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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

33 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
72 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best drugstore eyeshadows

If you want to draw attention to your eyes, makeup is the easiest way to do it. Eyeshadow, in particular, allows you to play with color, finish, and texture to really highlight your eyes. But whether you’ve just started wearing makeup or are an experienced makeup junkie, drugstore eyeshadow is a perfect option if you want to experiment with various looks.

Drugstore eyeshadows are available in several different formulas, so there’s an option no matter your skin type. You can find plenty of shadow singles, duos, trios, and quads at the drugstore, but eyeshadow palettes with five or more colors are also more common among affordable brands in recent years. Drugstore eyeshadow options have improved when it comes to finish and color choices too.

Navigating all the drugstore eyeshadows can be confusing, though. In our buying guide, we’ve gathered plenty of tips to help you find the best drugstore eyeshadow for your makeup bag. Still confused? Check out our specific product recommendations above for hassle-free shopping.

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Applying a light, shimmery eyeshadow to the inner corners of your eyes can make them appear brighter and wider.

Key considerations

Formula

Drugstore eyeshadow is available in several different formulas. Each one has its own texture and application method.

Pressed powder eyeshadows are the most common option at the drugstore and the most popular eyeshadow formula overall. These are finely milled powders mixed with binders and fillers that are then pressed into pans. Pressed powder shadow is available in a wide range of colors and finishes and is usually applied with a brush or sponge-tipped applicator.

Loose powder eyeshadows, also known as eyeshadow pigments, are also made with finely milled powder, but they don’t contain any binders. The shadow has a loose texture and typically comes in a small pot or jar. Loose powder eyeshadows can provide more intense color than pressed options, but they can be messy to apply.

Cream eyeshadows have a soft, creamy texture and come in small jars or pots. They’re usually applied with clean fingers, but synthetic brushes also work well. Cream shadows are more hydrating than powder formulas, but they don’t hold up as well to heat and humidity. They can be used on their own or serve as a base for powder eyeshadow.

Pencils are an alternative to cream shadows that work well for application on the go. Eyeshadow pencils also have a creamy texture, but they come in pencil or crayon form, allowing you to swipe them over your eyelids directly from the tube.

Liquid eyeshadows come in tubes that resemble lip gloss or liquid lipstick. They have a thin, wet consistency, but they dry once applied to the lids. You usually apply liquid shadow with a doe-foot applicator built into the cap.

Quantity

Loose powder, cream, pencil, and liquid eyeshadows are typically sold as singles at the drugstore, but powder eyeshadows are available with more shade options. You can definitely find single powder eyeshadows if you need a specific shade, but you’ll usually get a better value if you buy a compact with multiple shades.

Duos contain two colors that usually complement each other so you can use them together.

Trios feature three eyeshadow colors that work together to create an entire eye look.

Quads contain four eye colors that work together to create a complete look. Some even allow you to create more than one look.

Palettes typically contain five or more eyeshadow shades. Palettes have become much more common at the drugstore in recent years and allow you to create multiple eye looks.

Shimmery eyeshadows are best used on the lid and brow bone because they help attract the light. Darker, matte shades work best in the crease.

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Features

Ingredients

Fillers: Compared with high-end or luxury brand eyeshadows, drugstore eyeshadows typically contain more fillers. In some cases, that means the drugstore eyeshadows aren’t as pigmented as more expensive options.

However, some drugstore formulas offer higher-quality ingredients than others. Talc is commonly used as a base filler in cheaper drugstore eyeshadows, but it can give the shadow a chalky, dry finish. Formulas that use mica as a base are usually more flattering on the skin because they have more of a glow.

Binders: In addition to fillers, eyeshadows also contain binders that help the eyeshadow hold together. Drugstore eyeshadows often use zinc or magnesium derivatives as binders. It also helps to choose eyeshadow formulas with ingredients that give the makeup more “slip,” so they glide smoothly over the skin. Look for eyeshadows that contain ingredients like silica, dimethicone, boron nitride, or bismuth oxychloride for easier application.

Waxes and oils: Cream, pencil, and liquid eyeshadows contain waxes and oils instead of powder ingredients, which helps liquefy the shadow. Typical ingredients for cream and liquid shadows include jojoba oil, castor oil, shea butter, beeswax, and silicone. These ingredients are more emollient, so cream shadows usually work better for mature skin or anyone with dry eyelids.

Finish

Drugstore eyeshadows are available in several different finishes, depending on the look you’re going for.

Satin eyeshadows have a slight sheen that can be very flattering for all skin types. You can find many satin eyeshadows at the drugstore.

Metallic eyeshadows have a high-shine finish that resembles metal. They can look incredibly flattering on darker skin tones, but those with mature skin should usually avoid metallic shadows since they can settle in fine lines and wrinkles. You can find a good number of metallic eyeshadows at the drugstore.

Shimmer eyeshadows are slightly sheer but have some sparkle to them. You can find many shimmer eyeshadows at the drugstore.

Glitter eyeshadows have noticeable glitter particles for a bold look. They don’t always adhere well to the skin, so they may require you to apply a base first. You can find some glitter eyeshadows at the drugstore.

Matte eyeshadows are usually intensely pigmented, but they don’t contain any shine, sheen, or glitter. They’re suitable for all skin types and are extremely useful for shaping and defining the eyes. In the past, it could be difficult to find high-quality matte shadows at the drugstore. However, many drugstore brands have introduced excellent matte shadows in recent years that provide plenty of pigment and aren’t too dry.

Color

You can find nearly any color shadow you might want at the drugstore. You’ll have the widest range of options if you prefer natural or neutral shades like taupe, brown, beige, and gray. If you prefer brighter shades like purple, pink, blue, or green, you’ll still find multiple options, but the selection is more limited.

Applicator

Many drugstore eyeshadows include some type of applicator. Most come with a small sponge-tipped wand, but some larger drugstore palettes include a small brush.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Drugstore eyeshadow trios usually contain all the shades you need for a complete eye look. Use the lightest shade on your lid and brow bone, the medium shade in the crease, and the darkest tone to add definition at the outer corner and lash line.
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Accessories

Eyeshadow primer: Wet n Wild Photofocus Eyeshadow Primer
A good eyeshadow primer can make even a lower-quality eyeshadow last all day. This primer from Wet n Wild is affordable and helps keep your shadow from creasing and fading all day even if you have oily lids.

Makeup brushes: Real Techniques Everyday Essentials Brush Collection
You can use the sponge-tipped applicators that come with your drugstore eyeshadow, but you’ll achieve a better look if you use makeup brushes. This set from Real Techniques includes a brush that’s perfect for applying and blending shadow on the lid and in the crease.

Eyeliner: stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
If you want to add further definition to your eyes after applying shadow, the right eyeliner can do the trick. We love this liquid liner from stila because it’s waterproof and allows for truly precise application.

Mascara: L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara
The right mascara can finish your eye look perfectly. This formula from L’Oreal is so popular because it lengthens and volumizes lashes without any flaking or smudging.

Drugstore eyeshadow prices

Drugstore eyeshadow varies in price based on the formula, the number of shades, and the quality of the ingredients. Most drugstore eyeshadows cost between $1 and $20.

Inexpensive: The most affordable drugstore eyeshadows are usually single, duo, or trio powder eyeshadows with low- to average-quality ingredients. These typically cost between $1 and $6.

Mid-range: These drugstore eyeshadows are usually powder duos, trios, and quads of higher quality, as well as cream, liquid, and pencil formulas with average- to high-quality ingredients. They generally cost between $6 and $12.

Expensive: The most expensive drugstore eyeshadows are usually palettes that contain more than five shades. Those with five to eight shadows generally cost between $10 and $15, but you can pay as much as $20 for a palette with ten or more shades.

Cream shadow is best applied with clean fingers or a synthetic brush. Natural bristle brushes usually can’t blend the formula as well.

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Tips

  • Invest in quality brushes. If you want to take your eyeshadow game to the next level, invest in a set of quality makeup brushes. Make sure to have a flat shader brush to apply shadow to the lid, a fluffy, tapered brush for applying shadow to the crease, and a fluffy blending brush to smooth shadows together.
  • Apply shadow with a dabbing or patting motion. Swiping the shadow on thins out the color, while patting it on allows you to get the most pigmentation.
  • Start small. Always start with a small amount of eyeshadow on your brush. You can add more if you need more pigmentation, but you’ll have a tough time taking off eyeshadow if you apply too much.
  • Use eyeshadow for eyeliner. If you prefer a softer look for your eyeliner, use a powdered eyeshadow in a dark color to define your lash line.
  • Wash your eyeshadow brushes regularly. They can transfer bacteria and other germs to your eyes, which can lead to infections.
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Always make sure to blend out the edges of your eyeshadow. Well-blended eyeshadow looks more natural and flattering.

FAQ

Q. How can I make my drugstore eyeshadow last all day?

A. With any eyeshadow, you’ll always get much better wear if you start with an eyeshadow primer. It creates a barrier that keeps the oils in your skin from breaking down the shadow and causing it to crease. If you’re using a liquid or cream eyeshadow, you might want to apply a translucent powder over the shadow to set it in place.

Q. Is there any way to make a sheer drugstore eyeshadow look more pigmented?

A. Layering cream or liquid eyeshadow with a powdered shadow in a similar shade is the best way to intensify the pigmentation. Apply the cream or liquid shadow first, then use a flat shader brush to pat the powdered shadow over it. The cream shadow will help deepen the powdered shadow’s pigmentation, so it has more impact on your eyes.

Q. Does eyeshadow have an expiration date?

A. Like all makeup products, eyeshadow has an expiration date. Powdered eyeshadows are usually good for a couple of years, while cream and liquid formulas expire in six months to a year.

 

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