When it comes to choosing eye shadow, many people focus on color first, but shadows also differ from one another in texture. Understanding the many textures available out there can aid you in creating exciting looks, whether you want bold and dramatic, nude and natural, or a creation that is entirely your own.

Here is the lowdown on texture for eye shadows, including a breakdown of my favorite formulas and some hints on how they can work for you.

What does texture mean, exactly?

Texture describes the appearance of an eye shadow, also known as the ‘finish.’ The finish of a shadow effects color payoff, ease of use, and the result of the final look. It applies to all formulations including pressed or loose powder, liquid, and cream. Finish definitely needs to be taken into consideration for the camera — especially in the case of flash photography — but it is also just as important when designing everyday looks.

Matte Shadows

The primary building block to creating a beautiful eye starts with shadows that have a matte finish. Matte shadows have no shine, so they are ideal for providing structure and contour. Since it does not reflect light, the flat texture is great for shaping, defining, and producing a shaded effect. Some mattes are creamy and glide on while others offer a much drier texture. So, it’s best to test the shadow first to see how richly pigmented it is and how finely the powder has been milled.

Try taupe, greys, or browns in medium tones for creating eyebrow dimension or a crease. Use medium or deep, dark tones in brown, black, deep blue or purple as an eyeliner.

Since they offer a more even shading, lighter matte shadows give off a softer and more realistic highlighting effect. Try vanilla, bone and cream for lighter skin tones. For darker skin, try ochre and mid range beiges.

A matte shadow is also the best choice to use as a base because it will not effect the shadows you use above it.

Shimmer Shadows

Shimmer shadows have a subtle sheen and give a hint of sparkle. They offer coverage from sheer to full, depending on the manner of application. They allow the skin to show through, creating a modern and natural look.

Typically, shimmers won’t collect in fine lines and wrinkles, making them ideal for more mature skin.

The lightest shimmer shades work extremely well for highlighting recessed areas of the eyelid. The darker shimmers work great for adding drama without being as harsh as the dark matte shades.

Satin Shadows

These semi-matte shadows fit perfectly in the category between shimmer and matte. They offer more shine than traditional matte shades but possess a smoother reflectivity than shimmer, so they work well for all ages and skin shades.

Because they are so versatile, they can be used to bring light or depth to an area. But they can also ground the look of more textured shadows that exaggerate contours and refract light.

Satin shadows are great as base eye shadows. I love them for lining under the eye or filling in an eyebrow where you need a bit of lift. Satin shadows in the same color range as your favorite mattes are a great investment. I even recommend satin texture for your bolder color choices because they tend to provide a smoother application.

Frosted Shadows

Maligned by some and celebrated by others, the frost range of shadows cannot be overlooked. These eye shadows give more opaque coverage and their pearlized white or silver sparkle can express a cold or icy effect.

Frosted shadows are better for younger makeup wearers or more taut skin because frosted shadows can easily sink into creases, making them more apparent.

Not only do they not tend to work well on mature skin but frosted shadows can also look dated or can be perceived as tacky, so use them judiciously.

Sheen Shadows

Eye Shadows with a sheen formula are highly reflective but tend to offer a more even shine than sparkle or shimmer shadows. Sheen is a great option for lifting and bringing light to an area. The range of sheen eye shadows is unlimited. 

The effect of sheen shadows can almost appear wet or dewy. And unlike frosted shadows, sheen finishes can look fashion forward, warm and modern. This product is ideal on the lid from crease to lash and works well for all eye shapes, except for protruding eyes.

Metallic Shadows

Metallic finish is exactly what it sounds like. It has an intense metal sheen and resembles real mined metal – silver, gold, copper, bronze, platinum and more.

Metallic shadows are ideal on the lid for a natural look because the warmer-colored metals can bring out skin tone. They are also fantastic as a liner, adding to the dewy and sensual effect that makes eyes softer and sexier. Metals like rose gold, yellow gold and patina copper are everywhere this season and both timely and timeless.

Sparkle Shadows

Sparkle eye shadow is a texture that contains small particles to reflect the light. The different particles and sizes reflect light in small bursts as opposed to the more uniform reflect of sheen of frost.

Sparkle shadows are perfect to add color, interest, and depth to the eyes and can be worn by itself in an everyday beauty routine or as a complementary addition with other textures to manipulate shape and size. Softer sparkle eye shadow softly illuminates lids, making them appear more open while lighter shades can double as highlighters.

Glitter Shadows

Glitter Eye shadow is a texture that contains medium and large particles to reflect and refract light. The different size particles reflect constant light in large and small bursts, creating a sparkling effect. 

Glitter shadows are a favorite of makeup wearers who want to bring attention to an eye area, adding interest and impact to the eyes. A little glitter goes a long way — overdo it, and this look can be perceived as young or lacking polish if it’s not applied properly. Use glitter shadows sparingly or pile it on and show people you sparkle and shine like a star.

There you go! It may seem like eye shadow texture comes with a lot of rules for application. But use this list as a way to understand the effect of shadows and break the rules. Create the eye look that you love, and do not limit yourself with so many choices at your fingertips.

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