available as of press time.

The Sunset Palette was Denona’s first taste of what happens when social media buzzes. Thanks to its on-trend hues and limited inventory, it was a marked departure from her previous launches, including the nearly-$300 28-pan shadow palettes she sells in two color variants. But the Sunset Palette also spawned legions of almost identical copycats, including the Yes Please Palette from ColourPop and the Sephora PRO Collection Warm Palette, which is still available for $68.

Denona and her small team haven’t delved deeper into the digital waters — to great effect. Although her work is flawless — not entirely unlike the “Instagram makeup” aesthetic — her lack of emphasis on social media leads to legions of fans authentically gushing about her product. However, the young brand is likely experiencing stocking snafus — or lacks adequate stock entirely, as was the case at several Sephora locations I visited, which never even received all of the Denona SKUs.

Several Sephora artists raved to Racked about Denona’s eyeshadows, citing their unparalleled pigment, creaminess, and color payoff. Likewise, celebrity makeup artists I spoke with said the same, though they had limited experience playing with her product. The artists were seriously impressed with the nuanced differences between shadow textures — think metallic versus duo-chromatic versus glitter. What’s more, when I dragged a makeup-artist pal to a Sephora location, she couldn’t believe at how overswatched the palette at the store had been, a sign of high demand (or at least interest). Plus, it’s not like the packaging is millennial pink, like KKW and the just-dropped Fenty Beauty collection, or covered in glitter; rather, it’s sleek, simple, and not made to be shot in a flat lay, but instead to fit into someone’s kit and be used. (I’m still waiting on that millennial mint moment to arrive, although Denona hinted at an upcoming mermaid-themed palette, along with some new lip products, during a Sephora Live Chat.)

It’s easy to wonder what the hell that price tag was all about. It seems implausible at first glance: It’s just eyeshadow, right? You could argue that prestige brands offer high-price palettes as well, but none of them garnered the same stop-and-gasp reaction as Denona’s has. “Everyone complained ‘It’s so expensive,’” she admits, but she remains unfazed by the common response.

I’d heard complaints across the internet, too, but for every fan asking why her palettes cost so much more, there were at least two makeup artists immediately pushing its quality, large pan size, and pigment payoff, almost as if they were employed by Denona. (Spoiler: They were not.)

“I didn’t expect everyday women or beauty junkies to want or like [the palettes],” Denona says. “But artists understand the price — it's the quality, it's for the artist who uses it. I didn’t care about the price to manufacture it, [the makeup is not even priced at] that big of a margin, it’s so expensive. I’m doing what I believe in. I don't look at others, I really have my own ideas and concepts.”

While her 5-Pan Palettes are her best sellers, it’s the big guys, like the Star Palette and the two 28-pans, along with her 10-pan options, that have her creativity and artistry front of mind. Draw a line in any given row (think: three up, three across, not unlike tic-tac-toe) and it’s clear that Denona has thought this through, with each pair or trio seamlessly working together. Go ahead and swatch one of her palettes for yourself and see. The artistry is brilliant.

And there’s even more reason to justify the steep price tag: Her shadow ingredients list high in mica, calcium sodium borosilicate, and dimethicone, all expensive compounds, according to Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist in New Jersey. Like most other shadows, the main ingredient is talc, but Italian talc is different, King explains: “It’s a jet-milled talc, which gives shadows a creamier texture.” Denona’s makeup is manufactured in Italy, home to the highest-quality factories.

Italy is where the vastly differently textured shadows came from in the first place, explains King: “They revolutionized the whole baked, embossed, or debossed” trend of texturizing shadows, of which Denona’s are the new gold standard, perhaps — she currently has eight different shadow textures, including metallic, sparkling, matte, and duo-chrome. Likewise, the jet-milled talc is more transparent, which provides authentic color payoff, eliminating the need for the base many highly pigmented shadows require to show up like they look in the pan, explains King.

Adding to the price is the use of dimethicone, as King notes, a common skincare ingredient to help cushion and hydrate, and quite a bit of mica, which a Sephora artist will tell you are crushed pearls. (He or she wouldn’t be entirely incorrect, as mica is a glimmering pearlescent mineral compound in pearls, but isn’t pearl itself.)

When one celebrity makeup artist dropped by to swatch the shadows, he was not only impressed by their pigmentation, but also at how quickly Denona’s brand exploded. Supply, he notes, could not meet demand, especially with the social buzz. He believes it was the lack of supply that made the Sunset Palette such a smash success, resulting in classic limited-edition FOMO alongside rave reviews.

So maybe it’s not even the anti-Instagram approach that’s granted Denona such success, but the legitimate quality of her shadows and the artists and fans who fawn over them. And it’s the rabid fanbase, on social media or otherwise, that has inevitably altered her approach, and perhaps led the way for the buzzy Lila palette, set to drop September 12th. “All my products will always be oriented to professionals and also to everyday life, always,” Denona says. “Both words need each other.”

And since her shadows deliver on their promises — and then some — many makeup artists are quick to say the palettes are worth the investment. “It’s really only like $10 a shadow if you think about it,” one makeup artist says. Considering her mono shadows are sold at $22 each, that’s a steal — a really blendable, pigmented one.

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