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Not to attach too much sentimentality to eyeballs, but brown eyes have a delightful kind of versatility when it comes to makeup—they can wear metallics, in-your-face reds, moody aubergines, cool tones, you name it. Each shade pulls out the hidden red and golden tones in brown eyes, which normally go unnoticed (unless you accidentally get sun in your eyes). The hard part, then, is narrowing down the sea of eyeshadows, available in just as many types of formulations and finishes. To help with that, we’ve rounded up the best eyeshadows for brown eyes, from a stunning bronzy palette to a holographic, serpentine eyeshadow.
Best Overall: Pat McGrath Mothership V Bronze Seduction
The best shades for browns tend to be golds, cooler-toned metallics, and in this case—high-voltage warm tones, with shimmer finishes to amp up the drama. Of course, the shades are never as simple as they look in the pan. The red is not just red, but red with subtle pink reflects, and what looks like a shimmery taupe, in fact, has smoky green undertones. The Bronze Seduction palette, the latest from Pat McGrath, is more jewel box than eyeshadow palette, from the iridescent shades to the weighty, glossy acrylic case. The tiny gold plates on the obsidian black surface, embossed with the Pat McGrath Labs logo, only highlight the extraterrestrial mystique of the Mothership line.
Best Budget: ColourPop Jelly Much Shadows in Foxes
The Jelly Much Shadows line is a goldmine (excuse the pun) of gorgeous duo-chrome shadows. You open the pot to what looks like a gold oil slick, the result of a unique formula that hovers between a liquid and a cream. But when all is said and done, the shadow dries down to a powder finish that doesn’t crease or crack off. The line includes a few other standout shades, like the icy purple “Hallucinogenius,” but “Foxes,” a rich gold tone that could work for day or night, is a fan favorite. Because of the fluid consistency, it’s best applied with your finger. It looks like liquid gold on the lid, and like burnished metal once it dries, at which point it acquires a gorgeous dimension of its own.
Best Drugstore Option: Revlon ColorStay Looks Book Eyeshadow Palette in Enigma
The purple-themed “Enigma” palette offers eight shades which include a rich cranberry, a shimmery eggplant, and champagne gold, a particularly regal combination for brown eyes. What makes this drugstore palette especially impressive, besides its blendability and buttery pigmentation, is the fact that purple shades are notoriously difficult to formulate. Alas, Revlon has managed to do it, and the shades don't just look great, they perform great with silky 24-hour wear.
Best Eyeshadow Quad: Tom Ford Eye Color Quad in Daydream
If you want frosty violet rather than plum, this Tom Ford quad is a lovely option. The shades include champagne pink, a duo-chrome lavender, gunmetal blue, and fuchsia, each of which contains various reflects and undertones that add to their complexity. It’s an improvement on previous eyeshadow quad formulations, some of which reviewers said they struggled with. You can create a surprising amount of looks, despite there being only four shades, and when combined with other statement colors—a yellow gold in the inner corner, for example—you'll find great versatility. Best of all, the frosty tones create a dreamy iridescence that contrasts beautifully with the warm tones in brown eyes.
Best Eyeshadow Singles: Urban Decay Eyeshadow single in Lounge
The magic of this eyeshadow is hard to catch on camera, unless you pile it on (even then it still looks good). “Lounge,” an appropriately sultry name, is a duo-chrome dragon-scale green that shifts to red and brown, depending on which way you turn. The best way to describe the consistency is velvety—not especially creamy, not especially dry—though, like other Urban Decay eyeshadow singles, it’s best applied with your finger or a wet shader brush. It’s a beautiful, unique shade that adds some mystery to brown eyes. Combine with red shadow or other metallics for an even more majestic look.
Best Matte Eyeshadow: MAC Cosmetics Eye Shadow
MAC eyeshadows are solid options, even if they’re not as showy as the latest palettes. Their eyeshadows, housed in a classic black compact, have always been richly pigmented, easy to blend, and long-lasting. Their eyeshadow singles include both shimmers and mattes, as well as a good amount of statement colors. There’s “Atlantic Blue,” a cobalt shade that can be used as an eyeliner or for bold winged shapes, and “Walking Heartbeats,” a true red. Then there’s “Diva Demands,” a deep, deep burgundy that functions both as a luxurious neutral and a brooding, dramatic addition to a smokey eye. If you’d prefer something more neutral, there’s also “Soft Teddy,” a pretty pink-toned beige.
Best Shimmer Eyeshadow: Stila Shimmer & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow
Stila eyeshadows are just too beautiful to pass up. First, there’s “Vivid Garnet,” a gorgeous pomegranate sure to make brown eyes pop. Then there’s “Vivid Labradorite,” a sensuous blend of charcoal and olive tones, and our personal favorite, “La Douce,” a gold green shade that’s thankfully becoming more common. The liquid shadows come in a rectangular tube, with the cap twisting off to reveal a doe-foot applicator. Application is easy, though blending can be tricky if you apply too much at the edges of the eye area. They’re eye-catching on their own, but even better as part of a cut crease.
Our writers spent 25 hours researching the most popular eyeshadows for brown eyes on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 16 different eyeshadows overall, screened options from 14 different brands and manufacturers, read over 60 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 3 of the eyeshadows themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.