Reader question: How do I choose a flattering eyeshadow palette?

Hi Ms. Liz and fellow fans of Prject Vanity. I have a problem with eyeshadow colors. I wear glasses and I recently bought the Urban Decay Basics palette thinking It was noob-proof and safe. However I ended up looking bruised or ashen. I know I applied the colors right because Ive been watching Youtube tutorials using the palette. I guess I cant pull off the colors like gray or taupe. Maybe because of my skin's undertones or the glasses? I really dont know.

Can you recommend a good eye brightening e/s palette for beginners? Probably those which already have complementary colors. Would you recommend peach-y and pink e/s for everyday wear? Thank you in advance and looking forward to your answers! - Aubrey

Hey Aubrey! This is an excellent question. Like you, I have noticed that cool eyeshadows do not flatter my warm Asian skin. Instead of looking wistful and slightly smoky, my eyes end up looking like they were punched. Not quite the effect I set out to achieve but over time I've learned to work around it (will talk more about that later). Allow me to discuss cool and warm eyeshadows, and how to pick according to your skintone.

Warm what? When it comes to cosmetics, "warm" means colors with yellow, red, or golden tones. If your skin looks yellowish or reddish against a white shirt then you're warm. If gold jewelry looks better on you than silver, yup, you're warm. 

Martha of The Beauty Junkee is warm

There's a host of eyeshadow colors from black, green, blue, pink to beige, so how do you know when a color is actually warm? Eyeshadows with golden and coppery shimmer would most likely flatter you, and (depending on how dark you are) deeper, jewel shades would work as well. That's the general rule to follow. Look for gold/copper shimmer and aim for more dramatic colors.

The Guerlain L'Ecrin 4 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette in 14 Les Fauves is an amazing warm, coppery palette

The Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eye Shadow Quad in Brazen is an excellent drugstore find. Highly recommend this!

I also recommend the  Wet n' Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Palette in Vanity - this has dupes of MAC eyeshadows and the quality is surprisingly nice for the price. :) I'll post the dupes one of these days.

I find that eyeshadows that are grayish and ashy do not work well with warm tones; they tend to enhance the grayness of the skin for some reason.

How cool can you get? Cool skintones on the other hand have a bluish, pinkish tinge when set beside a white background. Silver jewelry looks best on girls who are cool.

Angela of is cool-toned

Cool-toned girls are lucky because their skin isn't as picky as warm tones. That bluish undertone is like Type O blood; it goes with most things! Cool skin can pull off gold or yellow-based eyeshadows effortlessly, while looking good in silver shimmer too. They can wear soft pastel shades and jewel tones. 


The Revlon Colorstay Palette in Siren is great for cool tones, but the colors can be mixed with warm ones to match different skin tones.

The Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette has four cool eyeshadows (Venus, Walk of Shame, Faint, and Crave) and two warm colors (Foxy and Naked). What I do is, I mix Faint and Crave with Venus to sort of lessen the grayness on my skin.

If they need to avoid something though, that would be overly pale lilacs, mint, and too much yellow. These colors can make them - or anyone else, for that matter - appear sickly and washed out.

But wait, how do I determine the level of warmth or coolness of neutral eyeshadow? Warm eyeshadows are predominantly golden, reddish (i.e. coppery), peachy, or earthy. Cool eyeshadows tend to have silver shimmer, a pink tone, and veer toward gray (taupe).  

Here's a useful guide from Ulta! It compares the Urban Decay Naked 1 and 2 and correctly determines which color is warm or cool.


Can I wear pink or peach eyeshadow on a daily basis? Definitely! A golden peach I think is universally flattering. Just wear your peach/pink on the lid just to brighten that area.

Something like the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Rose Gold will serve you well

Or something like the Clinique Chubby Stick For Eyes in Pink and Plenty if you want something pinker

Tip: It's wise to choose a palette with a mix of cool and warm tones. Cool tones may clash on your skin, but it can be an interesting effect when done right. You can lessen that coolness by wearing a warm crease color, blush, or lipstick! A taupe eyeshadow, for example, can be less bruising when worn with a red lipstick or deep pink blush.

You can also add warm up your cool eyeshadows by combining them with golden shades. :)

So there you go. Hope this helps! Just remember that these are just general guidelines, not rules writ in stone. If you're feeling taupe eyeshadow then by all means go for it. If you like silvery gray smoky eyes even if you're yellow, well, don't let me stop you. Makeup is all about wearing what makes us feel nice and happy. It's not as complicated as it sounds!