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Eyeshadows | A Guide To 5 Different Types Of Eyeshadows

 A Guide To 5 Different Types Of Eyeshadows


Quick, think about the feeling you get when you’ve just stepped inside a beauty store, surrounded by rows and rows of makeup. Joy? Excitement? Or maybe your heart’s racing at the possibility of adding these shiny new objects to an actual shopping basket. In any case, a headache shouldn’t be one of them — but that’s how we sometimes feel when faced with the giddying amount of swatches on the eyeshadow aisle. Too! Many! Options!

So, on top of a hypothetical fairy godmother who’ll constantly shower you with money for new makeup, you’ll need a guide.

Whether it’s a pan, pot or palette, we’re gonna tell you the basics of each eyeshadow type, and how to use them, so you can make an educated, informed choice the next time you’re in front of the polling booth Sephora counter. Ideally, you should reach for something that suits you — something that speaks to your style, daily makeup routine, or a particular eye look you want to achieve.



Everyone has one of these, making pressed powders one of the most common eyeshadow types — it’s probably the first thing that popped into your mind when you’re thinking about eyeshadows. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous that there’s every possible shade out there: matte brown, bright blue, gold shimmer, sparkling white with holographic glitter, you name it.

While these can come as singles, duos, quads, chances are, you’ll want to invest in a palette, where complementary shades are already picked out and presented to you in a gorgeous case. You can go for neutrals, something like the Urban Decay 2 or the Dior Backstage Eye Palette; the more rosy, berry shades of Huda Beauty’s palette or you know, UD’s Naked Cherry; something as subdued as NARS’ for a classy smokey eye; or bold like Fenty Beauty’s.

We’d say that powders are a great starting point for beginners too; they’re the easiest to blend, are buildable so all you need to do is to pack on the shade to intensify the colour, while they also give a natural soft finish. Use eyeshadow brushes to sweep the shades over your eyes.


One of the easiest to blend, with buildable coverage

Available in many finishes — matte, satin, shimmer, metallic, glitter

More forgiving — even if you make a mistake, they can be smudged out or dabbed away with a cotton bud, and you won’t have to start over

Suits all skin types, whether you have oily or dry eyelids

Good for overseas travel — you can carry just one palette and create a whole lot of makeup looks from it

It Will last forever (a really, really long time) until you hit pan that is


May not be the most long-lasting — while many brands promise formulas that last, without an eyeshadow primer or makeup setting spray, they’ll still tend to fade in intensity

It May have some fallout as it’s a powder after all

Needs tools to spread evenly — not great if you’re doing makeup on-the-go, or get lazy with washing your brushes

There can be wastage — in a palette, there’s bound to be some eyeshadow shades you hit pan on, while others go totally untouched

Fragile! Like all powder products, you don’t want to let this fall onto a hard surface, lest it becomes a broken mess



Then again, there are more subtle velvet matte finishes, such as THREE’s. You can use it on its own; simply apply one swipe of the product with the applicator, and blend using your fingertip.

Some people find them especially useful as a base for powder eyeshadows — they hold on to the pigments, and enhance their staying power — while there are others that are meant to be toppers, that go over your existing eyeshadow for a more dimensional style, especially holographic or glossy shimmers.


More long-lasting doesn’t budge much after it has set

Pigmented — especially great for glitter, metallic or chrome shades, where the pigments appear more intense and tend to stay on longer

Good for on-the-go — there’s already a built-in applicator, while the slim casing makes it easy to carry around

Easy for beginners too, especially those that are looking for just one swipe of colour to brighten up the eyes


You’ll have to work fast — liquid formulas usually set pretty quickly, and once it does, you won’t want to pile on another shade above it

Difficult to mix several shades together

Creases more easily — not great for those with oily lids

The formula could dry out or separate if you haven’t used it in a while

Easy to apply, but difficult to master



If you’re looking for intense colour that lasts, yet something that can be easily blended, reach for a long-wearing cream formula! They’re sometimes referred to as ‘jelly’ formulas, for the more youthful brands at least, just because it sounds more appealing when you compare something to an edible dessert. That said, these usually come in pots too, with a soft texture when you press it with your fingertips (which explains why they’re great for blending).

Similar to pressed powders, you’ll see a lot of finishes here, with the most common being matte, pearlescent and metallic shades. I’ve also noticed makeup artists using them as a base at photoshoots, by picking, say a matte or light shimmery eyeshadow in a neutral shade. Between the hot studio lights and blazing outdoor sun, the creamy texture helps any eyeshadow look last longer, even if you’re packing powders over it. Oh yes, and you can easily use your fingers to both apply and blend the shades out. They go on moist, but usually dry to more powdery finishes, so the look’s still soft and natural.


It’s a good alternative to powders, but more pigmented, with longer-lasting wear

Multi-functional — you can pick a pearlescent shade and use it as an emollient highlighter

Blends easily, perhaps better than a liquid, so you can layer several shades together for your look

Can layer with another type of eyeshadows

No need for brushes or applicators


Creases more easily — not great for those with oily lids

Can get rubbed off if you’re not careful

Not very precise if you’re just using your fingers

It may be a little unhygienic for some, as you have to constantly dip your fingers into the pot



Moving on to eyeshadow sticks! Like the liquid formulas, these have been gaining in popularity this side of the millennium, though really, one of the earliest forms of eyeshadow was kohl, applied with — you guessed it — a stick. Some brands also call these “crayons”, probably because of how the soft, rounded tip looks like something you find in an art studio. Or, maybe, it has to do with how these are so easy to use, they’re practically child’s play.

The good thing is that you don’t need a brush or applicator; you don’t even really need your fingers too! No stained fingers and streaky messes, and no fallout. To use, simply apply it straight to your eyelids. We’ve also realised it’s the most useful tool to have in your makeup pouch when you’re travelling; you can work really fast with these, without messing up, even on a moving vehicle.

As they’re usually made with a blend of wax and cream, the texture’s pretty similar to a cream eyeshadow so you can expect the same benefits: long-lasting pigmentation, that’s easy to blend and layer as well. The only difference is, it’s a tad more versatile in application — the slim packaging allows you to be more precise on where you want to apply the colour, and it can even double up as an eyeliner, or go straight onto your lower lashline. These also come in all kinds of colours, so you’ll always be spoilt for choice.


Highly-pigmented, with longer-lasting wear

Blends relatively well, similar to a cream eyeshadow, and buildable too

Gives you more precision and control when applying, especially those with a tapered tip — this also means it can double up as eyeliner, or go straight onto your lower lash line

No need for brushes or applicators, not even your fingers

Great for travelling and on-the-go — easy to apply, while the slim casing makes it easy to carry around


Creases more easily — not great for those with oily lids

Can get rubbed off if you’re not careful

Colours may not be as easy to blend together as powders or creams

May not hold glitter pigments as well (though the Bobbi Brown one fared pretty well)

Some chubby eyeshadow sticks cover more surface area but lose out when it comes to control, so it may not be as precise we claim

It may break if you press too hard!

If you don’t have one with a twist-up design, and instead of a pencil-like form, that requires sharpening (might be more environmentally friendly though!)



We won’t call this a popular choice among the general makeup-wearing population, but it’s definitely a backstage favourite! Professional makeup artists seem to always have loose pigments lying around, mainly for one reason — the spectacular results. These pure, finely-milled pigments are like “raw material” that can be used to create the most dramatic eyeshadow looks, great to show off some dreamy makeup artistry. So you can imagine how they’d be great for parties and special occasions as well. Halloween, maybe?

And with some practice, you can totally pull it off at home! Apply them alone, using a flat brush to tap off excess product before applying it onto your eyelids. Sometimes, loose pigments call for a mixing medium, where you have to apply a liquid that holds the product onto the brush first, before dipping it into the pigments. An eye primer comes highly recommended too.

Good news — increasingly, more makeup brands are coming up with “pressed pigments” housed in pots, where you can achieve the same high-intensity finishes more easily, almost like a cream eyeshadow. These include Marc Jacobs’ See-quins Glam Glitter Eyeshadow for a glittery smokey eye, and Tarte’s Chrome Paint Shadow Pot, which delivers a brilliant rose gold in a single touch.


Very, very pigmented, where you can achieve a vibrant intensity with just one swipe

Colour is vibrant — most of the time, it retains the effect that you see in the bottle or pot, which ranges from metallic to glittery, to pearly

Best for glittery pigments, due to the good hold

Blends easily, buildable, and relatively long-wearing


Intimidating! Looks difficult to master

You’ll need additional tools — brushes, and possibly a mixing medium

May leave a mess

Not good for those with dry skin