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There’s no denying that these days, the drugstore is a veritable cornucopia of incredible makeup options. And there’s perhaps no category where that holds more true than eyeshadow. The formulas are better than ever—long-wearing, non-creasing and non-caking, and highly pigmented. Then there’s the almost dizzying array of colors and finishes to choose from, a variety that easily rivals (if not exceeds) the options the pricier counterparts come in. The best part? At such affordable prices, you can easily completely stock your eye shadow wardrobe with a choice for any and every situation.
Keep reading for the best drugstore eyeshadows.
Best Overall: Milani Cosmetics Bella Eyes Gel Powder Eyeshadow
Hybrid formula that works wet or dry
Pan could be slightly larger
This super unique, hybrid formula starts as a weightless gel but quickly dries down to a matte powder finish that’s highly pigmented and saturated. Also nice: You can apply it dry for a more sheer wash of color or wet for more intensity. Plus, it works just as well swiped on with your fingertips as it does dusted on with a brush.
Shades: 21 | Size: 0.05 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Palette: NYX Professional Makeup Ultimate Multi-Finish Shadow Palette
Great mix of shades and finishes
Reviewers note matte colors are sheer
How much do we love a good eyeshadow palette? Allow us to count the ways. Not only does it free up tons of space in your makeup bag, but it also makes it easy to score countless different looks, especially when it’s this palette you’re using. You get a gorgeous mix of three different finishes—matte, shimmer, and sparkly metallic—across a selection of a dozen versatile hues. All silky and easily blendable, they can also be mixed and matched, making the options truly endless. Bonus points for the durable plastic packaging.
Shades: 12 | Size: 0.48 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Cream: Revlon ColorStay Crème Eye Shadow
Great mix of shades
Comes with a brush
Can be a little hard to remove
Despite all of the great drugstore eyeshadows out there, it hasn’t always been easy to find a good cream option... until now. This pick is ultra-creamy, ultra-blendable, and totally crease-free, equally in part with its pricier counterparts. It comes in 18 shades across four different finishes—matte, pearl, metallic, and satin—all of which look gorgeous on their own, though they can also be layered under powder shadows to up their staying power. Speaking of, this formula is waterproof and lasts up to 24 hours. Plus, each pot comes with a tiny brush for easy application.
Shades: 18 | Size: 0.18 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Beginners: wet n wild Color Icon Eyeshadow 10 Pan Palette
Labels make application very easy
Color combinations are fairly similar
Sure, all drugstore makeup is affordable, but this brand really takes the cake when it comes to wallet-friendly price tags, and this palette is no exception. It includes 10 different colors and is an especially great choice for shadow novices. The palette is helpfully labeled with which part of the eye each shade is best for. You can obviously do whatever you please with the different colors and textures, but if you’re looking for a little guidance when it comes to finally mastering that smokey eye, this is the way to go.
Shades: 10, 4 color combinations | Size: 0.3 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Stick: Milani Gilded Shadow Stick
Easy and smooth application
No tools required
Limited shade options
New York City makeup artist and beauty expert Neil Scibelli says he’s a big fan of eyeshadow sticks because they're so easy to work with. “I love this pick in particular because it comes in a range of colors: an olive green, a champagne—which is also great used as a highlighter—as well as a great chocolate and a lighter copper color. They go on silky smooth and can easily be blended in with your fingers,” he explains.
Shades: 4 | Size: 0.06 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Long-Lasting: Maybelline New York Color Tattoo Up to 24H Longwear Cream Eyeshadow Makeup
Highly saturated color
Limited range of finishes
These little pots pack a major punch. The creamy and rich color glides on beautifully (and can be easily applied with your fingertips, always a major plus in our book). And per the apropos name, the formula is waterproof, crease- and fade-resistant, and lasts up to 24 hours.
Shades: 10 | Size: 0.14 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Brights: CoverGirl Trunaked Eyeshadow Palette in That’s Rad
Great mix of shades
Included applicator is a little dingy
Scibelli says the palettes in this line (there are four to choose from) are also some of his favorites, calling them very versatile and highly pigmented. He calls out this option in particular: “It offers really fun pops of color, especially for those who are into a bolder look,” he says. (Though there are also more muted options for those who like a more toned-down option.)
Shades: 8, 4 color combinations | Size: 0.23 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Nudes: Revlon Colorstay Looks Book Eyeshadow Palette in Original
Great mix of shades and palette options
Very smooth texture
Not clean or cruelty-free
“I love this collection of eyeshadows, available in five different color palettes because they’re highly pigmented and go on velvety smooth,” says Scibelli. There’s a variety of colors to choose from, but this option, which touts eight gorgeous nudes ranging from sand to taupe to charcoal, houses everything you need for your day-to-day shadow wardrobe.
Shades: 8, 5 color combinations | Size: 0.12 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Metallic: L'Oréal Paris Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow
Highly saturated color
Limited range of finishes
For those seeking a super foiled effect, these shadows can’t be beaten. The 13 shades come in a rainbow array of colors, all boasting a highly intense metallic effect, that you can score with just one swipe because the formula is so highly pigmented. Plus, the unique powder to cream texture goes on velvety smooth like a powder but feels as, well, creamy as a cream. Even better? The formula is waterproof and crease-resistant, and it lasts up to 24 hours.
Shades: 13 | Size: 0.64 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Liquid: Flower Beauty Watercolor Eye Tint
Refreshing and hydrating feel
Limited shade range
The innovative formula of this liquid shadow is infused with rose water, which makes it feel delightfully soothing and refreshing as it goes on. Unlike many other liquid shadows we’ve tried, it never feels sticky or tacky. It just delivers a beautiful wash of buildable and fast-drying color, which is very easy to swipe on with the doe-foot applicator.
Shades: 6 | Size: 0.37 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Glitter: NYX Professional Makeup Face & Body Glitter
Highly saturated color and coverage
Must be used with brand’s glitter glue
When you want a little extra glitter and gleam on your lids, this is the way to go. Glitter is notoriously messy, but this makes it easy to do. All you have to do is pop on a little bit of the brand’s glitter primer first. It comes in the standard metallic hues you’d expect to find in a glitter and some fun rainbow shades, too.
Shades: 12 | Size: 0.8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
There is truly no shortage of epic eyeshadows to choose from at the drugstore. The Milani Cosmetics Bella Eyes Gel Powder Eyeshadow (view at Amazon) is our top pick since it's a hybrid formula that combines all the best elements of a powder and a gel in one. The brand also makes our favorite stick; the Milani Gilded Shadow Stick (view at Milani Cosmetics) is ideal for those who like to apply their shadow sans brush. Those who love palettes will appreciate the array of a dozen shades that come in the NYX Professional Makeup Ultimate Multi-Finish Shadow Palette (view at Ulta), while the Maybelline New York Color Tattoo Longwear Cream Eyeshadow (view at Maybelline) gets our vote for offering the most long-lasting formula, staying put for up to 24 hours.
What to Look for in a Drugstore Eyeshadow
As with any shadow, Scibelli says you should first consider the color you want. Are you going for bright, bold tones or everyday neutrals? “I think drugstore eyeshadows can be a great way to both build your everyday collection, as well as step out of your comfort zone with colors that you’re not necessarily bound to because they’re a bit less of an investment,” he says.
Do you want cream or powder? It’s a matter of personal preference, says Scibelli, and many of today’s formulas combine the best of both.
How do you apply drugstore eyeshadow?
“I suggest using eyeshadow brushes to apply drugstore shadows,” says Scibelli. “A pointed definer brush is great for the perimeter of the eye; a fluffier brush is good to blend crease color. And if all else fails, the simple applicators some drugstore shadows come with will always work,” he says. Cream formulas can be applied with either your fingers or a brush.
How long do drugstore eyeshadows stay on?
Scibelli says this depends on the formula and if you wear a primer underneath, which can prevent creasing and extend wear time. Still, generally speaking, he says the wear time of drugstore shadows compares to the wear time of any other shadow.
Do drugstore eyeshadows expire?
In a word, yes. “Cream formulas that remain open can grow bacteria easily, especially since they’re not as easy to clean. Powders tend to last longer, especially because you can disinfect them with alcohol easily and scrape off the top layers if needed,” explains Scibelli. Regardless, keep an eye out for weird changes in color, texture, or smell—all are tell-tale signs that it’s time to ditch a product.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Because she doesn’t wear eyeshadow regularly, she prefers inexpensive, drugstore options, which allow her to play with color and texture without spending tons of money. (Plus, she doesn’t feel bad when she doesn’t wear them.)
Meet the Expert
Neil Scibelli is a New York City-based celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert. He focuses largely on fashion, celebrity, and television, as well as sharing his beauty education via contributions to various makeup outlets.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any drugstore eyeshadows from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.