Behold, The Holy Trinity of Smoky Eyeshadow Palettes That Actually Work

Nothing makes me more nuts than trying to navigate this look with palettes that swear they make the smoky eye “easy with one swipe.”
Publish date:
August 28, 2012

OK, so I am a woman who is particular about my smoky eye. I don’t regularly venture into full-on Kardashian territory, but when I leave the house for a good night on the town, I’m known to layer on a bit of the smoke for a sultry effect. But nothing makes me more nuts than trying to navigate this look with palettes that swear they make the smoky eye "easy with one swipe." Peeps, I’ve tried all those products and I have YET to get one-applicator to do the work required to make a good multidimensional, drop-dead smoky eye. I call bullshit on pretty much ALL the one applicator smoky eye products.

HOWEVER, I do have three favorite palettes that I recommend for getting a seriously fabulous smoky eye in a minimal amount of time. They pretty much live in my bathroom on a regular basis and are responsible for almost every makeup look I’ve been rocking for months:

L’Oreal Paris Studio Secrets Professional Eye Shadow Quad in Blackened Smokes

Seriously, this is the easiest step-by-step smoky quad out there. It’s literally like paint-by-numbers for your eyes. There are steps on the back to follow. I mean it: it doesn’t get easier than this. Plus the pigments are great and will stay put, which is something I can’t say for a lot of eye shadows. Oh, and it’s about $8. In other words, go get it. Now. As a matter of fact, get a couple of them and pass them out to friends, particularly the one whose eye makeup always sort of looks like she got punched in the face. C’mon, you’re a giver.

Stila Cosmetics In The Know Eye Shadow Palette

A bit more advanced than the L’Oreal palette, all of the shades in this palette really do work together very, very easily. It comes with a booklet that has application tips and advice, but if you don’t feel like reading, here’s a tip: any color on the top row will work with any color on the bottom row. The colors on both rows get progressively darker, so any colors in succession (left to right) will also work. The palette also comes with a Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner in Halfmoon, which is like a sooty, matte charcoal grey. It retails for $39, which you can justify by cost per wear if you plan on making this your main palette for the season.

Urban Decay Smoked Shadow Palette

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to deep, rich shadows with fantastic hues and mind-blowing impact, it’s hard to beat Urban Decay. This palette was created specifically to create a wide variety of smoky eyes and it delivers like Domino’s. The same rules apply from above about using colors in succession or from top to bottom. It also comes with a great book with tons of how-to tips to create a signature look and it also includes a small 24/7 Glide-On Pencil in Perversion (a gorgeous, deep midnight black.) It retails for $49, but if you love the nightlife, this will MORE than return your investment for bangin’ eye makeup.

Also, I recommend using Urban Decay Potion Primer under any of these looks so the makeup stays put through sweat, dancing, heat, stress, a divorce –- whatever the day throws at you. There’s nothing sadder than a smoky eye that’s looks like a doused campfire melting down your face.

I know there are BAZILLIONS of smoky eye palettes out there, so tell me about your favorites. Or are you over the smoky eye all together? Stopping now, before the phrase "smoky eye" loses all meaning.