We are in a golden age of neutral eye shadow palettes. Which is timely, considering we're also collectively having a "no-makeup makeup" moment. From Bobbi Brown's promotion of chic neutrals in the '90s to the introduction of the cult-classic Urban Decay Naked palettes in 2010, neutral has come full circle, and it is far from boring. This season, pretty much every brand at every price point has released a killer palette, without a single dud color among the bunch. The days of using only two colors out of 10 in that pretty rainbow palette you bought are over -- it's all about tastefulness now.
Here are seven palettes we tried:
Smashbox Full Exposure, Sephora, $49
This 14-color beauty will meet all your neutral needs and then some. What I like about it is that half of the colors are matte and half are shimmer, and with a couple of exceptions, the color pairs match. (For example, there's a rose gold matte and rose gold neutral.) The mattes are really saturated, but most of the shimmers, except for a highlight shade and a grey metallic, contain really chunky shimmer, rather than the more fine-milled variety. So apply with caution and watch for floaters. And speaking of application, a two-sided brush is included with the palette.
Urban Decay Naked 2 Basics, Ulta, $29
There are currently three Naked palettes, but I think I actually use the lesser-known and more modest sister, the all-matte Naked Basic palette, more often than the originals. Urban Decay just released version 2.0, and the colors are cooler than in the warm-toned original -- think taupes with pink and purple undertones. So I now feel like I have all my matte neutral needs sufficiently met. The colors are saturated but buildable. One quick swipe is generally enough to keep me from looking like a wan zombie.
Stila Eyes Are the Window Shadow Palette in Mind, Sephora, $49
Stila is apparently trying to corner the palette market this season, releasing four new palettes. The one you see above is the matte neutral version -- there's a corresponding shimmer palette called "Spirit" and two other ones that are loaded with more unconventional and dramatic colors. I love that this one is mostly neutral, with just enough color to give you options. The formula is pretty sheer, but you can use a wet brush for a more concentrated color pay-off.
Lorac Pro Palette 2, Nordstrom, $42
Consider this one your smoky eye go-to. It has a mixture of fine shimmers and mattes, and it also features the biggest assortment of dark colors of any of the palettes. I also love the silver. Again, you can use this wet or dry.
Maybelline The Nudes, Target, $9.99
While the individual color pans are a little smaller here than in the other palettes, I guarantee you will use every single one of these colors. I blended five and gave myself a pretty amazing bronze smoky eye. There are also three really good highlighting shades, for the days you cheat and only use highlighter. Which I do very frequently. Best bargain by a long shot.
Pati Dubroff Dream Palette, Beauty.com, $42
"Dream" is an appropriate moniker here, because the colors are soft, lean towards the pastel end of the spectrum, and are gently buildable. (But don't worry, the four on the right end of the spectrum are there for drama.) Bonus: It comes with black eyeliner.
It Cosmetics Naturally Pretty Celebration Matte Eye Shadow Palette, Ulta, $42
This palette features all matte colors...with a twist. The "transforming ombre radiance ribbon" converts the matte to shimmer when you swipe some on top. It works a little better in theory than in reality. Yes, it made the colors shimmery, but it also makes them a lot more sheer. There's a good assortment of colors, which tend to skew to the warmer end of the spectrum.