Rituel de Fille is a brand that I’ve been following, but not actually patronizing, since its launch in 2014. I have a vivid memory of sitting on a bench during a break from my dissertation seminar in Washington, D.C., and scrolling through the newly launched Rituel de Fille website. The brand’s aesthetic seemed designed for my preferences: it was witchy without veering into emo territory. The promotional images were sort of Midsommar avant la lettre, more Baba Yaga than Enoby. I was enchanted…
…but for some reason, I never bought anything. For several reasons, actually. The price point was high for a brand I couldn’t easily swatch in person. When I did get to see some of the lipsticks and blushes at Credo in NYC, I was underwhelmed: the packaging felt a bit cheap and the shades and textures were nothing special. The ingredients were “clean,” but I’m deeply skeptical of the entire concept of “clean beauty.” I still loved the concept and imagery of the brand, but the individual products left me cold.
That all changed last month, when Rituel de Fille released the Color Nectar Pigment Balms (I’m not sure why they needed to put “color” and “pigment” in the same product name, but whatever). Available in five shades inspired by flowers and pollinator insects, the balms are designed to be smeared watercolor-style on the eyes, cheeks, and lips. Each one comes in a cute circular compact with a mirror. At $24 for 3.2g, they’re not cheap (the full set of five is $115, which gives you a generous discount of…$5). But after seeing the beautiful draped-blush looks on Rituel de Fille’s Instagram, I couldn’t resist buying one.
Though I was drawn first to Wasp, a mango yellow (I’m intrigued by the current yellow-blush trend), I had to be honest with myself: I wouldn’t wear that shade very often on my cheeks or lips. Instead, I ordered Bloodflower, a deep red that promised to be more versatile.
Bloodflower appealed to me for another reason: it seemed to be the closest available modern equivalent to Renaissance makeup. “By the late sixteenth century,” writes Aileen Ribeiro in Facing Beauty, a history of cosmetics in Europe, “rouge was regarded as an essential attribute to artificial beauty; it could take liquid or paste form, or be applied to the face from little booklets of paper or leather impregnated with red powdered dye” (85). (The red dye was usually cochineal, a pigment derived from crushed insects and still in use in the cosmetics industry today.) As I wrote in this long-ago post, makeup in seventeenth-century England fell into the category of “auxiliary beauty,” which a dictionary from 1699 defines as “Dress, Paint, Patches, setting of Eye-brows, and licking the Lipps with red.” The flush on the lips and cheeks of Charles II’s mistress Louise de Kéroualle in this 1671 portrait by Peter Lely likely came from a little pot of tinted grease similar to Bloodflower:
I ordered Bloodflower directly from Rituel de Fille’s website (shipping is $6 for orders under $75), and it shipped within two days. Rituel de Fille packs its orders entirely in paper and cardboard, which is great, but each Color Nectar Pigment Balm (let’s just call them the Pigment Balms going forward) is sheathed in a plastic sleeve, à la the original Glossier Play packaging. The sleeve has a ziploc closure, so you can reuse it if you happen to need a tiny ziploc bag, but are you really going to do that? And wouldn’t a little cardboard box look classier? The sample of Metamorphic Highlighter in The High Priestess was a fun surprise, though I initially thought that minuscule container was Bloodflower itself!
Here’s the back of the Bloodflower label. I know I’m a pedant who sucks all the fun out of things, but that misspelling of “irresistible” really gets to me. I don’t expect Rituel de Fille to have a copyeditor on retainer (though they should! Hire me, RdF!), but do they not even have spellcheck? I guess the only spellcheck they’ve heard of is designed for witches’ spells, not for word processing.
“Wear everywhere – keep with you always,” the label directs. Accordingly, the Pigment Balm compact is small and sturdy enough that I can imagine slipping it into a makeup bag for a day out. In our post-COVID reality, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable dipping my finger into the balm and touching up my lips and cheeks on, say, a subway car. But since I’ll be spending most of my time at home for the foreseeable future, that’s not a pressing issue.
Here’s a size comparison with a ColourPop Super Shock Cheek blush, a Fenty Cheeks Out cream blush, and that mini Tarte blush that everyone got in their Sephora birthday gift a few years ago. Bloodflower is roughly as wide as the others, but not as tall, which gives it an elegant compactness.
Rituel de Fille describes Bloodflower as a “cherry-red glaze,” but it’s pretty obviously (and intuitively) blood red. Murder-mystery red. Raymond Chandler red. It appears deep burgundy in the pan, which surprised me, but it swatches and applies as a cool-neutral red with a hint of brown.
The closest dupe in my blush collection is Glossier Cloud Paint in Storm, which is a browner, plummier red. Bloodflower on the left, Storm on the right:
Rituel de Fille’s website describes the Pigment Balm formula as “perfectly translucent yet stunningly vibrant…with an irresistible jelly texture and finish.” The phrase “jelly texture and finish” led me to expect an emollient product across whose surface my finger would slide easily. However, at the risk of hair-splitting, I’d describe Bloodflower differently. The oils and waxes in the formula (ingredient list here) combine to produce a light, thin texture without much slip. When I apply Bloodflower as blush, I find that I need to blend it pretty energetically. If you’re expecting a product with a siliconey slip comparable to that of the Cloud Paints, this product is not it. I don’t dislike the texture at all, but I don’t think it accords particularly well with the brand’s description (though I should note that my skin is on the dry side, which I’m sure makes a difference). Also of note: the Pigment Balm has a very subtle lavender fragrance. I find it delightful, since it reminds me of long-ago experiments with the recipes in my beloved Spells for Teenage Witches book, but others might disagree.
|Here’s how the pan looks currently, which might give you a better sense of the texture.|
According to the label, the Pigment Balms can be applied with sponges, brushes, or fingers. For both of the looks below, I used my fingers, as I do for all cream blushes. There’s something both appealing and viscerally unsettling about smearing a blood-like substance across your cheeks, especially during a pandemic. Of course, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, not through blood, but working with Bloodflower makes me think of Susan Sontag’s observation in AIDS and Its Metaphors that in a time of disease, bodily fluids become charged with terror: “Fear of the Communion cup, fear of surgery: fear of contaminated blood, whether Christ’s blood or your neighbor’s. Life—blood, sexual fluids—is itself the bearer of contamination.” Then again, if you’ve ever fantasized about painting your face with the blood of your enemies, Bloodflower is certainly the product for you.
Because of Bloodflower’s close resemblance to its namesake, I find that I have to be careful about how and where I use it. I tried applying it as a sheer wash of color over my eyelids, but it looked so much like a bad rash that I removed it immediately. However, I think Bloodflower works well in more editorial looks, like this one, which took me about five minutes—the only products on my face are Bloodflower, concealer, and Glossier Boy Brow in Brown.
|It looked much worse in person, believe me.|
Overall, I’m very pleased with Bloodflower. I’ll use it most often as a casual lip and cheek tint, but I appreciate having the option to go all out with a disco-inspired draped-blush look. Rituel de Fille obviously wants customers to buy all five shades, and I can imagine how much fun it would be to blend the different colors together on my face: a dab of plum here, a smear of orange there. But it’s perfectly possible to create similar looks with products you already have. In fact, a few days before I received Bloodflower in the mail, I practiced my draping skills with Glossier Cloud Paint in Dawn and achieved a very similar effect. Of course, the appeal of the Pigment Balms is that they’re formulated to work on the eyes, cheeks, and lips, which isn’t true of every makeup product. But if you just want to play with stained-glass color effects on your face, you almost certainly already own products that will allow you to do that. I’m still tempted by Wasp, the yellow shade, but I don’t know if I’m willing to spend another $24 plus $6 shipping for it.
For me, the biggest drawback of the Pigment Balms is their lack of practicality (which isn’t necessarily a drawback, depending on how you plan to use them). They’re artistry products, first and foremost. Their wear time is fine but not exceptional, and if you’ve created a look with multiple Pigment Balms and are planning to be out all day, it’s going to be an unsanitary hassle to bring the balms with you and refresh your makeup every few hours. Then again, we’re living in an era when many of us are working from home and not enjoying full days of socializing and fun; perhaps there’s no better time than now to experiment with gloriously impractical makeup.