Best Of: Brown Eyeshadow

Most folks who are into beauty will tell you that there’s always that one makeup item that they continue to purchase, almost impulsively, in multiple varieties and brands, even though acquiring more of that item is completely unnecessary.  What am I talking about?  I’m talking about the person who has nine different hair masks, or the girl who keeps buying new highlighter (whether liquid or a solid or whatever) over and over even though she’s barely made a dent in one of them.

There always seem to be one or two items that we’re particularly drawn to, and over the years we find ourselves in possession of a substantial-yet-laughable collection of said items.  For myself, it seems to be any type of my-lips-but-better color that’s just between pink and what would probably be categorized as nude.  A second one for me would be brown eyeshadow.  I’m discussing the latter today.

When I refer to “brown” eyeshadow, I get that the term can necessitate some explaining.  I do not mean bronze or rust, or anything with too much of an orange cast.  Sometimes, I guess I might be referring to something within a taupe range, but I really do believe that its a true brown that catches my eye the most.  That’s not to say that my attraction to shades of brown hasn’t been refined over the years.  I think I was naturally drawn to more earthy tones in the first place because I grew up watching my mom wearing lots of shimmery shades of copper and bronze.  I think the first eyeshadow I ever chose for myself was a peach CoverGirl single shade, called “Peach Parfait”.  You’d think that as a teenager I’d be more attracted to striking jewel tones, and yet even as I grew up I always identified brown or earth-tone shadows as my favorite and what I felt to be the most flattering on myself and others.

I tend to see most people agreeing with this.  There’s a reason why Urban Decay’s Naked palettes possess the cult status they now do, and there’s a reason why they were made in the first place.  These palettes we know so well are comprised of metallics and rose-golds and now a huge variety of shades, but there’s a general starting point that you can detect and it begins with the idea of ultra-flattering brown.  Just look at the case of Naked 1.

But anyhow, on to four particular shades of brown that I am personally in love with.

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Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow in Slate may be part of the whole taupe thing I mentioned earlier.  It’s definitely not a classic warm brown, but it’s certainly not silvery either.  It reads as a matte, milky, cool grey-brown on the eyelids and it works perfectly for day by itself, or you can really build it up for a smokier night look.  I discovered this shade by researching what Princess Kate used on her wedding day, and yep, this is one of the actual shades used!  I think she layered it with about three others, but I’ve worn this a few times by itself and I love it.

I purchased L’Oreal Infallible 24HR Eyeshadow in Bottomless Java after reading about its use on Kate Beckinsale for an Allure magazine cover shoot.  Eyeshadow is usually the last thing I’ll purchase at a drugstore when it comes to beauty.  I always find the color payoff to be terrible and the shadow pick-up on the brush to be bad.  You know how sometimes you tap a brush into the shadow and it only seems to rub it around and make dust without ever picking anything up on to the actual brush?  That’s most drugstore eyeshadows.  This L’Oreal line, however, is honestly great.  The pigmentation is awesome and every brushstroke is loaded with rich color.  This particular shade would be gorgeous on any skintone, and I favor this color over a couple of MAC’s Veluxe Pearl shades.  Rim your eyes with this shadow and blend it up into the crease, pile on some mascara or false lashes, and that’s pretty much all you need for a night out.

There are about ten MAC eyeshadows that are considered essential shades to many makeup artists.  If you’re accustomed to the brand, you’ve probably heard of Shroom, Naked Lunch, Sketch, All That Glitters, or Cork.  This last shade has been such a staple of mine over the years that I think it’s managed to make it on every bride’s eyelids that I’ve worked on (mine included).  It’s a very basic, matte shade described as “muted golden brown”, and it’s managed to be a building block in nearly every multi-layered eyeshadow look I’ve done.  First I’ll use a shade like Shroom or Orb to even out the discoloration of the eyelid on top of shadow base, but I almost always follow that up with Cork to begin adding warmth.  A look I’ve repeated multiple times is blending Cork in nicely all over the lid while adding lots of kohl eyeliner in Smolder or Feline (and I took this idea from a page out of InStyle that I’ve kept for years).

Finally, for a bit of a wildcard brown that has a slight twist to it, MAC is my friend once again.  Their Pro Longwear Eyeshadow in Uninterrupted is described as “dark camel with semi-matte finish”; it has a lot more gold in it than the other shades I’ve mentioned.  However, it’s discontinued!  That’s sort of the beauty and tragedy of MAC- they hold on to their timeless classics and there are always so many shades to play with, but if you fall in love with one of the many that gets discontinued, it’s quite a bummer.  It’ll probably take me forever to get through Uninterrupted though because the stuff really does last an eternity.  I don’t even use base when I wear it; it’s that potent and long-lasting.  I love this shade for its brightening properties- blue eyes look Blue Fairy kinds of blue with it, brown eyes look more yellow-gold, and green eyes look sort of hazel with it.  And hazel eyes just look extra hazel!

What are the products that you keep purchasing over and over?  Anyone else happen to have a brown eyeshadow addiction like me?  I actually haven’t purchased a Naked palette yet, probably because I’m a proud hipster and don’t want to own what I feel like everyone else owns, but knowing me, I’ll crack one day.  One day.  xo, MR

Target and Kittens- Is there anything better?!

One of my most favorite things about my amatuer-ish makeup “expertise” is that I get asked lots of questions.  I love taking questions about anything, such as inquiries about which products I use to remove makeup (got that one last Sunday from a friend!), or a recommendation on a great, natural lipstick (got that one last Tuesday from a family member!), what my experience is with makeup setting spray (got that one on Friday from a coworker!), or what half of the makeup products in existence are even for in the first place (got that one last weekend from a dude friend!).  It’s a joy knowing that folks can count on me for some help, but it’s also fun seeing others grow in their own knowledge of beauty products.  As someone with a background in education, I really enjoy, well, educating people.  A couple days ago I accompanied one of my dearest friends to the MAC counter where she proceeded to choose four awesome eyeshadows for herself, including some super-fun contrast colors (and she hasn’t owned much product before this).  I’ve done her makeup a few times over the past year, and by having it done for her, she’s told me that it’s helped her understand the importance of certain products (like eyeshadow primer and highlighter) and that it’s helped her see how she’s capable of doing her own makeup quite well, too!  Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you can do it on your own, or show you how to do it just once, or insist that you don’t have to follow “the rules” of makeup as closely as you may think.

One of the questions that I’m asked frequently concerns drugstore makeup.  I believe I may have posted on a similar topic already, but another go-round can’t hurt!  Many folks want to know what items they can save on at a drugstore, or at least which particular drugstore items are good finds that are hidden beneath the rest of the not-so-quality makeup.  I always like to say that face makeup and blush should definitely be held to higher standards, and skincare and haircare should be as well (and these should be held to the most natural standards possible, too).  But there are a couple goodies that I’ve recommended to everyone that you can purchase for ten bucks or less at your local Rite-Aid, Target, etc.  A couple of these picks are just different neutral eyeshadows, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked for recommendations on a universally-flattering eyeshadow that can be worn easily.  So here, a compilation of my favorite finds as shown at a local Target:


Maybelline’s line of Color Tattoo eyeshadows consist of an extremely pigmented and long-lasting cream-to-powder color that gives great shimmer.  I’d honestly compare the quality of this line to Chanel’s Illusion D’Ombre, though with not as multidimensional shades.  “Bad to the Bronze”, as seen here, is particularly well-known for being a great choice for any skin color and any eye color.  This very shade been praised in Allure magazine, and what’s great about cream shadows in general is that they’re so easy to use.  You don’t even need a brush- just use your fingers to swipe this stuff on to your lids and up to the brow bone.


Revlon’s Colorstay quad palettes are the best budget-friendly answer to the eye palette question.  The one shown in “Addictive” is, like the Maybelline shade, a good, foolproof choice for anyone.  Revlon recently gave their eye palettes a makeover so they used to look a little different (and they had different names, as this one was previously named “Coffee Bean Quad”), but they seemed to upgrade the range of shades offered, as well.  Revlon’s Customeyes palettes are also great if you’re searching for a more avant-garde selection, and their PhotoReady shadow and primer palettes are equally creative in color range.  The PhotoReady palette in “Pop Art” has always looked fun to me for a more dramatic look.


Some of the more frustrating experiences I’ve had with makeup artists or counter employees is their insistence that if you purchase one product, you simply have to buy this other product that will make the first one much more effective.  For instance, if you purchase a new face powder, you simply must buy the setting powder to apply for a proper finish!  Gah!  One thing at a time!  Unless you’ve specifically stated that you’re out to complete your whole kit from top to bottom, don’t worry about nabbing everything suggested to you.  Buy items as you realize that you need them.  However, sometimes such advice from experts is, in fact, merited.  Case and point:  proper makeup brushes.  Please, please, PLEASE do not believe that a single eyeshadow brush will help you achieve any desired look you have in mind.  There are, in fact, different brushes for very different purposes.  I won’t go into detail here on which ones do which things (though I’ll just say that for eyes, you should probably own at least three different brush types if you want to be really effective with your shadows).  Now, I always try to encourage folks to stick with higher-quality brushes as they’re denser, softer, and tend to last far longer, but the Sonia Kashuk line at Target has a surprisingly strong line of cosmetic tools to choose from.  Her brushes (especially those that are black and labeled as “professional”) are very precise and efficient in application.  I’ve even purchased some of her application sponges (See the blue precision sponge?  A great BeautyBlender knock-off!) with great results.  So my point is, if you don’t have the time to mosey on over the the nearest Sephora, head to Target instead and snag a couple of these brushes.  They’re affordable without skimping on effectiveness.


I think I’ve talked about these puppies before, but here’s an innovative lip product from a drugstore that you can count on: Revlon’s Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain.  Quite the mouthful, huh?  These are Revlon’s answer to Clinique’s Chubby Sticks, a product meant to provide sheer color and lasting hydration.  Ever since Gucci Westman assumed position as the global artistic director of Revlon, the colors offered by the brand in everything from eyeshadow to nail color have seemed to take a high-end turn.  This Just Bitten Kissable shade in “Darling” is a perfect example.  It’s not a typical bubblegum pink- it’s got hints of lavender in it.  It’s about as close to purple as my lips will ever get, but it’s a fun choice for something a little more unexpected.


You’ve heard me talk about these before, but proper doctrine need not be preached in limited quantities.  CoverGirl’s LashBlast line makes the best budget-friendly mascaras.  Period.  Take special note of the blue, green, and orange tubes.  I’ve used all of these for years.  I’ve used others in between such as Maybelline, Dior, L’Oreal, and Stila, but none manage to compare to CoverGirl’s.  I understand that people tend to want different things when it comes to mascara (because how Maybelline’s Great Lash still manages to sell well, I’ll never know), but if you’re looking for a buildable, slightly tacky formula with a brush that can be easily controlled, these are perfect.  The only one I really haven’t liked is the “24 Hour” kind, in the black tube.  Too messy, goopy, and not enough build.  But as for the rest, knock yourself out.


First things first:  sorry for the dirty nail.  I literally covered myself in clay yesterday and have yet to scrape off every bit of it (but whether it was at the spa or for an art project, you’ll never know).  Second things second:  L’Oreal’s Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow line is the boooooommmmmmmmmb.  That sounds like it says “is the boom”.  Well, it’s the boom and it’s the bomb.  This line is your best choice for a dramatic, “going out” look for under ten dollars.  These have incredible color payoff comparable to Urban Decay’s shadows, but if you don’t like shine be sure to stay away as these will draw some serious attention to your peepers.  This shade in “Bottomless Java” might be one of my favorite shadows of all time, and I taut it as my absolute favorite drugstore find beyond all the aforementioned.  This whole line is completely reliable, though.  I posted a video from IntoTheGloss a while ago that showcased my hero Emily Weiss using the “Eternal Black” shade for a super-smokey glam-rock look.  So before running over to MAC for one of their pigments, check these out first.  They may have what you’re looking for.

Welp, there you have it.  If you’ve read, I know that the next time you’re at Target, it’s highly likely that you’ll be picking up one (or all) of these.  But I hope you’ve found this helpful, as we’re often overwhelmed by the choices given to us by makeup manufacturers (and that’s actually part of their strategy).  So fear not!  Play it safe and play it beautiful with one of these Old Faithfuls.  And here, to make your day even more special, two pictures of a kitten with my makeup brushes:


Now go die happy.  xo, MR