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12 Must-Have Eyeshadow Palettes You’ll Love In Your Collection

by Suka Junin

Aug 12, 2021

Longing for the perfect eyeshadow palette? From soft neutrals to full-blown rainbow wheel, we uncover some of the best ones that will make its way into your makeup collection.

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Eyeshadow Palettes: The Basics

Unlike eyeshadow pots that consist of only one shade, eyeshadow palettes take it one step further by including more shades into one compact. With a variety of hues to experiment with, you can create numerous looks from just one palette. Going for that no-makeup look? Use the neutral tones on the palette. Feeling glam? Pack on some of the glittery shades. You can change your whole vibe by simply using different parts of your palette.

Why are there so many colors and finishes?

Eyeshadow palettes have more than one color so that you can create definition in the eyes. Generally, palettes will include lighter, medium, and deeper shades, which help you build depth and make your eyes pop.

Colors are one thing, but have you ever wondered how companies label the finishes of their eyeshadow products? From shimmer to glitter, it can be confusing to tell the difference between them. Here are the popular finishes and their definitions.

  • Matte. Generally, matte is more pigmented and has no shine or shimmer. It’s a solid color that's best for defining and reshaping the eyes. Matte is a trickier one to use than the others due to its high level of pigment and its tendency to be patchy.
  • Shimmer. For sheer coverage, shimmer finishes offer a subtle shine. It’s good for more neutral looks or to build up a glam eye.
  • Glitter. Contrary to what you may think, glitter is different to shimmer. It’s actually pure glitter particles that are safe for the eyes and can be added on top of other shades.
  • Satin. A step above matte and not quite iridescent, satin has a soft sheen.
  • Metallic. Gold, silver, copper, and bronze shades that are shiny are of the metallic family.

How To Apply Eyeshadow

The key to applying eyeshadow effectively is to have a good set of brushes. Specific brushes help apply eyeshadow on optimally, as your eye isn’t a straight shape. There are also brushes that make your eyeshadow blend neater. As long as you have the essentials, you won’t need to own every brush to achieve a good eyeshadow look. More isn’t necessarily better – in fact, you might get too confused and be left feeling demotivated.

Below are the key eyeshadow brushes that you may want to add to your collection:

  • Shader Brush. A brush designed for the entire lid, its wide semi-circle edge follows the natural shape of your eyelid. This one is great for your base color.
  • Pencil Brush. With a narrower head, this brush is good for the hard-to-reach areas, such as the inner corners of your eyes.
  • Blending Brush. The fluffy dome head of this brush blends out the color, which diffuses pigment for when you just need a wash of color.
  • Angled Liner Brush. For sharp fine lines, you’ll need this. The short bristles and flat edge makes it easier to apply shadow closer to your lash line.
  • Smudge Brush. Apart from using this to smudge (for that smoky eye look), you can also use it to apply shadow to your lower lash line.

What to Look For in an Eyeshadow Palette

With so many eyeshadow palettes available in the market, it’s hard to take your pick (especially when they’re not exactly cheap!). Truth is, the best eyeshadow palette for you comes down to your taste and style. Are you more into the neutrals or do you prefer bold, rainbow colors on the lids? There’s no point in buying a trendy – and very expensive – palette if you won’t use more than half the shades on it. Pick a pan with colors that you’ll actually see yourself using!

If you’re torn between a few palettes, it helps to go for one that has an eclectic range of shades. This allows you to use the eyeshadow palette to the most of its ability by giving it another purpose. For instance, lighter shades can be used as a highlighter, while darker shades can be used to fill brows. Additionally, a cream shadow can also be used as a blush or lipstick.

When a color theme is established, you can narrow down your options by prioritizing the type of eyeshadow finish. Bigger eyeshadow palettes will generally include a mix of finishes, such as matte, satin, metallic, and shimmer. However, there are palettes with only one or two finishes for those that prefer that instead.

Eyeshadow Quick Tips

Got your brand-new palette? Here are some tips that will help you make the most out of it.

Eyeshadow Palette’s Life Expectancy

Like other forms of makeup and beauty products, eyeshadow palettes have a use-by date. Many of us have used beauty products past its expiration date without issues. While it’s not something we physically consume, it’s also in your best interest – health and safety wise – that you know when it’s no longer good to use your eyeshadow palette.

To identify your palette’s life expectancy, look for the period-after-opening (PAO) symbol. The symbol looks similar to a jar with its lid off accompanied by a number to indicate how many months or years it will last. The countdown starts when a product is first opened and its longevity also depends on the packaging of the palette and how you store it.

Eyeshadow palettes with pressed powders can often last up to two years. However, it’s best to toss it if you notice discoloration, change in smell, or any other differences. As your eyes are a sensitive area, you may want to play it safe when it comes to your eyeshadow’s expiry date.

Cleaning Eyeshadow Palettes

Although eyeshadow palettes are the least likely makeup product to carry bacteria, it’s still worthwhile to give them a clean every now and then. This is especially true if you want them to last a little longer! Luckily, it doesn’t take much to clean your eyeshadow palette. To clean the fallout staining the packaging, dip a cotton swab in some micellar water and run it around the pigment. When cleaning the actual shades, put some isopropyl alcohol (70% is optimum) in a spray bottle and gently mist it all over the product. Get a dry cotton swab to wipe away excess alcohol and let it dry completely before using.

Fixing Eyeshadow Palettes

It’s a sad day when a makeup product meets its end. But, did you know you can salvage a broken eyeshadow palette? If you’ve dropped your favorite eyeshadow and it has shattered into pieces, you can turn it into a loose powder eyeshadow instead. To do this, simply pop the eyeshadow into a plastic bag and crush it further into even finer pieces.

Alternatively, you can press it back into the pan for it to remain a pressed powder. You’ll need to crush big chunks and add a few drops of alcohol. Then, you’ll need to wrap the powder in a napkin, place it back in the pan, and add a coin or another flat object on top. If you have sensitive eyes, you can replace the drops of alcohol with water or use alcohol-free wipes when pressing down the eyeshadow back in place.

The Best Eyeshadow Palettes

Best For: Overall

A palette of modern nude shades inspired by real skin tones, it’s no wonder why this one is a cult favorite. Too Faced’s Born This Way The Natural Nudes Eye Shadow Palette ranges from mattes to metallic that you can use for any occasion. The creamy texture and easy-to-blend shades are easily picked up by a brush, making it perfect for those starting out in eyeshadow play. If you have to pick just one palette, pick one that’s versatile – like this one.

Best For: Pink Hues

Colourpop’s number one selling palette earned its title for a reason. The brand has a whopping number of eyeshadow palettes, but their Sweet Talk Shadow Palette is one for the books. It consists of a range of peachy and coral tones with a good mix of matte, metallic and glitter. Also featured is their iconic Super Shock Shadow, which is of a crème-powder blend, famously known for blending effortlessly on the lids.

Best For: Vibrant Colors

Eye-catching is an understatement with the Warrior 3 Eyeshadow Palette form Juvia’s Place. For bolder and fiercer looks, this palette is your go-to. With emerald green, fire engine red, deep violet, and bright blue, you’re bound to turn heads. In terms of pigmentation, it’s strong and long-lasting, especially colors that you wouldn’t expect to stay on, such as yellow. If you’re new to using a rainbow palette, the color combinations might take some time to get used to. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll get attached to this palette in an instant.

Best For: Satin Finish

Eyeshadow palettes don’t always have to be in a pressed powder form. In fact, Danessa Myricks’ have a line of cream palettes, which delivers the softest wash of color on the eyes. Its finish is satiny, semi-matte and can also built up for a stronger hue. But this product doesn’t just stop at the eyes – it can also be used on the lips and cheek. For a brighter and bolder look, go for The Feminist palette, while The Nudist offers a collection of very natural shades.

Best For: Golds

Sometimes, we need a little gold in our lives. With Natasha Denona’s Gold Eyeshadow Palette, you won’t find shortage of it. If you’ve been struggling with applying matte shades, Natasha Denona’s Signature matte formula is creamy instead of patchy. The palette features 15 shades of gold tones and are complemented with browns and greens to create stunning color combinations. With these many shades, you can go from natural gold to a dramatic glam eye within seconds.

Best For: Smoky Eye

Feel like spicing up your smoky eye look? Try purple shades! Naked’s Ultraviolet Eyeshadow Palette is a myriad of pale lavenders, violets, and deep purples. There are also peachy neutrals if you want something softer or a quick pop of color. Blending the deeper purple shades will give you a super smoky, hazy purple look that will deliver on any occasion. As purple is Urban Decay’s signature color, you’ll know they’re in their element.  

Best For: Value

Nothing like a huge pan of eyeshadow with a spectrum of colors to make anyone excited about makeup. NYX has named their mega 40-shade palette Utopia – and rightly so. From light pastels to warm, dark shades, there’s a look here for everyone. The colors are not completely random or total opposites and are deceivingly color-coordinated. Each shade will work with one another seamlessly, giving you a never-ending collection of looks.

Best For: Glitter

Are you a little extra when it comes to makeup? Tarte’s Tarteist PRO REMIX Amazonian Clay Palette is a rich 20-shade palette taking its inspiration for colors from various mediums of art, such as graffiti and graphic novels. Also included in the palette is what Tarte refers to as ‘one and done’ shades, where one quick swipe all over the lid is good to go. You can easily achieve a bright pop of color without having to blend with other shades – perfect for those lazy days!

Best For: Simple Color Combination

Look no further than Marc Jacobs Beauty’s Eye-Conic Multi-Finish Eyeshadow Palette for a very curated shade selection. Choose from five different colorways, with each one containing a chic mix of seven shades. Each palette comes with four finishes: matte velvet, shimmering satin, sparkling silk, and metallic lamé to suit your mood. It’s unique packaging is also a big plus: the single-row and narrow compact make it the perfect companion for your travels.

Best For: Matte Shades

For days when you want a break from all the glitter, try Uoma’s Black Magic Color Palette on for size. Both the Poise and Allure palettes feature deep matte shades that are blendable, buildable, and very pigmented. The matte shades in Poise also go together to create a different, warmer take on the classic smokey eye look. In addition to the buttery mattes, the palettes also have glitter shades just in case you want to add some sparkle into the eyes. The Allure palette contains a shimmery white shade that turns to gold when applied on the skin.

Best For: Travel

Can there possibly be anything cuter than Elf’s Bite-Size Eyeshadow? The aptly-named eyeshadow quad contains four ultra-pigmented shades in the tiniest of compacts. There are eight different combinations to choose from, each with colors that work effortlessly together or individually. Don’t let the budget-friendly price assume anything less – the formula offers blendable color that stays on for as long as you’ll allow it.

Best For: Neutral Glam

Classic, sexy, yet subtle enough for everyday use. That’s the Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette for you. Take the neutral shades during the day and level it up with the sparkly tones for the evening. You’ll get a hint of glam without looking over-the-top fancy! The palette also includes a dual-ended eyeshadow brush and a large mirror, so that you can do touch-ups on the go.

Final Verdict

Whether you’re new to the eyeshadow game or a veteran, Too Faced’s Born This Way Palette has the best mix of natural and soft glam shades that are easy to use. For the best budget-friendly option, Elf’s Bite Size Eyeshadow Palette ($3) is good for simple gals and those on the go.

When it comes to eyeshadow palettes, it’s tempting to buy them all. Some palettes may not have all the colors you want and some will have colors you’ll hardly use. At the end of the day, your must-have palette is the one you see yourself wearing on a regular basis.

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Suka Junin

Suka is a writer with a passion for creating content around all things makeup, beauty, and skincare. With one article at a time, she’s keen in making a difference through her writing by promoting clean and sustainable living.

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