Over the past year I’ve racked up quite the collection of eyeshadows, which says a lot for a girl who [after an unpleasant teen experience involving Barry M Dazzle Dust] was a strictly mascara girl right up until summer 2014.
The world of eyeshadow is understandably a daunting one, and in my opinion, instruction regarding application is more than lacking [although not for want of trying]. I don’t think I have ever achieved success in following the guidelines found in makeup manuals, the step-by-steps on the back of the packaging, or even from the plethora of tutorials one unearths after typing multiple variations of ‘eyeshadow tutorial’ into YouTube. Working on a beauty counter I’ve seen as many ‘smokey-eyes gone wrong’ turn up for advice as I have ‘must be PhotoShop rainbow-ombre lids’ on Instagram; it seems we’re faced with two extremes, both of which are enough to scare us away from palettes and crease brushes for life.
Of course, this is due to the fact that we all have completely different eyes, so there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ tutorial. Shape, colour, age, and skin-type are just a few of the many factors to play a massive role in determining how we should choose and apply our eye-makeup. In which case, my best advice would be to get lessons from someone with experience. Free makeovers in your local beauty hall are there for the taking, and should be seen as more than just a sales pitch for counter-girls and customers alike. Sadly, not all assistants will be so forthcoming in sharing their tips, but try a few different locations and you’re bound to meet an eyeshadow enthusiast who will be aware that helping you will do more for her sales-target than being snooty. [N.B. If you're Manchester-based I’d recommend RMK and SUQQU in Selfridges, or Smashbox and No7 in Boots].
Once you’ve determined what works for you, practice makes perfect. The first time you attempt to define your crease/lashline/tear-duct, it will be messy, but persevere and you’ll soon have mastered your signature technique and style.
I’m not here to offer any advice regarding application today [although this post will provide as much tutelage as I can offer without coming at you armed with palette and brush-belt]. Instead, today’s post sees a round-up of my favourite eyeshadows [creams and pencils set aside for another day]. As you can see I love a neutral shade, and as a rule find more success in luxury offerings than budget ones, but the feature these all hold in common is a quality that allows for effortless and foolproof application.
Dip your brush into this shade and you’ll be initially alarmed by its loose and powdery consistency [generally, anything too ‘bitty’ will be impossible to work with and will end up halfway down your cheeks]. However upon application this has the effect of almost melting into a silky and buttery texture which can be blended effortlessly across the lid. A true one-wash wonder.
My first foray into MAC’s pigments, and I’m 100% smitten [the wishlist is racking up]. This warm and delicate dusky pink is flecked through with gold, and looks amazing packed onto the lid for a wash of metallic colour [I use the KIKO Mixing Solution to keep it adhered to my lids all night long].
The only MAC Eyeshadow I own [yes really], is this effortlessly wearable, ‘goes with just about everything’ neutral bronze-brown. It’s not as pigmented as it looks, so serves to provide a subtle warmth and definition. One of the few shadows which actually looks really great when worn on its own [although it also looks fab with a bold cat-eye].
This unassuming matte and neutral duo are my go-to shades when indecision strikes. Ideal for contouring the eye area, and for adding a little definition when cheating the ‘no eye makeup’ look that perfectly suits a bold brow or strong red lip. If your schedule confines your getting-ready routine to under 5 minutes/pre-sunrise, this will be a welcome addition to your makeup bag.
Providing the perfect backdrop to green eyes, Black Honey is neither matte nor shimmer, but instead has a gorgeous satin-sheen effect. A rich and dark burgundy, its saturated tone doesn’t lean too red. I’d never really given much thought to Clinique’s makeup offerings before trying this, but its quality is exceptional enough to warrant my [now] frequent visits to the Clinique counter a bonafide swatch-fest.
I picked this up in the midst of the Dual-Intensity hype which raged at the beginning of the year, and as consolation for resisting buying the entire palette. A cool, bright, and pretty shade; it looks amazing when applied wet and packed into the lower lashline, with any excess blended lightly over the lid.
For a modern take on the the traditional smokey-eye, opt for this cool-toned shimmer-free shade. In order to master the balance of intensities required of a smokey-eye, it lends varying degrees of opacity to different tools. Use a crease brush to define and a fluff-shadow brush to blend, or apply wet with a wing-liner brush to emphasise the lashlines.
This warm, sandy shade stuns when paired with blue or green eyes as it really serves to bring out colour. Its matte texture emphasises brightness, especially when patted into the lower lashline. Pair with a slightly darker but equally warm brown to add shape and depth.
A metallic alternative to Madrague, this duo has seasonal preference during the summer months, adding prettiness and finesse to the bronzed goddess look. The cooler shade is a perfect inner-eye brightener and I often pair it with any number of the other shades in this edit.
Sadly lacking the intensity and opacity of Nars’ take on the dual-purpose formula, I nonetheless adore this shade enough to wear it on a regular basis, despite its inability to quite live up to its name. Its texture is quite rough and velvety when dry, so it’s best used wet to line the eyes or damp to deepen the crease.
The first shadow to make it into my kit post Dazzle Dust-gate, this delicate bronze is completely foolproof [hence its ability to tempt me back into the world of eyeshadow]. Paired with lashings of mascara and a slick of black eyeliner, this is a perennial favourite; and like Saddle can be intensified for an evening appropriate smokey eye.
The star of my collection and without a doubt the product that truly helped me to master eyeshadow; if forced to narrow down my stash to just one product it would undoubtedly be this one [and not for the fact it contains four shades]. The formula is light and buttery and the shades blend together flawlessly, offering a combination for every occasion. Together these have the effect of making your eyeshadow look as if it was applied by a professional, no matter how explicitly it was applied. If you’re serious about mastering eyeshadow, this quad will be your finest tutor.
Truly, I can find no difference between KIKO’s shadows and MAC’s. In terms of consistency, finish, and texture I doubt even a seasoned MAC-obsessive could tell the difference. These light and buttery shades blend beautifully, delivering just the right amount of product.
Having worked with both budget and high-end eyeshadows, I really do think that it’s worth paying a little more money to get the best quality [although my exceptions here would be No7, KIKO, and at a push L’Oreal]. Well-made eyeshadow is so much more easier to work with, and you can really tell the difference; I 100% blame my scarring teen eyeshadow experiences on the dire quality of the products I was experimenting with. On a similar note, having good brushes also makes a world of difference [but doesn’t necessarily have to come at an extortionate price]. There’s really no point picking up a £40 Chanel eyeshadow quad and attempting to apply it with the brushes you received in 2012’s Christmas cracker.
Personally I use [and would recommend]:
LAURA MERCIER Ponytail Brush
LAURA MERCIER Eye Crease Brush
ZOEVA 227 Luxe Soft Definer Brush*
ZOEVA 231 Luxe Petit Crease Brush*
NARS 43 Wide Contour Eyeshadow Brush*
Real Techniques Starter Set
What are your go-to eyeshadows?