When I was in high school, I belonged to a dance team led by a teacher who required us to wear a teal-and-orange eyeshadow combination—yes, teal and orange— for every performance. Since that early trauma, I’ve more or less avoided the entire eyeshadow category, opting instead for a simple liner look that’s probably as dated now as the ’80s-style shadow imposed on my by my teacher… but I digress. In any case, I recently impulse purchased a liquid shadow, my first shadow in many, many, many years, simply because it seemed easy to apply for someone as out of practice as I, and because it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the cake-y lid adornments of my tacky youth.
Liquid shadows are trending, probably not so much for the latter reason as for the former; namely, that they can be applied quickly and without precision and still look bomb. “Formulas are becoming bolder, smudge-proof, more colorful and, best of all, they’re so easy to apply,” says makeup artist Neil Scibelli. Anything I can apply without a mirror is a win for me, and while makeup artist Jeannie Vincent would likely not advise trying to put it on with nary a glance at your reflection, she tells me liquid shadows are a great way to get a fast sweep of color without needing a brush. (Many come with applicators, Scibelli adds, but you can use your fingers.) “If you want a more detailed or structured application, use a synthetic pointed or flat eyeshadow brush, depending on the shape you’re looking to create,” he advises.
Because of innovations in the smudging sector, Scibelli tells me that liquid shadows can be a great way to get a long-wearing eye look. They’re often, he adds, water resistant, which means you can sweat in them in the winter, risk them in the rain and, if you’re anything like me, take them to therapy, too.
Another benefit, adds makeup artist Alexandria Gilleo, is that liquid shadows are conducive to creativity. “You can very easily create an ‘undone’ and ‘effortless’ makeup application by using a natural sheer color or have fun by using bolder colors maybe with some glitter that will give your eyes a fun pop of color,” she explains. She suggests applying to clean skin and a neutral face by dabbing the shadow with your fingertips, starting on the center of the eye. “This ensures the focal point will be the eyes,” she explains. “Don’t be afraid to get messy when swiping your lids—liquid shadows are luscious and easy to work with.”
When it comes to choosing a shadow, Vincent suggests trying the different formulas—or reading reviews at least—since they vary in terms of blendability, the amount of time it takes for them to dry down, and their lasting power.
1. Wander Beauty in Champagne Falls, $22
“For a natural glowing look, my favorite liquid shadow is the Wander Beauty in Champagne Falls,” says Gilleo. “I use this often on brides.”
Both Gilleo and Scibelli are fans of Stila’s liquid shadows, which the latter says are long-wear. “For a bold look, I love Stila’s Little White Lies liquid eyeshadow in Lilac Legend, which I’ve used on set many times and created so many beautiful looks,” says Gilleo.
3. Glossier Lidstar, $18
Glossier’s liquid shadow boasts 12-hour wear and comes in six subtle shades for an understated, no-fuss glow.
This clean formula won’t crease or fade and doubles as skincare—it’s made from jojoba oil and orange fruit extract.
“Maybelline’s Color Tattoo eye chrome’s literally do not budge once they’re on,” says Scibelli. “And they come in a range of fun, metallic colors.”
“I also love Huda Beauty’s Matte & Metal double ended eyeshadows,” Sicbelli says. “They come in velvety matte formulas.”