We easily cough up our paychecks for the latest
skin-care innovations or the newest K-beauty must-haves, but when it comes to eyeshadow, we’re wise to the game. We know that the drugstore market is just as good (or at times, better) than the luxury products available. The biggest challenge is figuring out which palettes are worth plucking off the shelves — especially when you can’t swatch them on your hand like you would in a department store.
We went ahead and solved the problem (and then some) with a little help from our favorite celebrity makeup artists. Ahead, find our 19 favorite drugstore palettes for under $20 — whether you’re looking for some smoky-eye inspiration or a jewel-toned kit worthy of your next night out.
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Best For: Neutral Smoky Eyes
Sonia Kashuk’s palette, filled with shimmery neutrals, is makeup artist
Fabiola ‘s go-to for smoky eyes. You can easily upgrade the 12 shadows (which are impossibly soft and silky, btw) from day to night by layering or sweeping them on with a wet brush.
Sonia Kashuk Neutral Shimmer 3 Palette, $19.99, available at Target.
For less than the price of a green juice, you can get your hands on eight super-pigmented, blendable eyeshadows. The shade selection is earthy, neutral perfection, but best of all: The guiding markers make application foolproof.
Wet n Wild Comfort Zone Palette, $4.99, available at Wet n Wild.
For a sleek and small everyday palette that you can tote with you, look to this option from Tarte, which is perfect for a deep smoky eye, a soft wash of color, and everything in-between.
Tarte Tartelette Tease, $21, available at Sephora.
Best For: Classic Smoky Eyes
But if you’re in the market for a more classic smoky-eye look, try this collection of dusky-gray, charcoal, and silver shades. The powders are velvety-soft and perfect for blending.
Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips Custom Eye Enhancing Shadow & Liner in Smoky Eyes, $11.95, available at Physicians Formula.
Best For: Shadow Pros
Do you know your way around a
plum smoky eye? Have you spent tortuous minutes blending your shadow until it’s just right? Do you hit the pan on your favorite shades monthly? We feel you, girl, and it’s time to upgrade. E.L.F.’s mini version of its pro palette offers endless color selection in a small-but-mighty case ideal for travel. (Makeup artists, take note.)
E.L.F. Studio Endless Eyes Pro Mini Eyeshadow Palette, $7, available at E.L.F.
Best For: Shadow Newbies
But if you’re just dipping your toes in the shadow waters, this well-edited palette is the perfect start, says celebrity makeup artist
Andie Markoe-Byrne. The shimmery neutrals are foolproof, and there are even cheat sheets included on the back of the packaging so you can try a variety of looks.
L’Oréal Colour Riche Palette Nude 1, $19.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
This labeled eyeshadow trio makes messing up impossible, and for the price, it’s kind of unbelievable how smoothly the powders go on.
Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio in Sweet As Candy, $2.99, available at Wet n Wild.
This compact quad of warm bronzes flatters every eye color and skin tone.
L’Oreal Colour Riche Pocket Palette, $9.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
Best For: The Bold
These compact palettes are full of vibrant colors, allowing you to express yourself with whatever plum, emerald, bronze, or yellow eye look you’re feeling at the moment. Each kit is also packed with several neutrals to help balance the bold shades. (But don’t feel like you need to.)
Nyx Avant Pop! EyeShadow Palette, $16.99 each, available at Ulta Beauty.
Best For: Brush-Free Blending
Don’t feel like investing in a
six-piece brush kit? Try cream shadow, suggests Markoe-Byrne. Revlon’s palette comes with an array of lavender hues, including an on-trend rust shade to kick things up a notch. Use your hands to blend to your heart’s content — the extra warmth from your fingers only adds to the sexy, smudgy effect.
Revlon Illuminance Creme Shadow in Wild Orchids 701, $5.99, available at Target.
Best For: Party Looks
According to celebrity makeup artist
Jordy Poon, this palette from Hard Candy may just make you the life of the party. With vibrant jewel tones and reflective glitter, it’s the “ultimate accessory to any outfit,” he says. Layer the hues on your entire lid, or keep things a bit tamer by concentrating them close to the lashline.
Hard Candy Glitteratzi Compact Eye Shadow in Center of Attention, $6, available at Walmart.
Best For: Sensitive Eyes
It doesn’t matter how great an eyeshadow look is if it makes your eyes watery and irritated — it’s just not worth it. That’s why we love these shadow trios. Not only are they created specifically for sensitive eyes, but the silky formula comes in a variety of pretty color combinations. Markoe-Byrne notes that she loves how easy they are to use with the brand’s simple three-step system.
Almay Intense I Color in Everyday Sets, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
Best For: Spring’s Mono-Makeup Look
CoverGirl’s new rosy palette may look intimidating, but it passed our
test with flying colors. Read: It’s really easy to apply and super-flattering. It’s also the perfect product to help pull off one of spring’s most popular trends: mono makeup. Pair it with blush and lip color in the same pinky family for a polished look perfect for the season.
CoverGirl Roses TruNaked Eye Shadow Palette, $11.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
If you want to dip your toes into mono makeup — but aren’t ready for shimmery pinks and purples — try this palette. The soft, blush-based neutrals blend easily to create subtle looks that match your cheeks and lips.
Maybelline The Blushed Nudes Eyeshadow Palette, $8.98, available at Walmart.
Best For: Blue Eyes
While we firmly believe that you should wear
whatever color you want on your eyes, some shades play up your features better than others. Blue-eyed ladies, for example, can look to bronze or brown to really make their irises pop.
CoverGirl Eye Shadow Quad in Go for the Golds, $6.99, available at Target.
Best For: Green Eyes
Those with green eyes, on the other hand, can count on bold, purple shades to bring all the attention to their peepers. Be daring and try this quad from Milani to really make them stand out. The foil-like texture goes on like a dream.
Milani Fierce Foil Eyeshine in 02 Rome, $9.99, available at Milani.
This eyeshadow trio from beloved E.L.F. has similar shades for half the price.
E.L.F. Studio Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Lavender Lover, $4, available at Walmart.
Best For: Hazel Eyes
If you’re lucky enough to have hazel eyes, there are a ton of undertones you can play up. Try emerald to bring out the green and gold for the tiger-eye effect. The soft shadows and sleek packaging,
created by Eva Mendes, make this feel like a luxury palette.
Circa Beauty Color Focus Eye Shadow Palette in Metamorphosis, $12, available at Drugstore.com.
This palette, whose mix of golds, browns, and greens lets you complete a gorgeous monochrome or smoky look for hazel eyes.
Makeup Revolution Romantic Smoked Redemption Eyeshadow Palette, $7, available at Ulta Beauty.
Best For: Brown Eyes
And if you’re blessed with brown eyes, the shadow world is your oyster. Have fun experimenting with blues, purples, grays, greens — you name it. We especially love this shimmery palette of taupe, navy, silver, and white from Pixi.
Pixi Mesmerizing Mineral Palette in Silver Sky, $12, available at Target.
Best For: Traveling Light
These color duos are perfect for your travel makeup bag (they’re the size of a matchbook!)
and come perfectly coordinated for different looks. All you have to do is pick your shade and pop it in your purse.
Sephora Collection Color Wishes 5 Eyeshadow Palettes, $10, available at Sephora.
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