Eyeshadow has been around for at least 12,000 years, but it’s come a long way since ancient Egyptians invented the smoky-eye effect. Given the variety offered by Too Faced, Lorac, Tarte, MAC, Smashbox, and dozens of other manufacturers, you can get just about any look you want.
As far as quality goes, the best eyeshadows are finely milled for creamy, uniform application. The pigmentation should be intense; just swiping the powder lightly one time should result in a bold swatch of color on your finger. Colors should blend seamlessly without a lot of work. Finally, a good eyeshadow should adhere to your eyelid easily. There will always be a little residue to clean up, but if powder winds up all over your face or vanity, you’ve wasted your money.
Here are five consistently well-rated products, ranging from $9 to $61, that are worth checking out:
Forever 21 Natural Eyeshadow Palette – $9
This is a budget-friendly alternative to Urban Decay Naked products. It comes in a sturdy plastic case with 10 shades, an eyeliner pencil, and a dual-tipped applicator.
Generally, two palettes are offered year-round: Natural, in which colors range from nude to no-nonsense brown, and Smoky, which has deeper hues like plum, charcoal, and black. Seasonal palettes may pop-up throughout the year, but all the shades you’ll find are richly pigmented and adhere for hours.
Users give it high marks for creamy texture, ease of blending, and long mileage. Some of the metallic shades produce more residue than higher-end brands, but overall, the quality is surprising for the price.
Urban Decay Naked2 Basics Palette – $29
This regular best-seller is enthusiastically recommended by around 99 percent of its users and reviewers.
The six neutral colors, which are tonally calmer than those in Naked2’s original product, have a velvety finish, and impressive staying power. Hues range from pale nude to deep, smoky brown. The richness of the lighter colors is partially due to Naked2’s trademarked Pigment Infusion System. The rest of the credit goes to their dedication to quality and attention for detail. And best of all? Each color impeccably complements the next. Some MUAs find that their palettes are always left with a single unused shade. That simply isn’t a problem here!
The Basics palette is nice for a daytime look that can be built upon for a dressy night out. Fans also love the small, sturdy, mirrored case for ease of travel.
Sugarpill Pressed Eyeshadow – $13 per pot
If you don’t like having fun with your eyeshadow, skip this entry and read on. Sugarpill’s colors are the most diverse, intensely hued, unusually named, and dramatic on the market. Even black and white are the blackest and whitest available. In short, Sugarpill is not for the faint of heart.
Sugarpill’s founder, clothing designer Amy Doan, got very tired of the natural look. Doan was a self-described party girl at the time, and the models’ makeup in her own fashion shows bored her to tears.
Stage performers were the first to catch on, but Doan has since attracted a cult following. Her products are cruelty-free, vegan and of extremely high quality. They go on and stay on as reliably as a coat of paint. Bulletproof, the black shade, can even double as eyeliner or false bottom lashes to striking effect.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette – $42
This 14-shade pallet is an exceptionally pretty collection of warm neutrals, pinks, and red-browns. Most have a buttery matte finish, but even the shimmering shades adhere exceptionally well. The deeply pigmented colors wear for seven or eight hours, and they blend like a dream.
Anastasia Soare immigrated from Romania without language skills or money, but she was well-educated in art and architecture. She has made good use of both in her approach to beauty products. As of 2014, ABH, with more than 11 million followers, was the most popular beauty brand on Instagram. Although their account may not hold that same position of power, trust in their brand hasn’t faded. Newly launched palettes often sell out within hours.
Chanel Les 4 Ombres Multi-Effect Quadra Eyeshadow – $61
These luxury palettes of four eyeshadows are offered in 14 different color combinations. Each color appears twice, in two different shades – one for coloring and contouring, and the other for intensifying and highlighting. The finishes of each shade vary between matte, satin, and shimmer.
Fans agree that these products are well worth the price tag. Many love the versatility of color and easy transition from everyday to glamorous. Likewise, their long-lasting colors and seamless layering are major pluses when it comes to reviews. Some of the highest praise they is for ease of application. Unlike most applicators, which are sponge-tipped, Chanel’s are made of soft cotton. Many users prefer them to brushes.