Zao: essence of nature is a French natural makeup brand that has been making waves in the natural beauty scene for a few years now. Unlike some natural brands, their products are highly pigmented, and the brand practices what they preach with 100% natural ingredients, as well as reusable, refillable packaging. Made from sustainably sourced bamboo, almost all of Zao’s packaging can be refilled, with the one exception I tried being their mascara. This is not only win for the environment (did you know Zao is even carbon-negative?!), but also for your pocket, as refills can be purchased cheaply to easily snap into the packaging.
I was able to try some of their products earlier this year, and I’ve been test-running them as part of my regular beauty regime with great success. I’m so excited to finally share the results of my trial with you!
Colour & Texture: I tried the Zao compact foundation in shade 733 “neutral“ which was the perfect shade for me, as my skin has olive undertones. This foundation comes in five colours which I think would provide a fairly good match for most people, except perhaps those with very pale skin, as the palest “apricot” 731 is quite warm. The foundation looks a little gritty in the pan, so I was a little skeptical at first, but it goes on smoothly and can be built up to provide significant coverage without being too thick or cakey. The product contains natural silica powder which means that even on oily skin like mine your foundation will be smooth and matt, without a nasty shine.
Coverage: I like this foundation for every-day wear, as it’s quite light and can help hide spots, without looking over-done. I would probably wear it in conjunction with a concealer and a primer if I was after extended wear though, as I found with my oily skin it did fade significantly by the end of a 10 hour day. However, I tend to find this with most foundations, including mainstream brands like MAC so those with drier skin may not have this problem.
Sensitive skin: The thing I loved the most about this foundation was that it didn’t make my skin break out. Just about every foundation, moisturiser or other face product makes my skin break out horribly, or worse flake in some areas. This has meant that I often go without foundation, and have to just wait it out for spots to fade, or if I do wear foundation then I have to suffer the consequences of inevitably worse skin the days after. Thankfully I didn’t experience this with the Zao compact, which made it ideal for daily wear and to cover up the odd spot. The only time I did get some spots after wearing the product was after I applied a tonne for a dancing event- and that included reapplying a significant amount all day, with some other mainstream powders.
Packaging: The foundation comes in a gorgeous bamboo compact with magnetic closures, and is protected by a cute cotton bag. It’s the same size as a regular compact, and the pan is removable, making replacement a simple task of popping the pan out with a pin, and snapping a new one in. It’s held in by a magnet as well, so you don’t have to be worried about it popping out unintentionally. I absolutely adore this packaging, and as someone who has a strong passion for the environment, I love that it is so sustainable and reusable. The absolute only thing that would improve the product would be the addition of a mirror in the lid which would be very useful for touch ups or on-the-go applications- and if you’re anything like me, that’s an almost daily occurrence.
Other: I have been using this foundation fairly regularly, three or four times per week for about three months now and I’ve only just started to hit the bottom of the pan in the centre. As I usually only use a little for light coverage, I would estimate that this product would last about three months for daily use which I think is on par with most mainstream compacts, and very reasonable for the price.
Cost: This foundation, along with the other Zao products reviewed here, can be purchased from Australian retailer The French Organic Company. It’s AUD $49.95 for the full compact.
A really nice, natural look foundation seen here in action as my flatmates try to crack my serious face with dirty jokes (thanks Lisa, and Claudio for the pics!)
I tried Zao’s organic volume and sheathing mascara which retails for AUD $36.50. The packaging is beautiful, also coming in bamboo, though it is a shame that it doesn’t appear to be refillable. The brush was a nice tapered style (pictured), and allowed me to get to even the shortest of my eyelashes with the tip. The Mascara was certainly beautifully lengthening, especially when I curled my lashes in advance. However, it is very wet, so I would recommend keeping your eyes closed for a few seconds longer than mainstream brands to ensure that it doesn’t smudge.
I thought that the mascara was beautiful, however as someone who runs (and consequently sweats) a lot, it did smudge a bit for me. I found on a few occasions that it would drop a little under my eyes, or print onto my eyelids when I blinked. However, I think this is to be expected given that it’s not waterproof, and it was easy enough to wipe off so I still wear it almost daily. For a regular mascara I think this does an excellent job, though I will certainly be keeping an eye out in case they launch a waterproof version which would suit my active lifestyle a bit better.
I have to say I was certainly not expecting this kind of performance from a natural brand. The Zao eyeshadows are absolutely excellent. I tried three matt shades– Ivory (201), Dark Brown (203) and Black (206), and one pearl shade– Pearly Old Pink (103) which all retail for $29.95.
I was definitely expecting the colours to be quite sheer, but to my pleasant surprise all were richly pigmented and I actually had to be careful not to be too heavy handed. The Ivory shade is a beautiful off white which I now use daily on the inner corner of my eyes and on my brow bone to give a wide-eyed, open effect. Though there are a few “grains” in the pan as you use up the product it is nothing but exceptionally smooth when applied.
I also really love the dark brown to add a little natural depth to my eyes, and it perfectly matches my eyes and hair colour. I also regularly used it in my brows to make them a little bolder too and have found that it holds up perfectly. My favourite combination is the dark brown, plus the ivory with a touch of the pink on the centre of my lid. This pink is just perfect for a little bit of colour that blends well and still maintains a natural look. The pearliness is beautiful as well as it gives just a hint of sparkle without being so intense that you look like you’re off to a disco.
Finally, though I don’t use a lot of black shadow in any of my daily looks, I also really like the black 206 eyeshadow. I was a little concerned at first that it wouldn’t be a deep, dark black, as it looks a little olive green in the pan, but once again Zao proved my skepticism wrong. The black is bold and beautiful and can be easily blended to give the perfect smokey eye.
I found all the Zao eyeshadows to be beautifully blendable, with great texture and fantastic ease of application. If we’re being totally honest I’ll admit that I often swipe a little on with just my fingers. I love that the product is easy to apply in a rush, and equally performs on par with mainstream brands with a brush.
The packaging for the Zao eyeshadows is refillable via the same mechanism as the foundation, which simply pops out with the use of a pin. I also purchased a mirrored compact with a magnetic floor which makes it easy to convert your eyeshadow into your own personalised compact, or pop it back in it’s own case to take on the go for quick touch ups. The only thing I would say is to please be advised that the magnets in the cases are very strong! This is obviously essential to prevent the pans from falling out, however I managed to make the mistake of attempting to insert an already-cracked shadow into it, and the force of the magnet shattered it even more. Of course, I’m a bit of a klutz (I dropped the brown pan on its own from great height all the way into my bathroom sink within minutes of opening it) so I doubt this will be an issue for most people- but just in case anyone else shares my challenge with gravity I would advise you to re-set your shadow before trying to snap it into the case.
This is my so-far favourite lipstick on the planet! I purchased the Zao matt lipstick in Old Pink (462) and I’m in love. This lipstick is so moisturising it feels like you’re wearing lipbalm. In fact, as someone who loses lipbalms on the daily I often find myself reaching for this lipstick if I don’t have a balm handy. I can not overstate this. This feels like heaven on your lips.
The colour wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from the photo on the website, as at least on my screen the picture came up much more pinky, however I’m a fan of the actual colour in any case. It’s a beautiful neutral pink-mauve colour which is perfect for daily wear and gives a nice hint of colour without being too loud for work. The coverage is also very good, as it’s not sheer like many would expect from a natural brand, but rather nice and matt with a little creamy shine.
The colour lasts fairly well, though as with any really creamy product it does need to be reapplied a few times throughout the day. Expect to reapply after food and drink, and a few times extra during the course of a work day, though if you’re anything like me, with this moisturising feel you’ll become addicted to applying it just for the creamy sensation.
Final thoughts on Zao makeup
Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with the Zao products I tried, and I’m eager to try more. I feel that the products are great competitor to mainstream brands, and based on performance alone I would easily prefer the Zao foundation and eyeshadows to mainstream brands like MAC. The lipstick is in every-day use for me, though as much as I love the creaminess, a little extra staying power would be great.
The packaging for all Zao products is well designed, beautifully crafted and made with sustainability in mind. The mechanism for refilling is simple and easy to use, and refills are available in minimal packaging (though plain paper packaging would be ideal!) for a great price.
These products, as well as Zao’s complete range can be purchased from the French Organic Company which ships to New Zealand.
Disclaimer: I received a discount on the purchase of some products mentioned in this review. All statements expressed in this review are my own, and I do not stand to gain financially from the promotion of these products. I only recommend products that I believe in, and I have trialled these products over a number of months to ensure that my review is as accurate as possible.