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Best eyeshadow 2021: The best creams, powders and eyeshadow palettes

Jade Vincent Philippa Pearne
21 Jan 2020
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Looking to switch-up your eye makeup? Here are the best eyeshadows to suit every style

Whether you’re after full-on glam or just a hint of colour, an eyeshadow is likely to be one of your daily go-to bits of makeup. From smoky coppers, golds and greys, to bright blues and greens to natural pinks and taupes, there’s all manner of colours available to accentuate your peepers, no matter your eye colour. You can use eyeshadow to give you wide-awake eyes, or add depth or introduce a pop of vibrant colour for a more bold look. But with so much choice available, knowing the best eyeshadow to buy isn’t always easy. Should you pick a cream or a powder? Which colour will best suit your eye colour? Should you go low-end or luxury? Or opt for a palette or a single pot? Well, wonder no more. We’ve put together a list of the best eyeshadows out so you can find the one that’s perfect for you.

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How to buy the best eyeshadow for you

What’s the difference between a cream and powder eyeshadow?

The texture of product you opt for will depend on the finish you want to achieve with your eyeshadow. If you’re after a simple wash of colour then a powder will be perfect, but a cream or liquid will be better for a look with more depth. A powder eyeshadow is usually applied using an eyeshadow brush, whereas a cream will either come with its own doe foot applicator or it can be applied using your fingers. Both formulations are buildable, but since a cream eyeshadow is thicker, it will usually have more pigment. To get a better depth of colour from your powder eyeshadow, apply the product with a wet brush. This changes its texture ever so slightly, giving you a bolder colour.

Do you need to apply an eyeshadow primer first?

An eyeshadow primer gives added assurance that the eyeshadow will stay put for longer. However, you might be fine without one. Some eyeshadows stay on longer, primer-free, than others. Our advice would be to try wearing your eyeshadow without primer for a few days first, to see how it fares. Your skin type will also play a part in terms of how well your eyeshadow wears. If you have oily skin, for example, chances are you’ll need a primer as most eyeshadows will tend to slip off greasy lids quite quickly.

How much should you spend? 

Anything between our recommended price bracket of £5.49 to £50 is reasonable. Remember, though: if you’re buying a palette containing more than one shade, then you’re naturally going to be spending towards the higher end of that bracket. If you’re buying a single eyeshadow, then it seems silly to spend a lot of money when you consider its size. However, you’re applying a very small amount to a small area so it’s likely to last you months, so don’t feel guilty about treating yourself.

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The best eyeshadows you can buy

1. Smashbox Cover Shot Eye Palettes: The best eyeshadow palette

Price: £24 | Buy now from Boots

Sometimes, it’s just too darn difficult to pick only one colour. In this instance, why not opt for a palette made up of your favourite shades. Smashbox’s palettes come in six variations, ranging from smoky shades and metallics to soft pinks and beiges, and all are powder shadows. As mentioned, each palette is made up of six eyeshadow colours plus two base colours. Since all are complementary colours, you can use a single colour or blend two/three shades together to create your desired look. The texture of the eyeshadow is smooth, making it easy to apply, and it’s high in pigment too. The palette itself is slimline, making it easy to slot into your makeup bag or handbag – although since the colours tend to stay in place for the duration of the day, you’re unlikely to have a need for on-the-go touch-ups.

Buy now from Boots


2. Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadow: Best glitter eyeshadow

Price: £24 | Buy now from Look Fantastic

The Stila Glitter & Glow liquid eyeshadow delivers an unrivalled sparkle when matte or smoky eyes just don’t cut it. Available in six metallic shades, ranging from champagne and rose gold to iridescent silver and “midnight” black, the shadows use a mix of pearl and glitter to give a shimmery finish.

With a long lasting, water-infused formula that glides onto the lid, we found that the eyeshadow dried down almost immediately and feels undetectable after application. What’s better, you can apply the eyeshadow straight from the tube thanks to its doe-foot applicator and can expect minimal fallout, unlike most powder formulas. Our thoughts? Whether you’re heading to a festival, birthday party or just want to amp up an otherwise simple eye makeup look, these glitzy Stila eyeshadows will ensure that all eyes are on you. We’d apply on the centre of the lid and inner corner of the eye for added sparkle that’ll make your peepers pop.

Key info - Type: Liquid; Finish: Glitter; Shades available: 6.

Buy now from Look Fantastic


3. Mac Pro Longwear Paint Pot: The best cream eyeshadow

Price: £17 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

Being one of the staple professional makeup brands, it’s not surprising that Mac Cosmetics makes our final cut of eyeshadows. Mac’s Paint Pots are of a creamy consistency and are available in nine earthy shades, which makes them ideal for those after a natural or smoky eye makeup look. Amazingly, they rarely crease – even when applied without primer – and durability is impressive, too. So impressive, in fact, that you can wear the product alone for a natural look, or use it as a primer (it’s that long-wearing) for other eyeshadows. Our advice to get the best of both worlds? Wear it alone during the day, then layer on a brighter or more shimmery powder shadow for the evening. We love a multitasker.

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners


Image of OS PAINT POT MASSHILL8OZ

OS PAINT POT MASSHILL8OZ

$45.21 ($265.94 / Ounce) Buy now

4. Clinique Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes: The best eyeshadow under £20

Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon

If a no-mess, no-fuss application is what you’re after, then this eyeshadow stick is just the ticket. Many such eyeshadow sticks can feel clumsy to apply, too thick even – but this one offers the perfect size of tip in an easy-to-use form. In one quick slick, you’ll achieve a wash of colour over your eyelids that will stay put, smudge- and crease-free, until you decide to remove it at the end of the day. Available in numerous sheer colours, the eyeshadow is buildable, so if you’re wanting a more glam look then simply layer and blend with your finger to achieve your desired look.

5. Dior 5 Couleurs: The best eyeshadow palette under £50

Price: £48 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

Whatever your colour preference, this powder palette is available in numerous variations so you’re sure to find something that suits you perfectly. As the name states, each palette holds five shades, all of which are high in pigment and feel velvety-smooth on application. Also, while some palettes offer only a tiny amount of each colour, this one offers a generous block of each, so no need to worry about running out of your favourite shade too quickly. All the eyeshadows in the palette complement each other, so you can mix them up to create a specific look or use each one individually. Whichever way you decide to use these eyeshadows, you’ll be happy with both their finish and the long-lasting formula. A little touch of luxury.

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

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