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Expert Shopper Beauty

The best eyeshadow base

Which eyeshadow bases are best?

If you want to take your eyeshadow look to the next level, preparation is key. An eyeshadow primer can keep your eyeshadow from fading, but it often takes an eyeshadow base to really make your eyeshadow pop.

Eyeshadow base is applied before your eyeshadow. Its slightly sticky texture gives the shadow something to grab onto, intensifying the color and gives it a bold look. The top shadow base from Bobbi Brown is popular with makeup aficionados because it doesn’t crease or emphasize texture on your eyelids and can help prolong the wear-time of your shadows. 

What to know before you buy an eyeshadow base

Eyeshadow base vs. primer

Many people use the terms “eyeshadow primer” and “eyeshadow base” interchangeably, but they serve different purposes. An eyeshadow base is typically thick and creamy, so it has a tacky or sticky finish. When you apply shadow over it, the base grabs onto the shadow to help boost its pigmentation and color. Many eyeshadow bases come in skin-tone shades to even out your eyelids to help your shadows go on true to color. Other bases are available in colors matching the eyeshadow you’re applying or other shades to help brighten or darken the color. 

An eyeshadow primer is usually thinner and isn’t sticky. It smooths over your eyelids to create an even canvas to apply your shadow. Primer also creates a barrier, preventing oils in your eyelids from breaking through and causing your shadow to fade and crease. Eyeshadow primer is generally translucent, but you can find a few tinted formulas. 

Eyeshadow formula

The majority of eyeshadow bases are a cream, making them an excellent option if your eyelids are dry or wrinkled. They apply easily with a finger or a makeup brush. Other eyeshadow bases are thinner and have a liquid-like consistency. These usually have a brush or doe-foot applicator built into the cap. Powdered eyeshadow bases work extremely well if you have oily skin. 

Eyeshadow finish

Most eyeshadow bases have a matte finish, so they have no shine when applied. A matte shadow base is the best option for oily eyelids. Other eyeshadow bases have a shimmery finish that reflects the light, giving your eyeshadow a glow.

Keep in mind that an eyeshadow base’s finish ultimately isn’t that important as eyeshadow is applied on top of it. If using a base on its own as a cream shadow or tint, its finish is something you’ll want to consider. 

What to look for in a quality eyeshadow base

Eyeshadow packaging

Many eyeshadow bases are thick and creamy, so they’re packaged in small compacts or pots. Apply by dipping a finger or brush into the pot and removing a small amount of the base to smooth it over your lids. 

A thinner eyeshadow is often housed in a tube with a cap that has a built-in wand. You can apply the base directly from the tube without having to get your fingers brushes dirty. 

Powdered eyeshadow bases are usually packaged in a pot or jar. You can find some powder bases with a sifter that locks, which can prevent accidental spills if knocked over.

Eyeshadow shade

Eyeshadow bases are tinted, but many feature skin tone shades to help cancel out any redness or discoloration in your eyelids. The base doesn’t have to match your skin tone exactly, but you should choose one that’s as close a match as possible.

White and black eyeshadow bases are popular options too. A white base can help brighten the color of your eyeshadow, making it appear more vibrant. A black base can deepen or darken eyeshadow color and is an excellent choice if you want to emphasize the different tones in a duochrome eyeshadow.

You can also find eyeshadow bases in nearly every color in the rainbow. Choosing a base that matches the color of your eyeshadow can help boost its pigmentation, so it looks as vibrant as possible. 

Eyeshadow wear time

Some eyeshadow base formulas can also help your eyeshadow wear longer. Thinner, more liquid-like formulas typically provide the longest wear time, while creamy formulas usually won’t increase the wear of your shadows much.

How much you can expect to spend on an eyeshadow base

You’ll typically pay between $5-$50 for an eyeshadow base. Drugstore brand eyeshadow bases in basic shades like nude, black or white generally cost between $5-$12, but higher-quality formulas in a range of shades can be $14-$26. Eyeshadow bases from luxury beauty brands have the highest quality ingredients and range from $26-$50. 

Eyeshadow base FAQ

Can I use eyeshadow base and primer together?

A. An eyeshadow base and an eyeshadow primer are meant to do different things, so they can be used at the same time. Their textures make them compatible too. Primers are thinner, so you can apply the primer first, then layer a thicker base over it. Primer will help keep your shadow from fading or creasing, while the base helps intensify the shadow’s pigmentation.  

Do I need more than one eyeshadow base?

A. Not necessarily. A nude or skin tone-tinted eyeshadow base can be worn under any eyeshadow color. For maximum impact, you may also want a white or black base. If there’s a certain eyeshadow shade you wear often, you may want a base in that color family too.

What’s the best eyeshadow base to buy?

Top eyeshadow base

Bobbi Brown Long Wear Eye Base

What you need to know: This is an outstanding, long-wearing base with a creamy texture. 

What you’ll love: Its creamy formula is an excellent option for wrinkled lids. This can work with both cream and powdered eyeshadow and helps keep eyeshadow colors true. 

What you should consider: Tubes are small, so you can go through it pretty quickly. 

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s

Top eyeshadow base for the money

Bare Escentuals i.d. BareMinerals Multi Tasking Minerals SPF20

What you need to know: This versatile, mineral-based base has a powdered formula ideal for oily lids. 

What you’ll love: It can be used as both an eyeshadow base and a concealer. Features SPF to protect your skin while keeping eyeshadow true to color. 

What you should consider: It can settle in fine lines on your lids. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Sephora and Ulta

Worth checking out 

Trish McEvoy Eye Base Essentials

What you need to know: While a pricier, it can help brighten skin and improve the wear time of eyeshadows. 

What you’ll love: This works as both a shadow base and an eyelid brightener, evening out discolored lids. It keeps eyeshadow intact, even in humid weather. 

What you should consider: This is more expensive than other options and dries quickly, so you have to work fast when applying it. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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