riley rose
photo: Riley Rose

Forever 21 has shown it is SUPER dedicated to feeding our makeup obsession.

What started out as colorful beauty knick-knacks at the checkout line has transformed into rows and rows of indie beauty products in its main apparel store.

But Forever 21 just tried to up the ante even MORE with an entire spin-off store dedicated to beauty called Riley Rose.

That's right, Forever 21 now has an entire beauty store and it's nothing like the checkout line.

The Riley Rose store promised to sell makeup from brands that are big on Instagram but not usually found in stores. I visited the Riley Rose in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

riley rose forever 21
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

Riley Rose looked HUGE and extremely decked out from the door. I could not WAIT to play in makeup. 

My first thought walking in was, Sephora and Ulta, this store is coming for your entire NECK. 

The first brand on the makeup side of the store was Lime Crime — and Riley Rose has every single Lime Crime product you could possibly want. 

riley rose forever 21
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

Unicorn hair dye? Yep. Aquarium brushes? Check! Velvetine lipsticks? There!

The next brand to catch my eye seriously made me tear up a little bit: Beauty Bakerie

riley rose beauty bakerie
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

I literally HUGGED the whole shelf when I saw the Black-owned company on display.

Beauty Bakerie having such a large, prominent display in a mainstream store like Riley Rose is MAGICAL.

riley rose beauty bakerie
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

The brand's founder, Cashmere Nicole, created the company after her daughter (who is dark-skinned) could not find makeup products to match her complexion and undertones. Nicole built Beauty Bakerie as a single mom while trying to overcome breast cancer.

To be a Black woman and see this brand on sale at a retailer made my heart super happy. Diversity is about more than just foundation shade matches!

Black women deserve to find products that suit them in makeup *and* to be embraced as business owners in the beauty industry. We aren't just consumers; we're creators, too.

There were a few more brands where that came from — except not all of them gave me as excited a feeling as the Lime Crime and Beauty Bakerie displays. Check out this BH Cosmetics display.

riley rose bh cosmetics
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

The selection is cute, but what about the cool beauty influencer and celebrity collab palettes? I was itching to see the Its My Raye Raye, Carlie Bybel, and Ashley Tisdale palettes all on display.

The lineup also didn't include BH Cosmetics' Take Me To Brazil palette ($16.99, BH Cosmetics) — which is one of its most talked palettes online. 

It also surprised me that K-beauty brand Peripera had such a simplistic product offering compared to the novelty products I know it has put out.

peripera k beauty
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

Peripera is popular for its fun, limited edition, and novelty products like the PowerPuff Girls collection, liquid glitter eyeshadow ($15, Amazon), suitcase carrier set ($19, Amazon), and mini juice box liquid lipsticks ($25, Amazon). 

None of it was on display.

Riley Rose's Peripera shelves were mostly full of lipsticks, correctors, highlighters, and blushes — which have an adorable design — but not exactly what would excite people familiar with the brand's full options on the internet.

After browsing through about four or five rows of makeup, I was surprised again: That's all, folks!

winky lux riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

The store is huge, and I anticipated spending a ton of time (and money!) on makeup — but my walk through the Riley Rose cosmetics section was a short one. 

Though Riley Rose was meant to be an all-beauty Forever 21 spinoff, makeup only made up about a quarter of the store. So yes, you can find SOME items from Winky Lux, Clio, Girlactik, Pinrose, and Glitter Injections — but it was far from the fully loaded Sephora-like experience I'd been expecting.

The biggest selection of makeup in Riley Rose is Lime Crime. Those products are on display in four different spots around the store.

lime crime riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

Aside from the huge Lime Crime display at the front entrance, the brand also had lipsticks at the register and Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Dye packets in the checkout line. Diamond Dews and mini gift sets were also in the checkout line. 

The Unicorn Hair dye packets *were* pretty clutch, since they give people a chance to try it before investing in a larger, more expensive bottle.

When I tried Unicorn Hair, I would have certainly preferred to have my failed dye experience with a $1.90 packet than the $16 bottle the Revelist team bought the first time.

But back to the question at hand: Why such a Lime Crime makeup overload?

The biggest section in the NJ Riley Rose was skin care, which was nice, even if it wasn't the most exciting.

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

The entire right half of the store was solely dedicated to skin care. 

Riley Rose is a face mask addict's DREAM. There are masks of every size, color, and consistency all around the store!

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

From pomegranate to lemon — there was a flavor for your every mood, thought, and emotion.

And I do mean that there's a mask for *every* mood. I have never seen a store with so much skin care!

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

Face masks are cool, and I get it: I'm supposed to wash my face! 

Still, I could have REALLY used about half the face masks, which felt repetitious after a while, and more unique makeup offerings in Riley Rose. Skin care is beauty, but c'mon — when you say "Forever 21's beauty store," YOU KNOW what the millennials crave is makeup by the boatloads. 

I wanted to be DROWNING in makeup. Instead I doggy paddled a few feet and then took a deep dive into hundreds of face masks.

Unfortunately, more disappointment waited for me in the hair section. 

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

FYI: Underneath this silky straight wig that I named after Naomi Campbell, I have kinky-coily natural hair hibernating for the winter.

Other than a small can of dry shampoo, I don't buy many products for my weaves. The stuff I need is for my *textured* hair. 

Riley Rose had ZERO products for me. Nothing. The message sent and received? Riley Rose doesn't want to serve people with natural hair.

For shame. 

And this may be bad, but I know I would have still considered it a small win if it carried even *one* brand for textured hair. Imagine if white people had to be satisfied with just one kind of hair product?

That said, Black culture certainly influenced Riley Rose's overall store aesthetic. There were signs quoting Beyonce lyrics.

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

"I woke up like this" is from a Beyoncé lyric. 

"New hair. Who dis?" is a term that originated from the "New phone. Who dis?" joke amongst Black people that made its way to social media, and later to mainstream television shows

Why is it so easy for brands to adopt Black slang to give edge to their style, yet so hard for those same brands to include us in something as simple as hair product offerings?

White people aren't the only ones who need hair products. Here are stats: African-Americans have a buying power worth $1 trillion, according to Nielsen. Black women also spend 80% more on cosmetics than non-Black people do. 

So what's with the exclusion, Riley Rose?

Riley Rose had me hugging its one Black-owned brand display at the front of the store — but my trip through the hair care aisle reminded me that inclusion is about so much more than one brand and one Black person.

Moving through the rest of the store, I totally dug the luxurious vanities.

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

They came with ring lighted mirrors, makeup brushes, and tablets with makeup tips on them.

And there was a selfie station that I couldn't help but take advantage of. 

riley rose forever 21 store
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

If you look closely, you'll see my makeup basket only has one lip product in there. 

The home goods and office supply section was LIT! 

riley rose home goods
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

There were pillows, blankets, candles, and everything else to help you hook up your apartment, dorm, or wherever you're trying to dwell in style.

And if you have a sweet tooth, Riley Rose specializes in candy. 

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

Yummayyy!

"Specialize" = sells lollipops the size of an infant's head. 

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

It was a sweet surprise. 

Of course, I still ended up buying things — but surprisingly, very little of my shopping bag consisted of beauty products.

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

I grabbed a Grape Life lipstick from Beauty Bakerie ($15, Beauty Bakerie), Winky Lux's Flower Balm ($14, Bloomingdale's), a mirror with lipstick holders, *and* an aquarium mermaid tape dispenser. 

I also grabbed a hat with cat ears, because why not?

But I didn't buy much in the way of beauty products — because as a makeup shopaholic, I already own most of the products Riley Rose sold. It's why I was hoping to catch the standout stuff I hadn't bought yet. Riley Rose seemed to have a decent basic offering, but that really special stuff just wasn't there.

Maybe next time. 

Would I shop at Riley Rose again? 

riley rose
photo: Revelist/B. Fowler

It's a beauty store, so *of course* I would be willing to walk in again if I were nearby. But was it worth taking three trains and a cab from New York to New Jersey? Not exactly.

The makeup offerings are nice, but basic. Riley Rose is a new store, so perhaps the brand will start stocking more of the unique beauty products we all love to stalk online — and hopefully that includes WAY more makeup *and* hair options for all textures.

The store *is* beautiful, with lots of areas to take gorgeous selfies. So even if you don't find the online-only palette of your dreams, you can at least get some great shots for Instagram.

I'm interested to see what Riley Rose does as the brand grows. Hopefully it evolves to become as beautiful, as unique, and as welcoming as we all want. Forever 21 changed the fast fashion game — and there's still time for Riley Rose to step up and do the same for beauty.