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When it comes to beauty purchases, it’s all about balance. While there are definitely times to splurge, like on your favorite luxury foundation or skincare standbys, there’s also nothing better than finding a hidden gem when walking down the drugstore aisle.
This holds especially true for eye shadows. With the impressive options that drugstores everywhere have been pumping out, there’s no reason to drop a pretty penny on a higher-priced counterpart. The main challenge? Figuring out which eye shadows are worth pulling from the shelves, since you can’t test them like you can at a department store. From ultra-pigmented shades to a variety of finishes and silky textures, the drugstore aisles are abounding with pigmented, smooth, and creamy formulas that you'd never guess came at a bargain price point.
To find the best drugstore eye shadow for you, keep reading.
Best Overall: Milani Bella Eyes Gel Powder Eyeshadow
With extreme payoff and a wide-range of finishes and hues, this weightless gel-powder hybrid is the crème de la crème of drugstore eye shadows. The transformative formula starts off with gel-like texture and sets to a powder finish leaving behind saturated color. It glides on effortlessly with your fingertips or a brush providing multi-dimensional look that doesn’t fade, crease, or crack. Tip: for even more intensity, apply the metallic and shimmer formula using a damp eye shadow brush. The satin, matte, shimmer, and iridescent metallic finishes are all equally blendable and smooth. What’s better than that?
Best Budget: Wet n Wild
At less than $5 a pop, Wet n Wild makes some of the most affordable eye shadows at the drugstore. These recently reformulated compact palettes have been a must-have for makeup newbies and pros alike thanks to their foolproof formulas, stunning shades, and color payoff. In fact, Wet n Wild shadows can be compared to higher-priced versions on the market when it comes to their pigmented formulas.
The four shade options come with a mix of matte transition shades, shimmery lid colors, and sultry satin shades that are perfect for day, night, and any time in between. Another great feature is that the transition shades in the palette are larger than the satin or metallic colors, so you don’t have to worry using them up before hitting pan on the rest of the colors. The 10 rectangular pans are labeled with the part of the eye that each shade belongs on, like lid, crease, and outer corner. This feature makes the palette super user-friendly especially for beginners who are still mastering the smoky eye look. Of course, you can do whatever you please with the shades, but for those who have never used eye shadow before this is a great option.
Best Palette: NYX Professional UltimateTM Multi-Finish Shadow Palette
With four different color combinations available, this palette from NYX is filled with 12 highly-saturated shadows and pressed pigments, allowing you to create versatile looks with ease. Each palette features three ultra-pigmented finishes: matte, shimmer, and sparkly metallic in the same coordinated color family, so it’s simple to create a variety of eye looks from monochromatic to smoky to subtle. Also, the silky texture and easy-to-blend formula are major pluses. Due to its versatility and durable packaging, these palettes make great travel companions.
Best Metallic: L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24HR Eye Shadow
When it comes to a metallic eye shadow, the more intense the foiled effect, the better. These eye shadows from L’Oréal truly fit the bill. The hybrid of cream and powder is so smooth to the touch and offers seriously incredible pigmentation—all you need is just one swipe. It's also crease-, sweat-, and water-resistant with a 24-hour wear time. So basically, no matter the season or occasion, the velvety shadow will last all day long (literally!). Plus, the extensive shade range boasts a whopping 24 different hues. From rose gold to ultra violet to chocolate brown, there’s a color for everyone and every look.
Best Cream: Revlon ColorStay Crème Eye Shadow
A high-quality cream shadow from the drugstore is a dime a dozen. Most are lackluster, dry, and difficult to blend, but this ultra-creamy version from Revlon has changed the game. Featuring a blendable, crease-free formula, this budget-buy feels luxe and silky upon first swatch and applies to the lids just as easily. Each shadow pot comes with a handy built-in brush for fuss-free application and lasts up to 24 hours. It also comes in 12 eye-catching shades (pun intended) with four versatile finishes: metallic, matte, pearl, and satin. You can wear these alone or as a base for a powder eye shadow to extend its wear time.
Best Matte: e.l.f. Cosmetics Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette
Matte eye shadows are some of the hardest to come across at budget-friendly price point. Most are chalky, hard to blend, and don’t last on the lids for more than an hour or two. But this hidden treasure from e.l.f will change your view on what a drugstore matte eye shadow can offer.
With an ultra-buttery feel, these all-matte, shine-free palettes allow for versatile eye looks that don’t skimp on color payoff. Each palette contains 10 blendable, silky shades that you can use to contour your crease, add a sheer wash of color, or even as liner to define your eyes. It also comes in tons of different color schemes including rose golds, warm rusts, smoky grays, and jewel tones. No matter the occasion or your mood, there’s a matte palette option for everyone. It also works as a great companion palette when using metallic or shimmer shades.
Best Glitter: NYX Professional Makeup Face & Body Glitter
While adding a little twinkle to our lids with glitter can give the ultimate dimensional look, it can get messy within seconds of applying. The exception? These glitter pigments from NYX which allow for mess-free application (with the help of the brand’s glitter glue) and come in 12 light-reflecting hues ranging from holographic and multi-tonal purples to rich bronze and cherry red.
To apply, first place the glitter glue onto your lids using a flat synthetic brush, then dip the brush (or use your finger) into the glitter and place the glitter over it and wait a few minutes before closing your eye. And there you have it: a long-lasting, glittery eye that will stay on your lids and not end up on your face.