Best Eyeshadows | 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Best Eyeshadows

Today, I bring you 12 of my favorite eyeshadow formulas! I’m always hesitant to add eyeshadow formulas here that are only available in palette-form, but I’ve come to realize that palettes are becoming so commonplace in permanent offerings that I’ve had to bend that “rule” to include the great formulas of Pat McGrath and Viseart.

I have noticed that the rare moments I can choose a particular eye product to wear, I go between Pat McGrath and Viseart (and Natasha Denona, actually, but the brand has been less consistent than I need it to be with its recent offerings as the formulas have changed). I prefer my eyeshadow to be more pigmented than not, though I don’t mind more buildable formulas when it comes to deeper or richer shades, particularly when they’re matte.

The way I approach my gift guides is by focusing permanent formulas that have stood the test of time–they are high quality, consistent, and all formulas that I personally enjoy. You’ll find a formula overview and four top-rated shades (that are permanent) for each highlighted range. As always, I’d love to hear about your own personal favorite formulas–don’t forget to tell me why!

If you’re curious about the best limited edition holiday products and sets, check out our Best of Holiday 2018 Palettes & Gifts page, which automatically updates the rankings as new reviews go live.

Pat McGrath EYEdols Eyeshadow

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Pat McGrath's eyeshadows are, generally, supposed to be "super-saturated" with "creamy, soft textures" and "extreme blendability and adherence without creasing." A lot of how well they perform (and to some degree, how they are supposed to be applied and marketed) depends on the type of shades, but by and large, the eyeshadows perform very much as they are described.

The brand released single eyeshadows in March 2019, and the shades have been consistent in quality, look, and feel. They are not removable, unfortunately, so one would have to depot like any other single eyeshadow--I tried using tweezers and lifting on several shades to no avail. The lids are held closed by a weak magnet, so I'm not sure they're as secure as most single eyeshadow compacts in my stash--I wish it really locked in, but there's definitely a magnet that pulls the lid down if it's within 2mm of the base.

The mattes are velvety, blendable, and dense without being thick or too heavy, and they have semi-opaque to opaque pigmentation where a little can go a long way with some of the deeper and richer hues. The satin and pearl finishes are smooth, lightly creamy, and firmer but not dense or thick with good pigmentation, blendability, and easy application. The more metallic finishes tend to be softer, creamy, and smooth with a bit more denseness and no powderiness. The sparkly/glittery shades are often designed to be applied wet for richer coverage or intensity, which has largely been my experience. Most of the shades last between eight and nine hours.

Top Rated Shades


Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow

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Stila says that it’s supposed to be a “long-wearing, sparkle eye shadow” in a “water-infused texture” that “dries down smoothly” with “minimal fallout.” There’s a lot to be impressed by with the formula, but there was some inconsistency in opacity and overall wateriness between shades so not all shades were equally impressive. When they’re good, they were pigmented, dried down evenly without creasing, and were long-wearing with minimal fallout. When they’re less impressive, they are more watery, semi-sheer to semi-opaque, prone to creasing as they dry down, though the wear is similar across all shades.

I felt like there was less fallout with the less blending done with them, e.g. applying directly to lid and only minimally working along the edges yielded the least fallout compared to diffusing and blending out the color with a brush. If I accidentally rubbed an eye, it seemed to interfere with the integrity of the wear completely–it was like a downhill avalanche of glitter that could not be stopped. They were easiest to use as the last step in a look, patted over eyeshadow with fingertip or swiped on with the sponge applicator for more of a “cut crease” kind of effect, or used along the lash line as eyeliner (I liked using a thin, liquid eyeliner brush to get a thinner line). They removed fairly well, but it was hard to get every last bit of glitter off the skin, though it was never painful or uncomfortable to remove them.

Top Rated Shades


Make Up For Ever Artist Color Shadow

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The original Artist Shadow formula had a creamier, slightly softer, and thicker feel for finishes like Metallic, Iridescent, and Satin, while I felt the original Diamond finish was denser/thicker (heavier almost) and the Matte finish was more powdery but similar in softness and pigmentation (I did not find the original Mattes to be ultra pigmented across the board--semi-opaque to opaque, buildable, which you can see in my original swatches here). By and large, I found the formula to be easy to work with and did not have to spend a lot of time blending or fussing with the shades on the lid.

The new Matte formula has a smoother consistency that has more slip to the touch with less powderiness in the pan, but the pigmentation did seem slightly weaker on average compared to the original formula. The pigmentation of the new Matte formula was still semi-opaque to opaque and buildable but I felt like there were just more shades that were closer to semi-opaque than to opaque. However, shades like M402 Mimosa showed improvement, as it used to be a Satin (see here) and not as easy to work with due to the denser texture. A lot of the shades were similar in color between the formulas, but there were a few that were not (M546 Dark Purple Taupe was a shade with more significant changes; the new version is warmer and lighter). Overall, I did not have any issues applying most of the matte shades to the lid, blending them out, or building up coverage. They lasted between nine and ten hours on me, which was actually a bit longer (on average) compared to the original formula, where the mattes tended to wear between seven and eight hours on me (without primer).

The new Satin formula was the most different; it had weaker pigmentation, felt denser and drier with less give and creaminess. In practice, I did not feel like application was harder or noticeably different other than feeling like more of the shades required two layers for more opaque coverage, though some of the more neutral shades were fairly pigmented in a single layer. I also noticed that this particular finish seemed to be the most culled; there weren't that many shades in it, and I wonder if they did not sell well or something about the finish is harder to produce. There were significant differences in color (and/or undertone) between shades in the new formula and old formula (with the same names) within this finish, too, where most were different rather than only a handful being different. The pigmentation of the new Satin formula was typically semi-opaque and buildable, while they applied evenly, blended out without much effort, and lasted between eight and ten hours (without primer). Read more...

Top Rated Shades


Coloured Raine Eyeshadow

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The formula is supposed to be "highly pigmented, long-lasting, and blendable" and come in a variety of finishes. Most their eyeshadows are semi-opaque to opaque with a smooth, blendable textures that are easy to use and apply well to bare skin. The shimmers are slightly dense and creamier to the touch compared to the mattes, which aren't thin but don't have the same amount of slip. They tend to wear between eight and nine hours on me.

Top Rated Shades


Colour Pop Pressed Powder Shadow

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The new Pressed Powder Shadow formula is supposed to be “highly pigmented” with an “ultra-velvety and silky” texture that is “long-wearing” and “adheres easily to the eyes.” Most of the shades have semi-opaque to opaque pigmentation that applies well to bare skin, blends out without issue, and lasts for seven to eight hours. The matte eyeshadows tend to be a little more powdery, though soft and finely-milled, in the pan, while the shimmers have a creamier, dense consistency. Occasionally, the more sparkly or metallic shades apply better with fingertips or a dampened brush.

Top Rated Shades

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UltaColourPop
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UltaColourPop

Tarte Metallic Shadow

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The Metallic Shadow formula is supposed to have “smooth payoff” that have “lasting vibrancy with no fallout” and are “ultra-pigmented.” They are also designed to be removable, so you can easily put them into an empty palette. The original set of shades were released in plastic compacts, but the most recent release featured them in cardboard compacts. The formula is typically very pigmented, smooth, and blendable with good wear (around eight hours).

Top Rated Shades


City Color Shimmer Shadow

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City Color Shimmer Shadow is supposed to have “intense color payoff” with a “heavy metallic finish” that also has “long-wear.” There are 16 shades in the range, and this post features six of them. The majority of the shades in the formula have a very dense, thick, and cream-like consistency–I have best results using a firmer, flatter and synthetic brush than I do with a really soft, natural hair brush, though natural brushes offer a little more control over how metallic the finish gets and my MAC 239s were just fine with it (and those are natural hair). They are intensely pigmented, and they blend out and apply well to bare skin.

The formula wore for around eight to eight and a half hours on me with very slight creasing. A few of the very frosted, metallic shades seemed to emphasize the natural texture of parts of my lid and need a little extra blending to smooth out.

Top Rated Shades

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City Color
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City Color

Anastasia Eyeshadow

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Anastasia Eyeshadow is supposed to be a “finely-milled, highly-pigmented” powder eyeshadow. There are several different finishes, and the performance can be better or worse depending on the finish, though it also ranges from shade to shade. On average, the formula is semi-opaque to opaque, lightly dusty to buttery, wears seven to nine hours, and is fairly blendable. The Metallic and Titanium finishes seem to be the best-performing to me, but there are some really standout mattes and shimmers as well. I have not tried the sparkle, satin, or velvet finishes as extensively as the other finishes, personally.

Top Rated Shades


Colour Pop Super Shock Shadow

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ColourPop Super Shock Shadow is a cream-based formula that comes in a multitude of shades and finishes. The more metallic shades have the most slip to them (they have a “wetter” feel), while the more matte ones have a firmer, more clay-like consistency. Almost every shade I’ve tried from ColourPop has been exceptionally long-wearing (10+ hours of wear, usually there until I remove, even 14 hours later). The pigmentation can vary from shade to shade, but the average shade is quite pigmented.

From feedback I’ve seen from readers, many love them but some don’t like them at all. They aren’t a traditional cream eyeshadow, as they are denser (more sponge-like), and they apply best with flat, firm, synthetic brushes (I like the MAC 242 and 249) for me. The brand recommends using fingers for the most pigmented application, but I’ve only felt that fingers were necessary on a few shades (usually the super glittery ones).

The more matte shades can be on the drier side and vary from medium to opaque in coverage, though they're often buildable.  They can be a little hard to diffuse the edges of, though some are lovely to work with. Read more...

Top Rated Shades

Availability
UltaColourPop
Availability
UltaColourPop

Urban Decay Eyeshadow

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The formula is typically described as "high-pigment" that "stays on your lids" and goes on "seamlessly." Their permanent range has a lot of fantastic shades in it, and many of them are pigmented, blendable, and long-wearing. Some of their matte are real workhorse kind of shades with soft, smooth, silky, and blendable textures, while their shimmers and pearly shades are very rich in payoff and apply beautifully to the lid. They wear between seven and nine hours on me, depending on the shade and finish.

Top Rated Shades


L'Oreal Infallible 24-Hour Eyeshadow

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The formula is supposed to have “24 hour” wear with “intense, maximized color” and a “powder-cream texture.” They are absolutely long-wearing, but testing for 24 hours is more than I’m happy to do more than very, very occasionally, though most showed some sign of wear between 12 and 14 hours of wear, so I used that to help determine an approximate wear time.

The majority of the shades in the range are semi-opaque to opaque, buildable when not fully opaque, and soft, blendable, and easy to work with. The more shimmery shades tended to be the best and easiest to use while more matte and satin finish shades were not as consistent.

Top Rated Shades


Viseart Eyeshadow

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The eyeshadow formula is supposed to be "pigment[ed]" with "smooth and even application" that is "long-lasting." The matte shades are typically semi-opaque to opaque but buildable with soft, velvety textures that can sometimes be a little powdery or slightly firm, depending on the shade. I find that the mattes are often best suited to someone who likes control over pigmentation and may prefer to build up color; they regularly perform better in practice than just swatched on the arm as well.

The shimmer shades range from satin to metallic, and the more metallic shades tend to feel creamier to the touch, while the satin ones have a fine pearl to them that looks almost melted on the lid once blended out. Both the mattes and shimmers are blendable and easy to work with. Most of Viseart's eyeshadows wear between seven and nine hours on me.

Top Rated Shades

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6 Comments

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Hello Christine, do you think that urban decay single eyeshadows formula might be better than the naked palettes formula? I don’t know why but I see a difference :/

Well, I like some of the Naked palettes, so I’m not sure how to answer that… I think their single range is more consistent in general.

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