How does the relaunched Bench Beauty line fare IRL?
It took us approximately one lunch meeting and eighteen months to produce this story.
A little context: After a particularly satisfying lunch at BENCH Cafe two Junes ago, our team took a stroll through Bench’s High Street branch to do as window shoppers do. We picked up articles of clothing and pressed them against our bodies, mumbling a non-committal “Hmm, that’s cute.” We looked through the shelves of fragrances crafted with celebrity opinion, leaving no inch of wrist and neck unspritzed. We swatched and smeared and reacquainted ourselves with their makeup line and the OG prettywhenpinched tint that used to live in everyone’s makeup bags when they were still called kikay kits—and that’s when things got interesting.
We all collectively agreed that whenever we’d need a quick fix for a lipstick left at home or a particularly pale-looking beat, hitting up a Bench branch was far from our first thought. But if the twenty-something swatches on our forearms and the products we purchased that afternoon were any indication, that was something worth reconsidering.
Eager to spotlight local beauty and send our readers down the same spiral we were on, we sent out emails that same week to propose a collaboration between Bench and Wonder—only to find out that the brand had something even better in the works.
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Fast forward to 2019 and the public saw the relaunch of Bench Beauty. With a campaign fronted by fresh-faced gals and packaging that lives up to the minimalist aesthetic we all covet, to say that we were eager to finally get this feature on the road would be an understatement.
Ahead, my fellow beauty gal Elisa and I test out full faces’ worth of Bench Beauty products. From skin to brows to lips, read our full, unabridged opinions on all the products we tested ahead.
Oily-combination skin type, medium complexion
I can’t think of a good enough metaphor to illustrate what I’m trying to say, so I’m just going to go ahead and put it out there: I can’t, for the life of me, contour and highlight. As someone with a very round face and cheeks that just won’t quit, I know for a fact that I could use a little chiseling. But as much as I’d like to sport a defined jawline and coax my cheekbones out of their lifelong shyness (I know they’re in there somewhere!), all my previous attempts to contour and highlight have ended up less than successful.
Thankfully, none other than Nam Vo, queen supreme of highlighting and dewy finishes, came to my rescue. During Bench Beauty’s launch event a couple of weeks back, Nam showed us how to use the brand’s creamy Highlighter and Contour Sticks––proving that even contour noobs like me could get the job done. Inspired to get my hands and brushes dirty, I built a look around a subtle highlight and contour the way Nam taught us to.
Here’s a dive into the products I used—and how I found each of them.
Base: CC Cushion + Finishing Powder
While some achieve their dewy-not-greasy looks with highlighter, my default modus operandi is by steering clear of matte base makeup. As someone who takes her fair share of makeup inspo from the K-beauty world, I tend to prefer a soft, satiny luster over the zero-shine, anti-humidity shield that many a Filipino appreciates. It’s safe to say I had my apprehensions knowing Bench’s CC Cushion (P599) was a no-nonsense, matte-to-the-moon-and-back product, but I went for the plunge and was rewarded handsomely for my bravery.
Bench’s CC Cushion makes a firm case for stay-all-day, moisturized matteness. While the sponge picks up a generous amount of product with each press, it’s lightweight enough to blend without any sort of struggle involved. While I’d been gifted the CC Cushion in the shade Fair, I found it a little too pale for my liking. Thankfully, a light dusting of the loose Finishing Powder in Natural Beige (P159) on my T-zone did the trick, locking the product in place and bringing it closer to my natural color.
By the end of the day, I was delighted to find that my base makeup hadn’t shifted around to reveal the redness and burgeoning breakouts. Instead, it sat nice and pretty and had given way to a natural soft dewiness thanks to my skin’s tendency to produce oil ever so generously.
Cheeks: Cheek & Lip Tint Prettywhenpinched
While Bench Beauty’s rebooted debut collection doesn’t have any actual blush, the reworked Cheek & Lip Tint (P159) fills the void and does it well. Prettywhenpinched is easily the product that people remember most from Bench’s original makeup line and there’s a pretty convincing list of reasons why.
First off, the price. Saturated, Benetint-sized goodness for 159 bucks? No complaints.
Second, the pigment. While everything I put on my face put up a good fight throughout a nine-hour workday, the tint was the one thing that didn’t fade or call for reapplication.
Third, the shade range. While Bench definitely has work to do when it comes to their skin makeup shades, the Cheek & Lip Tint comes in four distinct colors: bright orangeish Scarlet, vivid Cranberry, classic magenta Pink and a wine-like Red, which is what I used for this look.
Dimension: Contour Stick + Highlighter
Is it too early to say I’m a convert? Take it from someone who has hidden from contour sticks and bronzing powders for long enough: Bench’s handy sticks make the entire face-chiseling, dew-depositing process so easy.
I started off with the Contour Stick (P199), which I applied along the hollows of my cheeks (or where they would be if I had them), down my jaw and by the edges of my forehead in little, baby strokes. Call it love at first swipe: the formulation was gorgeously creamy, and it applied nice and smooth and dreamy. The color was surprisingly neutral, too; I might not contour often, but I do know that reddish undertones are a no-no all across the board. While the sticks conveniently come with sponges at the bottom, I took Nam Vo’s advice and secured a dense oval blending brush to work the product into my face in the hopes of looking like a burnt piece of toast: warm and toasty at the edges, with brightness spilling from the center.
I finished by adding a little dimension with the Highlighter Stick (P199), smearing the unique, warm silver color on the tops of my now-visible cheekbones and the bridge of my nose with my finger.
Brows: Eyebrow Pencil
When it comes to assessing brow pencils, I’ve learned to pay immediate attention to four things: the shape of the tip, application, color payoff and wear. When a brow pencil manages to check all those boxes, there’s close to nothing more that I could really ask for—except maybe a spoolie, which Bench’s Eyebrow Pencil (P199) also has.
The Eyebrow Pencil comes with a triangular tip and the uniquely shaped tip makes it easy to draw both fine, hair-like strokes and go bold and brazen with shading. The pencil itself is hard enough to draw color-depositing lines with precision, but soft enough to blend out with the dense spoolie that comes with it. It also lasts the whole day, so consider all boxes checked.
Oh, one thing: Bench could definitely add a few more shades to the line. You can catch me in front of the line when they finally release a gray-toned iteration of this bad boy.
Lips: Lip Tattoo
The Lip Tattoo (P349), which is described on Bench’s website as a “weightless liquid lip formula” with full coverage and intense color in just one swipe, is the only product that left me with mixed feelings. Compared to the Cheek & Lip Tint, the Lip Tattoo undoubtedly packs more pigment, but definitely not enough to warrant a single swipe claim. Applying the product on my lips (considerably pigmented and chapped on even my best days) required a good amount of slathering and re-dipping.
Roughly six hours in, I found that the color sunk into the cracks of my lips, making me look a little less like the beauty baddie I felt like I was in the morning and more like someone who had just been sacked in the mouth. A quick reapplication (just one swipe this time!) fixed the issue and revived my badass wine-lipped energy.
Dry skin type, tan complexion
The wide selection of multi-use, affordable products from BENCH/Beauty really had the everyday consumer in mind. If you have five to ten minutes to spare on the daily, this collection may be for you!
Brows: Eyebrow Tint + Eyebrow Pencil
The Eyebrow Tint (P199) fills in brows for natural-looking, hair-like strokes with a multi-prong tip. It doesn’t smudge or transfer at all. On days when I want my brows to look more precise, I use the Eyebrow Pencil available in two shades: Dark Brown and Natural Brown.
Dimension: Contour Stick + Bronzer + Highlighter
I am a cream contour convert! After being faithful to powder for so long, I may just keep up with the Contour Stick, my newfound sculpting tool. (S/O to Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer for the ride.) It’s perfect for beginners; just have a densely-packed brush ready and blend away! As for the other cream sticks, the Bronzer (P199) is a great substitute for a cream shadow since the collection doesn’t include any. Use it on top of a transition shade or on its own. The Highlighter gives off a subtle glow perfect for the daily.
Base: CC Cushion
I’ve become a CC Cushion convert because of how convenient it is to use! The moment my puff touched the cushion for the first time, it surprised me how much product it distributed; I didn’t need to keep patting down to retrieve more product. Skin looks matte and plakado, which deviates from the Korean counterpart—dewy and lightweight—many I’ve tried that leaves my skin greasy at the end of the day. The color selection is not much, it can definitely use more shades. Pro-tip: If you’re one who prefers a dewy complexion, lightly mist the puff before use!
Lips and Cheeks: Cheek & Lip Tint + Matte Lipstick
I am now a believer! The OG Cheek & Lip Tint in Red gives me a natural, sun-kissed look I am living for. It’s so long-lasting that the color is around even at the end of the day. The Matte Lipstick in Thrill (P279) is a non-intimidating, everyday, muted red. Don’t be fooled by the label, it glides on so smooth and lasts a while. I rarely need touch-ups! It’s a multi-use product, which can be applied as a blush, too.
Words Cessi Treñas & Elisa Aquino
Product Photos Elisa Aquino
Art Alexandra Lara