Friday, April 8, 2011

Ellis Faas Products

This is the first post in a series on Ellis Faas products. Ellis Faas is a Dutch makeup artist whom Vogue Paris has called "one of the most influential make-up artists of her time." I agree that Faas has something unique to share with us.

From the Ellis Faas web site:
Ellis Faas based the whole collection of her brand on the colours that by nature exist in every human body. From all tones of foundation to every lipstick and eyeshadow, the shades are inspired by the human body’s owns colours.

From the tawny peach of a freckle to the pure, vivid red that pulses through our veins, the ELLIS FAAS Human Colours collection looks to the human palette for inspiration. The colours that exist naturally in our bodies are complex and rich, but they're also universal, shared by each and every one of us.
Image from
During the last year I have tried all formulas from her line except the foundation. So I thought I would begin a small series about the products I have used and my thoughts about them. This post is an overview of her line; I'll write reviews on individual products and colors later.

Packaging:  All products are dispensed via chrome, bullet-shaped pens, which are visually pleasing. I love the heft and how one feels substantial in the hand. A friend gave me the canister, which in itself is unlike anything I own (the inside resembles a revolver chamber), but for daily use I prefer to leave the pens in a tumbler because they are easier to grab.

The canister has seven slots into which you insert your choice of products. The foundation (a larger pen) goes into the center hole, and you could surround that by concealer, blush, mascara, eyeliner, a lipstick and two eyeshadows.

Underneath the cap is the pressed powder with a sponge applicator, so you can carry an entire day's face with you in a container that isn't much larger or heavier than a typical water bottle (full). If you don't wear powder, you could carry pills or vitamins in that space.

In theory it's a convenient idea. In practice, a full canister is too heavy for everyday use, but it is perfect to pack in a suitcase for travel, saving space, time, and even thought. In one round tube, you could carry foundation, blush, concealer, mascara, and an additional 3 slots for a combination of eyeshadow and lipstick or lip gloss.

All product is dispensed by twisting the end cap until liquid emerges from the brush end.

The instructions recommend that you wash the applicator ends often, but I have found that a bit too much product comes out. I don’t want to waste it, so I save the leftover pigment under the hermetically-sealed cap for the next use, as long as it will be within a day or two. I have heard others say this is unhygienic, but I disagree. No one else uses my makeup, I am applying it to freshly-washed skin. What's so different between storing leftovers under an airtight cap versus returning the lid to one of my cream eyeshadows? I’ve never had a problem storing leftover Ellis Faas products this way--no breakouts or eye infections--so I wash the applicators weekly.

If you stumble across bloggers who own Ellis Faas products, you'll invariably read reluctant complaints about the pens clogging. I know that Ellis Faas R&D are working very hard to make the caps seal more tightly and to improve the reliability of the product-delivery method. I love this brand, and I would hate to see it fizzle out in the US just because the clickers don't work as well as Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat pens. Makeup lovers can be a fickle lot, but I believe this brand is worth the trouble while R&D works out the kinks.

Here are some troubleshooting tips for making the pens work more reliably: Don’t be alarmed if it takes 30 or more (way more) clicks the first time you prime a new pen. I’ve lost count on some of my virgin primes, but eventually they all dispensed. Once primed, it now takes 3-5 clicks to dispense, as long as I am using the pens fairly frequently (at least once a week).

My method, which wastes far less product from my inherent impatience, is to click a pen 3 times before I do anything with my face each morning. I then let the bullet sit in a cup, capped side down, and by the time I am ready to do my eyes (or cheeks or concealer or blush), I have enough product loaded onto the brush to do what I need to do.

If my pens clog, a warm soapy scrub on the brush end is usually enough to get things flowing. Unlike regular makeup brushes with a ferrule, you can really get these wet. The “showerhead” sponge applicators are the most troublesome, as there are seven holes under the sponge:

Ellis Faas pens in E109, E107, E203, L203, L101
Sometimes, all holes but the one in the center become clogged, so the product comes out in a wormy stream that I then have to mash down into the sponge or onto the back of my hand before I can apply it.

Ellis Faas Blush S302 "worm"
If my showerhead applicator gets clogged, and a warm soapy bath doesn’t resolve the issue, I heat a straight T pin under hot water and wiggle the tip around all the holes and then wash off the sponge. The combo of heat and pokiness generally does the trick.

Caution: If you carry the pens around with you outside of the canister and not in a makeup bag, the cover on the clicky end could fall off. It doesn’t affect the functionality of the pens, but they don’t look as pretty. Only the endcap comes off--the product number stays put. Pens transport well in a cosmetic case but they don't fare as well tumbling around a giant tote, so these wee rocket launchers are more fragile than they appear.

Creamy Eyes ($36):  The Creamy Eyes eyeshadows come with a brush applicator. The texture is silky and smooth, and it dries quickly, giving you under a minute before it sets. And sets it does! If you’re a fan of working with product off the back of your hand, save any skin treatment until after your makeup routine because it takes effort to remove this from skin once it has dried. An oil-based remover is ideal.

The finish of Creamy Eyes is matte but not flat. There is no shimmer in any of my Ellis Faas eyeshadows, with the exception of E109. Aside from that single shadow, the effect of the 100 series eyeshadows is to impart an overall glow/gleam that is complex and flattering on so many levels. By the end of a warm day, I might get a little bit of oil breakthrough in the crease, but that only enhances the overall effect, as when I blend the oil out with a fingertip, it adds to that lit-from-within look. This shadow does not crease on me at all, but my lids are not as oily as they once were.

Milky Eyes ($36): The Milky Eyes pens have a sponge applicator. I have only one eyeshadow in this formulation, and I love the color (S203, a deep navy) but the texture is not as smooth as the Creamy Eyes. The best way I have found to work with this quick-drying texture is to apply it with my fingertip and blend immediately. The sponge lays down too much product and it does not apply as smoothly as the plastic bristles on the Creamy Eyes brush. I actually use this more often as eyeliner, dipping a thin angle brush into the product on the sponge head. Complete non sequitur, but I don't care for the name Milky Eyes. It reminds me of my elderly dog, Ambrose, who had cataracts.

Creamy Lips ($35): The texture of Creamy Lips (the L 100 series) is soft and smooth. It has the showerhead-sponge applicator and goes down with a fair amount of moisture, which then dries to a satin finish. If I apply it over bare lips, it does not bleed or smear, and a single application lasts 4-6 hours with minimal fading. The finish is kiss proof, but it will transfer to a coffee cup if I apply gloss or balm on top. When the color fades, it fades relatively evenly and leaves behind a faint stain. My favorite is L101 Ellis Red. I like to plop a blob in the center of my bottom lip and then blend out with my finger.

Milky Lips ($35): The Milky Lips (L 200 series) are my favorite formulation for their creamy smoothness with a hint of shine. I love the Ellis Red and am happy that it comes in three formulations. My second favorite color is L203, which is a wine red. Milky Lips has the brush end, and I don’t see a ton of difference between Milky and Creamy formulation or texture other than a hint more moisture with the 200 (Milky) series. It lasts and fades about the same as the Creamy Lips, and it is just as pigmented.

Glazed Lips ($35): The L 300 series is glossy with good pigment and the typical staying power you’d expect in a lip gloss. Since I am not much of a gloss fan, I haven’t purchased enough to write a thorough review, but the finish is very much like a liquid lipstick. I have L302, which is a flat-out brown. I was a bit put off by it until a friend suggested I use it to warm up lipsticks that are too blue/cool. On its own, though, it looks a bit weird.

Blush ($32): The blush is liquid (similar consistency to the concealer) and is dispensed through the showerhead-sponge end. Creamy, pigmented, and extremely easy to blend, it provides a natural flush that settles into a glowy finish. I don't know how they manage this without shimmer, but they do. The blush has not caused breakouts or milia from the silicones, nor is there any added oiliness. This blush is like a cross between a gel and a cream, and it lasts all day, so start slowly and build up. Here's a comparison of the S301 and S302, both of which look warmer than they are, thanks to the overcast day in which I took this photo. Both are warm leaning, though.

Concealer ($40): Dispensed through the brush end, the concealer is one of the best I have ever used. Creamy, pigmented and lightweight, it is so easy to blend. If your skin is in fairly good shape, you'll find that it really conceals without looking cakey or creasing, and the finish is so natural. Unfortunately for me, the lightest color (S201) is too yellow. If Ellis Faas introduced more colors, I'd be standing in line.

I cannot comment on the Skin Veil foundation, which is now offered in two styles: A pen ($65), which is larger than the other pens, and a bottle ($90). Foundation is something I need to choose in person and since NYC is the only place where I can see this product with my own two eyes in the US, I end up doing all of my ordering online.

Bottom line: If you like cream-based neutral colors and gorgeous packaging, this brand is definitely worth looking at. There's a bit of a learning curve to using the pens, but if you are interested in trying the brand, I'd recommend starting with the products that come with the brush applicator (Creamy Eyes, Milky Lips) and wash them at least once a week.

Special thanks to my good friend, CB, for gifting me with some of the goods.

All photos mine except where indicated


  1. Wow, could you get Carrie's autograph for me??

    This review is terrific and I love the pics you took. I can easily see the colors and determine if they would look good on me.

  2. She can write her name with an Ellis Faas pen.

    Thanks, Ammie.

  3. I really enjoyed your post on Faas products. Often, you see a new product line, you visit their website and can't necessarily believe what they post because they are selling their products, after all. This gives me a reason to try some of Ellis' products and not go ape when I think something is defective when it probably needs a extra click or two. Thank you, ZZ that was quite informative!

  4. Thanks so much that was so great was just having that trouble with the sponge app