Finding the right formula: Beginners Eye Makeup

The other day, I was binge watching a bunch of makeup videos and it triggered a memory. A memory of me struggling to apply eyeshadow… almost 10 years ago.

My first palette was the Maybelline Nudes. It was awful, some shadows were pigmented, some weren’t and I gave up on ever working with eyeshadow. And then for a birthday, my sister gifted me the Urban Decay Naked 1 palette. And everything changed. I still love Urban Decay Naked and to this day, I haven’t found a true dupe to this palette.

But time has changed and eyeshadows formulas have become better and more beginner friendly. And one of the reasons I started this blog, apart from as a writing exercise, is to capture my thoughts on make up I try.

I’m not a make up expert; nor am I artistic (or patient) enough to create the amazing looks influencers and tik-tokers create. Also, I don’t need complex looks for my day job. I work in Marketing and all I’m working on are data reviews, reports and strategy documents — not fun stuff.

So, with that in mind, am I an influencer? No. Am I reviewer? I guess so. But I’m not an expert reviewer; I can’t tell you in detail why something works or doesn’t work beyond my own observation. Also, I’ve observed that influencers and experts have the experience and skills to make any make up work — even the bad ones. But not me or beginners like me.

So, who should make use of my reviews or my opinions? Anybody who is a beginner and doesn’t “collect make up”. Anyone with dry skin and who works in an office. And anybody in the consideration phase of their purchase (sorry, that’s the marketer in me).

My Makeup Journey Now

I started my makeup journey with creating one and done looks. Over time, I started using shades beyond just the one shadow, eyeshadows like transition shades and shadows that deepen the look. Such looks are, of course, reserved for special occasions like Halloweeen, Christmas parties, etc.

For example, a few weeks ago I had a work Christmas party and I decided to wear a green look. I’ve never done a green look in my life (Blue is the most adventurous look I can pull off); and I always thought that greens didn’t suit me.

So I pulled out my shadows and put together a beautiful look that I can’t believe I created. I used Dreamer from BH Cosmetics LA palette as the base, used Acrobat from ND Circo Loco to deepen the ends, Fake Tan from ND Tropics as a transition shade and pulled the entire look together with Catacea from Clionadh’s Dragon Fruit palette. This would’ve been impossible a few years ago without access to great formulas from BH Cosmetics, Natasha Denona and Clionadh.

Over the years, I’ve figured out that:

  • I have a love-hate relationship with blue shadows: they look amazing on me but I find them difficult to control
  • Purple shadows (and salmon lipsticks) are difficult to formulate. A good purple shadow and a good salmon lipstick are hard to find
  • What swatches great doesn’t mean it will look good on your eyes, and vice versa
  • That, lately, you need either an eyeshadow base or an eye primer for an eye look to look great especially for colors
  • Brushes matter. Elf (black handle) and Japonesque are my favorite affordable brushes. Real Techniques is another option, but they somehow just don’t work for me.
  • And Natasha Denona shadows are hyped for a reason: they’re amazing

Beginner Friendly Shadows

Here are all the beginner friendly shadow formulas that I think would be great for anyone. These formulas help you upskill and create great looks.

Natasha Denona

She’s the queen and there’s a good reason why. I think there’s some magic in her formulas. They are idiot proof shadows, that always pull together you look no matter how bad your skills. Let’s put it this way, it’s like playing an electric guitar when you haven’t mastered an acoustic.

If you’re just starting out, I would suggest grabbing one of the smaller 6 pan palettes (minis) during a Sephora sale (or an Ulta sale, if you’re lucky to have an Ulta near you, something that seems to elude Canadians) to begin with. There are two types of Nudes: Brown and pinks. Pinks look great on my tan skin with yellow undertones. For some, browns look great. Once you know what looks good on you, you can choose from Natasha Denona’s Minis: Glam, Love, Biba or Bronze. I think Mini Retro would be a purchase for when you want be a bit more daring.

Once you like the shadows, and if you think you REALLY need it, then grab one of her bigger palettes, like the Dream, Glam or Retro. Retro Glam, Zendo or Circo Loco, if you’re ready to experiment with makeup.

BH Cosmetics

Now BH Cosmetics formulas tend to be much drier than Natasha Denona’s. And you need a base like foundation or concealer for control. But I find this formula easy to use. I’m almost always surprised by the color payoff and pigmentation from these shadows. This may not be totally beginner friendly, but once you have a few months experience, a BH cosmetics formula may be easy to handle.

Clionadh Cosmetics

In Indie makeup, Clionadh is my favorite. I’ve avoided purchasing from Clionadh because I have no true use for a multichrome. But I’m so glad I purchased the Dragon Fruit palette. The formulas are so easy to use! The pay off and pigmentation is stunning. When I think of quality makeup I think of Clionadh. I wish they’d release more single color shadows like the ones in this palette. They did release the stocking stuffer trio during Christmas and I would’ve definitely picked them up if I didn’t have the same colors in other palettes.

Musee/Kailav Beauty

I’ll admit, I purchased this palette because of the theme. Beyond that, the formulas are so easy to use. I have the Van Gogh and the Impressionism palettes, but the Van Gogh palette has better formula.

If you are in the US, I would suggest trying their Van Gogh palette. If you’re in Canada, I think the shipping costs make it prohibitive to purchase.

These are not the only beginner friendly formulas out there. But these are the ones I’ve tried and I like. Other formulas that people rave about are: Pat McGrath, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Makeup By Mario, Victoria Beckham, Lisa Eldridge and Wayne Goss.

Update: Jan ’23. Kaliav has decided to shut shop as the founders have decided to pursue other opportunities. As of this update, all their makeup is on 50% discount.

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