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How to Create New Shades with Makeup You Already Own

Whether you have a manageable or overwhelming collection of beauty products, shopping your stash is a great method to rediscover old favorites, wear products in new ways, and get those creative juices flowing.  In what is likely going to end up being a series on how to “shop your stash,” I wanted to focus this post on how to create new shades by using products you already own by altering finishes, depths, undertones, and even changing up how you might think about where and how to use certain products.

What is shopping your stash anyway?  Instead of purchasing something new and shiny, you turn to what you own to find something similar or a combination of products that can achieve a similar effect or look, and it also works for those who often find themselves wanting something new but are trying to reduce purchases.   It’s really about using what you have to satisfy your current needs or wants.

Layer mattes and shimmers to create new finishes and depths.

One of the easiest way to breathe new life into the shades you own is through layering them together, and one of my favorites, which I find particularly easy to do it, is applying a matte shade first and topping with something shimmery or glittery.  This exercise is also good to use sheerer products, too, as sheerer ones allow the matte shade to come through more.  If you think about the process of applying eyeshadow, we’re often taking at least two shades and making them meet in the middle by blending them together–so why not take that principle but do it on the same area? That’s what this section is all about but, of course, applying the principle to eyes, lips, and cheeks!


A layered lip look to create a dimensional, metallic green lip color | Look Details

Here are some examples:

  • Apply a matte lipstick all-over the lips and top with a sheer, sparkly gloss to add shine and sparkle while allowing the matte lipstick to come through a lot.  (See it in action here, plus bonus: loose glitter!)
  • Apply a matte lipstick along the outer edges and blend inward (almost blurring the color toward the center of the lips), then apply a shimmery lipstick or lipgloss to the center and gently press lips together to blend. (See an example of using a deeper matte on the edge, then a lighter matte on the center with shimmery gloss on top here.)
  • Apply a matte eyeshadow to the lid and pat over a sheerer, shimmer/sparkle shade on top to turn it into a more shimmery shade. (See a shimmery taupe over matte black here; I also reversed this an used an opaque shimmer over a matte here.)
  • Apply a matte eyeliner and use a liner or pencil brush to press and gently dab a shimmery eyeshadow on top to create a shimmery eyeliner — think about how few eyeliners you’d need (most of us have way more eyeshadow than eyeliner!). (See me apply a shimmery teal over smudged black eyeliner here.)
  • Apply a matte blush to cheeks and use a shimmery, lighter blush or highlighter (lighter or darker) to create a gradient of glowing color. (See a satin-matte blush with a sparkling highlighter on top here.)
  • Layer a lighter/brighter metallic shade over a more mid-tone shimmer to add a bit of pop — think center of the lips (often adds volume) or the lid (for a halo effect) or the inner tearduct (to brighten).
  • Apply a matte finish over a more shimmery shade to minimize the sheen if you wanted a more satin-to-pearl finish.  A good example of this is using a shimmer in the crease but then taking a matte black eyeshadow into the crease to deepen it but also to tamp down the shine of the shimmer, which ends up creating a more satin-like effect. (See that in action here.)

Mix two shades together on the fly to get the perfect shade.

If you’re just starting to really get into mixing, try keeping the finishes the same–e.g. mix matte eyeshadows or two liquid lipsticks together.  The goal is to create a new shade or just tweak one you have so that it’s a little more suitable for whatever look you’re putting together, like adding a little bit of lighter green to a forest green to get a more mid-tone green or adding a mustard yellow to a mid-tone green to introduce more olive tones to it.  I do this all the time when building a look–a little more depth here, a little more brightening there–so why not do it more purposefully?

Pro tip: be careful directly mixing in pans, like in an eyeshadow palette; it is better to pick up a matte shade on your brush, then pick up a shimmer, as the reverse introduces a ton of excess shimmer into your matte eyeshadow.  Alternatively, lay down one before picking up the other (see the previous section).


Mixing blue and berry to create a purple for the outer edge | Look Details

Here are some examples:

  • Take a mid-tone and deep shade of the same eyeshadow color (like two greens) to create a shade in-between. This naturally occurs when you lay down the two shades next to each other and start to layer and blend them together, which is nice for that look, but what about if we want that mid-tone shade as its own eyeshadow? We don’t need a third eyeshadow! (See an example of merging two similar shades here.)
  • You can alter the undertone of one shade by layering it over or under another shade, like adding an olive green to a cooler green to give it a bit more warmth without making it super warm-toned. (I went a little crazy trying to come up with just the right bronzy-green mix for my lash line here.)
  • Get fancy and mix two shades together, like blue and red, to create a purple hue. (See me do just that here.)
  • Mix two lipsticks together on a palette or the back of your hand to create a new shade.  I find that this works best with lipsticks that have a little more creaminess and slip, as they’ll combine better, but you can definitely take a drier matte and pair with a creamier formula (they don’t both have to be creamy).  I use a metal palette if I am mixing more often, but any smooth, easy-to-clean surface works well (like glass or a plate).  (Be careful about how much you mix, as you likely won’t need much. Consider picking up empty clear, screw-top 5 gram jars if you tend to mix and want to store it for short-term use!)
  • Mix lip balm with your favorite lipstick to create a softer, more natural version of it.
  • Use loose glitter/sparkle (or a very sparkly “top coat” kind of product) to add sparkle/shine or alter the tone of the base underneath it. (See an iridescent shimmer over a shimmery pink to make it appear cooler and more sparkly here.)
  • Brow bone highlight shade too metallic or shiny? Tamp down that shine by diffusing a little translucent or similarly-hued matte shade on top.

Try all your shifting, sparkling shimmers over a dark base.

Have you ever patted on your favorite duochrome eyeshadow over a black eyeshadow or eyeliner? Hold that crease brush because it’s a wild ride!  The deeper, inkier bases– think shades of black, navy, cobalt, rich purple, and so forth–allow lighter, reflective particles found in duochromes, shimmers, and sparkle/glitter-based products to really shine.


Layering sparkling and duochrome shades | Look Details

Here are some examples:

Below, you’ll find links to looks featuring various combinations I’ve tried more recently… you know me, I can’t resist an over-the-top lower lash line… it’s just one more area for all the color.

  • My looks:  Duochromes on duochromes on sparkles / Sparkly cream eyeshadows over smudged black & blown out / Duochrome gold-to-green over blackened teal
  • Take black eyeliner, and then use a small, precise brush to apply the shifting chameleon color you have on top.  You can go to the next level of intensity by dampening your brush before applying the shimmery hue over the black. Most shimmery eyeshadows tolerate a dampened brush, but if you want to be on the safe, pick up product first onto your brush (or fingertip), then spritz the tool with water or adhesive spray (the latter will help hold, too).
  • Apply a deep base all over the lid and then layer the majority of product on the inner or center of the lid, then diffuse slightly outward leaving at least the outer corner deeper.
  • Use cream eyeshadows as bases for your other shades, especially shimmery shades or more buildable, layering shades.

Use eyeshadows as cheek colors.

If it’s safe for the eyes, it’s generally safe to be used on the cheeks (the reverse is not always true), so don’t be afraid to extend your cheek color selection by including some of the eyeshadows you own.  This can be a nice way to utilize more of your eyeshadows, too, as well as try out new cheek colors that you may not have in “cheek” form.  If you’re someone who has picked up a lot of palettes in the last few years, you’re quite likely to have several interesting shades to experiment with!


Using a shade as highlighter & lip color | Look Details

Here are some examples:

  • Duochromes are stunning as highlighters and shimmery blushes, and they layer exceptionally well to change up whatever they’re blended into or layered on top of.  See this in action here, here, here, and here.
  • More sparkly eyeshadows work well for adding some glimmer to the cheeks while often having more base pigment than typical glittery highlighters might!  Here’s a sparkling, metallic copper eyeshadow worn as a highlighting blush.
  • Some brands even market their eyeshadows as multi-tasking products (even if they’re more positioned as eye products) — always check any “tips” or “how-to” section of a brand’s website to see if there are additional ways to use their product, too.  (You can see me using Linda Hallberg’s eyeshadows as cheek products here, which are billed as safe for use everywhere!)
  • Use satin-to-matte, more neutral browns and taupes as contour shades (or warmer browns as bronzers).
  • Finding more subtle highlighters and blushes (read: satin finish!) can be a struggle at times, so digging into satiny eyeshadows can be one way to expand one’s finish range.  (I’m wearing champagne eyeshadow as as a highlighter here, but it wasn’t quite satin in finish–still should get the point across, though!)

Layering sparkling and duochrome shades | Look Details

Using a shade as highlighter & lip color | Look Details

A layered lip look to create a dimensional, metallic green lip color | Look Details

Mixing blue and berry to create a purple for the outer edge | Look Details

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35 Comments

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I’m loving all the articles you’ve been publishing lately! This is a great, informative piece and I’ll try some of these ideas 😊 thanks for the inspiration!

i also wanted to chime in and say how much i appreciate the editorial content lately. i especially enjoyed the piece on whether we can sustain the current pace of beauty. happy holidays!

These are all fabulous methods for stretching one’s existing stash, for sure! Many of the these are things I used to do back in the days when either certain shades weren’t being manufactured for the general population or when I had a far smaller stash. Now that I’m ready to apply the brakes to my 5 year splurging on color cosmetics, I am glad y appreciating these reminders listed above. Using these will force me to turn my creative side back on to its fullest and use up what I do have instead of continually adding more stuff. Thank you!

Thanks so much for the tips! I never thought of using duo-chrome eye shadow as a highlighter or blush topper but that sounds like something I would like. Linda Hallberg made a good decision in making her product multi-use. I really need to get better at shopping my stash! This article is much appreciated!!

Yesss! Duochromes are fantastic at really stretching what you have since the shift makes them alter whatever they’re over even more than a regular shimmer!

A literal Bible! Thanks so much. There is enough here to occupy everyone all year, and enhance our low buy/no buy resolutions. Seriously: great, creative, and responsible. Another example of why you’re the best in the business.

I recently tried one of my eyeshadows as a blush/ highlighter. It was done completely from curiosity. Now I’m a bit obsessed with it.

Good tips on ways to use up products amd not depend on buying new makeup to create the holy grail shade or new interesting thing.

It’s an L.A. colors Duo Tone eyeshadow in Superstar. The pans are large enough to fit a Kabuki brush. I use the darker colour with a smidge of the lighter colour. When buffed in, I get a pretty glowy effect that’s close to my brown skintone. Not too red and not too pale. I’m really enjoying it, and with such big pans, it’s a good way to use it up.

Love that blue/violet look you did, I need to try that out! I have been experimenting more lately with my shadows over a black base — I love that tip! I saw Pat McGrath do it and realized just how different a shadow looks when you apply it this way.

Not a new shade, but I’ve been revisiting some shadows by using oranges, duochromes, lilacs as a teeny highlight to the inner corner of my eye with a detail brush, instead of my usual shimmer highlight shadow color.

Thank you Christine, for this informative article on how to utilise all the different kinds of eyeshadows, lipsticks and lipglosses to get the maximum use out of them. I often do this myself, borrowing one shade from one palette to pair with another to create something new and interesting.
Shopping our stashes makes perfect sense.

Thank you for another interesting and useful post.

I have long been a fan of your blog but I find that more and more I am looking forward to your written posts rather than just reviews or swatches. Perhaps it is because I find myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of new products and choices. More and more I find that I want to talk about makeup rather than just shopping. Thoughtful and thought provoking posts such as you have been posting are just the sort of thing I’m looking for.

In any case, I appreciate these sorts of posts and look forward to reading more.

I agree. It also helps to no end that you are a very good writer. Don’t even get me started on some bloggers who have no grasp of basic grammar, spelling, or punctuation. (Yeah, I’m nerdy that way.)

p.s. I would love an article where you take one or two well-known palettes like ABH’s ModRen and blend some of the shades or add toppers. I have that particular palette yet never reach for it because I don’t know what to do with most of the colors. Dumb, I know, but I feel stuck and have almost gotten rid of it.

I used to mix eye shadows all the time. In college I owned five single shadows and a blush. I’d wear them alone or very often would mix two together on the back of my hand to make a new shade. Honestly it never went wrong. But that’s because I couldn’t afford to buy more—or that buying more just didn’t cross my mind because I had several options. I should get back into doing that but now its just like “meh, but I could just buy something.” I definitely layer my products but I very rarely mix them. Simpler times!

Wow so much great info here. I had never thought of mixing then watched Samantha Ravendahl mix some friendication palette shades. I actually did it today to make a plummy brown for the outer corner and a brow bone shade. Mainly I’ve only done matte but the possibilities are endless.

I have nothing new to add to the conversation but wanted to thank you for the post. I think many of us do this to some extent within a single palette. I know that I am always taking one shade from the palette and deliberately placing another shade on top or actually mixing them on the brush to get a different shade. I rarely seek out another palette to pull a shade from for this purpose so I will have to start thinking more broadly about this. I pretty much always mix things. In fact, not long ago, Tammy and I were trading comments on IG about our mix of products and it just so happened that I had used 3 eye shadow palettes, 3 mascara’s, two lipsticks, three foundations and two blushes that day. Talking about over the top, LOL!!

Four weird tricks one blogger discovered to save money on cosmetics — makeup brands hate her! 😉

Seriously, this was a lot of work, and I really appreciate all the examples. Lots to look at and think about here!

I read you every single day and hardly ever comment. I have to say Christine , this look is on of my faves ever. Your skin is just beautiful and I love the hair- its looks like a cherry/burgundy color. I love it. Long time fan!
I hope you and you family enjoy the Holidays and I wish you the best 2019 ever!

xoxo
Denise

I love lipstick palettes for just this reason! I have a few Urban Decay ones, and an ABH one. It’s great to be able to create my own colours, and as well, I find the product goes on much better and lasts much longer using a lip brush than straight from a lipstick tube.

This is an excellent article, Christine. I love that you’re showing people how to save and stretch their money by shopping their stash. Mixing has saved many a dud color for me.

I’ve done a couple of these things-I sometimes contour, using KVD Nancy (although I would still like to get my hands on Fenty’s Amber Match Stick), and I’ve layered a red lip balm (ChapStick Total Hydration Moisture+Tint Merlot) under a nude lipstick (by Revlon-I forget the color name right now).

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