By Sophia Panych. Photos: Hannah Choi/Allure.
It's no secret that Michelle Phan has been up to something. For the past few weeks, the online mega star who basically invented the concept of the beauty blogger has teased the second coming of her eponymous makeup line, Em Cosmetics. She even threw a launch party in Los Angeles last week to give her YouTube community a chance to preview the products before anyone else. And while the collection officially becomes available on April 17th, Phan gave us the low-down on the launch when she stopped by the office for an exclusive interview (and a tour of our beauty closet).
This time around she's doing everything on her own terms. For starters, the hundreds of product SKUs from last time has been whittled down to just two well-edited, extremely well thought out products: A collection of lip creams and liquid liners. (Although Phan promises there are more products in the works.) "When I took this brand back, I wanted to keep it more timeless and elegant," says Phan. "I could have done the more trendy things like the highlighters and stuff, but then I was like, No, I want to focus on the things that I wear all the time and that my viewers want to wear."
And one of the things Phan can't go without is liner, which is why she's launching two liquid formulas, one with an angled tip and one with a tip that's tapered and pointy. "The pointed tip is inspired by comic book pens that allow you to create thin, dynamic lines with an ease," explains Phan, while the angled liner is based on old calligraphy pens. Called the Illustrative Eyeliner, both will retail for $15.
As for her second product — the Infinite Lip Clouds — they might look like the matte liquid lipsticks that everyone's obsessed with these days, but in this case, looks are deceiving. "These are like the antithesis of liquid lipsticks," she says of her lip creams. "These are more buildable and lived in, so at the end of the day you're left with a nice stain because they're not drying in any way." The impetus for the product came from requests she received YouTube community who wanted something with the staying power and opacity of a liquid lipstick, but that wasn't matte and, most importantly, wouldn't feel like shrink wrap on their lips. And Phan formulated her lip creams with comfort in mind, using a "hi-tech nylon fabric" that's flexible, allowing it to move and stretch as you move and stretch your mouth. And while many people use liquid lipsticks to overdraw their lips, these are meant to stay within the lines. "I tell people to follow their natural lip line when using this product," she says. "It's my way of telling people it's nice to work with what they have."
The lip creams, which retail for $16, come in eight shades, all of them inspired by the oil paintings Phan saw on a trip to Amsterdam. "I was so inspired by all the vividly-colored paintings I saw there. So we took some of the best oil paints on the market and mimicked the shades," she explained. "And we've been inclusive of all undertones, meaning if you're warm, cool, or neutral you can wear these shades, which is something we tested with our muses, the people who star in the campaign for the products."
With the aid of a graphic designer, Phan helped design the geometric logo and the packaging, which looks incredibly chic for the under $20 price point. "When I was constructing everything, I made sure we had the best of the best," says Phan. "For example, when it comes to the lip creams, this is the best doe-foot applicator on the market, we didn't just stick with a stock piece." And while very little resembles the original Em line, Phan did stick with the black-and-white outer packaging. "It is so hard to make a brand from scratch, but then to redo it is even harder because of the expectations that people have, and the fact that you have to revamp it but still keep elements from the old." Hence the similar color scheme of the boxes.
The revamped Em Cosmetics is certainly a reflection of Phan's personal beauty evolution. Surprisingly, she no longer wears eye shadow on a regular basis (it began to cause irritation on her lids) and she's now completely foundation free, using only concealer to spot treat blemishes. "I don't even cover up my under eye circles," she says, "I think it looks cooler and more real." Additionally, she's noticed a huge improvement in her skin since dropping foundation cold turkey, which was one of her hopes when making the decision to cut the product out of her beauty routine; that, and to embrace a more natural look in general. "When I first stopped wearing it, my skin got really bad and I experienced a lot of breakouts," she says. "But after a while it finally balanced out and now I don't even have to wear a ton of concealer."
But her evolution goes beyond just the makeup she does and doesn't wear. Phan's perspective on beauty in general has shifted since she started out. "When I was a teenager, makeup was a form of confidence; I felt like I needed makeup to feel beautiful. Then in my twenties, makeup became this art, it became an outlet for me to be creative, for me to express myself, for me to find different facets of who I was," she explains. "But now — and I'm turning 30 this year — I do feel like I'm different, I'm changing. I'm more simplified. I know the type of eyeliner I need to wear to look how I want to look. So things have become more refined, and I think that's how my perspective on beauty in general has changed — it's become more refined."
This story originally appeared on Allure.
More from Allure: