Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The only eyeshadow shades you need


You know those fabulous blockbuster palettes that everyone comes out with for the holidays? Estee Lauder, Sephora, Walgreen's, you name it. A whole rainbow of colors and so many finishes: matte, satin, frosted, opalescent, glittery. How fun are they?

Great fun. But let's remember eyeshadow's primary purpose. It's not to go all Crayola 64 shades. Eye shadow exists to sculpt, enlarge, and accentuate the eye.

Say hello to the idea of Your Eyes But Better

If you want startling effects, you'll need a range of different colors of eyeshadow. But if you want to do a neutral, pretty makeup job--your eyes but bigger, brighter, more defined and more expressive--you only need three shades of shadow:

1. A light, non-shimmery base color

This shade should be about the color of your brow bone. You'll be applying it all over the eyelid, from lashline to eyebrow. This sets your concealer or primer, mattifies the area, and provides a base for the rest of your eye look.

2. A darker, non-shimmery midtone/contour shade for sculpting

The midtone or contour shade should be two shades darker than your light shade. This is where fair-skinned girls get gypped. The contour shade in the average quad is usually far too dark. You really only want it to be a couple of shades darker than your light shade. Think about the way paint companies show shades on paint strips--the difference in color should be visible, but subtle.

3. A very dark shade for lining and special effects

The dark shade should be somewhere between your contour shade and your eyeliner and/or eyelashes.

To those shades, it's also nice to add

4. A light shimmery highlight color



OK, I realize this comes as news to absolutely no one. I swear, as I type this, I'm picturing my makeup-obsessed internet friends rolling their (perfectly made up) eyes and saying "duh." After all, every eyeshadow manufacturer from Maybelline to Chanel produces a quad with four beige-to-chocolate brown shades.

Except that the companies often act as thought these quads were one size fits all, when they're really not.

Beware of Shimmer

You'll find lots of quads with absolutely gorgeous colors--except the shadows are all shimmery. Shimmery shadows are fine for certain uses, but for this natural, neutral eye, you want to shape and sculpt the lid, browbone, and crease, and you can't do that with sparkly shadows.

Also, once you have even a hint of droopiness, crepey-ness or crows' feet, you have to approach shimmery shadows with extreme caution. (This is because--to revert to my paint metaphor--you don't use high-gloss, light-reflective paint formulas on a cracked surface!)

Work with your complexion

Here's another way in which eyeshadow quads aren't one-size-fits-all: the four shades you select should relate to your complexion shade and tone. I'm not talking about eye color here; this advice holds no matter what color your eyes are.

You're using these shades to contour the area around your eyes, and they need to work with the color of your skin. As a fair-skinned, cool-to-neutral person, I've found many eye quads to be way too dark or too yellow toned. Often the lightest shade is fine, but the midtone or contour shade is the color of Grey Poupon mustard. Nothing against you mustard-colored ladies, but not only is Grey Poupon-colored eyeshadow unattractive, it looks unnatural. On me, at least.

If you're medium-to-dark-toned, you'll have to watch out for the lighter shades. Often the'll be too light, and end up looking ashy and unnatural. And if you're warm-toned, too taupe-y and cool a shade will look muddy.

Ideally all four eyeshadow shades blend together to create a soft, natural, big-eyed look--which is why I call it Your Eyes But Better.

My Recommendations

When you're looking for a set of eye shadows, it's tempting to buy a ready-made quad. But as I've already pointed out, I've never had much luck with that; it's awfully hard to escape shimmer, and the contour shade is too dark and warm a brown.

However, quads can definitely be cost-effective, as opposed to buying four single shades. Bobbi Brown makes amazing shadows, but they're $20 each, so I hesitate to order you to run out and buy four of them. Still, if you click over there to check out the colors, you'll see how soft and subtle they are. That's the look we're aiming for.

There's also the advantage that someone else has coordinated the colors for you, which is helpful if you're a beginner.

Here are my suggestions:

Drugstore Quads

Revlon's Colorstay 12 Hour Eye Shadow Quad in Coffee Bean


Physician's Formula Canyon Classics and Classic Nudes

Department Store

Clinique's Color Surge Eye Shadow Quad in Teddy Bear. Spicy and Choco-Latte are also beautiful, and would work well with people with warmer and darker complexions.



Elizabeth Arden Color Intrigue Eye Shadow Quad in Sueded Browns or Neutral Cashmeres.


Creating the perfect eyeshadow quad

As you can see, sometimes a quad has one or two or even three gorgeous colors, but it doesn't have everything you need. Once you know the shades that work best for you, it's a great convenience to fill a compact with them.

M.A.C. sells empty four- and fifteen-pan compacts. If you get a four-pan, you could fill it with shadow that work perfectly for you. This is something to keep in mind if you've tried one or two ready-made quads and found you only used two or three of the shades. A custom compact is really wonderful for travel, and it really simplifies life to open one compact and find everything you need.

My favorite eye shadow palette? Glad you asked

OK, this is definitely a case of do as I say, not as I do, because my favorite eyeshadow "quad" has nine shades of shadow. It's Too Faced's Natural Eye Neutral Eye Shadow Collection.


It has a perfect base color (top left) and the all-time fabulously wonderfully perfect crease shade for me (top middle). It also has some great shades to use as eye liner, and some shimmery and glittery shades to use for evening, so it's basically one-stop shopping. It retails for $34, but since you get nine shades, I think it's a pretty good deal.

(Confession time: I've also taken the plunge and ordered a M.A.C. 15-pan palette. Of neutral colors. Heh.)

Coming up soon: how and where to apply your eyeshadow.

Elsewhere:

MakeupGeek has two helpful videos that relate to this post, Makeup 101: How to Apply Eye Makeup, and How to Organize Your MAC Neutral Palette

20 comments:

jenn said...

I love that Clinique quad.

TesoriTrovati said...

Yea. Eye shadow has always mystified me. I would like to wear it but I never seem to pick the right colors, and I always seem to pick the same wine-y shades. I love the smoky eye look but I always look like a crazed racoon when I try. These are good tips and I will think about getting a compact, maybe from Mary Kay since I know I can return them if I don't like them!
Enjoy the day Poppy!
Erin

Rosina at Middle Ageless said...

I hate those multicolour things. They just confuse me and I wouldn't wear anything but the neutrals.

So, my favourite two palettes are 1: the gorgeous Too Faced Natural Eye. I don't use the really glittery pink one for the eyes, but instead brush it over my décolleté. 2: The Bobbi Brown Stonewashed Nudes palette, which is my all-time fave. You can still find it on eBay. The colours are magnificent and a beautiful texture and pigment level. The Revlon palette just doesn't have enough pigment to stay put for the whole day. Great post!

Divadebbi said...

Nice job Ms. Poppy!
Always love to see all price points represented. My instinct is usual neutral, but I recently Blogged about Almay's I intense shadows. Those are the guys that are color coordinated to enhance your eye color. Whenever I use them, I get compliments on my eyes...otherwise NADA! They look a tad shiny in the package, but they calm down once applied. Would LOVE to know your take on them!

xox
DivaDebbi

Divadebbi said...

Nice job Ms. Poppy!
Always love to see all price points represented. My instinct is usual neutral, but I recently Blogged about Almay's I intense shadows. Those are the guys that are color coordinated to enhance your eye color. Whenever I use them, I get compliments on my eyes...otherwise NADA! They look a tad shiny in the package, but they calm down once applied. Would LOVE to know your take on them!

xox
DivaDebbi

blackbird said...

My counterpart at Chanel sent my a quad set and I had NO IDEA what to do with it!
I thank you!

Slightly Undone said...

I love this post! I'm 24 and it's still super helpful :)

Fritinancy said...

I have to use talc-free shadows; talc (a pigment extender added to almost all brands' eyeshadows) makes my eyelids itch and settles distressingly into every crevice. So far I've been happy with Kirkland Signature by Borghese palettes at--yes!--Costco. About $22 for eight shades, a pair of brushes, and a double-ended eyeliner pencil.

Missy said...

Just this weekend I was thinking it's high time to update my eye shadow. Perfect timing! Once again, I will be heading to Sephora and to the drug store (can't buy just one quad set - that would be too reasonable).

Thanks for great info, as always!

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

For me it's the Dr. Hauschka quad...neutrals in bone, and shades of brown and taupe....trouble I have are my eyes are so deep set...how to use the shadows to make my eyes look wider? larger?
I need to draw the attention away from my softening chin!

The Empress said...

Oh, Poppy: you are so helpful. And you dispense advise that is so physically imaginable, that I can never forget. Forever I shall remember the phrase, "you don't use shiny paint on a cracked surface."

Got it.

Mary said...

Thanks Oh Guru : -) Enjoyed what you wrote and once again, very sound advice.

Melissa said...

Thanks for this -- it's just what I needed. And I feel really accomplished and proud that I already own the Revlon quad. You mean I've been doing something correctly?

Shalini said...

Aww man, now I'm going to have to remove Dior's 5-Colour Eyeshadow in Electric Lights (shades of blue)!

What if you've already got lots of color on your eyelids? I actually had a friend compliment me on my eye makeup one time. The only problem was that I wasn't wearing any eye makeup. How about a quad of pink eyeshadows?

Shalini said...

I meant remove it from my Sephora.com shopping cart. Sheesh!

Faux Fuchsia said...

Dear Pops
thank you for mentioning me on your blog! Whenever I think of someone prying the lipstick out of your cold dead hand I laugh!

Faux Fuchsia said...

Dear Pops
thank you for mentioning me on your blog! Whenever I think of someone prying the lipstick out of your cold dead hand I laugh!

LPC said...

Poppy, Poppy, help me! I have worn this eye looks for 30 years. Now I have a deep yearning to put lilac shadow on my fair-but-not-too-fair blue-eyed self. Ideas? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Priscilla said...

I am overwhelmed. But in a good way. And your commentors are helpful too! I'm heading off to costco today!

Audi said...

It might classify as 'duh' information to you, but I found this post really instructive. I'm also relieved, because I keep seeing all these shadow color trends and often wonder if my constant wearing of neutrals is too boring.

Me, myself, and I

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