Cocoa Mirage is a good practical palette and if you don’t already own something similar, it is a workhorse. Because it’s so basic, you can wear it almost anywhere – business meetings, a first date, your cousin’s wedding, even somber occasions. You can do a clean minimal look or build to a dark brown smoky eye. It’s easy to feather in a bolder single once in a while if you get bored with the same standard look. It performs best over eye primer.
1. The lightest two shades are very smooth. The darkest brown requires a little more patience to blend if you use primer.
2. Luxe packaging
3. These basic colors are suitable for any occasion and flatter a broad range of skin tones.
4. Not much fallout compared to some of Urban Decay’s powders.
2. When I don’t use primer or a similar base product, Cocoa Mirage shadows can fade or even crease mildly by the end of a long work day, just like hundreds of other powder shadows that are less expensive.
3. At the time of this review, Tom Ford is not a cruelty free brand. (See crueltyfreekitty.com for brands that are cruelty free.)
The compact is sleek with a magnetic closure and it comes with a velvety faux suede sleeve to prevent it from getting scratched. The pans are generous, there’s a mirror in the lid and it includes tiny applicators. Convenient and sturdy enough for travel.
The colors complement one another well and step logically in depth from light to dark. You have a cream, a neutral light taupe, a reddish brown and a cooler dark brown.
With good brushes, the shadows blend evenly and are unchallenging compared to other mattes. The quad is made in Italy with finely milled powders. You can create a believable “no-makeup” look by using only the top two shadows of Cocoa Mirage, but I typically use all four shades. There are no harsh lines after I blend. I think they look best when you build them up gradually in thin layers and use soft brushes. I use Wayne Goss #3, #4, #5, and MAC 221.
The first day I tested these shadows, I applied them directly to bare eyelids to see how they perform without help. My eyelids are not oily. They all blended smoothly with minimal effort. However, the colors had faded by five o’clock without primer and the darkest shade had bunched up a little in my crease.
On day two, I used Urban Decay Primer Potion as a base for Cocoa Mirage. Blending required a little more work, which I expected because powder shadows cling to primer (that’s the point). I anticipated better wear this time. Sure enough, when I checked at five o’clock the colors hadn’t faded and there was no creasing.
Over the next few weeks, I tried the Cocoa Mirage quad over other bases as well. I found that the shadows lasted well over Laura Mercier’s Caviar Stick in Vanilla Kiss, or Bobbi Brown’s glass jar of Bone cream shadow. MAC’s Prep + Prime Eye Base works, too.
To add versatility:
Sometimes I use Cocoa Mirage in combination with another quad I purchased around the same time, Honeymoon. The quads work well together because the gold shimmers and rich berry shades in Honeymoon spice up Cocoa Mirage, which can be a little bland on its own. But Honeymoon does not contain a pale highlight shade or any mattes, so I like to use the ivory pan in Cocoa Mirage under the eyebrow, apply Honeymoon’s burgundy on the lid, and go over the crease with the darkest chocolate brown in Cocoa. I use the deeper gold for transition. I like the looks I get when I dabble between the two.
Is it worth the money?
This is a toughie. Not really. Reviewers on YouTube frequently justify the cost by mentioning that the pans are large. However, I do not think there is a tremendous leap in quality from sister brand MAC (Tom Ford and MAC are both owned by Estee Lauder) to justify the enormous markup, and the colors in Cocoa Mirage are not unique. Estee Lauder is charging extra for Tom Ford’s name, and he’s not someone I happen to worship. Yes, he’s a fashion designer and celebrities wear his tuxedos to the Oscars, but he’s not a makeup artist like Kevyn Aucoin whose book “Making Faces” was inspirational to me when I was in theater. Nevertheless, Tom Ford hires creative people to help him and many of the products are beautiful. Charlotte Tilbury worked for him before leaving to start her own company.
Cocoa Mirage has four well-edited shades but it's the least imaginative quad in the line.
A budget-conscious friend of mine asked me what she could buy instead of this to achieve a similar look, because she didn’t want to pay Tom Ford prices. MAC has some universally flattering staples for a nice basic eye on different skin tones. I recommended Blanc Type (ivory), Wedge (warmer than Cocoa Mirage’s second top shade but similar in depth), Brun (dark brown) and Swiss Chocolate (for a reddish matte brown). MAC's pro pans are $6 each and a refillable 4 pan palette is $8. The Too Faced Natural Matte palette can give you a similar basic look for $36, or there is Kat Von D's matte Shade & Light palette for $49. These are not exact dupes but they are good. There are also similar colors in Too Faced Chocolate Bar plus a few fun shimmers for $49.
I've grown fond of Cocoa Mirage. I considered returning it but I kept it because I appreciate the portability and streamlined simplicity. The compact is sleek and the little applicators are nice to have in case I get stranded without my brushes. The protective fabric pouch is a nice touch. Cocoa Mirage is the perfect conservative job interview eye. I can throw this palette in my briefcase and quickly do my eyes on the plane if I have to. It’s a no-brainer, and it’s always appropriate. However, it's overpriced at $85.