My sister won’t mind my revealing that she possesses very little skill indeed when it comes to applying eyeshadow. She finds pans of shadow fiddly, irksome, baffling and always, always stuffs her efforts up by either not blending enough or putting it all in the wrong places (she may slightly mind my writing the end of that sentence, but Mick – you know it’s true).
After years of plastering her lips in something bright and just running a mascara wand through her lashes to make up for this lack of make-up skill, she suddenly started turning up to meet me wearing a variety of hues north of her lash line – taupes, greens, blues – all expertly-blended. I was impressed.
On grilling her, it transpired that rather than make friends with the make-up brushes I’d shoved into her ungrateful hands, she’d found eyeshadow sticks. In particular, she’d found for Eyeko’s Me & My Shadow Stick in all the shades (on inspecting my rather thinned-out collection I suspect some of her new specimens were pilfered, but I’m so pleased with her pioneering efforts that I’ve uncharacteristically not kicked up a fuss).
Her foray into new waters got me thinking. Devoted though I am to eyeshadows, my burgeoning collection of shadow sticks speaks of my growing respect for this new generation of eye make-up: shadow sticks have come far and now impart a range of finishes in a huge variety of colours. Here are the pencils I keep in my collection, bar the few that have been purloined, of course //
Best For / Wrinkled or very dry eyelids.
The Lowdown / These are insanely creamy with huge colour pay off – the swatches above are the result of a single swipe across the back of my hand. They smudge well so can be blended with ease, though if you’ve very oily lids you may want to give these wide berth. I find the Lagoon shade is really handy if I’m out and want to add a bit of interest to my eye make-up – I just swipe it above my lash line and blend with my fingers.
Other Notes / These work just as well in the waterline as they do on lids – I use Topaze on my lower waterline whenever I go on a big night out.
Best For / An accent shade.
The Lowdown / I wholly disagree with the names of these sticks – they may have a touch of the enchanted thanks to the subtle sprinkling of shimmer distributed through the shadows, but they aren’t a smoky eye in a stick. Instead, they make good pops on top of already smoked-up lids. I use a whole lot of Slow Burn before nights out on top of my Cocoa Mirage brown.
Other Notes / These shadows tend to sprinkle a little under eyes if you use a lot of pressure – glide, don’t press them onto lids and hold a tissue underneath for good measure.
Best For / Oily eyelids.
The Lowdown / The first time I applied these, I was disappointed. I expected them to perform like my other shadow sticks but, once applied, they wouldn’t smudge and didn’t budge. This was catastrophic for the smoky eye I’d intended on wearing, but great once I’d decided to work with the pencil. They move if approached instantly, but you’ll need to be speedy. For this reason, I think they’re better as a liner over an eyeshadow (or, indeed, another shadow stick) to add gentle definition that really, really won’t move in the slightest.
Other Notes / Charlotte’s made this easy for rookies by matching the pencils up to eye colours. I have hazel for day (Golden Quartz) and night (Smokey Emerald), but of course covet the shades designed for other eye colours and often disregard her suggestions. If you feel timid, listen to the Tilbury. If bolder, make like me and just enjoy whichever pencil takes your fancy.
Best For / A full smokey eye.
The Lowdown / Want a pencil that you can use all over – and underneath – the eye? These are the ones. They come in rich, sumptuous shades that suit everyone and can be blended with a brush or cotton buds with ease.
Other Notes / … But these are a blooming pain to sharpen. You’ll need to get a special big pencil sharpener – or the Nars one (which I suspect was in part responsible for the size) – and make sure you keep the pencil straight as you do it so as not to form splinters down the side of the pencil.
Best For / Hot, tired eyes.
The Lowdown / I was a bit skeptical about the whole ‘fresh’ thing, but the cool sensation of rolling these gel pencils onto my sore lids towards the end of the work day disabused me of my hesitancy – they are indeed refreshing, and they also light up the eye thanks to the combination of colour and light (grown up) shimmer. Great colour range, too.
Other Notes / It’s a going, going, gone situation with these shadow sticks – if you want one, try to grab it before stock runs out – I don’t think Chanel will be releasing more.
Best For / Total novices.
The Lowdown / Laura Mercier do wearable enormously well. Not only do the colours all stick to the whole flattering end of things, but they also slide on easily, blend like a dream and, once set, stay put for quite a while (though I wouldn’t say these tip into ‘long-wear’).
Other Notes / Choose your finish wisely – anything that throws shine off the eye will enhance texture and therefore show wrinkles or dryness more. Equally, if you want to illuminate the centre of the lid, crack out the reflective ones.
Best For / Handbag make-up bags / Sport
The Lowdown / My sister chose wisely – these are so darn easy to whizz on that I find myself applying them on the tube/in the back of taxis/on occasion when dashing down streets. Serviceable as both a liner and a shadow, better as the latter.
Other Notes / Waterproof. Waterproof! So handy, Eyeko. I’m sorted for tennis sessions during the summer… (N.B. an oil-based cleanser will whip them off in no time).
Best For / A splurge.
The Lowdown / Same price as the Sisley and pretty similar in what it delivers – a full whammy of colour, a deliciously creamy formula, very buildable. One difference: thanks to some clever By Terry wizardry, these hang around all day. And also: that gold tube. So retro glamour.
Other Notes / If you can stretch to two colours, try grabbing a light and darker one of these and either finger of brush blend them – they look glorious when mixed.