Jul 01, 2023

No one needs an eyeshadow palette with 42 shades

Using a single colour looks confident and polished – and minimises waste

I’m convinced that eyeshadow palettes are, if not dead, then at least off sick for the foreseeable. I was sad when the parent company of the Morphe makeup brand filed for bankruptcy this year, but not wholly surprised.

Morphe continues to make heaps of very good, affordable products but it’s undeniable that the brand is known mainly for its large, kaleidoscopic eye palettes, holding up to 42 pans of powder shadow. While there was a spell when budding makeup artists and YouTube audiences couldn’t buy them fast enough (I’ve had girlfriends beg me at Christmas to secure a sold-out-everywhere Morphe palette for their pleading teenager), post-pandemic that sort of high-maintenance, time-consuming beauty feels a bit off.

A recent visit to a New York Sephora store confirmed it – shelves were no longer stacked with palettes, rainbow colours and huge arrays of brushes and applicators, but with low-effort, multi-use products in a relatively minimalist shade spectrum.

The fears that Covid would kill makeup weren’t realised, but what the pandemic did was force more fortunate consumers to reprioritise their time, comfort and cash, and reconsider how they’d like to live. Few non-professional beauty fans can honestly make the maths work on a party palette containing enough eyeshadow to thrice-coat the Forth Bridge, much less make peace with its excess waste and ultimate contribution to landfill (I’ve rarely seen a big palette without at least a few shades completely untouched).

I’m a diehard fan of a single shadow. There’s something confident and deceptively polished about a monochromatic sweep or two of Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick (£27) in a forgiving neutral like Taupe, or Trinny London’s Eye2Eye in Chariot (shimmery khaki green that looks good on every skin, £18), swiftly followed by an effortless blend with a clean brush to soften.

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If you’re wary of creams, a couple of versatile single-powder shadows like MAC Wedge (soft, beigey taupe, £17) or No7’s Mono in warm, chocolatey Truffle (£6.95) will take you anywhere.

There’s still a place for a thoughtfully curated collection of shadows but I suggest four, max (Vieve and Nars make some of the best), and only if you’re sure you’ll make use of them.

Alternatively, Lisa Eldridge and Hourglass bombproof the process by inviting you to curate your own palette of snap-in shades in a host of finishes. My advice here would be to choose two nudey mattes, one bold and one glitter. Plenty.

Bobbi BrownLong-Wear Cream Shadow StickTrinny London’s Eye2EyePrivacy Notice: MAC WedgeNo7’s MonoLisa EldridgeHourglass