Experimenting with makeup is an age-old pastime for me. Even though my mom didn’t allow me to wear foundation, concealer, or any makeup that covered my skin until I was legally an adult, I always found a way to experiment with makeup with eye shadow. Growing up in the ’90s and 2000s, I mostly adorned my eyelids with rhinestones and my favorite gold Covergirl eye shadow. That was my signature.
As my makeup world grew, I still loved adorning my eyes, but in college, I leaned into heavy, smudged, black eyeliner and loads of mascara. (Let’s just say the photos from my college days are filled with raccoon eyes.) And these days, I get to chat with expert makeup artists regularly for tips on the best ways to accentuate the eyes. For this story, Kate Synnott, the creative director at Róen Beauty, and global makeup artist and Code8 brand trainer Sasha Ghodstinat gave me the deets on the best eye-shadow palettes for beginners.
In general, Synnott recommends going for the gold. “I always recommend golds for everyone. They work so well with every skin and eye color.” Additionally, she says investing in a good palette and applying small amounts of product during application make more of a difference than focusing on the formula (aka mattes vs. creams).
Ghodstinat also suggests “investing in an eye palette that will have lighter, medium, and darker colors that will help you enhance your eyes.” For example, she recommends plums and greens with a golden base color for brown eyes and browns, golds, and rose golds for blue and green eyes. “Any color opposite your eye color will create more of a contrast and will pop your eye color more,” she says.
As for tools, both artists recommend using your fingers as a foolproof application option. But if you’re looking for a tool, Synnott recommends Róen’s Everything Eye Brush, which I can vouch for. I enjoy using it, especially if I want to line my under-eyes with eye shadow. (I’ve even used it to contour.)
Now that the beauty experts have weighed in, I’ve rounded up 19 palettes below that will make putting together eye looks a breeze even if you’re just getting started.